Interweaving Dreams, Efforts and Hope: Gadwal Sarees

by Shatika, June 12, 2015

20141231_155734-001Taking a closer look at the everyday struggles of a Gadwal weaver :

Hard work is inevitable in a weaver’s life and Devendra Kamble’s life is no exception. A weaver, shopkeeper, salesman, guide, bread earner, caring father, he wears many hats rather comfortably.  Co-owner of Shirdi Saree House, a saree shop that showcases exclusive hand-woven Gadwal sarees in Gadwal, he runs this shop along with his elder brothers, Srinivas Rao and Krishna Rao.

His day begins rather early with daily chores which include dropping his two daughters Krutika and Vrushali aged 7 and 6 respectively to school after which he and his wife Sharada begin to weave at the two looms that are present at home. With a short break for lunch, their work continues through the day and sometimes through the night.

His work is interrupted only with a phone call from the local guide whenever there are visitors visiting Gadwal. That’s when he quickly rushes to persuade these visitors to visit their shop to select from the range of sarees or sometimes even brings them home to show the art of cotton and silk treads magically taking the shape of a saree. While it may be a treat to the eyes of the visitors who see a sari being weaved, for a weaver it is a limbs aching and a back breaking task.

The laborious weaving technique used in designing the Gadwal sarees is the interwoven weft technique which was traditionally known as Kupadam and the weaving style for the borders was known as kumbam. These sarees are woven in pure Silk, pure cotton with silk borders and silk and cotton mix and are made available in contrasting colors. Gadwal sarees are known for their wide range of designs and borders. The zari work in gold and silver along the borders is the highlight of these sarees. Beyond the regular geometric designs and designs adopted from the temple architecture of Gadwal, these sarees have now come off age by adopting modern techniques and colors in its vast array of exquisite sari collection. Each saree taking about 8 to 10 painstaking days and sometimes even 25, the unique trait of a Gadwal saree is that it can be folded to the size of a match box!

Along with taking care of the shop, the three brothers take turns to travel across cities participating in exhibitions. Their only source of marketing is through word of mouth. They don’t even shy away from visiting these customers which ever city they are in for goodwill.

Unlike himself who has not studied beyond class 6, he wants his children to study well and settle in cities like Hyderabad with decent jobs and comfortable living just like his brothers’ children who are working for banks and software companies, even if it means that the younger generation will not learn the trick of the trade. You ask him if he is okay to let this invaluable skill die a silent death and he says there is no point in pushing the children into something that has no future.

While Devendra Kamble has given up hope on a bright future for Gadwal sarees, Shatika holds hope and puts its might in holding onto this inestimable legacy.

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