‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’ – Shatika’s journey to Andhra Pradesh, the treasure trove of handloom sarees began with Dharmavaram, the famous hub for handloom silk sarees and as the saying goes, ‘well begun is half done’, commencement of our journey from Dharmavaram was insightful, inspiriting us to groove on the beauty of handlooms like never before and compelling us to continue with our journey to other weaving destinations of Andhra Pradesh.
Located at a distance of 47 kms from Anantapur, Dharmavaram is well-connected both by rail and road. The place derives its name from ‘Dharmamba’, the mother of ‘Sri Kriyasakthi Odeyar’ who constructed the local Dharmavaram tank. There are many historic monuments that highlight its glorious past. The architectural excellence of the place is evident in Sri Lakshmi Chennakesava Swamy and Ramalingeswara Temple. Both these temples have perennial water sprout. The sculptures and the pillars are excellently carved. We were especially dumbfounded by the pillars in Ramalingeswara Temple that produce musical notes when you strike them gently!
One of major attractions of Dharmavaram is their expertise in making leather puppets. It is said that in the sixteenth century AD, Dharmavaram was witness to the migration of artisans from Marathwada region. These artisans were master craftsmen capable of combining the multiple dimensions of painting, sculpture and theatre into one syncretic vision of creation in the form of leather puppets. Under the patronage of the Vijaynagar rulers this art form flourished. The themes for the puppet shows were mainly epics from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Enthralled by its sheer beauty and appreciative of its expertise in craft we finally reached our destination that Dharmavaram is really known for, its cotton and silk weaving-industry. There is an area in Dharmavaram that is especially dedicated for weaving and for selling of silk clothes. At these local production houses, one can witness hundreds of weavers engaged in intertwining colorful threads of cotton and silk to fabricate exclusive sarees.
Silk sarees weaved here are world famous and are even exported to various countries including France and Germany. In fact, it is one of the best places to shop for ethnic and stylish saris in the country. Usually these sarees have broad borders, adorned by brocaded gold patterns. Not following any color contrast, Dharmavaram saris comprise heavy ‘pallus’ with exclusive designs.
Besides south-silk, one finds sarees in various other materials like cotton, tussar silk, cotton silk, etc. The variety of handlooms range from cushion covers to bed sheets and curtains to carpets but the primary focus is on handloom silk and cotton sarees.
Dharmavaram Sarees are traditionally woven in the interlocked-weft technique. The design required on the saree is initially drawn on computer and then punched into a card. These cards are then loaded in Jacard in the loom. First the yarn is loaded as warp and then loaded into the loom. The weavers use both their hands and legs to weave the Saree. It requires approximately 4-8 days of continuous efforts of two persons for weaving a saree depending on the variety of the saree being weaved.
Broad borders with solid colors and contrasting pallus woven with intricate golden zari brocade are most attractive and desired wedding sarees. Every day wear sarees comprise of simpler patterns with the specialty of being woven in two colors that give an effect of muted double shades accentuated by the solid color border and pallu. Though the Dharmavaram sarees look similar to Kanchipuram sarees, their muted colours and double shades create a totally different effect.
As we stood there watching the interplay of colorful threads bewitchingly getting interwoven, it was nothing less than bliss for us to be there, soaking the heritage ambience of the place and witnessing the art of weaving.
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