In our travelogues, the next destination in Andhra Pradesh was Venkatgiri – a small town in Nellore district. About 300kms from Dharmavaram, we decided to take this trip by road. As much as we were excited to reach our destination, the journey itself was an exhilarating experience with green paddy fields framed by the blue contours of the Eastern Ghats.
place renowned for history and handlooms, Venkatagiri we are told was a small village near Kalivelamma temple with the name Kali Mili during Vijayanagar times which was ruled by Gobburu polygars. Then as they were defeated by Venkatadri Naidu, brother’s son of Raja who was ruling territories around Madurantakam in the 16th century, this place was renamed with Vaishanava name “Venkatagiri”.
As we entered the town, we were fortunate to view the spectacular procession of Poleramma, a village deity. ‘Poleramma Jatara’ as it is called is an annual procession where a large number of devotees from different parts of the State gather. As the people take part in the procession and have darshan of the idol of the goddess made of sand, they break pumpkins and coconuts marking the fulfillment of their vows and devotion towards the ‘grama devatha, the village goddess. The artists stole the show as they appeared in the forms of ‘Goddess Kali’, ‘Lord Narasimha’, ‘Anjaneya Swami’ and also demons in the procession. The dance of ‘Kali’ in the midst of the devotees drew wide attention.
Without wasting any time, we headed straight to weavers’ colony at Bangarupeta which is about 3 k.m. away from Venkatagiri. Venkatagiri’s Devangi weaving colony of Bangarupet is a picturesque cluster of whitewashed homes along straight metaled roads radiating out from a temple to the village deity, Sitalamma.
Venkatagiri is known for its variety of handlooms. They produce sarees of pure cotton, cotton and silk mix, and pure silk. In their days of prosperity, these artisans weaved exclusively for the kings of the region and the income from this sufficed them for the whole year.
The Venkatagiri saris have graceful strains of gold all over. These sarees are available in cotton and silk, with pure silver zari and brocade designs in the border. The bright Venkatagiri saris have pleasant colours with golden dots, leaves, parrots or simple geometrical designs.
However, the modern day story is very different. This famous village of weavers is in crisis. The traditional art of weaving is likely to be extinct there with the last generation of seasoned fingers caressing the threads. Power looms have taken over and these artisans, who had carried on the legacy for generations, are paid a meagre remuneration for their labour.
While we stood there watching in rapt attention the mastery that a handful of these weavers exhibited over their craft, we felt they definitely deserved much recognition and respect from the society – And what is society but us?
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