“This is my God and my Religion.”
Fifty year old, a mole on his face, finely trimmed hair and a glitter in his eyes, Chinnu Nagraj is a Saree weaver in Gadwal, Telengana.
Sixty kilometers from Kurnool, Gadwal is the hub of business for all the nearby villages. On one side of the town lies the Ragavindra Colony, a small village of weavers who specialize in Gadwal silk sarees, one of the most costly silk sarees in the country.
Started at the age of 15, Nagraj has been weaving sarees for over 35 years now. Born and brought up in Mallampalli, a village in Gattumadlam, his family has been in this profession for over ten generations. “I learned weaving from my father and my children have learned it from me,” said Nagraj adding how the business runs in the family of all the people from his village.
Before shifting to Gadwal, his family members never had any education. Nagraj said that there was neither any school in the village and nor did anyone think of becoming anything else than a weaver. With a happy face and a nostalgic voice he said, “My childhood was all about running and playing in the open fields and coming back home in the evening to learn weaving.”
The demand is mainly by the intermediaries who provide all the raw materials for the sarees. It is roughly Rs 4000 for one saree and the middlemen give Rs 3000 to the weavers as a salary for the work. The same saree is then sold in big markets for over twenty thousand rupees. Nagraj said, “The demand has gone down especially after the demonetization as there is not enough cash for the raw materials, which are mostly acquired in cash.”
Since the dawn of civilization, handlooms have been associated with excellence in India’s artistry in textiles and fabrics and saree has been considered as the most ancient piece of clothing, which has inspired generations of artists and craftsmen to weave their dreams and vision into creating handloom sarees. However, with the passage of time, just like the clacking sound of looms, the dreams and visions of these weavers too are fading away. With a heavy heart, Nagraj explained how the number of weavers has gone down in the last few years. The drop is almost 50 per cent. A lot have left the job for the less pay and started alternative livelihood, he added.
In the last 20 years of his career, he has worked for a lot different Industries. He stared the career with weaving for middlemen like his father but soon moved to the city. “I worked three years in Bangalore Sarees, a silk saree industry in Hyderabad and then I moved to Khaddi, where I worked for five years,” said Nagraj adding that Gadwal Silk is the most difficult to weave.