The National Handloom Day, observed on Aug. 7, was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 110th anniversary of the Swadeshi Movement last year.
The handloom industry, which is India's second largest employment providing sector (after agriculture) has witnessed a steady decline in exports since 2013, according to ministry of textiles. Revenues from exports in 2013-14 fell by 20.5 percent to Rs. 2,233 crore from the previous year. During 2014-15, the sector witnessed a marginal rise in export revenues at Rs. 2,246 crore.
The number of people employed in the sector has also reduced from 65.5 lakh weavers in 1995-96 handloom census to 43 lakh weavers as per the latest 2009-10 census. The industry is women-intensive in labour as 77 percent of the total workers are women, according to the 2009-10 census.
Though handloom accounts for over a tenth of overall fabric production in India, the legacy of the traditional industry, which is far richer in variety, is rare to come by these days. Here are some of the magnificent weaves in India that handloom lovers would hate to see dying:
Kancheepuram: The temple city of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu — around 70 km away from Chennai — is known for its distinct silk weaving. The traditional weaving method involves techniques named 'Korvai' to make the border and 'petni' to weave a contrasting pallu. This time-intensive weaving technique dates back 2000 years to the Sangam age of the South Indian state.
Ikat: The Indonesian word can be contextually interpreted as "cord", "thread" or "knot". This resist dying method is attributed to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, though the technique is also popular in other Asian countries like Indonesia and Japan. The three sub types, called "warp ikat", "weft ikat" and "double ikat," involve dying the warp and the weft before weaving them together.
Kalamkari: The name translates to "pen work" and refers to the intricate designs drawn on the fabric using bamboo reeds and natural dyes. The origin is usually traced to Machilipatnam and Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. The fabric is hand-painted using natural dyes, inspired by themes like flora and fauna or religious motifs. The weaving technique also throws light at India's trade with Persia in ancient times, implied by the word 'kalam,' meaning pen in the Persian language.
Traditional craftspersons from various other places in India are known globally for the intricate work they produce on handlooms. The fine Chanderi cloth from Madhya Pradesh, Kashmir's Pashmina shawls, Bomkai and Tussar weaves of Odisha, Eri and Muga silk of Assam, Jamdani weaving technique of West Bengal are illustrious of the diverse culture that inspired these techniques as well as a once thriving market that appreciated weavers' creativity.