India's weaving traditions and styles are rich and diverse, but in many parts of the country this extraordinary craft is in decline and weavers are struggling to continue working at their looms. Their incomes are falling, they have to compete with cheaper powerloom-made fabric, and they get little state support.

At PARI we are documenting weavers and their work not only because of the unparalleled quality of their craft and their painstaking labour, but also because they could be the last practitioners of centuries-old skills.

Our stories are many – about an elderly weaver with a portable loom in Sneymo village of Ladakh, the makers of exquisite tussar in Bihar’s Banka district, the suicide of a weaver in Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh, why the skilled weavers of Arani in Tamil Nadu work as helpers in canteens and on buses. 

These and many more stories told through photo essays, films, articles and photo albums constitute PARI’s growing archive on weavers and their work. Presenting them as a collection here:

'Copying our designs is not correct'
Priti David • Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

'Copying our designs is not correct'

Despite a GI certification, the distinctive Toda embroidery of the Nilgiris is being widely copied. This, along with the falling numbers of artisans and a lack of collective action, are adding to the craft’s uncertain future

May 16, 2019 | Priti David
Labouring at the looms of Onnupuram
Anusha Sundar • Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Labouring at the looms of Onnupuram

Almost every house in this village in Tamil Nadu has a handloom, and the bundles of colourless thread that enter Onnupuram leave for high-end showrooms in Chennai and other markets as rich silk sarees

May 16, 2019 | Anusha Sundar
Weaving a future, metre by metre
Anne Pinto-Rodrigues • Chirang, Assam

Weaving a future, metre by metre

In the villages of Chirang district in Assam, where every Bodo home has a loom, Sama Brahma earns a modest income from weaving, and is trying to pass on this waning traditional skill to her daughters

January 3, 2019 | Anne Pinto-Rodrigues
Stitching together an upturn in Sittilingi valley
Priti David • Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu

Stitching together an upturn in Sittilingi valley

Lambadi women in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu have painstakingly revived 'ghater', their community’s signature embroidery, and the income from this traditional skill has ended their need to migrate for work

December 14, 2018 | Priti David
Living in the rooms by the looms
Reetika Revathy Subramanian • Surat, Gujarat

Living in the rooms by the looms

Around 8 lakh workers from Odisha, after strenuous shifts in Surat’s powerlooms, stay in rotation in crowded rooms, amid power cuts, scarce water, filth and noise. Illnesses are common, as are stress and alcoholism

October 22, 2018 | Reetika Revathy Subramanian

The great Indian vanishing rope trick
Sanket Jain • Belgaum, Karnataka

The great Indian vanishing rope trick

Rope makers were once part of a thriving trade in rural Maharashtra. Now, farmers rarely buy ropes and many others prefer nylon versions. The Bhores are the last family in Boragaon village still hand-crafting rope

September 26, 2018 | Sanket Jain

Laxmibai’s skills hang by a rough thread
Sanket Jain • Kolhapur, Maharashtra

Laxmibai’s skills hang by a rough thread

PARI volunteer Sanket Jain aims to traverse 300 villages across India and, among other stories, produce this feature: a photograph of a rural scene or event and a sketch of that photograph. This is the ninth in the series on PARI. Draw the slider either way to see the photo or sketch in full

July 17, 2018 |  Sanket Jain
Synthetic fabric, authentic despair
Reetika Revathy Subramanian • Surat, Gujarat

Synthetic fabric, authentic despair

Lakhs of migrant workers from Ganjam in Odisha who operate powerlooms in Surat, the country’s polyester capital, risk serious injuries and accidental deaths every day. But desperate for work, they continue

June 12, 2018 | Reetika Revathy Subramanian
From creating carpets to crushing stones
Arpita Chakrabarty • PIthorgarh, Uttarakhand

From creating carpets to crushing stones

Women of the Bhotiya community in Uttarakhand’s Gothi hamlet earn an income by breaking quarried stones – and recall a time when their weaving skills brought them respect as well as financial returns

October 31, 2017 | Arpita Chakrabarty

Tussar: the crumbling cocoon
Shreya Katyayini • Banka, Bihar

Tussar: the crumbling cocoon

The old weaving skills of Banka district, Bihar, are vanishing due to low returns, poor state support and cheaper imports. Only a few families in Katoria village still weave. This film features some of them

July 7, 2017 | Shreya Katyayini

Ladaiti's colours speak, her designs draw smiles
Puja Awasthi • Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand

Ladaiti's colours speak, her designs draw smiles

Ladaiti Devi of Salmata village in Uttarakhand is a self-assured and wise warrior, who other women look up to. She tried many ways of earning some money despite her family’s displeasure, until she found her calling in weaving durries – and now her fingers weave a magic that is locally renowned

May 10, 2017 | Puja Awasthi
'The loom is my love, my legacy'
Stanzin Saldon • Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

'The loom is my love, my legacy'

When he is not farming, Tsering Angchuk of Sneymo village in Ladakh travels with his portable loom to other villages to weave his highly-reputed signature version of a woollen fabric called ‘snamboo’

May 9, 2017 | Stanzin Saldon
Threadbare in Santipur
Sinchita Maji • Nadia, West Bengal

Threadbare in Santipur

The handloom weavers of Santipur in West Bengal’s Nadia district have been pushed into a corner by powerlooms and declining incomes – many have left the looms, others are in constant debt

April 19, 2017 | Sinchita Maji
‘Without khadi, I am not there’
Rahul M. • Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh

‘Without khadi, I am not there’

Despite the slow decline of the renowned handlooms of Dharmavaram, Shankara Dhanunjaya tried to work hard and prosper. But in 2016, at the age of 35, debt and crushing policy changes drove him to suicide

March 28, 2017 | Rahul M.
A muted ‘maggam’, a bleeding block print
Rahul Maganti • Krishna, Andhra Pradesh

A muted ‘maggam’, a bleeding block print

Most of the handloom weavers in Pedana in Andhra Pradesh are elderly, as are many of the town’s Kalamkari printers – a lack of state support and poor incomes have impacted both industries and forced the younger generation to migrate for work

January 27, 2017 | Rahul Maganti
Rogan josh
Jaimini Luharia • Kutch, Gujarat

Rogan Josh

In Nirona village in Kutch, the Khatri family's passion for Rogan art has kept the tradition alive for 300 years

August 22, 2016 | Jaimini Luharia
Weaves of Maheshwar
NIdhi Kamath & Keya Vaswani • Khargone, Madhya Pradesh

Weaves of Maheshwar

In Maheshwar town of Madhya Pradesh, weavers revive a declining craft

May 2, 2016 | NIdhi Kamath & Keya Vaswani
The warp, the weft, and the waning loom
Aparna Karthikeyan • Thiruvallur, Tamil Nadu

The warp, the weft, and the waning loom

The skilled weavers of Arani, Tamil Nadu, work as helpers in canteens and on buses

April 20, 2016 | Aparna Karthikeyan
The fading weaves of Duajhar
Purusottam Thakur • Nuapada, Odisha

The fading weaves of Duajhar

Weavers of Odisha speak of their waning craft and diminishing livelihoods

December 20, 2015 | Purusottam Thakur
The weavers of Walajapet
Sweta Daga • Vellore, Tamil Nadu

The weavers of Walajapet

The story of M. Murugaiya and his family of weavers

December 16, 2014 | Sweta Daga