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:
Only four weavers – among them 82-year-old Vasant Tambe – remain in Rendal village of Maharashtra's Kolhapur district, where thriving handloom karkhanas gave way to falling demand and powerlooms
Women from Odisha who work from home for the multi-crore textile industry in Surat, Gujarat, are not covered by labour laws, are unable to negotiate better rates, and are seen as unskilled workers
For centuries, they have created Kerala's classic off-white and gold sarees and veshtis. Now, low incomes, an ageing workforce, shifting demand and powerlooms are forcing changes in this traditional occupation
From Changthangi goats in the Tibetan Plateau to retail stores in Srinagar, the making of the pashmina shawl involves many – pastorialists, wholesalers, spinners, dyers, designers, embroiderers and entrepreneurs
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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’
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
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.
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
In Nirona village in Kutch, the Khatri family's passion for Rogan art has kept the tradition alive for 300 years
In Maheshwar town of Madhya Pradesh, weavers revive a declining craft
The skilled weavers of Arani, Tamil Nadu, work as helpers in canteens and on buses
Weavers of Odisha speak of their waning craft and diminishing livelihoods
The story of M. Murugaiya and his family of weavers