Bhubaneswar: The traditional handloom and textile designs of Odisha enjoy acceptability worldwide. Sambalpuri sarees are acclaimed by many for its distinctive patterns and beautiful motifs. Their producers, weavers behind the skill, are recognized and awarded. However, the weavers feel they need more than just awards and felicitations. They need patronage in terms of market, skill development training and economic support. We talked to a few award-winning weavers of Bargarh district to elicit what can boost their plight and creativity.
Seventytwo year old Tribikram Meher of Mahalakanta village in Bheden block of Bargarh district is a national award recipient that he has bagged thanks to his innovation of some motifs in Sambalpuri handloom. Asked to tell about his work the weaver said, “I have created a number of motifs using different natural elements like flowers, sun, different plants etc. Even, I can create a new customized motif as per the need of a customer. However, we don’t get enough remuneration for a customized work and so stick to the existing one.” Tribikram and his wife live with the family of their son Sarat Meher, who also helps him in weaving along with his family members. The elder son has also inherited the traditional business of their family, but he shifted his base to Ulunda in Subarnapur village.
Tribikram’s son Sarat Meher who also is a weaver said, “Although my father has got a few awards both in the state and national level still we hardly earn about 8 to 10 thousand per month. You can analyse how difficult it is to manage a family along with the old parents with such a small budget.”
“I have heard weavers are entitled to some kind of pensions. If my father could be given any such kind of pension in lieu of his creative works as a weaver, it would be a great help to our family,” the innocent villager added.
Asked how he helps his father in the work Sarat said, “My father is too old now to work. But still he eagerly work on bandhas that we put in the clothe, when weaving. We work on his already invented motifs and that is the big contribution.”
Sambalpuri saree is made from fabric woven on a hand-loom. Varieties of the Sambalpuri saree include Pasapali, Bomkai and Bapta saris, which are in high demand. Most of them have been named after their places of origin and are popularly known as Pata.
Another weaver Dukhishyam Meher of Remunda village in Bargarh district is a recipient of the National Merit award in weaving. He said, “In these days there are many clothes, which resembles Sambalpuri handloom, are available in the market. These clothes are not handmade and supplied from Chhattisgarh and other states. Since these are generated in power-looms, these clothes are sold in cheap price. However, one can feel the difference after wearing Sambalpuri and these clothes. Often the sellers sell it in the name of Sambalpuri handloom Saris and clothes. Thus, when a customer gets something like our product in a cheap rate he prefers it. However, it negatively affects our trade.”
Asked about the solution he said, “If our village weavers can be supplied with raw materials in a lower price and can be trained with new technology, the problem can be resolved.”
Another weaver Surya Kumar Meher from Remenda village in Bargarh district says, “Many skill development programs are executed in the pen and paper only. But when it comes to practicality we reap very less.”
“In Orissa market Pochampalli clothes from the southern states are available. The cloth resembles like Sambalpuri handwork. These clothes are made in handloom, not in power-loom and have most of the characteristics that our clothes have. I have also visited their work place. They use machines where bulk production is possible in less time. In their technology one person can do the work which will need at least two persons in our technology. However, since all our works are done manually we can produce only four pieces of clothes at one time. If our weavers will be financially assisted to buy such machines we can also produce more clothes in less time,” he added.
Surya has received a national merit award for weaving. He is into this trade since the time of his forefathers. He said, “My grandfather was working in the loom. My father inherited the traditional profession and now I have inherited weaving. Along with my brother we are working on the loom to produce Sambalpuri handloom generated clothes of different pattern.”
Sixty one year old Murali Meher, a national award winner weaver from Jhiliminda village in Bargarh district has also received the Santha Kabir award. He says that the government is patronizing weavers only by giving awards, but we need some more. “If the weavers will be given training on skill development and will be allowed to work in different projects from where they can learn, only then they can develop. Besides, printed and not woven, clothes are abundant in the market which customers get at a cheap price and so prefer. Resultantly, it hampers our business. The government should come up with regulatory acts to check such practice.”