From a report by Murali Krishnan in Hyderabad, India
Chandra Shekhar and his young wife sit in their small dingy house, the repititve tap of the loom the one constant of their days. In the gloom, their silk creations glisten with a sheen and beauty that are at odds with the humble and darkened surroundings.
The famous Ikat silk of India involves a complicated process of measuring very specific lengths of yarn then dyeing them and then weaving them according to a pattern. The process and some of the patterns themselves are centuries old.
Ikat has been produced in the village of Pochampally, 50 kilometres from Hyderabad in south India, for generations, the knowledge handed down over the years as carefully as a family heirloom.
And though the Indian government is aggressively promoting its new advertising concept of Incredible India, to lure international attention and hopefully an ensuing economic boom to the country, ancient artisanal traditions like Ikat weaving are in danger of dying out. Threatened by the rising cost of thread, globalization’s push of cheaper factory made products into the market place, and a continuous rise in the cost of living, the artisans of Pochampally who have been weaving ikat for centuries, are in danger of disappearing.
“The daily wages are horrible – I have four people to support – how can I survive on just Rs 4,000 a month?" says Chandra Shekhar, who like many of Pochampally’s weavers is considering leaving the village to find work in the city.
Weavers and activists are calling for government intervention to help save a precious Indian tradition that is presently endangered.