The unassuming and humble creators of one of the country’s renowned weaves belong to the village of Periya Negamam.
The Village of Weavers:
Around 15 km from Polachi in Coimbatore, lies a village named Periva Negamam. The village consists of tiled roof houses, cow-dung tempered streets, and also has a central temple for worship. In the central sanctum of the village, lies a peepal tree, which forms an area of community interaction.
One can constantly hear the clickety-clack of handlooms in the village. The sound is perpetual. This omnipresent sound is due to the village’s status as a centre for the weaving of cotton and silk sarees. The way the artisans function, and the craft that goes into making these elaborate sarees is quite intriguing.
The sarees are also known as Village Cot saree. They are famous for their vibrant colours, simple checkered and striped designs. They are weaved painstakingly from either Kora Silk, Silk Cotton, or Pure Cotton. The sarees typically have narrow borders and intricate pallus adorned with traditional motifs (peacocks, parrots, paisleys, elephants, and swans), which are often repeated and mirrored across the fabric.
“Negamam is a small village near Pollachi, in Coimbatore , and has a rich weaving tradition. These Soft cotton Sarees are examples of skilful weaving techniques employed to make beautiful products. The body of the saree is in fine 80 x 80 cotton, with solid border colours, and the craftsmanship can be seen in the intricate thread weaving of the pallu! Sometimes, a half-fine Zari will also be used to pep up the Pallu. They are very popular for office wear and give the much needed comfort during Summer!”
– Mr. Venkatesh Narasimhan, MD, Co-optex.
The Manufacture of the Handloom Saree:
The village is home to several handloom artisans. The artistry is passed on from one generation to the next, along with the handlooms and other equipment. Every process is carried out from the home, and the whole family helps out! Thus, the industry is one that flourishes from the homes of these artisans.
The processes involved include:
- Drawing out and hand-spinning the fibers to form threads,
- Dying and drying the yarns,
- Stretching the handspun and dyed yarns by spinning them on the huge drum (warping),
- Startching the yarns with the help of rice/maize/potato starch (sizing)
- Weaving the starched yarns into beautiful sarees
One cannot miss being captivated by the rhythmic deftness of the weavers’ hands and feet. They rapidly transform a uniform row of colourful yarns into woven wonders. The entire process is organic, and all products are handmade. It is a time-consuming and complex set of tasks that undeniably takes a toll on their health. For instance, the chemical dyes result in sore hands, while the constant movement of hands and legs on loom lead to joint problems. Yet, the villagers seem to be conscious about sticking to traditional methods in order to make their own livelihood.
Current Economic Status:
On an average, the weavers take 3-5 days to complete the sarees, and the weavers earn anywhere between Rs. 1800 to Rs. 3000, depending on the complexity of the design. Even though the weavers enjoy their work, and take pride in their handicrafts, they prefer their predecessors to receive professional education and take up white-collar jobs. The main reason behind this is the uncertain market for handloom fabrics. With the rise in popularity of less expensive and mass-manufactured powerloom fabrics, the popularity of the handloom saree has declined considerably.
If there has to be one takeaway from the artisans of Periya Negamam, it is their undying love, passion, and pride for their traditional occupation, in spite of the difficulty of the process and the threat posed by machine-made fabrics. One can experience a renewed vigor in cherishing their heritage, post a trip to this village of weavers.
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Krishnan, Bindu. “My first handloom Negamam.” 90rollsroyces. 28 June. 2016. Web. 11 February. 2017 (https://90rollsroyces.com/2016/06/28/my-first-handloom-negamam/)
Soundararajan, Divya. “The unheard rhythms of Negamam.” Tripoto. Web. 11 February. 2017 (https://www.tripoto.com/trip/the-unheard-rhythms-of-negamam-851657)