28/05/2016 12:25 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

Weaving A Champa Chronicle

Rema Kumar

My last visit to Champa, in Chhattisgarh, was during the Navratri days. A great time to be there, what with the whole village coming alive in a festive mood, with kirtans and all-night jagarans happening at the main village square, surrounded by ever-green paddy fields. The mobile "suhag bhandars" were surrounded by enthusiastic women shopping for their bangles, bindis and other accessories, in order to look their best during the gatherings. As evening fell, children ran around with their little pouches of colours to make lovely rangolis to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi into their households. With all the yarns, weaving and dyeing taking place in the village, famous for its Kosa (Tussar) silk, it came as no surprise to watch some of the most interesting colour combinations come alive in rangolis created by the children, sometimes under the watchful eyes of the women around. They would remark that this was the best way to take the tradition forward.

With all the yarns, weaving and dyeing taking place in the village... some of the most interesting colour combinations came alive in rangolis created by kids...


I've been working with weavers across India for the past two decades, spending days at a time with them, often in their homes. I have always found it enchanting to sit and watch them beside the loom as they weave, bringing their designs to life.

In Champa, I stayed in my coordinator Sahu's house, and his whole family fussed around me trying to make me feel comfortable. The wife who didn't speak Hindi, the pregnant daughter-in-law who always had the sweetest smile on her face, sons, daughters and the cute little grand-daughter, let me get a peek into the little joys of a close-knit rural household. The youngest daughter, the same age as my Yasho, shared her bed with me.

Just watching the designs come alive is so therapeutic that one loses track of time...

The first morning, I woke up to a view of paddy fields from my window and the sounds of Sahu's buffaloes. He borrowed a Nano car from his neighbour for a week, expecting me to drive with him to where the weavers lived, about 3km away. I was quite taken by surprise as he didn't even hint at such a possibility before... but after initial hiccups (since I had never driven a Nano before, and found the gears on this one quite hard to change), I just loved the entire experience. Driving on traffic-less kuccha roads, fields on either side, with local music playing from the stereo, it felt as if I was living a dream. Transported to a different world. Just like that. My happiness knew no bounds.


This time, I had planned on working on different textures -- self stripes, twills and dupion blends with tied and dyed yarns and multi-coloured pallas with woollen yarns. The weavers I worked with lived on either side of the railway tracks. Trains of every kind chugged past all day -- fleeting visions of green, blue, maroon coaches, sometimes with people, sometimes laden with coal or sometimes even empty. One could hear the steady khut-khut of the looms, uninterrupted by the sound of the fast-moving trains and their loud horns, or the blaring music from the radio and television...

A typical day in a weaver's household begins like this. The college-going daughter pitches in by filling the bobbins before and after going for her studies. Her friends, all covered with scarves, with just their eyes showing (to prevent dust from hitting their faces while cycling), patiently wait for her to join them. After getting back home, she quickly finishes her notes and studies before it gets dark. The weaver's wife finishes her chores in the kitchen early, so that she is able to help with the spinning, disentangling the yarns and filling the bobbins with the requisite colours. When new designs are being tried out, her work doubles as we always run out of colours and we do not want to waste much time. Morning turns into long, balmy afternoons and then its suddenly dark. Just watching the designs come alive is so therapeutic that one loses track of time...

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