The mighty weavers of a tiny town in rural India continue to prove themselves with the painstaking and precise art that is Ikat. Starting with a small pool of weavers, the town soon became famous for the fabric they produced that could compete with every silk manufacturer in the country.
Pochampally saris, also popular as Pochampally Ikat, is a traditional garment that originates from Bhoodan Pochampally in Telangana State.
The weavers here create magic on traditional looms with designs that are more than a century old. The weave that they follow is popularly known as a “tie and dye” weave. The uniqueness lies in the transfer of design and coloring onto warp and weft threads before being woven together. The colors themselves are from natural sources and their blends, while the fabric used is either cotton, silk or sico – a hyper blend of silk and cotton that the weavers created.
The Ikat technique used to dye the saris, also known as tie and dye, was first introduced to India via the silk route. It involves resist dyeing on the yarns prior to dyeing and weaving the fabric. Great care is taken in tying resistant areas with water repellent material. A rudimentary but popular item used to aid this process is a bicycle inner tube cut into strips to cover the treated area. The bindings may then be altered to create a new pattern and the yarns dyed again with a new color.
One of the most telling signs of a Pochampally silk sari is the intricate geometric design over the fabric, which has almost an hypnotic effect. Another characteristic of Ikat textiles is an apparent "blurriness" to the design. The blurriness is a result of the extreme difficulty the weaver has lining up the dyed yarns so that the pattern comes out perfectly in the finished cloth and is a feature that is almost prized by textile collectors. The saris are extremely lightweight and easy to drape and manage, which make them perfect for humid Indian summers. Pochampally Ikat saris get their colors from natural sources only, hence they can usually be seen in resplendent shades including orange, yellow and pink. A standard sari takes a weaver family of four around ten days to make.
Pochampally started out with traditional looms and age-old designs but today the silk city is home to over 10,000 weaver families in around 100 villages. The industry is responsible for generating over 10 crore rupees in annual turnover, which includes yarn sales, purchase of handloom products and sales. With the added acknowledgement of getting a GI tag in 2005, Pochampally Ikat exploded in the international market as well. The art has also found a place in UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites as “Iconic sari weaving clusters of India”.
Today the iconic Pochampally print is not limited to saris. The rural weave masters have over time adapted with the changing face and demands of fashion and evolved the craft in such a beautiful manner that it caters to modern tastes and at the same time preserves its timeless beauty. With the introduction of machines that cut down on labour and time, Pochampally Ikat finds its way onto dress pieces, bed sheets, bed covers, and other home décor items thus exponentially increasing its market. With its popularity on the rise, this geometric beauty is sure to reach even greater heights in future.