In Andhra Pradesh, on the southeastern coast of India, lies a village called Narayanapuram - the locale for traditional Bobbili cotton sarees. If you wander the pathways in this village, you will find many family homes with brightly coloured threads in multi-coloured hues shining on their verandas, and it is in these family homes where the vibrant Bobbili saree is given life.
Narayanapuram village has a close-knit community of three hundred weavers who work on fifty maggams (looms) in rotation and are dedicated to creating these cotton marvels which are famed for their softness and low cost. Older generations recollect how the sarees would cost as low as Rs. 10 in the ‘60s. The soft cotton sarees are still economically priced at Rs. 450 to Rs. 600 on an average.
The Weaver’s Cooperative Society of Narayanapuram is not functioning anymore, so the weavers now sell their sarees wholesale to the businessmen of Bobbili who onsell the goods to other middlemen or local stores for a higher price.
Another impact of the Society not functioning is that the demand for Bobbili sarees has fallen drastically and many in the next generation are not pursuing the weaving trade anymore. Most of the people who work on the looms are in the age bracket of fifty to sixty years. The younger generation is more interested in job opportunities in places like Vizag and other big cities.
Support from the government is what the weavers from Narayanapuram require to be able to revive their fascinating art of weaving. As they currently work on creating sarees in meager volumes (hundred at a time), they hope that the future will be more lucrative, where the government will support them through initiatives and the work they do will fetch better prices.