Odisha, home to the Sun Temple of Konark, is also home to the Khondha weavers of Chicheguda in the Kalahandi district, a minuscule population of thirty weaver families who are responsible for creating the famed Habaspuri sarees.
Painstakingly created by the Khondha weavers, who are trying to keep alive the tradition of the Habaspuri sarees. The eponymous weave of the village of Habaspur has every saree lover lusting after its traditional handloom cotton sarees. The weave is filled with motifs and patterns that are widely influenced by the region such as temples, fish, and flowers.
The weave came into existence in the 19th century but slowly dwindled as royal patronage dried up during the struggle for Indian Independence. This weave was revived by Ugrasen Meher, a master weaver from Chicheguda, but as government assistance dwindled even further, the number of weavers has also shown a steady decline.
The Government of India awarded a GI tag to the Habaspuri sarees of Odisha in 2012 to recognize the unrivaled skill shown in the weaving, designing, and production of these sarees. A GI tag ensures the quality of the product and also helps to fetch a competent price in global markets. Despite these efforts, the next generation of weaver families is heavily leaning towards shifting their occupation to agriculture and other areas of work. The downtrend is attributed to the weave being time and labour intensive, as well as having meager returns.
In a last-ditch effort to save the weave, the Textile and Handlooms Department of the Odisha Government has launched a Habaspuri training program for young weavers.