Negamam is a tiny lush hamlet near Pollachi in Coimbatore district that lives up to the image of how a serene cluster of domestic weavers living an idyllic life should be, so much so that trees are referenced as landmarks here. The only sound that breaks the calm is the constant clacking of looms that fuel the economy of the area. However, do not be lulled by its serenity as the people here are anything but laid back. This small but skilled community of weavers is responsible for creating the simple and very popular Negamam cotton sari. The weaving clusters in Coimbatore and Pollachi have a rich craft tradition and the saris woven by them imbibe the same.
The saris, also known as Village Cot Saris are famous for their vibrant colors and simplistic design of checks and stripes. They are woven painstakingly from either Kora silk, silk cotton or pure cotton. These 80x80 saris typically have narrow borders and intricate pallus adorned with traditional motifs like peacock, elephant, swans and paisleys, which are repeated and mirrored across the fabric. Sometimes a half-fine zari is added in while weaving, to create richness in the pattern.
The entire village depends on weaving for their sustenance. Along with the teachings of the craft, handlooms and other equipment are passed down from one generation to the next. The entire set up is located at home and the whole family helps out.
It begins with the drawing and hand spinning of the fibers to form threads. Following this the yarn is dyed and dried. The handspun and dyed yarn is then stretched out by spinning them on a huge drum-like structure (warping). A typical structure is large enough to fit threads for making 12 saris. This is followed by starching them with the help of rice, maize or potato starch. This process is called sizing. It gives the final product that is then woven into beautiful saris.
On an average, a weaver takes 3 to 5 days to complete a sari, earning him anything between 1800 to 3000 rupees, depending on the intricacy of the work. The weavers here all take great pride in what they consider to be their tradition and livelihood, transforming rows of colorful yarn into woven wonders. Dye reactions and sore limbs all forgotten, they only have their smiles to join the omnipresent clacking of the loom that creates a symphony in the village.
Sadly the passion of the weavers proved no match for the rise in less expensive, mass produced power loom fabrics that has created a very uncertain future for the local handloom market. Their advent led to considerable decline of handloom saris. This directly resulted in weavers consciously discouraging their children from pursuing the family tradition, choosing to educate them instead or get them trained in different professions.
Negamam cotton saris are popular as office wear due to their simple but elegant look and the comfort they provide. It has a further benefit of becoming softer with each wash, which can only bring back the appreciation for the simplistic beauty of this organic cotton.