Gently-worn traditional handloom and silk sarees of vintage provenance and fine examples of the country’s material heritage, have found themselves new owners at the recently concluded novel sale of the versatile Indian garment organised by Sahapedia here.
The buyers, a mix of college going students, working women and retirees among others, vied with one another to get their hands on an eclectic selection of the sarees donated to Sahapedia, an open online encyclopaedia on the art, culture and history of India.
A range of Bengal cottons, ikat, kalamkari, kota doria, Banarasi brocade, Tanchoi, Batik, Bandhej, Chanderi, Tussar silk, Ajrakh were available at sale, the second such conducted by the organisation, who has a component devoted to disseminating knowledge about the rich textile heritage of the country. The first such saree sale was held in August 2016.
“Many of us at Sahapedia wear sarees on a regular basis, and we organised the vintage saree sale because we like to see sarees circulate as much as possible. We often see our mums or cousins or older friends wonder what to do with the sarees they have worn over the years, but no longer do. We thought we’d find them new homes,” says Neha Paliwal, director of projects at Sahapedia.
Priced at very nominal rates starting at Rs 100 and everything below Rs 1000, the saree sale held at the non-profit’s office here was hugely popular with only 5 sarees out of the 190 sarees remaining unsold and a total of Rs 85,000 collected from the sale. Generous donations from a number of people who treasure India’s traditional textiles made the sale possible.
“It’s a fantastic occasion to encounter traditional textiles – our material heritage. We keep prices low, so more people have the chance to buy them. And we feel there’s always value in reusing, recycling and repurposing materials in our homes, particularly clothes. And among these, sarees are the most versatile,” says Paliwal.
Proceeds of the sale are being channeled to fund the research of Mohan Rao, a textile enthusiast who has in collaboration with a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology developed a prototype device that can distinguish between handloom and power loom sarees.
“We have been working on this device from the year 2015 and once it comes out in the market, customers will not be cheated by manufacturers who pass off power loom products as handloom. Currently, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two and has been affecting the livelihood of traditional weavers,” says Mohan Rao, who heads the Rashtriya Chenetha Jana Samakhya, an Andhra Pradesh based organisation.
The event also served to tap into the nostalgia for traditional sarees, especially among younger wearers among whom there is a sense that “they just aren’t made that way anymore.”
Dr Brinda Bose, Reader, Centre for English Studies, JNU, who attended the sale says, “Sarees carry a different kind of sense so when I buy a used sari I receive the warmth of the previous owner. Sarees wear well and even if they are a little frayed, I prefer them to fresh starched sarees.”
On its website, www.sahapedia.org, the encyclopaedic body has separate modules on different textile traditions found in India. For example, Kalamkari, the textile tradition found in Andhra Pradesh has been explained through a series of quick facts, interviews with experts, a few videos on t
he process of churning out the fabric and a list of additional reading materials.
Textile printing of Madhya Pradesh, a detailed know how of Ajrakh, the delightful brocades from Varanasi and an overview of Jute, the golden fibre are among the different textile modules that can be found on the resource site.
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