ET Panache Angadi Exclusive: Weaving A Legacy

Angadi Galleria

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As dawn breaks Balaji adjusts his spectacles, even as he hastens to complete another yard of the resplendent red sari that shall soon adorn a bride-to-be on her red letter day.

Balaji represents the sixth generation of a long line of weavers who have plied their craft in the secluded village of Tirucherai nestled in the heart of the Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu. As with his forefathers, Balaji owes his allegiance to the same family of Master weavers who have for hundreds of years provided employment to thousands of weavers and whose name is synonomous with the silk trade.

The House of Angadi is one of India’s oldest and foremost textile business families with a history of over 600 years in the textile trade. Although the family has been largely known for its iconic retail stores at Bangalore (Angadi Silks and Angadi Galleria), the family has been an established player across the textile value chain for several decades. From designing and manufacturing exquisite silk saris to the manufacture and export of garments and home furnishings, the Angadi family has straddled virtually every sphere of textiles over the years.

As a family that has been engaged in the textile trade for over 600 years The House of Angadi has witnessed and helped the Handloom sector stave off many existential challenges.

R.K Raman who is the mentor and oldest surviving member of the family today was himself instrumental in creating many of the firsts in the Handloom Industry.

“Under the British our textile industry faced an existential challenge as all our raw materials such as cotton were exported to England and converted into finished cloth and re exported back to India. This posed a grave threat to our indigenous textile industry, most of it Handloom. The Swadeshi movement that started in response – used the Charka as an effective symbol of our struggle since this was emblematic of the larger economic exploitation of the country by the British. ” opines R.K Raman.

“Post-independence the government was very much in favor of rapid industrialization. A large number of powerlooms and huge mills were set up all over India and there was a very real threat of Handlooms being wiped out by cheap mill made fabrics. Likewise the arrival of polyester and other manmade fibres in the 1960s and 70s posed another major threat to Handlooms”

“It was only because of the efforts of such great revivalists such as Kamala Devi Chatopdhyay, Pupul Jayakar and Rukmini Devi Arundale that Handlooms managed to survive these threats to the present day.”

R.K Raman who worked closely with all of the above mentioned revivalists played his part in the ‘Great Revival of Handlooms’.

Greatly enthused by the early wave of industrialization sweeping through post independent India in the early 1950’s R. K Raman reorganized the family’s weaving operations at Tirucherai into a centralized manufacturing unit, creating in the process India’s first fully integrated Handloom weaving facility. In partnership with famed artist and designer, Padma Sri awardee Sudhir Soujwal, R.K Raman infused new life into the otherwise staid silk sari. New techniques of weaving were introduced to adapt the hand drawn artworks of the design team into fabric. The as yet novel shedding mechanisms of Jacquards were introduced for the first time to weaving silk saris in the south and other techniques such as tie & dye which were hitherto confined to cotton were introduced to silk weaving in south India.

That all of the above innovations were pioneered in an era of acute shortages and with the lack of basic infrastructure can be understood from the fact that the village of Tirucherai was amongst the first to receive the then modern amenities of electricity and telecommunications thanks to the initiatives of the Angadi family.
The Angadi weaving unit emerged as a model for rural economic activity and it was therefore only fitting that the then World Bank President Robert Mcnamara visited the Angadi weaving facilities on his tour of India.

“Our Handlooms are an integral part of our National heritage, culture and History. Today we are fortunate to still survive as the world’s largest handloom producing country in the world.”R K Raman signs off.

Read the original article here : The Times Group

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