by Shri Gautam Mitra & Shri. M. A. Moon, Scientists, CSTRI
Handloom delicacies of India keep amazing people around the globe with its varied weaves, intricate designs and spectacular colour combinations which are very unique and special for every weaving cluster. Advances in science and technology have provided a sea-change in productivity and quality of textiles, but that can not deter fantasizing handloom products especially the wide range of silk sarees. The lustrous and drape-friendly quality of silk saree enhances beauty and grace of any woman and that is why it has become an integral part of the wardrobe of Indian women. Sarees from different regions reflect the cultural identity of the region with unique features evolved over a period of time suiting to the climatic conditions, topography, cultural heritage with an aesthetic sense and skill of the master weavers. Varanasi, Kancheepuram, Pochampally, Baluchari, Chanderi silk, Paithani silk, Patola etc. are some of the renowned sarees of different regions are the examples of such combinations. Panetar Gharchola sarees of Khambhat cluster is one such product which is immensely popular in Gujarat and its surrounding States. A humble attempt is made through this article of Silk Mark Pilgrimage to know more about this particular art of Khambhat.
GHARCHOLA – A PEEP INTO HISTORY
Gharchola means a women’s house garment and is traditionally used as odhnis (shoulder cover) by the women in Gujarat. On the other hand Panetar is white saree of satin weave with red border of Bandhani design (tie & dye). Generally it had a check in gold thread with small motif of a lotus or peacock worked in gold in the centre. Besides, it carried Bandhani design within the square. Gharchola and Panetar were worn together by the brides and women of all communities in Gujarat in wedding and other auspicious occasions. Bandni designs are main attraction of these sarees. Now-a-days, these beautiful designs are created on sarees. Generally it is available in two varieties depending on the quality of zari used in checks and squares in the sarees. Gold thread is used for sarees to be bought by rich and affluent society while plain zari is used for other groups of customers. The most popular variety of this saree is one that comes in combination of red and white. The entire body of the saree is covered with repeat designs in squares and when the saree is opened out, it looks like a number of gardens complete with bed of flowers. Each square encloses a motif such as elephants, dolls, flowers. Other popular patterns are Bhavan Bagh, Fifty Two Gardens, Raas Leela etc.
Gharchola saris are the most symbolic element of a Hindu or Jain wedding in Gujarat. These saris are first woven by using silk and zari thread and are later embellished by tie and dye or bandhani work. The golden grid pattern of a gharchola sari, dyed in rich red and pecked white dots illustrating varied themes, make the ceremony of wedding or any other ritual a picturesque and glorified occasion.
FEATURES OF GHARCHOLA
A typical Gharchola sari is marked by the large zari checks, 12 section patterns is known by the name of ‘bar bagh’ and the 52 square saris are known by the name of ‘baavan bagh’. These checks carry small golden motifs, the most common motifs used in the Gharchola saris are those of peacocks, lotus, human figures, floral patterns and the like. Where more than two colors are used, the design is known as ‘phulwari’ or garden and where animal motifs predominate it is known as ’shikari’ which means hunting scene. The main color used is red, with white and yellow dots, though green Gharcholas are also fabricated based on personal request of the client.
This silk sarees first came in from Khambhat formerly known as Cambay. Earlier it was the capital of princely state of British India within the Gujarat division of Bombay. It lies on an alluvial plain at the north end of the gulf of Khambhat which was famous for extreme rise and fall of tides. Dating back in 13th century Khambhat was a very flourishing city with important trading centre and celebrated with manufacturing silk, chinz and gold stuff. Famous traveler Marco Polo noted it as a busy port in 1293. But the decline of the city started in early 17th century mainly because silting up of gulf and difficulty in accessing the port. Presently the area is in Anand district of Gujarat with population of around 80 thousands. The only industries survive today are the handicrafts of the unmatched art of working on Akik (Agate stones), cutting & polishing of precious/ semi precious stones and handloom weaving.
VERGE OF EXTINCTION
Only a population of 300 weavers’ family with 200 handlooms is keeping the tradition of manufacturing Gharchola sarees. The looms used are pit and frame looms with no new tools or equipment attached. However, most of them are attached with dobby and jacquard of 240 hooks. The metal reed of 88’ and 94’ are used in the looms. Raw materials used are 20/22 denier raw silk for warp and 20/22 denier bleached/ coloured silk yarn as weft. The warp yarn is procured in ball form of 42 meter from Bangalore and zari yarn from Surat. Although weaving and tying work is done at Khambhat, but for dyeing and block printing on sarees, it was sent to Jamnagar where brilliant shades are produced due to superior water quality of the region. The art of Gharchola saree making has also spread to other cluster like Joravarnagar, Kataria under Surendranagar district.
THE MAKING OF A GHARCHOLA
The sarees are available in 46” width in the price range of Rs. 1200 – 1500/ per piece. A typical Gharchola saree specification is as given below,
Length — 5.5 meters
Width —- 46 inches
Pallu Length —- 30 inches
Reed —- 88
Ends per inch —- 88
Picks per inch —- 100
Widthwise no. of boxes of 2×2 inch —- 12
Weave —- Plain for body and twill for
border and pallu
The making of above sarees is a complicated and time consuming process. A starched silk odhni or saree is fixed to a large wooden frame using nails. The odhni or saree coloured red or green, is divided in to net work of squares by rows of white tied – dyed spots or woven bands of zari motif within each compartment ranging from elephant, parrot and flowers to dancing girls. The weaver needs about 6-7 days to arrange the looms ready for weaving through preparatory processes and then take another 6 days to complete weaving if there is check pattern, 10-12 days for double check pattern and only 3 days for plain body weave.
The main marketing centres of the saree are Bhuj – Kutch where big weavers/ master weavers have linkages to push off the products which small weavers can not do. As a result small weavers only work for the master weavers and have to satisfy with lesser margin of income.
|Geographical distribution||Communities Involved||Raw materials
|Kutch district||Khatris||Silk||Yarn dyeing|
|Jamnagar||Georgette||Tie & dye|
SUPPORTING A FADING CRAFT
Panetar Gharchola sarees are gradually losing its demand due to lack of market promotion, design development, product diversification, use of duplicate silk yarn and competition from Benarasi saree which have more intricate design. However, there is no reason to be panic for this traditional product as it has strong ceremonial identity in Gujarat and the weavers are skilled enough to adapt changes in designs to boost market demand of this kind of sarees. The need of the hour is to extend encouragement and support to the weavers who are keen to produce attractive sarees with newer designs. The support in the form of various central and state sponsored schemes is available, the only thing is to know these schemes and take advantage. Gujarat State Handloom & Handicraft Development Corporation Limited has made a diagnostic study of the Khambhat area and is extending support under Cluster Development Programme for saving this precious art of saree making. Central Silk Board under Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India has various schemes on weaving and wet processing sector and an awareness programme was organized at Khambhat to explain those schemes. The schemes like Loom Upgradation, CATD and Yarn Dyeing would definitely boost the quality of this kind of traditional sarees and help attract market demand.