Karnataka's heritage weaves

Karnataka's heritage weaves

Handcrafted elegance

Mysore Silk Saree. Photos by Savitha B R and Govindraj Javali

While Darjeeling tea was the first Indian product to qualify for the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, Mysore silk has the distinction of being the first GI tagged product from Karnataka.

The GI tag given to a product serves as an assurance of quality that is attributable to its place of origin. The product can be natural, agricultural or manufactured, and includes several handicraft and food products as well.

The tag also helps promote a product, giving it a wider recognition and legal security against duplicate products.?

Four GI tagged products in the state, like the Mysore silk and Navalgund durries, also have unique GI logos, which registered producers can use on their products.

With 42 GI tagged products, Karnataka has the highest number of such products in the country.?

However, in many places people traditionally involved in the cultivation or production of a particular product are shifting to other professions due to lack of demand or competition from cheaper replications.

Rooted in culture?

“The extinction of a practice, art or a crop is a big loss to humanity, as these are ingrained in our cultural anthropology,” says G K Vidyashankar, former deputy director, Spices Board, Bengaluru, who was part of the first coordination meeting of the GI policy for Karnataka.

“The GI tagged products are deeply linked with the place of origin, and have historical and cultural significance. The preservation of these products is tantamount to preserving the heritage of the place,” says Tejas S J, CEO of Gi Tagged World Premium Products (P) Ltd, which deals with GI tagged products from across the country.

As GI tagged products are usually handcrafted or cultivated, encouraging these products will ensure a sustainable livelihood of the producers, which will in turn result in the development of the region itself, says Tejas.

This is especially true when it comes to handloom products from Karnataka, where the texture, fabric, embroidery and design are region-specific.?There are eight handloom products from the state that have GI tags, which we have listed here.

Ilkal saree

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Ilkal saree

Traditionally worn in North Karnataka, the?Ilkal saree gets its?name from Ilkal, a town in Bagalkot, which has been a weaving centre since 8th century AD.

What sets the Ilkal saree apart from others is that the body and the pallu are weaved separately. The body warp is then joined with the pallu warp in a series of loops in a technique called Topi Teni, which is exclusively practiced in Ilkal.

Ilkal sarees are produced in pit looms using cotton, silk or a combination of cotton and silk or artificial silk yarns.

These sarees are famous for their pallu, usually red with patterns of white temple towers. The ends of the pallu contains?hanige?(comb),?koti kammli?(fort ramparts),?toputenne?(jowar)?and rampa?(mountain range) patterns. The middle portion sometimes has?kyadgi?(stripes) designs.

The border is usually red or maroon. The traditional border designs are?chikki, gomi, paraspet?and?gaddidadi.

The body consists of stripes, rectangles or squares, and sometimes also has?kasuti?embroidery.

These sarees are produced in different lengths of six, eight or nine yards.?

The extra length allows the women to wrap the saree around their heads, as is the tradition here in this part of Karnataka.

Kasuti embroidery

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Kasuti embroidery

The term?kasuti?is derived from?kai?meaning hand and?suti?meaning cotton, indicating hand embroidery made using cotton threads.

This practice dates back to the Chalukya dynasty and it is believed to have evolved between the 6th and 12th centuries. It is extensively practiced in Dharwad district, and is commonly?done on the Ilkal saree and Khana blouse.

The speciality of this embroidery is that the designs aren’t traced, rather carried out directly on the cloth. Traditional patterns are symmetrical, stitched without using knots.

There are four types of stitches:?gavanthi?(a double running stitch used for marking vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines),?murgi?(a zig-zag stitch which appears like steps of a staircase),?negi?(a running or darning stitch) and?menthi?(a cross stitch resembling fenugreek seeds).

The designs are inspired by rangoli patterns. Some of the common motifs are temple?gopuras,?chariots, palanquins, lotus,?tulsi katti, elephants with howdahs, and peacocks with spread plumage.

Molakalmuru saree

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Molakalmuru Saree. Photo Credit: karnatakadht.org

The Molakalmuru silk saree is known for its texture,?butta?(motifs) and gold?zari.

These sarees are long-lasting as they are woven using twisted and double-lined silk yarn.

The Molakalmuru sarees are woven in Molakalmuru town in Chitradurga district, which became a weaving hub when weavers from Ranebennur, Melkote, Saurashtra and Andhra Pradesh settled here several decades ago.

Later on, these sarees received special patronage from Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar.

The saree is woven using a three shuttle technique to give the pallu and the border a colour that contrasts with that of the body.

The common motifs used are?hamsa?(swans),?rudrakshi?(rudraksha seeds),?vanki?(arrow), lotus,?peacock, mangoes,?gandaberunda?(two-headed bird) etc.

Mysore silk saree

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Mysore silk sarees. Photo by?Govindraj Javali

Mysore silk is renowned for its quality, lustre and elegance. Mysore silk as well as the saree are only produced by Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation Ltd (KSIC), which holds the patent for its production.

The Mysore silk factory was founded in 1912 by Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Initially, the silk fabrics were exclusively used by the royal family, and as ornamental fabrics of their armed forces. Right from reeling of cocoons to the weaving of pure silk fabric, the entire process takes place in this factory.

Mysore silk saree is one of the most expensive sarees, as it is made from 100% pure silk and the zari contains 65% pure silver and 0.65% of gold. It comes in two varieties: crepe de chine and georgette.?

Lambani embroidery

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Sandur Lambani embroidery. Photo by??Irshad Mahammad

Sandur Lambani embroidery is a unique needle craft made by the Lambani women in and around Sandur region in Ballari.

The Lambani embroidery consists of over 40 different types of stitches and the fabric is ornamented with mirrors, beads, buttons, shells, coins, small bells, cotton or woollen tassels, and metallic trinkets.

The Lambani women are also known for their applique work, wherein small pieces of fabric of different shapes are sewn onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern; and patch work, wherein small bits of cloths are attached to make up the entire garment.

They also use traditional dye made using vegetable extracts, and print them using wooden blocks. Red, blue and yellow are the dominant colours.

The embroidery is made on garments worn by women, bedcovers, cushion covers, wall hangings and bags.

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Udupi saree

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Udupi saree. Photo by?Govindraj Javali

The Udupi saree is known for its bright contrast pallu. These sarees are made from combed cotton yarns of finer counts generally 80’’ and 60’’ count, and are made using Malabar frame looms which were introduced by the Basel Mission in the 1840s.

One distinct method of making these sarees is that natural rice and maize starch solutions are directly applied to the warps while the weaving is in progress. This method, called loom sizing, is done to strengthen the yarn and prevent its breakage. The on-loom sizing also gives these sarees a shinier appearance.

These eco-friendly sarees gained prominence during the freedom struggle and as part of the cooperative movement, when there was a call to boycott western goods.

The Udupi sarees mainly come in two types: check design in body with solid border, and plain body with butta designs.

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Navalgund durries

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Navalgund durries

Navalgund durries are handwoven rugs and carpets made in Navalgund in Dharwad district. These cotton durries are exclusively made by women of Sheikh Sayeedi community using a vertical loom.

These weavers are originally from Bijapur, who migrated to Navalgund in the 16th century AD following the Battle of Raichur fought between the Adil Shahs and the Vijayanagar empire.

There are three kinds of Navalgund durries: Navalgund Jhamkhana, which is used as a floor covering during special occasions; Navalgund-ja-Namaaz, which is used as a prayer mat; Guddar, which is used as a floor covering and for covering stored grains.

These brightly coloured durries typically have geometrical shapes. Floral and peacock designs are common too.

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Guledgudd khana

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Guledgudd Khana. Photo Credit: MCM Photography

While the six or nine yards of the saree garners all attention, what of the blouse?

Bagalkot’s Guledgudd town is famous for the Guledgudd Khana?— a glossy dyed fabric famous for the blouses fashioned?from it, which best complements the Ilkal saree. According to popular belief, Guledgudd’s handloom industry started in this region in the 8th century AD during the rule of the Chalukyas. As per 1881 census, there were 500 families of handloom weavers here. The raw materials used are silk and cotton. The yarns are dyed in earthen pots or copper vats.

Generally, silk yarn is used in warp (longitudinal thread) and cotton in weft (transverse thread), and are woven using a dobby mechanism. The small and intricate designs are its speciality, with motifs based on nature, traditions of the community and images of their deities. Common designs are the face of the Sun God, the face of Lord Siddeshwar, chariot, footsteps of elephant, tulsi leaves and jasmine flowers.

 
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