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Weaving bands of color

Jamakalam is a cotton Dhurrie characterised by colourful stripes most common in the South of the country. Its a part of almost every household and somehow magically appears to floor the festive ceremonies. BTRT recounts its tales from Bhavani near Erode district of Tamil Nadu, which received its geographical indication for Jamakalam in 2006.

A dhurrie is different from a carpet in that is has no pile and has no backing either, for which reason it is reversible. While carpets are produced by knotting pile yarn to warp, dhuries are made by interweaving weft and warp.

We are guided by a worker from Sri Ramana Textiles to their ‘Kotaai’, a semi-open area where the weavers weave the jamakalams. Most of these Kotaai’s are privately owned and operated. Walking amidst lanes and by-lanes of house, we come across a wooden gate that opens to a field of pit looms where weavers rest in seats dug into the earth, under oversized looms, using both their hands and feet to weave. It almost felt like entering into a world that time had forgotten. There wasn't a machine in sight, the Nokia mobile plugged into its charger on a mantel did not suggest otherwise. The weavers sit along the shaded compound wall while the centre courtyard is textured with white extended threads from the loom. On one corner, a women sits rolling large dyed bundles of threads into smaller ‘Nools’ and passing these to the weavers in wicker baskets. This Kotaai has three pits looms - 4’, 8’ and 12’. The 4’ jamakalams can be weaved by one weaver, 8’ requires two weavers and 12’ requires three. Size combinations of Jamakalams can be weaved in these pitlooms. The dhurrie is sturdy due to the compactness of the weave.

The looms are made of wood with white threads called ‘Paavu’, stretching vertically through a comb like ‘Panna’. These white vertical threads are weaved with colourful horizontal ‘Nools’ using a ‘Naada’. The weavers sit in a pit dug in the ground, on level with the weaving surface and operate two pedals each with their legs while enabling the hands to shuttle the ‘Naada' containing the ‘Nool’ across to each other, to produce the weaving pattern. ‘Sendu’ holds the weaved portions in place. Once on the loom, an average sized dhurrie of about 4’ x 6’ may take two to three days for completion.

We ask the weaver if they tried any other patterns apart from stripes and he directs us to another Kotaai which is primarily known for adding patterns and borders in Jamakalam. We walk across to the other end of the town to a larger Kotaai with 10 looms, some weaving Plain dhurries, some bands and a few making intermediate patterns with silk thread.

We make a final stop at the Cooperative Society for Bhavani weavers where independent weavers are registered for work. The raw materials are provided, they weave in their loom and supply the orders back to the government operated cooperative for sale. While the charm of the Jamakalam lies in simple stripe structure and symmetry, issues are with the colour selection and stagnancy in the design patterns. We glance at the weaved Photographs on frames before we step out.

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