Tuesday 5 September 2017

The Weavers of Ilkal Saree

Look at the pictures here: 

Photo taken from here.

Photo taken from here.

A lady draped in Ilkal whom we saw at the Badami temple complex. She gladly agreed to pose for a photo. 

One of the many Ilkal sightings in Badami. 
What do you see in common? Flaming red pallus. These pallus are most synonymous with women living in rural Maharashtra and North Karnataka now, although in earlier days that is what women mostly wore on a daily basis throughout the state. If you do not already know the name of this saree, it’s called Ilkal (pronounced ‘Irkal’). And Ilkal is back is fashion as is evident from the first two photos. :-) 

On my trip to Guledgudda last year, to meet the weavers of Khun, we also met Ilkal weavers. There is an eponymous village called Ilkal too, near Badami which obviously is known for its sarees. But we met the Ilkal weavers in Guledgudda and another village nearby called Kamatagi, where we visited the Hotti brothers of the Chamundeswari Handloom Weavers Association which specialises in weaving Ilkal sarees.
So, let me straight away get to the details :-)

We first met Sampath Rathi, who is a wholesaler of Khun and Ilkal. He explained the different varieties of Ilkal. 
What sets Ilkals apart is the pallu- mostly in flaming red, although now they come in several other colours. The technique of the weaving the pallu with the body of the saree is called topi-teni. The pallu is woven separately and was always made of pure silk (even if the remaining saree was a blend of cotton and silk) and is then attached to the body of the saree.

Ilkals come in plain as well as chequered. Even for the chequered ones, depending on the size of the checks there are different names assigned. 

This saree with the smallest checks is called 'kondi-chikki' and this is the 'gomi' design on the border.

These medium sized checks are called 'ragaavali' and the border is called 'chikki paras'.

Here the checks are called 'puthadi' with the lines close to each other, and the border is a zari one. 

Close up of the 'gomi' border. 

Notice the patterns formed where the pallu is attached to the body- Topi-teni. 

The checks in this saree are called 'sherting' with the chequered squares in another colour.
At the Chamundeswari Handloom Weavers Association in nearby Kamatagi, P.L. Hotti, one of the Hotti brothers, also a weaver, took us around and we could see the weavers working on the Ilkal. 

The topi-teni technique in progress. 

We literally feasted our eyes on the varieties of Ilkal they had. Unlike most other places that make Ilkal, this association makes Ilkal in pure cotton. The others are usually a mix of cotton and silk. 

Can't have enough of the pallu :-) 

I wanted to buy everything I saw. 
While we are talking to P.L.Hotti and seeing the variety of Ilkal sarees, two men came in and handed over two dupattas to Hotti. He introduced the two men as weavers, Dashrath and Vitthal Hotti, and the dupattas they got were fresh from the loom  I jumped in excitement and immediately bought a dupatta and also posed with them. Ah! the joy of buying a piece of fabric directly from the weaver and also having a photo with them  They were so humble and down-to-earth. And I felt so honoured buying from them  The dupatta I bought (in the picture) was woven by Dashrath, standing to my right.

With a freshly woven dupatta made by Vitthal and Dashrath Hotti. 
The Hotti brothers had collaborated some time ago with the weavers in Bhujodi to exchanges ideas and techniques in weaving. The result of this is a range of pure cotton Ilkal sarees, even the pallu (which is a departure from tradition as the pallu is always in silk). 

The soft spoken P.L. Hotti talking about the collaboration with the Bhujodi weavers. 

The fruit of the collaboration :-) 
If you want to contact the Hotti brothers, here are the contact numbers. :  9008621276 or 8867707273. We visited Guledgudda and Kamatagi on the same day. 

I was inspired to illustrate my own version of one of Jamini Roy's paintings to represent Maharashtrian women in Ilkal and Khun with the crescent moon bindi and 'nath' :-) Here it is. You may visit my art page, Purple Soul. I am taking orders for  prints of this work. Please contact me on priya@purplesoul.org for the same. 

My version of Jamini Roy's women in Khun and Ilkal.
I've been seeing a lot more urban women too wearing Ilkal these days. Clearly, it's a revival of the saree which was some time ago relegated to the rural areas. A lovely lady designer in Chennai, who is now a friend, who stumbled upon my blog while searching for Khun weavers has launched an entire collection of apparel made of Khun and Ilkal. 

I now have three Ilkal sarees in my collection and will post a picture soon in those. 

I hope to discover more such hidden textile treasures in India :-) 

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