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Kondalampatti – Hamlet of handloom silks

Kondalampatti is a small village in the district of Salem in Tamilnadu in India. The village is around 8 KM from Salem town. The village has a population of around 17000. It is a typical Tamilnadu village with the main profession of people into agriculture and handloom. The average educational level in this village is upto 8th standard. The village is well connected by road and there are frequent bus services to this village.

Handloom industry
Kondalampatti is famous for its silk handloom products. Kondalampatti handlooms are well known for the durability kondalampatti loomof the colours used in the yarn. The mixture of colour gives the durability. The count used in weaving gives the softness and hardness of the fabric.  Count means the number of threads used in the length and breadth for weaving known as warp and weft respectively. In Kondalampatti 60 to 65 threads are used in a square inch in warp. The width of the saree comes to 51 inches. Each and every thread of the Kondalampatti handloom saree is hand woven. Each weaver works from home with all his / her family members helping in different steps of the process. It requires approximately 4-8 days (depending on the variety of saree) of continuous efforts for weaving a saree.

The process of manufacturing a Kondalampatti handloom Saree starts with dyeing the silk yarn.  Dyeing is the coloring process of the yarn by dipping the yarn in the boiled color water in very high temperature, higher the temperature durability of colour is also higher. Dyeing of the yarn is done making sure that the color is spread uniformly throughout the yarn and it does not affect the quality of the yarn. The coloring process is a very crucial step in getting a good colourful saree. The colours are applied as per the specifications of the designers and also some times as per the orders from customers who orders for a designer Saree. After coloring the silk yarn is dried in shade. Drying yarn in sun can be harmful to yarn.

After dyeing and drying the yarn it is converted to thread and is loaded as warp which is called pavvu and then it is loaded into the loom for actual weaving. It is also rolled over small sticks to use for weft. One pavvu will make 6 sarees. It will take 2 months to complete weaving of one pavvu. The weaver will get a remuneration of around Rs 1500 per saree. Kondalampatti handloom sarees are traditionally woven in the interlocked-weft technique.

The design required on the saree is initially drawn in a computer and then this is punched into a card and then these cards are loaded in Jacard in the loom. Jacard is a box like structure which is fixed in the top of the loom. There will be needles in the Jacard which will read the punched cards and control the weaving of weft.

Decline of Handloom industry
In Kondalampatti only silk handloom sarees are weaved. Due to the high cost of silk yarn now the weavers of Kondalampatti is taking orders from Arni and Kancheepuram and weaving as per their requirement. Now one can see only very rarely weavers weaving Kondalampatti silk handloom products. Once famous Kondalampatti Handloom products are now becoming extinct due to the high cost of silk yarn and low wages prevailing in the industry. Previously Kondalampatti was full of talented weavers who used to do magic in the looms to produce the best handloom products. Now you can see very small number of weavers are actually in this profession and most of the handlooms are being converted to power looms. There is an emergency situation to take necessary action to protect the traditional Kondalampatti handloom products.

Weaver’s voice
The weavers of Kondalampatti blame the mushrooming power looms for the high cost of silk yarn. The weavers demand a responsible role by the government to protect the handloom industry by providing subsidy for yarn and a rehabilitation package for the weavers who are suffering due to high cost of yarn and low wages prevailing in the industry. They hope that if the government takes the responsibility to support the handloom industry by way of showcasing and marketing the handloom products, then only the industry can survive or else the present situation has started the end of handloom industry in Kondalampatti. The new generation is also not interested in the profession due to the hard labour and long hours to bring out the finished product, even then the returns are not lucrative to make them stay in the profession. Due to the non availability of weavers the handloom industry is fastly shifting to power looms.

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