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Saraswati Sarkar, weaver of Nadia receives President’s Medal for her exquisite Jamdani

13 October, 2020 15:24:40
Saraswati Sarkar, weaver of Nadia receives President’s Medal for her exquisite Jamdani

Weaving in India has a history of no less than 5,000 years. There was a time when the weavers’ hub in West Bengal --- Phulia, Habibpur, and Shantipur in Nadia district resonated with the monotonous sound of the rotating spindles and bobbins' heads successively knocking against each other, producing a rhythmic cadence at all waking hours of the day. Those were the days of handloom and the cottage industry thrived under patronage of the ruling class who understood and valued handloom products. But everything changed when mass production started and power looms and cotton mills replaced handloom. 

The handloom weavers lost out on bigger opportunities as they did not have the means for mass production and that gave the power looms an edge over them. While a power loom can produce three to four sarees a day, a handloom can make the same in a week’s time. The weavers face another major problem — not getting the right value for their art. The mahajans or middle-men who act as their interface with the rest of the world, pay them poorly and there is hardly a way for the weavers to bypass them. Many traditional artisans have left the family trade in sheer frustration and opted for other professions for greater opportunities, higher income and a better livelihood.

There are only a few dedicated family of weavers who are still holding on to their trade and spinning out colourful threads to weave ‘dreams and emotions.’ The womenfolk have also mastered the craft and often pitch in the family business during free time. One such homemaker has created an exquisite silk Dhakai Jamdani saree this year and has been selected to receive the President of India’s Medal for her brilliant creation. Her saree border features bright, multi-coloured peacocks and the rest of the saree is a beautiful tapestry of birds and flowers. 

When Saraswati Sarkar, the recipient of this year’s President’s Medal was given the news at her home in Habibpur, she was shell-shocked.  This was something way beyond her wildest dream. This homemaker has been weaving in tandem with her husband for the past 35 years. She sits with the loom only after completing her household chores. The saree that got her the award took seven months to make. While she was weaving the saree, people praised the design and her work and she was happy to receive the adulation but she was definitely not prepared for this. 

Mother of two children, a son and a daughter, Saraswati Devi is elated to receive the award.  It has inspired her to dream and set future goals. She aims to collect the work of fellow weavers and set up a museum and display the variety and quality of work to connoisseurs of art and craft.  

Story Tag:
  • Weavers of Bengal

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