Which is the best Khadi or Khaddar fabric in India?
Khaddar. The one word that instantly brings with it images of Mahatma Gandhi in particular, and neta’s in general.
But how much of this beautiful cotton, popularly known as Khadi, do we know of? Read on, to find all about one of the best Khaddar’s in the country-that of Ponduru Khadi or Khaddar of Srikakulam, which is literally struggling to survive.
What is Ponduru Khadi?
To put it simply, Ponduru Khadi Vastraalu’ (as they are called) comes in the form of plain cloth, dhotis, angavastrams, sarees. It is the softest variety of khaddar that India produces. The weavers of Srikakulam district of northern Andhra Pradesh have been working relentlessly on the handloom, spinning the high-quality khaddar for years. It is made from cotton grown around Gollaprolu in East Godavari district, called, ‘Punasa’. It is a farmed variety made with not a hybrid but generational seeds. Its quality is so fine that it is actually known as Andhra fine Khadi, in local markets.
This is one of the only places where still single spindle charkha is used for spinning. Yarn up to 120s count can be spun in white cotton while up to 60s can be spun with red cotton.
Impressed by its Fine Texture, Mahatma Gandhi Preferred the Ponduru Khadi to Other Fabrics
USP of Ponduru Khaddar
If you possess a khaddar saree or kurta from Srikakulam you have already experienced the softness of the garment. The gentle fabric brings about a calmness in your demeanor. Here is the reason why. The unique selling point of this khaddar is that it is completely handmade. This is also the reason for its smoothness and slight shininess, which otherwise is lost when machines take over.
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However, there is one more reason why there is a shine in the khaddar. The secret is-fish bone!
The fact that this khadi is exported to the US, Japan, Sweden, and Denmark, only speaks volume of its global popularity.
Interesting Facts about Ponduru Khaddar
- The cotton crop is Punasa, Hill, White or Red, is grown by using organic manures.
- The cotton is cleaned and combed with Valuga Fish jawbone. This is said to be the main reason for the quality of the cloth by making it soft and silky.
- The cotton is of a very short staple variety, which is excellent for no.100\120 count weave of the cloth.
- This particular khaddar has a special shine and sheen because of the use of fish bone.
- The end product is the best quality handloom Khadi cloth in the country.
Why This Art Needs Urgent Attention
Despite the reasonably good demand for the Ponduru Khaddar, it is not a full-time sustainable activity for the weavers who have dwindled drastically in numbers from 2000 a decade and a half back to a handful now. And why wouldn’t it be so? With meager wages of Rs. 125 to 150 a day, what would lure them in this profession? Presently, it is mainly the women of the house weaving in order to augment the family income. Another major factor for its decline regardless of the GI status is the dwindling of the shortage of the Valuga fish whose prices have steeped.
The Ponduru Looms
They say a visit to Andhra is incomplete without a visit to Srikakulam if you are a textile enthusiast. As you enter the village you shall be informed that it is mainly the Pattushali, Sali and Devangi communities that practice weaving. The Pattushali community women have all the accessories needed for ginning that have been passed on to them through generations. These include items for ginning, that is separating the cotton from seed, carding, slivering and spinning into fine yarn.
And if you thought you could buy directly from the weavers at throwaway prices, since you would want to pick it all up, there is a disappointment. One has to go through that are work Chitrika, an NGO, the government-run Khadi Bhandar, working closely with them. One could, however, buy fabric in running to curate it later to your taste.
In fact, Andhra Fine Khadi Karmikabhivruddhi Sangham (AFKKS) and Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), have been working ceaselessly towards the development of this craft.
The sheer simplicity of the garment continues to makes it hallmark even today, but this particular art is dying in Ponduru. Getting the artisans of this district good business is the only way to keep in going for the future generations to come so that Ponduru Khaddar also gets the same recognition and weight like a Kupaddaam and Ballakammi, which also come from the same region.
A weave and fabric that is the hallmark of India as a nation, need to be rekindled and revived. The Ponduru Khaddar.