In a rented residence on Alangudiyar Street in Karaikudi, Sivaganga district, the place the Amarar Rajeev Gandhi Handloom Weavers Cooperative Production and Sales Society Limited has its workplace, the temper is jubilant. Six years after the cooperative utilized for a Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai for its distinctive Kandangi cotton sari, the approval has come via. “The phones haven’t stopped ringing,” says J Hema Jayamurugan, president of the society. “After years of being overlooked, suddenly everyone wants to know our story.”

Tag of Uniqueness

The Kandangi sari was one among three heritage merchandise from Tamil Nadu that have been granted the GI tag in late August; Dindigul’s handmade locks and Palani’s Panchamirtham, a candy prasadam (providing) distinctive to the Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple there, have been the opposite two.The GI tag is granted for a interval of 10 years. Renewal will rely upon the requirements being maintained over time.

Weaving was dropped at this area within the 17th century, when the current-day districts of Sivaganga, Pudukottai and Ramanathapuram have been dominated by the Sethupathy kings. Kandangi (which means chequered in Tamil) saris have been initially woven in silk (pattu Kandangi) however at the moment are made from coarse cotton, and measure between 5.10 to five.60 metres, with a width of 47-49 inches.

“Around 40-50 years ago, women from well-to-do families of the Nagarathar Chettiar community started asking weavers to recreate their silk sari patterns on cotton because they were easier to wear in the hot weather,” says S Palaniappan, former president of the Karaikudi cooperative, and Hema’s father. “But whether it is silk or cotton, the chief distinguishing mark of a Kandangi sari is its mub-bagham (triple) colour design.”

Kandangi cotton saris woven by the Amarar Rajeev Gandhi Weavers Cooperative Production and Sales Society Limited, in Karaikudi. The Cooperative has been profitable in acquiring a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the Kandangi sari
| Photo Credit:
M Moorthy

Woven in colors like bottle inexperienced, mustard, russet and yellows with broad borders encasing a physique embellished with simply stripes or checks, the Kandangi sari is a design traditional. The ease with which it may be replicated might additionally clarify why powerloom weavers and designers are promoting lookalike blended-fibre merchandise as ‘Chettinad cotton saris’ at significantly larger costs in city centres. “We came to know about this large-scale plagiarism only after customers started coming to us with complaints of their Kandangi saris shrinking by 2-4 inches after each wash. Since we treat our yarn (purchased in bulk from National Handloom Development Corporation in Coimbatore) rigorously to prevent shrinkage after weaving as per government norms, it became clear that poly-cotton fabric was being passed off as Kandangi to the general public,” says Palaniappan, who additionally labored on getting the handloom stamp of authenticity in 2016 for the co-operative’s merchandise.

Chettinad Checklist

Today, most of the as soon as desolate stately houses in Chettinad have been revived as heritage accommodations. Package excursions typically embrace a day journey to Athangudi, identified for its handmade tiles; to Kanadukathan, for its weaving; and Karaikudi, well-known for its vintage shops. Other nicely-identified merchandise from this space embrace the ‘kottan’ or palm frond baskets and fried snacks made by Chettiars.

“Before the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 1999, no traditional product in India was protected legally with regard to its location or uniqueness,” says P Sanjai Gandhi, the Chennai-based IP lawyer who filed the applying on behalf of the Karaikudi weavers’ group, below the aegis of the Department of Handloom and Textiles, Government of Tamil Nadu. “The GI tag is a like a comprehensive protection for the whole art — method of production, producers and product. A tag will definitely stop the theft of IP rights.”

Amarar Rajeev Gandhi Handloom Weavers Cooperative has 176 members who collectively use round 35 looms in Karaikudi. Around 90-100 Kandangi saris (at present priced at ₹868) are produced per thirty days by largely girls weavers, as the lads have drifted away to extra profitable jobs in different sectors. A majority of the inventory is marketed via The Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers’ Cooperative Society (Co-optex). “In the olden days, a weaver would be able to earn only ₹320 to weave four saris. Our members are given ₹360 per sari, which is why many of those who had left the profession are now coming back,” says Hema.

Demonstrating how the padauk wooden looms function, Hema says that a lot of the pre-weaving work, corresponding to dyeing and starching the threads and transferring them to the spindles and rollers, continues to be guide. “We are looking to establish weaving sheds where members can use the looms as per their requirements, because the tiled floors in modern homes don’t allow us to lower the loom below the ground, and we don’t have the space for more than one or two in a standard room,” she factors out.

In the close by village of Kanadukathan, S Krishnaveni is closing a sale for 30 cotton saris at her Sri Mahalakshmi Handloom Weaving Centre. “These are Kandangi colours, but the cotton is different,” she clarifies, as she folds and stacks up the saris.

A typical vacation spot for vacationers visiting Chettinad, the centre maintains separate looms for Kandangi cotton saris. “Our Kandangi cottons are sold to boutiques in cities like Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Local customers prefer saris that look grand but don’t cost much. They feel the Kandangi cotton is a bit too plain,” says Krishnaveni.

She feels the GI tag will assist to scale back the net sale of Kandangi lookalikes. “But more than the customer, standardisation will help weavers to value the beauty of their craft and product,” says Krishnaveni.