Calcutta, 7th August 1905: Swadeshi Movement was started by Mahatma Gandhiji, a member of the Indian National Congress, which emphasised on depending on domestic products and build a self reliant nation.

Chennai, 7th August 2015: Government of India initiated the commemoration of this historic event by observing 7th August as National Handloom Day, in order to revive handloom – one of our cherished heritages. Next to farming, handloom industry is the second largest employment provider for the sub-urban and rural community of India. Like agriculture, the handloom industry is spread across the nation, from Tamil Nadu to Rajasthan, from Gujarat to the eastern states. The influence of the regional culture on textile design has resulted in an array of handloom products with diversified elegant designs in a broader spectra of beautiful colours. The products symbolise ethnicity and tradition of the locals and are widely sort after by other parts of the country.

Silk and cotton handloom sarees and drapes from Kanchivaram (Tamil Nadu), the monotonic and zari-enriched fabrics from Balaramapuram (Kerala), the traditional checks of Ilkal (Karnataka), the spiky towers and melanges of Ikkat (Andhra/Telanagana/Orissa), the maheshwari and chanderi silks (Madhya Pradesh), the paithani weaves (Maharashtra) are few to name that are handwoven by artisans who not only practice weaving but also transfer it down through generations that has kept the handloom craft still in action if not at the fullest.

In one of his letters Gandhiji mentions, “The handloom weaving is in a dying condition. Everyone admits that whatever may be the future of the mill industry, the handlooms ought not to be allowed to perish”.

The laborious preparation of the handloom and the weaving process are both time consuming and contribute to the reduced productivity compared to their mechanised counter parts. The increase in productivity by increasing the number of looms is also restricted due to limited skilled artisans and weavers. It is high time for researchers and funding authorities to join hands in reviving this art form and work towards the upliftment of the handloom weavers. Support in both technological and aesthetic aspects may help the weavers understand the market requirements, and the changing lifestyle of the masses and meet their demands appropriately through product diversification and reclaim their market position by adopting neo-marketing strategies to expand their market beyond borders. There is also a need for creating awareness among the public and in particular the young generation on the handloom heritage of India and support handloom products which will positively impact the livelihood of the handloom artisans, who not only weave but also guard our long cherished handloom heritage.

Let’s commemorate the passion, skill and knowledge of our handloom weavers on National Handloom Day!