(Last Updated on : 25/09/2014)
The manufacturing history of Pochampally Ikat sarees dates back to 1970. It has been said that at that time, some village headmen of Pochampally decided to weave silk along with cotton to make a better living. Two young weavers were sent to learn the secrets of the art to Bangalore. This was the beginning of a revolutionary era in the Pochampally handloom industry. Unlike the Orissan industry, the weaving of Pochampally sarees appears to be a modern development without strong indigenous roots. Most evidences suggest that Ikat weaving began in the late nineteenth century, when most of the original textiles were large scarves (rumal) made for export to Arabia. Only poor local fishermen and the people of low classes wore these cloths. In present times, the weavers are employed from Dravidian (Telugu-speaking) Hindu communities, namely Padmasalis and Devangs.
Pochampalli, in Nalgonda district, is famous for its Ikat sarees. It is not the only town where Ikat sarees are woven, however, as many towns in Nalgonda, Hyderabad and Guntur districts, such as Chirala, Golgonda and Jalna are some of the known centres of Pochampally Ikat sarees. The Ikat weaving is called by the name of 'chit-ku' in these places. Overall, Ikat sarees do not appear to have been made in the Pochampalli area until the 1950s. The earlier Pochampalli Ikat sarees show designs closer to the Siddipet khans rather than the Ikat rumals. Like the khans, the borders of these early Pochampalli Ikats were only embellished with supplementary-warp patterns. The endpiece of the sarees consisted of a series of bands of different widths descending in size from the large central band. Unlike the khans, these bands were only embellished with weft-Ikat dyed threads.
The 8-metre (26-foot) saree called zjanani, has Ikat bands in the endpiece and it was one the woven in Pochampally. Even it has also been proved that the north in Bastar, the Dhurua tribal saree incorporated Ikat checks in its body. The Pochampally involves about 5000 handloom weavers who create sarees in traditional Ikat work.
Following the present trends, Ikat silk sarees are created with design layouts similar to the old khan style. This is the indication of a possible link between the much older supplementary-thread Siddipet khan sarees woven in this area and today's Ikat industry. Gradually, as the history of the Pochampally tradition proceeded, the Pochampalli's Ikat saree industry had progressed. In the meantime, the patterns of the sarees had been changed and had evolved into what are now recognized as the characteristic sarees of this area. The characteristic features of Pochampally Ikat sarees lie in the big, bold and bright patterning. The modernization of thought and choice has inspired the artisans to create modern motifs that are abstract, modernist and geometric, with plenty of brilliant colours. The most modern Pochampalli Ikat designs have origins in the rumal. The majority of Pochampally Ikat sarees are vibrantly coloured, however, and although there is a wide range of modern designs. Most of the designs still follow the rumal layout with wide plain borders, one or two plain bands marking the endpiece, and a field covered with Ikat-created designs.
As per the history, the Ikat sarees of Andhra Pradesh appear to have closer ties with Gujarat than Orissa. Two brothers from one of the original rumal-weaving families in Chirala are believed to have trained in Gujarat in the early years of the twentieth century. Today the Pochampalli and Chirala areas specialize in creating imitation patola sarees and some of these imitations are very close to the originals although the weaving is often less fine. The characteristic patolu motifs are often interspersed within the rumal format, leading to the typical patolu elephants (enuga), parrots (ciluka), dancing girls (annu) and flowers (poovu) being placed within the geometric grid of the rumal-style field. Other imitation patola have purely geometric forms within the field, something not seen in the traditional Gujarati versions. Most of these imitation patola sarees are also embellished with Ikat borders and endpieces. The designs of the imitation sarees are usually less complex than the multiple bands found in the originals. They are woven in silk, cotton and silk-cotton mixes.
The Pochampally Ikat sarees have a good market in India and abroad because the weavers use modern synthetic colours and create exclusive designs that are typical of the saree tradition. As per the history, the weavers of Pochampally Ikat sarees were influenced by the Paolu designs of Gujarat. The weavers, who are involved in creating Pochampally sarees, follow a particular way for weaving the sarees. At first, the yarn for the warp and weft is stretched on warping blocks in the form of quarter circle. They consist of one strong peg connected with a circular segment of a wooden plank. These are studded with about 35 pegs. Then the thread is stretched on it and divided into a number of sets. After the weaving is done, the artisans go for dyeing the fabric. The dying process is repeated several times. The process of dyeing involves taking off the yarn and stretching it. Them it is partly opened and tied again for dyeing. The method of weaving the Pochampally sarees is similar to the tie-and-dye method, but the yarn is dyed before weaving.
All Andhra Pradesh Ikat sarees are sold in major urban centres. Like the older rumal trade goods, its Ikat sarees are primarily made for export rather than for local markets. The weavers of Andhra Pradesh create Ikat sarees that are simple and geometric designs are incorporated in the good quality Ikat sarees. Apart from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa are the hubs for creating the Pochampally Ikat sarees.