Handloom Fabrics – Our Heritage

Handloom fabrics are an essential part of the heritage of India and show the richness and diversity of our country and the artistry of the Indian weavers. Hand-woven fabrics are the products of Indian tradition and the inspiration sought from the cultural ethos by the weavers. Handloom is nonpareil in its flexibility and versatility, permitting experimentation and encouraging innovation. The strength of Handloom lies in introducing designs which cannot be replicated by the Power loom sector. Innovative weavers, with their skilful blending of myths, faiths, symbols and imagery, provide the fabric an appealing dynamism.

During the freedom struggle Gandhi ji, appealed to use hand-woven cloths – a step was taken to help the then poor weavers. Thus, after the independence, the government was resolved to take required step for the progress of the Handloom sector.

Therefore, since 1976, various schemes for the promotion and development of the Handloom sector have been launched by the office related to Employment generation, Modernization of technology, Input support, Marketing and Infrastructural support, Publicity, Welfare measures, Composite Growth Oriented Package, Development of Exportable Products; and Research and development. All the schemes are weaver-oriented. If we want to keep this heritage of our country alive, then it is important to improve the socio-economic status of weavers by updating their skills and providing them with essential inputs.

Various schemes and programs are launched by the government that cater to the needs of the handloom sector both at the micro and macro level. Some ongoing schemes are “Deen Dayal Hathkargha protsahan Yojana”, “Mill gate Price Scheme “and “Input support” The Handloom (Reservation of Articles for production) Act, 1985 aims at protecting millions of handloom weavers from the encroachment on their livelihood by the power loom sector and the organized mill sector. By providing direct and indirect employment to more than 30 lakh weavers, handloom sector has become the largest economic activity second only to agriculture in India.

The handloom industry is the most ancient cottage industry of India. Its prevention for posterity will ensure a preservation of our cultural heritage. Hence, undertaking Research & Development in this sector was very essential. Under the Research & Development programs, assistance was released to different weavers’ society centers, National Handloom Development Corporation, institutions engaged in Research and Development work for the development of Handloom sector.

The importance of the handloom sector in the national economy cannot be over-looked. On account of having an advantage & flexibility of also being capable to be run as a small scale industry, its uniqueness, innovation and adaptability, this sector can contribute towards export earning of the country, in a big way. Export of handloom has, therefore, been identified as the thrust area for the overall development of the sector. The government has been exploring the possibilities of making an optimal use of the resources to enhance production capabilities of exportable products.

Indian fashion is known for its rich and diverse heritage as each province has its own traditional apparel. Indian fashion designers tweak these various trends in the most innovative ways and give them an indo-western touch.

The handloom textiles constitute a timeless part of the rich cultural Heritage of India. The element of art and craft present in the Indian handlooms makes it a potential sector for the upper segments of market – domestic as well as global.

However, the sector is beset with manifold problems such as obsolete technologies, unorganized production system, low productivity, inadequate working capital, conventional product range, weak marketing link, overall stagnation of production and sales and, above all, competition from power loom and mill sector.

As a result of effective Government intervention through financial assistance and implementation of various developmental and welfare schemes, the handloom sector, to some extent, has been able to tide over these disadvantages. But I believe a lot more is yet to be done for the promotion of the handloom fabrics of India.

Kirti Singh