In my very first post, ‘Aale Mane’ (Jaggery Unit), I had started off by writing that it’s not about the destinations and the journey, it’s about the experiences en route that is much more rewarding. Consider this story as an extension or even a sequel to that post.
If visiting Aale Mane was a fun experience, then driving down a little further and visiting this village called “Kodiyala” was another enriching one in many ways.
It’s been just about a month since my visit to this place and I carry very fond memories of the place and people, in particular, the kindness of a warm-hearted septuagenarian weaver Shri. Basavaraju, and his family. In a village unknown to us, obviously, people unknown but the affection with which we were welcomed into his humble hut and the respect and love they showered on us for the next couple of hours needs to be mentioned right away. More about him once I introduce this village.
Just like any other quaint village in Karnataka, is this village of Kodiyala located 20 kms from Shrirangapatna taluk of Mandya district. The simplicity of the houses and the people of Kodiyala at once attracts the attention of the visitors. One main road, a few bylanes, a beautiful temple and the click-clack sound at regular intervals, of some machines working continuously, a couple of disinterested mongrels lazing around, a few villagers going about their work unmindful of your presence until you stop close to them to enquire about an address or request for directions to reach some place -is what characterises Kodiyala.
But, Kodiyala is different from other villages – it’s famous as Weavers’ village – though less of handloom and more of power looms, these days! Having said that, let me dedicate this post to the warm and courteous Kodiyala handloom weaver Basavaraju and also to all those power loom weavers there.
We meander in the village looking for a popular house called ‘Kambada Mane’ (pillared-house), which we are told is famous for handloom sarees and cloth, perhaps due to the generations who have carried forward the business legacy. We visit this pillared house, which is a wholesale-cum-retail unit and make some purchases. The stock seemed more from power loom rather than handloom. Some of the silk handloom sarees we saw were beautiful and reasonably priced. Happy about our purchases, we enquire if we could get to see some handloom weavers in action.
Exit Kambada mane, enter the humble abode of Shri. Basavaraju! The helpful Kambada Mane owner made arrangements for us to visit this handloom weaver. Even as Basaraju was busy weaving the cloth on the loom, he welcomed us with a smile that reached his eyes and a traditional ‘namaskara’. An equally warm family, his wife and their son sat with us as we saw Basavaraju weave the white silk cloth in front of us.
He explained to us the intricacies of weaving and the entire pre-process activities of the yarn to the actual weaving of cloth, how the skill had been passed on to him from his father and all the other things about the market and hike in the cost of handloom materials. An amazing fact which was so very evident as we spent time at his place was that he loved his profession with passion and never once complained about any difficulties he faced. He seemed extremely content and happy going about his work and hoped that the government would help him repair the roof of his hut as the rainwater would drip inside during the monsoon. Only when prodded by us did he mention that quite a few handlooms in the vicinity had stopped working due to lack of skilled labour or resources and how the handloom weaving is on a downward trend in the village.
A skilled weaver and a highly knowledgeable person not just about his craft, Basavaraju’s in-depth knowledge about mythology, Vedas, Puranas and some Sanskrit shlokas stumped us. As we got up to bid goodbye, “please do have lunch with us. It will be very simple but we would be very happy to share our food with you” were the words of Basavaraju. His wife and son stood beside him and insisted that we join them for lunch. Promising him and his family that we would definitely have lunch the next time we were in that place, we left the home with our hearts full of gratitude.
Well, the mechanical click-clack sound got closer, this time as we walked back to our vehicle. Again, the curiosity got better of us and I found myself peeping sheepishly inside a half-closed door with the machine making louder noise inside. “Could I come inside and see the work in progress?”, I requested. Within seconds, I was in this small, a dimly lit room where 3 power looms were going full throttle.
A middle-aged gentleman was overseeing the designs as the weaving progressed and a younger worker who engrossed in in his work and managing 2 looms simultaneously. I had watched Basavaraju work on the handloom and I watched the young worker managing the power looms and the weaving and the designs. It’s sheer hard work everywhere.
The weavers of Kodiyala are mostly of the Padmashali community who had migrated from Andhra Pradesh and settled here a couple of centuries ago. The villagers take pride in the fact that their ancestors were the weavers for royal families of Mysore. Ending with a trivia from Wikipedia which seemed interesting – The term Padmashali is derived from two words Padma and Shali, The Padma means lotus and Shali means weaver. The word Padma referring to the myth of the thread was a lotus which sprang from the navel of Vishnu.