Weaving: Women play a vital but invisible role

Gajendragad (Gadag Dist)

A mother of two, Lakshmi Sancholi from Gajendragad in Gadag district is an important contributor to the family’s sustenance. After finishing her daily chores, she sits on the loom to produce cotton sarees in Ilkal designs to supplement the family income.

“Normally, we can finish a saree in two days, but I take a little more time. I weave after meeting the family’s needs,” says Ms. Lakshmi whose husband Ganesh is a pigmy collector. She is assisted by her daughters. Lakshmi, who earns about Rs. 200 per cotton saree, on an average weaves eight sarees a month.

Historically, women have been an integral part of weaving traditions, whose contribution goes unnoticed as weaving is an in-house activity for most weavers who live in house-cum-worksheds.

The latest data from the yet-to-be published handloom census shows that of about 33,000 weavers active in the State, nearly 11,100 are women.

In Yadgir, Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga, Raichur, Mysuru, Bidar, Chamarajanagar, Chikkamagaluru, Davangere, Dharwad, and Kodagu districts, women weavers outnumber men. In Bagalkot, Belagavi, Gadag, and Haveri districts — among the important weaving clusters — women weavers are almost 40% of the total active weavers.

“Even if women are not weaving, they will be part of the allied workforce since it involves the entire family. For handloom, three allied workers are required by the main weaver, and they invariably would be from the same family, involving womenfolk,” says Ms. Lakshmi.

In Guledgudda, Tirumala Palemari is known to weave some of the intricate designs in the khana (blouse piece). After four decades of weaving, she says: “I have taken a break now. But I do weave on handloom once in a while.” Her son Hanumanthappa Palemari, who is a master weaver, credits her for his skills in weaving and generating family income.


Weaving profession in the dry and arid North Karnataka region, which has been seeing migration to cities in search of jobs, is also seen as empowerment of women. Migration most often affects women in the family, whether they move with menfolk to other cities or remain in their villages/towns.

“Migration is terrible for women. It destroys home life, children, education, and health. A traditional weaver is homebound and that is why there is a lot of participation of women in it. Any rescue of handloom is rescue of women at large,” theatre personality Prasanna feels. “In fact, it is also a profession that can allow womenfolk from socially lower castes involved in farm labour or other work to graduate to become weavers,” he said.

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