When Loomkatha was commissioned to do a project in Jajpur Odisha, I was thrilled. I always admired tusar silk of Gopalpur ( a small village within the Jajpur district) and exploring it along with the other fascinating crafts like stone carving, golden grass and terracotta sounded quite exciting.
Odisha’s culture is a tapestry of traditions, art forms, and a deep connection with spirituality. We started the project in November ‘22 with Maa Biraja’s blessings and Teracotta Ganeshji gifted to me by Parshuram Behraji, an artisan from the village of Pratham Khandi. What I admire about Odisha is how craft seamlessly integrates into their everyday lives. Women in the region dress in everyday attire of cotton ikkat sarees, while men wear ikkat dhotis..Temple prasad is served in the beautiful handwoven baskets and traditional Odisha folk art, known as "jhoti chitta," adorns the walls of their homes.
People in Odisha are very loving, warm and truly believe in the Indian spirit of Atithi Devo Bhav. Artisans welcomed me in their homes and lovingly offered Cha (tea). Despite the language barrier with some senior artisans we were able to establish communication primarily because of their warm and welcoming nature.
As you take a stroll down the idyllic village of Gopalpur, the air is filled with the khat-khat sounds of the loom literally from every household. Gopalpur has a weaving history of over 200 years which has been preserved for generations..Hence you observe every family member involved in various weaving related activities. During the course of the project I got a chance to interact with a lot of weavers including some prominent names like National Merit Award winner Srikant Das and his wife National Award Winner Lakshmi Priya Das..
At Loomkatha we identified weaver Dharmendra Guin with the help of the Tata Trust's Antaran Project which is active in the region. Guin’s family includes his parents and his wife all of whom have been involved in tussar weaving craft. Dharmendra's mother does the traditional thigh reeling for the household. His father uses the charkha to wind the yarn in to bobbins. Dharmendra prepares the warp and loads the loom after which his wife Saraswati weaves the fabric. Dharmendra has completed his education till 10th standard and leant weaving at his home since childhood. He specialises in Jaala weaving. Our Gaja Tasar stole is made using the same age-old technique. It is woven using tasar geecha yarns with elephant motifs in subtle zari. Dharmendra's father, Narayan Guin, previously operated a weaving cooperative society (WCS) that, unfortunately closed down a few years ago. Now, Dharmendra is dedicated to revitalisng a Self-Help Group (SHG) under the name of Jai Shree Ram Handloom Group.
We look forward to engage more with this craft and the community in the coming days ahead, stay tuned.
You can view and purchase our Gopalpur Gaja Scarf here https://www.loomkatha.in/product-page/gopalpur-gaja-tasar-scarf