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Woven heritage

If one can't visit Nalgonda, where the Ikkat tradition is said to have originated, then the next best option is to drop in at the Ikkat weaver's dwelling recreated at Dakshinachitra.

IT IS believed that the complex Ikkat weave, seen by many cultures as secret and as a symbol of auspicious purity, first saw the light of day in the Deccan region. From here, the movement of craftspersons took this most ancient "weave of the iron age" to Orissa and Gujarat and thence, via ancient sea routes to the Far East. The `Pua Iban' of Sarawak , the `Dayak Ikkat' of Indonesia, the `Mudinee Bolle' of Thailand, Turkey's `Adras' Ikkat and the many basic and vital Ikkat weaving traditions of West Africa were all part of the Ikkat route, using a universal weaving language to create harmony and beauty.

By tying and dyeing the warp or weft yarn or both, placing the yarn on the loom to coincide with mathematical precision with the exact pattern created in the weaver's mind's eye, the `illiterate' weaver would begin to weave — and slowly witness his vision come to life.

No wonder, to this day, in most Ikkat weaving cultures, the emergence of a woven Ikkat piece is considered a `miraculous revelation'!

And to think that this heritage textile had its beginnings in Andhra Pradesh, perhaps in a small weaver's dwelling in Nalgonda in Waltair district! If one can't get to Nalgonda, the next best option would be to head for the newly-constructed Nalgonda weaver's dwelling in the Andhra section of Dakshinachitra.

Faithfully reproduced to the last detail and plan, from stone block and mud mortar plinth to palmyra beams and tiled roof, the Ikkat weaver's house is a fitting tribute to Andhra's rich and vibrant cotton weaving tradition.

A red-tiled, medium-sized, white washed dwelling, with an ultramarine blue wooden door, welcomes one at Dakshinachitra's Andhra section. You step directly into the main room whose spatial harmony is as soothing to the senses as the cool stone floor. An open-to-sky-light like the arrangement in the centre lets in light. There are no decorative objects in the room. A lovely spinning wheel, vegetable and other dyes and yards and whorls of dyed yarn hanging from the walls turn the room into an artist's palette. And on the right side of the room stands the very heart of the house — a large-sized loom with a craftsman at work. He weaves a `telia rumaal' and gradually the red, blue and green motifs appear almost magically "tight and close... never betraying one another", as a famous Ikkat weaving song of Indonesia goes.

The house has three small rooms at the back that includes a kitchen, with a beautiful bell metal and brass vessels in typical shapes, used traditionally in Andhra homes. The weaver's house plan is an adaptation of an agriculturist's house built in a style known locally as `Bhawante'...

For the urbanite, the Nalgonda weaver's dwelling might just open new doors to awareness — of the process by which this great textile is created, the spatial harmony which aids its creation and the intense dedication of the craftsperson who literally weaves a heritage.

PUSHPA CHARI

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