Warangal’s artisan community received a shot in the arm recently with their famed Warangal dhurries receiving a Geographical Indication tag from the Chennai-based GI Registry. Bright colours, geometrically repetitive patterns and interlocking zigzag motifs in cotton and jute are the signature styles of the carpets.

A dhurrie (also dhurri or durrie or durry) is a thick flat-woven rug or carpet[1] used traditionally in India as floor-coverings.

The concept of dhurrie is a little bit different from a rug or carpet, because they were use for bedding or packaging, not only as a floor covering. But since the dhurries serve the same purpose as carpet or rugs they can be described as one.

One of the newest innovations by the weavers here is an adaptation of tie-dyed ikat techniques and hand-painted or block-printed kalamkari designs for the dhurries to save time and energy.

Interestingly, for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, two carpets woven in silk were sent from Warangal. They held a place of pride among over one lakh exhibits, which included the fabled Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Meanwhile, marketing the carpets directly can lead to better profits for the struggling sector in Telangana.

There’s a ripple of excitement and sliver of hope in Warangal’s artisan community as word spreads on the Geographical Indication certificate given on March 28 by the Chennai-based GI Registry for Warangal dhurries.

“We had to do all our business through the handloom society. But now, with the GI tag, we will be able to market our products on our own, leading to better profits,” says Adepu Ramesh of Kothawada in Warangal, a crafts-centred location in the city. Only last year, some of the carpet sellers here began using online platforms to sell their products. The shatranji carpets and jainamaaz prayer mats made in Warangal range in size from the smallest 2 feet by 3 feet to a massive 60 feet by 90 feet, examples of which are seen in some museums.

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Bright colours, geometrically repetitive patterns and interlocking zigzag motifs in cotton and jute are the signature styles of the carpets.

One of the newest innovations by the weavers here is an adaptation of tie-dyed ikat techniques and hand-painted or block-printed kalamkari designs for the dhurries to save time and energy.

“We weave a plain carpet and send it to Machilipatnam and Pedana [famous for the kalamkari style] for colouring based on the design given by us,” says Ramesh.

It takes two days labour by two expert craftsmen to create a 6 feet by 9 feet carpet that sells for Rs. 2,000. “If the design is intricate or made-to-order then the cost goes up,” says Adepu Ravi, who uses pit looms to weave the carpets.

“I am expecting better business, especially if export orders pick up with the GI tag. Over the past 25 years, business has fallen drastically. I am doing 20% of the business that I was doing back then. I am insisting that my children focus on education rather than the family trade,” says Ravi.

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Today, the bright red and yellow carpets are housed in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

On the other hand, Warangal dhurries that once adorned the billets of the Indian Army and shined in the global markets face a waning demand. Thanks to the imitation dhurries which cost much cheaper than the thick flat-woven carpets made in Warangal that made the life miserable for the thousands of artisans in the region.

The locally weaved jamkhana or satranji elsewhere known as dhurrie, was shot to fame in the mid-1970s with orders pouring in from all over the country and abroad, especially from the Gulf countries. With the increasing patronage, the local artisans improved the quality of the dhurrie to suit to the needs of Indian Army. By mid-1980s, the designing and colour transformation of the dhurries reached a new level with no less 5,000 artisans engaged in the profession.

“The time the local weavers spent on research and development for improving the quality and design of the dhurries was something incalculable,” Kuchana Lakshminarayana, who owns a dhurrie-making unit in Kothawada here and has 35 years of experience in weaving dhurries, told #KhabarLive.

Notwithstanding this, the business, which had seen the pinnacles by exporting thousands of dhurries, started to wane away in 1990s. This was the time when dhurrie manufacturing units mushroomed in the north India, in places like Panipat, Jodhpur, Agra and Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. This dealt a death knell to the industry in Warangal thus forcing 70 per cent of the artisans to leave their inherited trade in search of a livelihood.

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With all those interlocked design carpets such as jacquard and tie and dye dhurries losing their ground in the market, the local artisans switched to Kalamkari dhurries, a unique variant of Pedana in Krishna district of AP, in the new millennium, this despite not having flowing water facility close to Warangal. It may be noted here that after the printing process, the cloth is washed in the flowing waters.

Lakshminarayana, who mastered the manufacturing of Kalamkari style dhurries made of vegetable colours, said that he would take the product to Godavari river near Etur Nagaram for the washing process. Even today, the dhurries designed by the local artisans are unique. The traders procure sample pieces from Warangal and reproduce them in the north, he said, lamenting over the absence of business platforms in the region.

With the growing demand for the Kalamkari style products, the Handicrafts had conducted a four-month training camp in dye printing. Training was given to two batches (20 each) by bringing experts from Pedana. #KhabarLive

(Video Courtesy: The Hindu)

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