A walk through the bustling Jamdani market of Samudragarh, West Bengal
The weavers carry their bags of saris to the market.
At the Samudragarh market, the people seated in the large hall are mostly buyers, collecting their newly acquired merchandise in piles.
The weavers go around from one buyer to another displaying their offerings.
Retail customers are entertained too.
Negotiations among buyers and sellers are a common sight.
The advent of power loom weaving brought in much cheaper textiles, and affected local demand drastically.
Markets like the Samudragarh Bazar now mostly trade in power loom saris with new designs.
Handloom products makes up less than 20% of the business.
Handlooms tend to have a different marketing channel. Traders and retailers, mostly from larger towns or from Kolkata, place orders for the bulk of the handloom production of weavers.
It goes directly to them against advances for raw material.
Handloom saris that go to the local markets are at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of quality, design and price.
Fine Jamdani continues to be made in select weaving centres of Bengal.
However, now it is a specialised skill, with a specialised market that does not buy directly from the small weaver but from high end shops in cities.
The market also sells all things associated with Jamdani weaving such as yarn.
Wooden bobbins are sold in the market as well.
As a state, Bengal is proud of its traditions. In this context, women have firmly held onto wearing saris instead of changing to other forms of dressing.
They are the ones who keep India’s handmade traditions alive successfully.
Text: Aloka Hiremath and Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Jyotish Debnath, Rajib Debnath and weavers from Phulia and Habibpur
Ground Facilitator: Ankit Kumar
Curation: Ruchira Verma