Weaving in rhythm: Gopalpur Tussar

Situated on the banks of Brahmani river as one of the leading Tussar producing clusters in India, the Gopalpur (Jajpur) cluster is about 400 years old and is linked with the great saint Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was a great 15th-16th century Hindu scholar turned saint, who became a spiritual leader influencing thousands in his journey across many lands of India. He was considered to be an avatar (incarnation) of Lord Krishna. On one of his largest religious journey during, he visited Puri, Odisha from Nadia West Bengal during the 16th century, accompanied by thousands of followers. This was believed to be the largest religious journey of that period. When Shri Chaitanya returned, many devotees from Guin and Gauda communities from Bardhaman, West Bengal who had accompanied him stayed back in Gopalpur and continued their weaving profession.

Weavers in Gopalpur had been weaving cotton fabrics till 1972, when a super cyclone changed the landscape of weaving in the region due to destruction of looms and houses .This on the one hand and brought about an increase in wages and yarn prices on the other making cotton weaving expensive for the locals. At this point, an export company stepped in and provided low cost but superior quality Tussar yarns to the skilled weavers of Gopalpur, facilitating an adaption that now renders remarkably beautiful Tussar sarees and other textiles.

The craft received the Geographical Indication tag by Government of India in 2009. Gopalpur is known for its production of different tussar fabrics like sarees, scarves, stoles, dhoti, joda, shirting, chaddar etc. Fabrics are designed in tussar and gheecha and enhanced with an extra weft technique. Products are also made with different blends of tussar — cotton, tussar — eri and tussar — mulberry. One of the artisanal skills associated with Gopalpur craft is their use of hand spun and hand reeled yarns which is done mostly by female artisans of the family. While there are many activities special to Gopalpur weavers, which stand out for their incredible ability to bind the Odia culture and a highly technical process of weaving.

Tani Jodiba (joining ends): Artisan meticulously knots two ends of warp — one end coming from the previously woven saree border and the other coming from the newly set warp in the beam. This process in Odia is called “taani jodiba” where ‘taani’ is referred to warp and ‘jodiba’ is to join. Normally an artisan would take four hours to join four thousand threads for a forty eight inch width saree, whereas a very skilled artisan would do it in half an hour.

Dhala (Warping) — An integral part of the pre — loom process where the warp from the warping drum is being transferred to the warp beam (Naraja). It takes about four days for a warp of twenty-five saris i.e 140 meters to be nicely combed and put into the beam, part by part. As we see, here this process takes place in Itishree Sur’s (one of Gopalpur’s artisan) terrace and three artisans are involved in this process. The warp beam from where the border of the saree is added is known as ‘naraja’. The lease rods at the back are known as ‘pachaada’ and the one in the front is called ‘chalani’. The dents are called ‘paniya’ which is also the term for comb in Odia language.

The vibrant and embellished Tussar Silk is a gift from medieval times. Amongst the varied worldwide silk, “Tussar” is an exception. Unlike other worms, the breed which produce “Tussar” are not fed to mulberry leaves. The TUSAAR Silk is called KOSA in Sanskrit and WILD SILK in common.  These are not only used for handloom clothes rather were also used in various handicrafts as a base material. These desirable silks are found in countries like Japan, China, Sri Lanka and India. India is the 2nd largest and exclusive producer of TUSAAR.  In India Tussar is exclusively produced by the Tribal.  The tribal community of Gopalpur produces the finest of the Tussar. These silk being extremely peerless holds a GI tag since 2009.

he design of dhoti, scarves, shirting, stoles, joda, saree, chaddar all of these are designed in the Gopalpur Tussar. The interesting part of these handloom is the blends. The tussar is blend with cotton, eri silk and mulberry silk to make a beautiful yarn. The fishbone designs on the pallu and aanchal have been the highlighted and enticing detail. The pleasing yarns have got the most eye catching borders. They can be easily traced even at a jam-packed pomp. The lustrous and gleaming handloom also provides comfortable and breathable texture.

The stains of the artists are precisely seen from the intricate and polished work.There are struggles behind the polishing has started long back in the 90’s.The weavers were weaving cotton since 1972 but a cyclone arrived and turned their fate to destruction. The ruined homes and raw materials have taken their hope to a dark room of depression. When everything was at the lowest and cotton became expensive. Tussar were made at low cost and of superior quality when private entrepreneurs intervened the business. Overcoming these struggles this stands out to be the largest and leading clusters in India.

The more female assistance here has dedicated more strength to the groups. This has also made them independent and empowered. The financial assistance and reverence are too little for the hours of rhythmic hours of diligence. The Geographical Indication falls short for the craftsman’s and their families to get their basic needs. Measures to provide a better level of wage is essential to preserve this artistry.

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