A Village of Weavers – Story of Maniabandha Sarees

Home of Odisha Ikat – Maniabandha, Nuapatna

It was a hot summer morning in the month of May. We set out in a rented car from Cuttack towards a village called ‘Maniabandha’ in the Athagarh district. It was a one and a half hour journey from Cuttack city , into the rural landscape of Odisha. Maniabandha is a village of weavers where families have been engaged in weaving Ikat handloom for generations. We were visiting the village for the first time. Kailash Bhai , a local of Athagarh, accompanied us. The only contact we had was an old gentleman whose daughter was married to a boy from Kailash Bhai’s village. Our entire exploration of the place was based on only that one connection! And that one connection opened up a world of incredible artistic traditions in the midst of a verdant rustic setting that really transformed our understanding of the simple and sustainable lifestyle of generations of weaving families. 

We met the old gentleman, a master weaver himself, in front of a rural primary school. He led us to the home of another local weaver. It is probably only possible in India where a group of complete strangers can walk into someone’s home uninvited, and at odd hours, and yet be welcomed with a lot of joy and genuine warmth. We saw that the entire family was engaged in the weaving craft. The head of the family took us around the house, showing the various rooms where the threads are washed, coloured, dried and processed; where looms are set and so on. In the middle of our discussion, the young and cheerful daughter-in-law, who was busy cooking a meal, offered us tea. The father-in-law explained that though the economic returns were lower compared to a permanent job outside the village, it still provided flexibility in terms of working hours. It enables the women in the family to join the work as well. From there on we visited many other houses in the village, seeing samples of their work. Everywhere we were greeted with a smile. Many in the village are Buddhists. There were Buddha statues and painting on the walls of the houses. A quiet, neat and clean, peaceful and friendly village. What else to expect from a place where every single person is an Artist! When it was time to leave, we came away with a deeper understanding, not only of the craft, but also of a simpler life, full of creativity and joy.

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