Elampillai is a small village situated in the district of Salem in India. It is around 25 KM from the Salem town. It is a thinly populated village. The people here are engaged in agriculture and handloom weaving. The average educational level is around 10th standard.
Elampillai is well known for handloom products in silk, cotton, polyester and silkhon (110 Dinear). The major community who is engaged in weaving is Vanniyar. It is from Elampillai, Silk Sarees are send to Tirupathi temple for wearing in the deity during poojas. They are sending around 100 Sarees per month through Co-optex, the co-operative society of handlooms in Tamilnadu. The specialty of Elampillai Saree is the Butta designs in the pallu and border.
Specialty of Elampillai Saree Elampillai handlooms are well known for the durability of the colours used in the yarn. The mixture of colour gives the durability. The count used in weaving gives the softness and hardness of the fabric. Count means the number of threads used in the length and breadth for weaving known as warp and weft respectively. In Elampillai the count used is 80 by 80 for weaving. The width of the saree comes to 51 inches. Each and every thread of the Elampillai handloom saree is hand woven. Each weaver works from home with all his / her family members helping in different steps of the process. In Elampillai a weaver weaves around 4 sarees in a week. In Elampillai cotton, silk, polyester and silkhon (110 Dinear) handloom sarees are weaved. They also weave silk shirt material.
The process of manufacturing an Elampillai handloom Saree starts with dyeing the silk yarn. Dyeing is the coloring process of the yarn by dipping the yarn in the boiled color water in very high temperature, higher the temperature durability of colour is also higher. Dyeing of the yarn is done making sure that the color is spread uniformly throughout the yarn and it does not affect the quality of the yarn. The coloring process is a very crucial step in getting a good colourful saree. The colours are applied as per the specifications of the designers and also some times as per the orders from customers who orders for a designer Saree. After coloring the silk yarn is dried in shade. Drying yarn in sun can be harmful to yarn.
After dyeing and drying the yarn it is converted to thread and is loaded as
warp which is called pavvu and then it is loaded into the loom for actual weaving. It is also rolled over small sticks to use for weft. One pavvu will make 13 sarees. It will take 1 month to complete weaving of one pavvu. The weaver will get a remuneration of around `155 per saree. It costs `100 per KG of yarn for dyeing and `200 to load it in a Pavvu. Elampillai handloom sarees are traditionally woven in the interlocked-weft technique.
The design required on the saree is initially drawn in a computer and then this is punched into a card and then these cards are loaded in Jacard in the loom. Jacard is a box like structure which is fixed in the top of the loom. There will be needles in the Jacard which will read the punched cards and control the weaving of weft.
Decline of Handloom industry in Elampillai
Due to the high cost of silk yarn now the weavers of Elampillai struggling to continue in the profession. Now one can see only very rarely weavers weaving Elampillai silk handloom products. Once famous Elampillai Handloom products are now becoming extinct due to the high cost of silk yarn and low wages prevailing in the industry. Previously Elampillai was full of talented weavers who used to do magic in the looms to produce the best handloom products. Now you can see very small number of weavers is actually in this profession and most of the handlooms are being converted to power looms. There is an emergency situation to take necessary action to protect the traditional Elampillai handloom products.
Voice of handloom weaver’s
The weavers of Elampillai blame the mushrooming power looms for the high cost of silk yarn. The weavers demand a responsible role by the government to protect the handloom industry by providing subsidy for yarn and a rehabilitation package for the weavers who are suffering due to high cost of yarn and low wages prevailing in the industry. They hope that if the government takes the responsibility to support the handloom industry by way of showcasing and marketing the handloom products, then only the industry can survive or else the present situation has started the end of handloom industry in Elampillai. The new generation is also not interested in the profession due to the hard labour and long hours to bring out the finished product, even then the returns are not lucrative to make them stay in the profession. Due to the non availability of weavers the handloom industry is fastly shifting to power looms.