Last Saturday, we visited the small town of Pochampally.
When we moved to Hyderabad, the welcome materials shared with us by Santa Fe had references to traditional Andhra Pradesh textiles and where we could buy saris and now a days salwar kameez dress materials in those weaves. I was drawn to the opportunity of buying straight from the weavers co-operation (without the middle men making the profit ) from a small town/village of Pochampally, about 70 kms from Hyderabad.
With the upcoming festive season, and with parents visiting, we decided to make a trip to Pochampally and buy a few saris.
I couldn’t find many resources online, beyond the basic description of the town and vague directions. To make matters worse, the driver, whose car we had rented for the weekend, mentioned there are 3 villages called Pochampally around Hyderabad. While sitting in the parking lot, Vipul and I searched online while the driver called a few contacts to find out which was the weavers Pochampally. I found some reference of a NH-9 and Ramoji city on one of the sites and we decided to wing it.
Fortunately, within minutes, one of the drivers contacts called and confirmed that the village is about 7 kms ahead of Ramoji city and so off we went.
The drive along the way was lush green and the looming dark clouds, drizzle and slight breeze made the normally dusty drive a pleasant one.
The small town of Pochampally has one main road with many small lanes meandering off it. The main road has many showrooms – some are big but most are modest in size. As soon as we reached the town, our car was stopped by a few salesman, waving their cards in our faces and asking us to visit their showroom. We simply declined and drove a bit further to check out the town and stores before deciding which one to visit.
Our first stop was at Pochampally Handloom Co-op. Mainly because we assume Co-ops will be more regulated and we will get to know base prices of saris.
The sales folks showed use variety of saris in different price range – some silk, some cotton, some modern patterns and others traditional. After about half an hour of examining at least 100 saris and dress materials, we walked out with 1 sari. With handloom the challenge always is that patterns and color combinations are not always to your liking and if we liked the pattern we were not too keen on the color or vice versa. Typical Indian style shopping with mom.
Next we visited a smallish handloom store where we sat down on mattresses and the owner took out sari’s one by one from Godrej Iron cupboards.
He carefully aid them out of the mattress for us to view. He started with different patterns/styles and then showed us colors/options in the ones we liked. Varun wanted to roll on the mattress and jump on the silk saris much to chagrin of the shop keeper who clearly loved the saris a lot and wanted to keep them crease free.
We saw cotton saris, silk saris, unstitched salwar kameez materials, ready made kurta’s, handloom towels, handmade bags etc.
And we shopped a lot here – several saris, kurtas, unsticthed materials, etc. Mom bargained a bit but I thought the prices were fairly reasonable.
The owner served us tea while he was packing the loot and then took us to show how the weavers make these sari’s.
We went off in a small lane into a hut where there were atleast a half a dozen looms. Each loom had a sari being woven in different stages. We also got to see a sari being woven live while the other looms had a few saris in different stages of being woven.
The village has other attractions such as house with 101 doors and Handloom park ( a museum of history of town and weaving), but Varun was a bit bored by this time. He was thrilled by the chickens and goats outside the hut. Given half a chance, he would have chased the goat down the lane, but we picked him and decided to drive back home.
On the drive back, it was sobering to think about the amount of effort taken to weave one sari ( 5 -6 days depending on the pattern) and the money these artisans probably make after deducting all the expenses/paying off the middlemen. Some of the weavers have stopped their practise and are moving on to other stable jobs in and around the city.
We were happy that we got to see the artisans before this becomes a lost mechanised art.