Mangalagiri in Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh is famous for its special variety of saree, called Mangalagiri Saree. This saree, featuring tribal designs, is very much in demand in the fashion market. Mangalagiri sarees, woven from cotton, feature borders with closely-knit patterns embroidered with ‘zari’ (gold-colored thread). Usually these patterns are minute checks or small simple frames. The ‘pallu’ (falling edge of saree) is embellished with stripes, a typical tribal style, created with gold-colored embroidery. These sarees come in a variety of rich colors.
HISTORY OF MANGALAGIRI SAREE
Mangalagiri was always known as a pilgrim centre. There is a famed and elegant temple on a hillock in the heart of Manglagiri town dedicated to Lord Panakala Narasimha Swamy. Here, jaggery water has been offered to the lord by the devotees for several centuries. It is said in the scriptures that, the lord is being worshipped since Satya Yuga (The first of the four yugas). Below at ground level there is another temple dedicated to Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. It is said that, Yudhishtira (Dharmaraju, the eldest of the Pandavas) installed the main deity in this temple. The temple has a very tall tower with beautiful sculpture which has 11 stairs. It was constructed by Raja Vasireddi Venkatadri Naidu, during the years 1807-09.
Local legends speak of a millennium old tradition in this region. It is said that pilgrims were expected to offer their respects to Lord Panakala Narashimha on the hill top, and then buy a saree from a local weaver before leaving the place. This clearly emphasized the patronage and impetus given to the weaving industry even as part of the tradition.
Besides, as per incormation available in South Indian Inscriptions Volume IV (published by Archaelogical Survey of India) in pages 231 to 233, t here is a clear r e ference to a Pillar inscription in the Main Bazaar street of Mangalagiri Township called the shasana Sthambam. This pillar inscription is numbered as No.711 and 711-A.
According to the inscriptions on this pillar, the muslim rulers belong to the Kutub Shahi dynasty are said to have raised the taxes on Handloom textiles during the year 1593. As t he weavers were not in a position to meet such huge taxes they left this village and migrated to other Handloom centres of the State. Thus the weaving activity in this area suffered a severe blow. Subsequently the rulers of this region pursued a more sympathetic approach towards the weavers and thus reduced the Taxes. This pillar was supposed to represent the positive attitude towards the weavers after their period of sorrow. This historical information substantiates the claim that Mangalagiri indeed had a strong weaving tradition for over 500 years.
The main occupation in the town of Mangalagiri is Hand-loom weaving. Nearly 50% of the population dependent on this cottage industry only. Because of the Hand-loom dress material produced in the town, Mangalagiri is placed in the world map.
CHARACTERISTIC AND UNIQUENESS
Mangalagiri cotton is characterized by:
- pure durable cotton material
- No weave designs on body of the fabric
- Nizam border, which is peculiar only to Mangalagiri region
- Material woven only on pit-loom
- Only produced in Mangalagiri region
- No gaps on the weave in the edge of the material which is again peculiar to this kind of fabric
METHOD OF PRODUCTION
PURIFICATION OF COTTON:
The cotton yarn which is brought from t he mills are in Hank form is creaming in colour and contain several impurities like oils, wax, cotton seeds, etc. This makes the yarn unsuitable for dyeing as the dye would not percolate into the fibres due to the wax content. So the yarn is boiled in hot water with caustic soda and soap for about 3 to 4 hours to ensure that the stickiness on the fibres slowly gives way.
After boiling, the yarn is left to soak in the same liquid overnight. The next morning, the yarn is thoroughly rinsed and the excess water is squeezed out. Once excess water is wrung out, the yarn is ready for dyeing as the yarn now has the capacity to absorb the dyes.
This is a very important step in Mangalagiri textile production. For white sarees, the yarn is bleached using either (a).bleaching powder or (b). bleaching solution.
The chemical name of the bleach used is Calcium Hypochlorite. A minimum of 7 gms of Chlorine to a litre of water is a minimum requirement. The yarn is soaked in this solution for about 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature and then washed, wrung out and suspended on bamboo sticks for drying.
In the case of colours, the yarn is soaked in dyes.Handloom industries generally use two kinds of dyes-Vat and Naphthol dyes. Both of these are chemical dyes. In both cases various colours are mixed to get different hues and shades of colours. Of these 90% of Mangalagiri textiles use Vat dyes.
REMOVAL OF EXCESS DYE:
The yarn that is dyed or bleached is then soaked in water in boiling temperature with soap solution and soda ash for about 15 minutes to ensure that all molecules of excess dye lying on the surface of the yarn come out. Since a mere wash does not ensure the removal of excess dye, the soda ash and soap are added.
The yarn thus dyed, is then dried out in the open on stands created for the purpose. Certain light sensitive colours are dried in the shade. It is also a practice for dyeing specialists to dye yarns of particular colours , in which case, only certain colours are mixed on certain days. This was uniformity could be maintained in shades. Weighing scales are used to measure the dye powder which is used to mix in water.
Winding of hank yarn into warp and weft
The hank is then transferred through a “charka” and shift bamboo into a bobbin and is now called the warp. The weft is made by winding the hank yarn into a Pirn. The weft is then inserted into a shuttle.
Next, the warp from the bobbin is rolled out into a warp machine which is a big circular contraption, with bamboo sticks. By a rotating process, the yarn is rolled out of several bobbins into the warp machine. Now the hank yarn is in the form of a warp.
Next the warp is mounted on bamboo sticks and is extended to its full length. Then it is sprayed with rice conjee to reinforce the fibres and make it amenable for weaving. This is done for about 45 minutes, and depending upon the time of the day and weather conditions, the fibres are left to dry.
After street sizing, the warp is ready for weaving. It is mounted on a beam, and the weft which is in the Pirn is placed inside a shuttle and placed perpendicular to the warp beam. For every pull of the lever, the weft moves across the warp once thus adding to a weave.
This was the traditional method of weaving the warp and weft. However nowadays, the jacquard is used and cards with punched holes are inserted and placed appropriately to affect the required designs on the cloth.
One warp can make about 4 sarees
1warp = 12 hanks
1 weft = 10 hanks
Zari is wound in small bobbins and is used only for the border. Since Mangalagiri sarees do not have any woven designs on the body, the Zari is used only for the border. It is very significant to note that Mangalagiri cotton textiles are woven only on Pitlooms.
A pit is dug on the ground, and the weaver sits with his feet planted in a pit below the ground level. The loom is placed on the ground so that much force could be applied with balance while the weaving process takes place. Many other kinds of weaving involve pedal loom, or stand loom wherein, the loom is mounted above. In this case the weaver is able to force himself a little more to be able to weave the characteristic Nizam border into the weave. Admittedly, this border which is created without a gap in the edge of the textile requires much skill and manual capacity. These elements characterize Mangalagiri textile weaving, as being different from other kinds of weaves.
Cutting & folding:
The woven yarn cloth is then cut according to the requirement of the goods which is to be made into. Then the cloth is folded and sent for inspection to the master weavers.