The Best of Cotton Fabric with Zari – Know Balaramapuram Traditional Weaving
This is a series dedicated to identifying our traditions and methods adopted by our ancestors. A unique handloom technique of interlaced weaving of cotton with zari is the pride of Balaramapuram. Balaramapuram is a small town in the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala, India. The Balaramapuram handloom sarees are well known for simplicity, exquisite hand-woven designs and beauty. The traditional handloom grey sarees are made out of the finest cotton yarn with intricate and unique designs. It was during the regime of His Highness Maharaja Balaramavarma, which dates back from 1798 to 1810 that the handloom weaving was first introduced at Balaramapuram.
Separate streets with cluster approach were organised at identified places having comparatively better infrastructure for development. Market places were opened at convenient locations to make the marketing of products easier. The vision of the great Maharaja can be compared well with the latest programmes of development in industrial sector.
Thanks to the earnest and sincere efforts made by His Highness, by whose name the place, Balaramapuram and the handloom weaving are presently known, has become world famous. Seven weaver families (Syaliars) from Tamil Nadu were brought and made to settle at Balaramapuram in a separate location now called “Syaliar Street”.
The weavers used primitive type throw-shuttle pitlooms for the production of exclusive cotton fabrics with pure zeri. They did not use any type of improved appliances such as Dobby, Jacquard, Jala, etc. for the production of designs for cloth with extra warp and extra weft. The weavers used a unique technique by which each yarn was separately controlled by hand to interlace with the weft wound in small pirns.
Butta and larger type extra weft designs were woven on the motif/pattern printed with wooden block using easily washable vegetable colours. This type of unique weaving of finer count cotton fabrics with 100 percent pure zeri rapidly and extensively spread out in the district. Identical appearance of designs, including warp and weft stripes on the face and backside of the fabric is obtained by this technique of weaving.
No change has so far been taken place in the type of loom or technology of weaving in producing such varieties. The variety known as “Pudava and Kavani” (veshti and upper cloth with pure zeri) still remains as a prestigious bridal gift in the marriages. The designs with zeri or coloured yarn, using the age-old technique still has unparallel appeal which can attract even the most sophisticated customers.
The identical appearance of the design on the face and backside of the fabric makes it unique and exclusive. This technique of laced weaving is practiced only at Balaramapuram and its surrounding places. ‘Balaramapuram’ became the synonym for the above type of handloom fabrics.
The varieties of Balaramapuram had excellent market potential and the weavers thereon were getting reasonable income for maintaining better standard of living. Nearly 5100 looms were engaged in the production of such fabrics. No attempt was made to exploit the skill of such weavers, who are master craftsmen in their trade, to produce any other variety for expanding market demand.