Chanderi is a town of historical importance in Ashoknagar district of Madhya Pradesh. It is surrounded by beautiful hills southwest of Betwa river. There are several monuments of the Bundela Rajputs and Malwa sultans. History of Chanderi goes back to 11th century, when it is dominated by the trade routes of central India and was proximate to the arterial route to the ancient ports of Gujarat as well as to Malwa, Mewar, Central India and Deccan.
Handlooms and Chanderi Sarees:
Chanderi is famous for its hand-woven sarees. It is a renowned centre for traditional weavers of sarees. Due to the high demand in middle and high societies Chanderi is one of the best known clusters in India, particularly famous for its sarees, made with mix of silk and cotton. Saree is the product of second half of twentieth century only. Then, there have been changes in the methodologies, equipments and even the composition of yarns in part. The heritage is attached with the skills of weaving high quality fabric product here. The weavers are actually the symbol of the heritage, as they have been the ones who produced the kinds of stuff that received appreciation even from the royals.
Originally, Chanderi was always woven using handspun cotton warps and wefts. It was spun as fine as 300 counts and was as prized amongst cotton fabrics as the famed muslins of Dhaka. After the Industrial Revolution in the 1930's, Chanderi weavers discovered Japanese silk. They began substituting this in the warps in cotton sarees and also developed a silk in which their profit margins were higher. The traditional weaving of Chanderi fabric is mainly done for making sarees and suit materials. The high cost of this fabric is not seen much in home furnishing linen but since it is designed for an elite class the high expense is not an issue. However introducing it into home furnishing products would be a challenge. The Chanderi fabrics are known for their sheer texture, light weight and a glossy transparency.
Marketing of Chanderi Sarees:
There are two modes of marketing Chanderi fabrics in India. Local traders and businessmen sell between eighty five and ninety percent of the total fabric produced. Some of these businessmen provide yarn and designs to weavers, but the bulk of them just trade in the finished products. Government agencies like M.P. Handloom Weavers' Cooperative Federation, M.P. Laghu Udyog Nigam, M.P. Handicraft Development Corporation and State Textile Corporation sell the remainder of fabric produced. Unfortunately, weavers are unable to market their own products successfully in metros, or in trade fairs or exhibitions. As a result, their profit margins are eroded by the presence of traders, as is the unfortunates case with most Indian handicraft produced in remote areas.
Geographic Indication status for Chanderi Sarees:
The production of Chanderi has been protected by India as a Geographic Indication (GI). This is a sign used on products with a specific geographical origin, which have certain qualities because of the place they have originated from. As a WTO member country, India passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and protection) Act in 1999, which enables the registration and better protection of GIs relating to products. India has petitioned the World Trade Organization for the recognition of Chanderi as a GI product at the international level as well.
Sunil Kumar Tiwari, AIR Correspondent, Indore