PUBLISHED BY ANUSUYA ON HER BLOG wanderinganusuya.com | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
MAHESHWARI - INSPIRED BY MAHARANI AHILYABAI HOLKAR
Close to 300 years back, it was Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar who had inspired this traditional weave in Maheshwar (a town in the State of Madhya Pradesh) which is called the Maheshwari handloom.
In the late 1700s, Maharani Ahilyabai had selected some weavers from Surat (city in the state of Gujarat) and the western side of the country to set up an indigenous textile in Maheshwar which would generate employment.
While this craftsmanship began within the Fort premises, later this skill was taught and practised by hundreds in the region, leading to job creation in many households.
Maharani Ahilyabai’s artistic instinct derived finesse from the motifs and geometric designs etched on the carvings of the AHILYA Fort and the holy NARMADA river, which had a strong influence on her weavers.
She guided them to produce the finest Maheshwari sarees with an unique weave of small checks or stripes with striped pallas and border designs like Leher (wave), Eent (brick), Chatai (mat), Rui phool (Cotton flower), Diya (lamp),Tara (star), V design (arrow head) and more.
These designs are today the hallmark of any Maheshwari weave.
Maheshwari handlooms, as we see today, gained its simple and elegant style from Maharani Ahilyabai’s simplicity, poise and grace.
In the early 1900s, with industrialisation setting into the country, there was rampant mechanisation of looms which steadily affected the traditional looms and thereby, the livelihood of hundreds of weavers.
Soon, these weavers were left with no demand for their work, and over a period of time, they either disbanded their looms or left the town in search of sustenance.
Prince Richard Holkar, Founder, REHWA Society
His immense contribution to revive the traditional way
of weaving Maheshwari will always be remembered
It was in 1978, Prince Richard Holkar (son of Yeshwant Rao Holkar II) and his wife, Sally Holkar envisioned the revival of this ancient heritage of weaving Maheshwari in the traditional loom.
They were overwhelmed to see the plight of the weavers and committed themselves to restore the dying craft and ensure livelihood of several weavers.
This initiative by Prince Richard Holkar and Sally Holkar laid the foundation for the REHWA SOCIETY, a Not-for-Profit organisation.
Thus, began REHWA’s journey in 1978 with 6 women weavers led by Maheshwar’s Master craftsman, Shri Ganesh Bichwe and his wife, who had learnt the art of weaving Maheshwari from his forefathers, descendants of the original Maheshwari makers.
Today, REHWA’s strong team of 70 weavers and 31 staff members, prides itself to have been able to restore and sustain the traditional way of weaving Maheshwari handloom.
There are the 3000+ looms in Maheshwar today which is a reflection of REHWA’s significant contribution to revive the craft and rebuild the lives of the community which thrived generations in weaving this handloom.
The oldest REHWA SOCIETY showroom established in 1978 in AHILYA Fort
As we walk down the fort towards the river front, we hear the rhythmic chatter of Tana (Warp) and Bana (Weft) which draws us to REHWA Society.
This was the first REHWA Society which was built in this auspicious location of the AHILYA Fort which had a temple with Shiva Lingam, where Bhojan (food) was offered to Brahmins by Devi Ahilyabai.
THE REHWA WAY
REHWA’s weavers are amongst the most experienced with years of training who create exquisite and rich quality of Maheshwari fabric.
Every stage of the fibre to the finished product is handmade and there are eco friendly processes which are ways of doing things at REHWA.
Besides, organic dyes, Azo free dyes which are non carcinogenic in nature are used in the Dyeing process. The waste water from the dyeing process is treated in the effluent treatment plant, and converted into clean water which is further used to water the plants.
The dyeing process therefore does not create any carbon footprint.
The Drying process is completely natural, under sunlight in an open space and during the rains, the threads are dried under tubelights and fans.
There is a strict quality check on the suppliers of silk threads from Bengaluru and cotton threads from Coimbatore, who have been with REHWA for over 25 years now.
REHWA also offers a real time experience to see the entire weaving process.
DID YOU KNOW ?
THE ART OF JODHNI
When the 50 metre (length of the thread) warp in a loom ends, it gets connected to the second warp of 50 metres. The process of joining these two warps by experienced craftsmen manually is called JODHNI.
These craftsmen bind over 4000+ threads manually with a certain pressure of hands and using Ash which acts as a binder and helps to join the threads together without any knot.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT TEXTURES
Maheshwari textures get defined by the threads used in the Tana (Warp) and Bana (Weft).
When Silk thread is used in the Tana (Warp) ie Silk is used as the base and Cotton thread is used in the Bana (Weft) ie cotton thread is used in the shuttle, this weave is called Silk by Cotton which has a lustrous sheen and is the most popular fabric as it is light and comfortable.
With Silk threads in both Tana and Bana, this texture is called Silk by Silk.
With Silk in Tana and Wool in Bana, this texture is called Silk by Wool.
Mr Saurabh Solanki, Operations Manager at REHWA Society explains that “REHWA has always maintained the nearly 300 years old traditional style of Tana and Bana weaving.
The uniqueness of REHWA is our Single count weave which takes around 3-4 days to complete a saree and these sarees are far lighter and half the weight of the double count sarees. Double count sarees made elsewhere are woven easily in less than 2 days and are heavy in weight. This generations-old finesse of our Maheshwari weave is REHWA’s exclusive offering to our customers.
More importantly, the ecosystem that REHWA Society has created for the weavers covers their Housing, children’s education, medical facilities and their livelihood.”
THE REHWA COLLECTION
Maheshwari sarees are traditionally made in colors like peacock blue, bright yellow, forest green and an Indian red dye called Aal.
The Exclusive REHWA AHILYA Line
REHWA AHILYA LINE
Based on the oldest designs, the Ahilya line is the most gorgeous collection of Maheshwari sarees. These are available in pure silk, tissue and silk by cotton with intricate Jhala pallas and gold zari (gold-coated silk thread). It takes over 10 days to weave this saree with around 300 - 400 grams of gold zari used in the border and pallas.
Price range: approx. INR 10,000 to INR 31,000 ( depending on the size of zari border and palla)
REHWA PRAKRITI LINE
REHWA PAKRITI line as the name suggests are Natural dyed Maheshwari sarees.
The fabric used is organic cotton with natural dyes sourced from colours of nature – from pomegranate, onion, beetroot, aal, haldi etc.
PRAKRITI line also offers stoles and fabrics with all traditional borders.
Price range : approx. INR 7,000 to INR 8,000
REHWA NAVYA LINE
REHWA NAVYA is about the New range of Maheshwari textiles which has been designed to meet the modern tastes of consumers. The layout and design is contemporary and has been curated keeping in mind Corporate dressing, either regular office wear or for a business meeting or a function.
All the elements of the fabric remain traditional and authentic, with a different treatment to the border placement, colours, use of zari - to give it a contemporary appeal. This weave is available on Silk by Cotton and Cotton by Cotton in Stoles, scarves, fabrics and shawls, in addition to sarees and dupattas.
Price range: approx. INR 4,000 to INR 8,000
THE CLASSIC COTTON MAHESHWARI SAREES & TEXTILES
It is believed that the weave in 80 Single count Cotton by Cotton was the original texture of Maheshwari sarees which were made for Maharani Ahilyabai.
Currently, this traditional combination of yarns is not practiced anymore and rarely produced, and REHWA is one of the few organisations that produces this Cotton by Cotton textiles.
These sarees are therefore produced as an experiment now and in limited quantity.There are cotton by cotton fabric pieces of 2.5 metres which are produced at REHWA and are the most preferred.
Price range for the fabric pieces (2.5 metres each) : approx. INR 1200 - INR 1700
Visit Rehwa Society
Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar
For orders :
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone : +91-8120001388
REHWA’s Happy Women Weavers
Right at the inception of REHWA, it was the vision of Ms. Sally Holkar to encourage women weavers and make them a part of the community which was primarily dominated by men. With her sheer determination, she engaged more women weavers in REHWA, and today, over 65% of the weavers at REHWA are these women who are proud to be the support system of their family.
Suman Bai and Chandra Bai have spent their lifetime at REHWA and are the oldest members of the REHWA Family.
Suman Bai has shouldered several responsibilities and braved many family setbacks. After losing her son and daughter-in-law, she now lives on for her grandson .
At REHWA, everyone adorably calls her 'MAI ', meaning mother, and she unhesitatingly mentions, "For me, REHWA is not only a workplace, but it is my home and family. Since the last 40 years, I have been the sole bread-winner of my family. So, needless to say, life has been difficult. But,I really don't have any complaints. These circumstances have only made me tougher, practical and more confident. Having spent the past 40 years on this very ground where I sit today, I have learnt everything I know here, that's why I call REHWA my home and family. I honestly believe that I have lived at REHWA and I shall die here."
Mai of REHWA, Suman Bai and Chandra Bai
REHWA is another name of holy NARMADA
And as Maa Narmada remains pristine and sacred
From time immemorial touching our souls
REHWA blooms with this spirit
Of bringing joy and happiness
To countless Lives
And keeping a Craft alive
For Generations to remember with reverence
MAHARANI AHILYABAI HOLKAR
Revered as Rajmata and Devi, MAHARANI AHILYABAI HOLKAR’s accomplishments are countless.
Read more about this Divine Dashabhuja in the blog on Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, Maheshwar.
AHILYA BAL JYOTI SCHOOL
Started in 1989 as a creche, The Ahilya Bal Jyoti School, today imparts education to 240 students from Nursery to Class VIII, where many weavers’ children come to learn and discover their own world.
This is one of REHWA’s important social initiatives for the community and is run primarily with proceeds from REHWA Society.