REHWA SOCIETY ORIGINS
In the 1970’s, Maheshwar was far from the prosperous golden era of the 18th century. With a skilled weaving community and exquisite textiles, future prospects seemed good, but no one could predict the effects of industrialisation. After India’s independence, everything seemed to be mill-made, and everyone seemed to like it that way! The weavers were left without a market for their beautifully hand-woven fabric and they were slowly, but surely, falling into neglect.
One evening, in the year 1978, Richard and Sally Holkar were taking a stroll on the ghats during a visit to Maheshwar. The young successors of the Holkar Dynasty were stopped on their way by a man with a piece of cloth hanging off his arm. He eagerly showed them the light, fine fabric, telling them of the hardships his people faced due to the decline of handlooms. Encouraged by their keen interest, he asked a favour of them- to, somehow, help his people find a source of income again. The Holkars were captivated by the thought of helping the people of Maheshwar, and soon their thoughts became words and actions. In 1979, with a grant from the Central Welfare Board and an investment of 79,000 rupees to train weavers, they established REHWA Society as a non-profit organisation.
SETTING UP REHWA SOCIETY
The Society was auspiciously built in the same structure that once housed a temple with a Shiv Ling, where dozens of Brahmins were requested by Ahilya Devi, to pray for the people of her state in the 18th century. In 1979, 12 looms were set up where 12 frail women in worn saris learned the skill of weaving under the guidance of Maheshwar’s treasured Master Weaver, Mr. Ganesh Bichwe, and his family. Saris were made, new weavers joined and a huge stock of textiles slowly gathered. That was 40 years ago, and several exhibitions and sari designs later, the same 12 women are happily plump, surrounded by family and working as harmoniously as ever with REHWA Society.
AIMS OF THE ORGANISATION
As REHWA Society was established as a non-profit organisation, it formed itself around 3 ideals to which it holds itself accountable, till date:
- To sustain the handweaving traditions of the town of Maheshwar.
- To empower women weavers by giving them a source of livelihood.
- To provide housing, healthcare and education to the weavers and their families.
At REHWA Society, we are extremely particular about retaining traditional craftsmanship. When reviving an age-old practice like weaving, it is extremely important to retain the true technique and authenticity, while combining it with a contemporary touch, to keep it relevant to modern times.
REHWA’s weavers are very well trained and rank among the best around Maheshwar. Years of training and experience ensure beautiful, high quality weaving . Each product, from fibre to finished product, is handmade and goes through several hands before reaching the customer. We always ensure that every design created, be it traditional or contemporary, does not lose the essence of Maheshwari handlooms.