In recent years, the Indian government has emphasised promoting local products to help the country's economy and preserve the culture and traditions that inspire several professions. Along the same lines, a college in Odisha has decided that the uniform of its students will be made from a fabric produced by the local tribe.
The Kalahandi University in the state has recently approved using the Habaspuri fabric produced by the Kandha tribe members to manufacture student uniforms. The university aims at promoting the traditional weaving profession, as the Habaspuri fabric is now on the verge of going extinct owing to low profits and a lack of administrative and market support.
Decline Of Habaspuri Fabric
During the 19th century, members of the Kandha tribe in Habaspur village of Odisha's Junagarh district started producing Habaspuri sarees using cotton and silk. The fabric had a unique pattern as weavers would weave designs like fish, flowers and Kumbha into the cloth.
Over the decades, however, the production of this fabric has dwindled drastically as weavers – due to a lack of financial and social support from the government – have backed out from the profession. In 2016-17, some 1,445 weavers with 110 looms were active in the profession. However, in 2019, the number was 1,353 weavers and 106 looms. The production value of these fabrics, too, came down from ₹28.55 lakh in 2017 to ₹18.89 lakh in 2019, reported The New Indian Express.
Today, very few weavers continue to produce the fabric in several other villages besides Habaspur, such as Chicheiguda, Palas, Baldiamal, Pundkul, Limser, Punjia, Handakhalpada, and Jayantpur. Moreover, the younger generation is unwilling to carry the tradition forward as the work is time-consuming and yields very little financial results.
Fashion Designer To Design New Uniforms
The university hopes that the new uniform will help promote the use of local handloom fabric among the young generation. Vice-Chancellor of Kalahandi University, Sanjaya Satpathy, said, "This is a small attempt which may boost the traditional Habaspuri handloom weavers", reported The New Indian Express.
Renowned fashion designer Sujit Meher has been roped in to design the new school uniforms using Habaspuri fabric, which received its geographical indication tag in 2012-2013. The dress code will be implemented from this academic year itself; the students will not have to pay any extra charges for the new uniforms.
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