Ikat is probably one of the most commonly referred to weaves of India. It has taken over the mainstream market in a storm, in the form of sarees, dress materials, dupattas, blouse pieces, wall hangings, curtains, bed sheets, pillow covers and what not ! What is it about ikat that has earned such popularity?
Telengana, along with Odisha and Gujarat, is a hub of the ikat weave. Known as the ‘silk city of India’, the small town of Bhoodan Pochampally in the Yadadri Bhuvanagari district houses the famous double-ikat that creates the grandeur of the Pochampally sarees. What makes the double ikat unique is the fact that both the warp and weft threads are tie-dyed and then woven which lends the fabric its characteristic wispy, dreamy look. In the single ikat style, the warp thread is tie-dyed while the weft is left un-dyed and has one basic colour. Warping is done on a machine called the aasu while wefting is done on a chitik frame.
This ikat style traces its origin to the 18th century when the craft started in less than hundred villages in the town of Pochampally. It is supposed to be influenced heavily by the Patola weave of Gujarat, although both the styles are completely different in terms of patterns and style. Its name and fame lasted for long, through the magnificent silk sarees created on traditional looms. It is only in the 70s that the headmen of the silk town decided to increase the marketability of the weave by blending it with cotton yarn. This step towards increasing the commercial appeal of the weave was a big leap towards making the craft sustainable and improving the living conditions of the weavers. It also allowed the weavers to experiment more with designs and motifs, making the immensely traditional craft more flexible and malleable. It is this sensitivity and consistent grasp of changing trends, patterns and tastes of the mainstream market that has retained the weave in vogue till today. The 80s saw a further boom of the ikat in the market and a steady rise in the number of looms–up to 3000!
Pochampally ikat lends its sarees an abstract and geometric appearance, therefore; with mesmerising patterns spread throughout the body or in combination with the broad borders and pallus. The most frequently made pattern that resembles waves apparently denotes water, although not much is known about the meaning of these patterns and symbols. It sometimes becomes difficult to detect whether the ikat is a woven pattern or a printed one–such is its nebulous quality and similarity to painted motifs.