Chirala, a handloom cluster near Vijayawada, is home for many like Siddhi Buccheswara Rao, who shares his story.
Buccheswara Rao has been in the business of weaving for a long time now. “My father Siddhi Satyanarayana, and mother Bhavani, came to Chirala as weavers 40 years ago, as work in Uppada was less at the time. My father was a technician, and I learnt a lot from him. From readying designs to marketing, I slowly picked up everything.” They would work under a shed, and that’s where Buccheswara Rao started learning. Though he studied only up till the tenth grade, he has been in the field of weaving for a long time now. In fact, today he is a Master Weaver, and maintains many looms under him.
Talking about Chirala, he says that the handloom industry is picking up, albeit at a slow pace. “The Kuppadam Pattu and Kanchi Kuppadalu are the speciality of Chirala, as they are available only here.” With a community that has over 10,000 looms, a range of designs and materials are woven here. From cottons to silks, the cost of saris readied here ranges from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10,000 he says.
Talking about the buyers, Buccheswara Rao shares that he is always on the pulse of the market, to know about the latest colours, styles and designs. He gets the designs done as per market requirements. Due to this, many shops in Andhra purchase from him. With more stores picking up his products wholesale, that is a major market as compared to retail, which is much lesser.
The trends in the market, he shares are changing. From colours to designs, one needs to be constantly aware, as people are looking for something new. The challenges do exist as powerlooms often pick the same designs and are able to deliver at much lesser costs.
However, as is the case with many handloom clusters, health issues make it difficult for people to weave after they cross 50 years of age. Also, the money earned on weaving is much lesser, and many choose to shift to more lucrative work options instead. Speaking about the number of youth in handloom sector, Buccheswara Rao shares that while there are some who are looking into the technology and marketing aspects of the Chirala product, very few are choosing to weave. “First of all it isn’t lucrative, and secondly, those who weave find it difficult to get married, as brides seek corporate husbands.” He also adds that while corporate jobs get the weekend off, weavers have no holidays and the entire family has to be involved.
However, all is not bleak, and the last five years have seen an improvement for Chirala. With handloom festivals, involvement of technology and more lucrative options being introduced, Chirala handloom may hopefully soon see better days to come.
How to get to Chirala: Reach Vijayawada either by flight/rail/ road and take the 85km road trip to Chirala.