Sonepur cluster concentrates on the manufacturing of tie & dye and Bomkai designs in a saree. This cluster makes plain cotton sarees, simple silk sarees with Bomkai designs together with dress materials for women.
Sonepur lies in the western zone of Orissa. This cluster is renowned for its unique Bomkai patterns also known as 'Bandha'. The Bomkai pattern is created by Jala technique on the fabric. The weaving practice has been very old and historic and contains traces from as old as 600 B.C. The designs are inspired from the caves of 'Khandagiri'. The cluster is dedicated completely towards silk weaving with Bomkai patterns.
Sonepur handloom cluster had started focusing on silk weaving especially the Bomkai design in the late 1980s. It is famous for its weaving because of the production without using any extra machinery like Jacquard and Dobby. In the Bomkai patterns, both the warp and the weft are coloured in different combinations. On the borders, warp alone is processed, while for Palavas and Anchal of sarees, weft is processed and overall saree designs, both the warp and weft are processed.
In the earlier days, the weavers here not just made use of cotton yarn but Tassar silk, wool and lotus stalks were also used. During 14th Century, Sri. Ramai Dev used to reign in Patnagarh, where he relocated 100 weavers from M.P who initiated Tie and Dye weaving in Orissa. The caste of those weavers is known as Bhulia. Orissa used to export handloom to south-east Asian regions like Thailand, Java, Borrneo and Sumatra in pre-independence epoch by the way of sea.
Master Weavers play the most vital role in the marketing of the products. Weavers work as employees under Master Weavers also known as Mahajans or Sahukars. They obtain raw material for the weavers to produce materials and as the product is ready, it is marketed by Master Weavers. The remuneration provided to the weavers is in the form of wages on daily basis or monthly basis.
Weavers also work independently in the cluster. It is too difficult for them to market their products due to lack of sources and they have to sell their products as and when they are prepared. To carry on their living they need to find the buyers immediately. It is impossible for them to wait for the sales for a long period due to their weak economic conditions and need of livelihood. In fact the frequency with which he sells products determines his economic well being. The irony is that, on an average a weaver takes two weeks for making of a product and four weeks for selling it. For all this period his capital is stuck. This forces him to sell his products at a much lower price, making futile all his efforts and hard-work in making that one piece of product.
Achievements of the cluster
Working Methodology of the Cluster
The major artifacts of cluster is silk sarees with 48" width mainly utilizing Charkha yarn and cotton tie & dye sarees.
- Plain sarees with use of extra weft
- Silk sarees with single or double Ikat with fashionably designed border.
- Cotton sarees with bomkai designs
sarees are generally sold at the price of around ` 1600/- to `
4000/- and above.
The production method of the Sonepur Handloom Cluster comprises of three methods. They are:
- Independent weavers
- Master weavers and traders and
- Cooperative weavers
Independent weavers: They bear all the expenses from the starting till the end. Right from procurement of raw materials to weaving till the selling, he is the main actor. His sales and productivity depends completely on local marketing conditions and due to escalating buyers' mores, and frequently changing tastes and preferences for garments amid the customers , the individual weaver is bound to depend on traders and dealers to sell his goods. This dependency forces to satisfy him with a very marginal profit or sometimes may be making losses.
Master Weavers: Master Weavers look after the marketing of the products keeping the weavers completely away. Raw materials are provided to the weavers for production and wages are paid to them for the cloth they produce. Although master weavers completely take charge of all the whereabouts of the selling part and weavers do not have to bother for the same, still there is the monopoly of the master weavers wherein they can anytime fling away the weavers in adverse market conditions. The weavers working under masters lead an extremely wobbly life and the unorganized nature of the industry and frail negotiating intensity of the weavers force them to satisfy with a poor wage rate. Strategy of wage curtailment is often followed in order to keep pace with the mill-made clothing and weavers are bound to accept the price policy imposed by the masters. Numerous giant manufacturers with around 100 weavers working under them, at different places, making annual revenue of about `1 crore, control their business as master weavers. Thus, in the dearth of sufficient supportive exposure of the weavers, the handloom industry in India is nearly managed by the master weavers and large traders' investment.
Co-operative Societies: In order to stand the contest from the power looms and composite mills and to minimize the exploitation of the weavers by the master weavers, the government has strengthened the encouragement of weavers co-operative societies. These societies provide a common platform to all the weavers and to offer membership at a very nominal share with subsidy from the government. They supply fiber and yarn to weavers for manufacturing cloth according to the requirement, procure ready goods from them, pay them their wages and make appropriate arrangements for selling those goods. The members have a share in the earnings of the society and get bonus in proportion to their output of cloth.
Common menace for the poor weavers
According to a survey, the total no of equipped looms in the Sonepur cluster are around 12000, out of which 6320 looms comes under cooperative society. There is above 50 master weavers and weavers find it better to work with them. There are also some independent weavers working in the cluster that procure raw materials, weave sari out of it and sell it into the market. General prevailing practices in the cluster are supply of yarn to the weavers, dyeing and weaving. For the completion of the process weavers take at least 12 to 15 days with completely engrossing the family in the production work. This infiltrates not more than ` 3000- ` 5000 per month of earning to the weavers for their hard work and full-time involvement of the whole family.
The Indian Handloom Industry is situated in every corner of the country which is mostly operated by the co-operative societies. The tri-modes of production exist in diverse extents in various regions but the master weavers have a greater influence. Due to the incompetence of the co-operative societies and the master weavers, the handloom industry of the country is decaying. The weavers survive in an unhealthy and deprived atmosphere despite of being the artist behind the contemporary stylish outfits and the established designers of growing lavish and prolific Indian culture of the country.