While talking about sarees and the opulent handloom industry that India has, the first memory that pops up in our heads is the one where we all remember our mothers asking us about how good their sarees look on a Karva Chauth night and then telling us the little tale that is always entangled with that saree. Perhaps, this is where the real richness of our handloom industry lies; In the tales!
A tale that begins from a yarn and continues till a lady smiles while looking at herself in the mirror and appreciating the beauty of the cloth that she is wearing. However, sometimes, not all of these tales are heard by us. Some of them are left way behind in this journey and then forgotten with the ravages of time.
One such melancholic tale is that of Mubarakpur, a small town and a municipal board in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh which is known for its magnificent silk weaving along with its impressive Kadhua Zari Motifs from the beginning of the 14th century. Though Mubarakpur weaves had their own USPs and were once a fad, they lost their fame when middlemen found it difficult to differentiate Mubarakpur weaves from that of Banarasi saree. Sadly , little did these middlemen know that something that appeared similar to a Banarasi was not just a weave but an entire creation of sheer hard word and selfless love which they failed to recognise.
This problem of translucent synonymity led to a major downfall of Mubarakpur as gradually people failed to acknowledge its own richness and peculiarity. Then, In the early 90s, the situation further worsened because of the Hindu - Muslim riots when the footfall in such small villages declined significantly.
Because of the so-called ‘similarity’ among the Mubarakpur weaves and that of the ‘Banarasi’, and the Hindu Muslim riots, the situation of the Mubarakpur weavers kept on falling each day to an extent that after a point, the necessities of life started to become a luxury for them. They were unable to run their families and weaving no longer seemed to be a convincing profession anymore.
Even after taking loans and dying within the vicious circles of debt traps, these weavers couldn’t sell their products at the desired rate. Though many Non-Profit Organisations ( NGOs ) and philanthropists tried to improve the situation but sooner or later, all their efforts went futile. Seeing this , most of them left the traditional handloom industry and started to switch their professions. The long-established Mubarkpur handlooms and their speciality of Kadhua designs were soon at the verge of collapsing not only as a mere fad but as something that ever existed.
But , to our utmost happiness , the situation of Mubarakpur started to change in 2014 when the ‘All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA)’, run by a private philanthropic trust & Burhani Mubarakpur SHG took an initiative to restore the forgotten weaving center under the brand name ‘Mubarakpur Weaves’
The initiative not only helped the weavers and artisans to earn a better livelihood but also revived the traditional technique of ‘Kadhua’ using which many different motifs of different sizes, colors and textures that can be woven on the same sari, which is quite difficult to do otherwise. While this takes longer on the handloom, it makes a more robust pattern, which stands out on the fabric.
Though Mubarakpur Sarees have had an under appreciated past , but we at Chowdhrain are trying to resuscitate the ancestral weaves along with the new Gen-Z elements in order to change its future and to add some new innovation and elements to the women fashion industry. From our very own perspective , the Mubarakpur weave is not just a piece of cloth or a short lived trend , it is an eternal style which we wish to offer to all our Chowdhrains.
Written by: Viraj Kanwar