State artisans weave magic, woo visitors at Pragati Maidan fair

Nov 21, 2023 02:23 AM IST

The 42nd India International Trade Fair is being held at Pragati Maidan, which was opened to public on November 18.

The only thing that reminded Sulakhi of home, seated over 1,600 km away, was the colour-coded, geometrical shawl, known as kapadaganda, which she embroidered. The red triangle represented sacrifice, the yellow stood for turmeric, and the green horizontal lines on the shawl were the jungle-clad Niyamgiri hills of Odisha – home to Sulakhi and other 8,000 members of the Dongria Kandha tribe (according to the 2011 census).

A weaver from Odisha embroiders a shawl at her stall set up at the India International Trade Fair. (HT PHOTO)
A weaver from Odisha embroiders a shawl at her stall set up at the India International Trade Fair. (HT PHOTO)

Read here: Trade Fair is back in bigger & better avatar at Pragati Maidan in Delhi

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Till November 27, Delhi is home to Sulakhi, 25, and her 21-year-old niece. The two have a stall at the 42nd India International Trade Fair (IITF) being held at the revamped Pragati Maidan, which was opened to public on November 18. It houses at least 3,500 exhibitors selling handicrafts, clothes, decor items, jewellery, art, and food.

The two young women, who speakKuvi, and know little Hindi, but attempt answering queries of buyers. When someone asked Sulakhi how long it took to make a shawl, she said, “at least a month and a half.”

Sulakhi continued to embroider as passers-by walked past the stall, inquired about the fabric, and the rate. Only some asked Sulakhi about the tribe she belonged to, and the Niyamgiri hills her community has fought hard for. The Dongria Kandha tribe has firmly stood against the proposed bauxite mining by Vedanta Group’s alumina refinery plant in Niyamgiri hills.

Each shawl is at least two metres long, costs upto 8,000, and takes six to seven weeks to finish. A board at the stall read, “This intricate embroidery is typically done by the female folk of the community. The Kapadaganda showcases the exceptional craftsmanship and is often gifted by unmarried women to their lover as a token of love. It is also presented to brothers and fathers as a symbol of affection.”

Spread across 14 halls, the annual IITF also houses 59-year-old weaver Nazda Khatoon from Bihar’s Jainagar, pashmina shawl maker Bashir Ahmed Bhat from Kashmir’s Budgam district, and 45-year-old kalamkari artiste S Arunama from Andhra Pradesh’s Nimmalakunta.

Khatoon, surrounded by sikki art -- jewellery, bags and boxes made of from sikki grass -- looked up once done weaving a green ring, and said, “When I was 10 years old, I watched how my grandmother’s fingers swiftly wove sikki grass into jewellery and bags. Now, I do the same thing. Depending on the size of the object I make, it can take between one hour to one month to complete it.”

Once she got married, Khatoon gave up sikki art. “But it was my calling and I couldn’t stay away. I resumed it, and also taught the women of my village how to do it,” she said, before she got busy with a customer.

Read here: Delhi traffic police issues advisory ahead of International Trade Fair. Check routes to avoid

And then there was Bhat, an IITF veteran, who put on show a number of shawls, and explained each embroidery style. He said, “This is the sozni embroidery technique, a popular needlework technique which employs both wool and silk. And this is a Kani shawl, one of the oldest shawls to have originated in the Kanihama area of Kashmir valley. It is one of the most luxurious shawls.”

There are also 12 international stalls at the IITF, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Oman and Vietnam.

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