International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. – United Nations
To celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity I start my journeys to the clusters I travel to for my work. Be it a Cotton field, Block printing unit, embroideries being done by artisans at their homes and teaching the skills to their next generation, rural women play a vital role.
Rural women don’t only know the craft techniques but they also possess resilience in their daily chores from milking the cattle with own hands to cooking food in open using natural resources, thus maintaining equilibrium and harmony with animals and nature and surroundings.
Being a Textile Engineer my journey starts from the cotton. The first name in our minds while buying clothes – Cotton.
From the villages of Punjab and Haryana and Rajasthan the states which strengthened Agriculture post-Independence, rural women till date are considered experts in doing the toughest tasks. During the cycle of cotton farming, plucking of cotton balls is considered the toughest task (in Punjabi and Hindi it’s Narma Chugna – Cotton = Narma, Chugna = Plucking). It’s because it requires a skill level, a certain level of force to pluck cotton balls from the plants.
The women from the villages are considered experts in doing this task as it’s considered that the force of their hands suits the cotton and the yield is maximum.
The younger ones study during the day and help their mother and grandmother in the afternoon and evening.
Any visit to a craft cluster, village is incomplete without food. And when it comes to food rural women are best known for carrying forward the legacy, authenticity.
After covering the cotton farms there was a chance to visit interiors of the villages, still untouched by urbanisation. Women working in their open kitchens, the soothing smell of spices, the voices of cattle.
During my interaction I was explained the difference between milking the cattle with own hands and with machine. Milking the cattle with own hands works in a beautiful way. A woman is considered best to understand female gender of cattle. A woman milks the cattle with a soft touch, the force of their hands, which they believe men don’t possess and the newer ways of machine milking can’t even achieve. Machines work at a set level of pressure and force hence resulting in deteriorating health of cattle.
Rural women from every region represents unique skills which in ways are beneficial for the society and nature around us.
While travelling to villages in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Telangana for Chanderi, Maheshwari, Kosa Silk and Ikat weaving, I was amazed to see the modified Charkha.
It’s a craft cluster Pochampally known for ages old Ikat fabric weaving. Years ago the yarn used was hand spun but with time hand spun yarn lost it’s value to Machine made yarns. Women use to spin charkha at their homes which helped them in keeping good health.
Here in Pochampally, though there is electricity, but elderly rural women contribute to the family by not using electricity and performing some of the most important tasks – Reeling. Making of yarn spindles for Shuttles which is used for weaving (insertion of weft).
This keeps their health good and saving money for their family.
The rural women of Rajasthan and Gujarat have a unique artistic view about life which is visible in their work, the clothes they make, the ingredients they use, thus helping in using Natural resources and saving the Nature.
The artistic prints they make, the embroideries they do since ages have been practised using natural resources. For doing any embroidery or print a base outline of the motif is required to be drawn on fabric (Khakha making and Chapai). Till date in villages of Rajasthan and Gujarat Chapai is done using mud. Prints are done using Syahi Begar (a black viscous product made using Waste Iron and Jaggery).
Though many men are also employed in these trades, but women are best known for their skills.
It’s considered that it’s the magic of the hands of women which creates the best designs.
Rural women of every region share the similar culture backgrounds and is seen in their everyday lives. In Kutch experienced the same at artisans places.
The state of West Bengal also let you experience the rural women teaching their daughters and sons the art of weaving Jamdani.
While men tend to move away from weaving but women are becoming torch bearers. Engaged in weaving from early morning to late evening, breaking the stereotypes these rural women are taking the craft to another level by becoming entrepreneurs in their villages. Thus keeping the ages old tradition alive for the urban population.
With an aim to share happiness and bring stories to people we need to meet Rural Women to trace our roots. There is a need to share these stories with newer generations.
Blog by: Navaldeep Thareja