National Handloom Day is commemorated annually on 7 August. It is the day when the nation comes together to celebrate its 35 lakh handloom workers. Women play an important role in the handloom sector as over 70% of all weavers and allied workers being women.
From Patola sarees of Patan, to Himroos of Hyderabad, Mekhela Chadar and Gamusa of Assam, India is a land of rich handloom heritage. Every region of its soil produces exotic designs of different forms. And to celebrate the essence of this day, The Telegraph Online Edugraph brings you the story of Smt. Anuradha Kuli Pegu and of her initiative that advanced the cause of women empowerment in India. She has also become an inspiration for young and aspiring entrepreneurs, showing them how they can make a difference. Speaking about the impact she has had, Manasvi Shakdwipee a student of St. Thomas Girls Senior Secondary School, who interviewed her, says, “She is a role-model for many Indian girls hailing from the lower financial strata of society. She is my unsung hero whose story needs to be told and retold to the coming generations.”
Smt. Anuradha is not only breaking the strangling chains of patriarchy but also painting hues of ethnicity in the world of handlooms. Growing up on the banks of the Brahmaputra in a small hamlet called Punoi Kuli Gaon in Dhemaji district, Ms. Pegu was entranced by the beautiful natural colours of the yarns used by her mother in weaving traditional mising dresses–from the yellow-dotted ribigaseng to the vibrantly-coloured aegemekhela, multi-coloured geros and gesos.
She belongs to the Miri tribe of upper Assam. From early childhood, she was familiar with weaving like all other girls of her village and her mother was widely reputed in the surrounding areas as an expert in making mirizim. In fact, from the age of eight Anuradha could spin and weave all traditional fabrics.
Her talent has won her several accolades including, National Merit certificate, National Award, Kalamoni Award, Kamala Award by Craft Council of India and FICCI Floor Award, however she is barely known outside her own native village in upper Assam. At Lakme Fashion Week 2016, she presented her saree collection titled “Naturally Anuradha”. It was much appreciated and she eventually attained celebrity status. Her designs have travelled to places like the United Kingdom and the USA. When Manasvi asked Smt. Anuradha about raising awareness in the handloom sector she replied, “We need to create awareness about the handloom sector among the youth. The government is creating awareness about the sector through various initiatives; we are making efforts to preserve and popularise this rich heritage. However, parents and society should also play an active role”.
She has taken part in India Fashion Week, New Delhi, Festival of Traditional Weaves, Santa Fe, US and various other international platforms in Thailand and China (Silk Route exhibition) Malaysia (Sarawak designer showcase). She is also the only craftsperson from India to be invited by the Shaanxi Women’s Federation to showcase her collections.“The handloom sector provides one with a lot of creative satisfaction, along with a good income and respect from the society. However, one has to ensure dedication and love for the sector to make it a career option. If you work with dedication you are bound to achieve success. Put your heart and soul in the sector and you will definitely get a good market for your handloom products,” Anuradha signs off.
The Telegraph Online Edugraph wishes Manasvi and Smt. Anuradha Kuli Pegu all the very best for their future endeavours.