National Handloom Day is marked annually in India on August 7 as a tribute to the handloom-weaving community of India, on the date when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Swadeshi Movement of the country’s freedom struggle from the British Raj in 1905.
Over a century later, hundreds of women of Indian heritage marked the day with the Indian National Anthem at the statue of the Father of the Indian Nation at Parliament Square – draped in vibrant sarees from all parts of the country. The Saree Walkathon on August 6, a day before National Handloom Day, kick-started at Trafalgar Square. Then over 500 saree-clad women from several Indian states – Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Kerala, Delhi, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, among others – set off on their walkathon down Whitehall and stopped over opposite 10 Downing Street to dance along to patriotic songs and popular Bollywood numbers, creating a vibrant display of their weaves.
Dr Dipti Jain of British Women in Sarees group said: “This group was formed out of this idea. It is a group of empowered women who take pride in flaunting handloom sarees and representing the unique cultural melting pot that is India.”
The motivation is to use the saree as a means of providing support to the ones who most need it. Proceeds from an event held during the Royal Ascot in June last year went towards a Kantha weaving artist residing in Nanoor village of West Bengal.
“As we grow bigger, we intend to reach out, grow and connect with more artisans and weavers who need support. This will be our way of preserving ancient handicrafts,” added Dr Jain.
As the women converged at the Gandhi statue, the sunny weather gave way to a brief spell of rain showers but it failed to dampen the spirit of the gathering as they sang Jana Gana Mana to conclude the walkathon.
A team from Kerala was coordinated by Dr Hema Santhosh, Dr Deepa Hegde and Shirley Gibson to showcase the state’s tradition Settu Mundu handloom and sarees bought directly from the weavers.
Dr Santhosh said: “We intend to identify handlooms clusters in India, in need of help and lend them our support. We intend to raise awareness among all about our handlooms, their history and the art behind it.
“This peaceful Saree Walkathon of ours is another initiative to make this possible.”
*Info: National Handloom Day
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