Telia Rumals of Telugu States

Telia Rumals of Telugu States

In the recent past Telia Rumal was in news in Telangana state. In a bid to re-launch Telia Rumal, an integral part of Ikat handloom culture, Telangana government showcased them on the National Handloom Day in Hyderabad with the initiative of Shailaja Rama Iyer, Managing Director of Department of Handlooms and Textiles.


In the recent past Telia Rumal was in news in Telangana state. In a bid to re-launch Telia Rumal, an integral part of Ikat handloom culture, Telangana government showcased them on the National Handloom Day in Hyderabad with the initiative of Shailaja Rama Iyer, Managing Director of Department of Handlooms and Textiles.

Telia Rumal originally of Chirala, which was also known as Asia Rumal, an oiled square cloth, was one of the famous traditional hand-crafted products of Telugu states.

The craft was said to have been migrated from Chirala to Pochampalli in the beginning of the 20th Century through two brothers belonging to Padmashalis, traditionally a weaving community.

The two places of Ikat weaving in Telugu states are several hundreds of miles apart. Pochampalli and its adjoining areas are in the backward Nalgonda district in Telangana Region, whereas Chirala is in the Prakasam district on the east coast in Andhra Pradesh.

These Rumals, are still preserved and can be found in the textile museums such as the AIDTTA in Paris, the Calico Museum of Textiles, the Museum of Ethnography in Basel, as well as private collections in Zurich. They are also available in Lepakshi and Golkonda Handicrafts Emporia.

Late Mrs. Amrita Jainder Singh in her report on Telia Rumals of Chirala, prepared for the united Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corporation, way back cautioned the authorities that, unless extraordinary precaution is taken, the craft would languish. In Chirala it's already languished and in Telangana it has been revived thanks to the efforts of Handloom department and its MD Shailaja.

The traditional product emerged from Chirala in Prakasam District, in the coastal belt of the AP State. Amrita Singh did an extensive study of Ikat textiles, their origin and historical background. She dwelled into great details of the weaving factor, the tie-and-dye process and the designs which were handed over from generation to generation.

She prepared a detailed drawing and graph of the warp and weft of the process, and presented how both are enmeshed to form the final design as it appears on the finished fabric.

There was a time when direct trade from Chirala to the Middle East took place. Till 1991, these Rumals were supplied to an entrepreneur based at Mumbai, who presumably exported them to the Middle East.

Surprisingly, no orders were placed from Mumbai since then. Later it was only the Handicrafts Development Corporation which placed orders for these Rumals for marketing through their sales outlets in Hyderabad, Delhi and Madras.

Telia Rumals in double Ikat of Chirala and Pochampalli are the best known. Even though the Ikat textiles are woven in South America, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Turkey, Afghanistan, the Middle East, the far East and Japan (they were also woven in 17th and 18th century Italy, France and Scandinavia) spread over four continents, the double Ikat weaving is found only in three places in the world.

They are India, Indonesia (one village in Bali) and Japan. The double Ikat fabrics are known as tie-dyed or resist-dyed fabrics, where both the warp and the weft threads are dyed in the Ikat process.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Telia Rumals were exported as turban cloths to the Middle East. This export market flourished till the Second World War and then the decline began in Chirala. The weavers, who went from Pochampalli to Chirala for training in Ikat weaving, simplified the elaborate process and introduced chemical dyes in Pochampalli.

However, Chirala could not find a market for their age old Rumals, as the purpose for which they were used no longer existed, according to Amrita Singh who documented the craft.

The Telia Rumals, which have a uniform size and are almost square cotton pieces, were originally used as an all-purpose cloth. It was worn as lungis and turbans by fishermen on the west coast of India, as well as cowherds around Chirala.

It was also used by the washer men community around Hyderabad. Dupattas patterned after Telia Rumals were used by ladies of aristocratic Hyderabad families. This 45-inch square cloth, however beautifully tie-dyed and woven, has limited marketing possibilities.

The oil treatment catered to the needs of the desert people of the Middle East, as it could control radiation. The Rumal can also be used as a table cloth, but its static size hinders marketing possibilities.

It can only be used on a square table, and is too large to be converted into a cushion cover. The Rumals of Chirala are however more original and have a certain brilliance of colouring compared to the Rumals of Pochampalli.

The very nature of the Telia Rumal consisted of simple geometrical designs framed in a border with margins and lines. The central square was comprised of small blocks, stars, crosses formed by dots and straight or stepped lines, forming diamonds within diamonds.

The weavers worked out their designs on graph paper and various limitations of the basic design. Production of bedcovers, table cloths and cushion covers may be of use in the future, observed Amrita Singh then.

Telia Rumals were so named because the alizarin or vegetable dying process required the yarn to be pre-soaked in oil. The yarn is first soaked thoroughly for two hours, to remove the grease and starch in the bundle and then the yarn is divided into equal lots.

Sheep dung is mixed in water and each lot of yearn is immersed in the mixture overnight, and squeezed and hung out to dry in the morning. The treatment is repeated for four days. The yarn is then washed with the clean water to remove the stray particles of sheep dung sticking to the yarn.

The oil shake is prepared by mixing ash of the outer cover of castor oil seeds by burning them in water. To this, gingerly oil is added. This mixture has a milk white appearance, the ash being removed by straining the liquid through a fine cloth. Lot by lot, the yarn is squeezed manually in this oil bath and is left to soak overnight.

The next morning, the yarn is dried in the sun. On the last day of the process, the yarn is washed thoroughly and dried again in the sun, which is now ready for dying. Next, the warp is spread and the design is marked by charcoal.

The first portions to be tied are those where white is required. Enough quantity of alizarin red in crystal form and powdered alum are dissolved in sufficient water. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 50 degrees centigrade, the treated yarn is immersed in the dye bath, pummelled gently.

The temperature of the water is raised to a boiling point, and the yarn is stirred intermittently. Later, the yarn is kept in this dye solution for five hours and is removed from the alizarin solution and washed thoroughly, with cold water. The tie and dye process is not complete.

In later days, Telia Rumal was being made only out of Forties yarn. Amrita Singh narrated the details of the tie and dye production and said that the very essence of Telia Rumal was production in double-Ikat, where both the warp and weft is tie and dyed.

In view of the large border of the Rumal, both the warp and weft contained groups of plain and dyed threads. Pit looms were used for weaving Telia Rumals. While weaving, the weavers take all precautions with each and every pick, so that, each pick is aligned correctly.

The weaver watches this through the alignment of the weft thread in the guideline to ensure that the warp and the weft from the designed pattern. A good weaver, could complete weaving of four Rumals in one day.

It is high time that this age-old craft is prevented from languishing and revived suiting to the current needs of the market.

( The author is CPRO to CM, Telangana)

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