When I heard about the World famous GI tagged Uppada sarees I was intrigued to find out its history and planned to make a trip to the distant village in a remote part of Andhra Pradesh. The journey took me to Kakinada part of the East Godavari district – one of the most fertile regions of the country – and from there an hour’s drive along the Bay of Bengal in what can be described as one of the most beautiful and calming drives; the sea waves splashing onto the narrow road and brushing our car was exhilarating and that only heightened my anticipation of reaching Uppada and meeting the people who create the rich Jamdhani sarees and I was not disappointed.
Uppada, a small village, welcomes you with multiple Saree shops and for a moment we wanted to abandon our main goal of meeting with weavers to understand the process of creating these and instead go on a shopping spree! Uppada sarees are Handwoven on looms, majority of which are home based looms. Per an Article on Uppada in 2015, 40% of all Uppada weavers are women, but in most households every family member including children spin and weave. Children are involved into weaving post school hours to pass on the skill to the next generation and keep the art alive.
For the silk sarees, the silk threads are majorly sourced from Bangalore, karnataka, because of its fine quality. Later these silk threads are dyed in different vibrant colours in Peddapuram town, spawning off opportunities to other villages and towns in the region. The Uppada town has created work opportunities for weavers across the region of East Godavari district with the designs coming from the master weavers in Uppada. Master Weavers/ designers work with other weavers and help set up the thread patterns on the loom and provide the silk and zari.
Watching weavers go about their task of producing sarees, which may take anywhere between a week to over a month, is a sheer joy. The skill lies in the way these designs are created and then completed in a slow and steady way. The beauty of a handloom product can be discerned and the elegance is what makes it special.The Zari for Uppada Jamdhani sarees is made from Silver, gold and mercerised yarn and the speciality of these sarees is that the design is visible from both sides.
Owing to the beautiful and intricate designs, while being light weight at the same time, Uppada style Sarees have received international attention and fame. Uppada cotton sarees which look as rich and are very light weight, can be part of daily wear as well.While Uppada sarees have been famous, the fabric has not been improvised much for Salwar Kameez unlike its contemporaries Chanderi, Banarasi, mangalagiri etc.
As in any traditional form there are different stories for the origination of the style and is true for Uppada Jamdhani style too; one story goes that this style originated in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in the 18th century which was later brought to Uppada. The name Jamdani is a Persian term where Jam means flowers and Dani means vase. The other story goes where Jamdhani style is believed to be originated in Uppada itself, by a local senior weaver/ designer who created sarees woven with pure gold or silver Zari to be exclusively worn by ladies of Zamindar (Landlord) families . Since these sarees were created only for Zamindarins hence the name Jamdani.
While leaving the town we could not resist but enter the saree shops and walk out with bagfull to be given as gifts to family members. Beauty of Uppada Jamdhani sarees is the variety from the subtle to the bold and the intricate to the simple designs, there is a saree for every taste.
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