Varanasi Weavers

Varanasi also called Benaras or Kashi has been an important center for the Hindu pilgrimage.

Banarsi brocades are popularly known as Kinkhab in Varanasi. Origin of this craftsmanship can be dated back to the Vedic period which flourished largely, during the Mughal period; under Akbar’s patronage. From the historical perspective, Benaras brocades has found place from rig Vedic literature to post independent India

The  craft of silk weaving by the Varanasi Guild of weavers is renowned for its intricacy in design and its craftsmanship. Benarasi Brocades represents the richness of the Indian culture, each textile has a different narrative, which is an ode to the weavers imagination.

The weavers lost their clientele, due to the advent of the power looms  and many abandoned their craft and resorted to other means of living.

Varanasi Weavers, a social development project envisioned by Upasana Design studio, to reinstate Benaras Brocades to its glory and provide livelihood opportunities for the weaving community of Varanasi.

As part of my Diploma project, I will be working closely with the weaving community of Varanasi. I am really looking forward to this interaction with the makers of Kinkhab, and hope to take something from them.

A girl named Tsunamika

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Tsunamika, a doll that triumphs the spirit midst the face of affliction. She ignites hope and augments faith.

I was introduced to Tsunamika and her story, by Neelam and Vijay, my friends, who I met during my undergraduate study at NIFT, while they were pursuing their graduation project at Upasana Design studio, back in 2008.

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‘Tsunamika meets her friends’, a tale of the Tsunamika doll, which was born of the devastating tsunami. 

‘There was a little girl, Tsunamika, who lived on the ocean floor. She had never seen the sun, the moon are the stars because no light ever reached the ocean floor. She lived by herself and was very lonely. One day, a starfish came to her and said, “Have you ever seen the sun?”

But then, thanks to a starfish, the Sun, who granted her a wish, and the waves, she got friends, and not just friends but families too — mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who love her. She has travelled far and wide to distant lands and has spread love.

And Tsunamika looked up at the sun and smiled. She realized that she could give her love to all the people of the world’ ~ Upasana, Auroville.

Ever since I set sight on the Tsunamika doll, the resonance of the story that she holds, struck a chord with me.Since then she has been on my inspiration board and stimulates me to go on, along with other things.

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Amudha, an inspiring woman, currently the project head for Tsunamika, took responsibility to provide for her family from the age of seven and as she grew up, she valued the importance of education. Her eagerness to learn, never diminished with time, even though she had to succumb to a lot of hardships.

She is proficient in English today, despite lack of training or introduction to English as a language. She is a mother and also a dear friend of the women, belonging to fishing community who are behind the making of Tsunamika.

I had mentioned to her, during a casual conversation about my longing to meet these women and the very same day,she arranged for a visit to a village called  Bommayarpalayam, Tamil Nadu. A restored village cluster, which was destroyed due to Tsunami in 2004. Traumatized women and their families were introduced to Tsunamika, in order to ignite hope and rebuild their spirit, they were encouraged to develop skills in the handicraft of doll making and this engagement shaped a self sustaining model .

Today, these women are happy, self sufficient, nourishing their families, as their husbands the fishermen, continue to suffer loss in fishing, as fish habitats in the Bay of Bengal,have been altered since Tsunami.

The project Tsunamika, has evolved into a livelihood opportunity for nearly 180 women, they receive income for every doll they make. The entire project is a demonstration of “gift economy”, with donations from around the world, it is running independently.

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”~ Confucius