A 700 year old story

Like crafts worldwide, the traditional textile industry has lost relevance due to globalization. Handmade textiles are quickly becoming a dying art. Scarcity of workers, lack of buyers and cost related to the manufacturing have made things worst. Gujarat is now home to many communities whose traditional work of craft and textile is facing serious challenges. Tangalia is one such textile from Gujarat that has failed to cope with modern manufacturing.

Tangalia is a 700-year-old craft that can be found only in Surendranagar, Gujarat. The Dangasia community of this region is the only community which has the knowledge and expertise of the weaving technique that is used to make Tangalia. Tangalia derives its name from tang or leg. This garment was earlier worn by women of the Bharwad community. In the villages near Surendranagar, one can still spot some ladies wearing dotted wrapped skirts in black with contrasting embellishments created by woven dotted forms.

The craft has an interesting story about its inception. History says that there was a couple in love that was expelled from the village as both of them belonged to different communities. The villagers who stood against their love and passion confined the couple from entering the village. However, they were not able to confine their creativity. Their offspring’s formed a separate community and started weaving wool in a way that later became well-known as Tangalia.
Tangalia has various types such as Ramraj, Dhusla, Lobdi, Gadia, and Charmalia. Most commonly used motifs are peacock, ambo (mango tree), and khajuri (date palm tree). On formation, these motifs acquire a geometric and graphic feel. Unlike other styles of making textiles, Tangalia does not use any mechanical devices on pit loom. Patterns are created only by arranging motifs in various ways. And the expertise of design totally depends on the talent of the craftsmen and his ingenuity to create exclusive designs.

It’s not fair to expect beautiful handmade things compete with mass production. The process involved in making one sarong-like cloth using Tangalia technique takes a lot of time and labor. Tiny dots of extra weft are twisted so as to give an effect of bead embroidery. The intricate method of twisting the extra weft while the weaving is going on creates beautiful linear patterns and forms. The fabric woven on a pit loom 20 feet long and usually narrow in width. Later, it is cut into half and the two sections are stitched together.

Youth and glamor industry are far from the staid discipline of India’s dying textiles. The unique art form of Tangalia with its dotted splendor is struggling for survival. There are no takers for this style. Lack of opportunities is forcing these craftsmen to stop working on this traditional art. Despite being one of the toughest work of art that only a few gifted craftsmen can now create, Tangalia is struggling for its existence.

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