What is drawing the tourists/buyers to the village is the sheer craftsmanship that goes into creating each saree.
Pochampally, a 28-square km weavers’ hamlet on the outskirts of Hyderabad, has been catapulted onto the global stage after bagging the ‘Best World Tourism Village’ tag awarded by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). The village is a shimmering pleats of colour with billboards of silk sarees, cotton fabrics and phone numbers.
As vehicles turn left from the Hyderabad highway and enter the MG Road leading to the Pochampally village, signs of development are immediately apparent. Farm lands have been filled up, hills have been cleared for housing plots, layouts dot the landscape.
The main street is lined with shops advertising Pochampally Ikat, bedspreads, and the street doesn’t seem to end. Outside the shops are swanky cars and SUVs driven from Hyderabad and other places. “This is nothing. On Saturday and Sundays, we cannot even talk. People come from other States too for festival and wedding shopping,” says Satyanarayana, secretary of the biggest shopping complex in the village.
While some shoppers are happy to pick and choose at the shops, the more fashion conscious seek out the weavers as they work their magic in the looms inside their homes.
At the end of the main street is the rented home of Tahira Begum. While a majority of weavers are from the Padmashali community, Tahira represents what the intervention of government can do. “I learnt at the Dantur Handloom Park about 12 years ago. I manage to weave seven sarees a month. I earn ₹10,000. Men weave more sarees as they don’t have to run a home,” says Tahira. Though her house is a rented one, it comes equipped with a pit-loom in the living area.
What is drawing the tourists/buyers to the village is the sheer craftsmanship that goes into creating each saree. Raw silk is sourced from Bengaluru or China. How these ultrafine off-white threads gets transformed into exquisite silk sarees is what draws the tourists to the artisanal village.
Once the threads are mounted on the loom, Rapolu Srinivas gets to work. He draws designs that will become visible once the saree is woven. Before that, there are just black lines. Another artist Siddhu picks up the bundle and ties rubber bands at certain places and leaves some other places exposed. These bundles with rubber bands are then dipped in bright colours and boiled, to give the unique geometric identity of the Pochampally Ikat.
Srinivas owns one of the landmark ikat workshops, Mahathishwari Sarees, in the village. It is his mother Pramila who strings 3,600 coloured threads to the frame which the workers then mount to weave sarees. She has been doing this work for the past 35 years, from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m, every day.
There is an attached showroom for buyers.
While most visitors are day tourists, the Tourism department has a 16-bed facility with an exhibition of the process from beginning till the end. “Due to COVID-19 lockdown people stopped coming. After this recognition by the UNWTO, we are expecting more tourists, and are sprucing up the place,” said a tourism official working at the site.
The tourism department’s facility is exactly at the place where Acharya Vinoba Bhave received a donation of 100 acres land to begin a land distribution programme known as bhoodan and the village came to be called Bhoodan Pochampally.
Two decades ago, there were 3,000 looms; now there are about 2,000. But the cluster of artisanal villagers has grown and the Pochampally Ikat is produced in about 50 villages. The tidings of good news is a far cry from the days when the village made national headlines due to spate of suicides in early 2000. Now, Bhoodan Pochampally basks in the glory of a world tourism village tag.