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Udupi and the Kunbi Sari: The Bakula Project

Bakula loves shopping in her village – Hebri (near Udupi); a habit she has had since her childhood days. Last year she came across a beautiful, handwoven sari being sold just for a meagre ₹100, which shocked and upset her tremendously. Following the trail found on the label that attributed it to a weavers society in Udupi, she found out that in three years time, these saris would cease to exist, as all the current weavers were all over 65 years of age,  and sadly, the younger generation wasn’t involved in the trade.

In a moment of despair, Bakula asked for help on social media and  received a tremendous response, that led to the birth of the Spandana and Spoorthi initiatives by Savitha Suri; countless women came together (a lot of them from Kai thari – a handloom group on Facebook, started by Sumita Pai) to get the saris woven, to give money upfront towards a sari, without even seeing the end-product, thus helping and encouraging the weavers.

Bakula also travelled to Mangalore to do a recording with the radio station, Akashvani where she spoke in Konkani (the native language of Mangalore) on how she uses her art (as she happens to be an avid painter too…read our post on her paintings, right here) to try and preserve our culture, heritage and literature.

From Yarn to a Sari
When Bakula met an eighty-five year old weaver, with loads of unused yarns and no work, she bought them without having any thoughts on how she could use them or provide help to the weavers.  But then, help came from the Universe and Savitha Suri offered to do the logistics for selling and procuring from Ashok, who runs a shop, Maanini for Udipi saris. Thankfully, these Udipi saris started selling like hot cakes and this project thus learned to stand on its own two legs.
udipi, weaver, handwoven, india, handloom

The hands of the 85 year old weaver, that inspired Bakula to start this project

Savitha’s projects with handlooms

Savitha took up the Kunbi sari project, that was crowd-funded and is silently taking shape this year. In the mean time, Savitha also presented a paper in IIM Indore, about the Udipi and the Kunbi sari projects in 2017.   As she puts it:

“From 10 looms then to 40 today.
From 135 saris then to almost 3000 today.
Earnings and production capabilities have doubled.
The hands at the looms have trebled.
And they have gone from simple checked saris to buta saris and yardage.

 

Spandana became the mindful touch it was meant to be.  Spoorthi is work in progress and is a silent textile revolution, whose impact will be felt sometime this year.  Both these projects were zero profit initiatives and followed Fair Trade principles with nearly 75-80% of the price going back to the weavers. The remainder was used for packing, shipping and incidental expenses. Isn’t this what we all talk about on various platforms? But, how many designers who use artisans actually follow this practice, is questionable!

Next steps for the Udipi Sari
Overwhelmed by the success of the Udipi sari and the fact that it was loved by women from across India,  encouraged Bakula to take this further.  This was a project to give the Udipi and Kunbi saris their due recognition, appreciation and respect to the weavers and their craft. Not just this, but also to reignite pride and passion for the handlooms in the very villages they were made but were not popular in use.
Bakula hails from Udipi with ancestry in Goa, hence geographically it was relatively simpler to plan the logistics of travel to take the stories of the end users back to the villages they came from.  So, she marched on..,not scared to ask for help, and she did get help, and a lot of it.
She requested women to send pictures to showoff  the Udupi and the Kunbi,  as handlooms that are affordable and could well be draped for any occasion – be it travelling on the metro, attending meetings, spending a day out at museums, monkeying around with children or simply for an evening out. Are you thinking what she would achieve by doing all this? Well, read on…
What will be achieved by the pictures of folks draped in Udipi and Kunbi?
  • Just so, she could take these pictures to the rural women of Udipi and make them believe that their heritage is loved the world over and hopefully will give them back the confidence and pride in their handlooms, that appeared to have been lost over time. Instil pride in our roots and heritage, is what Bakula is trying to achieve
  • Also, take these proofs of love shown, back to the weavers to highlight the love and the enthusiasm by women across the globe, for the products they spent hours weaving. These weavers are men who have devoted their entire lives to this craft and Bakula is simply trying to give them back their pride and find comfort and solace in this life, knowing that their work is well-loved, wanted and respected
  • Completing the circle. Bakula believes that taking stories from the maker to the end user and vice versa is the only way to build closer bonds as well as a love and appreciation for these crafts. Everything has an end and progress is inevitable but to cherish what we have now and to give the artist his/her due in this lifetime is something she feels strongly about
When Bakula tried to learn how to spin yarn

Bakula was lucky enough to take part in a 2-day workshop conducted by Mr. Madhav Sahasrabudhe, a mechanical engineer from Pune , who is passionate about spinning.  Watch and learn the process of taking raw cotton and turning it into yarn. The next time when your brain tries to set you into ‘bargaining mode’ with the weaver, just pause for a second and think about the effort and time that goes into creating this. Appreciate the hand-weaving process, be Notjustashopper!

weaving, cotton, handmade, workshop, udipi

From Raw Cotton to a Yarn …. the steps as experienced by Bakula in a weaving workshop

End result of the above process by skilled weavers yields these beauties:

udipi, yarn, sari, handwoven, india

Tales of the Twisted Yarns – yarns sent by Bakula to the weavers and this is result – The first set of woven saris

udipi, handwoven, woven, delhi, india

Yarns turned into beautiful Udipi saris by the Delhi weavers; Thanks to Archana Jain

To order

Udipi Cotton:  Different ways to order a Udipi sari:

  • Click here
    Please note: A service call will then be made to you within 48 hours of filling the form and you will be guided through the purchase and payment process.
  • Maanini

Kunbi Sari:  Different ways to order a Kunbi sari:

  • Email: kunbi.spoorthi@gmail.com
    Please note: Those who wish to buy a Kunbi sari through this initiative may email us at . We will reach out to you once we resume taking orders. (Estimated time to fulfill orders is between 6-9 months).
Contact Bakula:

Support the weavers, wear the hand-woven handlooms, and remember hand-woven does not always have to cost the earth! Be a part of this project, spread awareness and be draped in gorgeous handlooms every single day….Be Notjustashopper!

Shilpa