August 7th was officially declared as Handloom Day in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the nation has celebrated it every year since. Handlooms are India’s proud heritage, a treasure trove of fabrics in variety & diversity, which the PM also repeated in his inaugural speech in 2015. He felt the time had come for the nation to owe its immense gratitude to the gifted practitioner of the craft – the humble weaver or craftsman of handlooms.
But one may ask what is special about handlooms?
Handlooms are woven on looms operated by hand and before the loom became operational crafted simply by hand and elementary devices. The Indian saree was one of the earliest in traditional clothing to become part of a woman’s like and daily wear. It is by the average Indian woman defined as ‘functional, festive and fashionable clothing’.
Cosy comfort afforded despite long durations of wear, it is colorful and cheery apparel that captures the essence of beauty and allure of a woman. The handloom saree has had endless avatars since it first came into existence in society. Each handloom product is unique and never replicated. The difference between seemingly similar products seen closely would reveal the slight changes in design, the orientation of a pattern, the border width or any other variation. Like an artist or any professional, who does not desire that any two works of his are similar but individually unique, so too the weaver, master of his craft creates the changes however slight they may be.
Simply, because each handloom product is woven with devotion and care, given that individual attention that intentionally the weaver tends to give out of love for his craft.
Handlooms cannot be boring
Imagine a whole lot of light colored dancing dots on a vast barren contrasted expanse, arranging themselves into nice patterns and wavy shapes. That is the exotic Bandhani and its variant Leheria Shibori for you. Sensational and gifted offerings, they come from the nomads of the desert regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Evolving out of a simple-seeming but extremely calculated process of tie & dye, whose accuracy and appeal arises from the way the knots in the form of resists are tied before dyeing, the precision in the placement of the knots and the colors that are chosen.
Ikat, a process that involves complex calculations, of dyeing the threads according to the chosen colors in the design and then arranging before the weaving, so that the patterns emerge within the weave is a test of logic, accuracy and execution that has baffled even the fashion pundits. The single ikat is by itself so intriguing, imagine the thought process that goes into the double ikat where both sides of the handloom saree look alike in every detail. An art that started in the small town of Patan in Gujarat, it is now a specialty of three handloom hubs of India, Pochampally in Telangana, Sambalpur in Odisha and Rajkot in Gujarat, each having their own flavours of local ethos and nuances in their ikat weaves.
These are random but shining examples of what the Indian weaver, rooted in tradition and excelling in his craft, has achieved and keeps providing novel and unique, time after time.
Politicians looking good in Handlooms
Khadi is just one part of a whole range and variety of handloom and since the time Gandhiji introduced it as a national weave, politicians have been wearing it for various reasons. Some like to draw attention to their patriotic leanings, some their political standing. Some consider it as a good change of apparel, while yet others see the advantages in the cosy comfort. In sporting this woven fabric of national heritage it becomes interesting to just browse through, how different politicians who have taken to sport handloom often, tend to look and carry themselves in public glare.
1. Narendra Modi
An exception as a male, considering that he is the Brand Ambassaor for handlooms, he advocates handlooms in a big way – for tradition, for class, for comfort. An ardent follower of Gandhiji, as well as Sardar Patel, he has a patriotic fervour that shows in his actions, a patriotic leaning towards Indian-ness that shows in his dressing. Whether on Indian soil or foreign shores, he sports the handloom look most times. The Kurta Pyjama is a hot favourite with either the jacket, or shawl or stylishly worn stole. As he urges Indians all over to pay a tribute to the wonderful ethnic craftsmen, he sports a turban over a simple ‘bandh gala’ long length kurta with buttons, and floors the crowd with his oratory and dress sense. Sporting a neat formal suit or the half sleeves Khadi kurta, donning a sleeveless jacket over a full sleeved kurta with pyjama or a flowing sherwani, the current Prime Minister has shown the world his innate dressing sense and his charismatic panache in carrying it so well.
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2. Indira Gandhi
One of the most powerful figures in Indian political history, she imbibed her father Jawaharlal Nehru’s skills in statesmanship and proved her mettle in the arena of Indian politics despite being a woman in a men’s bastion. A multi-faceted strong-willed personality, she had a softer side too that showed in her love for animals, beauteous surroundings and her dress sense. How regal the late prime minister looked in whatever she wore, conveyed by a good choice of sarees and the way she carried them is a known fact. A simple light and dark checks pattern saree on a casual day or a simple but elegant smooth satiny saree at a White House reception hosted by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a simple looking white saree when at some film festival function nite or a wide- golden zari border saree when calling on the Queen of England, a Sambalpuri ikat cotton saree on her political rallies or a dazzling white with golden zari border saree at a reception hosted in India for the U.S.President Kennedy, Indira Gandhi was always the cynosure of all eyes. You can see why.
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3. Sonia Gandhi
Current President of the Indian National Congress, the force behind the party; be it win or loss, she manages to keep her cool and wits intact, to sense a direction that has pulled out the party many a time from many a crisis of its own or others’ doing. Following on the steps of her illustrious mother-in-law, the late Smt.indira Gandhi, she is a forceful leader, a responsible mother and a good showcase for Indian woman-power. She is acknowledged world-wide for her immaculate dressing sense, prefers Indian handlooms, mostly in light hues. Crisp Bengal Tants, elegant Maheshwari silks, exquisite Sambalpuri Ikats are some of her favourites. But whatever she wears makes her stand out elegantly. Her poise as the confident woman she is, never wavers, so that those dependent on her can never be disappointed.
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4. Sushma Swaraj
Small & petite in build, vocal and effective in her ministry, the External Affairs Minister has proven much more than people’s expectations. Focused, totally empathetic towards any situation faced by Indians working abroad, and not at all mincing words when it mattered most for the message to be clearly conveyed, prim and proper in her appearance and demeanour, her style of functioning, especially her humanitarian approach, has endeared hearts across the world.
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She is also a great believer in the worth of handlooms and especially in recent years handlooms have been a significant part of her immaculate wardrobe. Check out!
5. Meira Kumar
For a lawyer and former diplomat turned politician, she is extremely soft-spoken and conducts herself well at all times. She has been elected five times to the Lok Sabha and then elected unopposed Speaker of the Lok Sabha. After her five year stint she had the honour of being the opposition party’s candidate for President against the NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind who ultimately won. Though she lost in the Presidential election, she created a record for obtaining the most number of votes (3,67,314) ever by a losing candidate in such elections.
A neat and correct dresser, with a penchant for soft styled sarees, her taste and color sense are extremely laudable.
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6. Priyanka Vadra aka Priyanka Gandhi
Pleasant personality, smiling demeanour with good eloquent skills, her marriage to Robert Vadra, a businessman, may have cut off a possible political career early, but she is still recognized as a good alternative to her brother Rahul, both within the Congress Party and outside it. Women across the country view her as her grandmother’s spitting image, and some of the rallies she has addressed while helping her brother in the U.P. elections recently, indicated that she could have created a different verdict if she showed her willingness to stand for elections.
She follows her Grandmother Indira Gandhi and Mother Sonia Gandhi in her taste for sarees. Confident, courageous, plain speaking scion of the Gandhi family she always comes across as a sparkling presence in her plain, simply adorned pastels of Kanchi cotton, Assam sico, Jamdhani Cotton, South handlooms etc. Elegant and Effective!
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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]7. Smriti Irani
Smriti Zubin Irani, once Bahu of Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Indian television is today an Indian politician. The former model, television actress and producer is a Member of Parliament, being elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state of Gujarat. She started with a bang in the Modi Govt. as Cabinet Minister looking after HRD. Despite the many controversies that surrounded her, Irani was always unfazed and enjoyed the confidence of the PM and her colleagues. Later she was shifted to being Minister for Textiles and more recently Information & Broadcasting was additionally thrust on her.
Tall and carrying herself well in her favourite costume, the Indian saree she has given the handloom industry some hope with a slew of textile friendly policies. See how well the Indian saree gets arranged on her tall frame.
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8. Brinda Karat
Somebody in the media once coined Brinda Karat as an intelligent lady who has tirelessly fought for India's poor. As a trade union leader belonging to the Left party she has fiercely crusaded for underprivileged workers and dalits for more than 30 years. She was elected last month to the Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo, the first woman to ever enter that male-dominated Marxist institution. A woman in her own right, she is quite open-minded and rational in her views and commands respect despite being forthcoming and sometimes scathing in her comments.
Quite young-looking with ‘stunning eyes and a chiseled face’ as someone put it, she is known to dress correctly and elegantly. See her in some of her saree avtars to know why the comment is justified.
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9. Chhavi Rajawat
If you don’t know Chhavi Rajawat, it would be good if you did. She has been credited as ‘the changing face of rural India’. Sarpanch or village head of her village Soda, 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Jaipur, Rajasthan, she holds an elected post, but is not affiliated to any political party. She has been reported to be the youngest person to hold the office of Sarpanch.
Why is she special, you ask? Born in Jaipur, from a small village called Soda in Malpura tehsil, Tonk district, she is an alumnus of Rishi Valley School (Andhra Pradesh), Mayo College Girls School (Ajmer) and Lady Shri Ram College (University of Delhi) & MBA From Balaji Institute Of Modern Management, Pune. After her MBA from Sri Balaji Society Pune, she worked for companies such as Times of India, Carlson Group of Hotels, Airtel, etc.
Today, she is the Sarpanch and the first woman Sarpanch in India with an MBA degree.
Rajawat left her corporate job and city life to help develop rural India. Her grandfather Brig Raghubir Singh had been Sarpanch of the same village 20 years prior to Chhavi's elections. She is very good in meeting with people and she is taking a lead in development of Soda village. After becoming the Sarpanch of the village, she has implemented many projects successfully i.e. rain water harvesting, toilets facilities in most of the houses, etc.
She may not wear sarees, but she looks appealing in her tunics & jeans, sometimes salwar kameez.
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10. Agatha Sangma
Agatha K. Sangma is a former Member of Parliament of India (MP), and part of the 15th Lok Sabha. Daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker P.A.Sangma, she represented the Tura constituency of Meghalaya following the 2009 parliamentary election as a candidate of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). She was the youngest Minister of State in the UPA 2nd Manmohan Singh Cabinet.
She has an LLB degree from Pune University and a Masters in Environmental Management from Nottingham University, UK.
She is also known for her good dressing sense and looks at ease in both western outfits as well as ethnic clothing that she sports quite often. Have a look!
11. Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor , Indian politician and former diplomat, was until 2007, a career official at the United Nations, rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information in 2001. He announced his retirement after finishing second in the 2006 selection for U.N. Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon. He subsequently joined the Congress Party and has been MP from Thiruvananthapuram since.
An acclaimed writer, of fiction and non-fiction since 1981, all of which are centred on India and its history, culture, film, politics, society, foreign policy etc, he is also a prolific contributor to columns and articles in newspapers and magazines. Globally recognised speaker on India's economics and politics, as well as on freedom of the press, human rights, Indian culture, and international affairs, this articulate personality has also his glamorous sense of dressing that has earned him many an admiring gaze. Take your pick!
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12. Sachin Pilot
Sachin Rajesh Pilot is a politician and a member of the Indian National Congress. Representing Ajmer constituency of Rajasthan as MP in the 15th Lok Sabha he handled the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and was the president of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee.
Known also as the son of deceased Congress leader Rajesh Pilot , he holds a B.A. from St. Stephens College, University of Delhi, Diploma in marketing from I.M.T. Ghaziabad and MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA. He was with the Delhi Bureau of BBC and then with American multinational corporation General Motors for two years. Sachin Pilot on 6 September 2012 became the first Union minister of India to be commissioned as an officer in the Territorial Army, fulfilling his desire to follow his father's footsteps to be in the armed forces. He is therefore known as Lieutenant Pilot for being an officer in the Territorial Army.
A young minister very much alongside Rahul Gandhi, VP of the Congress, who has his ears and shares confidences with him, Sachin Pilot has a flamboyant style of dressing visible in the images provided here.
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