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Industrialization and the bad times of Maheshwar

There was a time at the start of the twentieth century when Modern Day industrialization slowly saw the advent and popularity of power looms. Change in trends, increased apathy of those in power, extremely disproportionate returns for the valuable time and effort put in the making of the Maheshwari Sarees, discouraged the weavers engaged in this art and threatened its continuation. The Maheshwari sarees began losing their popularity and were almost on the verge of extinction at the time of Independence.

During this period, the non-profit organization ‘Rehwa’ was created by Richard Shivaji Rao Holkar and Sally Holkar to provide a new life to this dying tradition. The Rehwa Society, an organization committed to the Maheshwari tradition, was established in 1978, primarily for employment to women and encouraging the revival of this ethnic art.Located in one of the historic buildings of the town, more than 100 weavers, mostly women, are engaged even today in the weaving of this fine fabric. Their families also get the much needed monetary aid and support services like healthcare in this mutually beneficial association.

Rehwa plays a vital role in helping the workers produce these sarees and in marketing themnationally and internationally. Rehwa some years ago constituted about 160 weavers and has a staff of 300. It employed 1500 looms. The total turnover generated by this organization was Rs. 40-50 crore and more. The main national markets of Rehwa were Delhi and Mumbai, while the major export markets were France, Germany and U.K. Today the figures have changed drastically for the better and the market has stretched considerably.

Besides sarees, Rehwa has also encouraged its weavers to produce dupattas and shawls, which have been accepted by patrons. It has also launched ‘Ahilya’ – a collection of traditional Maheshwari sarees and latest ones. According to Mr. Holkar, Rehwa has reached a great level with its new products, new markets and new ventures.