In the last few hundred years the weaving of cotton cloth in India on the handloom has had its ups and downs but has never died out. It has been weakened but not killed by mass-production on powerlooms. Powerlooms are forbidden by law to make 11 items which are to be reserved for handlooms, but they do so with impunity, while the State looks the other way. Bordered sarees are one example which are specifically reserved but are widely copied. While corporate brands have full protection of the state's law enforcement machinery, this is not available for the handloom! Shops that traditionally sold only handloom, like Nalli's in Chennai, are now full of powerloom sarees that imitate handloom, sold as handloom to unsuspecting customers. Since it is customary to sell sarees in a starched, tightly folded form, it is difficult to tell the imitations from the real thing in the shop, it is only when one wears powerloom that one notices the poor draping quality and harder feel. Dyes on powerloom cotton fabric also fade much quicker than on handloom.
So next time you go into a shop, ask specifically for handloom!
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