Watch: Spinning, dyeing, weaving…the making of dhabla shawl in Gujarat’s Bhujodi village

Watch: Spinning, dyeing, weaving…the making of dhabla shawl in Gujarat’s Bhujodi village

Watch: Spinning, dyeing, weaving…the making of Dhabla shawl in Gujarat’s Bhujodi village kutch dhabla shawl 30 stades

In Bhujodi village of Gujarat’s Kutch district, more than 350 weaver families have been engaged in dhabla weaving for many generations. What started as weaving shawls for the Rabari community, the nomadic cattle herders of north-west India, is now an enterprise that has expanded to weaving of stoles, sarees and dress materials for global buyers. 

The weavers belong to the Vankar community and are said to have migrated from Rajasthan to Gujarat hundreds of years back.

The Rabaris, who already lived in Kutch, had access to sheep wool and excelled in embroidery. But they did not possess weaving skills. Thus began their association with the Vankar community members, who would weave dhabla used by Rabaris during the cold winter months. And the craft came to be known as dhabla weaving.

Also Read: Gujarat’s Pabiben Rabari: from a daily wager to a millionaire entrepreneur

Artisans weave dhablas, shawls, stoles and even sarees depending using cotton, wool and silk, says Shamji Valji, an artisan who learned the craft from his father and joined the family business in 1994.  In 2005, he received the UNESCO Seal of Excellence, which guarantees the quality of products.

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Hand-woven shawls generally weigh around 400gm but those made using readymade yarn weigh about 250gm, he points out. Cotton shawls made using lighter readymade threads, weigh around 200gm. Courtesy Valji, here’s a video and some pictures of the whole process from spinning the yarn to dhabla weaving:

The process starts with spinning the raw wool fibres or cotton on the traditional wooden wheel (charkha) to make yarn.  Shamji Valji still uses the traditional wooden charkha (spinning wheel) even now.  Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
The process starts with spinning the raw wool fibres or cotton on the traditional wooden wheel (charkha) to make yarn. Shamji Valji still uses the traditional wooden charkha (spinning wheel) even now. Pic: Shamji Valji

Also See: Visuals of paper maché: Kashmir’s 700-year-old ‘chewed paper’ craft

Women and youngsters of the house often participate in spinning.   Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
Women and youngsters of the house often participate in spinning. Pic: Shamji Valji
Pomegranate peels, onions, leaves, kesuda na phool (flowers of Flame of the Forest plant) and other natural products are used to produce vibrant colours.   Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
Pomegranate peels, onions, leaves, kesuda na phool (flowers of Flame of the Forest plant) and other natural products are used to produce vibrant colours.  Pic: Shamji Valji
Shamji dyes the yarn with natural colours and has revived the use of lac dyeing and indigo dyeing.  Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
Shamji dyes the yarn with natural colours and has revived the use of lac dyeing and indigo dyeing. Pic: Shamji Valji
Shamji Valji with his brother working using the indigo dye.  Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
Shamji Valji with his brother working using the indigo dye. Pic: Shamji Valji

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The yarn is dyed in various colours.   Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
The yarn is dyed in various colours. Pic: Shamji Valji
After dyeing, the yarn is dried in the sun. The yarn for the weft (bano) is filled in bobbins using the charkha.   Pic: Shamji Valji 30 stades
After dyeing, the yarn is dried in the sun. The yarn for the weft (bano) is filled in bobbins using the charkha. Pic: Shamji Valji

Also Read: Political uncertainty in Kashmir brings pashmina weavers’ looms to a grinding halt

The yarn is put on the warp (tano) on the loom. Weaving is done on a pit loom, where the weaver’s feet are below the loom while he sits at the ground level, giving it the name of pit loom.  Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
The yarn is put on the warp (tano) on the loom. Weaving is done on a pit loom, where the weaver’s feet are below the loom while he sits at the ground level, giving it the name of pit loom. Pic: Shamji Valji
A weaver's household in Bhujodi with ready dhablas soaking the sunlight.  Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
A weaver’s household in Bhujodi with ready dhablas soaking the sunlight. Pic: Shamji Valji
The shawls (in cotton or wool) can be made in 2 days or two months, depending upon the design, with their prices starting from Rs500 and going up to Rs15,000.    Pic: Shamji Valji  30 stades
The shawls (in cotton or wool) can be made in 2 days or two months, depending upon the design, with their prices starting from Rs500 and going up to Rs15,000.  Pic: Shamji Valji
A rabari (cattle herder) wearing dhabla turban. Pic: Shamji Valji 30 stades
A rabari (cattle herder) wearing dhabla turban. Pic: Shamji Valji

(Vedant Sharma is a Gujarat-based freelance writer)

Also Read: How COVID-19 and India-China tensions have changed India’s 900-year-old Patan Patola weaving

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