Bhawanipatna: Habaspuri saree, a handloom textile of Kalahandi district known for its distinct designs and uniqueness of weaving is on the verge of extinction due to a lack of government incentives, shortage of raw materials, and absence of marketing facilities. Handloom sarees are woven at various places in western Odisha. Barpali, Sonepuri, Bandha, Bauda and Sambalpuri sarees have carved a niche for themselves due to their intricate designs and patterns. Habaspuri saree produced in Kalahandi district has also made its mark both in India and abroad showcasing traditional patterns such as kumbha (temple), fish, flowers, and various artworks of the Kondh tribals. While bandha designs can be seen in only the borders of Sambalpuri sarees, they are woven in both the body and borders of Habaspuri saree. It had won appreciation for its intricate designs and artwork from former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during an exhibition held in New Delhi in 1951. The saree has also received the geographical indication (GI) tag. The famous Tata Tea brand has also printed a picture of Habaspuri saree on its packets. However, the state government and the district administration have shown no interest in promoting the saree in national and international markets. This has affected production and pushed it to the verge of extinction with its weavers losing their livelihood.
Sources said that Kondh tribals first started weaving the Habaspuri saree in the 19th century. Later, the members of Bhulia (weaver) community of Habaspur village under Junagarh block accepted it as their traditional occupation by reviving the production of Habaspuri saree. With the passage of time, the handwoven saree witnessed a decline in demand after various fancy products made their way into the markets. Many of the weavers also let go of their traditional art and took up other occupations for a living.
As a result, Habaspuri sarees vanished from stores in the markets. The Bhulia weavers living in Habaspur village under Junagarh block revived the saree with their own intricate designs and patterns; thereby the saree got its name. However, it has become almost extinct in Habaspur village due to a lack of government sponsorships and the unavailability of raw materials. Despite weavers in Habaspur village seeking other jobs for a better life, the unique art is now being carried forward by weavers of other villages under the block.
Earlier, over 20 weaver families in Habaspur village were engaged in weaving saree, napkins (gamchha), lungi, and door and window curtains that were in high demand both in domestic and foreign markets. Help, however, has arrived from various quarters. The district administration in assistance with Vedanta Aluminium sanctioned Rs 10 lakh for revival of the handloom weaving centre in the village in 2022. The house has been renovated, but till now no effort has been made to address the problems of the weavers. Local intelligentsia and residents demanded the state government’s active intervention and measures for the revival of the famous saree.