A Tale of Ponduru Khadi
The village of Ponduru is renowned for its long, unbroken tradition of making fine Khadi.
Women spinners here use two varieties of short-stapled desi cotton: white 'hill' cotton for fine, high quality yarn of up to 105 counts, and 'red' cotton for coarser yarn of up to 40 counts. These indigenous varieties of cotton, which require less inputs for cultivation and are suitable for hand processing, are grown in the vicinity of Ponduru.
The Ponduru Khaddar is a handloom Khadi variety.
All across India, the people who are keen on wearing Khadi, prefer the soft Khadi varieties of Ponduru simply because of the high quality and the sheer simplicity of the garment. This village has been producing the high quality of Khaddar for a long time now and they are clearly the trendsetters in the textile industry. Apart from being the hobby of the people this also proves to be the important means of livelihood of the people of the town.
The cotton that is used to make the Ponduru Khaddar is produced in the locality and is known by the name of Punasa Cotton. This is subjected to special process and the end result is the extremely fine quality of cotton.
The uniqueness about this fabric is the fibre. It is produced from a special variety of cotton called Punas cotton, hill white cotton and red cotton. The cotton is of very short staple length produced in Srikakulum area. The second uniqueness about this fabric is the method of spinning.
The raw seeded cotton is ginned with the help of Valuga fish jawbone. This fish is only found in that area. Then it is fluffed and smoothed with the help of fine sticks which also remove the waste. Slivering is done with a bow and carding is done with the help of a wooden machine. The slivers are handmade and kept in a dried banana stem.
This is one of the only places where still single spindle charkha is used for spinning.
Yarn upto 120s count can be spun in white cotton while upto 60s can be spun with red cotton. The Ponduru Khaddar is also known in the markets as Andhra fine Khadi, a name that has been rightly accorded to the quality of the cloth that is being produced here in the village.
The culture of making this soft Khadi dress materials goes back to a long time and it is commonly known that the great Mahatma Gandhi also had a preference for this kind of Khadi and loved to add Ponduru khaddar to his collections. He has been spell bound about how soft and smooth the texture of the Khadi spun here was, and as a result had liked it a lot.
The processing of these dress materials also has a great effect to play on the economy of the country.
Since the quality is very good, there is a good reception of these dresses in the international market, so the dress materials that are produced here are exported to most of the countries including Japan and America. This leads to increased amounts of foreign exchange in the
country and apart from considerable amounts of revenue from the tourism industry the small village of Ponduru also contributes to good revenue from the export import industry.
Ponduru khadi, famous the world over, may not be available for future generations as weavers are shifting to other professions. Youngsters are not keen on learning the art of weaving fine khadi which has brought world wide recognition for Ponduru, a small town 25 km from the district headquarters. Ponduru is truly a spinning and weaving town with looms in the houses of the Pattushali, Sali and Devangi communities.
Women from the Pattushali community have all the traditional items necessary for ginning (separating the cotton from seed), carding, slivering and spinning into fine yarn. The art is disappearing very fast as workers are fed up with meagre wages. Each worker earns between Rs.40 and Rs.80 per day based on their skill and working hours.
The historic town of Ponduru may see a further decline in this traditional activity.
From 2,000 spinners 15 years ago, there are only about 800 left in the profession. Earlier there were over 150 fine khadi weavers here, now there are only 45-50. The Andhra Fine Khadi Karmikabhivrudhi Sangham (AFKKS), which has been supporting hand weaving and spinning since 1949, has expressed its inability to pay more to the weavers.
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