A weaving technique associated with the Surendranagar district of Gujarat, tangaliya is characterised by extra-weft patterns of raised dots that give the appearance of embroidered beadwork. Also referred to as daana weaving, due to the resemblance of the coloured dots to “grains,” the technique is practised predominantly by the non-dominant Dangasia caste of the region that was formerly known as Saurashtra. The term tangaliya is derived from the Gujarati word tangalio, which means “lower body,” and refers to the traditional use of the woven cloth as a lower garment for women of the Bharwaad shepherd community. The original raw material for the weave was gheta wool, but now merino wool and silk, as well as less expensive materials such as acrylic, viscose and cotton are being used.
Though the craft has no documented history, local lore dates its origin to seven hundred years, coinciding with the origin of the Dangasiya community itself. Several versions of the legend exist, but the most popular is the one about a boy from the Bharwad community who fell in love with a girl from the Vankar or weaving community. According to the story, despite the match being forbidden, the two got married and were thus shunned by the families and cast out of the village, with no means to a livelihood. Subsequently, the boy’s parents, who were moved by the plight of the couple, gave them grain and sheep on the condition that they weave shawls for the shepherd community. The couple thus began to produce a cloth with grain-like knots on the surface, and the daana technique was born. It was honed by subsequent generations, who went on to form the Dangasiya community, and both the technique and the cloth produced came to be called tangaliya.
The tangaliya is woven on a fly-shuttle pit loom in a plain base weave. The process begins with the yarn being prepared first by sizing and then reeling through a series of bobbins and peg-spindles until the yarn hank for weaving or phindi is ready. The warp yarn is then either knotted to the ends of the previous warp on the loom or warped afresh on the loom. The tangaliya pit loom does not have a warp beam and instead has a pole along which the yarn hanks are knotted before being passed through heald shafts and a reed to the cloth roll. This completes the warping of the loom before weaving. The characteristic daanas are made by repeatedly raising a certain number of warp threads and twisting extra-weft threads, in accordance with the design. After all the daanas for the fell edge are made, the weft is inserted and beaten in to secure the daanas in their respective places. The process is then repeated until the design scheme has been completed on the desired length of cloth.
Daana designs are rendered in geometric shapes and consist of motifs such as ladwa (or ladoo), mor (peacock), mor pag (peacock feet), chakalo (male sparrow), khajuri (date palm), ambo (mango tree), bajariya ni zhaadvi and naughara (new house), to name a few. There are four main types of tangaliya that are woven – ramraj, charmalia, dhunslu and lobdi. Ramraj consists of heavy daana work in bright colours and white on a black ground with horizontal maroon lines. The border in such weaves is sometimes ornamented with zari work. Charmalia is characterised by mostly white and some maroon daanas on a ground of maroon and black warp and black weft. The dhunslu design, usually done on tangaliyas worn by elderly women, is identified by relatively sparse daana work in white or maroon on a black ground. The lobdi tangaliya style, which is used for head coverings, is distinguished by white daana work on maroon ground.
The Dangasiya weavers who practice the craft of tangaliya live in eight taluks and twenty-six villages around Surendranagar, including Dedara, Vastadi, Godavari and Vadla. Over the years, due to lack of exposure, recognition and infrastructure, the weaving practice saw a drastic decline, almost dying out at the start of the twenty-first century. In 2007 the National Institute of Fashion and Technology (NIFT), Gandhinagar initiated the revival and preservation of the craft with the establishment of the Tangaliya Hastkala Association (THA). The Association, which now consists of over two hundred tangaliya weavers, has conducted workshops on skill-building and design development. It also introduced the weavers to the frame loom, which accommodated a greater width for weaving and therefore allowed a wider repertoire of designs and products to be woven. Traditionally restricted to shawls, blankets and garments for the Bharwaads, the tangaliya weave is now used to make sarees, fabric lengths for garments and home furnishings for local and export markets. A significant milestone for the craft was achieved in 2009 when the Tangaliya shawl was conferred the Geographical Indication (GI) status by the government of India.
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