Tangaliya: A story of woven beads
August 7th, 2021
A long time ago, in a land not too far away, a shepherd boy fell in love with a girl from a family of weavers. Despite great opposition from the Bharwad community of shepherds and the Wankar community of weavers, they eloped and settled down. This union, about 700 years ago, is believed to have birthed a new community called Dangasiyas in Saurashtra, that represented the symbiotic relationship of their parents, through the artform of Tangaliya.
Traditionally done on shawls made of locally sourced wool, Tangaliya is a handwoven fabric characterised by patterns of little daanas or ‘beads’ of thread woven into the fabric. As the fabric is being woven, the weaver holds an extra spool of thread in his hand and twists a small piece of it onto a clump of four or five warp threads on the loom, resulting in the formation of a bead. The most ethnic version of this shawl is typically black with some red accents, and heavily embellished with white daanas. These shawls were worn around the waist and covered the bottom half of the body or the ‘tangaliyon’, which is where artform gets its name from.
Though, the legend was about a shepherd groom and a weaver bride, today the weaving is performed almost exclusively by male members of the community, while the preprocessing of the wool or cotton thread is done by the women of the community. Due to the lower wearability of the heavy dark wool, tangaliya saw a fall in usage over time. But the past 15 years have seen a rise in its production due to the shift onto lighter fabrics like cotton and silk. In fact, tangaliya has found a second footing in Kutch, where collaboration with local Kala cotton weavers has led to the formation of a beautiful new textile where multiple weavers can work on the same piece. The braided work, double weave damrus and heavy tassels associated with Kala cotton can be found interspersed with beads of thread woven onto the same fabric.
The spirit of resilience and collaboration of weavers of both, Kala cotton and Tangaliya, led us to the discovery of our latest set of handwoven curtains: Stargazing in Kutch. The curtains are an ode to this spirit of the weavers and to the legendry lovers whose story inspired a whole artform.