Reliance Foundation gives new identity to Paithani Weaving

Mumbai: The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns had sucked the color out of the lives of Paithani weavers. Amidst this bleak backdrop, the Reliance Foundation stepped in, offering support to numerous individuals, such as Balkrishna Namdev Kapase, associated with Paithani weaving. Today, Kapase not only stands independently but also aids more than 250 craftsmen, laborers, and small entrepreneurs involved in the Paithani industry.

Balkrishna, who resides in Vadgaon, close to the city of Yeola in Maharashtra – approximately 30 kilometers from Shirdi, had the opportunity to visit the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai. Here, he showcased the vibrant colors of Paithani weaving. This visit also provided him with an opportunity to meet Mrs. Nita Ambani, the Chairperson of the Reliance Foundation. She has been instrumental in initiating and implementing measures to rejuvenate Indian art and culture.

Recounting the challenges faced by the weavers and the opportune assistance from the Reliance Foundation, Balkrishna remarked, “When the lockdown cornered the weavers, the Reliance Foundation’s backing provided us with a new market for our woven Paithani scarves. Through the ‘Swadesh’ exhibition, Mrs. Nita Ambani gave us the platform to display our craftsmanship to an international audience. The exposure from the exhibition has extended our work’s reach to every corner of the globe. I have been deeply influenced by Mrs. Ambani’s commitment to the preservation of the arts.”

The traditional Paithani weavers often face a dilemma as they are unaccustomed to working with designers. Only through the fusion of novel designs and striking colors can the Paithani industry be revitalized. With the aid of the Reliance Foundation, individuals like Balkrishna have embarked on collaborations with designers. They now supervise the production of Paithani woven goods from approximately 1,200 handlooms in and around Yeola, annually crafting more than 25,000 Paithani sarees.

The journey of weaving a single Paithani saree can span from 6 months to 2 years in a weaver’s life. The Reliance Foundation contends that artisans should receive fair remuneration for their exquisite handiwork. For introducing novelty in Paithani weaving, providing a stage to exhibit their craftsmanship, making markets and customers accessible for selling their products, the Reliance Foundation is actively collaborating with these artists.

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