Thirumazhisai is a village that was once famous for its traditional weaving business located near Chennai, India. Now, the weavers of Thirumazhisai are are struggling for their food and accommodations. They are weaving dhotis and lungis (waist wraps), by just wearing a piece of cloth. They don’t even have a house and they stay the night in the weaving house itself. Their work starts at 5 am early morning and ends at 6 pm. For this labor they only receive Rs. 200 to Rs. 250 per day. They relax themselves by smoking a beedi and drinking tea. One very sad thing is that some handicapped persons are also working there.
Apart from Thirumazhisai over 1,500 handloom lungi and dothis weavers in Tamil Nadu are facing an uncertain future with their traditional profession on the verge of extinction. Despite having a huge demand in foreign countries for Lungis and Dothis, these weavers are compelled to live a pitiable life because of exploitation by middlemen.
The numbers of weavers, which were in thousands, has dwindled down in the last five years. “I have been working for the last 30 years and in the past five years, business has been very dull. In a day, if we work for 10 hours, we make only 40 rupees (less than one dollar). They are traders and middlemen who buy from us and export to Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, but in return we do not get any benefit. People are leaving this profession,” says Siddharth, a weaver.
Lungis and dothis are exported to America, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the UAE. The weavers’ association wants the government to intervene in the matter of supplying raw material and marketing finished products.
“There are some branded companies which supply us thread and other raw material at the rates fixed by them. We have to sell those hand loom cloths to them at prices fixed by them. This way we get less profit, and hence, we get paid a lesser wage.”
Places like Anakaputhur, Kundrathur and Thirumazhisai on the outskirts of Chennai are the hubs of lungi-weaving. Tamil Nadu, accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the country’s hand loom textile production and 50 per cent of exports, and has over 6,00,000 hand loom units and 1,400 cooperative societies.