The twisted yarns and fate of Challakere Kambli weavers

While the quality of Challakere kamblis is good, they cost two-three times higher than the synthetic ones and lose out in the competition | All photos by Prabhu Mallikarjunan

As clouds gather over the sky in Karnataka's Chowluru village, a group of weavers at the co-operative society look above their heads. Soon, it starts pouring with vengeance, bringing to a standstill the windy afternoon and the looms that churn out the Challakere Kambli—traditional handwoven blankets made of sheep wool.

Monsoon downpours like this mean loss of a day’s earnings for the weavers as the moisture content in the wool makes it difficult to negotiate the looms. Those at the co-operative society do not own the looms. They use the society’s shared resources to weave blankets and sell it in the local market.

But unlike the rest, 56-year-old Shankaranna continues to weave. He says his family cannot afford to stop. Three of his family members are engaged in the work. While one of them spins the yarn, Shakaranna and his son take turns to weave the blanket. It takes two days with eight hours of work to weave a single blanket. That is after getting the sheep sheared and refining the wool.

The weavers of Chowluru in Chitradurga district mostly belong to the Kuruba (shepherd) community. The hot and semi-arid region is known for its high density of pastoral communities, whose livelihoods are connected with livestock maintenance and Kambli weaving. Just 15 km away from Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur, most of them in Chowluru are landless labourers and shepherds who solely depend on weaving for earnings.

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