Josna Rege

353. Solapuris

In Family, India, places, Stories, Words & phrases on February 28, 2016 at 12:09 pm

oldsolapuricloseup

Just thinking about them makes me feel happy. Solapuri chaddars, or, simply, Solapuris, after the district in Maharashtra where they are made, are beautiful, long-lasting cotton Jacquard-style bedspreads. Actually, they are blankets-cum-sheets-cum-bedspreads, because they serve as all three in one—warm, light and breathable, and highly decorative. The wonderful thing about them is that they get softer with each washing and, well cared-for, can last for generations. When I am visiting relatives in India and they bring a soft, carefully folded family Solapuri out of the almirah for me, I sleep like a baby. Wherever I may be, when I cover myself with one, I am at home.

So named because it was made up of sixteen (sola) villages, Solapur has been known for its handloom weaving since the 18th century, during the time of the Peshwas, when there were many small artisans and the whole family participated in the production process. While the cottage industry has changed over the years with colonialism and industrialization, there are still several different companies weaving these chaddars in an array of designs at once traditional and inventive. Solapuris were the first product in Maharashtra to gain Geographical Indication status; meaning that they are inextricably tied to place. You cannot call a chaddar a Solapuri unless it was actually made in Solapur.

We have three Solapuris, all pictured here. The first one, the largest, must be nearly 33 years old by now. Andrew and I bore it home triumphantly after Andrew had scrutinized and rejected what seemed like dozens of designs. He kept finding a flaw in the weave, until the salesman, who was the soul of patience, finally said, “Sir, these are handloom chaddars; naturally they will have a flaw. That is how one knows that they were woven by hand.” Andrew, who has a quietly stubborn streak, did not concede, but he took the point, and soon concluded the purchase. It has been washed countless times, and is now getting a little threadbare because we used it as a cover on our old living room sofa for several years. Even though it is showing its age, it is heavenly-soft and its colors are as brilliant as ever. I cannot bear to part with it.

oldthreadbareSolapuri

The second Solapuri is a single-bed size, bought in Bombay, I think, and brought back from a trip to India in the 1990s. We have not used it as much as the first, and I was beginning to despair of its ever getting as soft as the old heirloom Solapuris brought out of storage by my relatives. But just recently it has begun wearing in at last, and by this summer I predict that it will be my bedsheet of choice.

1990ssolapuri

The newest arrival has only been admired as yet, never even washed, and with all its labels still on it. Nikhil and I picked it out in a Solapuri-only store in Pune, where we were directed by my cousin Kalyani, who knows all there is to know about where to get what, and for the best price. It is stiff and new, with all its potential ahead of it. I hope that it will bring visiting friends and family a sound night’s sleep and sweet dreams for many years to come.

brandnewSolapuri

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  1. They are so beautiful and I can feel their softness through your words.

  2. First of all : You’re back!!

    Secondly, I’ve never thought of these blankets like that and certainly did not know where the came from… They are, indeed, very versatile.

    Finally, you’re back!!

    • Thank you! It’s good to feel missed. A thousand apologies for my long delay in responding. I wasn’t really back, just felt moved to write that piece. Now I’ve gone and signed up for the one-a-day A-Z Challenge for the month of April, and really don’t have the time. Let’s see what happens. Hop your writing is going along well.

  3. I do love the patterns made by these weaves — satisfying but neither over fussy nor simplistic — plus the fact that, if not exactly heirlooms, they retain a history and a resonance that clearly comes across in your memory of the occasions and circumstances when they were acquired. It’s these resonances that make loved objects what they are, friends often more than casual acquaintances.

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