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History On A Weave

We begin a new series of stories that spotlight revivalists working with traditional art and craft forms to give them new life in a contemporary world. This issue, we dip into the history and art of the Khun fabric, and trace its journey on the path of evolution through Jahnavi Kulkarni, a
textile professional and patron of the Khun weavers in Dharwad, Karnataka

Image courtesy of Janhuvi Kulkarni

Image courtesy of Janhuvi Kulkarni

A line is a fuse

That is lit.

The line smolders,

the rhyme explodes—

and by a stanza

a city

is blown to bits.

– Vladimir Mayakovsky

No one knows exactly when, probably a couple of centuries ago in a village now called Guledgudda near Dharwad in Karnataka, an unknown artist picked up a yarn. Maybe he had the urge to make something special for her. No historian bothered to record what might have happened that dawn or dusk. The yarn was put to a loom, a unique attachment was framed, the dobby was put to work and a line began to form. An extra line in rich emerald, ruby, turquoise, and sapphire colours wedged itself between the warp and the weft. Soon it became the jowar or the rudraksh seed, a Goddess’s face, a snake or a peacock on the woven fabric. It made the humble piece of cotton look lush, silky. The marvelous Khunn was born without much celebration.

Image courtesy of Janhuvi Kulkarni

Image courtesy of Janhuvi Kulkarni

The women of the village wrapped the Khunn around their hearts. They hid their secrets and their desires in its extra yarn. They crowned their heads with the fiery ilkal pallu; the pallu elaborated the parrot, the seed, and the rath complete with its bearers in kasuti embroideries. The Khunn lit them all up. It was loved, prized and passed on from mother to daughter until the men overgrew. Until they ran for livelihoods; they ran to the cities. Then there was no time for love. The Khunn started dying.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines

I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

– Pablo Neruda (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair)

Read Previous Blog: The First Avant-Garde Art Movement Which Changed The Perception Of Colour

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