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Mangalgiri – Land of famous Mangalgiri handloom saris

Mangalgiri means an auspicious hill, the word Mangal means auspicious and the word giri means hill. Mangalgiri is situated in the outskirts ofVijayawada, a well known city in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Mangalgiri is only 12 KM away from Vijayawada. Mangalgiri is well connected with train and buses and is accessible from Vijayawada, Guntur and Tenali. Mangalgiri is a small village with a population of around 80000. The main occupation of this village is weaving and paddy cultivation. Around 60% of the population belongs to Padmasali, who are traditionally related to weaving. There are around 5000 weavers in this village. The average educational level is 7th standard.

Temples of Mangalgiri
Mangalgiri is blessed with two well known temples. One is in the valley, of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple believed to be built by the King Krishna Devaraya.  The other temple is on the hilltop known as Palaka Narasimha Swamy. Narasimha is believed to be the 4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This incarnation has a lion head and human body. This incarnation was made to show, how the true faith in God will save one from all the difficulties. The deity in the temple is Swayambhu means self originated. In this temple the main offering is Palakam or Panakom – a juice made with jaggery, dry ginger and lime, which is poured into the mouth of Sri Narasimha Swamy. Eventhough Palakam is sweet and everyday hundreds of litres of Palakam is offered there are no ants seen anywhere near the sanctum sanctorum.
 It is believed that the temple was found by the epic hero Yuddhisthira. Yuddhisthira is the eldest brother of Pandavas in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, who is known for his noble life and his non compromising attitude towards truth. The temple dedicated for the worship of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha has been constructed architecturally to support the 11 storied Raja Gopuram. Raja Gopuram is the main entrance to the temple premises. Usually this gopuram will be sculptured with the story of the main deity of the temple. Huge gopurams are the specialty in south Indian temples. These gopurams will have sculptures of the period of construction. These gopurams are constructed using huge granite stones. These stones are transported to the site using elephants and large number of artisans had put their hard effort to make these gopurams spectacular, which are existing for more than 400 years. The interiors of the temple have inlaid inscriptions that reveal that the famous King of the Vijaynagar Empire, Krishna Devaraya had visited this temple. The temple tank which is adjacent to the temple is believed to be created by Demigods and is named Lakshmi Pushkarini. 

A unique feature of Palaka Narasimha Swamy temple in Mangalgiri is the magical disappearance of the Palakam offered to the shrine. When palakam is poured into the mouth of the deity, half of the palakam is returned. The temple is opened only from morning to afternoon. It is believed that Demigods perform puja to Sri Narasimha Swamy in the night.

 In the temple, there is no deity of god, only a wide opened mouth of nearly 15cms is seen. This mouth is covered with the metal face of Narasimha Swamy. Here the deity is offered palakam. The priest will pour the palakam with a conch into the wide opened mouth. While pouring, we can hear the sound, like some one is drinking water. When the sound stops, the priest will stop pouring. The priest has shown us that the conch was not emptied, when poured into the mouth. This means that god is satisfied with the given palakam. This miraculous act rekindles faith and spiritualism in the people who visit the temple. After worshipping palaka Narasihma Swamy, when you go up, you can see Lord Vishnu sleeping on Anantha the Snake God, and this posture is called Ananthasayanam, which can be seen in a small cave.

The Palaka Narasimha Swamy temple is accessible through road for which vehicles are available on rent, or else one can reach the temple through stairs which leads to the temple. There are 365 steps to climb. One can see a bird’s eye view of Mangalgiri from the top of the hill. From the top of the hill itself we can see the gopurams of Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple in the valley.

Handlooms of Mangalgiri

Mangalgiri is well known for its traditional Mangalgiri Handlooms. Mangalgiri handlooms are well known for the durability of the colours used in the yarn. The mixture of colour gives the durability. Usually Mangalgiri handlooms are made in cotton or cotton and silk mix or mercerized cotton. The count used in weaving gives the softness and hardness of the fabric.  The count in a handloom fabric means the number of threads woven length wise and breadth wise known as warp and wept respectively in a square inch. In Mangalgiri the count 80 – 80 is used for soft woven fabric and 40 – 60 for hard varieties. The count makes the quality of the fabric. There are some designs which are exclusively used in Mangalgiri fabrics known as Nizam designs.

First the yarn is washed and then dipped in the required colour which is in a boiler and the worker goes on turning the yarn so that the colour is evenly mixed in the yarn. The most important aspect in this process is the mixing of colours which will give unique and durable colour to the fabric. Then it is again washed and dried. These yarns are then starched. Starching of the yarn is where the colour in the yarn will get more permanent nature and gives the yarn a polished look. The starched yarn is brought from the merchants by master weavers and is distributed to weavers. (Master weavers are also weavers but they will be having a group of weavers under them). Then it is turned in a charka. The turning in charka is where the yarn will become thread, which is used for wept.

The loading of yarn in warp is the next process. Then yarn is loaded into the looms. The length of yarn which is loaded as warp is known as Pacham. A weaver can make four sarees from one pacham. It will take a week to weave one Pacham of four sarees. The weavers get a remuneration of around Rs 1100 for one Pacham. In the wholesale market the cost of one sari with cotton and silk mix costs around ` 1500 to ` 4000 and in the retail market around ` 2000 to ` 5000.

Weaving:- The looms used in Mangalgiri are mostly pit looms. Pit looms are looms which are fixed in the ground level and there will be a pit in which looms peddle will be placed and the weaver will sit on the floor and use his hands and legs to weave.

The weavers are into this profession traditionally. None of the weavers are trained but they have acquired this unique skill hereditarily from their ancestors. The art of weaving is passed on by way of vision and practice. There are no theoretical explanations or training for weaving. But unfortunately due to the low wages the traditional weavers are opting out of this industry. New generation is not interested in this profession due to the low wages prevailing in the industry. During recession the weavers turned to the profession of Goldsmith which fetched them good remuneration. Now Mangalgiri is also having a very good number of people, who have left weaving and taken Goldsmith as their profession. Since Mangalgiri looms are pit looms, during rainy season the looms are closed due to the rain water getting clogged in the ground.

The handlooms in Mangalgiri are famous for the softness and durability. The handloom fabrics are soft and comfortable to wear and also suites all the climates. Mainly Mangalgiri looms manufacture sarees, but now as per demand dress materials are also weaved.

The weavers demand that only if there is some kind of package at par with the farmers who have lost crops, which was offered by the government, then only handloom industry can survive. The weavers state that only if government also takes the responsibility to support the handloom industry, then only the industry will last or else the end of handloom industry is not far from near. The high cost of handloom fabrics is also limiting the marketability.  The handloom industry is searching for a break through for survival.