Search
  • Shreni Community Trust

Gurappana Palya - Living Legacies In The Heart of Bangalore

Updated: Sep 30

Sometimes, while using the short temporal lens of my life (I’m 22 years old), I forget that some of my colleagues have seen the rise of their cities. They have watched them rise and pulse and pass through adolescence and grow out into maturity, just like a human being. Even now, field visit planning sessions and discussions bubble into conversations where aged maps are drawn in the air for me and the other youngsters in the team - maps that are as real as the disappearing stories behind them, preserved almost entirely in the memories of our seniors.


When our colleagues came back from a visit to Gurapanna Palya, near Bannerghatta road, Rama Narayanan from the team had a hint of emotion in her voice while asking about updates and talking about the place itself. Emotion about a place is usually the expression of a deep link through the past and the people there - and so, I asked Rama to tell me what Gurappan Palya and its surrounding areas were like in the olden days. Immediately, I felt her voice sink into layers of comfort and nostalgia.


Rama talks of the years when driving down to Gurappana Palya meant taking Bannerghatta Road. She served me a slice of Bangalore history that I hadn’t heard before, and definitely not from someone who had lived it, breathed it, touched it. Earlier, thick clumps of large, verdant trees and a little lake every kilometre or so meant that you were approaching the Bannerghatta National Reserve area, leaving behind Dairy Circle. The Reserve itself played gracious host to hordes of wild animals making a pit stop in Namma Bengaluru on their journey from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Plains. Today, it stands as a shadow of its past self, with only a few densely packed green spots.


In the early 90s, Rama had to frequent the spot, since the factory she used to work at was located there. “The Dairy Circle turning marked the beginning of Bannerghatta road. Earlier, the road was originally marked by large farms owned by film stars and actors, who had invested in land in and around Bangalore as their retirement spaces. The road itself was speckled with small villages running along the left of the highway, till you drove and reached the gates of the Reserve.” Her factory and her main office were next to Dairy Circle, near a famous drive-in theatre (yes, you read that right, a drive-in theatre). Other factories were strewn all over the landscape up to Arekere (named after a kere {lake}). In her work, Rama had encountered the weaving community of Gurappana Palya, earlier a tight-knit group, weaving fabric and sarees on handlooms.



Today, the face of Bannerghatta Road as we know it is starkly different. Large gleaming glass buildings proclaim their authority over the land. Software conglomerates have claimed the space as their own, housing big names like Oracle, Accenture among many many others. Hospitals and other campuses dominate the skyline even as the lush greenery recedes into Bangalore’s ageing horizon. The factories that Rama saw have also given way to the juggernaut of modern commerce. Tall residential complexes and shiny commercial skyscrapers now fill Bannerghatta Road with their opulence, and of course, the traffic that comes with them.


The weaving community has felt the double-edged sword of change too. Handloom weavers moved away from their laborious and often low-paying profession, and joined forces with those practising mechanized ancillary trades, like warp rolling. When our teammates Sumathi and Nanda went to Gurappana Palya, they met with Obiliraj, who heads a warp rolling unit.


Obiliraj in his warp rolling unit

Through talking with the other existing weavers and Obiliraj himself, they discovered that the erstwhile force of 20 handloom weavers, was now reduced to only 6 undaunted individuals who carried on with their traditional occupations. The rest either moved away or changed their livelihoods.


There are still those who soldier on, even in the face of modernity that seems bent on erasing traces of our past. These weavers still work on their handlooms, taking orders for sarees from retailers and crafting them by hand. We circle back to the pride of weavers, that lies in the very craft that they have been practising for generations. Weaving is woven into their culture, their lineage, their heritage - the rolling wheels of the modern age are yet to crush the spirit that keeps the flame of age-old arts alive.







Through our discussions with the community, we hope to help them with alternate avenues of profit, such that they can get back to their traditional professions in a sustainable way. If you’d like to get in touch with the weavers of Gurappana Palya and give them orders, get in touch with us!

Help out distressed weavers and artisans, and those practising allied professions across South India get back their livelihoods. To contribute to their cause, you can donate to the Shreni Relief Fund hosted by GiveIndia here. Every little amount counts!


Written by Shivani L, in conversation with Rama N.


17 views

SHRENIS

Occupational Networks

406, 18th Main, 4th T Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore, 560041.

 

info@shrenis.com 
Working days : Mon - Fri

Timings : 10am - 6pm

© 2018 Shreni Community Trust