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Hyderabad to Pochampally: The Ikat getaway

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-06-2017 Swati Sanyal Tarafdar

We moved haltingly in Hyderabad’s chock-a-block traffic till we reached the city’s outskirts. And then, quite suddenly, we were on a thin ribbon of clear metallic road. Rolls of dust wafted with us. Beyond our windows, the gradient ranged from gentle to steep, the hilly slopes dotted with boulders; the trees wilted and burnt out. A dry, barren, rocky stretch as far as the eye could see, sheltered and consoled by a deep blue sky above. 

We were just 30km from the concrete city of Hyderabad, nearing our family’s weekend getaway—Pochampally, the cluster of villages that is famous for its Ikat style of weaving.

A few structures came into view. Soon, a lake appeared, its steel-grey water and green foliage so inviting that we stopped the car, and set out mats in the cool shade to devour the quick breakfast of idli and pongal that we had picked up in the city.  

An hour later, we resumed our journey, driving through Pochampally’s central road, dotted with handloom sari shops on both sides and people chatting over cups of tea in stalls. 

Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint

The Sri Markandeya Temple loomed on our left. It’s the main temple, with the presiding deity of weavers. A right turn, and lo and behold, there was a second lake. Our guest house was adjacent to its mirror-flat waters.

Since it’s so close to Hyderabad, people prefer to make day trips to Pochampally. What they miss can’t be listed. You don’t need to get out of the beautifully designed guest house if you don’t really want a taste of village life. Its manicured lawns and landscaped garden, the in-house museum commemorating the history of Ikat and the Bhoodan, land reform, movement started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951, the grand amphitheatre and the tidy cottages are enough to keep you engaged.

That evening, we wandered in the gardens under the benign gaze of a full moon. 

A neat track around the lake managed to propel even a passive person like me into a long stroll next morning. We walked to the 300-year-old Basavalingeswara Temple around 2km away which hosts a swayambhu (self-manifested) linga of Lord Shiva. The children were amazed at the hordes of cranes, storks, geese, little egrets, cormorants and pochards, and a few kingfishers, woodpeckers and weaver birds, at the edge of the lake. 

A Pochampally Ikat sari being made.

Later in the day, we visited the master weavers in their humble dwellings. Hunched over his loom, eyes firmly on the threads, one of them told us that each silk sari took at least five days to complete.

We spent some time watching his family at work—the younger daughter was arranging the tie-dyed yarn to dry on a wooden frame; the older one filled up the bobbins with the dried threads; the father wove the threads on his loom, picking up the designs in swift movements of the loom’s bobbin. The mother sat at the sewing machine, stitching side bags and blouses. The speciality of Ikat lies in the fact that instead of the woven cloth, the yarn is tied and dyed, and when dry, woven into saris.

On our walk back to the guest house, our gaze fell on the simple mud houses with beautiful blue doors and yellow painted thresholds. Even in the company of the colourful palate of Ikat colours, these were veritable pieces of art in themselves.

I stopped to peep through a crack in the door behind which I could hear the familiar “clickety-clack”. They say you cannot put a price to a cultural experience. And that’s true. But you can spend on reams of fabric. I, most certainly, returned home a few thousands rupees lighter.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @Swati_Sanyal_T.

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