Delhi’s Shashank Gupta uses the power of social media to help Khes weavers of Khurja, Uttar Pradesh
A self-proclaimed history buff, Gupta started The Random Delhi in 2018 to promote the art, culture, and heritage of the country.
Among the many traditional handlooms crafted in India, Khes—a fabric that has repetitive
geometric patterns and is woven from cotton—is associated with the northwestern part of the country, especially states of Punjab and Haryana. This damask, mostly woven in bright colours, is usually made into bedding, upholstery, or even shawls for men, taking into account the weaver’s skill as well as the complexity of the design. While the weaving technique of Khes has been a part of Indian artisans’ tradition for ages now, it was popularly used as a light cotton blanket only during the Mughal period.
Tucked in Khurja in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a city notable for its pottery, is a small and tight-knit community of weavers who have been earning their livelihood by creating Khes for the past two generations. As the global pandemic affected a number of economic sectors in the country, this lesser-known textile industry suffered a major loss as well. Realising the need to revive their livelihood, 23-year-old Shashank Gupta along with Akash Ganguly from Durgapur, West Bengal, launched a campaign called ‘Khurja Weavers Community Initiative’ through their The Random Delhi page on Instagram. It’s an attempt to help the weaving community all while keeping the art of Khes alive.
Keeping the heritage alive
A self-proclaimed history buff, Gupta started The Random Delhi in 2018 to promote the art, culture, and heritage of the country. A native of Khurja, the Malviya Nagar resident completed his master’s in Medieval History from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Gupta’s interest in Khes made him realise how this weaving community from UP, that would earlier sell their products directly in the markets, were struggling with their business amid the pandemic.
“COVID had disrupted the supply chain and they [the weavers] needed an alternative platform for selling things. I documented the art and worked with 15 weavers in Khurja to create a blog along with a catalogue so as to sell their goods online. I promoted these products through a campaign on Instagram in June last year,” says Gupta, who is currently interning in France.
Currently, the Khes weaves are sold at affordable prices pan-India through the catalogue available on his blog. Though he did not charge a fee from the severely-underpaid weavers earlier, given the positive response the campaign received over time, Gupta now retains a small per cent on each order as service cost.
A long way ahead
Gupta points out that over the past year, through his online platform, the weavers of Khurja were able to stabilise their business. In fact, they successfully sold around 300 Khes products in about a month since the campaign commenced. However, while the initiative has boosted their morale, Gupta goes on to mention that there is still a long way to go.
“I am amazed at the response we have received. I feel that finally, through this initiative, this age-old tradition [of Khes] will survive and not go extinct,” he says. Taking the campaign further, Gupta has now started supporting a community of Dhurrie (carpet) weavers in Khurja, who are also facing hardships.