In the town of Pipli, Odisha (Orissa), with a population of approximately 16,000, almost each and every family are immersed in the art of applique. These artisans are the descendants of professional Pipli applique tailors, known as darjis. Usually, female members of the family are the designers while male family members cut and shape the fabrics to create motifs. Applique artisans from Pipli and their creations became the most exquisite through historical patronisation by royalty and nobility, leading to its association with religion. Due to this, the textile art continues to be held in high regard.
L: Pipli applique craftswomen at work
R: A Pipli applique craftsman at work
Today, Pipli applique is kept alive by the demands of tourists and the export industry. Modern urban communities are recognising the traditions and techniques of age-old Indian arts and crafts - Pipli applique is but one. Foreign tourists and local pilgrims flock to Pipli, particularly during the annual Chariot Festival known as Rath Yatra, where they purchase colourful appliqued souvenirs to adorn their homes. Hotels, wedding venues and decorators around the world perpetuate Pipli applique’s exportation as these businesses strive to awe their customers with exquisite authentic textile decorations.
L: Thousands of pilgrims and tourists attend the Rath Yatra Chariot Festival each year in Puri
R: Contemporary large garden umbrellas such as this are popular decorations in and out of India
Geographical Indication (GI) is a status given to a product that directly corresponds to a particular geographical region, usually the place of origin. This designation is confirmation of a product's quality and signifies that traditional skills have been used to produce it. Pipli applique is hugely supported by the Indian government and has been GI registered due to its exquisite history and craftsmanship.
The GI status deems that Pipli applique can only be manufactured in and traded with the town of Pipli. This not only ensures specific qualities and authenticity of Pipli appliqued products, but also ensures the perpetuation of the craft, its traditional production techniques and the heritage of its rural artisans. Pipli applique was, and still is, the backbone of the Odishan craft industry and one of the major forces behind India’s economy and textile exports.
L: Breathtaking traditional Pipli appliqued lampshades, umbrellas and wall hangings adorn the streets of Pipli all year round
R: A craftsman surrounded by beautiful traditional and contemporary Pipli appliqued products
Images: Visit Pipili, The Hindu, Pinterest, India Exchange