Parla, a village in Andhra Pradesh once renowned for weaving kammadlu (quilt made of sheep’s wool), now houses only a few dozen people who are still at it. In its heyday, Parla was home to over 400 people involved in this fine art. Now, due to lack of raw material, the art is on the brink of extinction.
K. Buddanna, who has been weaving quilts for over 40 years now, says there are two kinds of quilts — ‘kammadi’ and ‘jadi’. While ‘jadi’ is used as a blanket, ‘kammadi’ is a shawl that’s ceremonial as well as for protection against the weather.
“We have presented the ‘kammadi’ to all the Chief Ministers, starting from Damodaram Sanjeevaiah (in 1960) to Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy,” claims Mr. Buddanna.
The kammadi is also used during religious celebrations. Demand for it goes up after Deepavali when a lot of indigenous festivals in Telangana State and Rayalaseema are celebrated. This quilt also has another name in Telangana: ‘gongali’. In the last few decades, the ‘gongali’ was popularised by the Telangana balladeer Gaddar, who still wears it during his performances.
According to Mr. Buddanna, the quilts can be made only from the wool of black sheep, whose numbers have also fallen over the years as shepherds prefer rearing red sheep. “Red sheep mature faster than black sheep,” he says.
Wool from red sheep is of inferior quality and not preferred for quilt weaving. “The best quality of wool would be the fabric made out of the first shear of a black sheep, since it is the softest wool available,” he said. Apart from the lack of adequate raw materials, drought-like conditions in the district too have driven shepherds away.
Mr. Buddanna laments that if these conditions continue for long, the fine art of making ‘kammadlu’ would wither away.