Roksana Begum, a homemaker from Uttara in Dhaka, hired a microbus and came to Tangail's Pathrail along with some relatives last week. She wanted to buy some famous Tangail saris for Eid.
Traditional Tangail saris, which are still the first choice among a large number of women, are available in Dhaka. Why then did she come all the way to Tangail?
“Actually, there is a different charm in buying saris from stacks lined up at the places where they are produced,” Roksana said as her group bought a total of 33 saris, costing between Tk 1,500 and 3,000 each, from different weavers.
With Eid only days away, weavers in Tangail are working through one of their busiest months of the year.
Eid and other festivals, like Durga Puja and Pahela Baishakh, are times when the creative weavers in the area have their hands full, working on new and trendy designs to meet amplified demands.
Silk, half silk, soft silk, gas silk, raw silk, dotari silk, jute silk, cotton, jute cotton, jal cotton, banarasi, jamdani, tissue jamdani, khaddar, baluchori, tasar, dengu, kuchi are some of the varieties of saris the Tangail weavers boast of adorning women with.
The Tangail saris are produced in different areas of the district, including Pathrail, Chondi, Nolshodha, Borotia, Chinakhola, Mongolhor, Nolua, Dhultia, Balla, Rampur, Chhatihati, Bajitpur, Jugni and Bathuli.
However, Delduar upazila is known as the capital of Tangail sari weaving.
Around 15 lakh Tangail saris are likely to be sold ahead of this Eid and 40 percent of these will be produced in Delduar alone, according to Raghunath Basak, former president of Tangail Sari Traders Association.
Besides casual handloom saris, weavers here make fancy, expensive ones as well. Prices of these saris range from Tk 300 to Tk 20,000, meeting demands from people of all classes and social background.
“Tangail saris remain popular owing to the unfailing creativity of local weavers. Weavers in other parts of the country have over the years tried to emulate the style of Tangail weavers but the quality and variety of Tangail saris remain unique," handloom owner and sari trader Nilkamal Basak of Pathrail said.
Besides saris, shalwar-kameez-orna sets of various qualities and designs are woven here, with prices ranging between Tk 1,500 and Tk 3,500.
The flexible prices of these traditional saris and three-piece sets, adorned with unique motifs and patterns, attract buyers from across the country.
Farida Parvin of Gulkibari in Mymensingh is a small sari trader who takes orders first and then supplies saris to her customers. Otherwise a housewife, she came to Pathrail last week to buy Tangail saris. She said she came there not only during Eid but all the year round.
“I can pick the right saris for my customers from a wide range of collections,” she added.
TK 200 CRORE SALES
A local weekly market, which sits on Tuesday through to Thursday, at Karatia of Tangail is the main sales centre of the saris. Wholesalers from different parts of the country buy Tangail saris from local weavers there.
Shahjahan Ansari, organiser of the market, told The Daily Star that they expect a total sale of Tk 200 crore from different local markets during the Eid season.
Though a few people in Pathrail have made their fortunes and earned crores of taka by selling Tangail saris, most of the skilled weavers in the district still struggle to hold on to their ancestral profession, according to weaver Narayan Chandra Basak of Chondi in Delduar.
It takes one to three days to weave a sari in on handloom, depending on their designs and quality. For this a weaver gets as little as Tk 200. However, there are some weavers, only a handful, who earn as much as Tk 1,200 for the same job.
Ratan Chandra Basak, convener of Tangail Sari Traders Association, thinks poor weavers should have access to easy term bank loans so that they can retain their ancestral profession and contribute to this thriving industry.