Kerala Arts & Literary Association (KALA) aims to highlight the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Kerala’s handloom industry
In a celebration of India’s Handloom Day, the British capital is set to witness a historic event as around 500 women donning exquisite handloom sarees will parade past iconic landmarks. The walkathon, organised by the British Women in Sarees group, is aimed at showcasing the vibrant colours and weaves of India’s regional states. This event holds significance as it commemorates the National Handloom Day of India, observed annually on August 7, and honours the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement, which encouraged indigenous weavers during the country’s independence struggle.
The procession is scheduled to commence at Trafalgar Square at 1 pm and proceed to Downing Street (1:15 pm – 1:40 pm) before culminating at Parliament Square (2 pm – 2:30 pm). Each stop will feature captivating performances representing various Indian states, with Kerala taking the spotlight at Parliament Square.
Dr. Dipti Jain, an ardent saree enthusiast and one of the main organizers of the event, previously orchestrated a successful Ascot event where the blend of colorful sarees with traditional British elegance captivated audiences. Dr. Jain believes that the saree can be a powerful tool of empowerment in multiple ways.
The Kerala contingent, comprising approximately 30 participants, will not only participate in the walkathon but also serve as volunteers and traffic marshals. Coordinated and led by Dr. Hema Santhosh, Dr. Deepa Hedge, and Shirley Gibson, the Kerala team enjoys strong support from Dr. Sukumaran Nair, the Patron of KALA, a charitable organization promoting Kerala Arts and literature. Dr. Nair and his wife, Dr. Sethulekshmy, are avid handloom enthusiasts themselves.
Elegantly dressed in traditional handloom settu mundu and sarees from esteemed weavers such as Karimpuzha, Balaramapurma, Chendamangalam, and Kuthumpally, the Kerala team aims to highlight the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Kerala’s handloom industry. Dr. Santhosh emphasized the significant research conducted to delve into the stories of small-scale handloom weavers in Kerala, unveiling the passion and dedication they invest in their craft, which ultimately serves as their source of livelihood and self-reliance.
Dr. Sukumaran Nair and his team of KALA supporters on the sidelines will also be showcasing the splendor of traditional Kerala by wearing Kerala ‘kaithari’ on the day, further embracing the spirit of the occasion.
Following the walkathon, the Kerala team plans to mesmerize spectators with a traditional vanchipattu performance, symbolizing the essence of Kerala’s culture, reminiscent of the boat races held during the auspicious Onam festival in August. The event will conclude with the national anthem and heartfelt prayers paying homage to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Saree Walkathon promises to be a cultural extravaganza, uniting women from diverse backgrounds to celebrate India’s rich handloom heritage while promoting empowerment and solidarity among participants. As the women gracefully adorn themselves in handloom sarees, they manifest the artistry of the weavers and showcase the significance of this ancient craft in modern times. With the support of the Inspiring Indian Women Group, this event aims to make a resounding impact on the global stage, leaving a lasting impression of India’s artistic brilliance and its profound cultural tapestry.