Mangalgiri is a major weaving center. It lies across the Krishna River from Vijayawada, about half way from that city to Guntur. The town’s economy centers itself on textiles. Not only do many weavers continue to work their craft here, but Mangalgiri is also a thread dying centre.
Unlike in many smaller towns, in Mangalagiri many weavers hire themselves out to larger manufacturers. In this way they become wage earners, and neither own the loom, nor need to invest in thread. There also remain, however, independent weavers who continue to sell their cloth as they make it–piece workers. By and large the weavers here describe themselves simply as weavers. Virtually all happen to be members of the Padma Sali caste. No one I asked could tell me of weavers of other castes known to be weaving in Mangalgiri.
In addition to saris, Mangalagiri’s weavers also make shirt material. In either case the output is about the same, about seven meters per day. Thus, if a weaver is not asked to help prepare cloth for the loom, he or she can make one sari, or seven meters of shirt material per working day each month. With preparation time taken into account, the number decreases by half.
The dying industry is made up of other, unskilled workers, entirely separate from the weaving community. The thread used for dying is purchased from a processing plant in Hindupur, in southern Andhra Pradesh. Although there is a thread processing plant in Rajahmundry, much closer than Hindupur, the latter is said to provide higher quality thread. The dye for the thread is bought from large wholesalers.