Most women in India would recognize Pochampally with the woven Ikkat Silk Sari or the bed sheet that they own. It is a small town, less than 50 km’s from Hyderabad, with weaving as its primary identity. Last week we drove down to this village to spend a day there. It is also one of the 50+ villages that have been identified for rural tourism. I have wanted to visit one such village for a long time.
Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan Pochampally
The road to Pochampally is pretty straight from Hyderabad on NH–7, just a left turn a few km’s from Ramoji Film City. Thankfully there is a board telling you when to take the left turn. Then there are boards at regular intervals till you reach the Tourist center in the village, almost after crossing the whole village.
Tourist center is beautifully made, with a museum, a weaving demo center, some cottages, shopping complex and apparently a restaurant as well. It is located on the bank of a big lake and we could see some abandoned boats lying in the complex. The building is relatively new, and kind of maintained. But there were hardly any people to attend the visitors or give them information.
The museum is supposed to have a ticket but it was lying open for anyone to go in and there was no one to give us tickets. Anyway once you see the museum you would know that there is not much to pay for it. As there are a couple of rooms with photographs and a couple of rooms with Saris hanging on the walls. There is no explanation of most of the things. It looks like there are supposed to be panels on the outside walls depicting the various weaves, patterns, and fabrics used at Pochampally. But most of them were missing or lying here and there.
Weaving Demo Centre
The weaving demo center is there but again in the absence of someone explaining you or you actually experiencing how the looms work, but it is not much you can appreciate there. The restaurant is not in operation and the shopping complex had all shutters down. Apparently, this is because of the lack of tourists but then it is a chicken and egg problem, will you have the facilities first or the tourist first. With so much investment already made, I think a bit of effort to train people would be beneficial for both the village and the visitors.
Vinoba Bhave – Bhoodan Movement
The most important thing about Pochampally is its historical association with Vinoba Bhave. This is the place where he started his Bhoodan movement in April of 1951. Sir Vedire Ramchandra Reddy donated 100 acres of land to Vinoba Bhave. And this was the first village to be carved out of donated land and hence is known as Bhoodan Pochampally. He later re-distributed 12,000+ acres of land donated through this movement. In fact, Vinoba Bhave, when he came to Pochampally did not have the idea of Bhoodan. This idea was born here and taken forward by him to solve the problem of landless people in the country. In a way, Ram Chandra Reddy initiated this idea by offering to donate the land.
Vinoba Mandir, Pochampally
There is a small house where Vinoba Ji lived for a day and is now called Vinoba Mandir. It’s a simple 2-room house in typical Indian architecture with a front verandah and a garden. And a few of the pictures of Vinoba Bhave, Reddy and the first family beneficiary of the movement. In fact, there is a statue of Mr. Reddy on the main road where you take a turn for Pochampally. When you stand there, you get a feeling of witnessing a piece of history that you have only read about. You also feel overwhelmed by these men who were so simple but yet so impactful through their work. Located in the tourist center are the busts of both the men and a pillar to commemorate the event. The tree outside the main gate of the tourist center is the said to be under which the actual donation took place.
101 doors house
The street leading to tourist center has a small but serene Laxmi Narayan temple in white. There is a 101 doors house on the same street, though it is impossible to enter it or even visualize it, as it would have existed. Not a huge house, but if it was built in a way that it had 101 doors, there must be something interesting about the architecture and the thought behind it. Unfortunately, there is no effort to do anything about it, it is crumbling from all directions. And is home to street animals and is so dirty that you would not dare look inside it, leave aside stepping in. From whatever is left of it, I am not sure if it can be restored to its original glory. But something can definitely be done to avoid losing it completely.
You can get into a couple of areas that are weaver’s lanes. People are pretty business savvy and would invite you into their homes and show the looms on which they are working. It is interesting to see the colorful patterns emerging out of the simple looms. You would be shown the end products, mainly Saris and bed sheets that you can buy. I think these weavers desperately need to innovate and come up with new things from their base craft. How long will they be able to sell the same Saris in the same colors and same patterns, or the bed sheets? They need to come out with innovative products and may play around a bit with the patterns. Probably some design student can help them with this.
As you walk the main road, all the shopkeepers selling Pochampally products would approach you. The rates are not reasonable and you would get the products at the same or less price in big cities. It felt so much like a typical tourist place where the prices are inflated and products are at most standard. I could not miss the sheer no. of two-wheeler shops selling and servicing motorcycles and their smaller versions. A look at these places and the growth numbers projected by the two-wheeler industry suddenly make sense.
Lake at Pochampally
I was told that you can walk around the lake and do boating, but there was neither a walking path around the lake nor any boating infrastructure. I was quite disappointed by the tourism infrastructure and more so by its management. We had called up the tourist center a day earlier and asked for a guide who they said will come for Rs 800/-, a sum that is not charged by the world heritage site guides also. We agreed to pay, but the person who turned up after many phone calls on the given day was the security guard of the tourist center. And all he did for us was open a few locks and let us see the place. Talk of creating a tourism economy.
The surprise element of this trip was the Ayyappa temple that is just outside the village. This temple is built in Pagoda style with black stone and red Mangalore tiles with a dash of gold shimmer. A fairly new temple stands out in the green surroundings with its long Dwajastambha polished in pure gold. There are slanted roof gateways to the temple, enclosing the main temple, subsidiary shrines, a Yagnashala, a gold-plated Dwajastambha, two tall Deepastambha’s and some trees around. The temple looks different, simple and beautiful. India never fails to surprise me…
The road leading to Pochampally is quite scenic, with small hillocks dotting the lush green plains that stand out against the blue sky. The traffic is not much so you can look at the surroundings without worrying about driving and can stop occasionally to take a picture or two, just enjoy the view.