When Richard Holkar of the erstwhile royal family returned to Maheshwar from his life abroad, he had many challenges to deal with. One of them was the plight of the weaver community and the lack of livelihood options for the people of Maheshwar. He and his wife at the time, Sally, decided to set up Rehwa Society, a small weaving unit to revive the age-old local craft of weaving that had thrived at the time of Rani Ahilyabai Holkar (1765-1795). It would, in turn, also provide work and income to local weavers.  

Today, this thriving centre makes some of the most exquisite saris in India. Hundreds of people from the village are now engaged in the business of weaving.

There is a buzz of activity in the weaving unit. Yet all the weavers remain focused on their looms, almost meditatively. Spending time here is a rich, sensory experience: absorbing the sound of the looms, the colour of the threads, the textures of the fabric. Like magic, the weavers transform dyed threads into a graceful garment.

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Abhinandita Mathur
A weaver scours the storeroom for different coloured yarn
A weaver scours the storeroom for different coloured yarn
Abhinandita Mathur
Maheshwari saris are hand woven pieces of art
Maheshwari saris are hand woven pieces of art
Abhinandita Mathur
Zari borders in typical Maheshwari style
Zari borders in typical Maheshwari style
Abhinandita Mathur
Yarn colour samples help weavers select the different shades they want to match together for their next project
Yarn colour samples help weavers select the different shades they want to match together for their next project
Abhinandita Mathur
Weavers dye yarn at Rehwa Society
Weavers dye yarn at Rehwa Society
Abhinandita Mathur
Signage that defines the work ethic at the Rehwa weaving unit
Signage that defines the work ethic at the Rehwa weaving unit
Abhinandita Mathur
The border of a Maheshwari sari often has designs inspired by the art or architecture found in and around Ahilya Fort
The border of a Maheshwari sari often has designs inspired by the art or architecture found in and around Ahilya Fort