Tangail’s ‘Karatia Tant Hat’, a hundred years of tradition

Abir Basak       
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One of the contributing bazaar in the national economy is the ‘Karatia Tant Hat’ of Tangail district. Tangail is a combination of the three things- sweets, tomtom and saree. World famous tant saree & sweets are made in Tangail. Once upon a time horse pulling car (tomtom) was also used here as a necessary transportation system.

Figure 1: Partial views of the ‘Karatia Tant Hat’ in Tangail district.
Figure 1: Partial views of the ‘Karatia Tant Hat’ in Tangail district.

The old and large cloth market of the country named ‘Karatia Tant Hat’ is located near Dhaka, 7 km from Tangail city. Because of having comparatively low prices and availability of the famous Tangail sarees, this place is gradually turned into popular by Indian wholesale saree traders along with local. Tangail’s skilled craftsmen have long been preparing different types of clothes generations to generations. When artisans weaving sarees are going through many challenges, their clothes are being reached to the consumers inside the country and abroad by the sellers of Karatia Tant Hat.

History
History of Karatia Hat is involved with the history of Tangail saree. Detail history could not be known about the origin of the Hat. However, people say that it may be about two hundred years old. The old saree traders say, they heard that in ancient time the weavers of Tangail used to make muslin sarees. It is being survived as a beneficial heir to the Jamdani, Banarasi and weaving saree of Tangail.

Figure 2: Stack of saree laid down to display for the customers in front of a shop inside ‘Karatia Tant Hat’.
Figure 2: Stack of saree laid down to display for the customers in front of a shop inside ‘Karatia Tant Hat’.

Weavers had spinning wheels (chorka). A spinning wheel is a device for spinning thread or yarn from natural or synthetic fibres. The men and women of the family used to spin cotton yarn and make clothes. Basak is the basic title of Hindu weavers of Tangail. Many of them live in Bajitpur, Pathrail and Nalshodha villages. It is known from history that Basak community is the original weavers of Tangail. That is to say, they are people of the tribe of tentsman from the beginning. Initially, they started work from the Indus Basin at Murshidabad in West Bengal. Then in Rajshahi. Later, from Bajitpur of Kishoreganj, and Dhamrai of Dhaka many Basak people settled in Tangail. Because of the favorable weather here, they used to work on looming. Eventually, the Basak class lived mostly in the district. They trained inexperienced weavers through the Basak Association & used to control the quality of the clothes. After partition of British India and the war of liberation, many Basak squads went to India. Since then, other communities had also been involved with the weaving.

Before the partition of British India, the market of Tangail sarees was held in Calcutta. The weavers of Tangail used to go to Calcutta by riding steamers, launches and ships from Charabari, Porabari and Nalchia ghat and Subarnkhali port. After partition, the main hat of Tangail weaving was in Bajitpur in the district. It is worth to mention that not only the domestic wholesalers used to come, but also buyers from India, Nepal and England came to buy sarees.

Seeing the demand of Tangail sarees and the arrival of buyers from abroad and country, Tangail’s famous Karatia zamindar family felt the need for a hat in the eighteenth century. Panni family member Wazed Ali Khan Panni alias Chand Mia built a hat on the vast area of Karatia. At that time, Karatia was a river port. Hats held there over the weeks. Besides sarees, cattle, handmade utensils and many others were sold. After the establishment, hat became famous for jute and livestock. Later, it became popular for Tangail sarees. The popular transportation system of that time was the waterways. This Hat was also known as ‘Mahmudganj Cloth Hat’.

Present Condition
Hat is located on about 45 acres of land. Thousands of businessmen are doing business here. Besides the sarees, the hats are also famous for shawl. Shawl which is made by artisans of many districts are exported to India, Myanmar, Europe and the winter countries from here. Usually, Hat is being held for two days a week, begins on Tuesday afternoon and ends on Thursday afternoon.

Figure 3: Overwhelming customer crowd come here to buy clothes from ‘Karatia Tant Hat’.
Figure 3: Overwhelming customer crowd come here to buy clothes from ‘Karatia Tant Hat’.

Wholesalers from different places of the country buy sarees from here and sell them in retail price in the country’s supershops. More than fifty high-rise markets have been built along with the open markets. Tangail sarees as well as printed sarees are available here. Sarees come from Delduar’s Pathrail, Kalihati’s Bolla, Rampur, Enayetpur, Baburhat of Narsingdi, Belkuchi of Sirajganj, Islampur of Dhaka etc. Currently lungi, saree, shawl, three-pieces of women as well as children’s clothing are available here. Various designed and colorful sarees from this hat are found in the city’s mega shopping mall.

Communication System
From the capital, anyone can go to the Karatia by bus or rail. There are similar communication facilities from different districts of the North Bengal.

Commodity Price

The world famous Tangail Saree is sold here at around half price compared to different wholesale or any retail stores of the country. This is the place for getting real quality with cheap rate.

Security
There is no shortage of security. Basically, buyers bring bundle of money in cash to buy goods from this hat. Still there is no fear of stealing or hijacking. Average Tk. 70 to 80 crores transactions are done in every week in this hat generally and almost Tk. 200 to 300 crores in Eid & Puja season. Thousands of pieces saree, lungi, sheet, thread and shawl are sold. No toll or tax is taken from the outside traders for this huge quantity of products selling. Owners and traders of fifty multi-storied markets which are built in the hat collectively pay the tax. As a result, the buyer does not have to pay the burden of additional cost.

In the current year, in total of 1 crore 72 lakhs taka has been called for auction. Traders are paying that tax. For Hat’s safety, the Hat Committee has taken special initiative. CC cameras have been installed at Hat. These cameras are constantly monitored. Buyers from different places of the country do not become victims of robbery or hijacking. Besides, there are also its own volunteers in the safety of the hat.

Feedback

According to field source, due to its modern touch along with attractive colour, various designs, and reasonable prices, the Tangail saree has the most demand among women. To meet the increasing demand, the makers of the Tangail sarees have involved in competition.

Local customer Sumi Khandaker said, ‘‘there are thousands of sarees available here. Sarees and three-pieces are available with a variety of designs which have better quality, the price is relatively low.’’

Sudhir Ghosh, a businessman from West Bengal of India talks to the reporter. He said, “Because of the comparatively low prices and good quality, I often come to the Tangail hat. The Tangail sarees have great value in the West Bengal.”

Barriers
At present, the main problem of the hat is load shedding. Due to frequent power outages, traders are facing many problems in trading. There is no branch of any government or private commercial banks in the hat area. So the traders have to carry cash money.

The paths to enter the hat are very narrow and broken; traffic jams are there also. There is no parking place for cars. It is also a big cause of suffering. Besides, on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the week, hat runs whole night. There is no bright lightening system in the public lamp posts in this hat.

Alhaj Md. Shahjahan Ansari, General Secretary of the ‘Karatia Tant Hat Committee’ said, “Across the country, especially from Chittagong, Sylhet and Dhaka people come here. Besides, customers come from abroad also. The prices of commodities are very low in Karatia Hat than any other Hat. Quality is very good. Good quality clothes are found in Karatia at Tk. 400-500 only. Products are not available at this price anywhere in the country. Perhaps Tk. 50,000 is required for a shop as monthly rent in Dhaka. But the rent here is 15 to 20 thousand taka only in every year. Tangail saree has to be weaved with great care with deep concentration. Despite the flooding of Indian sarees in local markets present time, the prices of Tangail sarees have been kept at reasonable rates.’’

Figure 4: Alhaj Md. Shahjahan Ansari, General Secretary, Tant Hat committee
Figure 4: Alhaj Md. Shahjahan Ansari, General Secretary, Tant Hat committee

Saree trader Ansari Mia said, “From childhood, I heard about this hat from my father and grandfather. My grandfather used to sell sarees in this hat. My dad did also business. Now i am doing.”

Conclusion
It is estimated that there are 64,100 handlooms in the district. And 30,000 people are engaged in this profession directly or indirectly. Buyers are flocking to remote hamlets and hats to buy the coveted saree. Besides, products are also being sold in the malls across the country. Tangail sarees are being also exported. Products are being exported to the USA, UK, Italy, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, India and the Middle-East. Showrooms across the world are displaying these sarees.

If the government takes initiative to solve the problems of one of the main biggest selling houses of domestic and international standard Tangail sarees, this commercial hotspot has that potentiality to go ahead further, the traders here believe. Only implementation of effective steps are needed.

As the hat is situated beside the Dhaka-Tangail highway, its communication system is also satisfactory. After purchasing, buyers can easily carry the purchased goods. So Tangail’s ‘Karatia Tant Hat’ remains always in the choice list of apparel buyers.

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