Ghongadi is a traditional woollen blanket made in Maharashtra, India. These blankets are made on Pit-Loom and dyed with organic and natural dyes. Ghongadi blankets have cultural significance in Maharashtra, as it is considered a holy blanket and used in all the holy rituals and community functions.
Ghongadi is a cultural and spiritual inheritance of Maharashtra. It holds immense significance in the various religious activities like ‘Jagran Gondhal’ of the Maharashtrian community. The act of reading ‘Shree Dnyaneshwari’ and poems from Saint Tukaram’s collection are done by sitting on this woolen blanket. Ghongadi is considered auspicious while fixing marriages in rural areas as well as a seating arrangement for the guests visiting the villages.
A group of young entrepreneurs from Pune are now planning to revive the market for such blankets through an e-commerce platform – Ghongadi.com. The brainchild of engineers Tushar Pakhare, Niraj Borate and dentist Madhura Avinash, the website offers traditional weavers from rural parts of Maharashtra an alternative market. An individual blanket is purchased from the artisans at Rs 1,100 and is sold at Rs 1,500. The difference is spent on shipping and administrative expenses. The portal has tie ups with around 12 artisans in Karmala taluka of Solapur district.
Once considered an indispensable part of a household, the traditional woollen blanket of Maharashtra – the Ghongadi – has lost much of its ground over the last few years.
Known for its rough texture, the woollen blankets are spun on pit looms and dyed with organic and natural dyes.
These blankets have been prepared mostly by the Dhangard, or the traditional sheep rearers of the state. On an average, it takes about seven days to spin a Ghongadi.
Known as natural thermal blankets, a Ghongadi is relatively easy to maintain and has a longer lifespan than other blankets. However, lack of marketing options had relegated these blankets far from the shelves of city-based stores. The artisans have also had a tough life.
Pakhare, who hails from the Karmala tehshil of Solapur district, said they decided to start the website after conducting a market research on social media. “The results were quite positive,” said Pakhare. Ghongadi.com soon started online retailing of the blanket, and in a span of just two weeks, 50 Ghongadis were sold. The portal has tie ups with around 12 artisans in Karmala taluka of Solapur district. “At present, we buy four-five blankets on a regular basis. Once the volume picks up, we will increase our purchase,” Pakhare added.
Backend operations are managed by a coordinator at Karmala who ships the blankets to Pune, from where it is despatched out for delivery. An individual blanket is purchased from the artisans at Rs 1,100 and is sold at Rs 1,500. The difference is spent on shipping and administrative expenses, said Pakhare.
“We are trying for online and offline collaborations with like-minded people, who are trying to save such art-forms,” he added.
On the health side, Ghongadi is believed to help acupressure and blood flow. Nomads and shepherds in southern Maharashtra sleep on Ghongadi in acute back pain and find relaxation on the blanket a great remedy and pain-reliever.
During paddy cultivation in the Konkan region, Ghongadi is used to cover the head like a protective shield against the harsh rains. Weavers have been for generations making Konkani Ghongadi out of traditional Konkan bands and delivering them to the people.
Ghongadi is the ultimate remedy for back pain and joint-related problems. Sleeping on it helps you sleep sound, gives relief, and keeps you healthy. Even today, the working class, farmers, laborers, and peasants in the villages sleep on these woolen blankets.
Ghongadi blankets are usually rough and heavy. Mostly used by shepherds and farmers in the back of the days. It takes one complete week to make one blanket and involve multiple steps.
Ghongadi blankets are woven from sheep wool. It gives warmth and adequate heat to body. Normally it is daily used for sleeping, it relieves most of the body pain problems like back-pain relief, joint-pain relief, body-pain relief. It’s most beneficial medical use is it protects the user from blood clotting. Due to the property of giving warmth it is also known as natural thermal blanket. It is good for accupressure.
Environment-friendly, GHONGADI is an organic fabric that has been used for clothing and blankets for thousands of years.
GHONGADI is woven in remote rural areas of Maharashtra. This fabric is used to make clothing that is warm and keeps the body well insulated. It is usually used to make outdoor clothing but is also used to make blankets, socks and fine clothing for indoor use.
GHONGADI blankets are washable and easy to care. If washed in cold water these blankets will never shrink or fade. Washing simply makes them softer and stronger.
During paddy cultivation in the Konkan region, Ghongadi is used to cover the head like a protective shield against the harsh rains. Artisans in this region have been for generations making Konkani Ghongadi out of traditional Konkan bands and delivering them to the farmers.
Ghongadi is the ultimate remedy for back pain and joint-related problems. Sleeping on it helps you sleep sound, gives relief, and keeps you healthy. Even today, the working class, farmers, laborers, and peasants in the villages sleep on these woolen blankets for complete relaxation and total rest.
Ideal Aasana ( Seat ) for Meditation according to Lord Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita :
‘Establish your Asana (seat) in a pure and clean spot which is neither too high nor too low. To prepare your Asana, first spread the sacred Kusha / Darbha grass mat on the ground, then a deer skin over the Kusha / Darbha mat and finally spread a thin soft white cloth. Then sitting on this Asana, withdraw your mind from all external objects. The body during this process should be as follows : It should be firmly held and the head and neck should be still. The meditator should look at the tip of his nose without looking at the directions around him’
Gurudev Swami Sivananda Saraswathi on Aasana ( Seat ) for Meditation :
‘Read the 11th and 13th Slokas of Chapter VI of the Bhagavad Gita wherein a description of the seat for meditation is given. Spread a fourfold blanket and over this spread a piece of soft white cloth. This will do nicely. If you can get a good tiger-skin or a deer-skin, it is all the better. A tiger-skin has got its own advantages. It generates electricity in the body quickly and does not allow leakage of electric current from the body. It is full of magnetism.’
From “May I answer that” by Swami Sivananda (1987-1963) :
Our Sages and Tapasvins made use of tiger-skins or deer-skins for spiritual practises
Does it not amount to sinful violence to kill an animal or get it killed, particularly in the case of those who are out for spiritual advancement? Does it not sound suicidal for a hermit to sit all his life on the skin of a dead animal and aspire for deliverance or Mukti for himself?
Answers Swami Sivananda :
“The most important point to remember in connection with the use of deer-skin or tiger-skin as Asana or seat is that the animal is never killed for obtaining its skin. The deer was always a part of the ancient Ashrams of Sannyasins and Maharshis; and they should have found the skin of the deer, when it died its natural death, an easily procurable material for the Asana. To those living in dense jungles, therefore, deer-skin and the bark of trees should have been more easily and abundantly available than cloth.
Tiger-skins, too were procured in a similar way, though much less numerically, and that accounts for the wider use of the deer-skin as Asana. In fact, Mriga-charma is prescribed for Asana; and Mriga means deer. From the spiritual point of view, the sages found that doing Sadhana seated on a deer-skin
was highly conducive to Siddhi. The power generated in the body through Sadhana was preserved by the skin”.
Ghongadi Blankets as Effective Prayer Mats, and as a Good Substitute for Deer-Skin, Tiger-Skin of Ancient India :
These days since deers and tigers are endangered species on the planet, and even legitimately sourced deer-skins and tiger-skins are being suspiciously looked at, let’s use pure woolen blankets as advised by Gurudev Swami Sivananda Saraswathi, and if possible pure wool Ghongadi blankets, as prayer mats for all our spiritual and religious practises like Meditation,Yoga, Pranayama, Prayers, Japa, Pooja etc. etc.etc. etc.
This way, the tremendous energy generated in our body during spiritual practises will be absorbed and preserved in our body in the Subtle Astral Chakras, and this will help us in our spiritual progress and worldly material progress both, without the precious energy thus generated leaking out and dissipating, and going waste pathetically.