Talagune, the famed village for Dumbara handloom textiles, is a sleepy little village in Gandeka Korale in the present Udadumbara electorate surrounded by Alokalakanda, Dumbulemada Kanda, Ellegalakanda and Kurumudunegala Kanda on all sides.
A descendant from an ancient handloom weaving /manufacturing family, namely Yakdesselege Dayawathie, won a prestigious golden award in 2006 for her exhibit at an all-island exhibition to bring glory to the village.
The village water supply is from Ellegala Oya, Kerela Oya and Meethota Oya – perenial water resources. Campbell Lawrie in his report says that three fourths of the paddy fields in this village is cultivated during the Maha season and one fourth in the Yala season.
They live on a hand to mouth existence throughout the year. Yet they are an happy and contented lot, cut off from the hustland bustle of the modern day cosmopolitan life. History records that Buwanekabahu I, who ruled at Dambadeniya and Yapahuwa from 1272-1284 AD, founded the village and the present day inhabitants of the village are said to be descended from that household.
The king, who traded with Egypt, informed his counterpart, that he had twenty seven palaces. He would have had his main palace in Talagune.
Lawrie in his report says that people who live in this village grew cotton and made clothes out of them. He has identified three families who thrived on this craft. They are Pussekumburege, Yakdesselege and Wagalawattege. The story I unveil is about a descendent from one of these families who won the golden award for the All Island National Handloom Ransalu Exhibition held at the BMICH from December 19-21, 2006. Let me conclude the past history of the village before I get on to the present plight of this entrepreneur from the village. Talagune people joined the 1818 Uva Rebellion against the British Raj. One notable character was Talagune Wannaku Nilame from the village, who was banished to Mauritius charged for treason after all his properties were confiscated. He died of cholera on 15-12-1819. In the aftermath, people fled for safety having abandoned the village.
Having given a brief description on the background of this historical village, let me come back to narrate the problems faced by these enterprising handloom weavers of today.
Yakdesselege Dayawathie, a descendent from a family that thrived on the cloth industry from the time of ancient kings, as mentioned in the introduction to this article, was a small scale weaver who eked out a parlous living from her paltry earnings. She had no one to assist her financially and give her guidance on the modern techniques of manufacture for the competitive market.
Her attempts to raise capital failed due to her inability to find collateral. She failed to infuse finance or new technical know-how to her venture.
Her products were transported from Talagune to Colombo, where a reputed handloom business firm bought them. She bought whatever items produce from her earnings and also receive in return new ideas on production and finish from her buyers. This nexus went on for years until she finally met officials of the EDB Kandy branch, Department of Textiles and Ministry of Handloom Textile Ministry. These officials gave her an exposure to the modern market by offering her trade stalls in their routine exhibitions. She was able to get a glimpse of what was going on in the trade outside her village, and gained new insights in improving the trade to meet modern market requirements.
Through the Kandy branch of the EDB, she was able to obtain a substantial donation from IDEAS - Initiatives in Development of Entrepreneur Approaches and Strategies. The organization headed by a Management Consultant and one time international Civil Servant Laith Godamunne, who has been an immense help to people like her. Today Yakdesselege Dayawathie is the proud owner of Lakdana Handloom Textile Ltd.