Indian Weavers by Sarojini Naidu

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Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to chapter 4 (poetry) “Indian Weavers” by Sarojini Naidu which is a part of Class 12 Alternative English syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).

Indian weavers

Summary: “Indian Weavers” is a short poem in three stanzas of four lines each found in The Golden Threshold’s “Folk Songs” section. In each stanza, the first two lines pose a question, which is answered in the following two lines. In the poem, the poetess had presented a symbolic portrayal of man’s journey from birth to death in twelve lines. 

The weavers are the Fates of Greek mythology who weave the web of existence, or the Lords of Man’s Destiny—Braham, Vishnu, and Mahesh—who create and renew via Death itself. Their creative process is as limitless as the weavers’ weaving from sunrise tonight. The poetess witnesses some weavers sewing a bright and beautiful cloth early in the morning and inquires as to why they are weaving such a cheerful cloth. The weavers respond that they are weaving it for a newborn baby’s outfit. That is why the cloth they weave is blue, as blue as a Kingfisher’s wing. The dawn of daybreak represents the beginning of life, the birth of new life, and blue represents the depth and colour of the ocean, from which the white swan and white Lotus emerge in Hindu creation myths. It too came into this world, as did the newborn. The newborn infant is an expression of Brahma, the supreme creator’s creative abilities and joy. As a result, it is fitting that the robe is woven for him to be blue in colour, cheerful and bright.

Sarojini Naidu discovers the weavers creating a bright and multi-coloured textile at midnight and asks them for whom they are weaving a cloth of such diverse colours. The weavers inform her that they are weaving a purple and green cloth, gorgeous and colourful like peacock feathers, for a Queen’s bridal gown. Purple and green are the colours of blood and sap (the green fluid found in the veins of trees and plants), respectively, and are hence associated with fertility and growth. The feathers of the peacock reflect the multicoloured splendour of existence, as well as its perennial beat, the dance of being. Radha, the perpetual bride, wears the colourful robes made to resemble a Queen’s marriage veils. 

The poetess discovers the weavers still at work in the frigid moonlight. They are suddenly deafeningly quiet, and their demeanour is solemn. They are now sewing a white cloth as white as a bird’s feather or a cloud, and in response to the poetess’ question, they respond briefly that they are creating it for a deceased man’s funeral shroud. Moonlit nights are symbolic of death, and it is only natural that the shroud is white, since white is a symbol of purity, oneness, and possibility. Death represents a reunion with the eternal as well as the prospect of regeneration. Thus, the poetess has chronicled human life through the three most essential stages that it goes through birth, marriage, and death. The texture is metaphorical, but the poetess has managed to keep the folk song’s simplicity. 

Answer the following questions briefly.

1. What is the similarity between death and moonlight chill?

Answer: Death and moonlight chill are similar in that, just as the moonlight chill is serene, quiet, lifeless, and emotionless, a person who is dead will feel neither. The moonlit chill night is cold, greyish, and peaceful in the same way that a dead person is pale, unmoving, and quiet.

2. Colours reflect moods. Give some examples from the poem to illustrate this.

Answer: The poem “Indian Weavers” paints a striking picture of the usage of colours to depict the age of life. The first lyric describes weavers making clothing in the colour “Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,” which represents loyalty, happiness, charm, beauty, and preciousness. In the stanza, the weavers make a robe that is “as vivid as peacock feathers, purple and green,” evoking the mood of romantic love, the yearning for a better life, and the pursuit of fortune. Weavers create something “white as a feather and write as a cloud” in the third stanza, representing sorrow, grief, quiet, and lifelessness.

3. What are the stages of life depicted in the poem?

Answer: Sarojini Naidu’s poetry uses colour in a very beautiful way braided by weavers to represent the different stages of life. The first stanza depicts youth through the hue of halcyon wild’s blue, which is full of beauty and life. The rich colours of the peacock feathers, purple and green, in the second stanza represent the age of adulthood. Man finds love, fortune, and the desire for a better life here. The third verse depicts man’s final escape through the weavers weaving a cloth that is as white as a feather and as white as a cloud. There is sadness, quietness, colourlessness, and deathlessness.

4. Identify any two literary devices used in the poem.

Answer: Sarojini Naidu employs a poetic element known as symbolism. The two literary devices used in the poem ‘Indian Weavers’ are the blue garments, which are similar to the colour of the wings of a halcyon wild, representing a young age full of charm and life, and the bright colours of purple and green, which are similar to the feathers of a peacock, representing an individual’s youthful life, where he finds romantic love and prosperity.

Explain the following lines with reference to the context.

1. Weavers, weaving at fall of night,
Why do you weave a garment so bright?

a. What time of the day is it?

Answer: In the context of Sarojini Naidu’s poem “Indian Weaver,” the poetess is alluding to the evening or dusk hour when the sun sets and darkness descends. It is also the period of the year when the majority of Indian marriages take place. The poetess is referring to the period of one’s life when one finds love and prosperity and pursues their life’s goals.

b. Why are the weavers making a bright garment?

Answer: The Weavers are creating a bright outfit that is as bright as peacock feathers, purple and green, suggesting that the young lovers have gained a romantic love mood. Their lives have matured and are pretty active. The interconnection and layers of colours portrayed in the feather also signify challenges and the pursuit of pleasure, as well as the ups and downs of adult life.

c. What is the brightness of the garment compared to? 

Answer: The garment’s brightness is compared to the adult phase of one’s life, where he or she is full of vitality, seeking happiness and contentment in one’s quest. The bright colour also represents a person’s energy, which reflects on others the fervour and drives to attain one’s goals, earn prosperity, and love. Individuals struggle and discover happiness shining through the ups and downs of life, much like the colours heaped atop the feathers of a peacock. An adult human, like the colours trying to outshine one another, uses his entire capacity to seek out and find the solution to his quest for happiness.

2. Weavers, weaving solemn and still,
What do you weave in the moonlight chill?…
White as a feather and white as a cloud,
We weave a dead man’s funeral shroud.

a. What does the poet ask the weavers?

Answer: The poet asks the weavers, “What do you weave in the moonlight chill?” The colourless robe, according to the poet, reflects the lifeless and quiet verse of life in which one’s body is no longer overflowing with energy or charm. She inquired as to why they were bothering to weave at such a time, but perhaps she is attempting to demonstrate that death is unavoidable and that no man can outlive it.

b. What is the correlation between moonlight chill and a dead man’s funeral shroud?

Answer: In this context, the relationship between moonlight chill and a dead man’s funeral is that like the uncomfortable cold under the moonlight, a funeral is a melancholy occasion in which everything is peaceful, sorrowful, lifeless, and emotionally painful. The irony is that the colour white represents purity and tranquilly, and a deceased person no longer feels the anguish of the world; he is removed from the battles and horrors of the physical world and is finally sleeping in peace. The context “White as a feather and white as a cloud” depicts the colourlessness and peacefulness of one’s stage of life, in which those attending the funeral are sad and in mourning, whilst the dead rejoices in peace and purity. This context provides us with a glimpse of two parallel universes coexisting at the same moment.

c. What is the shroud compared to by the weavers?

Answer: According to the weavers in the poem, the shroud, which is a thin white cloth, represents the end of one’s life and will be placed on the dead body of a person. The weaving of the shroud expresses sorrow and anguish as they weave for an individual’s death rituals. It also illustrates the loss of all the colours and the presence of only one white, implying that emotions are linked to life and that when the person dies, the feelings vanish as well. The weavers express the final leaving of man’s life through the shroud, which depicts the emotionless, cold, quiet, and melancholy exit, away from the colours of life and emotions. The colourless fabric, like a sombre funeral procession, foretells the end of all worldly things, including emotions, afflictions, and difficulties.

Answer the following questions in detail.

1. How does the poet use the work of the Indian weavers to explain the cycle of life and death?

Answer: Sarojini Naidu employs in the poem “Indian Weavers” a variety of poetic elements, such as symbolism and imagery, to highlight the fundamental subject, which is marked by sorrow and joy. She utilises weavers’ images to represent the whole cycle of life from birth to death through the clothes and colours weaved from one stage to the next, employing symbolism and hidden messages concealed beneath colours, time of day, and figures. 

The first stanza is about weavers manufacturing blue clothing, and when the poetess asks why, they say it’s to be worn by newborns, which represents someone’s childhood. Their clothes are produced early in the morning, a symbol of a bright life in which the sun’s rays wash away the sadness of darkness and where happiness is all that surrounds them. The weavers in the second stanza are depicted creating clothing that is vivid and purple and green in colour. Depicting a person’s adolescent life, in which many people marry and start a family. The poetess chose to blend the colours to depict both their grief and their joys as they struggle and achieve their aims. Symbolizing the second stage of man’s life, when the intellect is open to the world’s difficulties. The final verse represents calmness by depicting weavers weaving at night a gown white as a feather and cloud, which is worn by a dead man during his funeral. This depicts the final stage of life, death.

2 Explain how colours have been used in the poem to describe moods.

Answer: Sarojini Naidu, the poetess, utilised colours in her poem “Indian Weavers” to depict and convey the moods of many stages of life, from birth to death, replete with joy and delight as well as challenges and pains.

In the opening verse, the poetess describes weavers creating a blue-coloured robe resembling the wings of a halcyon bird, which depicts an individual’s earliest stage of happiness and gladness. The second stanza describes weavers weaving garments that are vivid and purple and green in colour, similar to peacock feathers. The colours indicated the adult life of a person full of energy and potential, eager to find their path to the goal of happiness. The colour intermixing also signifies the stage of adult life, which is full of hardships and joys as he seeks to fulfil his thirst for success and joy, finds love, and begins a new family. In the third stanza, the poetess speaks of weavers sewing a white gown to symbolise tranquilly and the fading of all other colours. It depicts the end of life, when everything is peaceful and calm, as well as the end of miseries and the approach of death.

Think and discuss.

1. The poet associates the morning with birth, the time of sunset with marriage and night with death. Do you agree with these associations? Justify your opinion.

Answer: Sarojini Naidu equates the dawn with birth, the time of sunset with marriage, and the night with death in the poem to represent the transition of the day with the various stages of life. At dawn, the weavers begin weaving a gown for a newborn baby. Symbolizes the early years of a man’s existence. The association of this imagery is that, just as a sunrise marks the start of a day, the birth of a child signifies the start of life. The Weavers are seen creating a robe for the marriage veils again with the fall of night, symbolising the grownup stage. The sunset is associated with marriage since dusk is the peak period for most Indian marriages, and adulthood is a primary stage of fulfilment of hopes and aspirations. The relation of the night with death symbolically refers to the short life span of all human beings, which passes away as quickly as the short period of the day. All of these clearly demonstrates how different times of the day correspond to different stages of human life.

2 Sarojini Naidu was a staunch nationalist in the pre-independence era. Her poems give importance to ordinary Indians. Why do you think a poem on Indian weavers would be relevant in a period when India was coming out of British rule?

Answer: The poem “Indian Weavers” is a tribute to all of the Weavers across the country that labour tirelessly day and night to weave fabrics for various events. The poem is the result of a conversation between a group of Indian Weavers and the author herself. It is particularly symbolic of the various stages of human existence, such as birth, marriage, and death. She has employed literary methods such as metaphor, simile, and imagery to emphasise the significance of the poem’s issue – the human life cycle. On the other side, we observe components of nationalism and its connection to the liberation fight and the pre-independence era. It is a thought-provoking poem in which Sarojini Naidu vividly conveys the plight of the working class and labourers in various parts of the country.

The use of colours, iconography, animals, and materials conveys a great deal about Indian culture. Birds such as the halcyon and the peacock, the national bird, exhibit a strong sense of nationalism. It is physically demanding work in which they are paid less and experience enormous hardship, exploitation, and discrimination. As a result, we might deduce that Sarojini Naidu’s poem “Indian Weavers” refers to the pre-independence era of British control in India.

Appreciating the text.

Q. How does Sarojini Naidu use the imagery in the poem? Explain using examples from the poem.

Answer: The use of vivid, detailed language to portray objects, actions, and thoughts in a way that appeals to the senses is referred to as imagery. Sarojini Naidu’s poem contains a lot of imagery that depicts the passage of time from dawn to dark. She’s also employed colour imagery to describe different periods of life. The cloth in the first stanza is gay and colourful for the birth of a child, which provides joy to everyone. The cloth in the second stanza is as dazzling as the plumes of a peacock, signifying life’s colour and splendour in youth. In the final verse, she employs the imagery of white to represent the end of a man’s life. Visual depictions include ‘wings of a halcyon,’ ‘wings of a peacock, ‘marriage-veils of a queen,’ and a ‘dead man’s burial shroud.’

Additional/extra questions and answers

1. What are the three events mentioned in the poem? What are the three stages of human life that these events represent?

Answer: The three events mentioned in the poem Indian Weavers are birth, marriage, and death. These events represent the three stages of human life: childhood, youth, and old age.

2. What are the weavers weaving in the morning?

Answer: The weavers are weaving a blue garment for a newborn baby at dawn.

3. What is the parallel between the end of the day and the birth of a child?

Answer: The similarities between the start of the day and the birth of a newborn are that both represent a new beginning.

4. To what do the weavers relate the garments they weave?

Answer: Weavers compare the robes of a newborn child to the wings of a halcyon bird, a queen’s bridal veil to the feathers of a peacock, and a dead man’s funeral shroud to white feather and cloud.

5. Why are the weavers so solemn at night?

Answer: The weavers are solemn at night while they weave a dead man’s shroud.

6. Describe the clothing that the weavers weave at night.

Answer: The weavers create a bright and colourful outfit like a peacock’s plumes. They make a queen’s wedding veil.

7. Describe the mood of the weavers from sunrise to twilight. Does this have anything to do with the clothes they’re making?

Answer: The weavers are cheerful in the morning, lively and enthusiastic in the afternoon, yet serious and tranquil at night. Their mood reflects the garment they are weaving as well as the person for whom they are weaving.

8. What message does the poem convey?

Answer: Weavers work continually from morning to night, and their mood influences the quality of their work. The poet has related the stages of man’s life to the garments woven by weavers at various times of the day.

9. When do the weavers make the queen’s cloth?

Answer: At night, the weavers weave cloth for the queen.

10. Do you believe there is a specific reason why the queen’s marriage veils were made in purple?

Answer: The purple dye came from the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, and the fabric traders got it from a little mollusc found exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea. More than 9000 molluscs were required to produce one gram of purple. As a result, only wealthy kings could afford to purchase and wear purple, and the colour came to be associated with them. Furthermore, the colour purple symbolises religion because ancient emperors who wore it were generally regarded as Gods or offspring of God. It is still used as a ceremonial colour by monarchs in Europe on certain occasions.

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