With a sharp eye for the contemporary obsession with Eastern homeopathy, the weavers have dubbed their cloth "ayurvastra"referring to the ayurvedic principles on which production is based. After cleaning, the raw yarn is coated with a natural gum, and it's then soaked in medicinal dyes prepared with pomegranate, turmeric and indigo, among others. "The idea is that immunity levels are raised when using these medicinal textiles and the body reaches a certain mental and physical equilibrium," explains Rajan, a weaver sporting one of the society's simple, hand-woven tunics.
The success of ayurvastra would not only mean more income for Thumbod. It would also be a boon for nearby hill tribes, who could grow the plants required. India's coir industrywhich produces matting and mattresses from coconut fibermay also find a new market if weavers can be persuaded to work with coir as well as yarn. But for now, the weavers must be patient, and hope that the present trickle of buyers can be converted into steady orders. "[Ayurvastra] seems like the next logical step for us," says Satish, a weaver who has researched ayurvedic formulas. Let's hope that it really can make its wearers feel as good as they look.