Khadi, the handspun handwoven fabric of India, was there from time immemorial and became an integral part of Indian culture and history. The tradition that had started in cotton growing areas eventually became integral part of Indian civilisation. By the end of the medieval age, it flourished into a huge industry with major weaving clusters across the nation employing thousands and producing the best quality fabrics in the world. Brightest among these clusters were located in the Eastern part of India, particularly in Bengal. The clusters of Bengal was famous primarily for variety and quality of cotton fabrics. The legendary Muslin, which was produced in Dhaka and some other smaller centres, became one of the most sought after fabrics of the world, particularly among the elites.
In pre-industrial era Khadi was the dominant fabric in India. It was also a major export from the European colonial establishments in Bengal and other parts of India. After industrial revolution, the East India Company, which transformed itself from trading company into colonial ruler of India, destroyed the handloom industry of Bengal by force and flooded India with cheaper power loom products from Manchester sending the Khadi industry into oblivion. Yet, tradition survived in a few small pockets and weaving families.
The forgotten art came to limelight again during the Indian freedom movement when Gandhiji started promoting Khadi for rural self employment and as a symbol of self reliance and soon it became an integral part of the freedom movement and national identity. Quality of the fabrics, however, were far inferior than that in its bygone era. After independence, Government of India and many state governments started taking initiative to promote and support the Khadi industry. As a result, the great weaving tradition has now regained its lost glory to a great extent. It is now widely recognised for its quality and uniqueness even in the fashion world.
Most of the fabrics available these days as Khadi are actually hand woven products with mill spun materials. A genuine Khadi is always hand spun and hand woven and thus each one has its own uniqueness. It involves lot of time and labour of trained craftsmen. Thus, a genuine Khadi is always costlier than the mill spun variety.
The saree I draped here is a butterly soft 200 count genuine Muslin Khadi masterpiece with floral motifs all over the body woven in traditional Jamdani style by the master artisans of Bengal Jamdani traditions. It’s a genuine collector’s item with a bit high price tag. It exudes a classy elegance that stands out in a crowd. I collected this art of work some time back from a very reputed boutique after quite a lot of search and all. I draped this on the 73rd Independence Day of india to pay my tribute to the idea of self reliance, dignity and inclusiveness that great Khadi stands for.