Page 23 - Science India August 2022
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          The Indian patriotic leaders ob- served the unrestrained weakening of the Indian textile industry and in turn, the Indian economy. The Indian Na- tional Congress passed a resolution at its 7th Session in 1891 urging people to use only Indian goods and boycott imported ones and gave a clarion call for ‘Swadeshi’, or the use of Indian goods. With the partition of Bengal (1905), the movement reached its peak leading to the boycott of imported goods, particu- larly English cloth. In 1905, dhotis re- emerged in Bengal as a sign of incom- patibility of Indian and British interests. The movement gained momentum with Gandhi’s idea of Swaraj with his return to India from South Africa in 1915. He reintroduced hand spinning as Khadi, i.e., handspun and handwoven fabric, also known as khaddar, during British rule. Khadi played an important role as an agent of change and in giving birth to a unified India. Masses were encouraged to spin the yarn with charkhas (spin- ning wheels) and wear Khadi. It thus became a material to which people from diverse backgrounds could relate. The campaign to popularise this move- ment took many forms, including the organisation of exhibitions that demon- strated cloth production and sold Khadi goods. Khadi for Gandhi in a symbolic manner was the focal point of regen- eration and diversification of the rural economy. Britishers tried to curtail the
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Khadi movement but, the more it was
political and economic supremacy, the British were successful in crippling the controlled, the more powerful and wide-
Indian handloom industry by fixing the spread it became. People burnt imported
clothes and chose to wear Khadi, it be-
prices, high taxation, violence, innova- tion of powerlooms and strategic theft came a mass movement and for the first
of Indian motifs and designs, and by time, women came out of their homes to
join processions and picketing of shops
the end of 1813, Indian textiles had lost their domestic as well as foreign mar- selling foreign goods.
ket base. The weavers lost their liveli- CONCLUSION
hood due to unfair competition from cheap British made goods. However, The existence of the Indian textile in-
during the Indian Independence move- dustry dates back to the Indus-Saraswati
Civilization. In ancient and medieval
ment, Indian leaders promoted Khadi as a tool for India’s freedom struggle. times, India’s cotton, silk, linen and
Spinning and weaving were considered muslin fabric were exported to many
countries. It contributed a large share to
as a symbol of self-reliance. Ultimately, the Khadi movement galvanised the the economy of India. Till the end of the
post-World War recession of the British 18th century, India was the major sup-
plier of handloom textiles all over the
textile industry and the mills in Man- chester were closed, which was a huge world; however, such monopoly came to
turning point in India’s independence an end by the early 19th century. With
Above: A painting of the Cossimbazar Murshidabad Silk Factory of the East India Company
Left: A weaver at the loom weaving Muga silk, the golden silk exclusive to Assam and not produced anywhere else in the world
movement. The significance of the role of the handloom sector in the struggle of Indian independence can be understood by the fact that this age-old tradition of Indian handloom is celebrated on August 7 as Handloom Day to honour the country’s first Swadeshi movement, which began in 1905.
*The writer is a Professor at CRDT (Centre for Rural Develop- ment and Technology), IIT Delhi
Image Courtesy: shoestringtravel

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