Khadi: the Indian fabric with character

Khadi - more than a fabric for Indians

Khadi: the word and its meaning
‘Khadi’ (pronounced Khādī) or Khaddar means ‘cotton’ in Sanskrit. It refers to any kind of cloth that is spun or woven by hand. This natural fibre is found abundantly in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, started the Khadi movement in 1918 with a clear vision in mind. He wanted Indians to boycott foreign made clothes so that they could generate self-employment and become self-reliant.

Gandhiji led by example. He used the spinning wheel (charkha) to create cotton yarn from the natural fibre whenever he had some time to spare. His loincloth was made out of handspun cloth. His message spread like wildfire amongst the Indian people and this led to a nationwide movement.

Interesting facts
Gandhiji’s spinning wheel is displayed even today in the Sabarmati Ashram.

Initially, the Indian flag was supposed to have the charkha and not the Ashoka Chakra at its centre.

Even today the Indian tricolour continues to be made out of Khadi.

Khadi Day is celebrated on the 19 of September.

Gandhiji’s words
Gandhiji said, “Swaraj (self-rule) without Swadeshi (indigenous goods) is a lifeless corpse.” Khadi was the essence of the Swadeshi movement and the soul of Swaraj. It became a symbol of revolution and resistance. Khadi then slowly went on to gain an Indian identity.

Gandhiji’s vision
Gandhiji wanted every village to plant and harvest its own raw materials to produce the yarn. He wanted the people of each village to spin their own yarn from the raw material using the charkha (spinning wheel).

Khadi: the fabric
Earlier, Khadi was made from natural cotton fibre alone. But nowadays strands of silk or wool, too, are woven into the yarn to create a variety of blended Khadi fabrics like raw silk Khadi, Tussar silk, Matka Khadi, etc. Various modern techniques are used to produce, dye, embroider, and print these fabrics. The techniques differ from region to region.

Usually, Khadi is manufactured in two phases. First, the natural fibre is converted into yarn using the spinning wheel. This yarn is then woven into fabric using looms. The fabric is dyed and strengthened to get the finished product.

The uniqueness of Khadi lies in its coarseness and in those tiny weaving errors that these talented artisans make. This gives that exclusive touch to the fabric, which enhances the appeal of the fabric. Khadi crumples easily so it is starched to give it a stiff and crisp feel.

A collection of khadi silk materials stacked – khadi is handspun, handwoven, and a fabric that breathes

Benefits of wearing Khadi
Comfortable/versatile: Khadi keeps us warm in winters and cool in summers. It can be worn comfortably all through the year.

Skin-friendly: Unlike other blended fabrics, Khadi does not cause any skin allergies or irritation.

Unique: The strands of yarn used to create Khadi cloth are combined in a unique manner. The air freely permeates through these strands keeping us cool in summers and warm in winters.

Durable: Khadi is durable. It can be washed often and used frequently. In fact, it looks and feels better with each wash.

Eco-friendly: Khadi looms are operated manually by expert craftsmen, who do not rely on any electric units to manufacture them. Therefore, Khadi is an eco-friendly garment that reduces our carbon footprint.

Khadi: in vogue now
Over decades, Khadi has created a name for itself in the contemporary world of fashion. Garments are styled and designed in a multitude of colours to create glamorous clothes for fashion-conscious people. It is undoubtedly a showstopper on the runways of the fashion world.

The future of Khadi
Today millions of rural Indian men and women are employed in cottage industries that make Khadi products. Exquisite ethnic fabrics, textures, and designs are hand-spun using a variety of blended yarns on spinning wheels.

Khadi cotton and silk are now being used to make salwar kameez sets, tops, shirts, trousers, skirts, dupattas, vests, jackets and handkerchiefs too. Khadi has now ventured into the space of handicrafts, shoes, soaps and home décor items also.

In fact, Khadi products are now in great demand so much so that the demand far exceeds the supply. To meet the ever-increasing demand for Khadi products, multi-spindle charkhas are used instead of single spindle charkhas.

Government support
Khadi is widely promoted by the Government of India. Khadi and Village Industries Commission and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium enterprises do their best to promote Khadi and Khadi products at a global level.

Several Indian states have set up boards and cooperative societies to promote the production and sales of Khadi products. Several premier institutes are working zealously to improve the techniques of making Khadi.

Khadi has been a part of our freedom struggle. It has an identity – a mind, a body and a soul of its own. It represents the spirit of our weavers who toil all through the day with limitless patience to infuse their talent and passion into the fabric called Khadi. For Indians, Khadi will always be more than just a fabric.

This article has been created and written by Brinda Rajkumar Shah for India Beckons.


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