We know that as one of the oldest and largest cottage industries of the country, India’s eminent heritage handlooms enumerates the timeless traditions, absolute diverse cultures and splendid craftsmanship that have actually stood the test of time. Moreover from fabrics and weaving techniques to imparting styles and aesthetics, they are wholly praised universally for illustrating the country’s ingenuity and superlative expertise.
As rich guardians of the legacy, they are deemed to be integral that could understand their origins and evolution over the years. In addition, the Indus Valley Civilization is said to be the actual birthplace of handlooms in India and they are strongly backed by archaeological evidence wherein excavations of the sub-continent uncovered whorls which are used to spin cotton back in the day. Primarily the Vedic literature also recommends that the art of embroidery and dyeing wholly originated during this time and was regarded highly advanced preferred occupation.
After the settlement of Aryans, the craft was further rapidly developed, with the grand introduction of new spinning, weaving and dyeing techniques. It began from a household level craft loudly grew into a flourishing cottage industry, and it greatly gained eminence in the west. Also, the silk route experienced the trade of Indian silk, cotton and muslin in exchange for products like spices, numerous explorers and historians comprising Herodotus, Megasthenes and Marco Polo have appreciated these textiles in their beautiful works.
More with the advent of the Mughal dynasty in India, the splendid royal patronage for weavers and artisans rapidly grew multifold. It was under the reign that acumen creations like the Jamdani, Banarasi brocades, Mapchar and Mulmul were successfully brought to life. With the sing-song praises from Indian poets, the acumen expert craftsmanship of Indian weavers was being applauded across boundaries, as the delight for these great handlooms grew immensely in leaps and bounds. Thereby by the 17th century, 25% of the world’s textiles were being proudly produced in India.
During the British rule and the implementation of biased trade practices. The weavers were forced into selling only to the British at low rates and had huge taxes imposed which primarily lead to the downfall of the industry and huge poverty rates amongst the weavers. Moreover, the onset of the Industrial Revolution with mass-produced fabrics made matters worse. The outcome of the Swadeshi Movement during the freedom struggle set the process to revive the handloom sector and was greatly spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi amongst many others. In addition, the spinning wheel or chakra also became a symbol of absolute self-reliance, strong determination and great national pride.
The Government of India has been taking several steps to reinstate the handloom sector to its position of high prestige. The Khadi and Other Handloom Industries Development Act were passed to assist allocate funds and offer marketing support to the weavers. Similarly, numerous cooperatives and institutions were set up across the country with the key function of research and training support, respectively the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology All India Handloom Fabrics Marketing Cooperative Society, Weavers’ Service Centre and the National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC).
It is understood that a handloom is a loom that is primarily used to weave cloth without the use of any electricity. Moreover, hand weaving is performed on pit looms or frame looms usually located in weavers’ homes. Weaving is generally the interlacing of two sets of yarn the warp –length and the weft-width.
By promoting handloom exports, several welfare programs and schemes were set up for the weaving communities. Due credit also goes to many people who not only guarantee that they preserve indigenous crafts but also put them on the global map.
The Third Handloom Census conducted by India, nearly about 27.83 lakh households are primarily employed in weaving and allied activities and they are the second-largest rural economic industry after agriculture. Presently, the country has an inventory of over 2.4 million looms and India mostly constitutes 95% of the globe’s hand-woven fabric production.
We understood that Madurai is located in the textile valley of Tamil Nadu and qualitatively exports a lot of cotton around the globe. The fine quality of its cotton has greatly attracted a lot of foreign investments and its handlooms are familiar the world over. Primarily Madurai has been a textile hub of Tamil Nadu for many centuries and it has eminent streets that are lined with cloth shops whose textiles are professionally manufactured in Madurai.
Many products are exported from Madurai. Among which Madurai Sungudi is a popular cotton fabric of Madurai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is a splendid textile product traditionally, produced utilizing tie and dyed using natural dyes method by the Saurashtrians who were migrated to Madurai under the patronage of King Thirumalai Naicker during the 17th century. The fabric’s traditional familiarity use is as a saree; the fabric is now also primarily used to make shirts, salwars, shawls, handbags, bedsheets and pillowcases. More importantly, the product has been given protection under the GI registration act.
As the globe moves towards the era of modern fashion and conscious handlooms they take more prominence than ever before with minimal carbon footprint owing to many factors widely ranging from eco-friendly infrastructure to low power consumption. The good efforts and initiatives by the new-age designers, quality entrepreneurs integrating heritage crafts are leading the way for the handloom industry to flourish.
With the modern artistry of weavers, the handloom industry in India demonstrates the richness and diversity of popular Indian culture. More than 4.3 million people, directly and indirectly, are involved in the production, the handloom industry is regarded to be the second-largest employment provider for the rural population in India after the field of agriculture. It is enumerated that Indian handloom industry products are well known for their special designs. The familiar trend is to mix old designs with a new strategy of techniques and develop original products.
The industry has a good infrastructure with about 2.4 million looms of several varied designs and construction, pointing to mass production capacity. Handloom fabrics and handloom weavers purely form an integral part of the rich culture, superb heritage and great tradition of India.