Indian textile is one of the most primitive in the world. India’s textiles are rooted in every aspect of the country’s identity. The dawning of Indian textiles can be uncovered to the Indus valley civilization around the early 5th millennium BC. The culture, heritage, and magnificent design works are represented through clothes. The rich natural resources and the handwoven designs from the Indian artists make Indian textile one of a kind. Global trade systems were formed on the export of Indian fabrics, and it continues to shape India even today. Textile and clothing have always played a dominant role in the trade and business of India. Even abroad, in countries like Rome, China, Greece, and Egypt everywhere traces have been found of Indian fabric. 

Clothes have always been intrinsic to mankind's identity. During the Vedic times (5000 BC) clothing was seen as a power-changing mechanism towards the global scenario of freedom of India. Khadi, also known as Khaddar, a hand-woven natural fabric, became the 'fabric of Indian independence'. The idea was that what we wear is supreme in our society. 

The Origin and History of Khadi Fabric

Originated in 5000 BC, Khadi is not just seen as a type of fabric, rather as a movement by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern 'Khadi'. In the 1700s the British along with the Industrial Revolution banned the production of all cotton fabrics in India. As a result, millions of artists, spinners, and weavers were left unemployed to die of hunger. 

During the pre-independence time (1920) the era of Khadi fabric manufacturing began to flourish under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi represented the fabric as a symbol of nationalism, equality, unity, non-violence, and self-reliance. The spinning of Khadi fabric with the Charkha, which means “wheel” is also the heart of the Indian Flag and was weaved by spinners and specialist weavers to project the Khadi Spirit of the Indians.

Swadeshi Movement- the origin of hand-spun Khadi fabric

Khadi emerged as an effective and mighty symbol of the freedom struggle during the onset of the Swadeshi movement of 1918. Due to its connection with Mahatma Gandhi and the crucial role that he played in elevating the fabric to the status of a national cloth. During India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi gathered money from different sections of the society to create a grass-root organisation to prioritize and encourage handloom weaving and provide employment to the weavers of India. This was called the revolutionary ‘khaddar’ or ‘Khadi’ movement. This movement promoted a socio-cultural narrative that called upon Indians to be self-sustaining on homegrown cotton and be free from clothes produced by foreign manufacturers. Gandhi also encouraged spinning with a Charkha and promoted khadi for rural self-employment. The key to Khadi becoming a successful tool for the freedom struggle lies in its uniqueness and its distinctive qualities. It thus became a material to which people from different backgrounds could relate. In other words, 'khadi was the material embodiment of an ideal' that represented freedom from colonialism on the one hand and a feeling of homegrown self-supporting and economic self-sufficiency on the other. 

Significance of the Fabric

Khadi is observed as the fabric of freedom fighters and the rural weavers. Gandhi idealized the concept of khadi as a means to provide employment to the unemployed rural population. The fabric holds national importance since the Indian flag is also made from khadi.

Khadi came across as the Nation’s fabric breaking the shackles of the British rule by planting the values that had been an integral part of the country’s identity towards the virtue of being independent.

Picture Source: The Business Standard