India is an exceptional country where textile production was given priority by many eminent National leaders and persons of eminence. The tradition of patronizing the textile started during the age of Maharajas, Badsahs and Nawabs who patronized textile for the style since they desired that dresses of royalty and nobles should be different from commoners. But there were also kings who wanted to make their subjects happy by implementing various rural development programs, textiles playing a vital role.
The Kings of ancient Assam both from Pragjyotrshpur as well as ruler belonging to the Ahom dynasty encouraged eri, muga, mulberry silk besides cotton and Ramie textile production by providing various fiscal benefits like tax concessions, etc. Tipu sultan, the great patriot Nawab of Mysore introduced Sericulture and silk manufacture as part of the rural development program in his territory. Fact that Karnataka is the leading silk producing state in our country is because of the foundation laid by the great Tipu Sultan.
British rule caused decay in textile production in India they resorted to various means legal, political, physical, etc., to stop production of Indian textile to enable their Manchester fabrics to get market in India.
Mahatma Gandhi understood this aspect very well and attempted to revive hand spinning and hand weaving as a part of the freedom struggle. He revised the spinning wheel or Charkha in the year 1920 AD and worked hard to improve its productivity. All India Charkha Sangh was formed to take care of this activity. Perhaps never in world history, an innocent-looking spinning wheel could become a powerful weapon to achieve freedom of a country from the yoke of imperialist as powerful as British. Mahatma Gandhi’s dream continued after independence as Khadi became part of development activity.
Mahatma Gandhi’s army was no less. He had with him Acharya J.B. Kripalani who organized large scale Khadi production in Northern states. Dr. P.C. Ghosh jointly with Dr. Nripen Bose and Dr. Suresh Banerjee organized it in undivided Bengal. In Orissa, it was Niranjan Pattnaik of Berhampore besides of course the great Chowdhary brothers (Gopabandhu and Nabakrushna) and Acharya Harihara Dash. The latest being revolutionary turned Gandhian Pannalal Dasgupta. There are many whose names can be written with golden letters.
Chakraborty Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India deviated from Gandhiji’s concept and encouraged the use of mill yarn instead of hand spinning perhaps looking at the interest of textile barons. Rabindra Nath Tagore thought of the value addition of textile produce in our cottage to give greater leverage to marketability. His dream child Viswabharti continues with this silent revolution.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose founded the organization with Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Dash in Calcutta for the same purpose. The organization “Dakshin Kalikata Sevak Samiti” was later headed by Netaji and Anil Chandra Biswas as Secretary. It continued with the program of textile spinning and weaving for several years. When Netaji was kept interm in Mandalaya jail in the year 1926 AD, Anil babu sought his guidance in cloth production. From Mandalaya jail Netaji Subhas responded vide his letter dated 12.2.26 responded appreciating additional profit earned by the Samiti by producing hand spun and handwoven fabrics.
He expressed his anxiety about the availability of raw material for such textile products. He requested Anil Babu to contact Sri Satish Ch. Bose, elder brother of Netaji regarding the cultivation of cotton in Bengal considering Satish Babu’s experience. He also suggested the extraction of cottonseed oil to ensure additional income for farmers. In another letter dated 9/7/26 to Anil Babu, he expressed his anxiety over the shortage of yarn. He suggested a number of Charkhas should be increased to meet this crisis and raw material banks should be increased to meet this crisis and the raw material banks should be built up as part of long term planning.
To meet immediate crisis he suggested mill yarn be used as warp and for that matter Bangaluxmi Cotton Mills be contacted. He also expressed his desire to collaborate with Abhoy Ashram and Khadi Pratisthan. He felt cotton be cultivated around orphanages by which not only Orphanages shall be benefitted but ensure raw materials for spinners. He suggested what should be the appropriate constitution of a voluntary organization doing such noble work. He also suggested organizing a Museum for the Bengals home industry which shall not only serve the purpose of publicity but also shall suggest a future program. There is a suggestion about developing the marketing of Khadi and cottage industries products in the said letter.
Jawahar Lal Nehru, himself a great scholar has not only highlighted the wonderful Dhaka muslin in his books but he was also a catalyst for the growth of Khadi and Cottage industries after independence. Smt. Indira Gandhi developed this sector through her 20 point program. Marxist leaders realized the importance of this sector later but they took over fast to spread economic development through Panchayats. Sri U.N. Dhebar, Sri Vaikuntha Bhai Mehta, Sri Pranlal Kapadia, and Sri P.V. Narashimha Rao were born with Khadi.
Textile production in India is basically an ongoing process that continues to spread aroma with the rhythm of poetry. Even British rulers with all their might and power during their hay day could not draw the concluding chapter in spite of the enactment of Calico Act, torture on weavers and various administrative actions. It had temporary setbacks but came back to its glory soon after. In fact, it had basic inherent strength to mobilize a movement to drive British rulers our of India. There are threats existing even today with our own capitalists and above all the proposed Dunkels drafts. But the strength it has, it is certain that the crises shall be averted easily.
Perhaps no other country in the world has so many varieties of textiles that Indian traditional textiles give us. It gives finest and coarser cloth, fabrics of various designs using various types of raw material from cotton, various vegetable fibers to wool and silk. Today India is the only country that gives all four types of silk viz. Eri, tussar, muga, and mulberry. Weavers, dyers, printers in India are producing new designs every day to make the Indian textile industry un-ending.