Much before mill-made yarn and fabric was invented, handspinning and handweaving, was the only way to make cloth. Since ancient times, so evolved was this skill and technology, and so evocative its product- that it helped create and internationally position the demand for rare qualities of textiles, which, although unique to India, found resonance all over the world. Towards the end of the 19th century, when mill-spun fabric was fast-replacing handloom fabric, mill-spun yarn also replaced hand-spun yarn in hand weaving- marginalizing, in the process, hand-spinning and the dexterous abilities of the hand to do what no machine can ever do- manufacture differences in every millimeter of the yarn, and every inch of the yardage.
Colonial rule hit us where we were most prosperous- our textile trade, causing irrepairable damage to Indian hand-skills, and mass-scale poverty. Mahatma Gandhi made khadi the tool to fight that very same oppressive rule and its impact. It was this unique combination of the economic, social and political that made khadi the all-encompassing, powerful tool it was to become- an effective means of communication, of expressing a unified identity, a symbol of pride, and of hardcore economics.
Never before has any single fabric created such a public and private memory as khadi…
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