Indian Handloom dates back to the Indus Valley civilisation. Even in ancient times, Indian fabrics were exported to Rome, Egypt and China. India was home to fabric that were handwoven so fine that they could pass through a ring!
So it is no surprise that almost every state in India has its own unique handloom weave.
No country in the world can boast such a rich and varied textile culture. 95% of the world's handwoven textiles already come from India alone.
Despite the variety and range of handloom textiles, a lot of stereotypes are attached to it. People often think that handloom is only cotton fabric, or some think it's only for women, some even think that handloom is dull looking, or something thick like khadi fabric.
Most of the cotton fabric we wear today is mill-made, so not all cotton fabric is Handloom fabric. However handloom fabric is not just cotton, it can be made in wool, silk, linen and any other fiber as long as it is made on the loom manually by a weaver and no other external source of energy or electricity is used. And hence the term, 'handloom'.
Khadi is when the yarn is also hand spun on a charkha, whereas in handloom that need not be the case.
For all the earth lovers, it's also naturally eco - friendly. No oil guzzling machines are used to make handloom fabrics. Moreover, as handloom is majorly created with natural fabrics it allows your skin to breathe and is great for the Indian climate.
Up to date Handloom is the second largest income source after agriculture in India.
As per the Handloom Census of 2019-2020, the total number of handlooms in India is pegged to be at 26,73,891 and the total number of looms in India to be at 28.2 lakh. It is interesting to note that 72% of handloom weavers are female. There are over 43 lakh weavers and allied workers employed in the Indian handloom industry alone.
However, we must note that the handloom sector is one of the largest unorganized economic activities and even though it constitutes an integral part of rural and semi-rural livelihood, many artisans do not get covered in such censuses. Even today so many artisans do not have artisan cards, with which they can take benefit of many schemes offered by the government of India.
It is high time we play to our nation's strength, and not only adopt handlooms as and where possible in our daily life but also work towards making it a national asset just like Yoga.
The “Indian Handloom Brand” was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on the occasion of the first Handloom Day on 7th August 2015, to endorse the quality of the products in terms of raw material, processing, weaving and other parameters besides social and environmental compliances for earning the trust of customers.
Each one of us can play a crucial role to change the reality of the lives of millions of artisans residing in our motherland. You can craft a better world, by voting with your wallet and choosing Indian Handloom as a conscious choice. You can start by replacing one item in your shopping list and search for a handloom alternative instead, look out for those small craft melas in your city and pick up stuff directly from them. In the next article we will talk about the best places for you to buy authentic Indian handlooms, stay tuned.