The History and Evolution of Cotton as a Luxurious and Political Fibre
Cotton the miracle fibre which has been woven dyed and most widely used as a fabric for cloth today has a long history e of evolution. From the seeds of the cotton plant the fibre grows into a soft and fluffy ball which is turned into you asoothing fabric for making clothes, accessories, bedding and other things. The history of this magical fibre dates back to the Harappan civilization which gives us evidences of cotton cultivation in the subcontinent of modern Pakistan. The holy texts of the Rigveda written in 600 BC also features a series of poems on the usefulness of cotton. According to the Rigveda Prajapati, “The Lord of Creatures”is responsible for the age old caste division systemin India. According to him the caste of an individual determines weather he will be wearing an elaborately adorned cotton cloth or a plain one. In the writings of The Herodotus in 400 BC there is also mention about cotton as “…trees growing wild, which produce a kind of wool, better than sheep’s wool in beauty and quality, which the Indians use for making their clothes.”Later in the Gupta period circuit 200 AD the Indians sold cotton as a luxury commodity to the countries of the East and West. The Romans considered cotton as an expensive and luxurious fibre as silk which they bought from the Arabic traders, as mentioned in the chronicles of the great Roman philosopher, Pliny.
The origin of the word cotton is derived from the Arabic word “al-qutun”. With the establishment of an Islamic Empire in the late 600AD, cotton production spread further westward across the Middle East to Spain and North Africa. By 700 AD the Eastern Roman empire also started growing cotton although in other parts of Europe it was still a luxury item which was imported from the Islamic Empire. In the poor countries of West Asia and North Africa cotton became a more prevalent fabric for use. By1000 AD the Italian traders first brought cotton to Europe although it did not gain a profitable market at that time.Till the 15 century very little cotton cloth was imported to England. The Cotton clothes were mostly used for candle wicks. In the 1600s the European explorers discovered cotton plants grown and used by the Americans.In the 17th century, when the British colonises India, the East India Company started important rare quality cotton fabric from India. In 1793 a machine was invented during the Industrial Revolution to separate cotton fibre from the seeds. With the discovery of cotton gin the yield of cotton in America doubled in each decade after 1800s. Between 1815- 1859 Britain imported nearly 77% of American cotton and manufactured it into to cloth making fabric. However with the breaking out of the Civil War the American cotton market began to wane and Britain had to you depend on countries like India, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey as an alternative source for collecting raw material.
During the Civil Obedience Movement spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi innovative strategies were built for reviving traditional craftsmanship in cotton production. He inspired countrymen to boycott British cotton textile and encouraged Indians to use handwoven cotton cloth named “khadi“. Down the years khadihas become a premium brand for cotton fabricwith a global acclaim.
India produces one of the best quality cotton fabrics of the world with diversified manufacturing traditions and uses.Some varieties of cotton are manufactured using ancient reading skills while others are made with highly mechanized equipment and techniques. Whatever be the method of production, the cotton weavers of India take great pride in weaving this “miracle fibre” into exclusive finished products. They pass on their skills down the generations and carry forward the rich legacy of India.