The most widely used fiber in the world today is cotton. It has been spun, woven and dyed in various forms since ancient times. It grows in a form of boll around the seeds of the plant. It is soft and fluffy and therefore it is being used in both fashion industry and home furnishings.India has a unique background in agriculture and cotton production. Cotton is one of the principal crops of India and it is also considered as a crucial raw material for domestic textile industry. Today, it is the second largest cotton producing country in the world. The cotton industry has provided a substantial amount of employment in the country and has played a significant role in growing the country’s economy. Out of the 1.3 billion total population of India, the cotton industry is currently providing at least 51 million people employed directly and more than 60 million indirectly. Both men and women are actively involved in this industry (Figure 1). After agriculture, the largest employing industry is the cotton industry and it has become an important sector to export earning by giving a credit of 11- 14 percent of the total export.The history of the establishment of the Indian cotton industry had a rich and a strong past. The Mughal ruled in India from the early 16th century till18th century. During the Mughal rule, cotton production in terms of both raw cotton and cotton textiles increased. The Mughals helped to trade with the foreign lands and especially with the European countries. But the English set up initial serviceable industries, which helped India to open its eye to a whole new era of high technology.It is believe that it is one of the most important and impactful phases of India to grown its current economy and trade indirectly was the establishment of the East India Company trade (established in 1612), the British rule over India (1858 and 1947) and the Non-cooperation movement by Mahatama Gandhi and his followers (1920). It is therefore enthralling to learn about the role of cotton production and changes in handicraft from 1920 onwards. The secondary research draws on the interdisciplinary research and sources such as online history books, economics, documents and documentaries, articles. While primary research are from market research, television broadcast, movies. Since I am away from my country for my higher studies, I am incapable to use direct offline resources for my research.
It is seen that fragments of cotton were found by scientists, geologists, and historian which dates back to seven thousand years ago. It was believed that the people of the Harappan civilization were the first to grow cotton. They migrated from Africa to the subcontinent of Indian and Pakistan. They grew cotton to be used for clothing and sheeting.
One of the most sacred texts of Hinduism and ancient Indian poems called the “Rigveda” which dates back to 600 BC also mentions about cotton being used. Paintings and carving in the Ajanta cave of Maharashtra depict the invention of the grinning and roller machines by the cotton farmers (Figure 2). This conveys that growing and production of the cotton is dated back to the ancient history of India and has a very strong root.Role of Mughal reign in cotton production India was under the Mughal Empire from around 1526. Mughal took advantage of the soil and humid climatic condition of the country to grow cotton and use it as a trade crop. The convenience of the sea transportation encouraged Akbar and Jahangir to take interest in foreign seaborne trade. This expanded the local handicrafts and industry to export goods like spices, indigo, sugar, yarns, salt and cotton cloth. Cotton cloth was exported to Europe with a great demand as they found it to be a luxurious fabric similar to the silk. India exported cotton fabrics and clothes to Arabia, Egypt, east coast of Africa and Europe. Akbar improved the trade under his successor. Meanwhile the Dutch and the English traders started commencing business with India, which increased the demands for the cotton goods, gradually increasing the producing of cotton in same cottage industries and home.
This delineates the ambition and hard work of the Mughal Empire to spread the cotton trade to the entire world. The Dutch, Portugal, and French were incorporating the textile and spices trade with India during the Mughal reign. The last powerful emperor of the Mughal was Aurangzeb who died in 1707 and the rule of the Mughal was debilitated after his death. There was no cooperation in the country and it was undergoing into political disturbances.
Meanwhile, in 1600 the British East India Company started the trade in India for importing spices, cotton, dyes, indigo, salt to Britain. The company was first established in 1619 at Surat because of the climatic and geographical condition along with a direct sea route to Britain. Thereafter the company spread itself and established in Madras in 1639, Bombay in 1668 and Kolkata in 1690. About 1707, Queen Elizabeth 1 allowed to trade with the East and acknowledged the wealthy merchants and aristocrats to hold the shares of the company. The company concentrated in the Bengal region because it provided a better quality of cotton, silk, and salt for the import This political expansion took a century and the entire country was under the East India Company. They took control of civil, revenue system and judiciary especially over the entire region of Bengal in 1858. This led to the invasion of the Indian subcontinent and led to the rule over India for next 200 years. No doubt the East India Company was a successful period for the British but it also helped to build up the Britain’s Asia Empire. This helped to be the leading supplier of profit. The East India Company created a barrier between India and Europe. During the rule, the natural resources of the countries were exploited. High revenue taxes were applied to the land, which in turn decreased the profit for the cotton farmers. Raw cotton was exported to Britain while they constructed the garment and it was brought back to the country to sell the Indians at a higher rate. This was a mere exploitation of all sorts. In 1781 Richard Arkwright built the first textile mill in Manchester (Figure 4). It created the pressure on the labor class society and sources of the country to produce a big number of cotton raw material, which was exported to Manchester. Gradually India established its own cotton textile industry in Kolkata during 1818, which was later changed to set up in Bombay in 1854(Figure 5). Matching up the Industrial revolution, Cottonpolis was formed in 1850. It was the name given to Manchester, which was the home of the cotton industry in Britain (Figure 6).Britain showcased the power of the industrial revolution by producing goods in a big quality. This, in turn, British made full use of all the sources of India to be in the top notch.
Consequently, the degree of the quality of the goods was decreased and the focus began to produce cotton in higher lots. The non-cooperative movement was formed in
1920 at Calcutta because the British refused to meet the demands of the Congress
party. The Congress called a special session to discuss the boycott of law
courts and other government educational institutions. Gandhi (known as the
father of the nation) decided to use hand-spun cloth, which he constructed by
himself. This changed the entire perspective of the textile industry and
brought back the unity in a diversified country. Gandhi revived the handicraft
significance of handspun cotton textile. Hand spinning and hand wearing clothes
were given much importance. Clothes that were manufactured in the British mills
were burnt down. Swadesi movement and the Non-cooperation
blossomed the growth of small-scale industries and cottage industries. Labors
and workers moved out of the British owned mills. Women started getting
involved in the cottage industries. Clothes were all handspun and stitched and
were sold in the local markets. Thus the economic condition of the cotton
farmers grew strong. Now people started using *Swadeshi goods and diminished
the use of the British made goods.
Gonsalves argues in his book Clothing for Liberation that khadi was
used by Gandhiji less as a garment but more as a message to both Indians and