Khadi or Khaddar is hand spun, hand-woven natural fibre cloth originating from India, Bangladesh and broadly used in Pakistan and India. This fabric is mainly made from Cotton.
The cloth is usually woven from Cotton and may also include silk, or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric, cool in summer and warm in winter. In order to improve the look, Khaddar-Khadi is sometimes starched to give it a stiffer feel. It is widely accepted in fashion circles. Khadi is being promoted in India by Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Khadi is also known as Khaddar. Khaddar-Khadi is usually referred to a rough textured fabric.
In India, Khadi refers to handwoven and hand spun cloth. Weavers prefer the yarn produced by Mills because it is more robust and of consistent quality. Swadeshi movement of boycotting English products during the first two decades of the twentieth Century was popularised by Mahatma Gandhi and Indian mill owners backed Nationalist politicians who called for a boycott of foreign cloth. Gandhi argued that the mill owners would deny handloom weavers an opportunity to buy yarn because they would prefer to create a monopoly for their own cloth. However, handspun yarn was of poor quality and too costly. Thus Mahatma Gandhi started spinning himself and encouraging others to do so. He made it obligatory for all members of the Indian National Congress to spin cotton themselves and to pay their dues in yarn. He further made the chakri (spinning wheel) the symbol of the Nationalist movement. Initially the Indian flag was supposed to have a chakri, not the Ashoka Chakra at its centre. Mahatma Gandhi collected large sums of money to create a grass-roots organisation to encourage handloom weaving. This was called ‘Khaddar’ or ‘Khadi’ movement.
The British Raj was selling very high cost cloths to the Indians. The Indian mill owners wanted to monopolise the Indian market themselves. Ever since the American Civil War had caused a shortage of American cotton, Britain would buy cotton from India at cheap prices and use the cotton to manufacture cloth. The khadi movement by Gandhi aimed at boycotting foreign cloth. Mahatma Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khadi for rural self-employment and self-reliance (instead of using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain) in the 1920s in India, thus making khadi an integral part and an icon of the Swadeshi movement.
The freedom struggle revolved around the use of Khadi fabrics and the dumping of foreign-made clothes. When some people complained about the costliness of Khadi to Mahatma Gandhi, he started wearing only dhoti though he used wool shawls when it got cold. Some were able to make a reasonable living by using high quality mill yarn and catering to the luxury market. Mahatma Gandhi tried to put an end to this practice. He even threatened to give up Khadi altogether if he didn’t get his way. However, since the weavers would have starved if they listened to Gandhi, nothing came of this threat.
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