Activists support use of charkha

Activists support use of charkha

A handful of individuals and small organisations are trying to keep the tradition of charkha alive

Jahnavi Pai decided to go beyond passive consumerism and find answers to questions like ‘How can handloom be made more affordable and accessible for everyone?’, and ‘What more could be done to bring back the dignity of the weaver?’

The ecologist did not get much support from the Khadi offices in the city. She finally took to spinning with the help of Madhav Sahasrabudhe, an activist from Pune. In 2016, she started organising workshops on the charkha through the group ‘Art of Spinning’. Thanks to these, more than 100 people in the city have now learnt to spin cotton yarn on a peti charkha.

Shalini Suresh, a native of Bengaluru and a former IT professional, took to the charkha while on a quest for a better lifestyle.

“I was looking at a more sustainable way of living and taking to the charkha was part of this. Though I’m not a follower of Gandhi, some of his teachings did inspire me,” says the naturalist.

Being self-dependent was one of these. “I read about Madhav Sahasrabudhe and his works related to the charkha. I instantly got inspired and joined him. Since then, there has been no looking back, especially after I realised how beautiful and meditative the process of spinning was,” she adds.

Shalini has also taught charkha spinning to children as young as four years old. “The kids have no idea where clothes come from. They think clothes directly come from shopping malls. This is our situation,” she adds.

“We order charkhas from Ahmedabad. One can directly order them from Sabarmati Ashram and the cost, including the transportation charges, comes to around Rs 2,000 per charkha,” she says. Shalini has now moved away from Bengaluru and has taken to farming and nature preservation techniques. 

Santosh Koulagi, hailing from Melukote, grew up in a pro-Gandhi atmosphere. Inspired by people around him, he took to spinning on the charkha at a very young age. “Charkha is a tool of self- sufficiency,” says the secretary of the Janapada Seva Trust. “Spinning the wheel takes you on an inward journey; a journey where you discover yourself.” The ardent follower of Gandhi believes in being ‘Swavalambi’(self-dependent).

“We should raise questions against consumerism and mechanisation by using charkha. During our workshops, we make sure people understand the philosophy and ideologies behind using the charkha. Sitting and spinning the yarn for hours will change the way one perceives the world,” he adds.

He shares an interesting snippet. “In olden days, people could join the Indian National Congress if they deposited the yarn spun for an entire year. This is how Gandhi promoted khadi and charkha,” he smiles.

Kodiyala handloom weaver Govinda Raju is one of the last members of a family which has seen three generation of weavers. In fact, he is the last weaver who makes handloom saris. Govinda, known as the ‘master weaver’, is trying to keep the dying culture alive. He has a few helpers but the business isn’t doing too well because of the inhibitions from people to pick it from Kodiyala. 

He takes at least a week to make a simple sari whereas the silk ones take longer. Due to this, the outcome is limited. Govinda customises designs for bulk orders. A simple, plain sari can cost Rs 1,000 onwards. For silk saris or saris with intricate designs, it’s Rs 8,000 onwards. 


DESI (Developing Economically Sustainable Industries)

It promotes small-scale industries by providing alternative means of livelihood to rural men and women by popularising handloom weaving. It consists of around 300 workers, mostly women.

“Our main aim is to promote rural industries, which is one among the Gandhian principles. All the women who work at DESI belong to ‘Charaka Co-operative Society’. More than 800 women have been given opportunities in recent times. We have more than 13 outlets all over Karnataka,” shares the managing trustee of DESI.


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