Rediscovering the joy of wearing Khadi

In the sesquicentennial year of Mahatma Gandhi’s anniversary, the great man would be chuckling softly to hear that Khadi is now considered a luxury fabric — popular in the collections of India’s most glamorous designers.

Cotton Khadi can be defined as the fabric of freedom; made from thread that is hand spun on a humble charkha and later woven on the handlooms of artisans all over India. Every Indian should be proud to wear this talismanic handwoven cloth as a badge of our national honour. 

For too long, Khadi was relegated to the shelves of government-funded Khadi Bhandaars where they gathered dust, selling at dirt-cheap prices. This was doing Khadi the greatest disservice, for it did not highlight the intrinsic beauty of the great textile tradition of India and instead devalued it greatly.

From the finest of muslins from Kolkata to the hardy rough woven of Rajasthan, Khadi was infinite in its variety. It is the most natural and strongest of fabrics, softening with every wash to the cloudy consistency of its original form in the cotton pod. When embellished with block printing like Ajrakh and Dabu, or tie-dyed in Bandhini or Leheriya, or embroidered with Phulkari or mirrorwork, it grows even more precious and beautiful. Khadi was what the world wore till mechanisation started, for all fabrics were Khadi till then. India is the last country in the world with such an impressive range of handwoven Khadi fabrics remaining. 

Gandhiji would be so pleased to see his favourite fabric dazzle on the high fashion runways of India’s top designers. Bibi Russell of Bangladesh, Ajai Vir Singh in Colombo and Madina Kasimbaeva from Uzbekistan all use Indian Khadi in their collections, attesting to its rising popularity. 

While the fashion industry has raised Khadi to an exalted status, it is only our continued support that will help this heritage fabric flourish. The thousands of artisanal textile spinners, weavers, dyers and printers in our country depend on our support. We cannot let these great textile traditions die for want of our patronage.  

On October 2, it’s Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary. Let’s celebrate the great man with a fitting tribute to his amazing spirit and vision by wearing a beautiful khadi sari, salwar, shirt or kurta, preferably new and purchased from an authentic source. 

 

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