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A blue khadi kurta.

Khadi (pronounced [kʰaːdiː], Khādī), derived from khaddar,[1][2][3] is a hand-spun and woven natural fibre cloth promoted by Mahatma Gandhi as swadeshi (self-sufficiency) for the freedom struggle of the Indian subcontinent, 'Khadi' term is used throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.[4][5] The first piece of the hand-woven cloth was manufactured in the Sabarmati Ashram during 1917-18. The coarseness of the cloth led Gandhi to call it 'khadi'.[6] The cloth is usually hand spun and woven from cotton. However, it 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 its looks, khādī/khaddar is sometimes starched to give it a stiffer feel. It is widely accepted in various fashion circles.[7] Popular dresses are made using khadi cloth such as dhoti, kurta, and handloom sarees such as Puttapaka Saree, Kotpad Handloom fabrics, Chamba Rumal, Tussar silk etc. Gajam Anjaiah, an Indian master handloom designer and a recipient of the Padma Shri, is known for his innovation and development of tie-dye handloom products along with the Telia Rumal technique of weaving products based on the Ikat process.[8][9]


Fernand Braudel, a French historian, has mentioned that India became a world textile leader until the 19th century because it started early. Weaving skills existed since the Bronze Age period and cotton cultivation and processing began during Indus Valley Civilization period. Greco-Roman merchants imported finer cotton in large quantities to Roman Empire. In medieval times, cotton textiles were imported to Rome through “maritime Silk Road”. Arabian-Surat merchants traded cotton textiles to Basra, Baghdad from three areas of Gujarat, the Coromandel Coast and East Coast of India especially the Ganges Valley of Bengal also it arrived Makkah via Hajj pilgrims. To the east, trade reached to China via Java. 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta has mentioned Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq sending five varieties of cloth to the Yuan emperor in China.[10] Such was the fame of these exotic textiles from Indian subcontinent that they have been treasured in repositories of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.[11]

These artifacts were either diplomatic gifts or were purchased from East India Company EIC or smuggled, such is their uniqueness that they are still displayed along with gems and jewellery in world class museums. By 1830, Great Britain became world leader in Cotton textile displacing India which completely forgot its legacy as if it never existed. Why and how it happened were outcomes of Calico Acts, Imperialism and Industrial Revolution. Had there been a free India, they would have resisted and once blooming textile centers became ghost towns.

Khadi is also known as khaddar
A signage kept at Kochi with an appeal to the citizens to use Khadi/handloom based wear.
Gandhi spinning
Gandhi spins by hand while addressing his followers
Mohandas Gandhi's bedroom, bed, desk, and spinning wheel in the Sabarmati Ashram

East India Company allowed first cotton mill to be opened in 1818 in Calcutta which was a failure. The second cotton mill's permission was obtained by KGN Daber in 1854 and was named Bombay Spinning and Weaving Company thereafter Shahpur mill in 1861 and Calico mill in 1863 were opened in Ahmedabad.

After First Indian War of Independence in 1857, domestic textile production by mill or by traditional methods declined to its lowest levels and then 'Khadi' emerged as "silent economic revolution" by an outcome of a long and laborious evolutionary process.[12]

American Civil War (1861-1865) caused raw cotton crisis in Cottonopolis Britain. Indian cotton at cheap prices was sourced for them as textile industry didn't exist in India and hand spinning was a dying art. During Victorian rule (1837-1901) of colonial era 47 mills existed in the 1870s but still Indians were buying clothes at an artificially inflated price, since the colonial government exported the raw materials for cloth to British fabric mills, then re-imported the finished cloth to India.[13][14] In Edwardian era(1901-1914) Swadeshi movement of boycotting foreign cloth remained prominent.[15] During the first two decades of the twentieth Century it was backed by Nationalist politicians and Indian mill owners.

Mohandas Gandhi, touched by the plight of farmers at Champaran Satyagraha and Kheda Satyagrah focused the Swadeshi movement on hand spinning and quoted: "It is the immediately practicable supplementary occupation that can be offered to vast mass of the population that is starving or half fed in consequence of abject poverty and enforced labour for nearly half the year".[16]

In 1922, Gandhi asserted Indian National Congress (INC) to start Khadi Department for spinning activities. In 1924, due to huge work a semi-independent body All India Khadi Board (AIKB) was formed which liaisoned with INC Khadi Department at provincial and district levels. In 1925, All India Spinner Association (AISA) was formed comprising Khadi Department and AIKB. Mahatma Gandhi was the founder of AISA, later Jwaharlal Nehru and Rajinder Prashad remained in its executive board. He made it obligatory for all members of the Indian National Congress to spin cotton themselves and to pay their dues in yarn. Mahatma Gandhi collected large sums of money to create grass-root level khadi institutions to encourage spinning and weaving which were certified by AISA. This was called the 'khaddar' or 'Khadi' movement.[17] Handspun yarn was expensive and of poor quality and weavers preferred yarn produced by mills because it was more robust and consistent in quality. 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.[18] 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.[19] In 1919 Mahatma Gandhi himself started spinning at Mani Bhawan Mumbai and encouraging others to do so. He invented Patti Charkha, using a double-wheel design to increase speed and control, while it reduced size. It represented probably the first conscious use of the principle of "intermediate technology." Later by 1946 when huge funds were being spent on development for more productive charkhas, he recommended takli over charkha.[20]

The freedom struggle revolved around the use of khādī fabrics and the dumping of foreign-made clothes.In 1921 chakri (spinning wheel) became the symbol of the Indian flag.

The movement for Khadi began in 1918. The movement was marked with its own changing dynamics. While initially, a clear emphasis could be seen on using Khadi as a medicine to the masses ridden with poverty due to economic stagnation, from 1934 onwards the fabric became something that the village people could use for themselves. It was no longer seen only as a commodity for sale to bring economic prosperity. The meaning became more humble. In 1942-43, right after coming out of the prison, his ideology behind Khadi became that of making the fabric useful for the villagers themselves. His ideas came out clearly by 1944, when he left no stone unturned to bring this change into effect.[21]

Mahatma Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khadi for rural self-employment and self-reliance (instead of mill manufactured) in the 1920s, thus making khadi an integral part and an icon of the Swadeshi movement.[19][22][23][24][25]

In 1921, Gandhi went to Chandina Upazila in Comilla, Bangladesh to inspire local weavers and consequently in the greater Comilla region, weaving centers were developed in Mainamati, Muradnagar, Gauripur and Chandina.[26] In 1942, political activist Suhasini Das pledged to only wear khadi clothing for the rest of her life.[27][better source needed]
Gandhi Ashram Amritsar opened its extension branch in Srinagar. A Chinar tree was planted at Pampore where Mahatma spinned charkha. It later became center of AISA nowadays PMTC-KVIC. Gandhi Bhawan Jammu, adjoining Secretariat was founded where he gave his speech in Parade Ground Jammu.[28]

Khadi in post-independence India[edit]

In 1948, India recognized the role of Rural Cottage Industries in its Industrial Policy Resolution. In 1949, Shri Ekambernathan invented Amber Charkha. All India Khadi & Village Industries Board was set up in January, 1953 (AIKVIB) by Govt. of India. In 1955 it was decided that a statutory body should replace the Board and KVIC Act was passed in 1956. In 1957 KVIC came into existence as a statutory organisation.[29] As per KVIC, in 2017, a total of 460,000 people were employed in industries making khadi products.[30] Production and sales rose by 31.6% and 33% respectively in 2017 after multi-spindle charkas were introduced to enhance the productivity by replacing the single-spindle charkas.[30] In 2019 it was reported that overall khadi sales in India have risen by 28% in the 5-year period preceding 2018–2019. The revenues from Khadi in the last financial year stood at ₹3,215 crore and the KVIC has set a target of ₹5000 crore to be achieved by 2020.[31]

After Independence, the Government reserved some types of textile production, e.g. towel manufacture for the handloom sector, which resulted in a deskilling of traditional weavers and a boost for the power loom sector. Private Sector enterprises have been able to make handloom weaving somewhat remunerative and the government also continues to promote the use of Khadi through various initiatives.[19][32]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that khadi cloth is a movement to help the poor.[33] He further highlighted that the Khadi and Village Industries Commission is a statutory organisation engaged in promoting and developing khadi and village industries.[33] He lauded Gujarat and Rajasthan for being well known for khadi poly, while Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir are well known for woolen khadi.[33] Various states are also putting efforts to promote Khadi; Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi initiated a project name ''Ram Lala'' with the state's Khadi and Village Industries Board to raise Khadi clothes.[34][35]

Muslin (khadi) in Bangladesh[edit]

Pakistan Government saw Khadi as emblematic of the ideology of Congress that had led the non-cooperation movement so Khadi organisations like Noakhali Ambika Kalinga Charitable (NAKC) Trust, started on Gandhi's visit in 1946 were discouraged. Pakistan Prime Minister Firoz Khan Noon (1957–58) , who remained Governor East Pakistan (1950-1953) was liberal towards Khadi and established "The Khadi and Cottage Industry Association" in 1952. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic '7 March speech of Bangabandhu' refueled the momentum to produce khadi. A sudden wave of demand persisted in Bangladesh for many years after the country's independence from Pakistan in 1971. The newly-established Bangladesh Govt. gave orders for their offices and other establishments. In 1975, some years after the independence of Bangladesh, the NAKC trust was reformed and renamed as The Gandhi Ashram Trust.[36]
Muslin has now been registered under Geographical Indication GI from Bangladesh from 2020;The soft khadi or refined khadi is known as muslin khadi. Generally, the clothes made from 0-99 Count are wefty khadi / cotton khadi and the khadi is produced from 100 count to 500/600 count (as far as it is known), the fabric produced is called muslin khadi. Researchers from many fields put efforts to replicate muslin of higher counts and identified 'phuti carpas' as the variety from the DNA of cotton and from motifs used in making muslin sarees from Victoria & Albert Museum London of 1710 collection with 350 muslin sarees. The replica cost of one saree Takas 360,000 has been presented to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.[37][38]


Khadi and Village Industries Commission holds the exclusive rights to use the trademark ''Khadi'' and "Khadi India". The National Internet Exchange of India Domain Dispute Policy (INDRP) Arbitration Tribunal in New Delhi rejected the contention of a private entity that "Khadi" is a generic word.[39][40][41] In 2017 a German company tried to patent "Khadi". Government of India fought the case and ultimately it was decided that it was Gandhi who termed it, All India Spinner Association (AISA) promoted and certified its standards during freedom struggle era and AISA's successor KVIC is the legal entity for possession of all rights concerning "Khadi". While KVIC obtained the latest trademark registration in Bhutan on 9 July 2021; trademark registration was granted in UAE on 28 June 2021. With this, KVIC has succeeded in securing trademark registration for the first time in a Gulf country. Earlier, KVIC got the trademark registration for “Khadi” in Mexico in December 2020.[42]


  • Kshetriya Shri Gandhi Ashram H.Q Lukhnow is the biggest organisation still working today.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. "Khadi, Khāḍi, Khādi: 10 definitions". 3 August 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  2. wplly (19 April 2019). "The Origin of Khadi Fabric | Historical Story of Khadi". Khadi Cotton. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  3. "Khadi | Definition of Khadi by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of Khadi". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  4. "The Fascinating History of the Fabric That Became a Symbol of India's Freedom Struggle". The Better India. 12 April 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  5. "Freedom@70: How Khadi is getting a new spin.", The Economic Times, 13 August 2017.
  6. Gonsalves, Peter (2015). "'Clothing Choices in Gandhi's Swadeshi Movement' Gandhi Marg. Vol. 37 (1)".
  7. "Khadi".
  8. "Padma awards to Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Rahul Dravid". Tehelka. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  9. "Padma Awards: List of Awardees". The Times of India. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  10. Islam, Khademul. "Our Story of Dhaka Muslin". Aramco World. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  11. "Collections Search: Khadi". Victoria and Albert Museum.
  12. The Story of Silent Economic Revolution 1958 Bombay, KVIC
  13. Pakistan: The People. Crabtree Publishing Company. 2003. ISBN 9780778793472.
  14. Mahesh, Aggarwal R. C. /Bhatnagar (27 July 2005). Constitutional Development & National Movement in India. S. Chand Publishing. ISBN 9788121905657 – via Google Books.
  15. "Historical background of Khadi". Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  16. Khadi Guide 1927 Ahmedabad, All India Spinner Association
  17. Selin, Helaine (1997). Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicines in Non- Western Cultures. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 961. ISBN 978-0792340669.
  18. Sinha, Sangita. "The Story Of Khadi, India's Signature Fabric". Culture Trip. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Saturday Dressing: Kerala govt staff opt for khadi". Business Standard. Press Trust of India. 6 January 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  20. Shepard, Mark. "Charkha Master A Meeting with Narayan Desai".
  21. Gandhi, M.K (1955). Gandhiji on Khadi (PDF). Navajivan Publishing House.
  22. Brown, Theodore M.; Fee, Elizabeth (1 January 2008). "Spinning for India's Independence". American Journal of Public Health. 98 (1): 39. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.120139. PMC 2156064. PMID 18048775.
  23. Pritchett, Frances. "spinning".
  24. Cosgrove, Ben. "Gandhi and His Spinning Wheel: The Story Behind an Iconic Photo". Time. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015.
  25. Cosgrove, Ben. "Gandhi: Quiet Scenes From a Revolutionary Life". Time. Archived from the original on 3 October 2015.
  26. "The story of Khadi". Star LifeStyle. Dhaka: The Daily Star. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  27. সুহাসিনী দাস [Suhasini Das]. Golden Femina (in Bengali).
  28. Guha, Ramchandra. "Gandhi in Kashmir, Gandhians on Kashmir". India Today. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  29. Parekh, Geetanjali (2010). HISTORY OF KHADI. NBT National Book Trust. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-8123760421. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Jadhav, Radheshyam (11 March 2018). "7 lakh 'lose' jobs in khadi industry, but production goes up by 32%". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  31. "Khadi sales zoom 28%, KVIC eyes Rs 5,000 crore in FY20". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  32. "Mann Ki Baat: PM Modi urges India to embrace Gandhi's legacy 'Khadi'". Zee News. 1 February 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 "PM Modi in Mann Ki Baat: Khadi not a cloth, but a movement to help the poor". Business Standard. 24 September 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  34. "Uttar Pradesh: CM Yogi Adityanath to unveil 'Project Ramlala' today - Know all about it". Times Now. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  35. "प्रोजेक्ट 'रामलला' से खादी को मिलेगी नई पहचान, रोज अलग-अलग रंगों की पोशाक धारण करेंगे अयोध्या पति". Amar Ujala (in हिन्दी). Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  36. Bhuiyan, Mohammed. "Fashion output on Khadi in Bangladesh : A Review". Research Gate. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  37. Kalam, Abdul. "GI recognition Muslin belongs to Bangladesh". Good Day Bangladesh. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  38. "Muslin Khadi". West Bengal Khadi & Village Industries Board (WBKVIB).
  39. "Tribunal bars unauthorised use of Khadi brand name". 21 May 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  40. "'Khadi', 'Khadi India' not generic names, rules tribunal". The Hindu. 20 May 2021. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  41. "KVIC: Court bars individuals/cos from using 'Khadi' brand name without authorisation". 20 May 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  42. "KVIC Secures Trademark Registrations in Bhutan, UAE & Mexico; Files Applications in 40 Countries to Protect Brand "Khadi"". Orissa Diary.
  43. Trivedi, Lisa (2007). Clothing Gandhi's Nation: Homespun and Modern India. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253348821.

External links[edit]

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