Did you know that every year the 7th of August is celebrated as National Handloom Day in India?
When we talk about the rich cultural heritage of India, the handloom industry makes up a very, very important part of it as Indians have known this art for thousands of years. The beauty of Indian handloom is truly boundless and the way that it is intricately done can leave anyone mesmerized.
The extraordinarily skilled artisans who are known to have inherited this art from their fathers exhibit excellent craftsmanship. This ancient art form is something that the country takes utmost pride in.
The Indian handlooms have unparalleled beauty and their intricate craftsmanship gives them a unique identity of their own. There is a lot to know about this industry that even many Indians may also be unaware of.
So, in this article, we tell you not just about the handloom day but also unfold some interesting facts about the Indian handloom industry.
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History of Indian Handlooms
India is a land of legendary weaves and weavers and each distinct region and community of the country has its own unique textile tradition. It is an age-old art form that has been passed down from one generation to another for generations and generations now.
The history of handloom in India can be traced back thousands of years ago, to the Indus Valley Civilization. When it started, the entire process of making the cloth was self-reliant. Right from getting the cotton/ wool/ silk from the farmers/ shepherds to cleaning and transforming it was either done by the weaver himself or the local community. No electricity was required as the end fabric was completely spun using hands. Small handly instruments including the spinning wheel which is commonly known as ‘Chakra’ were mostly used.
It was true magic to see the threads getting woven into beautiful pieces of fabric.
The Aryan settlers of the time also picked up these techniques and later honed them by making the use of dyes and embroidery for embellishing the fabrics.
The Indian handloom industry started growing multifold and started flourishing. In fact, during that time, Indian fabrics were also exported to western countries.
It was after the arrival of the Mughals that the weavers and the handloom industry got huge patronage and newer fabrics such as mulmul and jamawar were created. The Indian handlooms were much appreciated and their demand grew by leaps and bounds during this time. During the 17th century, India was manufacturing 25% of the world’s total textiles.
Now you know that Indian handloom has had a long and glorious history. However, it wasn’t such a great time for the industry during British rule.
It was during British rule that the country was flooded with imported machine-made yarn. Since India also hugely exported cotton during this time, it resulted in a decline in the handloom industry.
In turn, it also resulted in the loss of livelihood for the spinners, weavers, and others dependent on the handloom industry. Since the yarn came from a distance, the involvement of middlemen increased and the industry fell more into their grip. As the taxation structure also benefitted the import of textiles into India rather than the Indian exports, this further pushed the handloom industry down.
This led to a huge decline in the handloom industry and pushed the weavers into poverty.
Revival of Indian Handloom Industry and Its Present-Day State
During the freedom struggle, the Indian handloom industry was back at the forefront. With Mahatma Gandhi starting the Swadesi movement, hand spinning was reintroduced. All the citizens of the country were urged to use the Chakras for spinning the yarn.
This was a huge turning point for the Indian handloom industry and people greatly turned towards wearing khadi.
After becoming independent, the Indian government also took several steps in order to revive the handloom industry. Several Acts were introduced and passed and various societies and institutes were set up to promote the sales of these handspun fabrics.
Today, millions of people are involved in the handloom industry, with the industry being the largest employer for rural India after agriculture. There are thousands of different varieties of looms and fabrics when it comes to Indian handlooms. Yet, the industry isn’t as flourishing as it once was.
The industry has to face competition with cheap imports. Also, the increased cost of natural fiber yarn, more trends of cheaper fabrics in the market, and reduced funding and policy protection have put the industry in a tough spot.
A lot of immensely trained weavers are now quitting weaving and looking for alternative means for their livelihood.
While the industry has had a fair share of ups and downs through the years, it has still somehow managed to sustain itself.
With such a rich history and heritage, the Indian handloom industry is definitely something to be celebrated.
When is World Handloom Day celebrated?
The world handloom day or National Handloom Day in India is celebrated on the 7th of August every year.
In order to raise awareness regarding the importance of handloom, the Union Government declared 7th August as the National Handloom Day in 2015. As the Swadesi Movement was launched on 7th August back in 1905, this day was chosen to celebrate the Indian handloom industry.
To protest against the partition of Bengal, the Swadeshi movement was launched on this day at the Calcutta Town Hall in 1905. It was launched to boycott foreign goods and support the Indian goods instead. Its aim was to revive the production and use of Indian-made products.
This is the reason why handloom day is celebrated on the 7th of August.
The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi inaugurated the first handloom day in 2015 at Centenary Hall of Madras University in Chennai.
It is an important day to be celebrated as it helps raise awareness about the handloom industry among the public at large and its contribution to the country’s development.
Why is the National Handloom Day in India celebrated?
The main aim behind celebrating world handloom day is to raise awareness about it and let people know of its importance. In order to realize the historic and cultural importance of this industry and to honor the weavers who work so relentlessly to keep the art form alive, this day is celebrated.
Handloom day is also celebrated to remember the socio-economic impact of the industry on the development of our country. This day highlights the weavers and their contribution to our society and the country.
Along with being a major symbol of Indian cultural heritage, the handloom sector is also a major means of livelihood. So, to preserve our heritage and to acknowledge the contribution of these weavers, the celebration of national handloom day in India is of utmost importance. The day also plays an important role to empower the workers of this sector. This also aims at empowering the women workforce of India as about 70% of the total workforce of the handloom sector constitutes women.
Another goal behind celebrating this is to promote genuine high-quality handloom in the international market.
How is Handloom Day celebrated?
World handloom day is being celebrated every year since 2015. There are various events and activities that take place in order to commemorate this day. The Union Textiles Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar announced it in both the houses of the Parliament.
The first-ever national handloom day in India was inaugurated by the Prime Minister at the Centenary Hall of Madras University in Chennai. A lot of other imminent key personalities were also present at the occasion where the PM addressed everyone and talked about the significance of handloom in our country. An exhibition was also held at the event where weavers from all across the country showcased their handloom creations.
As for the second nation handloom day which was held in 2016, the venue of the event was Varanasi and the Union Textiles Minister was the chief guest. Various Handloom and Sant Kabir Awards were also held on this day across all the states of the country. Besides the main event, many other smaller events were also held in celebration of the day all over the country. The day was celebrated grandly in more than 200 handloom clusters.
As for 2017, the main event was held at Guwahati. Along with the main event, various other smaller events took place at schools, colleges, universities, etc. in order to commemorate the day. The main event was presided over by Union Minister Of State, Textiles, and he spoke about the various initiatives taken by the government for the welfare of the weavers.
The fourth edition of the national handloom day in India was celebrated in Nagade in the Nashik district. To celebrate the day, various programs were organized for the weavers’ community. All India Handloom board members, Sant Kabir awardees, Merit certificate holders, etc. were also invited to grace the event.
As for the 2019 edition of the day, the main event was held in Bhubaneshwar. Along with the main event, smaller events also took place at various Weavers’ Service Centres in different tates. Workshops, exhibitions, and panel discussions were also important parts of celebration all over the country. Pehchan cards and Yarn Passbooks were also distributed on this day.
As for 2020, world handloom day was celebrated in a unique way as all the celebrations were virtual. To avoid public gatherings amid the pandemic, a virtual platform was used for the celebration by the Ministry of Textiles. The Textile Minister was the Chief Guest and all 28 Weaver Service Centers, NIFT campuses and handloom clusters across India were virtually present for the event.
The handloom day is celebrated every year with a lot of zest. Unique events, exhibitions, and activities are held to mark the importance of the day and make it special.
How has Handloom Day impacted the Handloom industry in India?
While the Indian handloom industry has a long way to fight the large scale import of foreign textiles and other products, it is a plus point that more and more Indians are now realizing the importance of Indian-made handlooms. While we still may have a long way to go and revive the handloom industry to its former glory, there is definitely a ray of hope.
The celebration of national handloom day in India has definitely created more opportunities for the weavers and their families. As more and more people are becoming aware of our historically rich handloom sector, they are turning towards it.
The celebration of this day is also helping the weavers get back on their feet and more schemes are being launched in their favor. Various independent organizations are also coming forward to help these weavers out and to revive the industry.
Whether it is Bandhani from Gujarat, Paithani sarees from Maharashtra, Muga silk from Assam, or Pashmina shawls from Kashmir, each and every kind of fabric made in the Indian subcontinent holds a lot of significant importance.
For as long as we have known, the handloom sector has played a very important role in the socio-economic development of the country. It is the weavers and their beautifully skilled hands that are to be credited to keep this rich traditional craft alive.
For generations and generations together, not just a single person but an entire family of a person has been involved in the handloom sector.
The national handloom day in India, celebrated on 7th August every year since 2015, comes as a ray of hope for those majorly involved in the handloom industry.
We hope this article cleared your doubts on when handloom day is celebrated, why it is celebrated, and what its significance is.
Mir Saeid is the Growth Hacker of Kashmirica, a brand that is poised to ‘Bring Exclusives from Kashmir to You’. An enthusiastic cultural entrepreneur, he is driven by a passion to bring about a social impact. He has a Masters in International Business from the University of Bedfordshire and has worked in leading Marketing positions at various SMEs and Startups for 8+ years.
A polyglot who English, Arabic, Urdu & Koshur, Mir loves traveling, reading, researching, and writing. And that is why he keeps writing about art, culture, life, philosophy, health, and just about everything else he knows.