[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1634756508566{padding-right: 15px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_column_text]Earth Democracy: This month, I found my life coming a full circle after I took a little break from the day-to-day research work of our textile craft company Marasim. I invested my time into studying a course 'Return to Earth: A-Z of biodiversity, agroecology, and regenerative organic systems' with the Earth University by Navdanya foundation under the tutelage of Dr. Vandana Shiva ( A global impact leader on Climate Change, farmers rights, organic farming, biopiracy and a lot more.) 

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1617338351795{padding-right: 15px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_column_text]Cotton was the primary commodity of the first days of an Industrial production system that changed the world. With the arrival of the British East India Company in India and their overlordship on the cotton manufacturing (among other things) on the Indian Subcontinent, the ever so romantic and prosperous Story of cotton and cotton farmers that I discussed in my earlier post came to an erratic end. 

SEED SELECTION AND GROUND PREPARATION FROM HISTORY OF SUSTAINABLE COTTON

READ MORE ON OUR COTTON SERIES I will talk more about the India story at the end of this article. Let us first look at the Story of cotton in America.

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1615836859728{padding-right: 15px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_column_text]Sustainable Cotton: As I turn through the pages of the book 'A Frayed History. The Journey of Cotton in India'. I find nuggets of great information, which I plan to compile and share succinctly in a series of articles starting with this one.  Cotton, the wonder fiber, was at the start of history, found in two parts of the world—India, and Peru, as has been inferred from the study of old inscriptions and arts. Sir George Watt, a Scottish Botanist who worked in India as a reporter on botany, has shared very early research that says cotton was considered sacred in India. In those times, the word used for cotton was 'karpasi.' The sacred threads of a Brahman were made of 'karpasi' to put on over his head in three strings.

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Indian Textile Trade History: In this article, we will examine the link between Mumbai's current urban landscape with its history in the cotton trade of India.


Mumbai, an urban city of luxurious skyscrapers and destitute slums, was built 400 years ago on seven islands. Before the European Influence, a community of fishers inhabited these seven islands. The Portuguese were the first to arrive here from Europe and strengthen their influence on the archipelago from 1534 onwards. Bombay's fate changed when it entered the rule of British East India Company (EIC) after it was given as a dowry from Portugal to Charles II of England and consecutively came under the influence of EIC.

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1598394250356{padding-right: 15px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_column_text]The Beautiful Indienne, A Textile Story of Switzerland I discussed my recent textile-related reads with a friend when she mentioned the book 'Indiennes - Material For A Thousand Stories". The exhibition at the Landesmuseum Zürich published this book in conjugation with their presentation. The name 'Indienne' made me curious as I have not heard of it before in relation to the calico textiles that were traded between India and Europe. I grabbed my copy right away and just finished reading it. The book examines what happened next to the beautifully printed and painted cotton story after they left the Indian shores, arrived in Europe and created a veritable storm of buying enthusiasm in Europe.

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1597860824004{padding-right: 15px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_single_image image="2315" img_size="full" add_caption="yes" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The Story of Indian Cotton: As we enter the sixth month of the pandemic I sit in disbelief, bewildered at the might of the virus- something that has incredible power but molecularly so small. This destructive virus almost feels like prescience as I consecutively write about how mankind has manipulated the existence of indigenous cottonseed, another ‘small’ yet ‘mighty’ being of nature. 

The Discovery of Indian Cotton

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_single_image image="1933" img_size="large" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_single_image image="1953" img_size="large" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1589245353205{padding-right: 20px !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_column_text]Sustainable Cotton. In 2012, when I was doing my research on traditional wisdom of food in India. I learnt about the scholar and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. I appreciate the knowledge she shared on biodiversity conservation, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving. It is a good sign that the food environmentalists have started to understand the harm the food ‘industry’ has done to the soil by replacing the traditional wisdom of nurturing and growing food on farms with the modern invention of  lab made, chemically manipulated foods and agricultural practices. The fashion industry should also adopt the concept of returning to “Earth Citizenship” and becoming a part of the Earth’s life cycles. The issue is that the fashion industry, with its long supply chains and numerous processes between idea generation and product development, lacks the time to develop an understanding of something as ancient and essential as cotton farming methods. The fashion industry generally places price above practices when it comes to most steps in the product development process.

COTTON- A CASH CROP

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1587107079446{border-right-width: 1px !important;padding-right: 30px !important;border-right-color: #000000 !important;border-right-style: solid !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column width="1/2" offset="vc_col-xs-6"][vc_single_image image="1723" img_size="large" qode_css_animation=""][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/2" offset="vc_col-xs-6"][vc_column_text]printed-and-painted-cottons
Image Source:  Indian Textiles for the West by Rosemary Crill
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern" css=".vc_custom_1587107094247{border-right-width: 1px !important;padding-right: 30px !important;border-right-color: #000000 !important;border-right-style: solid !important;}" z_index=""][vc_column offset="vc_col-xs-12"][vc_separator type="normal"][vc_column_text]Printed and Painted Cottons. "The world would be a drab place without India. Our blue jeans and printed T-shirts trace much of their lineage back to the ingenuity of India’s cotton printers and dyers," says Sarah Fee, Royal Ontario Museum Senior Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Fashion and Textiles.   Until 520 years ago, the  Europeans had known only linen and silk as compared to at least 5,000 years ago when Indian farmers had already started domesticating a species of tall tree cotton. And Indian weavers had already started weaving soft, washable, lightweight cotton that held colors well.

The start of Painted and Printed Cotton trade with Europe

By the time, the first European ships arrived in India in the 1500s. The Indian artisans’ had already for thousands of  years combined skills in weaving, painting, printing, dyeing, bleaching, and glazing cotton to embellish their superior fabrics for thousands of  years. Nonetheless, after the European ships returned from India with the first few samples of the lightweight, washable, gaily colored and patterned cottons, they became a fashion sensation! These cottons were a starting point for the start of the textile trade between India and West. printed-and-painted-cottons/   It is a point of wonder that ancient Indian artisans came to master and dominate the art of making colors and mordants with the use of humble natural ingredients like rusty nails, and plant parts—such as roots, seeds, and powdered leaves. The durability and vibrancy of which can be justified by looking at the thousands of years old specimens of larger than life hand painted or printed Indian cottons displayed at the best museums around the world. 
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