ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Anatomy of a Crisis

India's Handloom Challenge

The Indian weaver is dismissed in high places as an embarrassing anachronism, despite demand for his or her skills and products. In the new millennium, globalisation and a mindless acquiescence to imported notions of a good life threaten to take over, even as the West looks East for better concepts of sustainable living. Analysing today's crisis in the handloom sector, plagued by low-cost imitations from power looms, this article points out that we are caught in a meaningless dichotomy that could damage Indian handloom's unique reputation of coming from a system unmatched for delivering genuine sustainability.

India’s transition from colonial rule was marked by a confident belief in the relevance of its heritage in the move towards modernity. The capacity to define progress in Indian terms was epitomised by the handloom revolution. Rooted in the freedom struggle, it was later directed through planning for livelihood and lifestyle opportunities enriched by inherited values. Emerging as one of the 20th century’s great design stories, Indian fabrics became symbolic of Mahatma Gandhi’s injunction to keep Indian windows open to the world without being swept away by gusts of wind from outside.

Seventy years later, the Indian weaver is dismissed in high places as an embarrassing anachronism, despite demand for his or her skills and products. In the new millennium, globalisation can seem less an open window than a consumerist culture of mimicry. A mindless acquiescence to imported notions of a good life threatens to take over, even as advanced economies look East for better concepts of sustainable living. This is the context for today’s crisis in the handloom sector. It deserves understanding, symptomatic as it may be of a deeper malaise.

Dear reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top