Khadi: A Pan-India Phenomenon

Khadi: A Pan-India Phenomenon
Silk sarees on display at a store in Chanderi, Photo Credit:

On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, we look at the different fabrics in the khadi tradition that was championed by Mahatma Gandhi

Prannay Pathak
October 02 , 2020
07 Min Read

There was a time when the mention of khadi brought to my mind the coarse and drab kurtas worn by our politicians since time immemorial. It may have been the fabric most associated with the freedom movement, having been redeemed by Mahatma Gandhi, but to me, khadi was just a matter of academic pride. However, in the past few years, I have steadily come to the realization that the fabric goes much further than that—khadi, which is woven out of silk, cotton and wool, is available in colourful forms across the country (and even the subcontinent). On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti today, here’s taking a look at the different faces of khadi in India.

Read: A Gandhi Trail Across India


The Silks
Khadi can be spun either out of pure silks or be blended with other yarns. Matka silk fibre, which comes from waste mulberry silk, is used to make the luminous matka khadi. The silk is usually obtained from Karnataka and Kashmir, and the yarn is woven into khadi fabric in the West Bengal towns of Malda and Murshidabad. Matka silk is famously also known as Ahimsa silk since the process of procuring the silk doesn’t require killing the pupae inside.

Khadi adapts well also to the regal sheen and rich texture of tussar silk, which comes from eastern India. Bhagalpur is the primary centre of its production, followed by other places in Bihar and Jharkhand, and Malda in West Bengal. Tussar is lighter, cooler and much easier to maintain than the rest of its counterparts. Move a little to the west, to the historical crafts town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh, and discover the riches of the silk sarees here that attract craft aficionados from all over the world.

Read: Assam Silk and Everything You Need to Know About It

View this post on Instagram

#tassarprint #silkprints #tassarsilk #suryanshfab

A post shared by Suryansh Fab (@suryanshfab_official) on Dec 6, 2019 at 5:46am PST

The Cottons
In its most delicate and finely woven form, khadi is usually known as muslin, an ancient fabric that finds mention in the works of Marco Polo. Said to have been born in Mosul in Iraq, muslin also had historical centres in Masulipatnam and Dhaka. Today, more than half of the muslin produced in India comes from West Bengal. Breathable and dry, muslin is the perfect fabric for a climate such as ours.

View this post on Instagram

A muslin Khadi saree. White and pink checkered body, pink borders and turmeric yellow pallu. The saree is light and soft and a beautiful drape. 100% Khadi cottonhandspun and handwoven. Muslin Khadi is a fine loosely woven fabric. 5.5 meters length. Paired with 2 hand embroidered kantha work blouse material options. Saree 2700rs; blouse 240rs. Shipping is additional. Please dm or whatsapp 9445380050 for orders. #muslinkhadi #khadi #khadisaree #muslinkhadicotton #khadimuslin #handspun #handwovensarees #handloomsarees #pinkandyellowsaree #pinksaree #khadicottonsarees #sixyardsofcomfort #sixyardsofelegance #sixyards #sixyardstory #sixyardtales #sareefashion #sixyardsoffinery #beginningofsustainability #simplesarees #ilovesarees #iwearsarees #sareesofinstagram #sareetoworkincanada

A post shared by Hands and Looms (@hands_n_looms) on Mar 18, 2020 at 8:13pm PDT

Karnataka’s Mysore might be known more for silk, the city is also home to great handwoven khadi cotton. One can walk into any of the stores throughout the city and buy affordable khadi cotton sarees and kurtas or just the fabric and get it stitched by the in-house tailors. Ponduru in Andhra Pradesh enjoys the distinction of being the only place in the country where khadi is completely handmade—even the slivers of the charkha are made from the jaw of the locally found Valuga fish. The village is known as the Khadi Village and, not surprisingly, has its own GI tag.

Read: Tamil Nadu: In Search of the Finest Kanjeevaram Silks

Woolen Khadi

View this post on Instagram

Aussi douces que de la soie, les nouvelles étoles teintes au thé viennent d’arriver. #jamdani #woolenshawls #woolenkhadi #teadyed #vegetabledyes #nouvellecollection #artisans #handcrafted #modeartisanale #tissustraditionels #inde #tissusindiens #ethicalfashion #luxury #tradition #genuinefashion #artandcrafts #slowfashion #sento #saintgermaindespres #handmade #faitmain #parisianboutique #handloom

A post shared by Sentô (@sentoparis) on Jan 31, 2019 at 9:18am PST

Who doesn’t love getting inside those coarse rustic-style off-white comforters (they’re really warm) in the winters? Called loyees, these are the epitome of what can be achieved with handweaving woolens. Some call khadi-pashmina the purest version of cashmere, and it wouldn’t be too wrong to say that much of the luxury status that khadi has gained can be traced back to the expansion of its blending with the fine wool fibre. Pashmina is found in Kashmir, and of late, pashmina-khadi shawls, stoles and drapes have become quite a rage in emporia and even e-commerce platforms. The delightful Kullu weaves, which have suffered in the past because of the increasing threat of cheaper power loom-made fakes, are also being assimilated within the khadi scheme of things.

Related Articles

On the Trail of the...

Uttara Gangopadhyay October 02 , 2021

Here to there

Explore Directions(Routes) and more...
to Go

Our Other Editions

Outlook’ is India’s most vibrant weekly news magazine with critically and globally acclaimed print and digital editions. Now in its 23rd year...

Explore All
  • Check out our Magazine of the month
  • Offbeat destinations
  • In-depth storytelling
  • Stunning pictures
  • Subscribe