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‘Khadi’ can uphold country’s traditional industry to the world

Khadi is the rich heritage and history messenger of Bengali culture strongly reminds us of the “Swadeshi Movement”. This Khadi or Khoddor cloth is directly hand made from the ancient time. The yarn is made from carpas cotton; later this yarn goes through hand-operated charka (spinning wheel) or tant to be turned into traditional cloth.

Khadi Bangladesh
Figure 1: A Khadi artisan is weaving traditional fabric.

Since the Indo-British period, Cumilla’s khadi has been getting extra popularity. This region’s flourishing khadi goods are cherishing the consciousness of Bengali culture, tradition for centuries. And before the partition of sub-continent countries, during ‘Quit India’ movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s call for the boycott of industrial spun fabrics from England, this thick cloth’s demand stretched at a skyscraper. Consequently, it became a supreme symbol of patriotism.

After the independence of Bangladesh, though this heritage withered, the fashion houses like Aarong, Kay Kraft, Bishwo Rang have been highlighting this tradition with various ways in front of the khadi lovers for last 15 years as a Bengali fashion icon. Sailendra Nath Guha (known as khadibabu), Founder of Grameen Khadi and his son Bijon and Arun Guha, and the Khadi and Cottage Industries Association (KCIA) also played a momentous role.

Diversity in design

The new appearance of khadi has changed the notion of orthodox rough textures and thick clothing matter. Thin khadi gowns, skirts, tops, shirts, kurta, fatuya, saree, bed sheets have become trendy thanks to expert designing. Khadi clothes were made mostly white and off-white color prior but now colorful varieties are available. Khadi special corners are common in fashion houses.

Fayez Hassan, Executive Designer of Aarong said, “To promote khadi among youths, we should produce attires by giving importance on their preference. There was a time when these garments ran in winter seasons only but now it is worn all over the year.”

Pradip Kumar Raha, Proprietor of Cumilla Khadighar said, “Usually traditionally spun khadi clothes were very heavy once. Now refined clothes are produced. The young generation has embraced khadi warmly, and some even researching on it. Khadi is a global product as Bengali communities around the world affectionately took this beloved product.”

Khadi traders informed that every yard of khadi hand-made spun fabric is valued on average Tk. 200 although it depends on the fluctuation of cotton prices. Besides, machine-made fabrics cost Tk. 140 per yard.

Branding of Khadi

In 2004, the khadi festival was organized by one of the country’s leading fashion house, Kay-Kraft. But it was not conceivable for them to organize regularly due to many reasons. Also at various times khadi weaving was showcased named Boyon-Sangeet by Anjon’s and Nitya Upahar. The 2009 Boyon-Sangeet showcase was dedicated to the Tanti (weaving) community, presented them with crests and certificates as accreditation.

Muslin, Jamdani, Khadi, Nakshi Kantha- these names restore a connection to our very own royal past. Khadi textile has the lowest carbon footprint; it can help mitigate global warming to a certain extent.

Maheen Khan, Fashion Designer and Founder President, FDCB

In 2015, the Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh (FDCB) has started officially the ‘Khadi Festival’ to uphold this famous heritage in collaboration with the Cultural Ministry. The name is given ‘Khadi: Future Fabric Show’ with tagline #GOKHADI. This festival has attracted a lot of foreign and local designers from the beginning.

Maheen Khan, Fashion Designer and Founder President of FDCB said, “Muslin, Jamdani, Khadi, Nakshi Kantha- these names restore a connection to our very own royal past. Khadi textile has the lowest carbon footprint; it can help mitigate global warming to a certain extent. Weaving the Khadi requires no electricity or burning of fossil fuels. In today’s age, we are most concerned with long term sustainability, eco-friendliness, and green product. I believe Khadi is the prime solution to concerns related to global warming.”

“With the help from the government, private, corporate initiatives and continuous efforts of the FDCB, Khadi is slowly but indisputably reviving its lost heritage,” Maheen Khan added.

Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh khadi
Figure 2: Models are showcasing designer’s khadi attires in the festival. Courtesy: FDCB

Khadi is getting more popular among young people

Although the new generation doesn’t know more about this heritage cloth, nowadays due to proper promotion, their keen interest in khadi is increasing. The reason Khadi is gaining popularity and extensive acceptance is that it’s availability in the diversity of design concepts. Customers get a wide range of colors to choose from. It is no more fabric of the serious-looking, aged people or government officials.

The younger generation working in the fashion and corporate sector find it cool and wear it with pride. Khadi is a versatile fabric, has the magical ability to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Mixed khadi requires less care, paralleled to pure khadi.

Challenges and way outs

Despite the widespread demand, this potential market is not being utilized due to the lack of fair value of its labor, scarcity of raw materials, artisan crisis, the higher price of cotton, lack of modern technology, financial supports, shut-down handloom factories, efficient managerial skills, proper marketing, and promotion etc. Another root cause of backwardness is the involvement of the grassroots khadi workers in the RMG industry. For these reasons, Khadi of Cumilla is losing her heritage.

Khadi Shilpa (industry) saw the golden time in the pre-independence period. After the liberation war, the khadi industry witnessed a traumatized reality.

According to traders, strong association, forming strong channel of distribution, government’s special consideration, proper policy framework, exhibition, capturing untapped markets, media coverage can help this cottage industry to revive yet again.

Khadipara artisan could see the face of light and business would become more resilient if khadi accesses in the international market widely. Besides, the government’s export diversification project named ‘one district, one commodity’ will be able to play a substantial role to expand the khadi industry.

India and Pakistan are other leading sourcing hubs for khadi. To promote and reach to apex, the Indian government has decided to harness solar energy to power charkas (spinning wheels) across the country to boost the production by 20 times. The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed the package loan agreement of $150 million for the Khadi Reform and Development Program (KRDP). In addition, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has urged to Indian Railways for running a special train named ‘Khadi Express’ to promote this industry on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

The Bangladeshi government has also taken steps to provide financial aids by identifying tant villages. There are over 0.88 million handloom workers included khadi, of them about 0.41 million are female while 0.47 million are male, according to the Planning Commission.

Recently the government has launched a handloom census across the country spending of Tk 80 million to revive the local khadi industry. Besides, the process to get Geographic Indication (GI) registration of Bangladeshi product – Cumilla’s textile ‘Khadi’ and ‘Roshmalai’ has been started after achieving GI of jamdani saree. If we get, then this could bring a new milestone to this sector.

Conclusion                                                                 

Khadi is the signature fabric of sub-continental countries. According to traditional business analysts, right now, what Bangladesh government is doing to revitalize khadi, ought to need further initiatives. If this attempt continues accurately it is undoubtedly concluded that khadi has a glittering future with parallels like other successful traditional sectors like Tangail saree and Jamdani.

Also Read: ‘Green Fashion’ made in handloom

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