Archive for Thursday May 10, 2012

Cotton… Pride, Panacea, Plague!

This is a story that has been told many a times, but never actually been heard.

This is a story that has been written and rewritten throughout history.

This is a story that has contributed greatly to the legacy of this country.

Yet, this is the story that has been denied the attention it deserves!

India has been cultivating cotton since the Saraswathi Valley civilisation 5000 years ago. Cotton is deep rooted in our history. It has been our path to pride and at many times our redemption.

We owe much of what we know about cotton’s prehistoric existance to a collection of ancient Indian texts called the vedas. The earliest of these sacred texts is the Rig Veda (descriptions and praises of the Gods) that was composed between 1700-1100 BC.

The Rig Veda tells the story of Prajapati, the first god who created the world. Prajapati, “Lord of Creatures” was adorned in what was called “Kaarpaasa” which was described as a white, soft fabric spun out of a ball like seed.  Prajapati was sacrificed to himself by the younger Gods Indra (Lord of Heaven/Space), Agni (Lord of Fire), and Varuna (Lord of Rain/Water) and from parts of his body the whole universe was born. Prajapati’s remaining parts turned into different groups of people, which is why the Indian people think of themselves as belonging to one of four castes or groups. Throughout the vedas, be it tales of Gods, human or animals, cotton has a vital role within the story. In India today, as it was for thousands of years, no matter what caste you occupy or what job you hold you will be wearing a piece of cotton, either elaborately adorned or plain and simple.

Herodotus, the 5th century BC Greek historian records, “in India there were trees growing wild, which produce a kind of wool better than sheep’s wool in beauty and quality, which the Indians use for making their clothes.” The earliest pictorial depiction can be referenced from the  2nd century BC Ajanta Cave carvings that show genius cotton growers in India had invented an early roller machine to get the seeds out of cotton.

Cotton, has gone from being the fabric of the Gods to the common man’s elixir. It was the riches of the rich as well as the poor. From the times of the Imperialist regime to the times of Ghandian revolution, cotton in India evolved and adapted itself to play the part it was given.

With Mahatma Gandhi, cotton gained its most celebrated moment. It became the symbol of India’s freedom struggle. It was the backbone of the Swadeshi movement (economic empowerment through self-sufficiency), paved the path to the Indian man regaining his lost dignity.  Gandhi taught Indians to love, trust and respect cotton. We have however come a long way since then. We have moved far from our Gandhian cotton ways to a deep dark hole of despair.

A deep dark hole called “Genetic Modification”.

India today is the largest producer of GM cotton in the world. Cotton occupies 5% of our country’s farmland but accounts for nearly 54% of the total pesticides consumed. The result of us forgetting what is indigenous has pushed us into desperate indignation. Over 200,000 farmers loosing their lives over the loss of their livelihood, within a decade, tells us enough!

Janaki’s Vastra is a small step towards redeeming this community. Our clothes take you back to the roots of cotton…  purity,  goodness and pride.

Organically produced… Sustainable clothes …  as comfortable as they can get!