In India, silk is considered one of the main measures of wealth and prosperity. The use of silk garments in auspicious family events and functions doubles the joy. The shimmering silk fabric gives the wearer an elegant aura that looks extremely elegant. What about our wedding ceremonies? The bride and groom and family members, guests also wear and display silk garments of different types and colors.
Silk plays an important role in other rituals as well. The practice of adorning God in silk clothes and offering silk clothes in temples is also seen in many small and big temples. This is the reason why India is the largest producer and also the largest consumer of silk fabrics. More than 75% of the silk fabric used in our country is in the form of silk sarees. So, silk manufacturers should thank Indian women for their love and longing for silk.
1. What is silk?
Both silk and cotton are natural fabrics that are produced from nature. Yarn for cotton fabrics is obtained from cotton swabs, while silk thread for silk fabrics is obtained from silkworms. Let’s see how silkworms give us these shining silk dresses.
Technically speaking, silk fibers are composed of a type of protein that is secreted in liquid form by silkworms during the larval stage of their life cycle. As soon as it is secreted, this protein takes the form of a fine, very strong and uniform filament. Silk fabrics are made using this fiber. The different types of silk depend on what the food of that insect is. Food for silkworms is usually a variety of plants and leaves.
Since the source of silk is animal protein, silk is a natural insulator that keeps us cool in summer and warm in winter.
2. Life cycle of silkworm
The typical life cycle of a silkworm is larva to egg, worm to pupa, and pupa to moth. As soon as they hatch, the caterpillars quickly eat the leaves and attain a large size within a few days. As the caterpillar matures, it secretes a type of fluid from its salivary glands, with which it forms a protective pupa corpus or cocoon around itself. By developing inside this cyst, it eventually turns into an adult insect and emerges from the cyst.
Life cycle of silkworm Female silkworms lay 300-500 eggs at a time around spring. This is an annual activity. The eggs are small, flat, round and light yellow in color, attached to the leaf by fluid. After receiving suitable heat, these eggs hatch into caterpillars that feed on the leaves. These caterpillars mature in a few days after feeding on large quantities of leaves for about a month.
A mature caterpillar begins to weave cells around itself, for which it uses proteins released from its body and rapidly moves around the body. In fact, at this critical stage of its life cycle, the silkworm forms a corpuscle for its own protection. A fully formed corpus looks like a soft cotton ball. This entire circle is woven with long unbroken threads.
After this tireless effort, the worm remains motionless within the corpus for several days. This is called the pupa stage. After a few days, the mature insect emerges from this corpus and develops its species. But silk growers remove the silk thread from this pupa stage by immersing the corpus in boiling water.
3. Natural silk color
The natural color of the fibers depends on the color of the leaves they eat in the caterpillar stage. Yes, the color of the silk is determined by what the insect caterpillar eats before moving into the cell. These insects are the best example of the saying ‘what you eat is what you get’. Although the natural colors of silk are not bright and varied, their natural color ranges from pale white to light brown. These naturally dyed fibers are washed, cleaned, bleached and bleached, then dyed in different colors as required.
Traditionally, dyes obtained from natural plant sources were used in ancient times, such as flowers, wood, seeds, succulent fruits, stem bark, roots etc. Blue dye was obtained from the leaves of the indigo plant. Various forms of red dye were obtained from the juicy fruits of Manjishtha. Yellow color was obtained from turmeric, marigold flowers, cow urine, etc., while orange was obtained from various forms of saffron.
Green color was created by mixing blue and yellow colors. Although the variety of natural dyes is limited, they are obtained from natural sources and are neither harmful to our skin nor harmful to the environment. With the advent of chemical dyes, the variety of colors has increased manifold but with opposite results. With the advent of chemical dyes, the process of dyeing has become easier and the production of different colors has also become possible as chemical dyes are easy to mix.
4. Different types of silk in India
The type of silk depends on two factors, the species of silkworm and the type of leaves eaten by them before weaving. Broadly speaking, they can be divided into two categories, mulberry silk and others.
Mulberry silk is a common silk type that accounts for about 90% of global silk production. India is the second largest producer of mulberry silk in the world. It is produced by an insect called Bombyx mori which eats the mulberry leaves.
This silk has the natural luster, smoothness and softness that characterize silk fabrics and sarees. Mulberry or mulberry is cultivated for rearing these pests, with large number of leaves available. This technique is called moriculture.
A caterpillar eats up to 500 grams of leaves during its lifetime. You’d be surprised how many leaves these caterpillars eat, so also remember that the silk they produce is renewable for over a hundred years.
Mulberry silk is extremely light, soft and strong and has a natural sheen.
5. Where is silk produced in India?
Asia produces more than 95% of the world’s silk. It is mostly made in China and India. In the year 2020-21, India produced 33771 metric tonnes of silk yarn. South and North-East India contributed the most to this. In India, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Assam are leading the race.
Weaver of Maheshwar For different types of silk production, India can be divided into five silk divisions which include the following states:
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana, Kerala – 60%
Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat
Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar – 10%
Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana
Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim – 22%
Major types of silk are concentrated in a region with their own weaving techniques, colors and shapes. For example, Tanchoi and Jamdani of Benares, Paithani of Deccan, Baluchari of Bengal etc.
Sericulture and manufacturing is India’s major small-scale and cottage industry, employing more than 7 million artisans in 59,000 villages in 25 states. More than 60% of these artisans are women. Even amidst the wave of industrialization and modernization, this industry has remained constant and intact. This industry will prove to be the harbinger of India moving towards self-sustaining local economies.
At the same time, the cultural and traditional importance of silk will continue to ensure its regular demand by consumers. Our sericulture farmers, weavers and fashion designers ensure that they leave no stone unturned to meet the demands of consumers with their handcrafted and woven silk products.
At present our consumption is much higher than our production capacity. Due to which we have to import silk. This means that there are unlimited possibilities for new-age entrepreneurs in India to increase the production of silk raw materials, to discover and develop new uses for silk, to integrate our ancient culture and traditions with the lifestyle of the future. Explore different means of engagement. .