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Khadi or khaddar refers to varieties of coarse cotton cloth, which have been hand woven using hand spun yarn. Peasants and artisans in pre-industrial India always wore Khadi that had been made from locally grown Organic cotton, harvested by local labourers, spun into yarn by their womenfolk and woven into cloth by men from various specialist weaving castes. The precise technology involved in the production of Khadi would vary from region to region, as would the techniques used for its decoration (dyeing, embroidery, printing etc)

Khadi shot into prominence in the early twentieth century when the Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi called for the public burning of British mill-made cloth, and urged patriotic Indians to wear only homespun Khadi.

What is Khadi?

What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labor-saving machinery...The impetus behind it is not philanthropy to save labor, but greed

(Mahatma Gandhi)

Khadi weaving is labour-intensive. The fabric is hand-spun and hand-woven from cotton, silk or wool. First, farmers pick cotton and remove the seeds. This is rolled into slivers in a process known as Ginning. These slivers are spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called the charkha, made famous by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. The threads are then manufactured and hand woven into cloth. indian national flag is also made up of khadi

Unlike cotton, the material is starched and hence, does not crumple as easily. Khadi has the unique quality of being cool in summers and warm in winters.

(For a list of the types of Khadi woven in different parts of India, go to [1])

Mahatma Gandhi and Khadi

This is sacred cloth...

(Mahatma Gandhi)

Mahatma Gandhi urged Indians to throw out their British colonial rulers with two weapons — non-violence and handspun cloth. A middle aged man when he realized the significance of Khadi as a symbol of independence and self sufficiency, Gandhi did not know how to spin or weave. With great difficulty, he found someone to teach him the skills of the spinning wheel, and spun every day of his life thereafter.

His plan was audacious – not only did he eschew Western wear himself, he also proposed a complete re-clothing of the nation. In its 1920 Nagpur session, the Indian National Congress first stated its aim to promote Khadi, the nationalist fabric. Gandhi henceforth referred to it as the "Livery of Freedom." Overnight, Khadi became the symbol of defiance as thousands of bonfires were lighted across the country and Indians rose up against colonialism by throwing their Manchester textiles into the flames. Thus, Khadi's growing importance caused a full scale reorganisation of India's textile industry.

Gandhi's Khadi movement was slightly different from the efforts of earlier swadeshi (home industry) activists in Bengal who had contented themselves with the promotion of Indian produced mill cloth. For he decreed that to qualify as Khadi, cloth had to be not only hand woven and locally produced but also made from hand-spun yarn.

Khadi Production in India

Different Indian states produce different varieties of Khadi. Some, like Madhya Pradesh, produce special weaves like Tussar Silk. Others, like Gujarat, embellish Khadi with embroidery and mirror work. Woolen Khadi is produced in the colder states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Khadi from different states is produced and marketed by the Indian government through the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), established in 1956. Today, more than seventy six lakh people work through KVIC (for more statistics on Khadi production, go to KVIC).

Khadi in Contemporary Fashion

Many Indian fashion designers believe that Khadi is India’s answer to Egyptian cotton and linen. It falls well and becomes second skin after two washes. It breathes, it has a self-texture. It has been blended with denim, wool, polyester and silk with good results.

Earlier this decade (2000-2001), designer Rohit Bal was responsible for the revival of Khadi and its prominence in Indian fashion. Today, most Indian designers of repute like Anju Modi, Sangita Singh Kathiwada, Deepika Govind and Wendell Rodericks to name a few, have used Khadi in their collections. One astute Kolkata based clothing company has produced a successful range of brightly coloured khadi garments under the brand name Khadder.

Today, the central government’s Khadi Gram stores retail Khadi couture created by almost all the known Indian designer labels.


  • Khadi and Village Industries Commission
  • Gandhi Museum
  • Gandhigram