Tussar Silk, also known by its Sanskrit name Kosa silk, is produced from Tusser silkworms (Antheraea mylitta and Antheraea proylei). Produced mainly in the Indian state, Jharkhand, Tussar is valued for its texture and natural gold colour, which is unusually rich and deep.
Tussar Silk is a type of wild silk – it is obtained from silk worms that are not bred on mulberry trees but whose cocoons are collected from the local trees like Sal, Arjun and Saja. It is less expensive than cultivated silk and not as durable (cultivated silk has longer fibres). Some Tussar silk today is made is called non-violent silk, or Ahimsa Silk, which is extracted from the cocoon after the silkworm larva has left it.
Traditionally, Tussar was dyed only with natural dyes – but with time, the range of colour and motifs has increased dramatically, thanks to the introduction of chemical dyes.
How it is made
Tussar Silk is produced by the larvae of several species of silk worms like Antheraea Mylitta, Antheraca Proylei, Antherea Pernyi and Antheraca Yamamai. The insects mostly live in the wild in the forest, eating off the trees they live on. Their cocoon is single-shelled and oval.
In conventional sericulture, the cocoons are boiled with the larvae still inside. In Ahimsa Silk manufacture, the cocoons are boiled after the larvae have left them. However, as far as the technique of silk manufacture is concerned, boiling is important as it softens the cocoon making the extraction of silk easier.
After they have been boiled (or treated with a softening enzyme) the yarn is reeled.
(For more on the sericulture process, go to http://copperwiki.org/index.php/Ahimsa_Silk)
Tussar Production Centres
India produces the bulk of the world’s production of Tussar silk. Of that, as much as forty per cent comes from one state – Jharkhand. The Kharsawa district of Kuchai area of Jharkhand considered as the epicentre of Tussar-silk rearing in India. For the locals there (mostly tribals) sericulture is one of the most viable income generation options available. The sericulture is managed by the skilled tribal workforce of the region. The silks are impressed upon with traditional printings or prints of tribal dances and tribal festivals and the other features of tribal life.
Tussar is also manufactured in Chattisgarh, in the towns of Champa, Bilaspur, Raigarh, Jagdalpur and Bastar. The weaving community here, Devangans, have been producing Tussar silk fabric for generations
Did You Know?
- You can also identify pure silk. Take a few threads from the warp and the weft and set their ends alight. When they are fully burnt, smell the ash. If it smells like burnt hair, you have just burnt some pure silk. If it doesn’t, and in fact the residue is solid, it is not silk, but some synthetic material.
- Tussar silk production has become an economic lifeline for villagers in Maoist-affected areas in Jharkhand. It offers a means of livelihood in a state where the Maoists have a stronghold in 18 of the 22 districts.
- India has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world producing all the commercially known varieties of silk - mulberry, Tussar (both tropical and temperate), Eri, and Muga.
Other Handictraft that Use Tussar
Tussar Silk has a beautiful texture and sheen that makes it perfect for use as a base for other handicraft.
Orissa’s Pattachitras are traditionally made either on palm leaf or tussar.
The famous Kantha embroidery of West Bengal is created on Tussar fabrics.
Tussar is also embellished with block prints from Bagh and Bagru in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Maintaining Tussar Fabrics
- Tussar is a fine, durable fabric, but like all other types of silk, it is very vulnerable when it is wet. Here are some tips for maintaining it –
- Dry cleaning is the safest option for Tussar.
- Remember, do not let your dry cleaned Tussar (or any silk for that matter) stay wrapped in plastic too long. Silks need to breathe.
- In case you want to hand wash your Tussar fabric, remember to use cold water and a mild liquid soap (preferably which is meant for delicate clothes).
- Do not wring excess water out. Let the fabric dry in shade. Bright sun may cause the fabric to fade.
- Wash dark colors separately and remember never to use chemical bleaches on your silks.