Spinning its way

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Jan 29 2011, 07:49am hrs
The British introduced American cotton species Gossypium hirsutum, that had relatively long and strong fibre, in India in the year 1790 to cater to machine spinning. The American varieties required more fertilizers and were highly susceptible to drought, water logging, diseases and insect pests, as a result of which they could occupy only 3% of the total area under cotton cultivation in India by 1947. Thus, at the time of Independence, 97% of the area in India was under desi cotton varieties.

Later, Indian scientists intensified efforts to breed American cotton for Indian conditions and by 1965, American variety was grown in 40% of the total area under cotton cultivation. The remaining area was under desi varieties. By 2002, when Bt cotton was introduced, desi cotton acreage was further reduced to 25%. At the moment, the area under desi cotton is estimated at 3% in the country.

Evidence indicates that cotton has been in use in the country for over 5,000 years and India alone mastered the art of weaving cloth from cotton. Other world civilisations are known to have used other fibre sources such as wool and flax in Egypt, West Asia and Europe and silk in China.The cotton cloth recovered from relics of the Harappa civilisation (2300-1750 BC) were found to have been produced by sophisticated textile craftsmanship. Subsequently, the beauty of Indian cotton and cotton textiles was described by historians from time to time.

Freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose has anecdotes on Indias cotton history in 1938. To quote one: Arab traveller Suleiman wrote in the 9th century that cotton fabrics in Rahmi (now, Bangladesh) are so fine and delicate that they pass through a signet ring.