Khadi is a hand-woven natural fiber cloth. The cloth is usually woven from cotton and may also include silk or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric, cool in summer and warm in winter. Gandhiji began promoting the spinning of khadi for rural self-employment.
Gandhiji and His Hardwork for Khadi
In 1918 Mahatma Gandhi started his movement for Khadi as a relief program for the poor masses living in India’s villages. According to him, there could be no swaraj without universal and voluntary acceptance of khadi.
In his words, “I am a salesman of swaraj. I am a devotee of khadi. It is my duty to induce people, by every honest means, to wear khadi. Spinning and weaving were elevated to an ideology for self-reliance and self-government.
Khadi is the central core of the constructive activities as recommended by Gandhiji. Every village shall plant and harvest its own raw-materials for yarn, every woman and man shall engage in spinning and every village shall weave whatever is needed for its own use.
In the first half of this century, and in many parts even now, farmers have not enough work to earn their living throughout the year. About four months they may be idle due to the rainless dry season. Spinning would thereby supply the reedist occupation; it can easily be learned.
It requires practically no outlay or capital, even an improved spinning wheel can be easily and cheaply made. Gandhi saw it as the end of dependency on foreign materials and thus giving a first lesson or real independence.
Raw materials at that time were entirely exported to England and then re-imported as costly finished cloth, depriving the local population of work and profits on it.
Gandhi also felt that in a county where manual labor was looked down upon, it was an occupation to bring high and low, rich and poor together, to show them the dignity of hand-labor.
He asked not only of those in need but of every person to do spinning at least about one hour per day as a sacrifice to his country, as a duty towards the poor.
His emphasis at first was on khadi as providing relief to our poverty-stricken masses. But one finds a change in his emphasis from 1934, more especially from 1935, when he began on insisting on khadi for the villager’s own use, rather than merely for sale to others.
His imprisonment in 1942 and 1943 gave him time to ponder further over his khadi movement, and when he came out of jail he came with a determination to give a new turn to khadi work in order to make khadi serve the needs of villagers themselves first and foremost. He poured out his soul to his fellow-workers in 1944 and urged them to effect the change.
The spinning wheel was at one time the symbol of India’s poverty and
backwardness. Gandhiji turned it into a symbol of self-reliance and non-violence.
Khadi enabled him to carry his message of swadeshi and swaraj to the people and to establish a connection with them.