Comilla Khadi: History, Types and Future Prospects

Khadi cloth is inextricably linked with the history of Comilla. Starting from the anti British movement, the traditional khadi of Comilla or Khaddar of Comilla gained glory and fame. This fabric is well-known in the country and abroad for its artistic touch and is an internationally recognized geographical indicator. At one time the khadi of Comilla was known as the garment of the struggling people and the poor. That khadi is now meeting the demand of the time in fashion. Buyers are interested in buying this cloth for Eid, Puja or various festivals.

khadi cloth
Fig: Khadi cloth

History of Khadi Cloth:
Clothes made by Comilla Khadi industry are very popular among people of all classes in the country and abroad. The popularity of this cloth increased during the anti British movement called by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. Khadi industry originated at that time based on the slogan “Accept domestic products and reject foreign products”.

From ancient times there has been a great demand for khadi or khaddar cloth made by Comilla in this subcontinent. During Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement in British India in 1921, the khadi industry gained rapid popularity in the region due to historical reasons. Khadi or khaddar cloth was woven in the sanctuary of Comilla, the promoter association of Chittagong and the Gandhi Ashram of Noakhali. According to the information received, in 1926 – 28, an 8-arm long dhoti was sold for only five hundred taka. At that time Comilla Abhay Ashram sold khadi cloth worth about 9 lakh taka. An employee of Abhay Ashram, Parimal Dutt, it is known that even though there was a huge demand, the demand from Abhay Ashram was not fully met.

After the language movement of 1952 to keep up the demand for khadi cloth, The Khadi and Cottage Industries Association was established in collaboration with the Principal of Comilla Government Victoria College Dr. Akhtar Hamid Khan and the then Governor Firoz Khan Noon. They have worked tirelessly to spread the reputation of this khadi industry.

Although the post-independence period was called the golden age of khadi cloth, the crisis of this cloth came right after it. The war-torn textile mills were then closed. In order to meet the demand for textiles, there is a lot of pressure on handloom textiles in the import dependent countries. Although the production of khadi is not more than the demand of the country or the people, the weavers in the surrounding villages around Chandina Bazar started making sheets, curtains and cloths.

The original address of khadi is in Chandina upazila of Comilla district. Villages like Zafarabad, Nabiabad etc. are famous for khadi cloth. In 1994, the khadi industry of Comilla got international recognition for its quality.

Types of Khadi Cloth:
Khadi cloth is usually of two types.

  1. It is called endi silk or khadi silk as it is made from the remnants of silk. Khadi can be made from any natural fiber, not just silk. It depends on the variety of fibers.
  2. It is called cotton khadi because it is made from the remnants of cotton. Cotton khadi is mainly grown in Comilla. Now there are many changes in khadi cloth.

At one time only one or two colors of khadi were woven or seen. But now there are different types of khadi. Basically, the fashion designers of the native clothes have brought this variety. Earlier khadi cloth was mostly white and off white. And now there are different colors including red, white, yellow, brown, green, blue. Even check cloth is being made with khadi. However, khadi is now woven in two types. One is thin, the other is a little thick. Thin is used to make shirts or tops and thick is used to make Punjabi or other garments. Many fashion houses also make sarees with khadi. Besides, khadi shawls, towels, bed sheets, window curtains and cushion covers are also being made.

Present Condition of Khadi Cloth:
By diversifying the weaving of khadi fabric, the people of this industry have retained the profession found in the lineage. The popularity of khadi cloth has remained intact since time immemorial as garments have been made to suit the tastes of the people.

Khadi than cloth is first woven by hand-cut cotton yarn. Then sari, tops, Punjabi, etc. are made according to the demand. At present, the use of khaddar has increased due to diversification in various designs. It is known that bed sheets and nakshi katha are also made of khadi fabric. The khadi industry has a touch of modernity and change. Plain colored khadi cloth is now being printed in different colors. At present, khadi garments are excelled in various fashion houses of the country. For example, fashion bands like Bishwa Rang, Aarong are making garments like khadi sari, kameez etc.

khadi weaving
Fig: Khadi weaving (Image courtesy: Dhaka Tribune)

Garments made of khadi cloth are being exported to developed countries of the world. At present there is demand for khadi cloth in different countries of the world including United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Turkey. Besides, ‘Khadi Cottage’, ‘Purbasha Gift and Khadi’, ‘Khadi House’, ‘Khadi Aarong’, ‘Grameen Khadi’ etc. are notable among the khadi products of Comilla at present.

Future Prospects of Khadi Cloth:
Although this industry survives at present, there is considerable concern about its existence in the near future. The reasons for this are insufficiency of cotton and limited demand. At present it is not possible to produce khadi fabric by hand loom keeping pace with machine cloth.

comilla khadi panjabi
Fig: Comilla khadi panjabi

But various NGOs and banks are keen to capture the demand for this traditional khadi cloth and increase the capacity of weavers, moneylenders and traders. In order for the original customer to be able to compete with the new technology and production costs, the weavers and spinners involved in the industry need to be given advanced training. The idea is that if the government and various NGOs come forward with patronage, the concerned people think that it is possible to solve this problem.

Besides, if the President of our country, Prime Minister, political leaders as well as foreign ambassadors or foreign politicians along with fashion designers present the traditional khadi of Bangladesh, then this khadi will spread all over the world and the history of famous khadi of Bengal will remain intact for ages.

The century-old khadi product has maintained its quality and has maintained the demand in the competitive market with its combination of modernity. Khadi clothing is eye-catching, comfortable to wear and affordable. Wherever there is a Bengali community in the world, khadi cloth has spread. Khadi cloth has been associated with Bengalis for hundreds of years and will continue to be so in the future.



Author of this Article:
Nazifa Tabassum
B.Sc. in Clothing and Textile
Govt. College of Applied Human Science, Dhaka

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