Beyond the Freedom Struggle: Role of Khadi in Contemporary India


By Vishakha Mathur

Set in the time period of 1860s, the Grand Old Man of India, Dadabhai Naroji, exposed the spoils that were engendered in India due to the British rule. He introduced India and the world to the concept of Drain of Wealth which was apt during the time where the British were acting “…much like a sponge, drawing up all the good things from the banks of Ganges and squeezing them down on the banks of Thames…” as said by John Sullivan.

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This constant profit making tactics of the British was bringing nothing but destitution to India, forcing the poor to go further deep into poverty. But as we know, this was not the only aspect of the colonial rule. Their harsh policies, their incessant castigation and discriminatory administration gave birth to resentment against their rule in the hearts of the natives and ultimately sowed the seeds of the freedom movement.

The movement however, was not only about expelling the British from India; it was about getting our nation back, creating India out of the wreck conceived by the colonizers. Thus during the freedom movement, many things got established as symbols of freedom and nationalism. The most prominent one among those symbols was Khadi, re-introduced to us by the Father of Our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

The Introduction of Khadi:

Mahatma Gandhi, along with non-violence, also redefined the use of indigenous products to support the cause of our workers and eliminate the industry that was exploiting us. Khadi industry, having lost its base due to cheap products sold by the British in the market, was seen as a leading symbol of Gandhi’s struggle for freedom.

Using simple, yet time consuming technology that could be learned easily by anybody, Khadi spinning was popularized by Gandhi to provide work to the idle in the rural areas and as an alternative to the British products in the market. He sought to establish an economic system through Khadi which was centered on his principle of non-violence.

Khadi soon became the fabric of freedom, an emblem of opposition, not just against the British but also against the exploitative system of capitalism. It not only integrated the masses of the nation but also successfully harmonized politics with economic inequality and isolation of the masses. It had the power to bring all of the population together by allowing people to dress in freedom rather than subjugation.

Relevance of Khadi today

Fast forward 68 years from then, today we live in a free country attained by various movements that were successful in carving India out of the British Empire. Khadi was an important aspect of our freedom and it still stands for what it did during the freedom movement.

Khadi opposed the non-inclusive system of capitalism that simply tried to edge out the local workers and bring in the foreign goods that were cheaper as the British made them appear to be a more lucrative option. Even today, Khadi should be remembered and worn in the honor of the same idea. Khadi is produced by small scale workers who spin the charkha to churn out the best quality cloth for the consumers. It employs the rural population who dedicate all of their time and hard work to refine each piece of fabric they give out.

It is an exclusive fabric and each part of it is so unique that it cannot be duplicated. Its benefits are varied and stand tall today as they did earlier. It’s airy, Eco-friendly, elegant and most importantly, supports the small cotton farmers and spinners. It is a brilliant way to connect us to our roots, make us aware of our heritage and strengthen our belief in the ideals that have got us here today.

Thus, this Independence Day, lets cherish our roots by wearing a piece of Khadi which will not only ensure our comfort, but at the same time, will connect us with the struggles that have enabled us to celebrate this day.