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How about Indian cotton (what are the unique characteristics of Indian cotton cloth)

Introduction Early modern India became A major region for cotton textile production and trade, India is not a model for other cotton textile producers in terms of efficiency and un…


Early modern India became A major region for cotton textile production and trade, India is not a model for other cotton textile producers in terms of efficiency and uniqueness. So the question remains: What is so special about Indian cotton? Why are they so popular in the global market?

I speculate that the reason lies in the post-processing process rather than the production and raw material costs. Cotton textiles are easily beautified by printing, dyeing or coloring. During the Middle Ages and early modern period, it was Indian patterns and colors that attracted global consumers, even in cheap fabrics.


Printing, dyeing and coloring add value to otherwise ordinary fabrics. India excels in post-processing of cotton textiles. The application of dye resists (waxing the white areas) and mordants (using chemicals to fix the color) in dyeing were mastered by the Indian subcontinent as early as 2000 BC, and the knowledge of dyes also developed very early.

Blue and black are obtained from indigo plants, and red from various turmeric plants and mango bark. The coloring methods include not only dyeing, but also coloring (kalamkari) and wood template printing (chit), stamping and yarn tie-dye processes. Coloring and printing are the most commonly used techniques and are found in many parts of India such as Mesulipadam, Nizampatam, Golconda, Narasapur, Amgaon (Armagaon) and Madras.

▲Tie-dye works

Cotton printing technology was probably introduced to India from Persia and was well developed in many areas of India before the 12th century. By that time, wood stencil printing was already in use on the coast of Gujarat and Malabar. The later “chintz” (printed cotton) is derived from the word “chit” (wooden template printing). The Coromandel Coast, the third largest region in cotton textile production in India, specializes in cotton coloring. The differentiation of printing, dyeing and coloring includes various sub-specializations. For example, in western India and Gujarat, chintz is printed on woodblocks using one or more different techniques, including “direct printing”, “bleach printing” (printing with mordants and then Bleaching of unmordanted areas) and “resist printing” (printing with a sticky substance, then dyeing, then removing the substance).

Many Indian documents confirm that the degree of division of labor in cotton printing has been highly refined. The tasks involved in this process There can be as many as a dozen types of individual transfer dyeings for cotton. The properties of cotton that make it suitable for printing are also the reasons why printing and dyeing processes are used in other parts of Asia.

▲Tie-dye process

In China, woven cotton textiles are at the top of the market. Printed and dyed fabrics (medicated cloth) produced by template printing, resist printing and woodblock printing have been very popular in the late Song Dynasty. The patterns include pagodas, Pavilions, figures and flowers, etc. They cater to the mid-range market and are distinguished from the various cheap coarse cloths produced for home consumption. Southeast Asia combines two different traditions in textile post-processing: yarn tie-dye and batik. Yarn tie-dye dyes the yarn by binding it before weaving, so that it can be simply weaved. Capable of creating complex patterns, this technique was perfected in the 11th century.

Batik uses wax to prevent dye from seeping into the fabric. This technique was widely spread in the 11th century, but it is not clear. Did it originate locally or was it introduced from elsewhere in Asia. Cotton printing was not used in Japan until the Edo period, and “bengara” (-jima

Or -gôshi) (Bengali striped cloth or checkered cloth), “santome” (-jima) (Saint Tome striped cloth), “matafü” (-jima) (Madras striped cloth), etc. Little knowledge was introduced from the Indian subcontinent.

▲batik technology

The different techniques of cotton coloring, and more generally of cotton printing, spread both east and west from northern India and Persia, into other parts of Asia, establishing local specializations. The Mamluk region used stencil printing in the 14th century, and Anatolia also used Indian techniques for cotton coloring and printing in the 16th century. �A French tourist, Piere Belon, saw that in the second half of the 16th century, there were many textile printing workshops in Istanbul. Throughout the 17th century, due to the migration of professional craftsmen from Persia, India and Armenia, printing developed in provincial capitals such as Sivas and Tokat.

Although the quality of their products, especially those completed outside the capital, cannot keep up with Indian products, according to another French Pitton de Tournefort recorded in 1717 that they were good enough to “satisfy” the Muscovites and Tatars. Unlike the technologies of ginning, stretching, spinning and weaving, printing and dyeing technology did not spread to Africa or Europe before the 17th century. They have always been a quintessentially Asian technology, which made Asian cotton textiles unique in the global trade in which India dominated.

▲Printing and dyeing technology

India’s success in the cotton textile industry has not gone without challenges. Between 1200 and the 17th century, the cotton textile industry flourished in many parts of Eurasia. They borrowed from South Asia agricultural knowledge on how to grow cotton and know-how on how to process the raw material. However, their industrial development retained special organizational characteristics, specialization of production, and relations with trade and the state.

The clear advantage that India enjoys is based neither on cheap labor nor on better technology. The Indian subcontinent undoubtedly had a longer experience than other regions in the production of cotton textiles, and it relied on an organized trading system. But its most important advantage is that it has mastered the post-processing technology of cloth, which is unmatched by China, the Levant and Europe. This is the reason why Indian products can sell well throughout the Eurasian and African continents.

When Europeans first landed in India at the end of the 15th century, they were surprised by the abundance of cotton textiles. Just three centuries later, European ships were unloading cargoes of European-produced cotton at the same spot on the Indian coast. What happened between 1500 and 1800 that so drastically changed the landscape of world production and trade? This is Europe’s slow but important shift in its position in global trade and production. Focusing on a single commodity helps explain this shift that was far broader than cotton textile production and trade. This era of early modernity saw the formation of the production conditions that would lead the West to modern industrial society, particularly in the field of cotton textiles.

▲Indian old man

There are various explanations for the “divergence” of the West. From a microscopic perspective of the cotton textile industry, it appears as a long and cyclical process that depends on a variety of different factors, some of which are intrinsic to Europe, and in most cases, this process Depends on the links Europe establishes with other continents. Before 1500, Europe was an unlikely candidate for emerging power in cotton textile production and trade, as the continent had not been successful in developing a mature cotton textile industry. In fact, the distinctive feature of the textile world at that time was that Europe was outstanding in the production of wool, linen, and even silk to a certain extent, but lagged behind in cotton spinning, weaving, and post-processing.

After the advent of technological innovations in spinning and weaving, cotton textiles did not become a key industry in the European economy. The industry developed into an integral part of Europe’s economy and material culture for a variety of different reasons. Europe spent a lot of time just to master the basics of production, especially in developing high-quality printing technology. Trade with Asia made Europe aware of the different varieties of cotton and consumer aesthetics.

▲Kapok tree

In order to supply different varieties of products to European consumers and the international market, they have conducted a large number of experiments. These various factors are chronological, which makes the emergence of the cotton textile industry in Europe accidental, and at the same time it is not as revolutionary as many Western industrialization histories believe. Cotton cloth gradually integrated into the consumption habits of Europeans over time, and brought wealth to merchants and producers. Europe is like a sponge, absorbing technical and commercial knowledge, acquiring raw materials and converting them into products. This is all due to the connections that the European continent has established with the rest of the world.

Europe was unique in its ability to obtain things from outside its borders, sometimes through force and plunder, sometimes through Scientific exploration or means of trade.

�Again through scientific exploration or trade.

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Author: clsrich