Indigo – “The Blue Gold” in India
Indigo is the oldest known dye known to humans. A specimen of fabric dyed with indigo was discovered in Huaca Prieta, Peru in 2009, which dated back to almost 6000 years. Woad (Isatis tinctoria) a plant of the mustard family was used for the dyeing purposes in Europe long before indigo was detected. The dye which was obtained from this plant was inferior in quality than indigo. Thus the importance of indigo became prominent which led to it being named as “The Blue Gold”.
After the defeat of the Indians in the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the trade of Bengal handlooms were monopolised. Also, heavy export restrictions and taxes were imposed. Bengal weaving community was under duress. The weaving community were coerced to take loans and sell exclusively to the Company. All these led to enslaving and abandonment of the weaving profession in India.
On the other hand the farmers of the country were forced to exclusively cultivate indigo. They were pushed to take up loans to grow indigo and in turn received mere payment for their cultivation. All these atrocities led to rural indebtedness and the farming community became indebted for generations. The planters hand in hand with local zamindars exploited the trade and the farmers. This led to the ‘Indigo or Blue Mutiny’. It was around this time that the play “Nil Darpan” by Dinabandhu Mitra gained immense popularity as it clearly depicted the exact circumstances that prevailed in the country. The play was translated to English by Michael Madhusudan Dutta and was published by Rev. James Long. It attracted much attention in England, where the people were stunned at the savagery of their own countrymen.
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Freeze dried indigo or instant indigo has been available since 2004. Using this method a crystal is obtained from indigo that had been earlier reduced and then freeze dried. It is very easy to use and the crystals can be used indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to moisture.
Although the past only brings tears, talks about atrocities and loss of beautiful lives, now things have changed. Indigo as a natural world famous dye, is no more produced under such harsh conditions. Government, entrepreneurs and fashion companies are working together for the upliftment of the weaving, farming and as a whole the rural communities.
Weavers Studio, is one such organisation. The stories of indigo cultivation, the oppression, the revolt and gradual decline of Indigo farming in Bengal is beautifully depicted in handwoven, natural indigo dyed and value added textiles by Weavers Studio. We try to show and convey these significant parts of the Indian Freedom struggle through our textiles. We take inspirations from the green cultivations, the blue dyes and the neel kuthis, the ‘lathiyals’ and the red bloodbath, the rise of freedom movement and the death of Indigo farming. All these stories that are part of our history and heritage are depicted in the hand woven and hand embroidered motifs, the natural indigo greens & blues, the blood red colours of revolt and the rising sun of freedom struggle.
Weavers Studio takes you through this journey of “The Blue Mutiny”, all brought to life by the hands of it’s master craftsmen. Our artisans use innovative, contemporary techniques with the traditional like jamdani weaving, hand embroidery, natural dyeing, hand painting & hand block printing, shibori and inlay weaving, to tell this story. Every single day, we work with a renewed commitment to the environment, using natural dyes and promoting ecologically sustainable, natural textiles.
Since our inception we vouched to build our fashion company as an ethical,sustainable and totally handmade textile brand. We use natural dyes, promote artisans, build and make rural and deprived communities self reliant through our various CSR and non- CSR activities. For the last 26 years, in our in-house production unit the artisans – the weavers, painters, embroidery workers etc both men and women realise their dreams and showcase their productions through us to the entire world. We take pride in our exclusive indigo dyed shibori, clamp dyed textile etc. Our patrons from all over the world have been a great supporting pillar. Every year, we successfully organise workshops where our patrons and anyone interested in understanding textiles be it students, amateurs,artists etc meet our workers at our factory and get to work and feel the real ambience. They also visit our store in Ballygunge,Kokata. Apart from the textiles that they get to see and use their own hands to make it, they are greeted with a warm welcome as any guest who would come to our homes. Weavers Studio is a family and everyone is treated as one. Our core team is always there to guide them at each step along the way. At the end of the day at the workshop, their smiles says it all. They get to touch,feel and get overjoyed with the very own piece of textile they curated. This is the memory that Weavers Studio imprints upon our greater family,You. We are You.