Gandhi Jayanti: In this excerpt from The Story of My Life by MK Gandhi, an abridged biography of Mahatma Gandhi, published by Scholastic India, the Father of the Nation talks about the birth of khadi.
When the Satyagraha Ashram was founded at Sabarmati, we introduced a few handlooms there.
The object that we in the Ashram set before ourselves was to be able to clothe ourselves entirely in cloth manufactured by our own hands. We therefore forthwith gave up the use of mill-woven cloth, and all the members of the Ashram resolved to wear hand-woven cloth made from Indian yarn only. By thus adopting cloth woven from mill-yarn as our wear, and propagating it among our friends, we made ourselves voluntary agents of the Indian spinning mills. This in its turn brought us into contact with the mills. We saw that the aim of the mills was more and more to weave the yarn spun by them; their cooperation with the handloom weaver was not willing, but unavoidable and temporary.
We became impatient to be able to spin our own yarn. It was clear that, until we could do this ourselves, dependence on the mills would remain. We did not feel that we could render any service to the country by continuing as agents of Indian spinning mills.
We could get neither a spinning wheel nor a spinner to teach us how to spin.
I asked every chance visitor to the Ashram, who was likely to possess some information about hand-spinning, about the art.
In the year 1917 I was taken by my Gujarati friends to preside at the Broach Educational Conference. It was here that I discovered that remarkable lady Gangabehn Majmudar. To her I poured out my grief about the charkha, and she lightened my burden by a promise to search for the spinning wheel till she found it.
At last, after no end of wandering in Gujarat, Gangabehn found the spinning wheel in Vijapur in the Baroda State. Quite a number of people there had spinning wheels in their homes, but had long since put them away as useless lumber. They expressed to Gangabehn their readiness to resume spinning, if someone promised to provide them with a regular supply of slivers54, and to buy the yarn spun by them. Gangabehn communicated the joyful news to me. The providing of slivers was found to be a difficult task. On my mentioning the thing to the late Umar Sobani, he solved the difficulty by immediately undertaking to send a sufficient supply of slivers from his mill.
I did not like continuously receiving slivers from him. Moreover, it seemed to me to be fundamentally wrong to use mill-slivers. If one could use mill-slivers, why not use mill-yarn as well? Surely no mills supplied slivers to the ancients. How did they make their slivers then? With these thoughts in my mind I suggested to Gangabehn to find carders who could supply slivers. She confidently undertook the task. She engaged a carder who was prepared to card cotton. He demanded thirty-five rupees, if not much more, per month. I considered no price too high at the time. She trained a few youngsters to make slivers out of the carded cotton. Thus the spinning wheel gained a rapid footing in the Ashram.
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