History of silk 1 – Palam Silks

How silk was discovered:

According to the 27th century BC tale, the discovery of silk was an accident. It stated that Empress Leizu was having tea one day when a silk worm's cocoon fell into her cup.In its attempt to get out, the thread of the cocoon began to unroll. So the Empress thought of weaving the thread. The Yellow Emperor, encouraged his wife to study the life of silk worm, and so she learned the art of raising silk worms or what is called sericulture. Her entourage was taught as well and thus the advent of the silk industry.

The history of silk in China:

Silk is one of the oldest fabrics known to man. The history of silk can be traced back to the 27th century BC in China where the use of silk was limited to the Chinese. The Chinese used silk for clothing, writing and during the Tang Dynasty, the colour of the silk you wear signified one's social rank class.

The Silk Route:

For a very long time, the Chinese kept silk as a secret from the rest of the world. Only in the last half of the first millennium BC the Silk Road or Silk Routes were opened across Asia, linking Mediterranean world as well as North Africa and Europe. At first countries such as India and Japan learnt the science of sericulture and soon joined in on the eastern monopoly of silk production.

Silk in India:

Traders introduced Chinese silk cloth to India, mainly from Samarkand and Bukhara and it gained immense popularity among the royalty and the aristocracy. Jamawar as well as brocade weaving centers in India developed in holy cities and trade centers because of the demand for expensive fabrics by the royal families and temples.

The ancient centers were situated mainly in Gujarat, Malwa and South India.

In the North - Delhi, Lahore, Agra, FatehpurSikri, Varanasi, Mau, Azamgarh and Murshidabad were the main centers for brocade weaving

The most well known Jamawar weaving centers were in Assam, Gujrat, Malwa and South India

Silk in present India:

Silk in the Indian subcontinent is a luxury good. About 97% of raw silk is produced in the five Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir. The North Bangalore regions of Muddenahalli and Kanivenarayanapura and Mysore contribute to a majority of silk production. Another emerging silk producer is Tamil Nadu where mulberry cultivation is concentrated in Coimbatore, Erode and Dharmapuri districts. Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and Gobichettipalayam (Tamil Nadu) were the first locations to have automated silk reeling units.

Varieties in silk:

From the past, Kanchipuram silk sarees stand out from others due to its intricate weaving patterns and the quality of the silk. They are large and heavy owing to the zari work on the saree. Kanchipuram attracts large number of people, both from India and abroad, who come specifically to buy silk sarees. Most of the sarees are still hand woven by workers in the weaving unit. More than 5000 families still indulge in silk weaving.
Banaras has always been a big textile center of silk weaving. The earliest mention of the brocade and Zari textiles of Banaras is found in the 19th century. With the migration of silk weavers from Gujarat during the famine of 1603, silk brocade weaving started in Banaras in the seventeenth century and developed in excellence during the 18th and 19th century.
Assam silk denotes the three major types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam-golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri silk. The Assam silk industry, now centered in Sualkuchi, is a labor intensive industry.