Khadi is a hand-woven natural fiber cloth made from cotton, and sometimes wool and silk, spun into yarn on a charkha, the famous indian spinning wheel. Most of the Khadis have a contrasting border along the selvendges. The term Khadi is derived from khaddar, which means a handwoven and handspun textile cloth. The textile becomes softer and suppler with using it.
The production and trade with fabrics has a very long history in India, which goes back to ancient times. The Roman Empire was also supplied with calicos, printed cotton fabrics, like China or Indonesia. Later, due to the discovery of the sea path by Vasco da Gama, Europe came into focus. With the support of the British Crown, the East India Company established an incomparable trade monopoly in India and gradually took control and rule of the country. The textile trade was only one of the building blocks of a policy whose only goal was profit. Beginning of the 18th century Great Britain declared a ban on Indian substances, before other European countries did, because they were cheaper and more beautiful than its own goods, thus destroying the domestic industry. During the rule of the East India Company, the British used to ship the raw cotton from India to England and the finished material would come back to India to be sold at exorbitant prices, thus causing Indian farmers and commoners to suffer from huge losses and poverty.
The country was flooded with machine-made fabrics from Europe and hand-woven fabrics were no longer needed. India became more and more dependent and became a British colony in 1858. At this time the Swadeshi movement started, which later took over Mahatma Ghandi. The word derives from the ancient Indian svadeśin, sva my own and deśa country. The struggle for independence was about the boycott of British products and the promotion of their own goods, in particular cotton. Gandhi made khadi, the livery of the freedom movement. He believed every yard of khadi bought would put food in the mouths of the starving and the poor of India. Along with the small hand-spinning wheel, the Charkha, Khadi became THE symbol of the nonviolent struggle for independence that Ghandi led. The charkha was a means of nonviolently undermining the foundation of foreign rule, economic and political domination, uniting people politically and socially and bringing dignity to manual labour as a symbol of total Swaraj. Mahatma Ghandi explained it like this: „If we have the ‘khadi spirit’ in us, we would surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life. The ‘khadi spirit’ means illimitable patience. For those who know anything about the production of khadi know how patiently the spinners and the weavers have to toil at their trade, and even so must we have patience while we are spinning ‘the thread of Swaraj. The spinning wheel represents to me the hope of the masses. The masses lost their freedom, such as it was, with the loss of the Charkha. The Charkha supplemented the agriculture of the villagers and gave it dignity.“
Ghandi dressed only in his own made fabrics, and sat every day for at least half an hour at his Charkha, which he took along on trips. A picture of the spinning wheel was part of the national flag designed by Gandhi in 1921. Later, the charkha on the flag was transformed into the religious motif of Dharmachakra, the wheel of law. It is actually a symbol of the teachings of Buddha, also occurs in Hinduism, as an image for the eternity of the world, without beginning and end.
Until today it is forbidden by law to produce the Indian flag from any material other than from Khadi. On September 19, every year, is the day of Khadi in India. Since 2016 the largest high spinning wheel in the world is located at the Indira Ghandi Airport in Delhi.