Cotton. The word conjures up images of white, fluffy and soft balls you want to hold against your skin. This cotton when worn as a fabric keeps one at their comfortable best.
Cotton and India go way back to 6000 B.C. where the first evidence of the plant was found in the Indus Delta. The Indus Valley civilization started cotton cultivation by 3000 B.C. By 1500 B.C., cotton was such an integral part of the civilization that it found mention in Hindu hymns too. The popularity of Indian cotton grew widely and the fact is found mentioned by an ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, in the 5th century BCE. He describes Indian cotton as “a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep.” Indian cotton also fast became the favoured choice of clothing by Indian invaders and foreign visitors. When Alexander the Great, invaded India, his troops began to prefer wearing cotton instead of their previous woollen clothes.
Cotton also played a significant role in India’s freedom struggle. Once, a major exporter of cotton goods, India became the largest importer of British’s cotton, thanks to the British rule. Gandhiji, in a move to re-establish the role of Indian cotton, launched the Khadi Movement which stirred a massive boycott of British cotton goods.
In today’s scenario, cotton plays a vital role in India’s economy. The textile industry of India is predominantly cotton based. This makes it one of the largest producers and also the largest exporters of cotton yarn in the world. Cotton is grown and cultivated in around ten states in India, with Gujarat and Maharashtra topping the list in production. Cotton cultivation, processing, marketing and export provides livelihood to nearly 60 million people in India.
Cotton cultivation is India’s pride as India is the only country on the globe which grows not only the four cultivated species of cotton, but also some specific hybrids on a commercial scale.