These silk-weaving techniques from the depths of India’s history stand strong even today, establishing a consistently profitable market demand and consumption of silk, providing employment to millions across the country. India produces the largest quantity of Mulberry silk in the world. The other types of silk from the country include Tasar, Eri and Muga – varying in the species of silkworms used. These come primarily from the southern and north-eastern states, including Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Assamese silk is synonymous with the main types of indigenous wild silks Muga, white pat and Eri. All of this is registered under the trademark Sualkuchi’s, where this labor-intensive market is headquartered. Mysore and north Bangalore contribute to nearly 70 percent of mulberry silk production, while Kanchipuram is the signature silk from Tamil Nadu owing to its distinct Zari (fine golden/silver thread) work. Another popular silk is Banarasi, defined by its heavy gold work, minute detailing and a net-like pattern. Silk goods from different regions have their distinct design and are worn for special occasions including weddings and festivals, mostly as sarees.
Silk is used widely in the textile and apparel industries. Under the Central Silk Board of India, a statutory body under the Ministry of Textiles, several silk centers have been set up across 11 states in the country for the development and support of silk farming and the market. In June 2004, a Silk Mark scheme was introduced to ensure quality within the silk value chain. Policy and infrastructure support have seen silk goods taking the major share of exports from India compared to raw silk or silk waste. The country’s exports of ready-made garments from fabrics made up nearly five billion U.S. dollars in fiscal year 2019.
With the rise of conscious consumerism, Ahimsa silk was the eco-friendly update that the industry needed. In 2006, Kusuma Rajiah from Hyderabad successfully patented a method of extracting silk without killing the caterpillars. This took ten days instead of the traditional 15 minutes of boiling cocoons. Although Ahimsa or non-violent silks are priced higher, it is a change that will probably give the industry a sustainable facelift and a stronghold in the fast-growing vegan market globally.