I had the opportunity to visit Gandhigram, I heard a lot about the self-independent grama called Gandhigram. I was truly excited to explore and gain a deeper understanding of it. I work with TULA INDIA, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to collaborating with rainfed organic desi cotton farmers. which is then Ambar charkha handspun, handwoven, naturally dyed, and manually tailored textiles. Interestingly, one of our collaborated organizations manages the entire production process from cotton to fabric within their own village, and that village happens to be Gandhigram.
The route to Gandhigram from Dindigul station is amazing. The scenic beauty of the Western Ghats and its lush greenery is a sight to behold.
Gandhigram, located in Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu, is a hub of institutions that encompass a wide range of educational, healthcare, economic, and social activities. It stands as a dedication of Dr. T. S. Soundaram and her late husband, G. Ramachandran, who founded the Gandhigram Trust in 1947. Their commitment to serving the underprivileged is evident.
In 1976, the Gandhigram Rural Institute attained the status of a deemed university, and its various centers extend their support to the less fortunate, promote Khadi and village industries, and contribute to the self-sustainability of rural communities.
On my first day of visit, I had the privilege of seeing the Natural Dyeing Unit, led by Mr. Manikandan, a main pillar of the Natural dyeing unit in Gandhigram. He explained to me about his workspace. There were eye soothing colorful yarns all over. His table was filled with samples showcasing the raw materials used in natural dyeing, providing a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the colors and the dyed yarn.
As we conversed, Mr. Manikandan shared valuable insights into the intricate process, detailing the raw materials, mordants, dyeing techniques, and even his innovative experiments. It was a truly captivating experience.
Mr. Manikandan’s enthusiasm for their new Indigo Dye Project is very contagious. Here’s a description of the Indigo dyeing process and room preparation :
“In preparation for the Indigo Dye Project, a process is followed:
This carefully crafted the atmosphere for the Indigo dyeing process, ensuring optimal conditions for successful dyeing.
The figure illustrates the scouring process, which is typically the initial step in preparing fibers or fabrics for dyeing by removing impurities and natural oils.
The Vat Preparation process for the Indigo Dye Project involves these steps:
This procedure ensures the successful preparation and use of the indigo vat for dyeing yarn, resulting in a wide range of beautiful blue shades.
Mr. Manikandan’s exploration of traditional solar dyeing is fascinating.
My second visit led me to the Pre Spinning Unit, where the transformation of cotton lint into sliver takes place. Lint is cotton after the seeds have been removed, and this intricate process is overseen by Mr. G. Murugan, operator of pre spinning process, expert with 35 years of experience.
The Pre Spinning Process happening in several stages:
This process is important in the journey from raw cotton bales to sliver.
1) BLOW ROOM : In the Blow Room, the primary objective is to open the bales of fibers and reduce the cotton tufts to their smallest possible size. This process serves several essential functions, including cleaning the fibers and removing any dirt, dust, and waste materials. The output from the Blow Room is Lap, as it prepares the cotton for further refinement in subsequent processing stages.
2) CARDING : The Blow Room process involves a series of dividing and redividing steps aimed at separating individual fibers. These steps help fibers to align parallel to each other but also effectively remove most of the remaining impurities present in the cotton. This process plays a vital role in achieving high-quality and purified cotton fibers.
3) DRAW FRAME : The Draw Frame process serves a crucial role in enhancing the quality of the roving while eliminating dust and impurities that may be present in the carded roving. This process involves two main actions: doubling and drafting.
Overall, the Draw Frame process is instrumental in refining and preparing the sliver for further stages, ensuring a high level of quality and purit
4) SPEED FRAME / SIMPLEX MACHINE : The Speed Frame process is responsible for reducing the roving weight to a suitable size for spinning into yarn while simultaneously inserting twist. This twist helps maintain the integrity of the draft strands. The output of this process is a sliver, which serves as the input material for the Ambar charkha, where it undergoes further transformation into yarn.
Our following visit was to the Ambar Charkha Spinning unit which is located in Dharmathupatti village, we met a group of 20-25 women spinners who create yarn as their source of livelihood, producing between 20 to 30 Hanks of yarn daily. Notably, after completing their household work and sending their children’s to school, they gather at the unit, spinning yarn until evening. Their joy in their work is evident, but what struck us the most was their incredible kindness. Throughout our visit, they were huddled together, engaging in quiet conversations, and as we were preparing to depart, one of them kindly invited us for coffee or juice. They pooled their money to offer us something, showcasing the unique warmth and generosity that one often finds only in villages.
During my next visit, I’ll be exploring the weaving unit in T Sublavaram, a weaving establishment with four decades of history. Mr. Shankar, the master weaver, shared with me that he joined this unit 38 years ago when it boasted 50 looms. However, at present, only 15 looms remain operational due to the migration of weavers to urban areas. Despite these changes, Mr. Shankar expressed his contentment in training numerous weavers throughout his career and finding joy in his work.
On average, the weavers here have the capacity to produce 8 meters of woven fabric per day.
The transformation of yarn into fabric in Gandhigram is truly inspiring, embodying sustainable livelihoods, contented artisans, and a remarkable spirit of decentralization. This village serves as a potent source of inspiration. A heartfelt thank you to Prasath Sir, Tula founder and the entire Gandhigram team for making this wonderful opportunity possible.
– Sushmitha R. K., Designer, TULA