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Traditional Linen Fabrics Weaving and Handloom Cluster of Bhagalpur, India

In-depth study into Traditional Bhagalpur Linen Fabric Weaving and Handlooms

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This guide explores traditional craft clusters from Bhagalpur, India, its organization, working, peculiar methods of weaving, handloom processes, and the industry constraints, in conjunction with textile and allied products.

Textile Crafts of India

Textiles of India are extremely appreciated and admired all over the world for their look, texture, and beauty. India has a diverse rich tradition. Each region of India contributes to creating a myriad of textile traditions.   The hilly region of the country produces a rich variety of woolen textiles.

The pashmina and shahtoosh shawls of Kashmir, shawls and woolen garments of Himachal Pradesh and other northeastern states provide excellent examples of world-famous woolen Indian textiles. The western regions like Rajasthan and Gujarat have embroidered bright-colored textiles. The coastal areas of the southeastern regions provide cotton and silk textiles which are very popular. The home furnishing utilitarian textile products like bedspreads and sheets, linens and mats, carpets and rugs, and many other items are produced by all parts of the country.

Textile from different parts of India

Name of the State Name of the Textile
Andhra Pradesh Kalamkari,Gadwal sarees
Assam Muga Silk
Bihar Bhagalpuri silk
Bengal Daccai, Baluchari, Jamdani
Chhattisgarh Kosa Silk
Goa Kunbi
Gujarat Patola, Bandhani
Haryana Panja Durries
Jharkhand Kuchai silk, Tussar Silk
Kerala Kasavu
Karnataka Mysore Silk
Maharashtra Paithani
Manipur Phanek
Madhya Pradesh Chanderi
Meghalaya Eri Silk
Mizoram Puan
Nagaland Naga Shawls
Odisha Sambalpuri Saree
Punjab Phulkari
Rajasthan Shisha
Sikkim Lepcha( Lower garment)
Tamil Nadu Kanjeevaram Silk
Telangana Pochampalli Ikat
Tripura Pachra
Uttar Pradesh Chikankari
Uttarakhand Panchachuli Weave
Varanasi (U.P.) Brocade Silk
Vijaywada & Guntur Mangalgiri Fabric

Indian Handloom History

Handloom refers to a variety of wood frames used by skilled weavers to weave fabrics usually from natural fibers such as Cotton, Silk, Wool, Jute etc. A domestic industry where the whole family is involved in the production of textiles.

From the weaving of the yarn to the coloring, to the weaving in the loom when done by them. The fabric made from these garments is also called Handloom.

The tools required for this entire process are made from wood, sometimes bamboo and they do not require any electricity or fuel to run them. The entire process of fabric production is manual. Thus, this is the most eco-friendly way of producing clothes.

Since the Palaeolithic Era, humans started weaving. The weaving of flax products was found in Egypt which was related to 5000 BC. Two or more persons worked on one loom. There are references for looms and weavings in the Bible in many places.

Flax was the first fiber that was popular in ancient   Egypt. As days passed wool replaced it around 200 BC. During 700 AD, Asia, Europe and African countries started using horizontal and vertical looms. In Syria, Iran, and Islamic parts of east Africa, pit – treadle loom with pedals for operating heddle have first appeared. Demand of cloth was increased when faithful were required by Muslim, to get covered fully from neck to ankle, with a strong from and rising high above the ground, the looms were improved in Moorish Spain.

In medical Europe, the fabric was woven at home and sold in the market. Due to social issues, such as famine, plague and war, the craft was built in main centralised buildings from looms and other commercial areas as the craft spread widely. Plain weave was prefaced. In those times, cotton, wool, hemp, and flax were also used as major materials.

Due to industrial production, handlooms were switched to machine looms. In 1785, the first weaving factory was set up. Slowly, during 1785 Jacquard loom was invented and the weaving story grew. Indian Handloom dates back to the Indus valley civilization. Even in ancient times, Indian fabrics were exported to Rome, Egypt, and China.

In earlier times, almost every village had its weavers who made all the clothing requirements needed by the villagers like sarees, dhotis, etc. Traditionally, the entire process of cloth making was self-reliant. The cotton, silk, wool came from the farmers, foresters or shepherds, and the cotton was cleaned and transformed by weavers themselves or agricultural labour community. Small handy instruments were used in the process, including the famous spinning wheel (also known as Charkha), mostly by women. This handspun yarn was later made into cloth on the handloom by the weavers.

Indian Handloom goes back to the civilization of the Indus valley. Even in ancient times, Indian fabrics were exported to Rome, Egypt, and China. In ancient times, almost every household had its weavers who made all the necessary clothing for the local people such as saree, dhotis, etc. Some areas where cold winters were common were centers for weaving wool. But all of it was made by hand and woven.

Traditionally, the entire fabric-making process was independent. Cotton / silk / wool comes from farmers, foresters or herdsmen, cotton is processed and modified by the weavers themselves or the agricultural workers’ community. Small usable tools have been used in this process, including the famous spinning wheel (also known as the Charkha), especially for women. This woven hand was later woven into the fabric of the loom by weavers.

Handloom Sector in India


Indian handloom sector is ancient and has served the economy well in terms of employment. The handloom industry is the largest cottage industry in the country. This sector is very important from the view of size and employment potential as it provides direct and indirect employment to millions weavers and is the second largest economy activity after agriculture.

Major Challenges Faced by the Indian Handloom Sector

Welfare and Livelihood of Weavers including Women

Although lots of welfare-oriented policies are implemented by the Government, but despite this more than half of the handloom weavers are living in poverty and are illiterate. About 29.4% of all handloom workers have never attended school and12.7% are educated only up to primary level.

Competition from power loom

The another reason of concern is the phenomenal growth of the number of power looms despite all regulations.

Education, Skills, Research, and Training

The formal education system, including research institutes, has not included teaching, training, and skill development for the handlooms sector into their mainstream curricula/activities. As a result, the chance of introducing innovation in design and techniques is left to the initiative of the weaver families who usually have no resources to devote to this critical field. While rapid changes in technology and processes have taken place globally, practices in the domestic handloom sector have tended to be relatively static and consequently unable to meet the market requirements.

Development of Handloom Sector in India

The strength of this sector is its innovation and dynamism in relating itself to the changing market needs and requirements. Right from ancient times, the high quality of Indian handloom products like muslin of Chanderi, silk brocade of Varanasi, the tie and dye products of Rajasthan and Orissa, the phone of Assam, and the Patola saree of Baroda has been famous all over.

During the first half of the present century there was very little effort to develop the handloom sector

and the weavers were pitted against modern textile mills.

August 15, 1947, marked a turning point for the handloom weavers of India. The use of charkha by Mahatma Gandhi was a symbol of national regeneration and the subsequent focus on the weavers during the freedom movement was largely responsible for the breakthrough.

With a view to raising funds for the industry and organising weavers – cooperatives, Parliament passed the Khadi and other Handloom Industries Development Act in 1953.

Export Performance of Handloom Materials

The export of handloom products from India was valued at US$ 355.91 million in 2017-18. During April-October 2018, the exports stood at US$ 199.42 million.

During April-October 2018, the US was the major importer of Indian handloom products, with estimated purchases of US$ 58.03 million, followed by the UK, Italy, and Germany at US$ 10.76 million, US$ 9.95, and US$ 9.74 million, respectively.

Nearly 15 percent of cloth production in India is from the Handloom sector.

Craft Cluster of Bhagalpur

bhagalpur map

Bhagalpur is a city and municipal organization located on the southern shore of the Ganges in the Indian state of Bihar. In the Eastern region of Bihar, the city of Bhagalpuri is the largest, and also it is the third-largest city in Bihar. The Linen and Silk industry in the city has been producing a number of unique handicrafts for centuries, and Bhagalpur is referred to in India as “Handloom City”. The Silk Institute and Agricultural University are located in the city where many handloom and craft practice takes place.

The total number of weavers in Bihar is over 90,000. Bhagalpur is known as the best Linen and silk handloom producer. There are powerful traditional clusters in Bhagalpur and more than 100-year-old Linen and silk weaving industry in Bhagalpur has an estimated 30,000 handicraftsmen working on some 25,000 handlooms.

In Bhagalpur, It was a family tradition among a group of low-paying people to do the knitting work. There are 50,000 handicrafts (Approx.) found in Bhagalpur, of which 90% are workers and 35,000 Handlooms.

The various product made in Bhagalpur are as follows:

  • Designer Sarees
  • Ethnic Wear (Ladies Salwar and suits, Designer Dupatta, Men’s Pajama-Kurta)
  • For Home Furnishing (Table Covers, Bedsheet, Cushion Cover, Curtains etc).

Infact 50% of the production is done in the Home furnishing category while Ethnic wear and Sarees comprise the other 50% (35%-EW and 15%-Sarees).

Handloom Weavers of Bhagalpur

Handloom Weavers Of Bihar Have Styled Their Offerings Based On The Resources Available Locally.

Bhagalpur is a divisional town of historical importance situated on the southern bank of the Ganga river. The Bhagalpur. Weavers’ history traces back to over 100 years. It was a family tradition among the lower-income group of people to take up the weaving job.

The income of weavers who works on a job work basis earns only an average wage per day per weaver much below the wages mentioned in the minimum wages act of per person.

Handloom Clusters of Bihar

Sigori Cotton Cluster

Sigori is a compact small village in Patna district that is the main hub of weaver groups in its locality. Presently regarding 3,000 looms chug on manufacturing a range of cotton dress materials, chiefly shirting, dhoti, gamcha, etc. the utilization of vat colors, plain weaves, and varied checks/stripe patterns using 32s to 60s cotton yarns, characterize Sigori’s loom offerings.

Biharsharif Cluster

Biharsharif city and villages like Nepura, Malah Bigha, etc. located near to Biharsharif provides shelter to several handlooms, manufacturing some fine silks and also the cotton dress materials.

Silk yarns are procured by the weavers from Gaya, Bhagalpur, etc. and then the weavers manufacture some fine tussar silk, mulberry silk and matka silk fabrics.

Some weavers also create cotton dress materials and bedsheets using broad breadth looms of 60-inch breadth.

Bhauara Cotton Cluster

Bhauara is a small compact village close to Madhubani town. Few of the offerings from Madhubani region are fine muslins, cotton dress materials, and fine dhotis. Also for manufacturing material for sand gamchas using 4s to 60s count cotton yarns, the cluster presently has about three hundred-odd looms.

Manpur Cluster

Manpur, Chakand and alternative villages of the region is the main hub of weaver families.

Manpur produces not solely fine tussar silk, however conjointly a large range of gamchas generally used at the most pilgrimages. The weaver families manufacture what they will sell to traders of Bhagalpur or to the native traders based mostly in Gaya. Some weavers have tried natural dyed tussar silk fabrics like stoles, dress materials, etc.

Katoria Cluster

Katoria, Chorbe and Dumwara are important loom destinations in Banka district of Bihar. This area enjoys a uniform geo-climatic condition appropriate for tussar cocoon rearing and also the forests of the region offer ample scope for the same. Building upon this, the region possesses a large population of women who perform ancient thigh reeling of tussar silk. Thus, Ghhichha, Katia, and alternative varieties of tussar silk yarns are made and additional woven into Tussar-Ghhichha (TG) and Mulberry-Ghhichha (MG). The rustic appearance and also coarse texture of the fabric are appreciated by fabric specialists across the world.

Nathnagar Cluster

Nathnagar is a part of the extended town of Bhagalpur and is well connected with Patna and Kolkata and thereby with the remainder part of the country. A large range of households are engaged in weaving activity within the region, some in power looms and a few in handlooms. A very large number of looms are present in this cluster although the uses are based on the order received. The looms being presently utilized in the cluster are pit looms with the single box fly shuttle technique. The utilization of jacquards isn’t being done by the weavers however the utilization of 4 to 6 pedals to make textural patterns within the fabric are in use within the cluster.

Champa Nagar Cluster

It’s a locality of the Bhagalpur town, homes concerning five hundred odd looms and these manufacture a variety of silk fabrics. The current product vary are often divided into 65 per cent silk dress material, 20-25 per cent silk home furnishings, 15-20 per cent silk saris and cotton materials.The weavers are skillful and have better understanding of potential variations in weave structures and potential blends utilising the resources to the utmost usage. They’re able to settle for new design concepts and are open to suggestions and not adamant to simply follow the conventional weaving technique.

Kharik Bazaar Cluster

Kharik is closely joined to Bhagalpur geographically also as economically. It’s settled about thirty kilometer far from Bhagalpur off NH 31. A large variety of households are engaged in weaving activity within the region, some in power looms and a few in handlooms. The breadth of the looms is up to fifty inches. Both frame as well as pit looms square measure getting used within the cluster that produces from coarse cotton lungis to fine silk dupattas. A number of the weavers conjointly manufacture tussar silk materials like Tussar-Ghichha or Mulberry-Ghichha.

Hussainabad Cluster

  • Hussainabad is a part and parcel of Bhagalpur. Pit looms with the single box fly shuttle technique are being utilized in this cluster.
  • The utilization of four, six, or eight pedals to make textural patterns within the fabric are makeshift dobby of 6-8 plates is used within the cluster.
  • Several households are involved in the weaving activity near this region, few in power looms and few in handlooms.
  • Numerous looms are present in clusters. The linen made during this cluster has unique styles, patterns identity.
  • The effective breadth of the fabrics is starting from forty-five to fifty-five inches.
  • The weavers of the cluster are doing heaps of style-based mostly production as per the demand using up to eight pedals for textural patterns.

Cluster Initiatives for Welfare and Growth

The Bhagalpur cluster Hussainabad cluster is engaged in numerous activities like:

  • To raise the financial gain and rising the quality of living of weavers
  • Encouraging and developing new products
  • It also introduces new wage schemes to motivate the weavers.
  • Supply raw materials at a subsidized price to the weavers.
  • It promotes and advertises clusters in order to make an international reputation.
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