Spinning Wheel in Indian History

Aug 2017
169
USA
#1
Hello to everyone! I am new to this forum and am eager to discuss history with you all! I've read the forum rules in advance but if this post contains deficiencies in forum etiquette, I apologize as I am only human after all. :)

I recently read John Keay's India, A History and encountered a passage I found intriguing in the process. It began as follows:

"Nevertheless, continued Minhaju-s Siraj, ‘the country under Sultan Raziya enjoyed peace and the power of the state was manifest’; even Bengal made a grudging submission. This was short-lived, and the calm merely presaged a storm. Raziya’s reign lasted barely four years (1236–40). Perhaps her decision to dispense with the veil and, in mannish garb of coat and cap, to ‘show herself amongst the people’ was unnecessarily provocative to Muslim sensitivities. So too may have been the appointment as ‘personal attendant to her majesty’ of Jamal-ud-din Yakut, an ‘Abyssinian’ who was probably once a slave and very definitely an African. A liaison so conspicuous duly brought unfavourable comment from the historian Isami. Declaring that a woman’s place was ‘at her spinning wheel [charkha]’ and that high office would only derange her, he insisted that Raziya should have made ‘cotton her companion and grief her wine-cup’.

These lines, written in 1350, are of additional interest in that, according to Irfan Habib, India’s most distinguished economic historian, they contain ‘the earliest reference to the spinning wheel so far traced in India’. Since the device is known in Iran from a prior period, ‘the inference is almost inescapable that the spinning wheel came to India with the Muslims’. So did the paper on which Isami penned his patronising lines, palm leaves having previously served as a somewhat friable writing surface. Both introductions were of incalculable value. Governance and taxation would be expedited, and literature, scholarship and the graphic arts revolutionised by the availability of a uniform writing material which could be readily filed and bound."

The lines relevant to this topic are bolded in the preceding passage. I found them curious since I had learned the spinning wheel was in fact invented in India. When I researched this matter further, I found a few other sources repeating this claim. For instance:

https://www.britannica.com/technology/spinning-wheel

And particularly this book several other sources in turn were citing:

Wiley: Cotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production - C. Wayne Smith, J. Tom Cothren


Does anyone here know if it is Keay or these other sources that are mistaken? Or are the origins of the wheel more complex than any of these sources otherwise suggest? Any information on the matter is greatly appreciated!


Sources:

Keay, John. “The Triumph of the Sultans.” India: A History, Grove Press, 2000, pp. 245–247.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,572
New Delhi, India
#2
Interesting subject. RigVeda mentions woolen fabrics.

In the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothing.

Not much information on spinning wheel which some say was created between 500 - 1,000 AD. So late! After knowing the wheel in a chariot and a potter's wheel for thousands of years and turning the spindle all the time. Can't understand it.
 
Aug 2017
169
USA
#4
Interesting subject. RigVeda mentions woolen fabrics.

In the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, cotton was being grown, spun and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile valley were making and wearing cotton clothing.

Not much information on spinning wheel which some say was created between 500 - 1,000 AD. So late! After knowing the wheel in a chariot and a potter's wheel for thousands of years and turning the spindle all the time. Can't understand it.
Yes, even Keay's book above cites the IVC's cultivation of cotton and production of cloth. Even later Vedic/Mahajanapada India had a long history of cotton/wool production so it seems natural the spinning wheel would arise in India. This is why it surprised me when Keay cited another scholar in attributing the spinning wheel to Islamic provenance, in contradiction with the other sources I listed above.


.
Europe in the middle age had the spinning wheel , there doesn't seems to be any reasons why it would not have been present in India
the picture is at least early 13th century

http://www.essexvoicespast.com/wp-c...-10-E-IV-f.-147-Woman-at-a-spinning-wheel.jpg
That was my thought process as well. Thank you for the picture! It is very interesting.
 
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