why was india not known for silk production?

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,508
Sydney
#11
Considering the huge cost of land transport by caravan
there was an absolute killing to be made producing silk in India
Hindu are pretty sharp traders and their rulers as greedy for tax revenues as any other
if there was no silk production , one could conclude that the secret had been lost
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,385
India
#14
If by ancient Indian silk, you're referring to the evidence of silk weaving from Indus sites and similar Ancient era finds, my understanding is that the silk in question is not made from mulberry worms but was instead made from various species of local moths. Why was it not exported? While it was silk, it doesn't appear to be produced in quantity or quality to match Chinese output. The major indian export was cotton fabrics. For an item to be of export value in the ancient world, it also needs to have a high domestic consumption. Given the widespread usage of cotton, and of its high quality wares as well as ease in producing, the local non-Chinese Indian silks were probably not a very competitive fabric, and which is why they appear to have died out fairly quickly. Without much domestic consumption, its not hard to see why there wasn't any foreign demand as well.

For the purposes of the exporting Chinese silk, India was likely a major source of Chinese silk for the Arabian Gulf and those parts of the world connected to the Red Sea, as imports from China would have come oversea and via India. The overland silk route would have also serviced other regions, but the overland route would not have had india as an intermediate waypoint. For the oversea route, India (and Sri Lanka) would have been inescapable waypoints. As far as I can tell, for the wider non-South Asian world, there was no real ideation of Sri Lanka as independent of India, so for the purposes of things such as Indo-Roman trade, even if Sri Lanka was the source, its probably not unreasonable to imagine it was conflated with India.
 
Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#15
tussah silk is still produced today so its not like it ''died out'' according to your assumption

secondly tussah silk is not in any way inferior to the chinese silk, its almost equal in quality, so again, that is only your assumption.

indians did wear silk in ancient period, so again thats your assumption, chinese silk was ending up in india which means indians had demand for silk, as a matter of fact, varanasi is famous for its silk sarree manufacturing.

i have even heard a lecture by vasant shinde that indus silk was infact from domesticated silk worm and was being mass produced, meaning it was being used to manufacture textiles, we also have evidences from maharashtra of silk from 1500 BC as well.

how much silk exported from india was chinese and how much indian remains to be seen, how indian silk compared with chinese also needs to be historically analysed.

we do know byzantine started silk manufacturing, so its not like china was the sole manufacturing center of silk in antiquity.

regards
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,385
India
#16
tussah silk is still produced today so its not like it ''died out'' according to your assumption
I'm not saying its entirely extinct. But in broad aggregates, silk doesn't appear to be a widely used fabric. Many variants of Silk textile do exist in modern India. But if you look at their historical spread, its been fairly regionally limited, in contrast to the adoption of cotton fabrics. Tussar silk is a good example of it. Its pretty much limited to a single district in India, and originates largely as a tribal fabric. Why do you think this would have had widespread renown, when till as recently as a few decades ago, it was barely known outside West Bengal?
secondly tussah silk is not in any way inferior to the chinese silk, its almost equal in quality, so again, that is only your assumption.
The inferiority of a fabric can be on several fronts. Ease of production. Cultivation of its sources. Ability to last. etc. I'm not making the case that Indian silks were specifically poor quality weaves or anything. I'm just saying, in most cases, silk doesn't appear to have had widespread adoption in contrast to Chinese variants of silk. And in India's case, that's almost certainly because cotton was easier to produce, and was thus more competitive. Given the limited spread of Indian silks, and the highly regionalized character of the fabric insofar as Indian variants are concerned respective to cotton, its not hard to see why Indian silk was not competitive with Chinese.
indians did wear silk in ancient period, so again thats your assumption, chinese silk was ending up in india which means indians had demand for silk, as a matter of fact, varanasi is famous for its silk sarree manufacturing.
So? I didn't say no Indians wore silk. I said it needed to have a high domestic consumption. That doesn't seem to be the case. Through most of Ancient India, silk doesn't appear as a dominant fabric of choice. Its not hard therefore to see why Indian silk was not widely known. It is because it was not widely used within India, and thus wasn't really going to be able to compete with cotton fabrics as an export commodity. When cotton is dominant, its not surprising that India wasn't regarded as a major producer of silk. Especially since it doesn't appear to have been one. Certainly you will find places that produce silk commodities. Paithan in Maharasthra is another. So is Kanchipuram. Over here though, its worth noting a point Tirthankar Roy made in Traditional Industry in the Economy of Colonial India, in his chapter on Handloom weaving. The rise of many silk fabrics in terms of widespread manufacture is a colonial phenomenon due to the diversification of weaving communities in the face of the dominance of British factory goods. Very quickly - weavers could simply not produce mid level goods as the factories could. So they either branched into producing extremely cheap, or extremely specialized and high end commodities. This is why there was an expansion of many of these upper variants such as Paithani and Kanchipuram fabrics.
i have even heard a lecture by vasant shinde that indus silk was infact from domesticated silk worm and was being mass produced, meaning it was being used to manufacture textiles, we also have evidences from maharashtra of silk from 1500 BC as well.
I don't know what research Vasant Shinde has done so I won't argue that point. All I can say is, last I checked, Indus silk was analyzed as having been originated from a species of moth that is local to the region, and is different from the silkworm.

how much silk exported from india was chinese and how much indian remains to be seen, how indian silk compared with chinese also needs to be historically analysed.

we do know byzantine started silk manufacturing, so its not like china was the sole manufacturing center of silk in antiquity.

regards
I don't know about Byzantine silk. The issue here I thought, was about why India is not well known as a site of silk manufacture. And that is because it doesn't appear to be. And that, IMO, is because the evidence suggests it was not infact a major site of silk manufacture. This doesn't mean no Indian silk was produced. It simply means that it was not consumed widely enough to be anything more than highly regionalized variants without a great export footprint. If its not being exported, and is not a major If you want data on comparing Indian silk exports to China, your best place to start would be in recent history. Look at British tabulations on trade. They'll give you a sense of how much silk was being sourced from India. You can then try and project outwards from that data using less data-centered sources. I haven't looked recently at trade data from the colonial era, but as far as I remember, silks wasn't a major commodity being produced in India from an export perspective.

The long and short of it is simply this - its not surprising that India isn't known for silk production and that's because for most of its history there doesn't appear to have been that much of it. Its also worth noting that many of the very ancient silks we find are not made from silk worms (neither is Tussar silk I think) and the limited, largely very regionalized, non-export manufacture of these is why India isn't typically regarded as a major site of silk production.[/QUOTE]
 

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,220
#18
this source mentions that during gupta empire india was exporting silk to the romans, im not sure how credible it is

Indo-Roman trade relations - Wikipedia

some western cholar also states that india might be exporting chinese silk which cae to china to the romans



regards

Roman senators complained that their women used too many Indian spices and luxuries, which drained the Roman Empire of precious metal. Pliny the Elder, in 77 CE, called India “the sink of the world's gold!”
All the world's gold

I thought that Rome was infatuated with India's products and was spending heavily to procure these items. A big part of this was, I assumed was silk products. Right now I am not sure if the Chinese were the primary source of silk products and India was a secondary player. I have assumed though, that China was the primary source of silk itself.

The OP talks equates "silk" and "cotton products" so I am not sure if we are talking about silk production or just silk products, IOW, reams of silk cloth and garments.
 
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Likes: Ashoka maurya
Jul 2014
1,587
world
#19
Historically The silk brocades of India especially Varanasi was/is considered the best by the Tibetans, Mongols and Nepalese. The silk brocades that Bhutanese king and rich Tibetan businessmen wear are from India and good quality ones can cost an arm and leg.

The prestige of Indian brocade is still very high among the Tibetan/mongol people of Qinghai/Sichuan.You can make quick buck if you have good quality Indian brocade silks in Tibetan New Years time.

So it would be wrong to say India did not have a silk industry/ production in the past.
 
Likes: Ashoka maurya
Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#20
in a Pazyryk burial article i found a reference to a tussah silk which some scholars attribute it to the indians/assam etc which is very interesting

Siberian Ice Maiden - Wikipedia
Pazyryk burials - Wikipedia

The most famous undisturbed Pazyryk burial so far recovered is the Ice Maiden or "Altai Lady" found by archaeologist Natalia Polosmak in 1993 at Ukok, near the Chinese border. The find was a rare example of a single woman given a full ceremonial burial in a wooden chamber tomb in the fifth century BC, accompanied by six horses.[4] She had been buried over 2,400 years ago in a casket fashioned from the hollowed-out trunk of a Siberian larch tree. On the outside of the casket were stylized images of deer and snow leopards carved in leather. Shortly after burial the grave had apparently been flooded by freezing rain, and the entire contents of the burial chamber had remained frozen in permafrost. Six horses wearing elaborate harnesses had been sacrificed and lay to the north of the chamber.[16] The maiden's well-preserved body, carefully embalmed with peat and bark, was arranged to lie on her side as if asleep. She was young, and her hair was shaven off but she was wearing a wig and tall hat; she had been 167 centimetres (5 ft 6 in) tall. Even the animal style tattoos were preserved on her pale skin: creatures with horns that develop into flowered forms. Her coffin was made large enough to accommodate the high felt headdress she was wearing, which was decorated with swans and gold-covered carved cats.[17] She was clad in a long crimson and white striped woolen skirt and white felt stockings. Her yellow blouse was originally thought to be made of wild "tussah" silk but closer examination of the fibers indicate the material is not Chinese but was a wild silk which came from somewhere else, perhaps India.[7] Near her coffin was a vessel made of yak horn, and dishes containing gifts of coriander seeds: all of which suggest that the Pazyryk trade routes stretched across vast areas of Iran[citation needed]. Similar dishes in other tombs were thought to have held Cannabis sativa, confirming a practice described by Herodotus[4] but after tests the mixture was found to be coriander seeds, probably used to disguise the smell of the body.
this is interesting esp the 5th century BC date of the burials
 
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