1902 Encyclopedia > India > Manufactures

(Part 11)



Though India may be truly described as an agricultural and not a manufacturing country, yet it would be erroneous to infer that it is destitute of the arts of civilized life. It has no swarming hives of industry to compare with the factory centres of Lancashire, nor a large mining population, living under the soil rather than on it. In short, it has not reached that modern stage of industrial development which is based upon the use of coal and the discoveries of physical science. But in all manufactures requiring manual dexterity and artistic taste India may challenge comparison with England in the last century. The organization of Hindus society demands that the necessary arts, such as those of the weaver, the potter, and the smith, should be practised in every village. The pride and display of the rival kingdoms, into which the country was formerly divided, gave birth to many arts of luxury that have not yet been entirely forgotten in the decayed capitals. When the first European traders reached the coast of Indian in the 6th century, they found a civilization among both "Moors" and "Gentoos" at least as highly advanced as their own. In architecture, in fabrics of cotton and silk, in goldsmith’s work and jewellery, the people of India were then unsurpassed. But while the East has stood still, or rather retrograded (for, in the face of keen competition, to stand still is to retrograde), the West has advanced with a gigantic stride which has no parallel in the history of human progress. On the one hand, the downfall of the native courts has deprived the skilled workman of his chief market, while, on the other, the English capitalist has enlisted in his service forces of nature against which the village artisans in vain try to compete. The fortunes of India are bound up with those of a country whose manufacturing supremacy depends upon a great export trade. The tide of circumstances in-exorable than artificial enactments, had compelled the weaver to exchange his loom for the plough, and has crushed out a multitude of minor handicrafts. Political economy, judging only by the single test of cheapness, may approve the result ; but the philosopher will regret the increasing uniformity of social conditions, and the loss to the world of artistic tendencies which can never be restored.

Historically the most interesting, and still the most important in the aggregate, of all Indian industries are those conducted in every rural village of the land. The Hindus village system is based upon division of labour quite as much upon hereditary caste. The weaver, the potter, the blacksmith, the oil-presser, are each members of a community, as well as inheritors of family occupation. On the one hand, they have a secure market for their wares, and, on the other, their employers have a guarantee that their trade shall be well learned. Simplicity of life and permanence of employment are here happily combined with a high degree of excellence in design and honesty of execution. The stage of civilization below these village industries is represented by the hill tribes, especially those on the north-east frontier, where the weaving of clothes is done by the women of the family,—a practice which also prevails throughout Burmah. A higher stage may be found in those villages or towns which possess a little colony of weavers or braziers noted for some specialty. Yet one degree higher is the case of certain arts of luxury, such as ivory carving or the making of gold lace, which chance or royal patronage has fixed at some capital now perhaps falling into decay. One other form of native industry owes its origin to European interference. Many a village in Lower Bengal and on the Coromandel coast still shows traces of the time when the East India Company and its European rivals gathered large settlements of weavers round their little forts, and thus formed the only industrial towns that ever existed in India. But when the Company abandoned its manufacturing business in 1833, these centres of industry rapidly declined ; and the one celebrated muslims of India have been driven out of the market of the world by Manchester goods.

Cotton weaving may be called the oldest indigenous industry of India. The Greek name for cottion fabrics, sindon (_______), is etymologically the same as that of India or Sind ; in later days Calicut on the Malabar coast has given us "calico". Cotton cloth, whether plain or ornamented, has always been the single material of clothing for both men and women, except in Assam and Burmah, where silk is preferred, perhaps in reminiscence of an extinct trade with China. When European adventurers found the way to India, cotton and silk always formed part of the rich cargoes they brought home. The English, in especial appear to have been careful to fix their earliest settelement amid a weaving population—at Surat, at Calicut, at Masulipatam, at Hooghly. In delicacy of texture, in purity and fastness of colour, in grace of design, Indian cottons may still hold their own against the world ; but in the matter of cheapness they have been unable to face the competition of Manchester.

In 1870 the Madras Board of Revenue published a valuable report upon hand-loom weaving, from which the following local figures are taken. The total number of looms at work in that presidency, with its general population of 31 millions, was returned at 279,220, of which 220,015 were in villages an 59,205 in towns, showing a considerable increase upon the corresponding number in 1861, when the mohtarfa or assessed tax upon looms was abolished. The total estimated consumption of twist was 31,422,712 lb, being at the rate of 112 lb per loom. Of this amount, about one third was imported twist and the remainder country-made. The total value of the cottion goods woven was returned at 3 _ millions sterling, or £12,10s. per loom, but this was believed to be much under the truth. The export of country-made cloth in the same year was about £220,000. In the Central Provinces (population 8 millions), where hand-loom weaving is still fairly maintained, and where statistics are more trustworthy than in other parts, the number of looms is returned at 87,588, employing 145,896 weavers, with an annual out-turn valued at £828,000. In 1878-79 the export of Indian piece-goods from the Central Provinces was value at £162,642. As regards Bengal, hand-loom of piece-goods throughout the province is estimated at about 5s per head, and the returns of registered trade show that European piece-goods are distributed from Calcutta at the rate of about 2s. 5d. per head, In Midnapur, Nadiyá, and Bardwán the native weavers still hold their own, appears from the large imports of European twist ;but in the eastern districts, which have to balance their large exports of jute, rice, and oil-seeds the imports of European cloth rise to the high figure of 2s. 7d. per head. No part of India has suffered more from English competition than Bombay, where, however, the introduction of steam machinery is beginning to restore the balance. Twist from the Bombay mills is now generally used by the hand-loom weavers of the presidency, and is largely exported to China. But it is in the finer fabrics produced for export that the west of India has suffered most. Taking Surat alone, the export by sea of piece-goods at the beginning of the century was valued at £360,000 a year. By 1845 the value had dropped to £67,000, rising again to £134,000 in 1859; but in 1874 it was only £4188. Silk weaving is also a common industry everywhere, silk fabrics, or at least an admixture of silk in cotton, being universally affected as a mark of wealth, Throughout British Burmah, and also in Assam, silk is the common material of clothing, being made up by the women of the household. In Burmah the bulk of the silk is imported from China, generally in a raw state ; but in Assam it is obtaned from two or three varieties of worms, which are generally fed on jungle trees and may be regarded as semi-domesticated. Bengal is the only part of India where sericulture, or the rearing of the silk-worms proper on mulberry, can be said to flourish. The greater part of the silk is wound in European filatures, and exported in the raw state to Europe. The native supply is either locally consumed, or sent up the Ganges to the great cities of the North-West. A considerable quantity of raw silk, especially for Bombay consumption, is imported from China. Tasar silk, or that obtained from the cocoons of seme-demesticated worms, does not contribute much to the supply. As compared with cotton with cotton weaving, the manufacture of silk-fabrics may be called a town and not a village industry. These fabrics are of two kinds—(1) those composed of pure silk, and (2) those with a cotton warp crossed by a woof of silk Both kind are often embroidered with gold and silver. The mixed fabrics are known as mashru or sufi, he latter word, meaning "permitted, being used because the strict ceremonial law will not allow Mahometans to wear clothing of pure silk. They are largely woven in the towns of the Punjab and Sind, at Agra, at Hyderabad in the Deccan, and at Tanjore and Trichinopoli. Pure silk fabrics are either of simple texture, or highly ornamented in the form of kinkhabs or brocades. The latter are a specialty of Benares, Murshidábád, and Trichinopoli. Printed silks are woven at Surat for the wear of Pársí and Guzerati women. Quite recently mills with steam machinery have been established at Bombay, which weave silk fabrics for the Burmese market, chiefly lúngyís, tamains, and patsoes. The silk manufactures exported from India consist almost entirely of the handkerchiefs known as bandannas and corahs, with a small proportion of tasar fabrics. The trade appears to be on the decline, the total exports having decreased from 2,468,052 yards, valued at £238,000, in 1875-75 to 1,481,256 yards, valued at £147,000, in 1877-78. But in 1879 the value had again risen to £195,897 ; and the returns for 1874-77 were unusually high.

Embroidery has already been referred to in the two preceding paragraphs. The groundwork may be either silk, cotton, wool, or leather. The ornaments is woven in the loom, or sewn on afterwards with the needle. Muslim is embroidered with silk and gold thread at Dacca, Patná, and Delhi. Sind and Cutch (Kachhch) have special embroideries of coloured silk and gold. Leather-work is embroidered in Guzerat. In some of the historical capitals of the Deccan, such as Gulbargah and Aurangábád, velvet (makhmal) is gorgeously embroidered with gold, to make canopies, umbrellas, and housings for elephants and horses, for use on state occasions. Not only the goldsmith, but also the jeweller lends his aid to Indian embroidery.

Carpets and rugs may be classified into those made of cotton and those made of wool. The former, called satranjis and daris, are made chiefly in Bengal and northern India, and appear to be an indigenous manufacture. The woollen or pile carpets known as kalin and kalicha are those which have recently attained so much popularity in England, by reason of the low price at which the outturn of the jail manufactories can be placed in the market. The art was probably introduced into India by the Mahometans. The historical seats of the industry are in Kashmír, the Punjab, and Sind, and at Agra, Mírzápur, Jabalpur, Warangal in the Deccan, Malabar, and Masulipatam. Velvet carpets are also made at Benares and Murshidábád, and silk pile carpets at Tanjore and Salem. At the London Exhibition of 1851 the finest Indian rugs came from Warangal, the ancient capital of the Andhra dynasty, about 80 miles east of Hyderabad. Their characteristic feature was the exceedingly fine count of the stitches, about 12,000 to the square foot. "They were also perfectly harmonious in colour, and the only examples in which silk was used with an entirely satisfactory effect" (Birdwood). The price was not less than £10 per square yard. The common rugs, produced in enormous quantities in the jails at Lahore, Jabalpur, Mírzápur, Benares, and Bangalore, sell in England at 7s 6d. each.

Gold an silver and jewels, both from their colour and their intrinsic value, have always been the favourite material of Oriental ornament. Even the hills tribes of Central India and the Himálayas have developed some skill in hammering silver into brooches and torques. Imitation of knotted grass and leaves seems to be the origin of the simplest and most common form of gold ornament, the early specimens consisting of thick gold wire twisted into bracelets, &c. A second archaic type of decoration is to be found in the chopped gold jewellery of Guzerat. That is made of gold lumps, either solid or hollow, in the form of cubes and octahedrons, strung together on red silk. Of artistic jeweller’s work, the best known examples come from Trichinopoli, Cuttack, Delhi, and Kashmír. Throughout southern India the favourite design is that known as swámi, in which the ornamentation consists of figures of Hindu of gods in high relief, either beaten out from the surface or fixed upon it by solder or screws. The hammered repoussé silver work of Cutch (Kachhch), though now entirely naturalized, is said to be of Dutch origin. Similar work is done at Lucknow and Dacca. The goldsmith’s art contributes largely to embroidery, as has already been mentioned. Gold and silver thread is made by being drawn out under the application of heat. The operation is performed with such nicety that one rupee’s worth of silver will make a thread nearly 800 yards long. Before being used in the loom this metallic thread is generally twisted with silk.

Precious stones are lavishly used by Indian jewellers, who care less for their purity and commercial value than for the general effect produced by a blaze of splendour. "But nothing can exceed the skill, artistic feeling, and effectiveness with which gems are used in India both in jewellery proper and in the jewelled decoration of arms and jade" (Birdwood).

Iron Work.—the chief duty of the village smith is, of course, to make the agricultural implements for his fellows-villagers. But in many towns in India, often the sites of former capitals, iron work, especially in the manufacture of arms, still retains a high degree of artistic excellence.

Cutlery.—The blade of the Indian talwár or sword is sometimes marvellously watered, and engraved with date and name sometimes sculptured in half-relief with hunting scenes, sometimes shaped along the edge with teeth or notches like a saw. Matchlocks and other firearms are made at several towns in the Punjab and Sind, at Monghyr in Bengal, and at Vizianágaram in Madras. Chain armour, fine as lacework and said to be of Persian origin, is still manufactured in Kashmír, Rájputána, and Cutch (Kachhch). Ahmadnagar in Bombay is famous for its spear-heads. Both firearms and swords are often dama-scened in gold, and covered with precious stones. In fact, the characteristic of Indian arms, as opposed to those of other Oriental countries, is the elaborate goldwork hammered or cut upon them and the unsparing use of gems. Damascening on iron and steel, known as kuft, is chiefly practised in Kashmír, and at Guzerat and Siálkot in the Punjab. Damascening in silver, which is chiefly done upon bronze is known as bidari work, form the ruined capital of Bidar in the nizám’s dominions, where it is still chiefly carried on.

Brass and Copper.—The village brazier, like the village smith, manufactures the necessary vessels for domestic use. Chief among these vessels is the lota, or globular bowl, universally used in ceremonial ablutions. The form of the lota, and even the style of ornamentation, has been handed down unaltered from the earliest times. Benares enjoys the first reputation in India for work, in brass and copper. In the south, Madura and Tanjore have a similar fame ; and in the west, Ahmadábád, Poona, and Násik. At Bombay itself large quantities of imported copper are wrought up by native braziers. The temple bells of India are well known for the depth and purity of their note. In many localities the braziers have a special repute either for a peculiar alloy or for a particular process or ornamentation. Silver is sometimes with the brass, and in rarer cases gold. The brass or rather bell-metal ware of Murshidábád, known as khágráí, has more than a local reputation, owing to the large admixture of silver in it.

Pottery is made in almost every village, from the small vessels required in cooking to the large jars used for storing grain, and occasionally as floats to ferry persons across a swollen stream. But, though the industry is universal, it has hardly anywhere risen to the dignity of the fine art. Sind is the only province of India where the potter’s craft is pursued with any regard to artistic considerations; and there the industry is said to have been introduced by the Mahometans. Sind pottery is of two kinds, encaustic tiles and vessels for domestic use. In both cases the colours are the same,—turquise blue, copper green, dark purple, or golden brown, under an exquisitely transparent glaze. The usual ornament is a conventional flower pattern, pricked in from, paper, and dusted along the pricking. The tiles, which are evidently of the same origin as those of Persia and Turkey, are chiefly to be found in the ruined mosques and tombs of the old Musalmán dynasties ; but the industry still survives at the little towns of Saidpur and Bubri. Artistic pottery is made at Hyderabad, Karáchi, Tatta, and Hála, and also across the border, at Lahore and Múltán in the Punjab. The Madura pottery also deserves mention from the elegance of its form and the richness of its colour. The North-Western Provinces have, among other specialties, an elegant black ware with designs in white metal worked into its surface.

Carving and Inlaying.—Stone sculpture is an art of the highest antiquity in India, as may be seen in the early memorials of Buddhism. Borrowing an impulse from Greek exemplars, the Buddhist sculptors at the commencement of our era freed themselves from the Oriental tradition which demands only the gigantic and the grotesque, and imitated nature with some success. But with the revival of Bráhmanism Hindu sculpture again degenerated ; and so far as the art can still be said to exist, it possesses a religions ratehr than an aesthetic interest. In the cities of Guzerat, and in other parts of India where the houses are built of wood, their fronts are ornamented with elaborate carving. Wood-carving, an important industry in Western India is said, perhaps erroneously, to owe its origin to Dutch patronage, though the models of the carvers are evidently taken from their own temples. The favourite materials are blackwood, sandal-wood, and jack-wood. The supply of sandal –wood comes from the forests of the Western Gháts in Kánara and Mysore, but some of the finest carving is done at Surat and Ahmadábád. Akin to sandal-wood carving is the inlaying of the miscellaneous articles known as "Bombay boxes." This art is known to be of modern date, having been introduced from Shiraz in Persia towards the close of the last century. It consists of binding together in geometrical patterns strips of tin-wire, sandal-wood, ebony, ivory, and stag’s horn. At Vizagapatam, in Madras, similar articles are made of ivory and stag’s horn, with scrool-work edged in to suit European taste. At Máinpuri, in the North-Western Provinces, wooden boxes are inlaid with brass wire. The chief seats of ivory-carving are Amritsar, Benares, Murshidábád, and Travancore, where any article can be obtained to order, from a full-sized palanquin to a lady’s comb. Human figures in clay, dressed to the life, are principally made at Krishnagar in Bengal, Lucknow, and Poona.

It remains to give some account of those manufactures proper, conducted by steam machinery and under European supervision, which have rapidly sprung up in certain parts of India during the past few mill for the manufacture of cotton yarn and cloth by machinery worked by steam was opened at Bombay in 1854. The enterprise grew with scarcely a check, until by 1879 the total number of mills throughout India was 58, with about 1 _ millions spindles and 12,000 looms, giving employment to upwards of 40,000 persons—men, women, and children. Of this total, 30 mills, or more than half, were in the island of Bombay, which now possesses a busy manufacturing quarter with tall chimney stalks, recalling the aspect of a Lancashire town ; 14 were in the cotton-growing districts of Guzerat, also in the Bombay presidenc; 6 were in Calcutta and its neighbourhood ; 3 at Madras ; 2 at Cawpur in the North-Western Provinces ; 1 at Nágpur in the Central Provinces ; 1 at Indore, the capital of Holkar’s dominions ; and 1 at Hyderabad the residence of the nizám. Like the jute mills of Bengal, the cotton factories of Bombay have suffered of late years from the general depression of trade.

The Indian mills are, almost without exception, the property of joint-stock companies, the shares in which are largely taken up by natives. The overlookers are skilled artisans brought from England, but natives are now beginning to qualify themselves for the post. The operatives are all paid by the piece ; and, as compared with other Indian industries, the rate of wages is high. In 1877, at Bombay, boys earned from 14s. to £1 a mount ; women, from 16s. to £1 ; and jobbers, from £3 to £6, £10s. Several members of one family often work together, earning among them as much as £10 a month. The hours of work are from six in the morning to six at night, with an hour allowed in the middle of the day for meals and smoking. A Factory Act, to regulate the hours of work for children and young persons and to enforce the fencing of dangerous machinery, & c., is now (1881) under the consideration of the legislative council.

Besides supplying the local demand, these mills are gradually beginning to find a market in foreign countries, especially for their twist and yarn. Between 1872-73 and 1878-79 the export of twist from Bombay increased from 1,802,863 lb, valued at £97,162, to 21,271,059 lb, valued at £883,665, or an increase of nearly twelvefold in quantity and ninefold in value. Within the same period of eight years the export of grey piece-goods increased from 4,780,834 yards, valued at £75,495, to 14,993,336 yards, valued at £198,380. The twist and yarn are mostly sent to China and Japan, the piece-goods to the coast of Arabia and Africa. The figures for the coasting trade also show a corresponding growth, the total value of twist carried from port in 1878-79 having been £804,996, and of piece-goods (including hand-loom goods) £654,553. Mr O’Conor, who has devoted much attention to the matter, thus summarizes his opinion regarding the future of the Indian cotton mills in his Review of Indian Trade for 1877-78 :--"Whether we can hope to secure an export trade or not, it is certain that there is a sufficient outlet in India itself for the manufactures of twice fifty mills ; and, if the industry is only judiciously managed, the manufactures of our mills must inevitably, in course of time, supersede Manchester goods of the coarser kinds in the Indian market."

The jute mills of Bengal have sprung up to rival Dundee, just as Bombay competes with Manchester ; but in the former case the capital is mostly supplied by Europeans. They cluster thickly round Calcutta, extending across the river into Hooghly district ; and one has been planted at Sirájganj, far away up the Brahmaputra in the middle of the jute-producing country. In 1879 the total number of jute mills in India was 21, of which all but two were in Bengal, and the number is annually increasing. The weaving of jute into gunny cloth is an indigenous industry throughout northern Bengal, chiefly in the district of Purniah and Dinájpur. The gunny is made by the semi-aboriginal tribe of Koch, Rájbansí or Páli, both for clothing and for bags ; and, as with other industries practised by non-Hindu races, thwe weavers are the women of the family and not a district caste. In 1877-78 just three million bags were imported into Calcutta from Pábná distirct, being the product of the Sirájganj mills. The total exports by sea and land of both power-loom and hand-made bags numbered 80 millions, of which not more than 6 millions were hand-made. The East Indian Railway took 20 millions for the grain marts of Behar and the North-Western Provinces (chiefly Patná and Cawnpur) ; and 1 million exceeded 57 millions, of which 32 millions represent interportal, and 25 millions foreign trade. Bombay took as many as 16 millions. In fact, Calcutta suppliesn bagging for the whole of India. The Foreign trade may be given in greater detail, for gunny weaving is perhaps the single Indian industry that aims at a foreign markets. The total export of the jute manufactures (both bags and cloth) in 1872-73 was valued at £200,669. By 1878-79 the value had risen to £1,098,434, or an increase of fivefold in six year. Within the same period the exports to the United Kingdom alone increased from 21,200 bags, valued at £585, to 7 million bags, valued at £184,400. The other countries which take Indian gunny bags are the following, with the values for 1877-78 :—Australia, £298,186 ; Straits Settlements, £161,772 ; United States, £79,795 ; Egypt, £76,726 ; China, £32,121.

Brewing has recently become established as a prosperous business at the large hill stations on the Himálayas. There are now about twelve breweries in India, including five in the Punjab and North-Western Provinces, at Mari (Murree), Simla Kasauli, Masuri (Mussoorie), and Náini Tál, and two in the Madras presidency, at Utakamand and Bellary. The total quantity of beer brewed was returned at 2,162,888 gallons in 1877 and 1,522,769 gallons in 1878, the diminution being due to the termination of a contract between the Commissariat Department and one of the Masuri breweries. The total quantity of beer imported in 1878-79 was 2 million gallons by Government and 1 million gallons on private account, so that the Indian breweries now satisfy just one-third of the entire demand. At Simla imported beer sells at over 18. Per dozen, while that hops are entirely imported, for the experimental plantation of 100 acres established by the rájá of Kashmír has not yet proved a practical success. The imports of hops show a steady increase from 1529 cwts. in 1875-76 to 1807 cwts. in 1876-77, and 2135 cwts. in 1877-78.

The steam paper-mills established in the neighbourhood of Calcutta and at Bombay have almost entirely destroyed the local country. The hand-made article, which was strong though coarse, and formed a Mahometan specialty, is now no longer used for official purposes. Besides manufacturing munitions of war, the Government possesses a large leather factory at Cawnpur, which turns out saddlery, &c., of excellent quality. Indeed, leather manufactures Provinces, and conducted on such a scale as to preclude the import from England, except the case of articles de luxe.

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