The whole world without art and dress
Would be but one great wilderness. -BUTLER.
INDIANS, even of the present day, are remarkable for their delicacy of sense, especially their nicety of touch. Not only is their observation very accurate and minute,, which has given a peculiar charm to their poetry and their fine arts, but their delicate and tactile sensibility, with their general delicacy of sense, has enabled them to achieve a peculiar excellence in many of the industrial arts and manufactures. Mr. James Mill says: “The delicate frame of the Hindu is accompanied with an acuteness of external sense, particularly of touch, which is altogether unrivalled, and the flexibility of his fingers is equally remarkable.”‘
Mr. Orme says: “The hand of the Indian cook-wench shall be more delicate than that of an European beauty. The skin and features of a porter shall be softer than those of a professed petit maitres. The women wind off the raw silk from the pod of the worm. A single pod of the raw silk is divided into 20 different degrees of fineness, and so exquisite is the feeling of these women that whilst the thread is running through their fingers so swiftly that their eye can be of no assistance, they will break it off exactly as the assortments change at once from the first to the twentieth, from the nineteenth to the second.”2
I Mill’s India, Vol. II, p. 17,
People and Government of Hindustan, pp. 409 and 413.
It appears that nature herself has bestowed the gift of excellence in arts and manufactures on the patient, skilful Hindu. The other nations appear to be constitutionally unfit to rival the Hindus in the finer operations of the loom, as well as in other arts that depend upon the delicacy of sense.
Nature gave India another advantage Mr. Mill says: “His (Hindu) climate and soil conspired to furnish him with the most exquisite material for his art the finest cotton which the earth produces.”‘
Mr. Elphistone, speaking of Indian cotton cloth, says, “ the beauty and delicacy of which was so long admired, and which, in fineness of texture, has never yet been approached in any country.”i Mr. Murray says “ Its fabrics, the most beautiful that human art has anywhere produced, were sought by merchants at the expense of the greatest toils and dangers.”‘
Mr. Thornton says that the Indian muslins are “fabrics of unrivalled delicacy and beauty “4
Mill’s History of India, Vol. 11., p. 17. This shows that India is capable of producing and in ancient times did produce the finest cotton used in weaving. In those days India had not to look to Egypt and America for cotton of a superior quality to enable her to manufacture finer muslins to clothe her sons and daughters. It would be interesting to many to learn that cotton is thought to have “reached Europe. in the time of the Crusade, through the medium of the Arabs, the Arab word kuta becoming our cotton.”--Mrs. Manning’s Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. II, p. 356.
2 Elphinstone’s History of India, pp. 163, 134.
3 Murray’s History of India, p. 27.
4 Thornton’s Chapters of the British History of India, Buddha forbids the use of fine muslin by religious women, because he once saw Gang-Dgah-mo (a woman having upon her a very fine linen which was sent to Gsal-rgzal by the king of Kalighana) naked while she was wearing a full muslin dress. To give an idea of the value of such fine muslins, Dr. Watts says that in 1776 A.D., the finest muslin reached the price of £ 56 per piece (Taxtile Manutaetures; p.79), -
Mr. Both in his work, “ Cotton Manufactures of Dacca,’.’ says that Aurangzeb once reproved his daughter for showing her skin through her clothes. The daughter justified herself by asserting that she had on seven suits, or jamas.’ After comparing the finest fabrics of India and of England, Dr. Watson decides in favour of the Indian fabrics. He finds the yarn finer than any yet produced in Europe, while the twisting given to it by the Hindu hands makes it more durable than any machine-made fabric.
“Shawls made in Kashmere,” says Mrs. Manning, are still unrivalled.” Even James Mill says: “Of the exquisite degree of perfection to which the Hindus have carried the productions of the loom it would be idle to offer any description; as there are few objects with which the inhabitants of Europe are better acquainted, whatever may have been the attainment in this art of other nations of antiquity,(the Egyptians, for example, whose fine linen was so eminently prized),the manufacture of no modern nation can, in delicacy and fineness vie with the textures of Hindustan,”3
1Mr. Elphinstone says: “Gold and silver brocades were also favourites, and were, perhaps, original manufactures in India.” See Colebrooke, Asiatic Researches, Vol. V, p, 61. Rudra l’anda Tantra, in an enumeration of Hindu castes, mentions Pundracas or PattasAtracAras, or feeders of silkworms and silk twisters: this authority, therefore, in conjunction with the frequent allusion to silk in most ancient Sanskrit books, may be considered as decisive of the question, provided the antiquity of the Tantra be allowed, of which Mr. Colebrooke seems to have no doubt. Silk is, moreover, mentioned throughout the Archipelago by its Sanskrit name, Sutra, which proves its Indian origin.
2”The presentation of Kashmir shawls to Sita supplies au additional proof in favour of the high antiquity of these celebrated fabrics.”
3Mill’s History of India, Vol, II, p. 16.
Mrs. Manning says: “ Some centuries before our era they produced muslins of that exquisite texture which even our nineteenth century machinery cannot surpass.” The Encyclopedia Britannica says that the exquisitely-fine fabrics of cotton have attained to such perfection that the modern art of Europe, with all the aid of its wonderful machinery, has never yet rivalled in beauty the product of the Indian loom.”2
A critic says: “Carpets are made at Masulipatam with unrivalled Hindu taste,” to which Mrs. Manning adds: “Carpets have also been made in later days in Government prisons, under British superintendence; the result proves that we must not attempt to teach art to India.”3
Dr. Forbes Watson, in his work on the Textile Manufactures of India gives an interesting account of a series of experiments made on both the European and the Indian muslins, to .determine their claims to superiority. The result was altogether in favour of the Indian fabrics. He concludes: “However viewed, therefore, our manufacturers have something still to do. With all our machinery and wondrous appliances we have hitherto been unable to produce a fabric which, for fineness or utility, can equal the woven air of Dacca, the product of arrangements, which appear rude and primitive, but which in reality are admirably adapted for the purpose.”
lAncient and Mediaeval India, Vol. I, p. 359.
Encycloptedia Britannica, p. 446.(Weaving).
3Ancient and MecliTval India, Vol. II, p. 363, Professor Heeren says: “The variety of cotton fabrics mentioned even by the author of Periplus as articles of commerce is so great that we can hardly suppose the number to have increased afteri ards.”