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Silk without violence – Ahimsa Silk & Ajrakh Block Prints I #AtoZChallenge 2017

Image for Ahimsa silk

Have you ever heard of Ahimsa Silk?

Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.

This line from the well known ( and perhaps long forgotten Nursey rhyme) reminds me of the soft, smooth, silken fabric that just slips off as easily as you wear it.

Silk is a natural fabric spun from fibres extracted from the silk worm cocoon.

[Tweet “Did you know that it takes millions of cocoons to make just one silk sari?”]

And what is more shocking is that this fibre is extracted by boiling or steaming the cocoons while the baby silk moths are still hibernating and waiting to emerge as silk moths!

Let’s take a look at how silk is made the traditional way.

Did this video shock you?

Well, it surely shocked   Kusuma Rajaiah, a civil servant in the Karnataka government . He decided to make silk in a more humane way. One where the larvae were allowed to live.  Instead of throwing the cocoons into water top extract the filament, he pierced a hole into the cocoons after 8-10 days and allowed the worm to escape. Then the silk fibre thus extracted from the cocoon  and twisted it into yarn woven into silk. Naturally, this method has its downside – the fibres are shorter but the upside is that  worm can grow into a moth and live its short life of just 4 days.

This has given rise to a new kind of silk called AHIMSA SILK – or silk made in a more humane way.

This doesn’t mean that you stop wearing silk because Sericulture has evolved over the centuries and as an agro-based industry provides employment to thousands if not millions of people in India, China and several places round the world. But if you do want to wear this gorgeous fabric without taking a life, then AHIMSA SILK, is the silk for you.

Acknowledgements :



Ajrakh  0r the Block Printing tradition of Gujerat.


Image for Ajrakh block print

Block printing is a very popular form of fabric embellishment and different parts of India have their own traditions and distinctive styles. Common to all, however, is the use of natural dyes.

One bold style of block printing is the AJRAKH . Probably you don’t recognise it as a such. At least I didn’t till I was gifted a shawl from someone in Pakistan. Predominantly manufactured in erstwhile Sindh, this village industry gets its name from AJRAKH which I understand is ‘blue’ in Arabic.

Ajrakhpur in Kuchh is one of the many small villages in Bhuj, where this art is still practiced. Ajrakh is a series of geometrically inspired block prints stamped on cotton. The predominant colours are indigo and maroon and are madeout of vegetable dyes. The printed cloth is used as shawls, for hammocks and even gifted as a mark of honour and respect.

The devastating Bhuj earthquake of  2001 destroyed several villages and many skilled printers lost their lives. Fortunately, the few that survived went back to their looms and continued their ancient trade.

Completely hand crafted

The printer spends several hours carving out the design on a wooden block. Many have, however, begun to use the power drill to save on time.

Once the blocks are made, the printer arranges the cloth ( normally  it is a sturdy cotton) and decides how to place the design to get the body and borders . The block is dipped in a dye and placed on the cloth. Natural dyes like Indigo, turmeric, mehndi and even pomegranate juice are used . Even iron and mud are used to make dyes!

The process is not all that simple as it sounds . It takes several steps of dyeing and washing and dyeing and washing before the end result is achieved. But the result is completely worth it !

Acknowledgements : 








Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics and all the information I have presented is garnered from the Internet. So if there are any errors or omissions I seek your indulgence. 

I hope you join me and hundreds of other bloggers participating in the #AtoZ Challenge 2017.



Image for BellyBytes


A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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49 Responses

  1. ladyfi says:

    Lovely silk printing.
    ladyfi recently posted…DaydreamingMy Profile

  2. Dahlia says:

    Very interesting information! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Roshan R says:

    I love the concept behind Ahimsa silk… a smart, simple and yet humane idea.
    Roshan R recently posted…Alex Ruiz is a Shining Example of Humanity #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  4. Shilpa Garg says:

    Aha! That made for a fascinating read. Was not aware of Ahimsa Silk. And I am going to look out for it when I will be shopping next.
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Arson #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  5. bushra says:

    Such a unique and ancient culture of silk production In India and we stands so far Apart in terms of modernisation
    well written. Thanks for sharing Amazing Guide to your First Menstrual Period
    bushra recently posted…Amazing Guide to your First Menstrual Period – Part 1 #AtoZchallengeMy Profile

  6. Rajlakshmi says:

    I used to visit the silkworm plantations from school as Assam is famous for it’s Muga silk … but I had never known about Ahimsa silk. This is such a novel idea. Thanks for sharing!
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…Yogasana : Always Stretch #atozchallengeMy Profile

    • Bellybytes says:

      Yes I love the ASsamese saris with their unique square web and woven patterns. I also never heard of Ahimsa silk till a few years ago when I saw it being sold in a sari shop. BTW what is the link for your AtoZ?

  7. Eva says:

    Yes, the video shocked me a bit. I like the post, almost everything was new to me.

  8. That was so interesting – I didn’t know that the silkworms were boiled alive in the process of extracting the silk. Lovely to think there is a kinder way to get the same result.
    Leanne | cresting the hill

  9. I have always had this guiilt of killling thousands of worms for the saree I wore, and believe me, that has made me wear as little silk I can manage. This read makes it a little better. Lovely prints. Have a great journey this month
    Launching SIM Organics Shortly
    *Menaka Bharathi*
    Menaka Bharathi recently posted…A to Z of All You Need to Know About Growing Your Own Organic VegetablesMy Profile

  10. I do know of Ahimsa silk. It’s something my sister passionately advocates especially after visiting a sericulture farm. Really must stop wearing silk. Perhaps I will soon.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Abundant – #FlashFiction #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  11. Tina Basu says:

    Imagine killing thousands of worms for a pound of little thread!!! Ahimsa silk sounds nice. Sort life of 4 days doesn’t make any sense. Salute to this person.
    Tina Basu recently posted…Amazing Life – Step 1 to a Meaningful Life A to Z Challenge 2017My Profile

  12. Megan Morgan says:

    This is fascinating, I wasn’t even aware how silk was made. Thank you for the insight!
    Megan Morgan recently posted…A Is For AuthorsMy Profile

  13. Kalpanaa says:

    Yes – I did know about Ahimsa silk – since I’m an animal lover. I wrote about it many years ago – not on my blog, for a magazine.
    Love ajrakh.
    Great theme.

    Anger #Lexicon of Leaving

  14. Debbie D. says:

    That was fascinating! Thanks for the education about making silk. I’m glad to know there is a more humane way.

  15. Rr says:

    Wow had no idea about Ahimsa silk!

  16. Vinodini says:

    Ahimsa silk sounds so much more humane. I’m aware of Ajrakhs. The fabric used for printing these are the softest in texture.

  17. That’s fascinating. I’m not sure that it’s worth the cost to provide the moth that short, extra four days of life; it might be worth it to spare the silkworm a death by boiling.

    I don’t wear much silk, and knowing how it’s made always gives me this juvenile urge to walk up to people who love their silk and say things like, “Comfy in your worm spit?” (I have no problem wearing silk, knowing it’s worm spit, but it seems to bother some, for some reason…)
    Holly Jahangiri recently posted…Auntie NimMy Profile

    • Bellybytes says:

      Frankly, rearing silkworms is another profession like rearing animals for slaughter…. one man’s meat is another man’s poison….thanks for dropping by

  18. Sheethal says:

    I love fabrics, the color and the texture. This is new to me. Fascinating read.
    Sheethal recently posted…A Woman is a Woman is a WomanMy Profile

  19. Geets says:

    This is such an informative post and the video was beyond shocking! I’ve heard the term Ahimsa silk the first time!

    Great start to the challenge!


  20. Chandni says:

    How interesting is your theme ! I did know about how silk is produced but never really realized the inhumane nature of the process. Am glad someone thought of a better way of create the beautiful fabric and you took it upon yourself to share the story .. am even gladded than you are doing this out of passion and aren’t really ‘related’ to the field per se.
    Happy blogging!
    Chandni recently posted…[A] Ambition isn’t a dirty word #AtoZChallenge Day 1My Profile

  21. I liked the idea of Ahimsa Silk .Thanks for sharing the story .Will be looking for this variety definitely.

  22. Shilpa Gupte says:

    Silk has been a fav for a long time now. But not the pure silk saree…the artificial one. The pure one is costlier and I have always dreaded wearing a saree which has been responsible for the death of a living creature. I shuddered when I saw how silk is obtained..saw a film.long ago on NatGeo, I think. This Ahimsa Silk has been a brilliant idea, isn’t it?
    Love block Prints too! Your post took me down memory lane as I remembered block printing metres of fabric at the place I worked for ages ago. It is a painstaking job that needs to be appreciated for the skilful and hard labour that goes into making it .
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…Let’s bring a smile to her face.My Profile

  23. The concept behind the Ahimsa silk is so ingenious, I wonder why no one ever thought about it earlier! 🙂
    Mithila Menezes @fabulus1710 recently posted…Our blog is the night; the posts, our dreams #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  24. Jetgirl says:

    Interesting idea, the Ahimsa silks. I visited a silk making atelier in Lyon, France and learned about how silk is made, and it is a little shocking to know that the silk worms die when silk is made. I do love the look and feel of traditional silk in any case, but I’d love to see a piece of this humane silk in person some day! Thanks for this textile tour, it’s really fascinating!
    A-to-Z-er Jetgirl visiting via Forty, c’est Fantastique
    Jetgirl recently posted…D – Rue Daguerre #atozchallengeMy Profile

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