Silky touch: Innovator produces eco-friendly yarn
"My inspiration is Mahatma. He gave a message to the Indian silk industry that if silk can be produced without killing silkworms, it would be better�"
Thursday, July 6, 2006 (Hyderabad):
For those who may have paused to think that behind every beautiful silk saree is the killing of at least 50 thousand silkworms, this should come as good news.
Kusuma Rajaiah, an innovator in Andhra Pradesh, has won the patent for producing 'ahimsa' silk, without killing any silkworm and it's cost is not prohibitive either.
Rajaiah wants to call it 'ahimsa' silk but the patent office says the word 'ahimsa' cannot be patented so they call it an eco-friendly method of manufacturing mulberry silk yarn.
"My inspiration is Mahatma. He gave a message to the Indian silk industry that if silk can be produced without killing silkworms, it would be better. He dreamt but that did not happen in his lifetime. I am the happiest person that at least I could do this little thing," said Rajaiah.
Rajaiah says he started giving a serious thought to 'ahimsa' silk when in the 90s. Janaki Venkatraman, wife of the former President, asked if she could get a silk saree that is made without killing silk worms.
When animal rights activist and former actress Amala Akkineni refused to wear a silk dress because she did not want to wear a dress that involved violence against animals, Rajaiah decided it was time to make his 'ahimsa' silk fabric.
Yarn for a silk saree is usually produced by throwing live cocoons of silkworm into boiling water. A single saree needs upto 50,000 cocoons. Rajaiah allows the moth to escape from the cocoon by waiting for 7-10 days and then uses the shells to produce yarn.
"The same weight saree costs Rs 2500 with normal silk, with the same ornamentation, this is about Rs 4000, about one and a half times costlier. But we must remember we are saving about 50,000 lives," added Rajaiah.
The 'ahimsa' silk fabric has reached the wardrobe of famous names like Sonia Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, and former Indonesian president Megavati Sukarnoputri.
A young woman from the US ordered it not just for her bridal dress but for all her bridesmaids as well.