What you need to know about the history of Mulberry silk is provided below.
Do you know that domestic silkmoth caterpillars, also known as Bombyx mori, have a large commercial silk production industry? Mulberry silk is genuine silk, so the answer is yes. Let’s discuss the history of Mulberry silk.
The History of Mulberry Silk
Mulberry silk is thought to have originated in China around 2255 BCE, from where it was probably brought to the Indian subcontinent about 2000 years ago.
However, some Indian historians have disputed this chronology, citing the word patrorna, which appears in the Arthashastra and the Mahabharata, as a reference to mulberry silk produced in India, with another word “cinamsuka” referencing the mulberry silk of China.
A different interpretation contends that the term “patrorna” in the Arthashastra refers to non-mulberry silks gathered in the subcontinent or, in a later text from the seventh century, bleached white silk of an undefined category.
It’s unclear when, why, or how mulberry sericulture first appeared on the subcontinent.
Pat, a type of Bombyx silk, was popular during the Middle Ages, and the Ahom kings of Assam (c. 1228–1894 and possibly arrived in the area from Bengal around the year 500 CE. Textual evidence suggests that mulberry sericulture existed in the Bengal and Kashmir regions by the late medieval period.
In Bengal, mulberry cultivation for the production of silk is described in the fifteenth-century travelogue of the Chinese traveler Ma Huan, while in Kashmir, the industry probably dates to the sixteenth century.
Bengal became a significant production and export hub for mulberry sericulture in the Indian subcontinent in the seventeenth century.
Mulberry cultivations were a significant aspect of the area, and the town of Kasimbazar (now Cossimbazar, close to Murshidabad, West Bengal) was at the epicenter of this growth.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the area had attracted the interest of Dutch and British traders and had established itself as a significant producer of silk for the domestic and European markets, the latter of which included Gujarat, a region that had been heavily dependent on Chinese raw materials for its woven silk products.
The English East India Company introduced a few different mulberry species to Bengal, distributed financial aid, and organized training sessions for local laborers led by European specialists.
In order to match the product with the demands of the European market, one such intervention was the adoption of a new filature, or reeling, a technique for silk.
Additionally, the Company made a significant contribution to the development of mulberry sericulture in some southern Indian regions. Sir Thomas Wardle, a renowned British sericulturist, contributed to the Dogra government’s efforts in Kashmir’s late nineteenth-century revival of the stagnant mulberry sericulture industry.
The methods used in this case included importing eggs from France and imposing limitations to protect mulberry trees.
Mulberry silk has primarily been produced in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir in the post-independence era. India comes in second to China as the world’s top producer of mulberry silk.
Out of a total volume of 33,770 metric tonnes produced in raw silk in 2020–2021, 23,896 metric tonnes came from India. The promotion of mulberry and non-mulberry sericulture in the nation is the duty of the Central Silk Board, which was established in 1948 under the Ministry of Textiles of the Indian Government.
It collaborates with state-level sericulture units and has mulberry silk-specific institutes in Mysuru, Karnataka; Behrampore, West Bengal; and Pampore, Jammu & Kashmir.
Its research initiatives include the breeding of hybrid silkworms for better yield and quality as well as studies of mulberry varieties resistant to various climatic conditions, diseases, and pests.
The Board also facilitates the acquisition of silk seeds, which is another name for silkworm eggs. It also runs educational and training programs in sericulture.
Chinese mulberry silk, which is imported into the nation, poses a serious threat to Indian mulberry silk despite these interventions. Given that Chinese yarn is less expensive, it is also being used more widely in a number of traditional handloom clusters because the Indian variety is regarded as being less suitable for power looms.
History of Mulberry Silkworm
Popular names for Bombyx mori include Chinese silkworm and Mulberry silkworm moth. Sincere silk is a well-known product. China was aware of the significance of silkworms for the production of silk around 3500 B.C.
Over 2000 years ago, the Chinese developed techniques for growing silk and creating cloth from it. Sericulture is the practice of raising silkworms and producing raw silk.
Chinese sericulture was kept a closely guarded secret, and any information leaks or attempts to export eggs or living cocoons were punishable by death. Two monks who were sent to China as spies even then introduced silk to Europe.
In 555 A.D., they sneakily transported some eggs to Constantinople in their pilgrim’s staff after studying the origins, nature, and techniques of silkworm rearing.
The Mediterranean and Asian nations, such as India, Burma, Thailand, and Japan, all inherited the art of raising silkworms from this region. To accommodate the needs of the climate, reproduction speed, quality, color, and silk yield, insect breeders have created numerous races of silkworm moths through hybridization.
Habit and Habitat of Mulberry Silkworm
The mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori, is an entirely domesticated species that is never seen in the wild. Adult moths mainly focus on reproducing and eat very little.
Their larvae eat everything in sight. They get their food from mulberry tree leaves. Some moths are single-brooded or univoltine, while others are multivoltine, or many-brooded.
Due to domestication, numerous strains have developed, producing cocoons in a wide range of sizes, weights, shapes, and colors, from white to yellow.
In Europe and other regions where winters are significantly longer than summers, worms only produce one generation per year. In warm climates, some strains are grown after two to seven broods. A strain that produces multiple generations is widely used to produce silk in South India, particularly in Mysore, Coimbatore, and Salem.