History of the silk industry in Bangladesh

History of the silk industry in Bangladesh


The method of producing yarn from silkworms was invented in China about five thousand years ago. Many tried to keep their production strategy secret. But it quickly spread to different countries and merchants from different countries including Europe started coming to Bengal around silk. Towards the end of the 4th century BC, Kautilya's Arthashastra describes the silk garments of Bengal. In Europe, this silk was known as muslin. Silk has been the main commercial product of eastern India since the ninth century. However, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the silk market continued to lose and by 1798, most of the silk factories had closed down.

Golden past history of silk

From the eighteenth century to the nineteenth century, the reputation of Boalia in Rajshahi spread as the only commercial center of North Bengal, especially in the production of silk yarn. Mulberry was then cultivated over a wide area in Boalia. The Dutch set up their trading factory in the town, probably in the early eighteenth century, mainly because of the silk trade. This was the first large-scale installation in the city. Later, Robert Watson & Co. operated an exclusive silk and indigo business in the region. The company set up 152 silk and indigo factories for business purposes in and around Greater Rajshahi.

According to a statistic from the 1870s, about two and a half lakh people were employed in Rajshahi for the development of the silk industry. But in 1901 this number dropped to 41,000 and in 1921 to only 600. Such a catastrophe in this industry also worried the then government of Bengal. In 1908, the government took the first long-term steps to revive the silk industry, as part of which a department for silkworm farming was introduced. In the end, this initiative failed; the area under mulberry cultivation in Bengal was 54,000 hectares in 1896, but in 1937 it came down to only 4,000 hectares.

However, after the launch of the government silk factory in Rajshahi in 2018, the light of hope has shone anew. According to the Silk Development Board, there are currently 2,000 silkworm farmers in the country. There are 1,700 silk or mulberry farmers. At present, there is a demand for at least 600 tons of silk yarn in the country. The government is producing only 41 and a half tons of silk yarn.

Silk Mystery

The silkworm looks a lot like a pigeon's egg with a yellow silk thread wrapped around it. In order to make silkworms, silk cocoons have to be kept at a temperature of 26 to 30 degrees. After eight to 10 days, butterflies or moths emerge from the cocoon. Male and female butterflies emerge from separate cocoons and mate for five to six hours. At the end of mating, the female butterfly lays 400 to 500 eggs. Then both male and female butterflies die. It takes another 10 days for the insects to hatch. Then they ate mulberry leaves for four days in a row and fasted for one day. On this day their shells are changed. In this way, after changing the shell four times in 20 days, the color of the insect becomes light yellow in 30 days. He was then released to Chanaraki. Within 48 hours, the silkworm makes a silk cocoon with the saliva of its mouth and goes inside the cocoon itself. To make the yarn, you have to dry the bead in the sun and kill the insect inside. Otherwise, the process of producing new silkworms begins.

Shafiqul Islam Titu, a silkworm farmer employed by the Rajshahi Silk Board, said that to get the yarn out, one has to boil the cocoon in hot water for half an hour. One yarn is made by putting the heads of eight to ten cocoons in a yarn-making machine. At least 500 meters of yarn are made from one cocoon. The work of making yarn is mainly done by women workers on the basis of daily wages.

The nobility of a silk sari is much more than an expensive beautiful dress. The silk sari is a symbol of wealth, civilization, and the traditional beauty of Bengali women. Silk garments are known as Garad, Matka, Benarsi, and Katan of Dhaka. Lately, silk muslin sarees are also being made. Although there is no formal education, the self-taught workers of the factory design silk garments with an emphasis on seasons, festivals, Eid, puja, time, and weather. Designers Jalal Uddin, Parul Begum, and Joynal Abedin said that silk garments of various designs are being made in the silk factories to keep pace with the times. The new generation is being attracted to it.

History of the silk industry in Bangladesh

Weaver's income per day

Raushna Begum and Shabana Begum, artisans of the Rajshahi Silk Development Board, said that silk cloth is made from the yarn produced from silk. From the cloth, sari, two pieces, piece cloth, orna, chadar, Punjabi and other kinds of garments are made. Men and women weavers get 50 Tks per yard for weaving these fabrics in Rajshahi Silk Factory. A weaver earns 300 to 500 Tks a day by weaving cloth.

Ashraf Ali, director of Sapura Silk, a non-government organization, said the current demand for silk yarn in the country is 600 tonnes. But the public-private production is 41 tons. Due to the yarn crisis, 80 out of 6 private factories located in BC of Rajshahi have been shut down. Farmers have forgotten about silk cultivation.

Political conditions over the silk industry

According to the Silk Development Board authorities, in 1996 the Awami League government bought equipment worth around Tk 10 crore and modernized the Rajshahi silk factory, and started production of yarn. But in 2002, the four-party coalition government closed down two silk factories in Rajshahi and Thakurgaon on the pretext of losses. As a result, the silk farmers continue to lose the market for the silk they produce. Mulberry orchards continue to turn into mango orchards. As a result, there was a stalemate in the silk industry. Later in 2013, Bangladesh Silk Development Board was formed with the help of the Silk Board, Silk Research and Training Institute, and Silk Foundation.

The present condition of the silk industry 

After the Rajshahi Silk Factory was started in 2018, 42 looms were repaired. At present, 41 workers and weavers are producing cloth in 19 looms. The closed showroom has also been opened.

Abul Kalam Azad, manager and production officer of Rajshahi Silk Development Board, said that at present Rajshahi silk factory is producing one ton of yarn per month. About one thousand 200 yards of cloth are being made in it. Sari is available in the factory showroom for five and a half thousand Tks. Sheets and scarves are matched for two thousand rupees. The piece of Punjabi and shirt is matching as 800 Tks per yard.

He said that in 2005 the price of one kg of yarn was one thousand Tks. At present, the price of that yarn is 7 and a half thousand Tks per kg. At present, the Silk Development Board is selling domestic yarn to private factory owners at the rate of Tk 3 and half thousand per kg.

Silk Development Board Member (Finance and Planning) said. MA Mannan said that there are several projects worth Tk 135 crore in the country for the development of silk. Mulberry is planted every year to meet the demand for yarn. Within a few years, the production of silk yarn will increase. Then 100% silk will be made from local yarn.


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