History Of Maheshwari Handlooms Madhya Pradesh may of course, not be able to claim having such eminent centres of sari weaving now as Banaras, Madurai or Kanchipuram but there is little doubt that it had flourishing centers in Chanderi and Maheshwar as back as the Maurya period.
Maheshwar is one of the two towns of Maheshwar tehsil, the other being Mandleshwar. Mandleshwar used to be the headquarters of British Nimar during the British rule in India and was received by the erstwhile Holkar State in exchange of territory along with other tracts forming parts of Maheshwar, Barwaha and Kasrawad tehsils. Whereas Maheshwar showed a decline in population from 1911 to 1931, Mandleshwar recorded an increase during the period. Although a much smaller place, Mandleshwar has some administrative importance, a factor that has worked in its favour probably at the cost of Maheshwar. In the erstwhile Holkar State, Maheshwar had only, the subdivisional offices whereas Mandleshwar had the Divisional Offices of the District Judge for (the then) Nimar, the Deputy Inspector General of Police for the South Range and the Divisional Engineer, Outstation Division.
History Of Maheshwari Handlooms
The northern bank of the Narmada, on which Maheshwar is situated, is steep varying in height from 30 to 40 feet, whereas the southern bank is gently sloping. Just opposite to the conuence of Maheshwari river with the Narmada, there is a huge rocky bed which is exposed above the water level by about January. The ordinary width of the river Narmada near Maheshwar is about 3 furlongs but this swells to frightening proportions during the rainy season and in the great ood of 1961 the bed of the river had assumed terrifying proportions.
Historical setup of Maheshwar
Maheshwar has a glorious past and there may actually be but few places in India which can lay claim to such glory if the historical reconstruction is correct. The history of Maheshwar relevant in the context of the present Report commences about the year 1730 when it passed into the hands of Malhar Rao Holkar. However, the town did not come into prominence till 1767. In that year, on the death of Malhar Rao, Ahilya Bai became the Holkar and the devoted religious lady that she was, she selected Maheshwar as her capital. There could not be any better place as the capital of Ahilya Bai's government. Here was the 'sacred river' - Narmada - and many temples dedicated to her favourite deity-Shiva. Under her administration Maheshwar became a place of political and commercial importance and many temples, palaces and ghats were constructed here.
It is said that these constructions started in 1791 and were completed in 1833 and the expenditure incurred on them was INR 1 Crore.
It is reported by the weavers of Maheshwar that their ancestors were invited here from Mandu by Ahilya Bai but there does not appear to be any corroboration of this in historical records nor has it been possible for us to get hold of any authentic reference to the fact that weaving was a developed industry at Mandu. Be as it may, Ahilya Bai had made all efforts to raise Maheshwar to the eminence of a beautiful and important city.
History Of Maheshwari Handlooms
Ahilya Bai died on the 13th August 1795 and the rule of the Holkar State devolved on Tukoji Rao, a distinguished and very able commander of Ahilya Bai. He maintained the capital at Maheshwar. His death in 1797 proved disastrous to the affairs of the State and during the confusion that followed his death, the prosperity of Maheshwar declined rapidly. Yeshwant Rao, who ruled from 1798 to 1811, plundered the treasury in 1798 and shifted the capital to Rampura and Bhanpura. After his death in 1811 and according to the treaty of Mandsaur on the 6th January 1818, Indore became the seat of the Holkars and the importance of Maheshwar greatly declined, though Malcolm states that in 1820, the town still had 3,500 houses and approximately a population of 17,000 persons.
Art of Weaving in India
"It would appear from many passages in the RigVeda that many arts were carried to a high state of excellence, weaving was well-known of course, and deft female fingers wove the warp and the woof in ancient times as in modern days. In one curious passage, the rishi laments his ignorance of the mysteries of religious rites by saying. 'I know not the warp and I know not the woof of religious rites; and in another place, the weaving and bleaching of sheep's wool is attributed to the Carl Push an who as we have already seen is the god of the shepherds".
Subsequent to this early period, mention of fibre is also made in the Institutes of Manu. The present vernacular kapas is probably derived from the word Karpasi mentioned in the Institutes of Manu: karpasi being the fiber from which the Brahmanical thread was prepared. At the time of Manu, not only was the weaving well-known, but also were starching and other operations connected with the manufacture of cloth.
It is seen from Watt's Dictionary of Economic Products that reference to fibre was first made by Herodotus. Dr. Watts states:-
"In his account of India, he (Herodotus) writes: The wild trees of that country bear fleece as their fruit, surpassing those of sheep in beauty and excellence; and the Indians use cloth made from these trees".
Ancient Indian literature as well as the Greek literature, are a proof to the fact that the cotton garments of the Indians were almost as elaborate as they are today. Romesh Chandra Dutta says in his book mentioned earlier: "The time honoured dhoti and chaddar (which latter served as a pagri also) formed the national dress in Ancient India". He adds further: "Arian (who lived in the first century after the birth of Christ) quotes a passage from Nearchus, and says that the Indians wear an under-garment of cotton which reached below the knee half way down to the ankles, and also an upper garment, which they throw partly over their shoulders and partly twist in folds round their head". It may be remembered here that Ari was a traveler as well as a merchant and as Watt mentions in his book, he was the first to make mention of Indian cotton as an article of commerce in his time. In India, Broach, Masulipatam and Dhaka were the centres of the cotton textile industry.
The journey of cotton-textiles from India to other countries is a fascinating one. From here it spread to Persia, Arabia and Egypt and thence gradually to southern Europe, where, about the 12th century, delicate fabrics began to be manufactured. By about 17th century, the craft spread to England. In 1769, Arkwright obtained his patent and in 1779 Crompton (Samuel Crompton) invented the mule. The manufacture of cotton in England took such gigantic strides that it more or less completely supplanted the Indian industry, though in this other factors also had a great role to play...