The shipping magnates of Britain could not tolerate the Indian art of ship manufacturing and they started compelling the East India Company not to use Indian ships. Investigations were frequently carried out in this regard. In 1811, Col. Walker gave statistics to prove that it was much cheaper to make Indian ships and that they were very sturdy. If only Indian ships were included in the British fleet, it would lead to great savings. This pinched the British ship-builders and the traders. Dr Taylor writes ?When the Indian ships laden with Indian goods reached the port of London, it created such a panic amongst the British traders as would not have been created, had they seen the enemy fleet of ships on the River Thames, ready for attack.?
The workers at the London Port were among the first to make hue and cry and said that ?all our work will be ruined and our families will starve to death.? The Board of Directors of the East India Company wrote that ?all the fear and respect that the Indian seamen had towards European behaviour was lost when they saw our social life once they came here. When they return to their country, they will propagate bad things about us amongst the Asians and we will lose our superiority and the effect will be harmful. ?At this, the British Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Peel.
Black Law: Despite disagreement amongst the members of the committee on the basis of this report, a law was passed in 1814 according to which the Indians lost the right to become British sailors and it became compulsory to employ at least three-fourth British sailors on British ships. No ship, which did not have a British master, was allowed to enter London Port and a rule was made that only ships made by the British in England could bring goods to England. For many reasons, there was laxity in enforcing these rules but from 1863, they were observed strictly. Such rules which would end the ancient art of ship-building, were formulated in India also. Tax on goods brought in Indian ships was raised and efforts were made to isolate them from trade. Sir William Digby has rightly written, ?This way the Queen of the western world killed the Queen of the eastern oceans.?
In short, this is the story about the destruction of the Indian art of ship-building.
In an article written in Bhumiputra on June 16, 1986, Vinoba Bhave has described how clothes started being made. The basis of the garment industry is thread which is made from cotton. The Vedas say that Sage Gritsmad was the first to sow cotton and obtained 10 sers (1 ser =0.8 kg) of cotton wool. With this, he made thread. Then he had a problem of how to make cloth. He made a wooden bobbin and with the tantu (raw thread), he made cloth. Thus, the process of making cloth from thread was started by Sage Gritsmad.
Later, with progress and development, cloth started to be made from silk, kosa etc. and clothes and sarees thus made, began to be coloured and embroidered with gold, silver, etc. Clothes were dyed with natural colours. At one time, Indian cloth was exported to virtually all the countries of the world. Traders from ancient Greece, Egypt and Arabia started ordering cotton cloth from India, especially the mulmul from Bengal, which became famous throughout the world as Dacca mulmul. These traders used to sell this cloth in the various provinces and cities of their countries.
With respect to the speciality of Indian clothes, Pramod Kumar Dutt gives observations of various people and writes:-
?Two Arab travellers came here in the 9th century. They wrote that the Indian clothes were so extraordinary, that one could not find such clothes anywhere. The cloth is so fine and beautiful that an entire length can be passed through a ring.?
Marco Polo, who came in the 13th century, made a unique announcement that ?Coromandal and Macchalipattanam coasts were the places of production for all types of beautiful, fine clothes found in any corner of the world.?
Various interesting stories about fineness and clarity of the cloth are famous. Once, Aurangzeb'sdaughter went to court (Darbar). Aurangzeb was very angry to see her clothes and said, ?Have you lost all sense of shame that you are showing your body to the whole world?? At this, his daughter said, ?What can I do, father! I have folded the cloth seven times over and then worn it.?
The French traveller and trader, Tavernier, who came to visit central India in the 17th century, while describing cotton clothes, writes, ?They are so light and beautiful that you cannot even feel them with your hands and the delicate embroidery is hardly visible.? He adds, ?The cotton manufactured in Sikanj ( in Malwa province), like the one in Calicut, is so fine that the wearer'sbody is visible as if he is naked.? He writes in another edition, ?A Persian Ambassador went back from India and gifted a coconut to his Sultan. The courtiers were amazed at this petty gift. But more amazing was the fact that when the coconut was opened, a roll of 30 yards of mulmul came out of it.? M. Wilkins gave a piece of Dacca mulmul to Sir Joseph Bake who said that it was an excellent sample of the fineness of cloth in the recent past. He measured the sample himself and sent his analysis to India House. It was as follows-
Mr Bake says that the piece of cloth given by Wilkins weighed 34.3 grains (7000 grains = 1 pound and 15.5 grains = 1 gm.). Its length was 5 yards 7 inches and it had 198 threads. This meant that the total length of the thread was 1,028.5 yards, and that 29.98 yards of thread were made from 1 grain and that the thread was of 2,425 counts. In modern technology too, a thread is not finer than 500-600 counts.
On the request of the Secretary of State of India, Sir G. Birdwood had written a book entitled The Industrial Arts of India. On page 83 of this book, he writes that ?it is said that during Jehangir'sreign, 15 yards long and 1yard wide Dacca mulmul weighed only 100 grains.?
On page 95 of the same book, it is written, ?The British and the European authors have made poetic similes of the mulmul, the cotton and the silk cloth to a ?bulbul'seye?, the throat of a peacock?, ?the moon and the stars?, Bafte Hava (The stars of the wind), ?Flowing water? and ?Evening dew?. Production of cotton cloth and mulmul started in England in 1772 and 1781 respectively.
(This book is available with Ocean Books (P) Ltd, 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110 002)