Eri silk: practicing ahimsa with silk
While most of us may stand by non-violent principles, and the prevention of cruelty against living creatures, the issue of silk barely ever tends to conjure up such topics. However, it should, because regular silk is obtained through the killing of the silkworms which produce the material. Eri silk, however, is different, which is why it is also known as Ahimsa silk. This is the only form of silk in which the silk worm is not killed in order to obtain the material.
Silk is undoubtedly one of the more glamorous cloth materials. Silk sarees and clothes are coveted all over the world, and they’re considered to be a luxury. However, we often fail to pay heed to the price which another living thing pays so that we can look good.
With regular silk, we end up killing thousands of silkworms in order to make beautiful clothes. Eri silk, however, is made from the silk produced by the Eri silk worm, and the name of the insect comes from the diet of the worm. This silk worm feeds on castor plants, which in Assam, is called Eri. In this case, the worm simply crawls out of its cocoon after the silk has been made, and it does not require to be killed. This is also one of the few kinds of silk worm which can be domesticated.
Eri silk is beautiful and soft, and most importantly, for all the eco-friendly, conscientious ones, is a non-violent cloth material. It is mostly found in the North-Eastern parts of India, and some Eri silk can be found in China as well. It is also cheaper than the other forms of silk, and yet, looks just as good. It comes very close to feeling like cotton, and hence is comfortable as well, and can be worn in many different kinds of climatic zones.
Eri has ceased to be just a material, and has grown into a particular culture, and way of life. Today, Eri spinning and growing has spread across many states all over India. The silk is more rooted to the ideals that brought this nation together. It is not smooth, but coarse and elastic, and it imparts an almost earthy feel to the wearer. It is not just how the material looks, but the philosophy which it embodies, the philosophy which its very strands, stand for.
It is a very special material because of its multiple properties. In India, this silk material was used for warm clothes, because of its insulation properties, and at the same time, the fact that it absorbs moisture would help for the warmer, more humid climates. Eri, therefore, can be used all over the varied climatic zones in India as well as other countries. In that sense, it truly lives up to its name in more than one way. Just like the practice of non-violence stopped the country from falling apart, and in fact, brought it together under a secular umbrella, Eri silk, too, can be used across the country, by various people. It spins together the very cultural fabric of a diverse, colourful country.