Discuss the advancement made in textile technology under the Delhi Sultans.

Q. Discuss the advancement made in textile technology under the Delhi Sultans. ©


The increased craft production along with urban growth was due to the number changes or improvement in the technology during Delhi Sultanate. Turks brought with them superior technology along with the skill to improvise the existing technology including in textile.

Various advancement in textile technology under Delhi Sultanate:

  • Advancement in Ginning, Carding and Spinning:
    • After picking up cotton balls, there were three basic stages before cotton could be used for weaving: Ginning (seed extraction), Carding (fibre loosening) and Spinning (making yarn).
    • Advancement in Ginning:
      • It was done in two ways
        • Roller and board method and
        • Worm-press or worm-roller (charkhi)
    • Advancement in carding:
      • Cotton thus separated from seeds was “beaten” with sticks or carded with bow-string in order to separate and loosen the fibers (naddafi in Persian; dhunia in Hindi).
      • Introduction of cotton-carder:
        • A device introduced during Sultanate period was the bow of the cotton-carder (naddaf, dhunia) which sped up the process carding as well as seed separation.
    • Advancement in spinning:
      • Spinning was traditionally done with the spindle (duk in Persian; takla in Hindi) to which whorl (phirki in hindi) was attached to stabilize it.
      • Introduction of charkha (spinning wheel):
        • The most important technological revolution in the textile sector was the introduction of the spinning-wheel (charkha) through the agency of the Muslims during the 13th-14th centuries.
        • Charkha did not exist in Ancient India. The first literary reference to charkha comes from Isami’s Futuh-us Salatin (A.D. 1350).
        • Charkha did not displace the spindle but only accelerated its rotation and thus revolutionised the production of yarn.
          • According to one estimate, a spinning-wheel (charkha) could produce yarn six-fold more than the spindle during the same unit of time.
          • The spinning wheel in its simplest form increased the spinner’s efficiency some six-fold, in comparison with a spinner working with a hand spindle.
          • This must have resulted in greater output of yarn and more cloths.
        • The yarn from spindle was of a very fine quality whereas the charkha produced coarse yarn for coarse cloths.
  • Advancement in weaving:
    • Horizontal loom of thron-shuttle type was used for simple or tabby weave.
    • Introduction of treadle loom (pit-loom):
      • It is difficult to determine whether the pit-loom (treadle loom) was in use in Ancient India, but we get the first evidence of this loom in the Miftah-ul Fuzala (c. A.D. 1469). It may have come to India along with the spinning wheel at the same time.
      • Treadles allowed the weaver to employ his hitherto idle feet.
      • Treadles along with charkha increased the cotton textile production in huge amount and changed the export scenario during the Sultanate.
    • Advancement in carpet weaving:
      • It developed under the patronage of the Sultans, with many Iranian and Central Asian designs being incorporated.
      • It is assumed that carpet-weaving on vertical loom of Persia was also introduced during this time. The evidence of it though appears only in the Mughal period.
  • Advancement in dyeing and printing:
    • Indigo and other vegetables dyes along with minerals were responsible for the bright colours of which both men and women were fond. The dying industry went hand in hand with calico-painting.
      • Indigo, madder and lakh, etc. were widely employed.
      • Indigo was used for both bleaching and dyeing.
      • For fast colours (color’s resistance to fading or running), many articles like alum were added.
    • The Indian dyer (rangrez) employed many techniques like immersion, tie-and-dye (bandhana), etc.
    • Block-printing (chhapa) was perhaps unknown in Ancient India. Some scholars credit the Muslims with its diffusion in India.
      • Various varieties of cloth was both painted and printed by using blocks of wood.
        • The tie and dye method was of old standing in Rajasthan but hand-printing using wooden block became frequent during Sultanate.
      • Thus, the 14th century sufi Hindi poet, Mulla Daud, talks of printed (khand chaap) cloth.
  • Advancement in silk manufacturing:
    • It underwent a sea change during this time.
    • Sericulture or the rearing of mulberry silk-worm was introduced during the Sultanate.
    • It was first heard of in Bengal in the early 15th century and in Kashmir in the mid 16th century.
    • The cost of silk production cheapened and this increased silk export.

Apart from the advancement in the above mentioned textile technology, the luxury textile items were generally produced in the royal workshops or karkhanas which led to their improvement.

  • In Muhammad Tughlaq’s karkhanas, there were 4000 silk workers who wove and embroidered different types of robes and garments.
  • Firuz Tughlaq had recruited and trained a large number of slaves to work in his karkhanas and in the parganas.

The advancement in textile technology was further carried forward in Mughals period. ©

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