These handwoven cotton bedspreads and other weaves are products of a self sustained community initiative of the people of Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. Formerly only catering to government run establishments, the craft has now stepped out to the open markets through emporiums and exhibitions.

Usage

All the requirements of government run institutions or organizations in the state as well as the country are served by this craft cluster. The following products are woven here: 

- Bedspreads, sheets and other fabric requirements for hospitals.
- Curtains.
- Binding cloth strips for files in government offices.
- Bedspreads for the railways.
- Towels.
- Fabric for blazers.

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Significance

The initial designs appeared in checks and lines and in colors which were mellow. These days the designs have also evolved to suit contemporary tastes and brighter colors and variations are also used. 
The work happens in commissions where the artisans can purchase the raw materials from government outlets, weave according to specifications given to them and then return with the final finished product. This arrangement aids the craftsmen immensely in not having to worry about procuring raw material of good quality, reliable supply source and the price fluctuations. The craftsmen are able to completely concentrate on the finish and quality of the product. Most of the craftsmen are women working from the looms in their homes. The men help in the subsidiary activities.

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Myths & Legends

In the year of 1946 AD, like in many parts of India, unemployment was rampant in Mandsaur. So, the local community influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's Khadi movement proposed setting up of hand looms in the cluster, thereby providing employment to the local masses. The cluster ever since has been thriving on weaving cotton for various government uses.

History

Khilchipura was a small weaving cluster, during India's independence; Khadi was introduced in 1920 as a political weapon and as the best instrument for giving concrete expression to the Swadeshi Spirit to boycott foreign goods. Khadi rendered an opportunity to every man, woman and child to cultivate self discipline and self sacrifice as a part of the non cooperation movement.

"I have only one message to give and that concerns khadi. Place khadi in my hands and I shall place Swaraj in yours. The uplift of the Antyajas (the untouchables) is also covered by khadi and even Hindu- Muslim unity will live through it. It is also a great instrument of peace. This does not mean that I do not favor boycott of Councils and law-courts, but in order that people may not have a grievance against those who go to them, I desire that the people should carry on work concerning khadi even with the help of lawyers and members of legislatures. Keep the Moderates highly pleased; cultivate love and friendship for them. Once they become fearless, that very moment they will become one with us. The same holds good also for Englishmen.

(Gandhi ji In an interview to Indulal Yagnik, which was published in Navajivan on 19-3-1922; 23:86-87)

Inspired from Gandhi's Swadeshi ideologies, this mutually beneficial tie-up of the government and the craftsmen took shape. In 1946 the village set up a cooperative and has been weaving table and bed linen, towels, fabric for blazers and other clothes. Most of the craftsmen are women, who weave from the looms in their homes.

"A woman is adorable, not for the jewelry she wears, but for the purity of her heart. I therefore urge you, if you believe that khadi will solve all the distress of India, to a certain extent, to part with the money that you have brought and your jewelry also, if you can give it to the cause. If you will go a step further, I would ask you also to spare some time to turn the spinning- wheel. It is a fine occupation for women in their leisure hours and it would be much better for you to pass your time in this useful occupation than idle talk. Now, you will give what you can to the volunteers who will go in your midst." 
(Gandhi ji's Speech at women's meeting in Trichinopoly on 20-9-1927; 35:11.)  

The Madhya Pradesh Hastshilp or the Hathkargha Vikas Nigam Ltd has been working tirelessly over the years to provide craftsmen of the state with the tools to continue practicing with profit and dignity. The Nigam has established several Craft Development Centers and Common Facility Centers across Madhya Pradesh. It has initiated meticulous surveys and documentation of the various handicrafts being practiced in the state. To keep in tune with the changing times and modern tastes, the Nigam also provides skill-trainings, product designing and diversification programmes. It has also been actively supporting the artisans of the state through participation in various national and international exhibitions. Now, about 600 craftsmen work in this organization, often involving designers to help the artisans incorporate changing trends into their designs. The Corporation provides them with the raw material and also buys the manufactured products from them. The hand-woven articles are becoming increasingly popular as mill made products are now losing business to these villagers. In 1999-2000 the village sold goods worth Rs20 - 30 lakh. Khilchipura is becoming famous as the 'village of charkhas', when hand spinning on charkhas is almost extinct or has now become obsolete in other parts of the country.

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Design

With the intervention of involving designers and the craftsmen's explorations, the designs have become more minimal and contemporary, with geometric patterns and a color scheme spanning bright and pastel colors. But the older patterns are still in demand, which are mostly checks and lines in a body of muddy colors.

Challenges

The hand woven textiles are facing the same challenges which were being faced in 1940's, during Khadi revolution. The emergence of mechanized mills has pushed the handloom industry in oblivion. The cost of fabric produced industrially is far cheaper and it thus creates an unjust competition for hand-woven textiles. There is a need to generate awareness among people about the age-old craft of hand spinning and weaving, not just for the skill to live but also because there are still many people dependent on it for their livelihood.

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