It’s summer now. Blues sky & shimmering heat waves. And there is nothing like cotton sarees for this weather. I too wore a Prussian Blue cotton saree today.
All of us have worn cotton cloths from childhood itself, but few know about the history of the cloth. I got to know about it from my father-in-law. He, an IAS officer, was first posted in Mahendergarh, some 150 kms west of Delhi, way back in 1963 in what was then the united Punjab. After my marriage, in Delhi, once on a weekend trip, we all drove to the town. The non-descript town, a forgotten footnote in history for being the birthplace of Sher Shah Suri, left me unimpressed. I shared my disappointment to Baba & he too ruefully agreed to the lack of charms of Mahendragarh. But, then he told me the story of the other Mahendergarh, popularly known as Mehrgarh, near Bolan Pass in Pakistan. Discovered in 1974, by a pair of French archeologists, Mehrgarh is now recognized as one of the oldest settlements of Indus Valley civilization, dating back to almost 6500 CE. Among the many things found in Mehrgarh, was the 1st evidence of cotton use; where early cotton threads have been preserved in copper beads. Derived from the Arabic word –qutn – cotton is fascinating as it has been used from antiquity in both the old & the new world. If Indians, Egyptians & Chinese knew about cotton, so did the forefathers of Aztecs in Mexico. Indian cotton or Gossypium Arboreum – to use its scientific name is perhaps the finest & oldest. Cotton textile industry, a pride of Indian middle ages, was thoroughly destroyed by the British to promote their own mills in Lancashire. As of last year, only about 2% of world cotton usage takes Indian cotton – rest comes from America…but I’m proud today that I wore an Indian cotton saree.
Lastly on Prussian Blue. As we recently watched the Alan Turing Biopic – The Imitation game – my son asked about Cyanide ( Turing commits suicide by eating apples laced with cyanide). Cyanide – name derived from Greek word for blue – is a common by-product of making the Prussian blue dye. I do not need the compound, but I do love cotton sarees and especially the ones which are blue