To make a single silk sari 10,000 silkworms are boiled alive and killed. Majority of the Hindu women who wear silk saris are vegetarians but might not be aware that the pure silk saree that they wear and proudly display in marriages and temples is the product of one of the most non-violent violent method of cloth production. But there are silk saris that are produced without killing the silkworms – it is the Ahimsa Silk. The method of producing silk without boiling and killing the silkworms was founded by Kusuma Rajaiah, a senior technical officer with Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society Ltd (APCO).
Next time when you decide to buy a silk sari there is an option to buy and promote non-violent silk saris sold by Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society Ltd (APCO).
So how is Ahimsa Silk or Silk produced without killing the silkworms?
The caterpillars of silkworm feed on mulberry leaves for up to four weeks, growing in size by almost 10,000 times, before they begin secreting a viscous liquid from their glands, which is a combination of fibroin (silk) and sericin (gum). They form a white cocoon around themselves and it is at this stage that they are dropped into boiling water (with the caterpillar still inside them) to make conventional silk. However, Rajaiah decided to wait for a week until the caterpillar metamorphosed into a moth and flew away from the cocoon before extracting the silk filament.
Although the cocoon is now damaged by the adult moth that has made a hole on the surface, and yields much less silk, Rajaiah has no regrets. “God made all creatures. Several people criticized my method of silk extraction. They believe that it is no big deal to kill the caterpillar since the moth survives for just about a week after coming out of the cocoon. But I feel, all creatures have the right to live their lives to the fullest. Will a man agree if his life is cut short by a week?” he asks.