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The Sawangboran Project – Indigenous Silkworms
Locally suitable varieties of silkworms are increasingly being crowded out by scientifically improved ones for the sake of higher productivity and homogeneity. We retain the old ones, for local biodiversity and because the unevenness of the yarn enhances the play of light and colour.
Some of our members who specialize in silkworm raising maintain the reproduction cycle throughout the year, and supply raw yarn to the weavers who raise silkworms more sporadically. Thus we are confident about the varieties raised and their sources.
Silkworm breeding is done in the women’s homes – an integral part of their domestic life. It requires considerable skill, care and more… Breeders are tenderly passionate about their silkworms – they are ‘like babies’. Their gentle nurturance over the weeks of growth and transformation (failing which the insect dies easily) belies the notion of ‘cruelty to animals’ that sometimes attaches to silk. It is true that inside their cocoons they must be killed for the silk to be extracted – yet it is the loving silkworm breeder who thus kills her ‘offspring’, knowing well that death is part of the cycle of life. And then a loving weaver gives another form of life, long, beautiful and useful, to the cocoon of the moth that would otherwise have died within days.