Thursday 22 August 2013

The forgotten silk farm

The locality was named after a farm established in the late years of the 20th century by one of India’s greatest industrialists. He was a man who pioneered the industrial revolution in India and his name today is synonymous with the industrial house that today manufactures a range of products. The name still stands for quality and honesty.
He was also instrumental in helping set up the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and had a hand in the aviation history of India. He is J. R. D. Tata and he was among the first industrialist in India to recognize the importance of silk and he set up a silk farm in Bangalore in 1896 in a locality called Thyagarajanagar.
The area where the Silk Farm came up was known and even today it goes by the name of Tata Silk Farm. Though there is no farm, the name still exists, a reminder of the pioneering spirit of one of India’s greatest industrialist.
The Tata Silk Farm today is full of houses and small commercial and business establishments. It is located just off the busy KR Road and South End Road and borders the Yediyur lake.
The silk farm once spun yards of pure mulberry silk and it was beehive of silk industry in South India. The origin of silk in and around Bangalore (after the fall of Tipu) can be traced to 1800 when the Wodeyars set up a silk unit in Mogenahalli in Chennapatna. The silk unit took off and Mogenahalli soon became the new centre of silk industry in the then Mysore Kingdom.
In 1893 J.R.D. Tata visited Japan and he saw for himself the Japanese method of rearing silk worms and growing mulberry. In 1896 he hit upon the idea of setting up a silk unit in Bangalore. The then Dewan, K. Seshadri Iyer, enthusiastically seconded the proposal and gave land for the establishment of a silk farm with a filature.
Tata planned the unit on the lines of the Japanese silk farm that he had seen while on the visit to that country. He personally invited a Japanese couple, Mrs. and Mr. Odzu, to help set up the Bangalore unit.
Tata never wanted to get into silk business. He had seen how Tipu had tried to set up silk industry in India. As an industrialist, Tata realised the importance of reviving silk in India and, hence, chose Bangalore.   
The Odzus trained V.M.Appadhorai Mudaliar and Laxman Rao at the newly set up farm which the Wodeyars gave to the Tatas free of cost. The Wodeyars also promised an annual subsidy of Rs. 3,000 to the silk unit.   
The silk unit became operational during 1902 and initially it had a small filature of ten basins. The large stretch of lands adjoining the farm were planted with varieties of mulberry.
The Tata Silk Farm, as it came to be known, soon became the premier centre of silk in India and people from different regions, including Mysore, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were trained here.
Soon, the farm which was located between the then villages of Nagasandra and Yediyur proved to be an inspiration for a similar venture to be set up in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka and in other parts of India.
In January 1910, the farm was handed over to the Salvation Army by Jamshedji’s son, Dorabji. The Salvation Army took up management of the farm, expanded the mulberry plantation and also set up a silk unit in Ramanagar.
Records of the Salvation Army show how it attempted to make it a profitable organisation. The silk farm was rated the best of its kind in the country and it won several prizes and medals.
However, the setting up of Basavanagudi and the growing urbanization of the area spelt the doom of the farm. In 1949, the Government set up a silk board and son the farm went into oblivion.
The farm was subsequently dismantled and the land sold as sites. Today, the name Tata Silk Farm still stands but there is no longer any farm. Even the residents of the area have forgotten how their locality once guided the silk industry in India.
Today, India is one of the leading producers of silk and Karnataka manufactures the majority of silk. Unfortunately, the role of  Tata and Tata Silk Farm seems to have been forgotten.    

1 comment:

  1. navaratna Sudheer23 July 2014 at 03:10

    It was not J. R. D. Tata but J.N.Tata ( Jamshdeji Nusserwanji Tata-1839 to 1904) who founded this farm.
    Navaratna Sudheer