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Tussar silk (alternatively spelled as Tussah, Tushar, Tassar, Tusser and also known as (Sanskrit) Kosa Silk) is produced from larvae of several species of silk worms belonging to the moth genus Antheraea, including A. mylitta, A. pernyi, A. roylei and A. yamamai. These silkworms live in the wild forest in trees belonging to Terminalia species and Shorea robusta as well as other food plants like Asan, Arjun, Jamun and Oak found in South Asia, eating off the leaves of the trees they live on. Tussar is valued for its rich texture and natural deep gold colour.
In order to kill the silkworms, the cocoons are dried in the sun. There is a variation where the silkworms are allowed to leave before the cocoons are soaked in boiling water to soften the silk and then reeled. Cocoons are collected which are single-shelled and oval in shape and are then boiled to extract the silk yarn from it. Boiling is indeed very important part in the manufacturing of silk as it softens the cocoon and makes the extraction of silk easier. In conventional sericulture, the cocoons are boiled with the larvae still inside, however if the cocoons are boiled after the larvae have left them, the silk made is then called by 'Non-Violent Silk' or 'Ahimsa Silk'.
Tussar silk is considered more textured than cultivated or "mulberry" silk but it has shorter fibres, which makes it less durable. It has a dull gold sheen. As most of the cocoons are collected from the forest, it is considered by many as a forest product.
- 1. Dry cleaning is the safest option for Tussar (or any other silk).
- 2. Dry cleaned Tussar should not be wrapped in plastic. Silks need to breathe.
- 3. In case Tussar fabric is to be handwashed, use cold water and a mild liquid soap meant for delicate clothes (or shampoo).
India is the second largest producer of tussar silk and the exclusive producer of Indian Tussar (also known as tropical tussar), which is largely tended by tribals. Bulk of the Tussar silk production is in India and some forty percent of it is produced in the Indian state of West Bengal. A large quantity is produced in Malda district of West Bengal and Bhagalpur in Bihar, where it is called Bhagalpur Silk. Tussar Silk is also used for Orissa’s Pattachitras and West Bengal’s Kantha stitches.Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also produce Tussar Silk. Jharkhand state in India is also considered to be an epicentre of Tussar. It is also produced in Bhandara district in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state in India. Andhra Pradesh is also a producer.
With the introduction of chemical dyes, the range of available colours has increased significantly. There are fashion designers who use Tussar silk in their creations. The precisely finished and designer garments produced from Tussar Silk are known globally and are exported to various countries including Europe, the Persian Gulf and the United States.
Main article: Bhagalpur Sari
More than a century old Tussar silk weaving industry in Bhagalpur has about 30,000 handloom weavers working on some 25,000 handlooms. The total value of annual trade is around Rs. 100 crores, about half of which comes from exports.
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