Ahimsa and Ahimsa silk

Not many of us realize that the luxurious soft silk we all love is actually a by-product of the silk worm which is killed during the production of silk yarn.Did you know that it takes 1500 silk worms to get one meter of woven silk cloth?This means 1500 silk worms are killed at the cocoon stage (it is the cocoon which is unraveled in boiling water to produce the fine silk filaments)!

Here at Maha Mala we weren’t very impressed by that fact, and when we wanted to change our tassels from cotton (cause silk just feels so much better right?) we were adamant that we wouldn’t be a part of the killing industry. It isn’t very yogic and doesn’t abide by the yogic moralities and ethics called the Yamas and Niyamas – outlined by Patanjali in his yoga sutras (an ancient text which outlines the steps one can take to reach self contentment). Yamas are ethical restraints on how to live your life, whereas Niyamas as lifestyle observances to be carried out.

Being a yoga company- Maha Mala strongly believes and carries out its work according to these yogic principles mentioned above. One of these principles is Ahimsa.

When translated literally Ahimsa means non-violence, but when looked at in a broader aspect, it incorporates love, tenderness, caring and compassion for all of humankind, be it animal or plant.

After a long search across the textile industry in India (which believe me is vast, beautiful and very complicated!), we managed to find a supplier which was producing non-violent silk! We jumped on the opportunity to get our Malas tassels made with AHIMSA silk, and can now say we are the only Mala company to be using eco friendly, fair trade, non-violent silk in all our product tassels!

So you may want to know what is the difference between normal silk production and Ahimsa silk production?

‘Normal’ Silk is made from the fibrous cocoon of the bombyx mori caterpillar (also known as the silkworm)- the cocoon is boiled to loosen the silk fibers which of course kills the morphing caterpillar inside. From these boiling vats of silk fiber the threads are then wound onto spools to be turned into yarn.

Watch the video by Pathé below on the production of silk back in the day in England (love the vintage look of this video!)

During the production of Ahimsa silk– the silkworm (usually Eri or Tussar caterpillars) are allowed to live out their natural life cycle by eating their way out of the cocoon, the cocoon is then placed in boiling water to loosen the cocoon and then wound onto the spool. The difference apart from allowing the silkworm to live is that the fibers from the cocoon are naturally much shorter and are more difficult to make into silk yarn.

The Silkworm eating Mulberry leaves.
The silkworm cocooning themselves.
Sorting through the silk cocoons.
Silk yarn ready for dyeing.
After boiling- these are the silk bundles- ready to be spun.
Seperating the spun silk yarn.
Hatched silk moths.
Ready to use AHIMSA silk!

Maha Mala purchases two different types of Ahimsa silk. One is a machine spun Ahimsa silk (much finer and thread like) which is dyed using as free dyes (a chemical known to cause environmental damage) – the other type of Ahimsa silk is a hand spun, earth dyed (using organic dye found in nature) type of silk- this last silk is more organic looking, rougher to the touch and of course can’t be made into finer items like clothing!). See below the different between the two types of Ahimsa silk.

We here at Maha Mala are so very proud of the fact that we refrain from animal cruelty, that are able to advocate compassion and kindness in all forms, even if it means that our products cost slightly more. We believe life is more precious than a few dollars- don’t you?