Cotton stacks and 'churka' or cotton gin in operation, Berar - 1866
Photograph of cotton stacks and a 'charka' or cotton gin in operation at Berar in India, taken by an unknown photographer in 1866, from the Archaeological Survey of Indian Collections. After photography was introduced into India in the 1840s it rapidly grew in popularity, particularly as a means to record the vast diversity of people and their dress, manners, trades, customs and religions. The first official attempt to create a comprehensive record of Indian types was the 'The People of India'; an ethnographical survey edited by John Forbes Watson and John William Kaye, and published in eight volumes from 1868 to1875. This photograph shows a group of workers posed among piles of cotton. In the middleground two women operate a small charka or gin, while in the foreground a man is posed with a spinning wheel. In the exhibition catalogue of the Vienna exhibition of 1873 Watson describes of one of these machines, "[the charka] consists of two rollers, either one of iron and one of wood, or both of wood, revolving in opposite directions. The fibre is drawn through between the rollers, the seed, which is too bulky to pass through, falling on the other side. The machine is very simple, and seldom gets out of order, and the principle on which it works is the foundation of most of the cotton gins made from time to time in Europe...The native gins do their work fairly enough, but much seed is sometimes found in the cotton thus cleaned".
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