The inception of the project goes back to a conscientious discussion between the two founders about the existence of violence or injury in Eri silk production. This discussion in 2016 about the potential relevance of Ahimsa to Eri Silk led to an attempt to make this textile with intentional non-injury and call it Ahimsa Eri Silk.

The resolution to initiate this project came as a result of five years of dedicated research and experimentation aimed to produce a textile that carries the substantial beauty of a silk envisioned to complete the life cycle of the silkworms.

We make Ahimsa Eri Silk as an alternative to readily available general Eri silk. Here, the silk extraction process does not involve the killing of silkworms. Instead, they die a natural death leading to another cycle of life. This concept is ideal for people who have thus far, rejected silk because of the violence involved in the process of making silk.

Not only does the project bring to the centre an application-based discussion around the questions of violence, but also diversifies opportunities for the makers bringing livelihood to 266 households in rural Assam. We are fortunate that this project offers us a receptive setting. Where we can effectively engage in conversations related to the concept of injury involved in the making of silk and collaborate in bringing gentle changes to existing systems.

When a consumer makes the conscious decision to buy a metre of Ahimsa Eri Silk, they become an ally in the metamorphosis of 1250 cocoons to moths, the final stage in their life cycle. This is a tangible expression of the celebration of life, the story of which begins with a castor leaf, “era paat”, lending eri its name.

The Intention


Make sufficient Feel enough.

Reverence to life Gentleness in approach.

Clarity of intention Universality in purpose.

Engage with more hands Support skills and solutions.

Practice fearlessness in sharing I am because we are.

Be earnest in empathy Innovate mindfully and in collaboration.

Make slow Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.


This Intention finds its rational in the teachings of varied faith and belief systems from across the world. They offer a relief to the questions of Universal Conduct and act as a totem to keep us on the Path, bringing us back to the constants in the multitude of variables.



Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine energy or collective consciousness; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.” It is the ethic of “reverence for life”, “non-injuring”, intention to not harm through action, thought or words. When the method of silk production is centred around nurturing life of a silkworm rather than towards acquiring maximum output of silk, it raises conscientious reasoning around the questions of violence and non violence, intention and action. In wishing health for a silkworm who lives a natural life cycle and dies a natural death, Ahimsa Eri silk is a direct adaptation of this virtue. Good quality of silk is then a progression, not just a pursuit.



Observation of life through multiple points of view. The makers of Eri silk do not attach intellectual concepts of violence or non- violence to Eri silk production. While the locals see silkworms as a source of protein in their diet, one can observe violence in the killing of silkworms when they are separated from the cocoon before finishing their life cycle. “The act of killing is complicated, and its ethicization is predicated upon intent.” In their simple mind, they do not associate this killing with the “intent to harm” but with a simple animal instinct of lifestyle. It is also believed that silkworm was used as a food source way before it was discovered as a silk producing worm. Since we are still incapable of knowing the whole truth, we accept the co-existence of multiple points of view where one can only observe the complexity of violence from the lens of their own subjective morality. Thus, we do not aim to influence anyone’s way of thinking or preach non-violence. We also do not see Ahimsa as a matter of rule, but as a matter of principle.

This project is an opportunity to practice a life of intentional non- injury and offer an alternative to adapt multiple approaches to Eri Silk production with least injury.



No excess. Self restrain. Contentment. Only what is needed. Know when to say NO. Non possessiveness. Non- attachment. Minimise. No hoarding. We are taking small and steady steps for this project to minimise wastage of effort, thought, action, resources and hope. “The teaching has been of Ahimsa with Pramada – that is, reducing violence through proper intention and being careful in every action on a daily basis to minimize violence to all life forms.” We are starting with a production cap of 1000 metres of Ahimsa Eri Silk in a year available only on a pre-determined order 3 months in advance. This maintains human-nature, need-greed, ease-pressure, enough-excess balance. For makers, this format ensures security and advance planning. This also gives us a controlled start to assess the impact of our project on silkworms, the environment and the community.

Parasparopagraho Jīvānām

परस्परोपग्रहो जीवानाम्

Motto of Jainism: Life is bound by mutual support and interdependence. And that one cannot exist without the existence of the other. This approach keeps the focus on “fair benefit” and overall well-being of all those involved in the project- silkworms, rearers, yarn spinners, weavers, dyers, post- processing units, facilitators, communicators, sellers, researchers, wearers. In modern context, to be able to see the intra-network of life is to make choices and offer that noone wants to refuse- a win-win state for all life forms!

The Vision

Through this project, we have immersed ourselves in a documented study where one can experience application of Ahimsa in both process and product. It is a practice to become aware of how to eliminate injury or harm caused to other life forms, intentionally or unintentionally.

In the long run, we visualise a potential shift of discussion from how many silkworms are killed in the making of silk to how many silkworms are saved by making Ahimsa Eri silk.

For this work in progress, we seek guidance and collaboration with:

  • Scholars in the fields of faith to help us understand the relationship of violence and intention. We also solicit visit to our project sites from these masters. To steer our project in the intended direction.

  • Textile designers who are aligned to the project’s intention. They can create a collaborative collection with our textile. A choice towards “Ahimsa Eri Silk x collaborator”

  • Experts in Textile engineering and R&D. They can help us scientifically testify the Ahimsa in Ahimsa Eri silk

  • Analysts in process flow. With their objectivity, they can point our eyes towards any injury in our process that we may not yet be trained to see.

Our product’s sustainability is directly linked to how clearly we can reflect Ahimsa in our process. The quality of the textile already gives us the confidence of a well-made product.

We wish to continue sustaining the livelihood of hundreds of households that are engaged with the project. It is our passion as well as our assurance to the community.

Our vision lies in a beneficial longevity of this project for all involved.

The Team

Ahimsa Eri Silk Project is co-founded by Narmohan Das of Das Handloom & Handicrafts and Ritika Mittal of Mora Collective.

Naturenomics™ Awardee Narmohan Das from Kamrup district of Assam is an environmental steward who has pushed the boundaries of sustainability by propagating the production of Eri Silk and creating a circular economy within the silk industry for more than two decades.

Narmohan Das has been a pioneer of many innovations in Eri silk bringing livelihood to more than 750 households in rural Assam. The making of Ahimsa Eri Silk is a matter of ethically altering a part of his already existing network of community work. The makers carry out the art of spinning and weaving production under his expert mentorship as the production-in-charge. He also acts as a mentor for the rearing to maintain segregation between the two groups – Ahimsa Eri Silk and general Eri Silk.

Cosmopolitan and Femina Awardee Ritika Mittal engages closely with natural fabrics, yarns and dyes representing her own initiative, Mora Collective, est. 2009. She creates one of a kind wearable textiles celebrating the heritage of indigenous communities of North East India and India-Nepal Himalayan regions. In 2014, she founded Thebvo Project in Nagaland that is dedicated to the revival of stinging nettle textiles of Chakhesang Nagas. She also comes with an experience of decade-long career in audio-visual communication with projects from BBC World & World Service Trust, United Nations Development Programme and Fremantlemedia India. She facilitates application of “Ahimsa”, documented-research and communication of the project.

The third important link and a partner of the project is Ajit Medhi, the rearing-in-charge of the project who hails from a family lineage of Eri silk-rearers. He is a farmer living a rural life with his family, rearing millions of silkworms every year in the heart of his home. He was trained in rearing by his mother who was known for the generosity from her kitchen. Residing at a strategic border location between Assam and Meghalaya, the Medhi household has been a good host to travellers and traders for generations.

Collectively with this project, they were able to envision the success of producing a fine quality of Ahimsa Eri Silk. The mutual decision to keep the annual limit of production to 1000 metres for the first phase stems from their deeper sensitivity to nature and local culture. At the grassroots, the founders engage in transferring a thorough intention of Ahimsa in Eri Silk production to ripple out a sensitive community of makers. This facilitation addresses a community that is confident in their skill and resilient in their growth, delving for the first time in the questions of violence in silk production.

Documentation team for Phase 1

Macro & Timelapse photo and video: Ritika with Green Hub Fellowship fellows – Jahnu Baruah, Josi Kaipeng and Jayshree Borgohain under remote technical mentorship of Anurag Jaitley.

Host for rearing shoot: Medhi family and friends from Mataikhar, Assam

Host for spinning and weaving shoot: Das family and friends from Harapara (3rd) and artisan families of Saru Phulguri

Friends who joined to take photos of community: Adish Baruah, Kalai Vani (Nov 2019)

Website Designed by: Toàn Nguyen

Frequently occurring confusions regarding Eri Silk


“Proof of Ahimsa is in the Cocoon”

A single glance can tell the difference between Ahimsa Eri Silk cocoons and general Eri Silk cocoons. General Eri silk cocoons are ivory white and clean because the living silkworm is pulled out of the fresh cocoon within a day it finishes making the cocoon. Whereas Ahimsa Eri Silk cocoons are more yellow hue, harder sericin cover with many “dirt” spots. These represent the natural life cycle spent going through metamorphosis in the enclosure of cocoon for about 15 to 20 days where the chrysalis turns to moth. These “lived in Ahimsa” cocoons are crucial testimony to the completion of life cycle of Eri silkworm, turning them into Ahimsa Eri Silkworms. All Eri silk cocoons hold the potential to be Ahimsa Eri silk cocoons. But all Eri silk cocoons are not Ahimsa Eri Silk cocoons. Only those that have been intentionally nurtured to complete their metamorphosis within the closure of cocoon can be called Ahimsa Eri silk cocoons. Most worms are strong and appear out as moth. Very few are born not as strong and die naturally, unable to continue life.

This difference in the colour and density of Ahimsa cocoons lends the cherished look and texture to Ahimsa Eri silk textiles marking a clear difference between general Eri silk and Ahimsa Eri Silk textiles. To even an untrained eye, the difference is clear. Just like the cocoons, Ahimsa Eri silk fabric is darker, denser, more pale than the pristine lustrous ivory of general Eri Silk constantly reminding us of the incomplete lifecycle of the worm who couldn’t evolve to its metamorphosis leaving behind a clean cocoon. On the other hand, Ahimsa Eri silk’s spotted texture remains a tactile testimony of intentional non-injury to this lifecycle.

Ahimsa Eri cocoons

General Eri cocoons


“All Eri Silk is not Ahimsa Eri Silk”

While trying to understand the proof of “Ahimsa” in Eri silk production, we first understand what really happens to this silk before it reaches us.

Eri silk is a unique wild fibroin silk with loosely bound multilayered cocoon structure. The cocoon coat of the eri silkworm cocoon is thick and massive, accounting for about 1/3 of the weight of the cocoon shell. The cocoon layer is thin and soft, lacks elasticity, and is obviously delaminated. There is no obvious boundary between the cocoon layer and the cocoon coat, and the inner layer of the silkworm cocoon is tight. This eliminates the need to boil the cocoons along with the worm to separate the silk. Separation by boiling a cocoon with living silkworm is a requisite for most mulberry silk production, earning silk its reputation of being a violent textile. Eri silkworms do not ‘need’ to be killed in the process of extraction which gives potential to this silk to be extracted without intentional killing.

Though the ground reality is that Eri silkworms are a favourite delicacy among many in North East India and is considered to be a good source of protein. Once the silkworm has spun certain amount of silk fibre as its cocoon, it is pulled alive from the cocoon before it finishes its lifecycle. This gives the rearer access to the fine and clean silk fibre as well as a meal of boiled or roasted silkworms. Both are sold separately.

The rearer keeps a certain set number of Eri seed cocoons for rearing and rest all are either consumed at home or sold out to be eaten. This has created an artificial dearth of eri silk and also a controversy about it really being Ahimsa Eri silk.

Ahimsa silk, refers to any type of silk that is produced without harming or killing the silkworms. This is in contrast to general silk, where about 3000 caterpillars (usually mulberry) are killed to create one kilo of silk. To be categorised as Ahimsa silk, the worm has to be reared with the intention of non-injury carried out both in process and in product. This concept is revered by many though patented by Kusuma Rajaiah.


The cocoon is a protective layer for the Instar to perform its metamorphosis in a conducive environment. Eri silkworm cocoons are natural composite biopolymers formed by continuous twin silk filaments (fibroin) bonded by Sericin. As a kind of wild species, Eri cocoons have characteristics different from those of Mulberry Silk cocoons. Eri cocoons have an obvious multilayer (5–9 layers) structure with an eclosion hole at one end and several air gaps between the layers, which can be classified into three categories—cocoon coat, cocoon layer, and cocoon lining. There is a significant secondary fracture phenomenon during the tensile process, which is attributed to the high modulus of the cocoon lining and its dense structure. Air gaps provide cocoons with distinct multistage moisture transmission processes, which form a good moisture buffer effect. Temperature change inside cocoons is evidently slower than that outside, which indicates that cocoons also have an obvious temperature damping capability. The eclosion hole does not have much effect on heat preservation of Eri cocoons. The high sericin content of the cocoon coat, as well as the excellent ultraviolet absorption and antimicrobial abilities of Sericin, allows Eri cocoons to effectively prevent ultraviolet rays and microorganisms from invading pupae making Eri Silk superior to cultivated silk in UV and antibacterial properties. In the production of Ahimsa Eri Silk, the cocoon protects the worm for the whole of metamorphosis phase, accentuating its health beneficial properties over time.


There is abundance of Eri Silkworm in Assam. Though there is lack of nurturing environment.

A single female Eri moth lays about 300-500 eggs. They usually have an extremely low mortality rate if given a healthy environment. It is then an odd assumption that there is dearth of Eri silk in Assam. As is observed, there are various reasons magnifying this confusion:

a) A large quantity of ready Eri silk cocoons are being sent out of Assam leaving Assam with less livelihood opportunities related to spinning and weaving.

b) Sericulture units are unable to create a healthy and nurturing environment required for Eri Silk lifecycle leading to a high mortality rate. Most often, large quantities of eggs are dumped in inexperienced hands to meet the numbers.

c) Eri silkworms are separated from the cocoons before maturity into moth and sold separately. A rearer gets payment for both silkworms as well as cocoons. This leads to an expected reduction in number of seed cocoons. Seed Cocoons is a Sericulture term for those cocoons that complete their natural lifecycle and die after laying eggs ensuring continuous supply of Eri Silkworms. In action, all seed cocoons are Ahimsa Eri cocoons. However, the difference in intention leaves them with two different names- Seed cocoons and Ahimsa Eri cocoons.

d) Modern context has changed the lifestyle of people from Assam. Nowadays, it is not easy to find dedicated rearers, spinners and weavers leading to an overall drop in production.

e) Climate change and increasing pollution also deteriorates eri silkworm health. However, a nurturing environment away from populated region can alter this situation.


If Eri silk is bought cheap, either one or all of the three- Product, Process and Person are being negotiated to accommodate cheaper selling price.

When Eri silk is given healthy rearing cycle, is hand spun and then hand woven on throw shuttle looms, is natural dyed, it cannot be made cheap. When it cannot be made cheap, it cannot be sold cheap. Ensuring an encouraging payment for the workmanship of many hands, one must encourage enterprises who offer “fair benefit” to all makers. The confusion of Eri Silk textiles being bought at a low price is related to a diverse range of quality of Eri products made not only in Assam but all across India.

  • Eri Silk may or may not be Ahimsa Eri silk.
  • Eri Silk could be of inferior or superior quality depending upon their rearing health
  • Eri Silk could be machine-spun or hand-spun
  • Eri silk could be woven on back-strap, throw-shuttle, fly-shuttle, jacquard or power looms. The intricacy levels of each looms offers different textures and degrees of workmanship involved.
  • Eri Silk may or may not be natural dyed.
  • The makers may be amateur or experienced.
  • the makers may be from a remote region increasing cost of transportation and decreasing chances of access.

All these factors lead to a product. A thorough knowledge can enable a buyer to find a genuine product that fits their requirement. And pay accordingly.

**The scientific theories are collated from our experiential study and certain educational websites and books.

The Community

Ahimsa Eri silk Project is thriving in a region about 60-70 kms away from Guwahati city, strategically placed between the borders of Assam and Meghalaya leading to a diverse population of Rabha, Bodo, Garo, “Adivasi”, Khasi, Ahom and other Akhomiya speaking communities. Panning over 14 villages in four zones namely Jharobari, Mataikhar, Jhalukbari & Barihat of Kamrup district in Assam, the project directly benefits 266 households with sustained livelihood. The region is not only suitable for a healthy growth cycle of Eri Silkworms but is also home to a skilled artisan community that still follow the traditional methods of textile-making, especially that of hand-spinning Eri Silk yarn and weaving this hand-spun yarn on traditional loom.

To reach this region, one moves nestled between a continuous row of tea plantations, past the rural vistas of fishing nets of Assam, enroute a beautiful lake called Chandubi, often in close proximity with rich diversity of wildlife and birds.

This region indeed offers an eclectic mix of languages, skills, cuisines, festivals and religions inviting a dive into an experience of community life.