Indigo Auction

Calcutta sets the scene for the first auction of indigo in more than a century

Indigo was once so widely used to dye everything from military uniforms to muslin frocks that the roads ran blue with it, as in Rajasthan
Indigo was once so widely used to dye everything from military uniforms to muslin frocks that the roads ran blue with it, as in RajasthanGetty Images

The first auction of indigo in India in more than a century took place yesterday in what planters and buyers hope is a resurgence of interest in one of the world’s oldest trading commodities. Ten chests packed with cakes of the blue dye went under the hammer in Calcutta.

Exported at the rate of thousands of chests a year from India to Europe to meet booming demand in the 19th century, indigo — often associated with ruthless colonial exploitation — was once used to dye everything from military uniforms to muslin frocks. Such huge amounts passed through cities that the streets ran blue with dye.

However, the industry, which involves the labour-intensive extraction of dye from certain plants, was all but wiped out by the…

 

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