Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Silk Worm Auction

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
I'm sure most of you are aware where silk comes from. Most school children learn how the little silk worm eats the mulberry leaves then spins his cocoon and we miraculously have silk. But while we were on the road to Mysore we stopped by the place where the silk worm cocoons are bought and traded and it was the most fascinating place--possibly the most fascinating so far.

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
We walked into the open warehouse to see tables lining the rooms, some empty, some full as the farmers arrived to bring their goods for sale. The men arrived carrying bags four or five times as large as a rolled sleeping bag, full of what looked like packing peanuts until they spilled them out into the bins for display.

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
We made our way around the room with Sampath as our interpreter (he spoke the native Kannada) and the men began gathering around us until we had an enormous crowd following us through the room. Soon they were all around us, asking Sampath questions which he'd interpret for us. Questions like how much a pound of chicken or a pound of rice cost in America or what our wedding rings were for and it was fun to see that they were as interested in us as we were in them. They were completely blown away by the prices and I got the feeling they were laughing at the stupid Americans who would dare pay $12/pound for a piece of fish.

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
You can see how we attracted stares--or more accurately how I attracted stares. I think it was because I'm so tall and pale but they were very open about staring at me where ever I went. As we talked with the group of men you see in the top picture (Sampath is the third one from the left) one very small old man with a turban took special interest and wanted me to scoop up the cocoons in my hand to feel them then gave me some to keep. I wish I could have got a picture but while most of the men loved having us take their picture he was too shy and said no. This picture is a different man but I thought he looked great nonetheless.

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
Each cocoon has a tiny live worm inside which in ten more days will emerge as a butterfly and if you rattle it you can hear the little guy rattling around in there. Each table you see has enough cocoons to equal roughly $100, the Indian variety sells for about 250 rupees per kilo and the Chinese variety which are whiter and have more silk are about 270 rupees per kilo. When the cocoons are sold they will be thrown into the water where the silk will soften and they get about 800-1000 meters of silk for each cocoon for the Indian ones.

Mysore Silk Worm Auction
It sure makes me appreciate silk more now that I know how the process works.

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12 comments:

MRMacrum said...

Now that's cool. Great post. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by silk worms.

branda50 said...

It looked like you were up for auction...haha

Ann On and On... said...

What an amazing opportunity! Very interesting...

Steve, For what it is worth! said...

What a wonderful experience. It is a nice post to see.
Thank You.

guest said...

You didn't finish the last sentence in the third paragraph. They were blown away by the...??? (You have me hanging on your every word! :-)

cndymkr / jean said...

This trip is turning into a fantastic learning experiece - for me!! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Staci said...

I have to admit that I didn't really know about the silk worm! Is that terrible?!?! Ha! Thanks for enlightening me!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! Thank you for all the updates. The stories and pictures make me feel like I am there. Can't wait to see more.

- Melissa

Scribbit said...

Sorry for cutting off that paragraph, we've been on the road this weekend and internet service is pretty sketchy. Fixed now!

daysease said...

What a NEAT educational moment!! Most of us never get to see silk worms in person, much less touch them.

Melissa Stover said...

i think that's fascinating. no doubt they were amazed at your height. you are quite impressive.

jacjewelry said...

This is fascinating! I have a lot of catching up to do on all your India posts, but this one drew my attention first! You are brave for holding it. Even though I know warms are harmless (and even beneficial), I don't know if I'd hold one in my palm. :)