The Charkha: Background information when reading Girls Burn Brighter

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Girls Burn Brighter

by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao X
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 320 pages
    Mar 2019, 400 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Grace Symes
Buy This Book

The Charkha

This article relates to Girls Burn Brighter

Print Review

In Girls Burn Brighter, the charkha, a kind of spinning wheel, is a means of self-sufficiency and independence for Poornima and Savitha. Savitha carries the scraps of the sari she made for Poornima across the world, as a reminder of the simple happiness the two girls found when weaving together.

The charkha is one of the oldest known forms of the spinning wheel, originating in India between 500 and 1000 CE. It replaced the previous method of hand-spinning with a spindle. With the invention of the charkha, the spindle could be rotated by a large wheel turned by hand, resulting in spun yarn that could then be wound on to the spindle. The charkha was often a woman's only source of livelihood, allowing her to work from home and look after her children. She would use it to spin cotton and other fibers into khadi, or rough cloth.

Mahatma Gandhi working the charkha Traditional versions of the spinning wheel largely fell out of use during the Industrial Revolution as they were replaced by machines. But the charkha was greatly popularized by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930s. He saw something sacred, free, and spiritual in the simple labor of the spinning wheel, and hoped that its reintroduction would increase the self-sufficiency of the Indian people. Gandhi invented his own version called the box charkha, which used a new double-wheel drive system that allowed for greater speed and control. These box charkha range from the size of a book to a briefcase, making them much smaller and more easily portable than the traditional floor charkha.

Gandhi's emphasis on the charkha also made it more socially acceptable for men to participate in charkha-weaving. The Indian independence movement used the charkha as a symbol of peace and self-reliance. The Indian National Congress, which gave birth to many prominent advocates of independence including Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, used the charkha as a symbol of their party flag for a long time.

During India's independence movement in the mid-twentieth century, the charkha came to be an integral part of a plan to replace British machine-made goods with handmade Indian cloth. It represented a political and economic stand against the British and, once again, became a means of supplementing income by working from home, thus granting greater possibilities to the impoverished rural populations of India.

While today, traditional versions of the charkha have once again fallen out of use in favor of machines, they are still used in many parts of India, especially in impoverished rural areas like Indravalli, the real village where the fictional Poornima and Savitha in Girls Burn Brighter lived.

In addition, newer models have kept up with the times. In 2007, Indian inventor RS Hiremath created the e-charkha, which harnesses the energy used in spinning the charkha and transforms it into electricity that can be stored in a battery. The device is used primarily in rural India, where people have little or no access to electricity. In two hours of spinning cloth, the e-charkha can produce enough energy to power an LED light for 6-7 hours.

Filed under Music and the Arts

Article by Grace Symes

This "beyond the book article" relates to Girls Burn Brighter. It originally ran in March 2018 and has been updated for the March 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    by Alka Joshi
    Alka Joshi's The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the sequel to her 2020 bestseller The Henna Artist and ...
  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Blind Man's Bluff
    by James Tate Hill

    A writer's humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world.

  • Book Jacket

    The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet
    by Maureen Gibbon

    A sensual portrait of Manet's last years, and a vibrant testament of the artistic spirit.

Who Said...

We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!


Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.