Malabar was a province of Madras State – and had 3 districts Palghat, Calicut and Cannanore. The Basel Evangelical Mission, a religious missionary establishment in Germany set its base in Karnataka when East India Company permitted entry to all Europeans in 1833. The Mission workers entered Kerala through South Canara and Coorg, and established themselves in Cannanore.
The Basel Mission’s activities started on 21st Aug 1834 – with three missionaries Johann Christoper Lehner, Christian Lehnard Greiner and Samuel Heibich – converting natives to Christianity. In 1844, they started a small handloom weaving factory in Mangalore.
A trained specialist came from Germany and introduced the first fly shuttle loom in 1851. The dyeing of yarns was done here, and out of the rind of cashew nut tree and an extract of heartwood of the catechu tree -they introduced the famous Khakhi dye!
The then Superintendent of Mangalore found this ideal for the Uniforms. Another indigenous product was the “Shikari” cloth by the Mangalore weaving unit, again this cloth was used for uniforms. Due to this success, they started the Cannanore unit in 1852 and Calicut in 1859. It was a landmark of the hand loom industry and was known as the Common Wealth Trust (India) Ltd.
Trained carpenters from Germany made the local “frame looms” – and this helped them to weaver heavier furnishings and dress materials and they were called Malabar looms. The dhotis woven in the mission factories were called “Mission Mundu”