Sericulture is an important cottage industry in this part of India – including the cultivation of mulberry trees, the rearing of silkworms and the unwinding of silk from the cocoons. The end result can be a beautiful silk saree.
In the countryside near Varthur I met the boss of a silk farm, who showed me his silkworms. As larvae they live on mulberry-covered racks in a shed. They are born blind, but when the farmer added new leaves to the pile, I watched the worms wriggle straight towards the leaves.
When they stop eating and start spinning a cocoon, they are transferred into a target-shaped tray in a different shed. The trays were empty when I visited, and all the cocoons had been harvested.
Beside the shed was a field of mulberry, growing leaves for the next round of silkworms.