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In 1844, the missionaries in Mangalore, who knew a little about weaving business, took the initiative and started a weaving industry to give employment. Local weavers were also employed to train young boys. The looms of Basel Mission at Mangalore were pioneering and it was because of master weaver, John Haller that Khaki got its global recognition.
However, there is an interesting reference to the birth of Khaki. Sir Henry Lumsden, who was stationed in India in 1846, dyed his cotton pajamas with a plant extract, mazari, to create a uniform more suitable to the climate than the traditional red felt issued at the time. Its tawny color, similar to the region's saffron dust, helped the clothing to blend in with sand. The term 'Khaki' comes from the Hindi and Urdu word for 'earth' or 'dust-coloured' .
Lumsden commanded a British army unit in the Punjab. The uniform at that time included resplendent white trousers worn with red tunics. He began wearing pajama bottoms, primarily to find a more comfortable alternative to the trousers in the tropical Punjab heat. The pajamas were of a lighter material and less tightly fitted.
To disguise them somewhat, he decided to colour them with a dye that would blend in with the local terrain. He decided to use mazari, a native plant. Lumsden soon realized that his new uniform has another advantage than just comfort. His new Khaki uniform trousers were more suitable in battle than the very conspicuous white pants and red tunic. There were real advantages to being able to blend in with the terrine.
John Haller, a trained European weaver, introduced in 1851 the first handloom with fly shelter cottage industry in Mangalore. He also invented new dyes and colour out of indigenous ingredients. The invention of Khaki dye is attributed to him.
Lord Robertson who visited the weaving establishment was recommended the newly invented Khaki for the British army uniform the world over. The factory was the most important work of the Basel Mission started in the district in 1865.
Haller set up a laboratory and began experimenting with methods for dyeing and weaving fabric. He began to market Khaki and eventually the fabric was adopted by the British Armed Services as the material for uniforms for their troops around the world. Haller expanded production by importing twenty-one looms from Europe, thus upgrading the weaving industry from a cottage industry to a small manufacturing industry.
He experimented with the sap of the bark of the semecarpus tree, and here found the colour that came to clothe the marching men of many nations.