Pashmina often referred to as Cashmere is the elucidation of luxury. Cherished throughout the centuries, It has been a symbol of sophistication and royalty for all. Owning a genuine Pashmina is a dream for its lovers. Its elegance can transform any ordinary dress into a head turner and can make anyone stand tall. Throughout history, kings, queens and other nobility were the only ones who could afford to have shawls made from this ultra luxurious fabric. So what actually is this luxury fabric, where does this fabric come from and where does it stand in the current scenario, we have tried to cover it all. Let us begin.
The word Pashmina has derived from the persian word “Pashm” which means soft gold. Weaving of Pashmina and making textiles from it can be dated back to as early as the 15th century in Kashmir when a Muslim saint Mir Ali Hamadani along with his 700 craftsmen visited ladakh and there he found that the Ladakhi Chanthang Mountain goats produce a soft kind wool. The saint was so impressed that he made a socks out of those and gifted them to the king of kashmir Sultan Kutabdin and suggested that they should start a weaving industry in kashmir. This marked the beginning of Pashmina making in Kashmir.
The Pashmina fibre obtained from a mountain breed of goats named Chanthangi (Capra Hircus). The goat can be found at an altitude of 15000ft across himalayan ranges. To protect itself against the extreme cold, the goat develops the most luxurious wool in the world. And when the spring comes the same is shed naturally. The goat rubs itself against the rocks leaving behind the fleece. If not done, the goat will die of the soaring heat. This fleece is then collected by the shepherds and sold worthfully. Approximately 80 –170 grams of the fiber collected from each goat and spun to produce Cashmere Pashmina.The sold wool then reaches Kashmir where it undergoes further processes of making. The received wool is cleaned manually, spun on traditional wheel called Charkha, dyed and woven on a traditional handloom specific to it.
Although Pashmina is made in china, mongolia and nepal as well but the most finest of all forms come from Kashmir. The finesse of 12 – 13 μ and a fibre length of 55 to 60 mm is what makes Kashmiri Pashmina the most desired and best quality pashmina in the world.
The weaving of pashmina has been an exquisite craft in Kashmir throughout the centuries and has cherished from generation to generation. As much as old this craft is, the industry has never failed to comply with the ever evolving trends of modern fashion and has diversified the pursuit in many kinds.
Different Types Of PashminaPlain Pashmina:
One of the most basic and much demanded types of Pashmina is a Plain Solid Pashmina. This type comes in different shades and can go with any outfit. The rangur( color man) dyes the Pashmina into the myriad of colors using natural dyes. If you are looking for a minimalistic yet luxurious look, this is the best option.Certified Pashmina:
The second type of the Pashmina we have picked is the Certified Pashmina. Certified Pashmina comes with a seal which authenticates the originality of it. This seal is generally provided by a government recognised institution. Since Kashmiri Pashmina is the most famous one, we will talk about that specifically. One of the threats that Kashmiri Pashmina industry has been facing for the past several years is the presence of duplicates in the market which is degrading the glamour of Kashmiri Pashmina. To combat the same, Kashmiri Pashmina registered under the Geographical Indications (G.I) of Good Act of India on 09-12-2008. The registration is an acknowledgment of the fact that the handicraft is unique and produced in a particular area with traditional knowledge and skills, special to that region. Specifications for the pashmina to qualify for G.I seal are:
- The fibre used in pashmina should be 100% pure having a finesse of below 16 microns and should be made from the under fleece of Capra goat.
- It should be handspun on a traditional wheel called charkha.
- And it should be woven on a traditional handloom specific to it.
When all the prerequisites are met, it is labeled as Certified Pashmina. You may not find certified pashmina everywhere but there are some websites where this luxury is available. Now that we are talking about the authenticity of Pashmina, we would also like to mention that as per Pashmina weavers/artisans, RING TEST is absolutely faux and does not in any way prove the authenticity of it. Surprised ? We were too.Kani Pashmina
Another and the most magnificent type of Pashmina is the Kani Pashmina. The making of the Kani Pashmina is rooted to Kashmiri village named Kani Hama. The place has registered under the Geographical Indications Act which declares that any Kani Shawl from this place is original and authentic, the act would also legally prohibit people from selling the drapes made at other places under the same name.
There are many look alikes of this luxury in markets which are sold in the name of Kani Shawl but are mere Kani prints. The Real Kani shawl is actually woven using small wooden spokes called kani in local language. Woven on a traditional handloom, Kani shawl is made thread by thread following a coded pattern called Talim ( A language for Kani weavers only). It takes around 6 months for 2 artisans to complete one Kani Shawl working tirelessly for 7 to 8 hours a day.
Set into the timeless fashion by the Empress Josephine, who was gifted a Kani by her husband, Kani shawl is a magical medley in itself. A symbol of sophistication, it has been a choice of Mughal Kings and is even today the most cherished style by celebrities like Amitabh Bachhann. It is not surprising to note that Kani Shawls are housed in the world's finest museums like Victoria and Albert Museum in London, theMusée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.Sozni Pashmina Shawl
Sozni is among the top hand embroidery crafts in Kashmir. This embroidery when clubbed with the Cashmere Pashmina gives birth to the most elegant and luxurious shawl in the world - Sozni Pashmina Shawl.
Done with a needle, sozni is an intricate embroidery, the designs of which are generally inspired from nature. The naqash ( designer) first casts a blueprint of the design over a trace paper and pricks it with the intricate pins. Next this trace paper is placed on a pashmina shawl and a duster laden in temporary ink in passed over it. Post this the sozni embroiderer casts his magic over the shawl creating Jamawar, Jaaldar, Shahpasand, Palladar and Doridaar designs with a thread and needle. The designs vary from heavily embroidered to minimalistic designs according to which the prices are set as well. It may take around a year for the artisan to complete one shawl. The intricacy of Sozni and the elegance of Pashmina together make a perfect pick for a royal look.Tilla Embroidered Pashmina
Another type of pashmina is the one embroidered in Kashmiri Tilla. Tilla kari is an age old craft of kashmir which initially involved the use of gold or silver threads to adorn the beautiful patterns on pashmina wraps. Now the threads used are plated with gold or silver. The designs usually include embellishments of paisleys and chinar leaves. The Tilla Cashmere Pashmina is an integral part of bridal trousseau. The charm of Tilla and the royalty of Cashmere Pashmina makes it for us an ultimate symbol of panache and grandeur.Kalamkari Pashmina
Kalamkari is an amalgamation of two words "kalam" which means pen or brush and "kari" which means work. In Kalamkari the artisan collects some bamboo or wooden sticks and make Kalams out of them. The craftsman then uses the natural ink made from pigments of vegetables to sketch the beautiful designs on the cloth. Kalamkari is a traditional art and is done on sarees, dupattas and most importantly on Shawls, one of which is a luxury Pashmina Shawl.
The work of Kalamkari is believed to have originated in the northern parts of India and it was not until the 18th century that this art was commissioned om Kashmiri Shawls. The kashmiri artisan took the craft to another level, in addition to printing they started to do the sozni embroidery across its design borders as well. This combination of sozni and kalamkari led to an upshot of Kalamkari Pashmina Jamawar Shawls. These shawls are famous particularly among men folk and have become a statement of class and sophistication for the royal taste.Contemporary Pashmina
Adapting to the tastes of modern lifestyle and coping with the ever changing fashion, the pashmina industry has never failed to impress us. Modern designs like checked patterns, stripes, blots, dip dye pashminas and dual shaded pashminas are there to cater it all. The top notch designers working with the grassroot artisans give us the collection we call Modern Design Pashminas.
With so many styles in place, there is a pashmina type for everyone. Some filled with the tradition and some with modern looks, have you chosen yours yet ?