Kashmir, home to several valleys, is located in North-West of Indian subcontinent. The total area of Kashmir is 222,236 Sq. Km and is distributed into three main regions, illegally occupied by three well-known names in Asia: India, Pakistan and China. Indian occupied area is “Jammu and Kashmir”, Pakistani occupied area is “Azad Jammu and Kashmir & Gilgit Baltistan” and Chinese occupied area is “Aksai Chin & Shaksgam Valley”.
Kashmiri Shawls have been renowned since centuries and were the pride of French Queen, Marie Antoinette. With a long tradition of artistic excellence, the shawl is one of the most admired handmade fabric of Kashmir. Superb in workmanship, the unmatched magnificence is brought out by hand embroidery. It is said that the shawls from Kashmir were famous even in the times of emperor Ashok (3rd C BC) but many writers credited Sultan Zain-Ul-Abidin (1420-1470 A.D) as the initiator of Shawl industry in Kashmir. It may be the Sultan whose enlightened rule encouraged promotion of arts as an organized trade and the Pashmina or in Persian called “Pashm” that we known today is a legacy of that period.
Shawls are worn and used as a warm protective garment all over the northern states today. Kashmir has become synonymous with shawls all over the world. It is a work of delicacy, tremendous concentration and too much of patience. The decoration is formed by weft threads interlocked where the colors change, the weavers passing them between the warps using bobbins around, which the variously colored threads are wound. The raw material for Pashmina is brought from and taken to for hand-weaving followed by embroidery and finishing. Kashmiri shawls are rare and unique, due to its peculiar charm that is derived from the symphony of color schemes depicting architectural and mythological figures interwoven with landscape designs. There are three fibers from which Kashmiri shawls are made – Wool, Pashmina and Shahtoosh.
The prices of the three cannot be compared – Woolen shawls being within reach of the most modest budget, and Shahtoosh being a one-in-a-lifetime purchase. Woolen shawls are popular because of the embroidery worked on them, which is unique to Kashmir. Both embroidery and the type of wool used bring about differences in the price. Wool woven in Kashmir is known as raffle. Cashmere shawls and Pashmina Shawls have a delicate, silky softness that sets them apart from ordinary woolen shawls. Obtained from the fleecy undergrowth of the rare Kashmiri goat through traditional combing techniques, their delicate silky softness carries an aura of luxury & class that made it the choice of kings and nobility in a bygone era.