The word shawl is derived from Persian “Shal” , which was the name given for a whole range of fine woolen garments. The shawl in Kashmir was worn folded on the shoulder, and not as a girdle, as the Persians did. Shawls are worn and used as a warm protective garment allover; Kashmir has become synonymous with shawls all over the world. At the time of Mughal rule, Kashmir overtook the North-West Frontier and Punjab as the center of Shawl making. The Mughal emperor Akbar was greatly enamored by the Kashmiri Shawl and the way it was worn, folded in four, captured his imagination. He experimented with various ways of wearing it, and found that it looked good worn without folds, just thrown over shoulders.
There are three fibers from which shawls are made-wool, pashmina and shahtoosh. The prices of the three cannot be compared-woolen shawls being within the reach of the modest budget, and shahtoosh being a one-in-a-lifetime purchase. Woolen shawls are popular because of the embroidery work 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’ and is always 100 percent pure. Sometimes blends from the other parts of the country are used and Kashmiri embroidery is worked on them.
These blends contain cashmilon, cotton, or a mixture of both. Pashmina is wrinkleless due to its softness. Pashmina yarn is spun from the hairs of the ibex found in the highlands, at 14,000 ft above the sea level. Although pure pashmina is expensive but the prices are sometimes brought down by blending it by the rabbit fur or the wool. It is on Pashmina shawls that Kashmir’s most exquisite embroidery is executed, sometimes covering the entire surface, naming “Jamawar”.
A Jamawar shawl, by virtue of embroidery can increase the value of the shawl threefold. Shahtoosh from which the, legendry ‘ring shawl’ is made, is incredibly light weight, soft and warm too. During grazing, a few strands of the downy hair are taken from the throat which is painstakingly collected by the nomads, eventually to supply to the Kashmiri shawl makers as shahtoosh.

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07 March 2019
07 March 2019
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