History of Pashmina Shawls
Pashmina shawls are also known as pashmina wool or 'pashm', since the term pashm implies softness in the Persian language. It is also said that the word Pashmina is derived from the term 'Pashmineh' which means materials manufactured from Indian woollen fibres, or 'Pashm'. Since Pashmina shawls are exclusive products of Kashmir, they are also referred to as 'cashmere' products. The technique of shawl-weaving has tasted prosperity during the aesthetically conscious, Mughal regime in India. The Indian state of Kashmir has been producing Pashmina shawls since centuries. In the latter part of the 19th century, approximately, about 1,00,000 pashmina shawls were made per year, in Kashmir. Out of these, 80,000 shawl pieces were exported to countries like Europe, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, Mangolia and others.
As per the records in Ain-i-Akbari, the Mughal emperor Akbar patronised the craft of producing Pashmina shawls in Kashmir. The extreme softness and superior quality of such textiles had impressed him, following which he named Pashmina as 'Paremnarm', meaning exceedingly soft. Shah Jahan is also said to have developed a fondness for this unique textile during his reign and presented these shawls as gifts. After the downfall of the Mughal Dynasty, the weavers of Pashmina shawls found favour amongst numerous French and British rulers and government officials in the 18th century, who had colonized India. Embroidered Kashmiri Pashmina shawls were exported to France, Britain and other parts of Europe where they commanded high prices.
Historical records state that the textile products of Pashmina material came into existence in Kashmir. The history of Kashmir recounts, that the innovation of Pashmina shawl making dates back to 700 years. This was introduced by the virtuous king of Kashmir, Zain-Ul-Ahadin. However, the marketing of the product, Kashmiri Pashmina shawl, is attributed by the 14th century, Mirza Haidar. It was under the reign of Zain-Ul-Ahadin, that this practice of shawl weaving was discovered. It is said, that even today, some highly expensive Pashmina shawls, are woven from such marvellous wool, that the shawl, can pass even through a ring.
Concentration of Pashmina Shawls in India
Pashmina shawls, widely manufactured in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, are made of wool, fetched from the Pashmina goat. The industry of Pashmina shawls flourished over the period. Kulu Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, is the epicentre of Pashmina shawls, after Kashmir. Pashmina shawls of India, thus stand forth as ethnic masterpieces, which demonstrate before the world, the ever-increasing demand for Indian crafts. Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal are the districts located in Kashmir, which specialise in the production of Pashmina shawls.
Pashmina Shawls in India
The pattern of the Pashmina shawls has a wide variety. It ranges from the 'Jamawar Paisley' work Pashmina shawl, to the simple yet elegant printed ones. The term Jamawar Paisley, refer to the Mughal art of weaving flora and fauna motifs, while Paisley, are the shawls, meant for Western and European buyers. Pashmina silk shawl is a fantastic example of fabulous fusion. 70 percent of Pashmina wool is mixed with 30 percent pure silk, to weave a splendid Pashmina silk shawl. Pashmina shawls are available in an ample spectrum of shades, ranging from pure white, to the darker, but gorgeous shades like maroon, or black. Pashmina shawls manufactured in Kashmir are renowned throughout the world for their quality and variety of products like hand-spun materials, woven jamawars, plain or non-patterned Pashmina shawls and beautiful embroidered shawls of Pashmina.
Methods of Maintaining Pashmina Shawls
One can easily wash Pashmina shawls with the help of a washing machine or even by hand. The mode of washing these ethnic textiles should be 'cool wool wash', along with a moderate spin. It is advised that Pashmina shawls must be washed with a mild detergent, prior to kneading them gently in order to release moisture from the delicate Pashmina fibres. The shawls should be laid flat on a surface while drying, instead of hanging them as regular fabrics which would cause distortion of the textiles and ruin them.
Pashmina shawl amidst its elegance brings out the feminine essence of the Indian culture. Its textured hand-woven fabrics are created by the sheer luxurious materials. It was once exclusively regal and at present it exists reflecting the great cultural heritage of the subcontinent. Thus, the exquisiteness of this piece of cloth has enthralled every section of the society.