The beautiful territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) situated in the Himalayan mountains is rightly known as ‘Heaven on Earth’. Srinagar is the summer capital of this state, while Jammu is its winter capital. This state has Kashmiri and Urdu as its major languages. The state can be divided into three major parts: Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. The state of Kashmir is not only famous for its wonderful climate and natural beauty but also for its exquisite textile crafts. This article aims at studying the major textile crafts that have been prevalent in Kashmir since long, such as Kashmiri carpets, shawls, tweed, silk as well as embroidery.
The Kashmir carpet industry is famous the world over. Kashmiri carpets are loved not only by the people of India but also by people in other countries. It is believed that the art of weaving Kashmiri carpets originated in Persia. Usually either silk or wool is used in making carpets. Sometimes a combination of silk and wool is used. Mercerized cotton is also sometimes used in making carpets. Mercerized cotton is a man-made fibre with sheen similar to that of silk. It is costlier than wool, but it is cheaper as compared to silk.
The base of these carpets is either made of cotton or silk. The ‘tree of life’ is a design that is very commonly found on Kashmiri carpets. Though the carpets made in Kashmir are expensive on account of their uniqueness and exquisite weaving, they are considered to be an investment.
Like Kashmiri carpets, shawls made in Kashmir are adored both in India and internationally. The Shahtoosh and Pashmina shawls made in Kashmir are world famous.
Shahtoosh shawls are made from the wool of the Tibetan antelope. These shawls are very light and soft. These shawls are extremely expensive because the wool used in making these shawls is scarce. The soft hair from the throat of the antelope is used for making these shawls. A few of these hairs fall off naturally when the antelopes graze. These hairs are collected and are then used in weaving shawls. Shahtoosh shawls may either be pure or mixed with Pashmina in order to reduce the cost. Shahtoosh shawls are so finely woven that the entire shawl can pass through a ring. It is for this reason that such shawls are known as ‘Ring shawls’. These shawls are usually not dyed and are used in their natural color i.e. light brown.
Pashmina shawls are made from the wool of the Kel sheep found in the Himalayan mountains. Such shawls are extremely soft and do not hurt the skin of the wearer. Pashmina scarves and stoles are also made. Pashmina shawls are less expensive as compared to Shahtoosh shawls.
Pashmina shawls usually have beautiful and heavy embroidery on them, while Shahtoosh shawls do not.
The tweed material woven in Kashmir is well known the world over. It is considered to be one of the best materials in the world. The raw material that is used in producing tweed is obtained from outside Kashmir; however, Kashmiri tweed is woven using imported techniques and is of extremely good quality. The production of tweed is a job undertaken by a majority of the people of Kashmir.
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