Manufacturing Process:

The shawl industry of Kashmir is as old as its hills, and Kashmir shawls reached as far off a place as Rome where they adored the local beauties particularly those in the Caesar court. Though the industry suffered several setbacks over the ages, it was due to the efforts of Shah-e-Hamdan, the renowned central Asian Saint, that shawl making as an industry was revived and reorganized on a large scale in the later part of the 14th century. Syed Ali Hamadani, who introduced Islam in Kashmir, brought with him nearly 700 pious and saintly disciples mostly artisans and craftsmen-who were spread all over the valley not only to popularize Islam as a faith but also to teach and train the ;local people in various arts and crafts. His arrival in Kashmir was the beginning of a total revolution encompassing all aspect of life in the valley and its requirements, social, economic and cultural.

It is said that once the saint was asked how the womenfolk in Kashmir could be gainfully employed, he replied that "Moon"(wool) would come from the eastern wide of the mountain which would provide livelihood to the local people especially the women folk who would contribute significantly to the growth of the craft based on wool. as the craft would involve a great deal of spinning and weaving, it will be a blessed pursuit the people throughout, after the tradition of Fatima, the beloved daughter of the prophet of Islam, who gave her a spinning wheel on the occasion of her marriage as dowry.

The then ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Qutab-Ud-Din patronized the craft and took a number of measures to stimulate its growth. He saw to it that while the glories of Bukhara and Samarkand(Central Asia) were being sung, the winsome arts and crafts of Kashmir also received respectful attention. However, it was during the region of the most beloved king of Kashmir, Budshah(the great king) that the shawl industry thrived remarkably. Zain-Ud-Abidin, the great king, put life in a dying enterprise by encouraging and popularizing it as a cottage industry. It is he who taught people to work in their homes during winter and earn a living. No wonder, therefore, that this period is widely recognized as a new era in the history of the shawl industry.

Making of Pashmina Shawls:

The Pashmina shawl has to pass roughly 36 stages to reach the final shape where it become useable. as many as 36 categories of skilled and semiskilled professionals are involved in the process of making a Pashmina shawl.

Collection of Raw Material:

The first step in the process consists in collecting the raw material from high altitude regions of kashmir & ladakhAs soon as summer sets in the tribal people of Ladakh, Tibet and other parts of China go to the higher region to collect mostly on batter system.

They usually travel with the flake by flake. the raw wool thus collected is handed over to its collector-buyer in the hilly townships who pass it on to the traders in the Srinagar. While a big quantity of the raw material is collected in the Ladakh region, the bulk of it comes from Tibet and other parts of China via the mountain passes.

The concerned traders in Srinagar sort it out according to grades and shades before fixing its price strand-wise. The raw material is then sold out to petty shop-keepers who are known as "Phumb-Wain"-Wool retailers. they are called petty shopkeepers because if our costs a casual glance at such a shop, one would find a lonely man sitting idle in a corner of his shop with no merchandise around except a small cloth bag and jute bag.

However it is in these bags that he stores his valuable merchandise-1/2 kg of material in the cotton bag and a kg or more of Pashmina, a less costly wool, in the jute bag. A small old type balance hangs in front of him and three four long birch stick above him in the ceiling. The stick has different shades of the costly raw material wound on it to serve the purpose of a show-case.

The love shopkeeper is usually seen either separation rough bain from the soft stuff or counting threads of the yarn spun by the poor lady who sits in front of him expectantly, accompanied, on occasions, by a small boy of her household. It is normal practice for such ladies to receive a fresh supply of the raw material for spinning as soon as they hand over to the "Phumb Wain" the yarn spun by them over a period of time.

As a gesture of good will, the boys accompanying the ladies are rewarded with the couple of coffers after the buying and selling process is completed. The ladies too receive some money by way of charges for spinning after the cost of the fresh supply is deducted from it.

Making of Pashmina Shawls:

The Pashmina shawl has to pass roughly 36 stages to reach the final shape where it become useable. as many as 36 categories of skilled and semiskilled professionals are involved in the process of making a Pashmina shawl.

Spinning:

The process of spinning Pashmina starts in the house of the poor lady. Women above the age of 40, are generally engaged in spinning which is a time consuming process requiring also a lot of efforts and patience. The process begins with a sifting of rough hair from the soft material. In the other member of the family lend a helping lend a helping hand. The soft raw wool is stretched carefully, bit by bit, to complete the process known as "Puch Nawun". The raw material is then rid of dirt and dust with the help of a "4 wide comb mounted on a foot wooden stand. This operation is known as "Absawun".

When the raw material is thoroughly combed and cleaned, it is then placed in an oval shaped engraved wooden trough(known as Tathal in the local language) roughly three feet long. some quantity of broken rice is soaked in water for some time before it is coarself powered with a stone pestle and sprinkled over the combed wool. The powered shift is known as "Khari Oat" and stone pestle as "Kajwath". The wooden trough containing the combed wool mixed with rice powder is kept aside for three to four days. Though the web rice powder emits a foul smell, it makes the raw wool whiter and softer. That is how the ancient treated the raw material and the practice is till in vogue.

Now it is time to comb the wool again more vigorously to ensure that it is perfectly clean, shedding every bit of the rice powder in the process. The raw material so cleaned is then made in the patty ;like flakes locally known a "Thomb". These oversized flakes are placed in an orderly manner in round tin boxes with lids. The material is now ready for spinning.

Spinning is usually started on Saturday, the first working day of the week for the local artisans and craftsmen. It is also considered auspicious. The eldest lady of the house sits in a corner of the room early in the morning and spinning wheel is placed before her. As a rule, alms are given to the local needy or itinerant beggars before the lady tries her hand on the spinning wheel. The spinning wheel which is locally known as "Yander" is made of wood, it is three feet long with a wheel on its right side and a thin iron rod about a foot long called "Yander Tal" fixed in two grass spindles called "Kaun" in the local language on its left side.

The iron rod(Yander Tal) is connected to the wheel with a piece of which serves as a beef. A piece of straw (known as "Sochne Tul") is mounted on the thin side of the iron rod and the yarn spun by the lady is wound on it to facilitate its removal from the rod when each round of the spinning process is completed. The lady holds a wool puff in her two left hand fingers supported by the thumb as the operation spinning begins with the turning of the wheel.

While turning the wheel the left. Arm of the lady goes up an down rhythmically without much effort to spin the delicate yarn. During spinning the delicate yarn gets cut a number of times but the lady at the wheel restores it promptly yet painstakingly. She repeats the exercise till the round the complete yielding a small quantity of the soft, delicate yarn.

The Yarn:

The yarn mounted on a piece of straw is called a "Phamb Leeat". Three or four such mounted straws are kept in a earthen bowl called "Kondul" marking the beginning of the second phase when it is turned and twisted. On the wheel to make it foreplay and thus firm yet fine. So spun, the yarn is then mounted on a wooden spool known a "Prechh" wherefrom it is transferred on its edges. Locally it is known as "Yaeran Doul". The yarn is called "Pun" (thread). Ten rounds of the yarn tied together with a cotton thread as one or two points(known as gand) serves as a unit paid to the spinner is always proportionate to the fineness of the yarn, the finer variety always brings in more money.

A bunch of yarn is known as "Puyoe". It is usually sold to the shopkeeper from whom the raw material had been purchased. At this point , the buying pattern changes from weighing to counting. Two knots(Gand) of yarn numbering twenty threads are called a "Jora"(Two). It is in the process of counting that unlettered women artisans get at times cheated at the hands of unserupulous buyers. Payment for the staff bought is made as per the market rate per "Jora". Ordinarily, a women worker can spin ten to fifteen grams of Pashmina in a day.

The Weave:

Now begins another phase of the process of production. The shopkeeper (Phamb Wain) sorts out the spun stuff purchased by selling it to the weaver jorawise. the weaver, in turn, sorts it out from the view point of shade and fineness. Finally spun yarn is used as warp and the thick yarn as weft. The weaver then counts the stuff jorawise and weighs it too before making entries in a registered maintained for the purpose. The yarn is then making entries in a registered maintained for the purpose. The yarn is then put in a home-made starch which consists mainly boiled rice-water known as "Maya". It stays like that for a couple of days in a copper bowl called "Dul" before it is spread out in sunshine to dry. The dried yarn is then untied and mounted on a wooden spool known a "Preeh" and the process is known as "Tulun" which is generally completed in open spaces.

Four to six iron rods about 4 feet in length are driven into the ground, at a shady spot by two persons working in opposite directions. This is the beginning of the process known as "Yerun" which is completed by "transferring the yarn from the "Preeh" with the help of smooth sticks. This is how the wrap is made ready for use. About 1200 threads arranged in the aforesaid manner is known as "Yaen" which suffices for making four to six shawls. The wrap is brushed and its broken threads rejoined (Locally known as "Pen Kem") before it is carefully mounted on the iron rods.

Fixing The Threads in Saaz:

The yarn is then taken to another expert called "Bharan Ghour ". "Bharan" means to inset and "Ghour" stands for the concerned worker. This expert takes a week or so to fix each thread of the warp in the Saaz Thereafter the "Saaz" is taken to the weavers home where be mounts it on the loom locally known as "wan" with the help of other artisans.

The loom is a tiny frame made of old unpolished wood with four to eight slings below the weavers feet. A wooden plank of fixed at the back of the loom with the help of cotton string serves as a bench for the weaver. The weft is made into cones mounted on the straws by using the ages old practice of transferring the yarn from the wooden spool to the spinning wheel . The cone of the yarn is known as "Moakh".

Weaving:

Now starts the weavers job. He begins his work on a Saturday . He invokes gods help and blessings as soon as be sits on the improvised bench and goes on humming a tune throughout the day. Working on the loom keeps both his hand and feet busy. A competent weaver can ordinarily weave three to four inch of cloth in a day of 8 hours. Physical fitness and metal alertness coupled with steadfastness are the essential attributes of the good weaver.

For weaving ordinary cloth, the weaver uses four paddles but in the case of cloth with the design like "Chashmir Bubbul" eye of the sightingale he has to use all the eight paddle below the feet. In he process of weaving the shuttle in thrown from left to right carefully. Due to delicacy of the thread it often snaps and it has to be refixed with extra threads that hang about in the front of the loom. During the weaving process about 10% vastage of thread/fibre is common place. The woven cloth is called THAN.

After dismounting from the loom the fabric is immediately washed in the herbal soap called REANTHA C Small black nuts. After this the cloth passes over to the person called "PURZHHAR" for clipping , this is a rather delicate job. It demands lot of meticulousness. The purz ghar mounts the cloth tightly on two round wooden trunks, about two feet in diameter and four feet long these are called "MOUND" the cloth is stretched on two sides of log with about a one metre wide gap between the two logs.He performs the finishing with twizer called "WOUCH" which is about 2 inch wide with a four inch handle. The extra uneven and loose threads are removed carefully. About a half a metre of cloth is finished in a day long by an expert The cloth is brushed by special natural brush obtained from a maize plant called !KASHER! or Cob.

Washing:

Now the cloth goes for the final washing. The professional washerman called "DHOBI" washes the cloth in running water with natural soap. The washed cloth goes for final finish called "CHARAK".Which is a wooden frame about 2 x 4 Feet having two 6 inch dia. wooden rods attached at the corners. The cloth is rolled on the frame kept for few days and finally ironed, now the cloth is ready for sale. The cloth is sold to stores by agents called DRAL the final price is fixed by calculating the labour from peatty shopkeepers, who lends out fibre for washing to the broker as well as covering the cost of the raw material. the cloth is sold by yards or by piece.

Selling of Shawls:

The Pashmina raw material costs from 5000/- to 10000/- rupees a KG. The minimum micron being 11 to 15 about 1100 to 1800 threads are used for the best quality in warp. The hair saperated from the raw material is sold to the ragsellers by shopkeeper in the bater system by weight, either for dry sift or for utensils. they in turn sells it to the felt makers who mix it with wool and make the Namda rugs.

Dyeing:

The Pashmina Shawl is manufactured in different verities, such as plain, double colour, stripes etc.To make the colours the thread is dyed first and then woven, While the plain cloth can be dyed later also. As natural dyes has become distinct the German dyes are in practice, Now we are again reviving the natural dyes.

Embroidery:

The embroidery on the Pashmina is fashion of the day. Usually senior craftsman past the age of fourty are engaged after being screened and tested for the purpose. Workers with good hand writing are preferred. The shawl is taken to a special drawing master for designs he is called NAQASH after the designs are sketched, the fabric goes to the master craftsman, who creates the colour schemes while several more craftsman approve the same. The time taken by single shawl to get embroidered ranges from two to five years depending upon the density of embroidery demanded by the design. During the process a craftsman's fingers get swollen if he works continuously for a long time. He has to work on different material for a change to avoid nimble fingers from getting damaged.

Silk thread is used for embroidery. The craftsman has to twist the raw/silk as per the requirement and size of needle hole. Interestingly the thread is put in needle by twisting it with the leftover thread to avoid the knots on either side of fabric, such is the intricacy of the fabric. By the embroidery the craftsman vision also gets affected. His day starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. The food is served at the interval in the working room only. At times when an old craftsman dies while working on shawl it is difficult to find suitable person with a matching hand to complete the shawl. The embroidery worker is least paid in the shawl industry. Though many craftsman have earned honours and laurels for their crafts, but in the contemporary generation, many are not lured in this direction due to the meagre wages that that craftsman are paid.

The Elegance of Pashmina:

The Pashmina shawl is soft, warm and imperial in looks it has real pride of Kashmiri craftsman and is regarded as a status symbol by those who admire it. The cashmere switers made in Scotland and other places are not real Pashmina it is a blend spun yarn is imported from China and woven only, but cannot compete with the Kashmir Pashmina.

Huien Tsang the Chinese traveller admire the delicacy and so softness of Pashmina, this indicates that its origin dates back very long. It is not a shawl it is an heirloom that gains value from generation to generation.

Yet another precious marvel in textiles from Kashmir is Jamawar Shawls it is woven on wooden needles these shawls were woven till early nineteenth century, but now the crafts no more exists. These shawls are antique and sold as antique. The Pashmina is precious and rare gift of god to the people of Kashmir, the land of Moses and Gesus with the blessings of many saints produces the artistic and patient people who undertake the cumbersome yet marvellous art of Pashmina manufacture. Thus they do inspite of low returns like the fabric they work on.

The artisans and sellers are mostly polite, tolerant, noble and pious from weavers to craftsman and every one tries to save from there earnings to undertake the Hajj Pilgrimage "to Maccca" as the money earned. In the sixth century AD there were few traders in Kashmir who has links with the outside world, Shaw Brothers is one of the firm founded by our forefathers in 1840. Actually our ancestors Travelled to Kashmir all the way BUKHARA of Central Asia. It was during the tanure of the great king BUD SHAH a testimony to this stands in the kings Graveyard where our ancestors grave stands visible on epitaph is his title MALIK UL TIJAR (Master of trade).

It was during the last century that traders come down to big cities in India during winter times with merchandise and sell to the rich clientage of royal and social elite, where they were invitees in their homes. In Calcutta Elephants used to be sent to receive the famous traders. This trade is called hawking, and continues to this date. We are the fourth generation carring forward the same business with four brothers as partners.

We are encouraging to enter in to the same trade and make it embark on modern lines. The techniques and traditions have a nostalgic flavour and we are trying to be innovative explore the market and control the quality which is very challenging.

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