Decoding The Resurgence Of Kashmiri Weaves

Decoding The Resurgence Of Kashmiri Weaves

Despite the political uncertainties and terrorism, Kashmir has kept its rich fabric of cultural heritage intact, especially when it comes to handlooms

Anjali KochharUpdated: Saturday, February 24, 2024, 07:57 PM IST
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Kashmir, often referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth’, is known for its exquisite craftsmanship, especially in the realm of handlooms and weaving. From example world-famous Pashmina shawls, carpets, ari rugs, and intricate walnut wood carvings. Despite the continuous political uncertainties and terrorism that the state is in news for, Kashmir has managed to keeps its rich fabric of cultural heritage intact, especially so when it comes to handlooms and weaves. Skilled artisans are dedicatedly revitalising the intricate and diverse weaving traditions that define the essence of the region.

The revival taking place within the region is not just a resurgence of craft but a celebration of a legacy deeply embedded in the warp and weft of Kashmiri culture. At the heart of this revival is a dedicated cadre of artisans who, with unwavering commitment, are breathing new life into age-old weaving techniques. Meticulous craftsmanship goes into every thread and pattern. These skilled artisans are not just weavers; they are custodians of a cultural narrative.

Artisans, inspired by tradition and guided by contemporary design sensibilities, are breathing new life into these time-honored techniques. This dedication ensures that Kashmir’s handlooms, with their unique identity, continue to weave stories that bridge the past and the present.

This resurgence also provides economic empowerment. They play a vital role in the region’s economy, highlighting its status as the third-largest contributor. Safdar Mir from Kashmir Craft Export, J&K, emphasises the significance, saying, “Pashmina is one such beauty of Kashmir. We export the raw material from Ladakh, reviving a 200-year-old practice of handcrafted Kani shawls. Thousands depend on this art form, making Kashmiri handloom the third-largest industry after tourism and fruits,” asserts Mir. Pashmina, often referred to as “soft gold”, is a jewel in the crown of Kashmiri handlooms. The fine wool derived from the Changthangi breed of goats is meticulously hand-spun and woven into luxurious shawls, known for their unparalleled softness and warmth. The revival of Pashmina weaving is not just a resurgence of a craft; it’s a commitment to preserving the cultural heritage woven into every fibre.

Dr. Promil Pande, a distinguished researcher, writer, designer, and academician, emerges as a guiding force in this revival. With over three decades of dedication to the field of textiles and handicrafts, her latest work, Floor Coverings from Kashmir, stands as a testament to the rich material culture of the region. The book takes the reader on an immersive journey into the kaleen carpets, namdah, gabba, ari rugs, and wagoo mats of Kashmir, providing a comprehensive study of the handwoven floor coverings. Through in-depth research, Dr. Pande unravels the history, production methods, and special features that make Kashmiri handlooms truly exceptional.

“I have worked in Kashmir for two decades in various capacities – as a designer both in an independent capacity and on developmental projects conceptualised by the Handicraft and Handlooms departments, as an entrepreneur (I sourced products designed by me), researcher (prepared the report to enable application for GI Tagging of Kashmiri Hand knotted Silk carpets, which was awarded in 2016), and as a writer culminating in the book Floor coverings from Kashmir. I am now working on my next book tentatively titled Crafts of Kashmir. My writing is a tribute to the talented craftsmanship and craftspeople of the region,” Dr. Pande shares. “Revival of weaves is happening and being done by different people and organisations. I am working on revival of pashmina carpet weaving, which were woven during the Mughal period. Not many pieces exist or are available for viewing in India. There is one piece displayed at the city palace museum in Jaipur. In addition, wagoo weaving is also not practiced any more for trade and these mats are made only on request,” she adds.

Fashion Analyst Sneha Yadav contributes her insights, “The revival of Indian weaves and handlooms is a vibrant story of cultural preservation, sustainable fashion, and economic empowerment.” She underlines the importance of handlooms in offering a sustainable and ethical alternative to mass-produced fast fashion, turning each piece into a tale of the weaver’s skill, regional traditions, and natural materials used.

In conclusion, the resurgence of diverse Indian weaves and handlooms, spotlighting the distinctive traditions of Kashmir, is a compelling tale of resilience, cultural preservation, and unwavering artisanal dedication. This revitalisation echoes the enduring spirit of skilled artisans, crafting a vibrant tapestry that not only upholds tradition but also infuses it with a fresh and invigorated essence. This narrative, born from the hands of dedicated craftspeople, promises to be a cherished legacy passed down through generations, a living testament to the rich heritage woven into every thread and fabric.

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