The Rich History of Exquisite Kashmiri Shawls

Kashmir shawls are renowned for their fine wool, exceptional weaving and embroidery, and soft texture. These are considered a symbol of royalty.

The Rich History of Exquisite Kashmiri Shawls

Kashmir shawls are renowned for their fine wool, exceptional weaving and embroidery, and soft texture. These are considered a symbol of royalty & have shaken research scholars and art collectors in India as well as abroad. A large part of this is due to its exotic nature, which caused a stir in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Although the term ‘shawl’ is commonly used, it is important to understand its etymology. The word shal derives from the Persian word shal, which is translated as fine woolen fabric, also called a drape. In 1623, the Italian traveler Pietro Della Valle made a comparison. In Persia, the shal was commonly worn as a girdle, while in India it was usually worn across the shoulders.

The shawl has a long history. Its existence can be traced to the medieval period. However, archaeological findings & literary pieces of evidence indicate its presence even as early as the Indus Valley Civilization.

According to tradition, the founder of the Kashmiri shawl industry was Zayn-ul-ʿĀbidīn, a 15th-century ruler of Kashmir who introduced weavers from Turkistan. Although woolen Kashmiri shawls were mentioned in writings of the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, it is only in the 16th century that the first specific references to Kashmir's work appeared.

The earliest examples have plain ground with end borders featuring large floral sprays, flower vases, and pinecones. Kashmir shawls are woven partly or wholly from goat hair called pashm.

Shawls were classified into two groups in the 19th century: pashm shāla (made from the hair of domesticated goats) and aslī tūsh (made from the hair of wild goats). In Europe, Kashmiri shawls were also becoming fashionable by this time. To cater to foreign tastes, the traditional designs were replaced by or adapted to patterns supplied by foreign dealers. Floral patterns are an enduring motif and were particularly popular in the 17th century when the Mughal emperors favored flower designs in their textiles, architecture, and works of art. Paisley patterns (boteh)  are also popular, with their designs becoming denser, more elaborate, and more abstract in the 19th century.

While these kashmiri shawls have a rich history and speak volumes about their past, there are also wardrobe staples that will notch up your style and reflect opulence today. Worn during weddings in winter, it is a sight to behold when women turn up in the most stunning pieces in myriads of colors and exquisite embroidery. Apart from that, they are a great gift that blends both style and utility in the best way.

Famous Kashmir Shawls and Embroideries

Pure Pashmina Shawl

The pashmina shawl represents the art and creativity of Kashmiri weavers. It was one of the most highly valued shawls in ancient times, and even Europeans were impressed by the designs.

The word Pashmina comes from the Persian word “Pashm” meaning a weavable fiber, precisely wool. The wool used for making Pashmina is obtained from a special breed of Kashmiri goat found in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas.

During the Mughal era, the love for Pashmina reached its zenith when the garment came under the spell of European royalty. A shawl of this kind was chosen by Napoleon Bonaparte as an adornment for Josephine, his beloved. These shawls are of the highest quality, made from a silk-like fiber that requires expert weaving, spinning, and patterning skills. Pure pashmina shawls are distinguished by their softness and warmth. Since natural pashmina shawls are cream-colored, color can sometimes also aid in identification.

Kani Shawls

These come from the weavers in a village called Kanihama. Weaving is done using kanis and wooden sticks are used as spools with several colors of yarn. The beauty of these shawls mesmerized both the Mughals, Sikhs, and even the British. Akbar is believed to have been a collector of Kani shawls.

Tilla Shawls

Tilla embroidery is known for its royal look. Originally, gold and silver threads were used for embroidery on these shawls, which are made from pure cashmere wool.

Some of the famous types of hand embroideries used in Kashmir shawls include sozni which has designs based on Paisley and floral patterns, paper mache embroidery, which is a bolder version of sozni, kalamkari, in which sozni embroidery is seen over hand-painted patterns, and aari embroidery (also called kashida kari) which can be seen on Raffal shawls.

Literature and archeological texts suggest that shawls have existed in India since the Indus Valley civilization. In the past, shawls were worn as protection against the cold, but today they are a style icon. They were long considered a symbol of royalty. These days, they are popular as gifts and worn on special occasions. Shawls were originally intended for men, but over time, women adopted them and made them a fashion statement.

India's rich history and culture are reflected in the Kashmiri shawls of today. Their exquisite designs and beautiful embroidery make them popular across the globe. Despite modern mass-production and changes in design, shawls made by Kashmiri weavers still retain their elegance despite being mass-produced with machines.

At Hanggul, our collection of Kashmiri shawls revolves around weaving stories into reality with the best quality fabrics. By offering certified quality products, luxurious packaging, and free shipping across India, we give you the best experience. Please visit hanggul.com for more information.