For so many years now, artisans associated with Pashmina have been protesting the use of power loom. Power looms were introduced in the valley in the early 1990's. These machines were so powerful that they could produce 20-30 plain shawls a day, whereas an artisan who worked on a hand loom could produce one shawl in 4-5 days. Hence the advent of power looms bought nothing but major blows to the livelihood of the artisans, and to the craft as a whole. Power looms put the lives of nearly 4 lakh artisans in jeopardy and threatened this centuries old craft of Pashmina making. Not to forget that the craft of hand weaving Pashmina once fetched millions in the European market. Ghulam Nabi, an 80 year old hand weaver narrates his ordeal, while we talk to him regarding the issues faced by Kashmiri Pashmina artisans "We were the most prosperous community back in the 1950's. We were respected, loved and considered the most intelligent and skillful people back then. We would be taken for international tours where we would train men and women to work on a handloom and weave Pashmina fabric. those were golden days", he said with a pleasant aura. "Then power looms were introduced and we lost all we had. Leave money aside, we lost respect in the society, which was more or less snatched by rich and influential manufacturers and owners of powerlooms. What we did in 4 days was done by then in half an hour, and every customer turned to them. We were left with some 5-6 customers who knew the value of handmade", he added. The introduction of machines to make duplicate pashmina shawls has badly affected the reputation of Pashmina, locally and overseas. a Pashmina shawl, which lasted for more than 30 years, now looks shabby and withered within 5 years. That is because it is fake and impure. Machine shawl makers have been dishonestly cheating innocent customers who do not have the knowledge of pure and impure Pashmina. This too had decreased the demand for Pashmina as customer are of the idea that there are no pure shawls left now. This makes honest and skillful artisans like Ghulam Nabi more anxious and apprehensive about the future of the craft which once ruled Kashmir, India and the western markets altogether.
Ghulam Nabi and Pashmina.com
“The craft needs to be preserved,” says Ghulam Nabi, who has nothing but reverence for the craft itself. It is not about our livelihood, it is about the general reputation of Pashmina. If people would know about handmade Pashmina shawls like your company makes, Pashmina would retain the same status it enjoyed once." Ghulam Nabi desires to see Pashmina at its zenith. He wants us to publicize the fact that machine Pashmina is fake and doesnt serve the purpose. He is overjoyed by the fact that we do not sell or acquire machine Pashmina at all, and wants more organisation to join this cause of banning machine shawls once and for all.