The past few decades have witnessed an interest in the shawl. Earlier used just as a piece of wrap to protect oneself from the biting cold, today it is also about making a style statement. The word ‘shawl’ comes from the Indo-Persian word shal, which was basically a fine woven woolen fabric used as a drape. In 1623, the Italian traveler Pietro Della Valle observed that while it was primarily worn as a girdle, in India it was draped across the shoulders.
“The shawls are one of India’s best products. It is unique in that while it offers the intimacy of a warm garment, it leaves you free and unencumbered’.~Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
Although its origins can be traced to the medieval period, archaeological findings and literary references suggest that the tradition of shawls in India existed right from the Indus Valley Civilization.
Though these shawls have a rich legacy and speak volumes about their past, today there are wardrobe must-haves that notch up your style and reflect opulence. Worn during weddings in winter, it is a sight to behold when women turn up in the most stunning pieces in myriads of colours and exquisite embroidery. Besides, they are a great gift that blends both style and utility in the best manner.
Pure Pashmina Shawls
Nothing epitomizes the glorious history of Kashmiri craftsmanship as warmly and beautifully as the Pashmina, which once spelled exclusivity and security for Kashmiri women. It is said that if they fell upon bad days, they cut up a shawl length of Pashmina and sold it to the shawl peddler for cash.
A legacy of the Mughals, the romance of Pashmina reached its zenith when it cast its spell over European royalty. The great Napolean Bonaparte found the shawl fit to adorn the shoulders of his beloved, Josephine.
In the cold climes of Kashmir, in a village called Kanihama, the lives of a chosen few are spent in weaving a magic spell of warmth and colour; the Kani shawl. This exquisite shawl was once coveted by Mughal kings, Sikh maharajas, and British aristocrats. The Ain-i-Akbari records that Emperor Akbar was an avid collector of Kani shawls.
These shawls involve one of the most laborious techniques used in weaving. Numerous Kanis (little wooden stick used as spool) or shuttles laden with rich coloured threads are moved around even in a single weft line. An intricately designed wrap may use as many as 50 Kanis with different coloured threads and may take several months to complete. The designs are codified on paper, known as talim, and sung out as two weavers work on a shawl together.
Sozni Jamawar Shawls
These beautiful Kashmiri shawls from the land of beauty loosely translate into a “robe to cover the body”, which comes from the word Jama meaning ‘robe’ and Var meaning ‘chest or body’. Jamawar is woven with the pashm fibre, with the brocaded parts woven in similar threads.
Most of the designs today feature floral motifs or paisleys and add a touch of elegance to the wearer. Historically, these Kashmiri shawls were a prized possession of the aristocrats, who used to buy woven fabric by the yard and wear it as a shawl or wrap. Emperor Akbar was one of its most popular patrons.
The Tilla shawls are made out of pure Cashmere wool which is sourced from Ladakh, J&K. Tilla embroidery was once done using real gold and silver threads, and only the royalty and influential nobles would afford it. But gradually, to make it more affordable to common masses, craftsmen chose metal threads coated with gold to embroider these luxury shawls.
Tilla embroidery is locally called Tilla Dozi and shawls laden with it are an essential part of a bride's wedding trousseau.
Papier Mache Jamawar Shawls
Perhaps the most alluring kind of Kashmiri shawl is the Papier Mache Jamawar Pashmina shawls, where usually a white base is chosen. Over the white base, colourful threads are used for embroidery in such a way that thick strokes bedeck the plush base underneath. The final product looks nothing less than a live piece of art.
The name of the embroidery comes from the Papier Mache art, as both look similar in their artistic demeanour.
These Kashmiri shawls are all different from each other but stand apart due to their unique personality. Winter weddings are the best time to flaunt your collection and make heads turn with your fashion appeal and classy demeanour. Make sure you stock up on these by then!