Must-have Shawls for all times!
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’ is derived from the Indo-Persian word shal, which was basically a fine woven woollen fabric used as a drape. In 1623, the Italian traveller Pietro della Valle, observed that while the shawl 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’.
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 its past, today these are wardrobe must-have 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 myriad colours and exquisite embroidery. Besides, they are also considered as great gifts that blend both style and utility in the best manner.
#1. Pashmina Shawls
Nothing epitomises 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.
Originally in natural buff, Pashminas are today woven in a myriad colours and textures. While plain Pashminas have a huge market with the western clientele, these luxurious fabrics are also widely embroidered with beautiful and intricate floral patterns.
#2 Kani Shawls
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 shawl weaving. Numerous kanis (little wooden stick used as spool) or shuttles leaded with rich coloured threads are moved around even in a single weft line. An intricately designed shawl 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.
#3 Jamawar Shawls
These beautiful shawls from the land of Kashmir loosely translates 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 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.
#4 Kinnauri Shawls
The twill-woven body in the grey, off-white, fawn or brown shades of natural wool and the tapestry woven borders in multi-coloured geometrical forms is characteristic of Kinnauri shawls. Originating in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, this style became popular in Kullu with the migration of the Kinnauri Bhushahra community here.
Locally, these shawls are used as drapes; the ones worn by women are called pattu and those used by men, chandru.
#5 Gujarati Shawls
The tangalia weavers in Surendranagar and Chotila, Gujarat, make black and off-white coloured shawls in thick coarse sheep’s wool. A characteristic feature is the use of beads and mirrors. Popular motifs are derived from their immediate surroundings, such as peacocks, camels, trees and houses. Traditionally, men wear these on special occasions and women wear them as sarongs.
These shawls are all different from each other but stand apart due to its unique personality. Winter weddings is the best time to flaunt your collection of shawls and make head turns with your fashion appeal and classy demeanour. Make sure you stock up on these by then!