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Mahyah Binti Idris

In Mughal times, Pashmina Shawl was regarded as a status and nobility symbol.

"These are Pashmina shawls like I have never seen them before, and I have seen a lot. The embroidery is much defined, and I can only imagine how long it must have taken to get them done—a sure sign of quality if I've ever seen one."-GH, Virginia.


Pashmina is a kind of exquisite cashmere wool that is obtained from the Changthangi goat's downy undercoat. Pashm in Persian means "wool." Nowadays, a pashmina can refer to the material or variation of the Kashmir shawl produced thereon. Kashmiri and pashmina generics are from the same animal, but generic Kashmiri has a diameter of 12 to 21 microns, while pashmina refers solely to fibres of 12 to 16 microns. Pashmina shawls are Kashmir's unique craft. Other countries have tried to copy this art unsuccessfully. The shawls are weaved by weavers who have been in this trade for centuries and have acquired this art from their forefathers. They make patterns with flower borders, chinar leaves, and paisley inspired by lakes, dawn, and sunset, mainly from memory. Some types of Hand Embroideries done on Pashmina shawls are sozni, papier-mache, and aari.


Pashmina goat Pashmina is a kind of exquisite cashmere wool that is obtained from the Changthangi goat's downy undercoat. | Wikimedia


In Mughal times, Pashmina Shawl was regarded as a status and nobility symbol. In 1526, Babur (1483–1530) established the Mughal Empire in India and introduced the practice that members of his durbar bear khi'lat (or "robes of honour," often made of rich cloth) as a sign of high status, extraordinary achievement, or imperial favour. After Babar, his grandson Akbar kept a pair of pashmina shawls as an essential piece of his khi'lat ceremony. The rulers of Iran, Safavid, Zand, and Qadar, also used pashmina and gave Kashmiri shawls as khi'lat in political and religious ceremonies from the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century.

Blankets from pashmina were also essential components to a rich female dowry in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Although men wore shawls during the eighteenth century, Kashmiri shawls became labelled as women's privileges. They got the position of heirlooms, which a girl uses at her wedding and which women inherit instead of buying. Every spring, pashmina goats shed their winter coat. One goat loses 80–170 grams of fibre. The goats' undercoat usually sheds in the spring then regrows in the winter. Unlike other fine wools, this undercoat is not recovered by trimming. The Changpa is a traditional producer of pashmina wool in Ladakh. The Changpa herd sheep for meat, and pashmina goats for fibre.

Pashmina shawls on gray background The pure pashmina cannot withstand the high strain; it has a gauzy, open weave. | Mahyah Binti Idris


Kashmir imports raw pashmina from combing and spinning through weaving and finishing, skilled artisans traditionally do all stages by hand. The main center of pashmina fabric manufacturing is in Srinagar's old district. A traditional pashmina stole (70x200cm) takes about 180 hours to complete.

Pashminas are recognized for their warmth and smoothness. They range in size from "scarf" to "wrap" or "stole" to a full-sized shawl. The pure pashmina cannot withstand the high strain; it has a gauzy, open weave. Demand for pashmina shawls, termed as shahmina in Kashmir, soared in the mid-1990s, exceeding supply. When these shawls were famous during the era, they were promoted poorly. Unbeknownst to the true definition of pashmina, consumer markets have reinterpreted it as a shawl/wrap with cashmere and cashmere/silk. The term "pashmina" describes shawls made of synthetic fibres such as viscose, sold as "genuine viscose pashmina."

Pashmina Shawl on the bed Pashminas are recognized for their warmth and smoothness. | Mahyah Binti Idris


The price of an original Pashmina, depending on the craftsmanship, might range between 100 and thousands of rupees. The chemicals used during the process may change the garment's texture in the long term while dry cleaning the pashminas. Thus it would maintain the quality of clothing for a longer time by washing it in warm water with a gentle shampoo and drying it without twisting. Today fashion lovers see it in their collection as necessary apparel.

A song the Changpa recite as they comb the pashmina wool from their goats:
For the grass that you have just eaten, oh goat,
Give us some good pashm.
For the water that you have just drunk, oh goat,
Give us some good pashm.
Sit down on the grass and be still, oh goat,
So that we can take out your pashm.

Don't forget to read about the Unique Handicrafts Of Kashmir including Papier-mâché.




Keywords: Pashmina, shawl, kashmir, mughal, handicraft, wool, scarf


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