Manufacturing process of Pashmina Shawl
The shawl industry of Kashmir is an old as its hills, and Kashmir shawls reached as far off a place as Rome where they adored the local beauties particularly those in the Caesar court. Though the industry suffered several setbacks over the ages, it was due to the efforts of Shah-e-Hamdan, the renowned central Asian Saint, that shawl making as an industry was revived and reorganized on a large scale in the later part of the 14th century. Syed Ali Hamadani, who introduced Islam in Kashmir, brought with him nearly 700 pious and saintly disciples mostly artisans and craftsmen-who were spread all over the valley not only to popularize Islam as a faith but also to teach and train the ;local people in various arts and crafts. His arrival in Kashmir was the beginning of a total revolution encompassing all aspect of life in the valley and its requirements, social, economic and cultural.
It is said that once the saint was asked how the womenfolk in Kashmir could be gainfully employed, he replied that "Moon"(wool) would come from the eastern wide of the mountain which would provide livelihood to the local people especially the women folk who would contribute significantly to the growth of the craft based on wool. as the craft would involve a great deal of spinning and weaving, it will be a blessed pursuit the people throughout, after the tradition of Fatima, the beloved daughter of the prophet of Islam, who gave her a spinning wheel on the occasion of her marriage as dowry.
The then ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Qutab-Ud-Din patronized the craft and took a number of measures to stimulate its growth. He saw to it that while the glories of Bukhara and Samarkand(Central Asia) were being sung, the winsome arts and crafts of Kashmir also received respectful attention. However, it was during the region of the most beloved king of Kashmir, Budshah(the great king) that the shawl industry thrived remarkably. Zain-Ud-Abidin, the great king, put life in a dying enterprise by encouraging and popularizing it as a cottage industry. It is he who taught people to work in their homes during winter and earn a living. No wonder, therefore, that this period is widely recognized as a new era in the history of the shawl industry.
Making of a Pashmina Shawl
The Pashmina shawl has to pass roughly 36 stages to reach the final shape where it become useable. as many as 36 categories of skilled and semiskilled professionals are involved in the process of making a Pashmina shawl.
Collection of raw material
The first step in the process consists in collecting the raw material from high altitude regions of Kashmir & Ladakh As soon as summer sets in the tribal people of Ladakh, Tibet and other parts of China go to the higher region to collect mostly on batter system.
They usually travel with the flake by flake. the raw wool thus collected is handed over to its collector-buyer in the hilly townships who pass it on to the traders in the Srinagar. While a big quantity of the raw material is collected in the Ladakh region, the bulk of it comes from Tibet and other parts of China via the mountain passes.
The concerned traders in Srinagar sort it out according to grades and shades before fixing its price strand-wise. The raw material is then sold out to petty shop-keepers who are known as "Phumb-Wain"-Wool retailers. they are called petty shopkeepers because if our costs a casual glance at such a shop, one would find a lonely man sitting idle in a corner of his shop with no merchandise around except a small cloth bag and jute bag.
However it is in these bags that he stores his valuable merchandise-1/2 kg of material in the cotton bag and a kg or more of Pashmina, a less costly wool, in the jute bag. A small old type balance hangs in front of him and three four long birch stick above him in the ceiling. The stick has different shades of the costly raw material wound on it to serve the purpose of a show-case.
The love shopkeeper is usually seen either separation rough bain from the soft stuff or counting threads of the yarn spun by the poor lady who sits in front of him expectantly, accompanied, on occasions, by a small boy of her household. It is normal practice for such ladies to receive a fresh supply of the raw material for spinning as soon as they hand over to the "Phumb Wain" the yarn spun by them over a period of time.
As a gesture of good will, the boys accompanying the ladies are rewarded with the couple of coffers after the buying and selling process is completed. The ladies too receive some money by way of charges for spinning after the cost of the fresh supply is deducted from it.
The process of spinning Pashmina starts in the house of a local lady. Women above the age of 40, are generally engaged in spinning which is a time consuming process requiring also a lot of efforts and patience. The process begins with a sifting of rough hair from the soft material. In the other member of the family lend a helping lend a helping hand. The soft raw wool is stretched carefully, bit by bit, to complete the process known as "Puch Nawun". The raw material is then rid of dirt and dust with the help of a "4 wide comb mounted on a foot wooden stand. This operation is known as "Absawun".
When the raw material is thoroughly combed and cleaned, it is then placed in an oval shaped engraved wooden trough(known as Tathal in the local language) roughly three feet long. some quantity of broken rice is soaked in water for some time before it is coarself powered with a stone pestle and sprinkled over the combed wool. The powered shift is known as "Khari Oat" and stone pestle as "Kajwath". The wooden trough containing the combed wool mixed with rice powder is kept aside for three to four days. Though the web rice powder emits a foul smell, it makes the raw wool whiter and softer. That is how the ancient treated the raw material and the practice is till in vogue.
Now it is time to comb the wool again more vigorously to ensure that it is perfectly clean, shedding every bit of the rice powder in the process. The raw material so cleaned is then made in the patty ;like flakes locally known a "Thomb". These oversized flakes are placed in an orderly manner in round tin boxes with lids. The material is now ready for spinning.
Spinning is usually started on Saturday, the first working day of the week for the local artisans and craftsmen. It is also considered auspicious. The eldest lady of the house sits in a corner of the room early in the morning and spinning wheel is placed before her. As a rule, alms are given to the local needy or itinerant beggars before the lady tries her hand on the spinning wheel. The spinning wheel which is locally known as "Yander" is made of wood, it is three feet long with a wheel on its right side and a thin iron rod about a foot long called "Yander Tal" fixed in two grass spindles called "Kaun" in the local language on its left side.
The iron rod(Yander Tal) is connected to the wheel with a piece of which serves as a beef. A piece of straw (known as "Sochne Tul" is mounted on the thin side of the iron rod and the yarn spun by the lady is wound on it to facilitate its removal from the rod when each round of the spinning process is completed. The lady holds a wool puff in her two left hand fingers supported by the thumb as the operation spinning begins with the turning of the wheel.
While turning the wheel the left. Arm of the lady goes up an down rhythmically without much effort to spin the delicate yarn. During spinning the delicate yarn gets cut a number of times but the lady at the wheel restores it promptly yet painstakingly. She repeats the exercise till the round the complete yielding a small quantity of the soft, delicate yarn.
The yarn mounted on a piece of straw is called a "Phamb Leeat". Three or four such mounted straws are kept in a earthen bowl called "Kondul" marking the beginning of the second phase when it is turned and twisted. On the wheel to make it foreplay and thus firm yet fine. So spun, the yarn is then mounted on a wooden spool known a "Prechh" wherefrom it is transferred on its edges. Locally it is known as "Yaeran Doul". The yarn is called "Pun" (thread). Ten rounds of the yarn tied together with a cotton thread as one or two points(known as gand) serves as a unit paid to the spinner is always proportionate to the fineness of the yarn, the finer variety always brings in more money.
A bunch of yarn is known as "Puyoe". It is usually sold to the shopkeeper from whom the raw material had been purchased. At this point , the buying pattern changes from weighing to counting. Two knots(Gand) of yarn numbering twenty threads are called a "Jora"(Two). It is in the process of counting that unlettered women artisans get at times cheated at the hands of unserupulous buyers. Payment for the staff bought is made as per the market rate per "Jora". Ordinarily, a women worker can spin ten to fifteen grams of Pashmina in a day.
Now begins another phase of the process of production. The shopkeeper (Phamb Wain) sorts out the spun stuff purchased by selling it to the weaver jorawise. the weaver, in turn, sorts it out from the view point of shade and fineness. Finally spun yarn is used as warp and the thick yarn as weft. The weaver then counts the stuff jorawise and weighs it too before making entries in a registered maintained for the purpose. The yarn is then making entries in a registered maintained for the purpose. The yarn is then put in a home-made starch which consists mainly boiled rice-water known as "Maya". It stays like that for a couple of days in a copper bowl called "Dul" before it is spread out in sunshine to dry. The dried yarn is then untied and mounted on a wooden spool known a "Preeh" and the process is known as "Tulun" which is generally completed in open spaces.
Four to six iron rods about 4 feet in length are driven into the ground, at a shady spot by two persons working in opposite directions. This is the beginning of the process known as "Yerun" which is completed by "transferring the yarn from the "Preeh" with the help of smooth sticks. This is how the wrap is made ready for use. About 1200 threads arranged in the aforesaid manner is known as "Yaen" which suffices for making four to six shawls. The wrap is brushed and its broken threads rejoined (Locally known as "Pen Kem" before it is carefully mounted on the iron rods.