The Shawl Industry in India

The shawl has existed in India since the ancient times providing protection against the freezing cold. The mention to this fine piece of garment was first found in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Atharvaveda. It also finds a mention in the ancient Buddhist texts and literature.

Support for the industry by the Mughals:

The Kashmiri wraps were popular all over the world. During the Mughal rule, Punjab and the North-West Frontier became the center of shawl making. The Mughal emperor Akbar was completely hooked by the Kashmiri wraps and encouraged weavers to produce new designs. He tried several new ways of wearing one and was instrumental in starting the twin shawl fashion. These types were embroidered with precious stones and metals for the use of the royals.

Migration from the valley:

The Mughal kingdom led way to the Afghan rulers who levied heavy taxes on the said industry. The weavers were forced to leave the Kashmir valley and migrate to Punjab. Following the great famine and the Afghan harassment, Amritsar became the new center for production. The migration of Kashmiri workers led to the development of the industry in other settlements of Punjab as well.

Innovative ideas:

Earlier designs consisted of hand woven and hand spun wraps of different textures and weaves. These were later embroidered with soft silk floss and phulkari to add to its rich appearance. The warm and comfortable Kashmiri stoles were also dyed in different shades to add to its appeal.

International market:

The garment got its major recognition during the British era. The British were totally perplexed by the Kashmiri stoles and shipped them to Britain. Their remarkable popularity spread to other countries as well that have a great market for these finely produced fabrics.

Revolution in the industry:

During the 19th century, the weaving method of Kashmiri shawls changed due to the ever increasing demand worldwide. The shawls were now woven separately into parts and later stitched together by a rafoogar. This period also witnessed the popularity of the embroidered wraps in the foreign market.

Shawls from other states:

The shawl industry in India also grew at the same time in various other states such as Bengal, Gujarat Assam and other North Eastern states. The phenomenal growth of the industry was closely associated to the weaves, textiles and designs. These stoles presented the cheaper options and came in beautiful designs and colours.