A Journey Through the Timeless Artistry of Kashmiri Shawls

A Journey Through the Timeless Artistry of Kashmiri Shawls

What comes to your mind when you hear about Kashmir? Is it the majestic Himalayas, lush green valley, houseboats, or Shikaras resting in Dal Lake? Kashmir is more than the unparalleled beauty it has to offer. It has been the home of rich weaving techniques and expert artistry for ages.  Kashmiri Shawls, one of the most celebrated creations from the valley, reflect the legacy of a culture that cherishes the art of embroidery with love and dedication. Each stitch encapsulates the whispers of artisans who, generation after generation, have perfected this delicate craft.   

In this blog post, we will share the connection between Kashmir and shawls and the signature embroidery and design that sets these shawls apart. So, the next time you shop Kashmiri shawls, you know what you are investing in. Let’s get started!


History of Kashmiri Shawls

Kashmiri shawls have a long history dating back to the 3rd century BC. Although Kashmiri weavers initially crafted Kashmiri shawls as a practical response to the harsh cold climate of the region, these shawls eventually evolved into an art form. Weavers then began incorporating elaborate designs and patterns into these shawls, which garnered immense appreciation from royalty and the elite. As a result, Kashmiri shawls eventually became a celebrated art form, synonymous with luxury or royalty.  

Over time, the art and craft of Kashmiri shawls evolved further, and a combination of Mughal and Persian cultural influence became evident in its intricate floral and paisley motifs during the 14th and 15th centuries. Mughals, known for their keen interest in the arts, actively promoted the creation of premium quality textiles, including Kashmiri shawls. Using vibrant colours and gold threads also signifies how Kashmiri shawls evolved with different cultural influences.

Use of Fabrics in Kashmiri Shawls

Kashmiri shawls are often called Pashmina shawls due to the fabric used in their making. Weavers primarily used Pashmina, a premium wool from Changthangi goat in the higher Himalayan region of Ladakh. Pashmina comes from the word ‘Pashm’ - a Persian word that means ‘Soft Gold’. Pashmina is a premium fabric that helped the Kashmiri artisans weave the most lightweight, soft, yet warm shawl that feels luxurious to the touch

However, in the 19th century, experiments started regarding the choice of fabric used in crafting Kashmiri shawls and a new type of wool named Shahtoosh was introduced. Shahtoosh is an ultra-fine wool obtained from the Tibetan antelope found in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas. It is finer and more delicate than Pashmina, making it the top choice for weaving pure Kashmiri shawls. However, Shahtoosh shawls' production was banned after Tibetan antelopes were declared endangered. As a result, Pashmina shawls regained their importance and became the primary material for original Kashmiri shawls.

Today, although weavers follow traditional techniques to craft Kashmiri shawls, there have been a variety of materials like wool blend, silk-wool blend, Faux Pashmina, etc., used as the base fabric.   

Discover More: All You Need to Know About Shawls 

Common Types of Kashmiri Shawls

  • Jamawar: Kashmiri Jamawar shawls are characterized by intricate designs throughout their base.   

  • Kani: This Kashmiri shawl originated in a small Kashmiri village called Kanihama. The name came from Kanis, the wooden sticks used as spools to weave these shawls. The weavers use a Kani loom and follow a code called Taliim to makKani shawls

  • Doshalas: Also known as Shoulder Mantles, these Kashmiri shawls are woven back-to-back in pairs. That is why the undersurfaces of these shawls are never visible
  • Patkas: These Kashmiri shawls are long and narrow.   
  • Rumals: Square Kashmiri shawls are known as Rumals 

Different Types of Kashmiri Embroidery

1. Aari 


Locally known as Zalakdozi, the origin of Aari embroidery work in Kashmiri shawls can be traced back to the medieval period. This old embroidery technique involves the use of a pointed crochet or an ‘Aari’ as the needle.   

Kashmiri artisans use Aari embroidery on cotton, wool, silk, velvet, as well as other fabrics. They usually follow the chain stitch technique for Aari embroidery. The most popular designs used in Aari embroidery include flowers, blossoms, leaves, creepers, etc. There are primarily two types of traditional Aari embroidery: 

  • 1-ply embroidery uses 1-ply woollen thread, which is cheaper but less durable.
  • 2-ply embroidery involves 2-ply woollen thread, which is expensive but more durable.

2. Sozni

Sozni embroidery is an exquisite form of needlework widely used in Kashmiri shawls and stoles. The word ‘Sozni’ translates to "needle" in Persian. This detailed embroidery technique requires the utmost precision and expert artistry. The designs of Sozni embroidery are mostly inspired by nature. The weavers usually use colourful silk or fine Pashmina yarn for Sozni. Various stitches, including chain stitches, satin stitches, or even tiny knots, can be used here.

3. Amli

The use of multicoloured threads characterizes Amli embroidery. It is a comparatively new type of embroidery used in Kashmiri shawls, primarily on the Kani and Jamawar shawls.

4. Tilla 

Kashmiri Tilla embroidery has a rich historical significance dating back to the Mughal dynasty. Weavers use thin metal threads in this artwork, mostly silver or gold. It provides the shawls with a royal shine that defines sophistication and luxury.  

Usually, the weavers choose intricate florals, geometrical patterns, or motifs inspired by Mughal art and architecture for Tilla embroidery. The metal threads require extra attention and a delicate touch since they are exceptionally thin. In the Tilla embroidery technique, artisans layer the metal threads to add depth to the design.  

Discover More: 6 Trending Kashmiri Shawls Every Woman Should Own 


Types of Different Motifs and Patterns Used in Kashmiri Shawls

  • Buti: Tiny singular flowers   
  • Buta: Multi-floral, larger than Butis  
  • Zanjeer: Horizontal border enclosing motifs like paisley, flowers, etc.

  • Ambe: Paisley motifs  

  • Shikargarh: Hunting scenes, jungles, animal figures from the Mughal dynasty  

  • Chinar: Chinar trees from the Kashmir valley  
  • Cypress: Bunch of flowers from a single stem.  
  • Khat Rast: Stripes running along the length of the shawl  
  • Floral Bouquets: Bunches of flowers without any leaves 

The Bottom Line

Historically associated with royalty and opulence, these shawls have transcended time and become cherished heirlooms, symbolizing family heritage and tradition. However, as the demand for Kashmiri shawls surged and environmental concerns grew, the need for sustainable practices in their production became crucial. The government has taken initiatives to highlight the importance of Kashmiri shawls beyond their aesthetic appeal, recognizing them as priceless works of art with a cultural and historical legacy

At Pashmal, we believe in providing premium quality shawls, stoles, and luxury apparel to you. We have a wide range of Kashmiri shawls, including Kani, Jamawar, and Aari embroidery shawls with intricate authentic Kashmiri motifs and embroidery designs. Visit our website to explore our exquisite shawls sourced directly from Kashmiri artisans.  





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