From History to Trends: All You Need to Know About Shawls

From History to Trends: All You Need to Know About Shawls

India is a land that has been nurturing a diverse cultural heritage for ages. From cuisines to clothing - India's cultural diversity is reflected in every aspect. Shawl has been an integral part of our cultural identity, tracing its origin to the 14th century. Although they were originally designed as winter clothing, shawls have evolved to symbolize and serve various traditions across India. 

History and Cultural Significance of Shawl

A shawl is a rectangular piece of clothing that originated from the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. It is usually loosely draped over the shoulders, upper body, and arms and occasionally worn over the head.   

The terms "shawl" and "pashmina" find their roots in Kashmir, the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. According to several historical accounts, Iranian scholar Sayeed Ali Hamadani arrived in Kashmir in the 14th century and introduced cashmere shawls. He came across the soft wool produced by Ladakhi Changthangi goats and crafted socks from it to present them as a gift to Kashmir's king, Sultan Qutbuddin. Realizing the popularity of the shawls among royals and elites, Hamadani proposed the establishment of a shawl-weaving industry in Kashmir, marking the inception of Pashmina shawls 

Over the centuries, shawls have grown beyond mere clothing and evolved as a cultural emblem that defines regions and communities. In weddings, shawls symbolize grace and auspicious beginnings, whereas in several religious ceremonies, shawls are used as offerings to show devotion and humility. The craftsmanship involved in the making of the traditional shawls reflects the rich diversity of Indian artistry.  

Which Fabric of Shawl is the Best?

Pashmina Shawls

Obtained from the fine undercoat of Himalayan Changthangi goats, Pashmina shawls are incredibly soft, lightweight, and exceptionally warm and comfortable. These shawls are painstakingly handwoven by skilled artisans in the Kashmir region and feature intricate embroidery designs, motifs, etc. It is a coveted choice for those who appreciate superior quality and craftsmanship.   

Wool Blends

Woollen shawls combine the natural insulation of wool with other fibres to create a fabric that is not only cosy but also adaptable to various styles and occasions. Shawls made from premium wool blends are durable, breathable, and moisture-wicking.   


Known for its lustrous sheen and luxurious feel, silk is a popular fabric for shawls. The natural temperature-regulating properties of silk make it suitable for various weather conditions.  


The lush and plush texture of velvet adds a regal quality to shawls. Velvet's ability to capture and reflect light enhances its visual appeal, making the shawls a versatile addition to your wardrobe.  

What are the Different Types of Shawls?

1. Kashmiri Shawl 

Traditionally crafted from Shahtoosh or Pashmina Wool, Kashmiri shawls stand as a testament to timeless elegance. Kashmiri shawls were favourites among Mughal royalty as a symbol of sophistication for their intricate hand embroidery and comfort. The Kashmiri shawl captured global attention when the shawl made its journey to Europe in the late 18th century.  

 If you want to know more about Kashmiri shawls, we have shared a complete guide to Kashmiri shawls in our previous blog post. Read on to get comprehensive insights. 

 2. Stole

A stole is a narrower and simpler version of a shawl, typically shorter in width. Crafted from premium materials such as silk or chiffon, women usually pair stoles with party dresses or ball gowns. The finishing touches may vary for stoles depending on the fabric. While lighter materials are usually cropped and hemmed, heavier fabrics like fur and brocade may be lined.

3. Knit Shawl 

These types of shawls are usually triangular, mimicking a poncho. Knit shawls are worn from the neck down and feature shoulder shaping and a free-flowing design. The absence of definite shoulder handles adds to a more casual appeal.   

4. Namda and Gabba

Made from milled blanket material dyed in plain colours, Namda and Gabba shawls have bold and vivid embroidery. It is a vibrant expression of culture, reflecting folk and traditional aesthetics.   

5. Do-Shalla

The Do-Shala, literally translating to "two-shawl," holds a historical significance rooted in the Mughal dynasty. Widely applauded by the emperor Akbar, these shawls are sold in pairs. The weavers use gold and silver threads or intricate borders to represent the history of royalty rooted in these shawls.  

Apart from these shawls, the following are some of the most celebrated types of shawls in India, known for their distinctive regional designs and embroidery works:  

  • Kantha shawls from West Bengal  
  • Naga shawls from Nagaland  
  • Kapadaganda shawls from Odisha  
  • Bhujodi shawls from Gujarat  
  • Kalamkari shawls from Andhra Pradesh  
  • Pattu shawls from Kullu  
  • Himroo shawls from Aurangabad and Hyderabad  

  What are the Latest Trends in Shawls?

a. Kashmiri Embroidery ShawlThese shawls are known for their traditional weaving, vibrant colours, intricate patterns and motifs. Kani shawls, Jamawar shawls, Aari shawls, etc., are some of the most celebrated Kashmiri embroidery shawls.

b. Zari ShawlIn these types of shawls, weavers use metallic threads to add a touch of regal glamour to the fabric. 

c. Reversible ShawlThese shawls offer two distinct styles in one, perfect for effortlessly transitioning between different looks.  

d. Solid Colored ShawlsThese timeless shawls are versatile and can add a touch of sophistication to your outfits.   

e. Printed Stoles: Adorned with vibrant patterns and artistic designs, these shawls can complement both Indian and Western attires.

 Learn more about the latest trends in shawls from our previous blog post: 6 Trending Kashmiri Shawls Every Women Should Own 

How to Choose a Shawl 

The following are some insightful tips to guide you in making informed purchase decisions:  

a. Consider the Occasion: Whether it's for a wedding or your daily attire, consider the specific occasions before selecting a shawl.  

b. Factor in Weather or Climate: Your choice of shawl should match the weather conditions on which you intend to wear it. Choose woollen or Pashmina shawls for chilly winters and lightweight stoles for autumn.  

c. Reflect Your Style: If you are wearing an embroidery saree, pair it up with a buti design Kashmiri shawl. Similarly, when you are wearing a subtle two-piece suit, you can accessorize it with a gorgeous Mughal Darbaar shawl. 

d. Evaluate Budget ConstraintsDefine your needs and allocate a budget for your shawl purchase. Kashmiri woollen or Pashmina shawls are usually expensive due to their premium quality and durability. So, it will be a great investment in the long run. 

The Bottom Line

From being a staple in royal attire to becoming a fashion statement for the masses, shawls have adapted to changing times while preserving their cultural roots. On the one hand, traditional handwoven shawls like Pashmina and Jamawar have stood the test of time and emerged as trending statement accessories. On the other hand, weavers and artisans are now also focusing on blending contemporary designs with age-old techniques to stay relevant to a broader audience.  

Among the leading shawl brands in India, Pashmal stands out for its dedication towards revitalizing shawls as a trending accessory. We have a wide range of exclusive shawls in both traditional and contemporary designs for modern fashionistas. Visit our website and shop from our latest collection of Kashmiri shawls, printed stoles and more now! 




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