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18 Apr

Cashmere wool- Pashmina

Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool. The wool comes from four distinct breeds of the Cashmere goat; namely the Changthangi goat from the Changthang plateau in Ladakh region, the Malra from Kargil area in Kashmir region, the Chegu from Himachal Pradesh in northern India, and Chyangara or Nepalese Pashmina goat from Nepal. They survive on grass in Ladakh, where temperatures drop to as low as −20 °C (−4.00 °F). Shawls made from Pashmina wool are considered very fine, and are exported worldwide. The Changthangi goats have revitalized the poor economy of Changthang, Leh and Ladakh region.

Ladakhi Shawl:
The classic Ladakhi shawl is among the most exquisite textile, ever woven, the product of consummate skill and artistry applied to one of the world’s delicate fibres. It has been an object of desire for Mughal emperors and sikh maharajas, Iranian nobles, French emperors, Russian and British aristocrats and eventually for the increasingly prosperous bourgeoisie created on both sides of Atlantic by the industrial revolution. It has left a permanent imprint on the aesthetic sensibility of modern world from a motif developed in the ateliers of Ladakh shawl designers.

For Ladakhi shawl, fibre {known as pashmina} from Ladakh. It is obtained from the winter undercoat of a variety of a domestic goat, which is known as pashmina goat. It is recognized as a luxury fibre and commands some of the highest prices in the world of textiles, because of extreme softness, elegance and luster. The growth of pashmina is stimulated by the intense winter cold of windswept plateaus situated at high altitudes of Changthang in Ladakh.
Pashmina is also called as Pashm or pashmina wool. The word pashmina has been derived Persian word pashm meaning soft.

In view of the world known shawls manufactured in kashmir, pashmina is called as cashmere also. In ladakh,the growth of pashmina takes place from the month of September to May and sheds away during June, when the weather is warm.
Pashmina goats are sturdy, short-necked, medium in size and adapted to the migratory life under different conditions. The average production of pashmina of an adult male is 224gms. Female yields more pashmina than male.

The pashmina of Ladakh is finer in quality than in Russia. The goats are maintained in sub-zero temperature at the altitude ranging between 14000ft to 18000ft from the sea level. Those which are maintained below this level produces low quality of pashmina.

Till 1959, pashmina of western Tibet was exported to Kashmir through Ladakh. :Ladakh and Kashmir had sole monopoly over the purchase of pashmina from west Tibet under an agreement of 1684 concluded between Tibet independent and mughal Kashmir.

Pashmina has a long chequered history. British India was very keen to import pashmina from western Tibet and Ladakh. In this connection, British India’s governor general Warren Hastings had deputed George Bogle to Tibet on a political and trade mission. Lord Dalhousie, another governor general conceived a great project to build Hindustan-tibet highway to encourage and accelerate the flow of pashmina between the Gartok area of Tibet and British India territory.

In 1890, an Englishman John Gilman sent an agent to Gartok, summer headquarter of west Tibet to explore avenues for importing pashmina in British India. He bought a pashmina goat and a shawl. The Ladakhi ruler strongly protested against this and the governor of Gartok was punished by the Tibetan govt.
Gilman’s agent was followed by british official William Moorcraft, who visited Gostok in 1812 in disguise as a gosain to buy pashmina. Moorcraft persuaded the Garpon, Governor of Gastok to sell some quantity of pashmina at an exorbitant cost. The secret deal between Garpon and the British officer leaked out. The Garpon was taken to Lhasa in Chains and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
The Dogra general took stringent action to crush the export of pashmina to Rampur and Bashahr of Himachal Pradesh and 5 traders of region were excented and several other traders were imprisoned.
Kashmir has been manufacturing shawls for centuries. In the second quarter of 19th century there were 40 thousand to 45 thousand weavers and one lakh spinners in Kashmir valley on an average one lakh pieces of pashmina shawls were manufactured annually. Of these 80 thousand were exported to Europe, Iran, Mongolia, Russia, central Asia, Asalica, Turkey, Africa and Other parts of India.

Tradition says that the transparent veil worn by the Monalisa is in reality one of the those earlier pashmina fabrics that could be drawn through a lady’s ring as a test of fineness.
According to Ain-i-Akbari, Mughal king,Akbar the great encourage in every possible way the manufacture of shawls in Kashmir, Akbar coined a new naqme for pashmina as Paremnarm meaning supremely soft. The custom of presenting shawls is also recorded in the rage of Shah Jahan.
Kashmiri shawls were all the rage in Europe for much of the 19th century. The earlier pashmina shawls to be appreciated as fashion items in the west were brought around the middle of the 18th century in the personal baggage of British officials and merchants on their return from India.

In France, a few genuine Pashmina shawls were seen in the 1780s. Most sources agree that, it was Nepolean’s military expedition to Egypt in 1798, when a number of his officers brought back shawls for their women folk.Nepoleon himself presented some to his wife Josephine, who took to them in a big way. After became empress, she reported variously as owning from 60 shawls to 400. Josephine’s patronages confirmed the fashion, making the pashmina shawl-the rectangular doshala all the rage in France and throughout Europe.
It was in China and Mongolia that pashmina production took off in a really big way in the second half of the 20th century.

Pashmina shawls were freely available in St. Petersburg then capital of Russia in the 1790’s.
The pashmina shawl reached west Asia be sea and land routes.
At certain times, the use of rashes of pahmina material was confined to princess and a few other great noblemen by the special permission.
In Iran Royal edicts purporting to have at least limit, the use of pashmina shawls in the interest of encouraging Iranian industry seem to have uneffective.

In Ladakh, it is said that wool or pashmina has compassion because it eases man’s suffering regardless of whether he is a king, queen or shoe maker, wool serves the same purpose for everybody.