SRINAGAR: With the onslaught of machines for spinning and weaving, traditional shawl weaving has been reduced to using less than 20 percent of handspun pashmina.
The shift from traditional spinning to spinning mills has now hit the weavers who are finding no shawls to weave, as traditional looms can use only hand spun thread.
President of the Kashmir Pashmina Karigar Union (KPKU) located at Narwara here, one of the main hubs of shawl professionals in the city, Rouf Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that initially the machines slowly disengaged thousands of women associated with spinning of pashmina and now weaving by machine is hitting the weaver section of this traditional craft.
About the gradual overtake by machines Rouf said that by 2000 deharing machines were employed in Srinagar to clean the pashmina wool, and it was the beginning of adulteration that since then has not died with pashmina spinning machines later adding nylon products to the pashmina yarn and now weaving machines increasing the quantum of shawl production.
The problem according to the weavers union was aggravated by the Punjab based traders who pushed in pashmina yarn- locally known as taar in the market thus eliminating the need of spinning that over the centuries had remained a women’s domain with later the tarfarosh – a dealer of such pashmina spun yarn too being crushed under the onslaught of machine made yarn.
“After the machine spun yarn became available readily, there was no need of women for spinning yarn for shawl manufacturing, even though there are estimates that more than five lakh women were engaged in spinning process to produce the finest yarn that made the shawl unique,” Rouf added.
The situation has worsened over the years with many Kashmiri traders too producing the yarn locally and Punjab based traders still active in supplying this adulterated yarn.
The locally made yarn on machines in Kashmir costs Rs 15,000 per kilogram, while the one from Punjab costs from Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,500 per kilogram, while a pure hand woven one can cost more than Rs 30,000 in the market.
Pashmina traders say that nearly 250 gram of the yearn is used to make one pashmina shawl length and given this adulteration and easily available stuff 80 percent of products made are vulnerable to damage or getting wearing out and its life is not more than few years, that becoming the reason for their disliking even this being the only brand associated with Kashmir.
General secretary of the union, Iahtisham Hussain, also associated with the Pashmina craft, feels that the consequence of this adultured and machine made pashmina are now jolting the top traders who too are now keen to restore the old form of traditional spinning and weaving and other hand processing of the fabric.
“The whole trade has been shaken, even though some unscrupulous elements that still are glued to projecting the machine made Pashmina as hand woven,” he said.
The weavers presently are fast loosing the job as machines weave a shawl in just 10 minutes, which a crafts man on a traditional loom can complete only after five days of intensive labour.
“No one is interested to give work to the weavers as there are machine doing the job not only in less time but at Rs 100 per shawl length instead of Rs 1200 on a traditional loom,” he said adding that this all has led to a compromise in quality and the final product is now being disapproved by the high end customers who have passion for hand woven ones.
“We farmed the union to save this traditional craft three years ago that was not only generating massive employment for the women, but was earning millions of rupees as foreign exchange,” Hussain said.
The union members feel that GI mark was a step in right direction, but said there is lead in getting this tag added approve of authenticity as major players in the trade are selling the machine made one with highly adulated material.