SRINAGAR: Noted independent researcher, Dr Monisha Ahmed on Saturday said the shawl industry in Kashmir spans a multi-crore industry with many people contributing to the process and production, official handout read.
Delivering an extension lecture on ‘The Kashmir Shawl-Nomadic Livelihoods, Trade and Craftsmanship’ organised by the Department of Tourism Studies at Nowgam-I academic block of the Central University of Kashmir, Dr Monisha said, “Beginning sometime in the fourteenth century or earlier, this industry has continued to foster skill in craftsmanship, reviving techniques that were disappearing and transforming itself as a fabric relevant to today’s context and time.”
Registrar, Prof M Afzal Zargar, Dean School of Business Studies and Head Department of Tourism, Prof S Fayyaz, Adjunct faculty, Dr Saleem Beg, former Vice-Chancellor, Islamic University of Science and Technology, Prof Siddique Wahid, Deans of Schools, Heads, Coordinators and students of different departments and students from Craft Development Institute (CDI) were also present during the lecture.
She said from the warm undercoat of pashmina goats to the shelves of high fashion stores in India and outside, the Kashmir shawl is a highly valued luxury item. “Part of the appeal lies in the mystery and romance surrounding its origin and its association with remote nomadic populations and other part lies with the exquisite workmanship of craftsmen in Kashmir and their ability to take the skills of embroidery and weaving to such remarkable heights,” she said.
Dr Monisha deliberated upon the production of pashmina amongst the nomadic pastoralists of Ladakh and western Tibet, and its trade from these areas to Kashmir.
Registrar, Prof M Afzal Zargar said the word Pashmina itself gives us a feeling of beauty. He said the lecture gave a detailed insight about the extraction of Pashmina from the goats in Ladakh and its subsequent weaving and designing done by the dexterous hands of skilled workers in Kashmir.
“The lecture turned the audience nostalgic as the older women folk (grandmothers) in Kashmir used to spin Pashmina on traditional spinning wheels and used to earn living for the families within the four walls of their homes,” Prof Zargar said. “The government should take necessary measures to protect the craft of shawl weaving and help artisans in keeping the craft alive in Valley.”
Adjunct faculty Department of Tourism Studies, and Convener INTACH (J&K Chapter), Dr Saleem Beg while addressing the gathering said even though a lot has been talked and discussed about the Kashmiri handicrafts, but hardly any research has been conducted in exploring various dimensions of Kashmir, in terms of its art, culture and in terms of Pashmina, which has given identity to Kashmir. “Outside India, Pashmina is known as Kashmir as it has become synonymous with Kashmir,” he said.
“Kashmir has failed to produce a single art and textile historian in the present generation or even in the preceding generation,” Dr Beg said. He also introduced Dr Monisha Ahmed and said that she is an anthropologist, textile historian and a social entrepreneur who did a “path breaking research” in Ladakh on Pashmina. “Dr Monisha has also co-authored a book on Pashmina wherein she traced its history from nomads to livelihoods, arts and crafts and aspect of its marketing.”
Dean School of Business Studies and Head Department of Tourism, Prof S Fayyaz while speaking on the occasion said Kashmir is popular for many things, especially handicrafts and among those crafts, Kashmiri shawls, particularly Pashmina, is famous across the world. Describing Pashmina as an important heritage of Kashmir, he said Dr Monisha Ahmed has done an exemplary research work on it. Prof Fayyaz said Pashmina has its own rich cultural and geographical history and it represents the Kashmir in the world, the handout added.