Monday, March 21, 2016




( water colours by William Simpson )

William Simpson ( 1823-1899 ) was a scottish Journalist ( War Correspondent ) and water colour Artist . In 1859, his employers (Illustrated London News) sent him to India to collect stories about the Mutiny of 1857. While in india ,he was also required to prepare sketches for subsequent publication. The artist arrived at Calcutta on 29 October 1859, and traveled to Punjab, Bengal, UP, Madras , Central India , Himalayas and Kashmir. In February, 1862, he left India and returned to England . He drew about 250 sketches . These sketches were lithographed and published in the form of a book later in 1867.
In kashmir, he was amazed to see craftsmanship of shawl weavers . Some of his sketches relate to artisans of kashmir. These water colours created a renewed demand for kashmiri shawls in European market . It had already captured some market in France and England where it was known as Cashmere Shawl and was popular in Aristrocratic families .Even Josephine Bonaparte (Napoleon's wife) wore a Cashmere Pashmina Shawl. Josephine had a collection of 60 kashmiri shawls. Emperor AKBAR and Ottoman Royals also wore kashmiri shawls.Royals in princely states of undivided India wore kashmiri shawls. I have personally seen these expensive shawls in various museums all over India.
                                                 ( Shah e Hamdaan Mosque by William Simpson )
                                                         ( Pir Panjal Pass by William Simpson )
                            ( Maharaja Ranbir Singh Meets Viceroy by William Simpson )
British Officers were more than happy to receive a kashmiri Pashmina shawl as NAZRAANA from Indian royals. Even Article 10 of the Treaty of Amritsar signed in 1846 required Maharaja Ghulab Singh to present three pairs or 6 Pashmina shawls annually to British Government.

In early nineteenth century, a kashmiri shawl could be seen in Iraq, Turkey and Egypt.

Taxed heavily in kashmir, it had brought the artisans to abject poverty .The poor shawl weavers were also exploited by middlemen and greedy Traders .

*The state used to collect a revenue of 12 lakhs per annum from shawl manufacuring Industry known as DAG- I –SHAWL. It was Maharaja Ranbir singh( 1830-1885) , who once remitted this DAG- I -SHAWAL altogether so as to help the Industry survive as it had turned totally sick . Maharaja Ranbir singh ruled the state from 1857 AD to 1885 AD.But damage had already been done. A large number of shawl weavers had already moved out to punjab and other areas for livelihood .
( Autar Mota )


• Source for Waiver of Shawl Tax or Dag I Shawl......Page 108 “ Kashmir Through Ages “ by Gwasha lal kaul ( BA) Journalist .

*In Carola Oman's book 'Life of Sir Walter Scott, The Wizard of the North' , published in 1897, it is mentioned that Scott's French bride Charlotte Carpentier was given an expensive Kashmir shawl in 1797 which cost about 50 British Pounds at that time.

*During 19th century, a sizeable number of shawl weavers from Kashmir were moving out of kashmir valley due to various reasons .These reasons could be  High Taxation on Shawl  Trade and Manufacture ( DAG I SHAWL ) , Industrialization, Recurring famines, floods and cholera .Though Maharaja Ranbir Singh waived shawl Tax or Dagi shawl but the damage had already been done.This Taxation was started during dark days of Pathan rule. There is a definite route through which these kashmiri shawl weavers moved out.They moved via kishtwar and Bhaderwah to hilly kingdoms of Basholi, Chamba,Nurpur and Kangra etc. They also moved to Punjab primarily to Amritsar, Ludhiana and Lahore.They were also instrumental in establishing shawl industry in Amritsar and Ludhiana. Many kashmiri shawl weavers had settled in Basholi. .So were they employed by hilly kingdoms of Chamba, Nurpur, kangra etc. you have a Pashmina shawl weaving tradition to this day in Basholi, Nurpur, Chamba and adjoining areas. The phulkari of Punjab has some designs that are starkly kashmirian. And Amritsar was a second home of kashmiri shawl weavers. The tallest kashmiri  sufi poet Shamas faqir practiced shawl weaving for some time in Amritsar before his return to Kashmir. And  then  M J Akbar  ( Journalist , writer and Politician ) , Saif ud Din kitchloo (The great Nationalist leader from Punjab ) and  Agha Hashr kashmiri ( Urdu Playwright connected with Parsi Theatre  )  belong to  the families of shawl Makers/ Traders  that had moved out from kashmir.

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.


  1. was it Raja Ranbir singh or Raja Ranjit Singh of Punjab ?



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