Sunday, August 9, 2020


                     ( Changthangi goat )
      ( Amitabh  with a Kani Shawl)
     ( Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan wearing a Kani Shawl . He andsl his  sons are with  Dalai Lama )
   ( The Kanis or wooden needles  on the loom)
 ( Kani Shawl border design)
  ( Kani Shawl on the loom )
   ( Kani Shawl bein woven)
 ( Sharmila Tagore wearing a Colourful Kani Shawl)                             

( A Pashmina Kani Shawl from Kashmir)


Pashmina Kani Shawl  has been a  luxury  since  second half 17th century. It was in  great demand by the royals and the elite in  Asia and Europe.

The Pashmina ( soft wool ) for a Kani  Shawl comes from a  special goat known as Changthangi and   found in Tibet and Ladakh. The shawl is woven on traditional looms but instead of a shuttle , wooden  Kanis (  needless ) are  used to weave and create intricate designs that are  already documented.
The documented design for making a Kani shawl is  known as Taleem. Taleem is written on a paper . The design is also  drawn on a graph paper which is filled with desired colours.The weaver keeps the graph paper and the Taleem before him while weaving a Kani Shawl .
The weaver  recites the Taleem or a helper recites the same to him  that directs him to use particular colour  of the thread wrapped on the wooden needle for the design. The Taalim is recited as under:-
“Four  red, two yellow , six  blue… ..Six white , two green , eight pink… "
Something like this  is continuously  heard at the loom.Number over here means the number of times a particular coloured thread is to be used .The weaver keeps his eye on the graph paper as well to see the pattern or design coming up in the shawl. A skilled weaver can weave a length of one inch at the most . Accordingly, a Kani shawl takes many months on the loom. 

Previously Kani shawls were produced  mostly  in Kanihama, Batpora, Kashmir . Now, these shawls are woven  at many places in the Kashmir valley.

Presently machine made Kani shawls are flooding the market. A good semi Pashmina  machine made Kani shawl may cost between 7000 to 15000 rupees while a handmade Kani shawl may go upto rupees  2lakhs . by the machine while  it takes many months to produce one handmade Kani shawl.I have seen a kani saree created by machines . Though imitation ,the  machine made Kani  shawls also look beautiful .

Buying   original handmade Kani Pashmina Shawl is a job that needs some skill and expertise. One needs to know many things  about  Raffal cloth, semi Pashmina cloth and pure Pashmina cloth. One also needs to be expert to distinguish between machine weaving and handloom weaving apart from texture , designs and patterns from Kanihama , the place in Kashmir where Kani Shawl industry was localised. For a  layman, it is very difficult to distinguish between genuine and fake or handmade and machine made Kani Shawl. A Raffal Kani design shawl made on a machine can cost as low as 1200 to 2000 rupees. Similarly machine made semi Pashmina( Raffal mixed with Pashmina ) Kani design Shawl  may  cost between 7000 to rupees 15000 or even less. Pashmina mixing adds to the cost . One needs to be well informed about every aspect of Shawl making  to make a good purchase . Machine made Kani Shawls come mostly from Ludhiana in Punjab though some are lately being manufactured in Amritsar as well. 

In 2009,  Kashmir’s Kani Shawl got the Geographical Indication (GI) status that would legally prohibit people from selling the drapes made at other places under the same name.
Kashmiri Kani shawls were  gifted  as KHILAT by Mughal kings . The practice was also followed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and many other rulers of the Indian states . 

In 1776, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte presented his wife Josephine with a Kashmiri Kani shawl.  Many handmade Kani shawls of Kashmir  are on display in  museums the world over.

Let me conclude this mini post with  poem “Sonzal  Rangan Haenz” or “A Rainbow of  Colours  ” written by  Kashmiri poet  Syed Rasool Pompur.I love the poem and  have rendered it  to simple English for Friends who don't  know Kashmiri.

(A Rainbow of Colours)
" A festival of the spring season,
The bright dazzle of endless tulips,
And this lonely  plough in our field,
As if in the bosom of the spring breeze,
Someone has thrust it  painfully.
The spinning wheel  of our time and fate is also tired now,
Weaving  this white,
this green, this yellow,
this red Pashmina ,
weaving  and joining these faded colours .
This sword of this half moon  too broke and fell apart,
That morning star too fell to the ground,
Don't look  towards  that cloudless blue sky,
From that sky , only hail storms pour  down
on the roofs of our beliefs now.
What shall you see by joining these pieces of broken mirror ?
Nothing, except your own innumerable
distorted faces .
Looking at this colourful rainbow of hopes ,
Don't say that the sick has recovered now.."

(Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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