Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful states of India. Himachal is also famous for its Arts and Crafts. Weaving is an ancient craft in Himachal; more of a tradition rather. The handwoven and handknitted winter wares like Shawls, Sweaters, Caps are quite popular among tourists. Himachal is famous for its intricately designed carpets as well. Although there are factory-made products available in the market, it’s nothing compared to the beauty of handmade crafts. This article gives you a tour of the handcrafted woolen wares.
Different Types of Woollen Wares of Himachal
Pattu is a traditional woolen fabric that the Himachali women wear daily. Women drape this Pattu on their body and hold it with a pin on the shoulder and with a sash or muffler at the waist level.
The pin is called Bumni in the local language. Pattu is a daily wear garment and it comes in both plain and chequered patterns along with a border.
The festive version of the Pattu consists of ornate designs with motifs. Sometimes there would be a red border running across the Pattu.
It’s called Khusti. Ideally, these woolen wares are made from local coarse wool from sheep called Patti, hence the namesake of Pattu.
Shawls are more recent offerings from Himachal Pradesh. Shawl weaving has become one of the main sources of income for the people.
A shawl is a 1 meter × 2 meters light woolen fabric. It is usually handspun. There are different kinds of wools available in the market. Ideally, Merino wool, Pashmina wool, Angora wool & local sheep wool are used to weave shawls.
Sometimes, Yak hair is also added for variety. Both mill dyed wool yarns and naturally coloured yarns are used to weave the shawls. Mostly Pashmina shawls are favourite among tourists for their craft and quality.
There are two types of shawls that people of Himachal weave:
Kinnauri Shawls are widely renowned for the intricate design and fine weaving. These shawls have elaborate geometric patterns that resemble Central Asian cultural effects.
The motifs that are being woven very often have symbolic and religious references to the local culture of the Himachal. These shawls’ patterning is done using red, pink, orange, blue, yellow, green, black colours on top of white, grey, black, and brown backgrounds.
Most of these colours have local significance. For example, white, yellow, red, green, and blue represent the five basic elements of nature.
White symbolizes water, yellow represents earth, red for fire, green for air, and blue symbolizes the ether. The patterns on the four corners of the shawls make them more unique. It requires more labour, obviously, but the price becomes a lot higher than usual.
The Kullu shawls have originated from the Kinnauri shawls. Earlier, the Kullu shawls were plain-woven. After the Bushehari craftsman migrated from Rampur, the tradition of patterned Kullu shawls came into being. These shawls are famous for their unique hand-woven process.
The Kulvi design and motifs were originally inspired by the Kinnauri shawls. Those intricate designs have been simplified overtime to give the current large geometric patterned designs of Kullu shawls. The Kulvi motifs are the stripes and bands running horizontally at both ends.
Normally there are three stripes at the end which makes it distinctive. The weavers, while working their looms, pause a bit to pass the bobbin. The trick is in applying even pressure throughout the loom to ensure uniform weaving of the motifs. Ideally, there can be eight different colours available in a single shawl, but it depends on the weaver.
In the last 20 years, the demand for these shawls has increased tenfold, causing an industrial boom in this otherwise cottage industry. Now the commercial products are overflowing the market, but the quality differs greatly with the hand-woven shawls.
Because of the market demand, the shawls’ bright colours are slowly moving away, making way for the pastel colours. The base colours remain the same; however, the acrylic colours are being used for the borders.
Kullu shawls are also available in Pashmina, Angora, Yak wools. The process to generate Pashmina fibres is very time-consuming; hence the Pashmina shawls are the most expensive of the lots.
Himachali Topis or Caps are another integral part of their ages-old culture and traditions. It’s also known as Kinnauri Topi. These boat-shaped or round-shaped caps are mostly crafted from wool.
According to the local history, these caps originated from Kinnaur.
Then later, it was spread across the region when the bushahri craftsmen migrated. These caps differ from place to place.
There are four distinct types of caps available in Himachal Pradesh; Kinnauri Caps, Bushahri Caps, Kulluwi Caps, and Lahuli Caps. These caps are considered as part of local people’s identity.
Pullas are another part of the Himachali tradition. The local people have been using these shoes to walk on snow for hundreds of years.
These sandals and shoes are popular among the hilly villages of the Northern parts of the state. Pullas are hand-woven slippers crafted originally from marijuana stems and hemp from the same tree.
But since the ban on Marijuana in the country, the craftsmen have switched to alternative materials to create these slippers.
The weaving on top of these slippers is often made from wool, making it an ideal comfort zone in cold areas. At the same time, it could be used as a great gift item as well.
These ancient handicrafts for which Himachal Pradesh is famous are dwindling & dying. The commercialization of woolen products has created a huge difference in the price between hand-woven and commercial products. And because of the price, most people buy commercial products.
It hampers the livelihood of the weavers and eventually forces them to switch professions. It is up to the government and the tourists to help revive the generation-old crafts and make them great again. Buy from the locals instead of big companies, the quality differs a lot & you’d get a better product from the local weavers.
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