Kullu Shawls occupy an important position when we talk about traditional garments of the Himalayan Region. These shawls have also gained popularity in the international market. They are woven out of pashmina, sheep- wool, angora, merino- wool or a combination of two or more of them. The shawl, when ready, makes a fine piece of light woollen fabric of dimension 1x2metres. In earlier times when means of transportation were not developed in the Himalayan belt, people could not import clothes from the lower regions. Also, the cold climate did not allow for cotton clothing and was more suitable for sheep and goat rearing. Therefore, people started weaving ‘Patti’ out of the wool they got from rearing activity. Shawls for both men and women were made out of ‘Patti’. Coats for men and ‘Pattus’ for women along with caps came to become the traditional dress of Kullu with the passage of time. The shawls for men eventually evolved as ‘Loi’ or ‘Chaddar’ and were relatively bigger in size. Today, more than 20000 people are engaged in the business of weaving shawls and other garments.
Types of Wool
• Local Wool- Local wool is obtained from the sheep reared in Himachal itself. The sheep are sheared twice a year. The Gaddis take care of the herds of sheep in the region. The wool so obtained is black, white, grey or brown in colour. It is a bit coarse in texture and is therefore usually used to make blankets.
• Pashmina- Shawls made from Pashmina wool are quite expensive owing to their super- fine quality and the amount of labour involved in sorting the fibre. This wool is obtained from the belly of the Pashmina goat found in Tibet. The shawls are light, warm and soft.
• Angora- The Kullu Valley consists of a number of Angora breeding farms. Angora is species of rabbit imported from Germany. The wool obtained from Angora is warm, soft and extremely fine. Due to its super- fine texture, Angora is combined with another variety of wool, mostly merino wool to make a good quality shawl.
• Merino Wool- This wool is imported from Australia and most of the Kullu Shawls are weaved out of this wool. This wool can be dyed in many colours. The borders and patterns can also be easily weaved along with the main body of the shawl. The shawl of this variety has an average cost and is also quite trendy.
• Yak Wool- Yak Wool is obtained from Yak which is available in the trans- Himalayan region. The texture is coarse but the wool is quite warm. The shawls made out of this wool are of black, white, grey or dual colours.
Before 1940s, plain shawls were weaved in Kullu and were supposedly in vogue. But when the weavers of Shimla came to the valley, the trend of adding patterns to the plain shawls came into being. The flora and fauna of the state of Himachal Pradesh is depicted in these patters through geometrical designs in vibrant colours depicting the enthusiastic and lively nature of the people residing here. The designs vary from simple to intricate and showcase the ethnicity and culture of the region.
Following are the major forms of shawls in context of the patterns involved which can be found in the region:
• Plain shawl of single colour without any pattern (vegetable dyes are used for subdued colours).
• Plain shawl with traditional pattern as a border on all four sides.
• Fully designed shawl.
• Plain/ designed shawl with ek phool which includes a single traditional pattern on both the ends of the shawl.
• Plain/ designed shawl with teen phool which includes three traditional patterns on both the ends of the shawl.
Prices of Kullu shawls vary from INR 800- 20,000 and depend on the following factors.
• Pattern used- The quality and the quantity of patterns used in a shawl determine its price. A teen phool shawl would cost more than an ek phool shawl.
• Type of wool- Pashmina and Angora being super- fine varieties of wool make an expensive piece of shawl while shawls and ‘Lois’ made from local or merino wool are relatively cheaper due to their coarseness.
• Process involved- A shawl made through handloom is relatively expensive than the one made through power loom because handloom requires a bit more labour than power loom.
Where to buy from?
• Bhuttico Shawls
Address- Bhutti Colony, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Contact- 01902- 222204, www.bhutticoshawls.com/showrooms
Address- Himbunkar Bhawan, NH-21, Bhuntar, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Contact- 01902- 265483, www.himbunkar.co.in/kullushawls
• Bodh Shawl Weavers
Address- Hotel Tashila (Ground floor), Mall Road, Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Contact-01902- 251296, www.bodhshawlweavers.com
• Rangri Weavers
Address- Village Rangri, Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Contact- 98162- 90676, firstname.lastname@example.org