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Indian Shawls

Updated on January 25, 2013


There are many different types of shawls all around the world, but did you know that there are more than 6 made in India. Shawls are used for many different things. Find out more about shawls as you read this lens.


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Kashmiri Shawls

Shawl weaving flourished in Kashmir under the patronage of the Mughals. These are the shawls India is best known for though other kinds are made in states like Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

1. Pashmina

The sinfully warm and delectably fine pashmina shawl is made in Himachal and Kashmir. Greatly sought after by tourists, these expensive shawls are made from the fine hair of pashmina goats. Pashm is the wool of capra hircus, an Asian species of mountain goat. The fine fleece used to make these shawls is that which grows beneath the rough outer hair. Did you know that the finest hair comes from the underbelly and is shed with the onset of summer? The pashmina shawl usually comes in subtle shades of cream, beige, brown and grey, depending on the natural color of the fleece. They may be dyed to produce brighter colors or livened up with embroidery.

2. Shahtoosh

The shahtoosh is even more delicate than the pashmina. It is so fine and soft that it passes through a ring quite easily. Wrapping oneself in a shahtoosh has to be one of the most warmly sensual experiences in the world. However, the making and sale of shatoosh shawls is now banned in India.

3. Jamawar

The art of weaving jamawar or tapestry shawls rolled into India from Turkistan in the 15th century. Having kept the Mughals in great comfort, these shawls came to be wrapped around European beauties back in the 18th century. Woven in shades of cream, brown and grey interspersed with colored threads to form floral patterns, the best jamawars are now made in Basohli, Himachal Pradesh.

4. Kullu

Kullu is famous for its vibrantly colored shawls with striking geometrical patterns. Though rather coarse in comparison with pashmina, Kullu shawls are an excellent buy as they look beautiful and come cheap.

5. Dhabla

The people of Rajasthan and Gujarat weave the rough, thick dhabla in black, brown or off white with striped borders in black, red and ochre.

6. The Ancient- Ari Embroidery

Ari Embroidery is equally old and famous for its heavy work. Prepared with the help of an awl it represents a cobbler's stitch, which requires considerable skill and practice. The sharper and finer the hook of the awl, the more refined the quality of the embroidery. This is done in silk or locally made satin called Gajji or on a silky satin fabric Atlash. The royal ladies of Kutch who were fascinated by the Persian motifs like peacock and flowers patronized Ari embroidery.The garments under the spell of Ari embroidery are usually dotted with bootis (motifs), which round off with big sized ones known as Nadir Shahi booti.

7. Rabari Embroidery

Rabari Embroidery is the most prominent work and widely available. The women of this community wear black skirts with creative edges embroidered and so are their profusely decorated veils with tie and dye patterns. A Rabari bridegroom's embroidered longcoat is worth a look. Even children wear heavily embroidered salwars and shirts. The Kutchi Rabaris make use of mirrors of various shapes and sizes and therefore their works have a variety though they stick to minute chain stitches.

The finest embroidery with most intricate patterns created by the needle comes from Mutwa and Jat communities. The Mutwas, living in Banni, excel in all styles of embroidery and they work out the tiny mirrors with ease. Fine handspun cotton and quality silk is used in red, white, golden yellow, blue and black to develop patterns and booties interspersed with bird and animal motifs. The Jats, who migrated from Baluchistan, are experts in inserting the smallest of the mirrors with utmost perfection, amidst pleasing colours and design that are usually geometric patterns. The Jats are confined to Dhordo, border villages of Sherwa and Savada. Few of the Jat families also dwell at Naranpar: (17kms from Bhuj en route to Kera).

The ladies from Lohana community in Banni create fantasy with silk thread thickly piled in deep orange, golden yellow, dark red and bright black. The bootis are inset with mirrors, making use of chain stitch, buttonhole stitch, etc.

8. Applique or Katab

Applique or Katab is another form of decorative needlework, more pronounced in Saurashtra where women from the darzi (tailor) community prepare it for commercial use. Its origin relates to a tailor's wife who saved the cloth remnants in the shop, which finally created quilt covers, and other decorations. After all, in the land of scarcity nothing should go waste. Unlike the Pipli works of Orissa, here it is done in patchwork based on pieces of coloured and patterned fabric, which is finely cut to serve the motif and then stitched on to a plain background to produce quilts, curtains and wall hangings. Patchwork quilts from Kutch are worked upon by neat running stitches and are quite popular with tourists. The higher the pile of quilts, the higher the owner's status for it is an indicator to the owner's status which establishes his ability to accommodate the number of guests simultaneously.

Which is Which?!?!?!?

Which is the prettiest style of Indian shawls?

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    • profile image

      cr00059n 5 years ago

      These are really beautiful products of Indian tradition. Thanks for giving me more knowledge about Indian Shawls!

    • profile image

      indiavacationplans 6 years ago

      You covered the subject very thoroughly. Excellent advice.

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 7 years ago

      Love your work! I'm very interested in embroidery/embellishment histories and picked up your mention of Aari/Zari. Thank you so much!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 7 years ago from UK

      thanks, stumbled across the lens looking for ideas for a present, very useful

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Dear Sir, We are authorised industrial unit by Govt. Of HP, INDIA manufacturing kullu shawls and apparels. Pls contact if interested in marketing for us.


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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice information, keep it coming some good things learned here, thanks twin over full bunk bed