Though there are so many different and beautiful varieties of Kashmiri shawls available, “Kani Shawl is among the finest and rarest ones”. It is also one of the oldest handicraft items of Kashmir valley, India. Since the time of Mughals, the Kani Shawls are getting its due recognition.
The shawls are crafted in the Kanihama area of the valley. These hand woven beauties enjoy the advantage of Geographical Indication or GI tag that means the shawls made outside of the area following the same technique cannot be sold as Kani Shawl.
Let’s start divulging the history of this excellent and lavish shawl to understand the exclusiveness of the material.
History of Kani Shawl
If you turn the pages of history, you can find the art was originated in the Kanihama and even in 3000 B.C you can find the reference of it.
The name of the shawl ‘Kani’ was depicted from the place of the artisans which is Kanihama of Kashmir. In the local language, the word Kani is also meant for the small wooden oblong spool.
Since the Mughal Era, it was loved by the kings and emperors. According to Ain-i-Akbari, King Akbar was an ardent admirer of Kani Shawl and in his collection, there were a number of pieces of this exquisite item. It was loved by the Sikh Maharaja and British Aristocrats as well. It is one of the valuable exported things from the valley since the historical age.
What is the process behind the making of Kani Shawls?
The Kani shawls are made from Pashmina Yarn. It is considered that it is the best of Shawl you can ever buy. The undercoat of the Pashmina Goats that they shed in the spring naturally collected by the local artisans is used to make the most expensive fabric on earth.
The Changthangi goats that reside in the cold desert area of Ladakh grow the undercoat to sustain the temperature of winter (that goes up to -40° C) of the region.
Those soft hairs are separated and cleaned to prepare for yarn spinning. Then the artisans, mostly women, hand spin the hair to make the delicate Pashmina wool in their Charkhas.
After the making of the yarn, it is time to weave the shawl. The difference from other Pashmina shawls with Kani Shawls starts from here. It does not use the shuttle like regular Pashmina weaving but cane or wooden needles are used to weave it.
The designer is known as the naqash who creates the pattern of the shawl. In designing a huge influence of the Mughal Era can be seen. It is quite similar to the flowers and leaves that are woven into the carpet.
The naqash first draw the design on the graph paper and then fill it with colors. The weavers are the craftsmen who bring the design into life with the help of the stick needles that are loaded with different colors of yarns. Surprisingly, there is no embroidery but the design is weaved on the texture of the shawl. That is the exclusiveness of it.
Even there was no bobbin that shuttles from one side to another to make the wrap. The needles that are called Tujis with different colors of yarns are inserted at different points of the thread spread.
The weavers have to follow a code called ‘Talim’ created by the designers to make the design. The ‘Talim’ instruct the weavers the number of wrap thread to be covered by any particular color yarn. Each color has a particular code that the artisans keep in front of them while weaving.
Weaving Kani Shawl is a matter of patience. The craftsmen work for 5 to 7 hours a day in this intriguing process. Depending on the complexity of the design, one weaver can weave a maximum of one inch in a day.
This fact will show you how much patience takes in this time-consuming art of making the Kani Shawl. Considering the size, detailing, and most importantly design, it can be said that it takes almost 6 months to 18 months to weave a Kani Shawl.
From this, you may have understood how much craftsmanship is needed to weave the shawl. It cannot be done by any of the ordinary weavers as it needs special training, knowledge, and patience to executive the subtle technique. The tradition and method of producing the shawls are preserved among the generations of the artisans.
Why Kani Shawls Are Considered as luxurious accessories?
From the above description, you may have found that the amount of labor, time, and intricacy of craftsmanship is required to weave a single Kani shawl is more than any other form of handloom product. For that reason, it is considered as the most expensive.
Due to the exclusiveness of the product, the Kani Shawls are showcased in some renowned museums like the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.
Kani Shawl price
The Kani Jamewar Pashmina Shawl is the highest mark in the craftsmanship in comparison with any other handloom product. The workmanship and labor involve creating the product make it the most expensive Pashmina shawl available in the market.
However, the renowned Talim patterns are now machine weaving on the shawl force a challenge to the Kani Shawl industry as both the designs are similar. The machine woven shawls are commercially available in India along with Kashmir. The copy of machine weave shawl is cost around $54 which is one-twentieth of the original handwoven Kani shawl’s price.
Handmade Kani shawls may seem to be expensive in comparison with machine weave shawl. Handmade shawls may cost approx $1200 USD to $3000 USD and it is totally worth money giving as the efforts and its quality goes into making.
Kani shawls are preserved and displayed in museums like “Victoria and Albert Museum in London”, “The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris” and “The department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York”.
What is the challenge the Kani Shawl industry is facing recently?
In recent times, there are some manufacturers who are imitating the ‘Talim’ to produce machine-made shawls. As they are inspired by the original Kani shawl’s design, the look is almost the same. Moreover, the buyers can purchase those products at a ten-time cheaper rate.
How to overcome the problem of the Kani Shawl industry?
According to the craftsmen of the industry, the Kani Shawl has the GI tag and for that; nothing made outside of the Kanihama can be named Kani Shawl. The genuine buyers can easily differentiate between original Kani Shawl and a machine-made cheap replica of it.
Experts are expected to have micro-chip attached with it to prove its authenticity and originality.
Hence, it is always recommended to buy Kani Pashmina Shawls from an authentic source. For more information’s about buying guides reach us at Angela Jey.