Himachal is a state where after every 10 km there is a new region and in each new region is the origin of new unique craft, culture, tradition, and art.
Kullu, the capital town of the Kullu district located on the banks of the Beas River in the Kullu Valley (also known as “Valley of Gods”) is about 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) north of the airport at Bhuntar. Kullu town has an average elevation of 1,278 m and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. As a result of which it experiences the utmost cold in all 12 months of the year. The temperature range in Kullu valley varies from about 20͒C during the summers while December and January, the extreme winter months observing the lowest temperatures ranging from −4 to 20 °C, with some snowfall. Evenings and mornings are also frigid during winters and mostly in summers as well. This effect of climate is also seen in the clothing styles of Kullu people which appears as the creation of a masterpiece called, “ KULLU SHAWLS”- a type of shawl made in Kullu, featuring various geometrical patterns and bright colours.
Originally, the innate Kullvi people weaved plain shawls handcrafted by handlooms without any designs, but with the advent of craftspeople from Bushahr in the early 1940s, the trend of more patterned shawls came to rise. Shawls from Kullu have been produced by hand for hundreds of years.
On one side in the crowded weaving room seated are the Pahari women spinning yarn on the charkhas while on the other are the men and women in front of their large loom weaving, paused to pass the bobbin encased with woollen thread through the skins of warp or operating in the specific detail of the geometrical motif. Their skill spreads in implementing even pressure to the loom, to guarantee that the weave is uniform. Based on an inherited skill and an almost natural perception this craft is nurtured and refined through years of practice. As the skills expanded along with methods of weaving use of patterns was also seen later on. Now the typical Kullu shawls have geometrical designs on both ends and the yarn used are also mill dyed and of natural wool colour.
Kullu Shawls are well recognised throughout the world for its simplistic and artistic designs and the well-made excellent woollen fabric which is extracted from merino wool, local sheep wool, pashmina, angora, and the mixture of these and also for its manufacturing quality.
The Himachali shawl is a fluffy woollen fabric (sometimes mill spun or mostly handspun) measuring 1m x 2m. Draped around and over the shoulders and chest, these shawls are worn by both men and women, but men’s shawls are usually termed "Loi" or "Pattu" and are usually plain without any pattern or insignificant patterned stripes on two edges.
Looking back to the history designs were introduced onto the shawls in the late 1940s, mainly representing the local flora and fauna of the Kullu district, with symbols portraying the Gods of the Valley. They are now contemplated to be a fashion item throughout India and the rest of the world, as well as for warmth and affection.
The shawls now have floral designs, which may run all over. Each design may have up to eight colours. Most popular colours are often vivid bright colours, used to emphasize the shawl and make it more appealing, however, there are instances where the shawl is made with a more dull colour, such as pastel. Shawls are made in many variations of single or multiple designed, invariably brightly coloured to embrace the richness, diversity, and uniqueness of the area.
The cost of these shawls can range depending on its design and additional factors.
In spite of the expensive cost of these shawls, these are very popular amongst its admirers because of its organic essence(handcrafted), elegant designs, and its warm and gracious woollen fabric. Prices of Kullu shawls depends on many factors including the number of those patterns used in shawls, type of design patterns used, the wool quality used, and the quality and character of the fabric made of those wools. Prices of these shawls can vary between Rs. 800/- to Rs 10,000/- and the more expensive shawls are also available in the market but are often hard trying to find.
Performing a very important part in the prosperity of the valley, Kullu shawl is one of the major sources of income for peoples of the valley where thousands of them earn their living by weaving. As many as 20,000 people work part-time and around 10,000 full-time workers earn their bread with this shawl weaving only. These shawls are manufactured in the valley by neighbourhood people who have acquired their talents from their antecedents. These shawls are all woven by hand using handlooms which can be found in almost every house in rural areas. These are used to weave shawls and fabric for other clothes to fulfil their own needs or for commercial purposes. Kullu shawls are also an essential piece of the heritage of Himachal Pradesh due to which state government provides many privileges to weavers so this heritage can prosper and can be protected.
These days some outside businesses especially from Ludhiana, are providing cheap factory-made shawls with mimicked designs and sell it on big discounts. These are leaving a poor impression about authentic Kullu Shawls' market and valley’s economy. Consequently, it is demotivating weavers who have been working on this craft since decades making this beautiful art die a slow death. Handmade Kullu shawls are getting a very tough competition because of its relatively higher cost as it requires a lot of hard work.
There were many steps taken by the state government lately to prevent such duplicacy. Most crucial of them all is assigning of Geographic Indicator (GI) to Kullu Shawls (http://hpscste.nic.in/pbulletin/third.html) which is found only on those shawls which have been manufactured in the Kullu only and made using the handlooms. This is to regulate the sale of power-loom-made shawls in the name Kullu Shawls.
How to make sure whether you are buying original or fake??
Follow these tips to guarantee you do not end up purchasing false, factory-made shawls:
- Do not fall for discounts.
- Avoid referrals from Taxi drivers.
- Check for GI mark as a symbol of originality