Amazing Places: Srinagar – The Cradle of Cashmere Production

Srinagar, often known as ‘Paradise on Earth,’ is located in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, on the banks of the Jhelum River.

Srinagar is famous for its fixed houseboats and gondola-style rowboats called Shikaras in Dal Lake. Srinagar is particularly well-known for its dry fruits and authentic Cashmere handicraft.

The Beautiful city of Srinagar

Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley is the summer administrative seat of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in the western Himalayas and the seat of the district administration.

The city is situated on both banks of the Jhelum River, known as Vyath in Kashmir. The river flows past the city and meanders across the valley, eventually entering and deepening in Dal Lake.

The city is well-known for its nine historic bridges that connect the city’s two halves.

Because of its many waterways, Srinagar is often compared to Venice. Top sights include a 7th-century temple, a 16th-century fort, and the Buddhist ruins site near Srinagar.

The inhabitants of the city are clearly different from the people in the rest of India, and you can clearly FEEL a Central Asian atmosphere.

Srinagar is widely renowned for its many mosques and temples. The Hazratbal Mosque has the Prophet Muhammad’s hair, and the Jāmi Masjid (Congregational Mosque or Friday mosque), established in the 15th century, is claimed to be Kashmir’s largest mosque.

With its “Floating Gardens” and the surrounding Shalimar and Nishat gardens, Dal Lake is a popular tourist destination.

Carpet and silk mills, jewelry and copperware manufacturing, leatherworking, and fine woodworking are among the industries of Srinagar. The city is home to the Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium, which has hosted international cricket matches.

Also, the historical origin of Cashmere is in Srinagar, the city is famous for its handmade ethical pashmina shawls, traditional craft weaving and textile embroidery from cashmere yarns.

There are many names for the surroundings of Srinagar, such as “The Switzerland of Asia,” the “Dream Garden of the Mughal Rulers,” or the “Emerald among the white pearls of the Himalayas.”

White mountain peaks rise above a dreamlike landscape full of lakes. In addition, lush green forests, wild orchards, fragrant meadows and mighty glaciers characterize the region.

The enchanting smile of the people of Srinagar

There are many reasons to travel to Srinagar, but it is first of all the people who fascinate. If you look into their eyes, you will discover a friendly smile that spreads across their faces in conversation and flows in invisible waves throughout the city.

If you ask the inhabitants of Srinagar if you can take their picture, they nod delightedly, pose patiently and then look at their picture on the display with childlike pride.

Children shyly ask where you are from and what your name is – then they sheepishly giggle and tell you their own. No one would think of begging for candy or money. Even women don’t mind a nice photo, knowing that they are beautiful in their sarees.

A very special dignity emanates from the old men, in whose faces entire lives are inscribed. There is a pensive pilgrim sitting by the roadside, looking lost at the world.

There is a shepherd driving his flock through the chaos of cars, holding a little lamb in his arms. Another embroiders on a precious bridal robe. Yes, embroidery, sewing and weaving are mainly men’s work, but so are woodcarving and all handicrafts.

A large part of the population lives from handicrafts, and they defend them vehemently against cheap goods from China. Genuine Pashmina Shawls for five euros are not available in Srinagar. Artful handicraft from the fine and noble Cashmere Wool has its price.

Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, is a city of contrasts – noise and chaos next to silence and incredible beauty.  People in modest living conditions, company owners trading with the world. Snow on the mountains, tulips in the valley.

View of Dal lake and boat houses in the heart of Srinagar
View of Dal lake and boat houses in the heart of Srinagar

Squeezed in between Pakistan and India, once left in the dark by the British with unclear territorial agreements, both Pakistan and India lay claim to the land.

Unfortunately, great social injustices and the still unresolved Kashmir Conflict also cast their shadow on life in Srinagar. The Kashmir Conflict is a territorial dispute over the territory of the former Indian princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which was dissolved in 1947.

The parties to the conflict are India, Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China, each of which lays claim to parts of the disputed territory or keeps these areas under control. But not only political domination but also control over natural resources are the reason for these conflicts.

For years there have been border disputes over this, which have also spread across the country. Lately, things have been quiet. Political quarrels are now handled only through the media.

The Kashmiris themselves, if asked where they feel they belong, would say: To neither country, we want our independence. But nobody asks them. They endure the Indian military with remarkable composure.

The textile industry of Srinagar

Many residents of Srinagar are familiar with Kashmir’s textile legacy, including world-renowned masterpieces. Whether it’s Kani shawls or Amlikar needlework, hand-woven textile items are still a specialty of many Kashmiri talented weavers today.

History 

The historical origin of cashmere production is in Srinagar. The city is known for traditional handicraft carpets and textile embroideries made of cashmere yarns.

But when exactly the industrial processing of cashmere fiber began, no one can say exactly today.

History leads back to the 16th century to a Far Eastern ruler with a penchant for luxurious textiles: Muhammad Zahir Ud Din Babur, a descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan.

Under his rule, cashmere weaving developed so tremendously that at the time, 60,000 workers were employed in the northernmost province of the Indian Empire to extract and refine cashmere fibers.

The unusually skilled work of numerous weavers found its way outside South Asia during this time, worn mainly by Kings and royal courtiers. 

Pashmina shawls did not become fashionable among the European elite until the mid-1800s, primarily among the French. The industrial period arrived in the late eighteenth century, bringing a degree of global recognition for this old art form.1

Srinagar - Old Town
Srinagar - Old Town

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Srinagar - House of Persian Carpets

Carpet Weaving

Carpet weaving is one of Kashmir’s oldest businesses. Kashmiri carpets are known for their great colors & natural patterns across the world. Though rugs are created in practically every town in the valley, most of them are produced in and around Srinagar.

The thread of Kashmiri carpets is typically drawn in cotton, while the leaves and texture, which result in a floppy pile, are created using wool, silk, and synthetic fibers. The quality and worth of a rug are determined by the number of knots per sq cm/inch and the yarn, dye-stuff, and finish grade. Along with commercial firms, the government produces Kashmiri qaleens (carpets).

The Cottage Industry Exposition, C.A.E. Carpet Factory, Kashmiri Carpet Factory, East-India Carpet Factory, Oriental Carpet Factory, and John Carpet Factory are prominent carpet manufacturing hubs in Srinagar.

Woolen textiles

Apart from carpet manufacturing, Srinagar has two woolen textile plants in Karan Nagar and Bemina. The Naushehra (Srinagar) wool textile plant procures a high-quality raffle, mainly used to make shawls.

Jammu is known for its woolen hosiery production. The woolen textile sector in the state employs roughly 900 people and generates about Rs. Three crores (Rs. 30 million) each year.

Basket Weaving

These are formed of willow rushes and may build baskets or even lampshades. They are a tad pricey, but they may also be used as glass holders or picnic baskets. The basket weaving village of Hazratbal in Srinagar is well-known across India.

The amazing fabric of Pashmina Shawls

Pashmina (Soft Gold) – is a Cashmere wool kind. Cashmere shawls are a popular fashion item created in Srinagar to complement your winter clothes with their elegant and subtle elegance. This wool has an incredibly soft and lightweight feel.

There are also a few misconceptions about Pashmina. For starters, it all starts with the term ‘Pashmina.’ Pashmina is the indigenous name, whereas Cashmere is used throughout Europe and other nations.

Both terms refer to the same item. It also doesn’t originate from a sheep’s skin or anything like that. It’s made from the hair of a particular Pashmina Goat found in Ladakh that sheds naturally.

Since the goat naturally loses its hair, the raw material for genuine pashmina must be obtained from under the fleece of the mountain goat by combing it out.

The valuable Cashmere Wool for the production of Pashmina is mostly brought in from Ladakh or Tibet.

All processes, from sorting the fibers to spinning and weaving on hand looms are done manually by the craftsmen.

However, this trend is changing as the global market becomes more competitive and the demand for fabrics increases all over the world.

As a result, more and more craftsman are switching to power looms, which are much cheaper and have a higher production capacity than traditional handlooms.

Handlooms can produce only two shawls per day, while power looms can produce 15 capes per day. It also requires less labor, resulting in a decrease in the number of handlooms in the valley.

While the looms have increased production capacity, there are concerns that the change has affected the quality of genuine Pashmina. In addition, the looms have resulted in many people being laid off.

A group of pashmina weavers in the valley is actively campaigning for a ban on the use of looms.

Why Kashmiri Pashmina is one of the most coveted fabrics in the world

Cashmere Fibres
Cashmere Fibres

Many nations across the world produce Cashmere. China is the most significant producer in terms of volume. However, it does not create the highest grade Pashmina.

This is due to the fact that the micron count (fineness of the hair) of Ladakhi Pashmina is 14, whereas China’s is 16.

Furthermore, the notion of handloom is uncommon in China, but artists in the valley have used handlooms from the beginning of Pashmina weaving, which dates back centuries.

The thread count of the cloth also determines the quality of the final fabric. The higher the number, the more supple the fabric. In the valley, the average threat count of Pashmina is approximately 160 – the bare minimum is 30.

It is a skewed connection. The higher the number of threads and the lower the number of microns, the better the Pashmina.

Pashmina products originating from Kashmir have competed against the fine Vicuña harvested from llamas in South America, and rightly attract the attention of the affluent in the posh stores of the West.

Srinagar's silk industry

Since silk production was discovered in China 5,000 years ago, secrets and myths have entwined themselves around the coveted fabric.

A look at history shows that silk has influenced fashion and the economy of entire countries. Srinagar is very proud to host one of the oldest industries in the world – the Silk Industry.

Once, the former Silk Road led from Kashgar – the last stop on Chinese territory -over the Pamir Mountains to Srinagar and from there on to India. Camel caravans brought the valuable fabric from China to Srinagar.

The Silk trade flourished in ancient times and is still the leading industry in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Even today, silk fabrics from Srinagar are in high demand for their excellent quality and the art of traditional craftsmanship.

The silk industry is of great importance to the region’s economy – many jobs depend on it. Silkworms are also bred in Kashmir to produce precious silk – they provide the raw material for the manufacture of exclusive shawls, carpets, stockings and elaborate embroideries.

Most of the silk and wool textile mills are located in Srinagar.

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Places of interest in Srinagar

In addition to the numerous sights and religious sites in and around the city itself, Srinagar is the starting point for trekking tours to explore the northeastern part of the Himalayas, the former principality of Kashmir. The following destinations are worth seeing:

  • Houseboats on the surrounding lakes of the city: Dal Lake, east of Srinagar, is the largest of these lakes and offers a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Himalayas, which can be enjoyed especially at sunrise and sunset.
  • Landscaped gardens from the Mughal period: Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh and Pari Mahal (terraced garden)
  • Floating markets
  • Shankar Acharya Temple: the 4th-century Hindu hilltop temple is the oldest shrine in Kashmir
  • Rozabal Shrine: Referred to in esoteric literature as the Tomb of Jesus after Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed to embody the person of the end-time Messiah in the early 20th century.
  • Hazratbal Shrine: the only domed mosque in the city.
Hazratbal Mosque
Hazratbal Mosque - Srinagar

Real Wool Sheep sheared
Real Alpaca Poncho
Family with Bicycle Trailer
The Vicuna - Princess of the Andes
Outdoor Wool Cloth
ebony girl in Cashmere sweater
colorful Alpacas on River
woman sleepin in Wool blankets

Vicunas in Atacama with snow caped volcano
Raw Cashmere Wool in Basket
Alpaca-fashion-header
Alpaca Coats and Alpaca Ponchos

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  1. The Deep Origins of Kashmir Shawls, Their Broad Dissemination and Changing Meaning. Or Unraveling the Origins and History of a Unique Cashmere Shawl -University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Joan Hart, 2018
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