Himalayas Kashmir Valley

Ancient and historical Kashmir as a country inhabited by Kashmiris has existed for more than 5,000 years.


Cashmere During the 13th century, the Sufi saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani from Iran, travelling on the Silk Route, visited Kashmir accompanied by hundreds of disciples, many of whom settled in Kashmir. He discovered the Changthangi goat in the high-altitude Ladakh. He saw the superlative quality of the wool and gifted sets of woven socks to the then-king of Kashmir. Impressed by the warmth of the wool, the King provided patronage to the craftsmen and in no time pashmina weaving took over the valley. The mass conversion of the Kashmir Valley to Islam occurred in the fourteenth century.

Cashmere is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats, pashmina goats and other breeds. It has been used to make yarn, textiles and clothing for hundreds of years. The word "cashmere" derives from an anglicisation of Kashmir. Unfortuantely the high demand for the wool causes much abuse of the animals.


The demand for the fiber has caused the sale of yarns or textiles containing little to no real cashmere. Mislabeling after testing for cashmere content, were reported by the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute to the Federal Trade Commision, leading to more stringent examination of cashmere products in the US.


Angora Rabbits

These gentle, docile and clean animals, rabbits, live their entire lives isolated in wire cages. Rabbits are socially complex, and intelligent animals with individual personalities, just like dogs and cats. They make wonderful pets and are gentle with children. To live as condemned and regularly tortured prisoners is another black mark against humanity

Why is their hair pulled out rather than cut ? Because longer fibres get more money. So breeders pull the hair out from its roots. Once the rabbit has had all its hair pulled out , it is put back into its cage till it grows back and then the process is repeated.

There is no cruelty-free way that Angora rabbits are kept... Some few brands are leading the way for ethical Angora, Being totally transparent about their production. Ethical angora producers William and Elizabeth Sichel of Orkney Angora talk about their ethical production in China.

Angora Goats - Mohair

The Angora is perhaps the most common fiber-producing goat. Surprisingly, fiber called Angora is only from Angora rabbits; fiber from the Angora goat is called mohair. Angora goats originated in Turkey and are productive fiber growers, yielding from 8 to 16 pounds of lustrous mohair each year. Large but not the largest, they range from 75 pounds for does to 150 pounds for bucks.

Angoras have long locks of fiber cascading down each side. These goats require twice-yearly shearing for fiber and the goats’ best interests. Angoras, and fiber breed goats cannot shed their coats. If they are not sheared or clipped, fiber can felt to the body and become worthless. It’s best to sheer twice yearly. Some people prefer to comb the fiber off as it begins to release.

Sheep Wool

Sheep herding for wool causes the least abuse of the wool animals. Wool is harvested once a year, in the spring. India is the seventh largest producer of wool in the world. The state that produces the largest amount of wool is Rajasthan.

The under-hair is softer and finer, enabling a soft yarn to be spun. This is preferable for making clothing. Coarser hair is preferred for carpets as it is rough. The appeal of wool garments is that they hold in heat extremely well. Additional benefits of wool include its durability and its versatility, as it can be woven into both heavy, coarse fabrics and lightweight, soft fabrics.

The Tibetan Chiru or the Tibetan Antelope is an animal found only in Ladakh and some parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The fine hair on its underbelly and chest is used to make woolen shawls. The wool is known as Shahtoosh which translates to “King of Wools”. Due to rampant poaching, India has banned the trade of Shahtoosh.

Karnah is the best fine wool sheep breed of India. Its white wool has traditionally been used for making famous Kashmiri shawls and other woolen garments. Due to indiscriminate crossbreeding, Karnah and all other native breeds of state have come to the edge of extinction.

Bakharwal breed of sheep from Jammu and Kashmir is famous for making woollen shawl.

Chokla sheep are considered to be the best wool in India and Rajasthan, hence Chokla sheep is also called the Merino of India.


In early 1990, the vast majority of Kashmiri Hindus fled the Kashmir valley in a mass-migration due to the violence. More of them left in the following years so that, by 2011, only around 3,000 Hindu families remained. Kashmiri Pandits believed they were forced out of the Valley either by Pakistan and the militants it supported or the Kashmiri Muslims as a group.

Kashmiri Pandits have formed an organization called Panun Kashmir ("Our own Kashmir"), which has asked for a separate homeland for Kashmiri Hindus in the Valley, they have opposed autonomy for Kashmir on the grounds that it would promote the formation of an Islamic state. Their return to the homeland in Kashmir also constitutes one of the main points of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's election platform.




Wool Weaving & Embroidery

WEAVERS: “A quiet locale called Eidgah is home to the pashmina weavers,” Usmaan runs Kashmir Walks, a company that champions the timeless Kashmiri arts and crafts to the world by introducing the otherwise faceless master weavers to their patrons. I was on a craft walk with him to meet the weavers at work.

Jan Mohammed is an award-winning pashmina master weaver. The attic doubled up as his workshop and hanks of dyed pashmina yarn hung on display racks. As he ran the de-haired pashm on an upright wooden comb, it became easy to understand why pashmina earned the moniker ‘soft gold’. The combing filters the pure pashm off their prickly overcoat, leaving the most valuable dregs of ultra-silky strands. “Only 400 grams of wool in total are permitted from a single pashmina goat annually,”

On the first floor, ladies were spinning the airy puffs of fleece into yarn. This hand-spun comes as delicate as a tenth of the width of a strand of human hair. The next course of action was dyeing. The skilled dyers, or rangers, only use natural colours that include indigo, lac and kermes, logwood, safflower and saffron for shades of blue, red, dull red and yellow, respectively. They achieve a wider colour palette only by combining different dyes.

In the vicinity, all have in-house looms. He invited us to one where fifth-generation artisans carry on old techniques of weaving by hand with the finest yarn sourced from the rare, high-altitude Changthangi goat. Pashmina only qualifies as pashmina if the tapestry achieves a fineness of 10 to 15 microns in diameter.

At the embroiderer’s workshop, a person, his head low over the folds of the shawl in his lap, was working on sozni, a style of  needle embroidery. He was creating a reversible pattern decorated in two different colours—one side of the shawl is the mirror image of the other. The more intricate sozni embellishments that cover the whole body are graded as jamawars.

Kani The kani sozni is an embroidery style where fine needlework lends the fabric the appearance of tapestry. Patterns—luscious flowers and twining leaves of chinar, paisley or ambi derive inspiration from the lush mountains and valleys of Kashmir. What pushes kani into the repertoire of rare weaves is how differently coloured weft yarns are introduced at intervals, sometimes 10 to 16 times within a single line of weaving, by employing small wooden sticks, called kanis in Kashmiri.


Kashmiri designer Zubair Kirmani's own unique design is Khatamband. His label Bounipun has a series of signature shawls and stoles, deep-rooted in tradition and at the same time modern and beyond the traditional craft. His digital prints on delicate pashmina stoles, carry khatamband motifs, through which splashes of colours overrun. His collections have already found presence across fashion outlets in France, Spain and Italy.



CARPETS: Srinagar’s downtown network of lanes twist and turn around the mud-colored waters of the Jhelum River. Sultan Khan & Sons, Carpets and Shawls. In a dimly lit room on the top floor of the house, Sultan Khan works on his wooden loom. On the day that I visit, he is making a carpet, his long fingers moving quickly across a thick strip of threads. Some signs and letters are scribbled across a parchment. that Khan has to follow as he makes the carpet. “Twenty years ago, there were at least 100 families in this mahalla (locality) who had the loom. Now, only two have remained in the trade,” says Sultan’s son, Aslam Khan, in Hindi. “My father has been weaving on this loom for the last 50 years, a skill that he learnt from his father. He is an ustaad (master craftsman) of carpet weaving.” With anywhere from 200 to 900 knots per square inch, it is one of the most intricate forms of weaving in the world. Always handmade and knotted, never tufted. 15th century imported art from Persia. To this day, Kashmir carpets and shawls still follow the centuries-old tradition of intricate motifs established by the earliest practitioners. The craft’s beauty lies in that detailed needlework.


The first few years of the present decade had been a period of relative calm and the weavers felt optimistic about the future of their craft. However, since 2016, their dreams of rebuilding their industry have faded away due to escalating violence. That period of unrest ended in early 2017, sporadic violence still continues across the valley.

There are many other obstacles as well. The cost of raw materials, has become prohibitively expensive. Unusually severe winters in the upper reaches of the Kashmir Valley have led to the death of thousands of goats and the market is flooded with cheaper machine made domestic substitutes. Most importantly, the younger generations living in Kashmir are not interested in weaving. 41-year-old Faiyyaz, one of the youngest of the 15 weavers is employed at Shaukat Hussain’s workshop,

"I am getting less orders for Kani and Pashmina shawls these days,” Wani says. “Some of my outsourcing units in villages have closed down because there’s not much order for them.” “As snow blankets the valley for the long months of winter, villagers confined indoors wove shawls, embroidering colorful patterns by hand before selling them in the spring” “The situation has changed a lot recently with most of our weaving families shifting to other professions.” Artisans are underpaid, and the Kashmiri youth is increasingly disinterested in weaving.



History of Kashmir: A Hindu kingdom during the Mahabharata period. It became a part of the Buddhist Mauryan empire between the 3rd and 1st Centuries BCE. The Emperor Ashoka founded the beautiful city of Srinagari in the 3rd Century BCE.

Modern Srinagar dates back to the 7th Century. Buddhism flowered in Kashmir under King Ashoka, who dispatched hundreds of monks from Gandhara to spread the faith, at the same time building a Shiva temple at Vijeshwari to support what was then the Hindu religion of the majority. Buddhism continued to blossom in close proximity to Hinduism under Ashoka’s son and grandson, The Fourth Buddhist Council in the first century at Harwan, ... today’s Shalimar Garden in Srinagar... The council drew 500 Buddhist and Hindu scholars from all over the region, including China, to codify Sarvastivada, the precursor to Mahayana Buddhism.

After the 14th century, the city came under the Mughal rule and was ruled by the Muslim Kings. . It was in the year 1707 that the Mughal dominion came to en end then Srinagar came under the reign of the Durrani Empire. This empire was the leader of the Pasthun tribe and they ruled on Srinagar for multiple decades. It was in 1814 that the rule of Sikhs was established and Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled over Kashmir.Till the year 1947 Srinagar was considered as a princely state in the British India. 

By executing an Instrument of Accession under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to accede his state to the Dominion of India. October 1947. The then Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten, accepted the accession. Some tribes from Pakistan tried to enter the city. The Maharaja wanted an independent state and did not accept the rule of Indian or Pakistani government. However, he signed an accession on October 26th 1947 when Pakistani tribesmen tried to capture the city and the government of India then sent troops to stop the Pakistani tribesmen. Maqbool Sherwani was a National Conference member who delayed the march of Pakhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan and rebel forces (of then Jammu Kashmir State) in Baramulla in October 1947. To save Kashmir from Pakistan.

India claims the entire former British Indian princely state of Jammu and Kashmi. Pakistan insists on claiming most of the region based solely on its Muslim-majority population. Presently Muslims make up about 90% of Srinagars population. Many thousands of Hindu Kashmiris have fled around 1990 because they were threatened by the violence of terrorist attacks from Pakistanis..

Gondola ride in Gulmarg, Kashmir. SRINAGAR: altitude 5,200 ft . Gulmarg 9,000 feet.

Late Summer and monsoon. There is an onset of light rain in July. The Srinagar monsoon is not very heavy. The valley looks beautiful at this time and you can walk through the meadows and listen to the raindrops... In October the terrible air pollution starts to build up and peaks throughout November.

Jesus is alleged to have lived and herded sheep in Yuzmarg, an easy drive from Srinagar. A beautiful meadow and river place, A day trip. Another day trip, up to Harwan and view of the mountain where local belief is that Jesus was buried there, after he lived out his life.

Many, countless, hotels in Srinagar. Always check if they have an elevator and real heat or AC! East of Dal Lake the air is less polluted. The houseboats are great in the summer.

Best Chinese restaurants in Srinagar are: Lasha, Tibetan Bowl and Nun Kun. Fancy dining in the Lalit and Dal View. Ahdoos Restaurant and Bakery in town is very popular.

Musoorie Wool

Musoori, a hill station, is a one hour drive up above Dehradun. In a small village outside Mussoorie the 'Himalayan Weavers of Masrana' live and work and promote the use of natural dyes on wool. We have discovered the idea of wrapping electric blankets around recycled 100 litre tanks and covering these with insulation sheets. These blankets keep the dye bath uniformly warm and produce dyed yarn of excellent quality. Also, as the blankets consume very little electricity, and there is no heat loss from the tank, the system is highly energy efficient.

Interested in rural development, mountain agriculture and in the use of environment-friendly technologies, Ghayur and his wife Patricia decided to create a website for selling the products woven by the locals. They set up their base in village Masrana, which is between Dhanaulti and Mussoorie and thus was born their eco-friendly enterprise - Himalayan Weavers - in 2005.

The villages around are old and rich in the culture of the Garhwal Himalayas. One of their shops there, near Musoorie, is very scenic. Their other shop is in Rajpur village in Dehradun.

Dehradun wools

Garhwali Kingdom was one of the few kingdoms that never came under the Muslim rule influence. The history of Garhwal is older than that of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Worshipping Lord Shiva, according to the great Mahabharata, Garhwal is believed to be the land where the Vedas and the Shastras were made

Close to 2000 Tibetan people now reside in the area.

Their main livelihood depends upon the traditional handicrafts of the Tibetan carpet, shoulder bags and woolen weavings like sweaters, socks and hats. Tibetan refugees in Dehradun are able to live well despite being refugees. There is a 'Tibetan Womens' Centre where refugees make hand knotted rugs and crafts. Nice shops in town.



COTTON: The glory of Rajasthan is because of the color fabric. Fabrics are found in Maru Gurjar tradition. The Garasia women wear garasion, Mina women wear dhaniya chunari, and the Gurjar women another. So Rajasthan is the state which has made use of all the colors. Rajasthan is also famous for hand block printing. The remarkable and magnificent combination of pink, red, orange and purple, . The specialty of Rajasthan block printing is floral print and pattern which are prepared with vegetable color. Of the 862 spinning mills in India, 69 spinning mills are in Rajasthan.

WOOL: Rajasthan hosts 20-30% of India's sheep and goat population, and the region produces 40% of the country's mutton and 42% of its wool. About 70% of India's camels are found in Rajasthan, the vast majority of which are kept by the Raika.

The Raika represent one of the largest groups of livestock herders in India, they have managed to thrive in a harsh, semi-desert environment.

The Marwari is an Indian breed of domestic sheep. It originates in, and is named for, the Marwar Rajasthan. The Marwari is a small sheep, It has white body and a black face, both sexes are without horns. The ears are unusually small. The Marwari sheep is raised for its coarse wool, of carpet quality. Traditionally associated with camel breeding, a majority of Raika is currently engaged in herding sheep, often in migratory systems. The Raika depend on middlemen to market live animals and wool. While there is some grumbling about the high margins obtained by these people, it is difficult to operate without them. Demand for slaughter animals is high. Muslim agents regularly visit the Raika homesteads looking for animals to buy.

In the wool market, the middlemen are also from the Raika community. For the less literate, unskilled and low income farmers, sheep farming is their main source of income. The Raika are a Hindu caste specialised in livestock breeding and at home in the Marwar area of Rajasthan.

Sheep farming plays a major part in the economy of Rajasthan. The sheep are generally raised in small flocks of 30 t0 50 sheep. During the summer months the herds are migrated to neighboring states away from the arid regions. Sheep provide meat and wool products. They are used for weed control and for their rich dung as fertilizer for food crops. The Nitrogen and phosphoric acid are 2.5 times richer than in cow manure.

According to community leaders, sheep breeding, that had once been a very profitable business, no longer provides attractive economic returns, mainly due to a decline of wool prices, but meat prices are increasing the demand. There are many different breeds of sheep in Rajasthan.


MARWAN wool: Most disease resistant. Very drought resistant. Has long life. Can withstand lack of food. Wool is soft and thin.

SONADI wool: Needs good food and water. Not good for migration. Selective eater. Wool is course. Good milk. Grows fast.

PATANWADI wool: From North Gujarat. Fast walker. Eats everything. Wool is long and soft and fine. Grows fast.


Bujodhi wools

As the early morning cold winter breeze blows desert sand in Gujarat's Kutch, weavers of Bhujodi village get ready to begin work on their handlooms. By 6am, the sounds of the looms take over the morning silence. More than 350 weaver families start making shawls, stoles, sarees and dress materials for national and international buyers before the first rays of the sun touch the village in Bhuj.

Weavers of the Vankar community migrated from Rajasthan to Gujarat hundreds of years back. The Rabaris, who already lived in Kutch, had access to sheep wool and excelled in embroidery. But they did not possess weaving skills. Thus began their association with the Vankar community members, who would weave dhabla shawls used by Rabaris during the cold winter months. And the craft came to be known as dhabla weaving, now famous across the world for its traditional weave and natural colours.

In 1965 when Mumbai-based designer Prabha Shah visited the village and saw the craft. She was in awe of their designs and helped Shamji’s father Vishram Valji set up an exhibition in Mumbai. That was the family’s first opportunity to understand urban tastes and requirements. 

The Valji family began to make shawls for city dwellers using soft and light merino wool. The traditional designs in the red, indigo, beige and natural browns were loved by the buyers and the family began to receive orders. The word spread and there was no looking back. 

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Ahmedabad Saris weavers: Ahmedabad’s Ashavali sarees

Recently, they have associated with Gujarat State Handloom and Handicraft Development Association to promote the craft.






Varanasi's famous Silk Wedding Sarees.





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Avatar Meher Baba Samadhi - Tomb Shrine.


The Samadhi can be visited directly from either Pune or Ahmednagar. You need to hire a car with a driver who knows how to drive to the parking up the hill, near the Samadhi. Open to everyone from 7 am to 7 pm.

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