Kashmir, a place bestowed with mesmerizing physical beauty and a dense traditional tokens passed from generations to generations, is the lead producer of fine thread, Pashmina, in India, which when woven together, symbolizes the cultural ancestry of Kashmiri folk. Kashmiri pashmina has marvelously fabricated its way into the global markets and has attained a position, which it has sustained for decades, with its superior caliber.
Pashmina, internationally known as “cashmere”, a fine luxury fiber, produced from Changthangi goats bred in the Ladakh region of India. The Leh district of Greater Ladakh produces around 30000 kg of pashmina fiber which is harvested from about 0.15 million Changthangi goats reared by the Changpa nomads in Changthang region of Greater Ladakh. Changthangi goats are sometimes also called Changra goats.
The height of these goats ranges from 60-80 centimeters and the average weight of male and female goats is about 45 and 35 kilograms respectively.
The body color of Changthangi goats varies from white to light brown and nearly whole body is covered with pashmina and long hairs. They possess wide horns, have blocky builds, and refined features. These goats tend to be alert and cautious, rather than docile and placid.
The length of a single strand of pashmina is around 4.25 ± 1.2 cm in males and 4.02 ± 1.5 cm in females while fiber diameter in male and female goats is estimated to be 12.9 ± 2.6 μ and 13.0 ± 3.0 μ, respectively.
Pashmina fibers are collected during spring molting season when these goats naturally shed their winter coat. Combing is the major way of harvesting Pashmina. Since combing and manual separation is labor intensive so combing is often replaced by shearing.
Pashmina in its raw form has to go through certain phases before it can be weaved into actual products. Yarn spinning being the first, is done by women who have mastered the art of hand spinning the delicate raw pashmina to fine yarn. To spun it into fine yarn, sorting of raw pashmina is done according to quality and length of fiber and then physical impurities are removed. Later after washing it in plain water, carding is done. In carding, entangled fibers are separated and straightened manually using two wooden combs. It is then spun on a spinning wheel known as “Charkha” or “yander” to get the fine yarns. The spun yarn is dyed before weaving. Only natural ingredients are used in the dyes, which produce different colors depending on the concentration used. It is pertinent to mention that dyeing of the Pashmina is being done using mostly organic compounds. After the yarn is dyed, yarn is weaved on handlooms into various products.
Majority of Pashmina is utilized for preparation of shawls in Kashmir. These shawls are hand woven only and involve labor in sorting, spinning and weaving on specified handlooms.
Kashmiri artisans did not confine themselves to making shawls only. They weaved these fine strands into variety of products, that exported throughout the world.
Pashmina and pashmina producing goats are of greater significance for revitalizing the economy of Kashmir. Their revitalizing function rejuvenates the economic scope for Kashmiri pashmina artisans. To attain superior profits, Kashmiri artisans’ need to work on maintaining a unique position in the global market, that they have held for decades, but often shaken by the global competition.
Phamb, focuses on taking Kashmiri pashmina back to its unique and original position that it held for decades. Phamb, discovered a unique strategic position that has been overlooked by the Kashmiri artisans. It aims to attain and then sustain that position without imitating or straddling but by exploring and utilizing the new sources of technology.