In a rare move to preserve traditional techniques and revive the lost art of handmade shawls, officials in Kashmir have announced plans to double the wages for women artisans who spin yarn for the famous pashmina shawls.
The move is expected to encourage more women to return to the practice, which has seen a significant decline in recent years due to low wages and the use of machines.
Shaista Shabir, a resident of Chount Waliwar Ganderbal, while talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said the traditional methods of spinning yarn are quickly disappearing but the new initiative could help preserve them for future generations. “The old techniques developed in Kashmir are rapidly disappearing. Poor wages and machines have played a role in removing women who roamed the best yarns in the world. The move aims to revive the lost synthesis of hand-made shawls,” she said.
Toiba Rehman, another artisan, said spinning yarn was once considered a necessary skill for marriage and that the hand-cranked spinning wheel or “Charkha” was once a beloved symbol in poetry and song. “Thanks to new technologies, the hand-cranking spinning wheel has all but disappeared from everyday use. However, the women are grateful for the opportunity to learn the traditional skills again through a training center set up by the handloom department,” she said.
Toiba said the decline in women’s participation in shawl weaving has also led to a decrease in the number of women involved in the various steps of hand-made shawl production, including sorting, dusting, de-hairing, combing, spinning and finishing. “With the new initiative, officials hope to see a resurgence in the number of women artisans and a renewed appreciation for the traditional hand-made shawls,” Toiba said.
Assistant Director Handicrafts and Handloom department, Ganderbal, Zahid Rashid told KNO that there are three training centers for pashmina weaving in the district. “Each center has a capacity of 20 students, and a total of 60 girls are currently enrolled in these centers,” he said.
Zahid also spoke about the benefits of these training programmes, informing that there are both elementary and advanced courses available. “The elementary course lasts for one year and provides students with a stipend of 1,000 rupees per month, while the advanced course lasts for two years and provides a stipend of 1,500 rupees per month,” he said.
Additionally, the government offers various schemes to support these artists, such as the MUDRA scheme which can provide weavers with financial assistance of up to 3.5 lakh rupees, the Assistant Director H&H department said. He stressed upon the importance of self-sufficiency and said the unemployed youth must take advantage of the government schemes and create their own opportunities.