03 November 2020

Tantalizing Tapestry: One string at a time

Himachal Pradesh has a rich history of textile in various materials from cotton to wool to even hemp owing to a rich diversity of land and seasons, facilitating and necessitating the mastery of this art form. The cold weather of winter is prohibitive and requires warm clothing as a survival essential. Moreover, the winters could be drab with the sun hidden for weeks on end.

The mountain magicians, that are the Himachalis, solved these two problems in one stroke! Every region has a vivid and specific set of patterns, designs and motifs, motivated by their cultural and religious beliefs and more. Let us explore some of the known and unknown fabrics and textiles of Himachal Pradesh. Rakkh, an experiential resort in Himachal Pradesh has been at the forefront of showcasing these artforms and textiles for the benefit of weavers and travellers who trot the globe in search of authentic and indigenous experiences.

Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh

A Kullu cap. Credits: HimalayanKraft

Himachal Pradesh can be geographically split into four strips of land, naturally delineated by the mountains:
The High Hills (Temperate Dry) comprising Lahaul, Spiti and Chamba sharing a border with Tibet and much of its influence and culture.
The High Hills (Temperate Wet) comprising Kullu, Shimla with a variety of influences up to the Colonial ones of recent past.
The Mid Hills of Mandi are more humid and have influences from across, including Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand.
Low Hills or the sub mountains of Kangra is a beautiful stretch of mountain ranges which are verdant and fertile, with a rich history of shepherding community. Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir have a large influence on this region. Rakkh, an experiential resort in Himachal Pradesh is in Palampur amidst the hills of Kangra.

Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh

A Lingchay, a traditional shoulder wrap

Given these varying terrain and influences, each region has over the generations developed their own, unique designs and patterns for the textiles that adorn them.

So without much further ado let us list out some of the textiles crafted in Himachal Pradesh.
Pashmina Shawl, although Kashmir takes the crown for this, Himachal also has its own masters who craft masterpieces from the mix of soft and warm pashmina wool and silk to give its lightness, warmth and shine. The embroidery of Pashmina usually belongs to one of the three styles and could take up to 11 months to complete one shawl, no wonder they are the most exquisite and sought after amongst the connoisseurs. Aari, Sozni and Paper-mache are the three variants and deft, masterful hands are required to craft these beauties.

Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh

The weaving station at our resort in Palampur! 

Lingchay is more of a shoulder wrap popular with the womenfolk of Spiti. Although coarse to feel, the colourful patterns make them desirable along with the added benefit of being a completely handwoven and handloom product.
Kinnauri Shawl embodies the five elements by the way of five bright colours that are its signature. White stands for water, yellow for earth, red for fire, green for air and blue for ether.
Dhan is a throw for your sofas and chairs. Made of wool, these long strips are soft and are made with traditional motifs and bright colours to liven up the indoor spaces during winters.
Similar to Dhan is Asan, a set cover kind of fabric but much smaller and marked by geometric patterns.
Galochas are handmade carpets. Adorned by the patterns of a dragon or a set of auspicious symbols as a central motif on a plain base, or repetitions of anyone auspicious symbol filling the centre with a traditional border is made of local sheep wool.
Chuktus are smaller carpets made from mountain goat wool which is coarser adorned by tribal motifs.
Pattoo and Patti were the traditional dresses for women and men for the longest time in the regions of Kullu, Manali. Kinnaur. Lahaul and Spiti.
But the crowning glory of it all is the Kullu caps with their bright designs. The cylindrical body or rim fits the head perfectly with a flat top giving it a rather stylish appeal for something as old and traditional. Dyed with vegetable dyes and colours these Kullu caps are a proud statement of sustainability.
Rakkh, an adventure resort in Himachal Pradesh has its own weaving station where locals help you try your hand at creating Kangri Shawls among other things. Along with being a fun activity, it is also very meditative and therapeutic. So why don’t you decide to go shopping for some local fashion and give it your own twist as is the trend these days? A stay at Rakkh resort in Himachal Pradesh brings along with it immersions into local artforms and more.

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Ghamrota Village Post Office Ballah ,Tehsil Palampur, District Kangra, Jiun, Himachal Pradesh 176061