The mighty Himalayas tower over the Indian subcontinent with their majesty. They are a source of wonder, challenge, and much more for all. The Himalayas through the ages have been the stuff of myths and lore, a font of spirituality, and an inspiration to artists, poets, and writers.
The regions in Himalayan foothills which have developed in the benign shadow of these mountain ranges have a culture and lifestyle that is unique. Himachal Pradesh is ones such state of India whose very name stands for the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. Though the beauty of the districts of Himachal Pradesh is spectacular, what is also true is the fact that in the remote hilly regions, life is not as easy as it is in the plains. Inclement weather conditions and accessibility issues always hamper development. This calls upon all the resourcefulness, skills, and resilience of the people of the land. The people of the Himalayan ranges have always shown their endurance and skills in various facets of life, be it music, sports, or arts.
The Exquisite Weaves of Himachal – The Genesis
One of the unique aspects of Himachal that bring out the best of the creativity and innovation of the people living in Himachal Pradesh is their handicrafts and handlooms. The best expression of this creativity is found in the traditional handloom and handicrafts of the Kullu region.
Necessity is the mother of invention, it is said. The bitter cold winters of the Kullu region meant people needed protection in the form of warm clothing. This gave rise to the wool weaving industry in the region. Almost every house of the region is into weaving and own what is called a pit loom.
The weaving of exquisite clothing material which started off as a necessity and for the use of the people slowly branched into the commercial genre. The weaving is done now for self-use as well as for trade purposes. The handloom weaving has blossomed into a cottage industry in the Kullu valley.
The Famous Weaves of the Kullu Valley
The star attraction and showstopper of the weaves of the Kullu region is undoubtedly the Kullu shawl. The shawls with their vibrant colours and intricate geometric motifs protect the Kullu women from the icy Himalayan winds. However, with the passage of time, these Kullu shawls have evolved into modern fashion accessories and found their way to the cities. A Kullu shawl makes for an elegant and useful souvenir to take home. The origins of the Kullu shawl can be traced to the Kinnaur region in the upper reaches of the Himalayas from where the weavers migrated to Kullu and settled down there, and the region became known for its iconic shawls. The shawls are priced based on the wool used. If the wool is the famed Pashmina wool than the shawl is of coursed priced quite high.
The men’s equivalent of the Kullu shawl is known as Loi or Chaddar and is bigger in size. The Loi is more of a functional accessory to keep the cold out and is generally plain and comes in shades of black or grey, minus the elaborate colour and designs of the Kullu shawl.
It is fascinating to note that the Kullu weavers weave borders separately from wool. These are long strips with different widths and were initially used for the Kullu caps, but are now used as borders for shawls, jackets, and other apparel also.
The Kullu cap is, of course, the emblem or insignia of the region and has become synonymous with the state of Himachal Pradesh, a sort of state icon. The Kullu cap is a traditional headgear of the men of the region. The design on the cap represents the region from which the person hails. The cap with colourful borders is a visual treat, and definitely, a must buy when one is in Kullu. The cap is sure to bring alive the vibrancy of the mountainous region even when one has gone back home.
Another woollen garment to protect against the cold weather which has evolved into a stylish fashion accessory is the Muffler. The Muffler is worn around the neck. The Muffler in Kullu is usually woven from Pashmina, Angora, or Merino wool.
A visit to the Himalayan ranges would be incomplete if one returned without these exquisitely handcrafted weaves. Sterling Manali situated in the picturesque environs of Manali and very near to the Kullu valley is an ideal place to start your explorations of the exquisitely handcrafted beauties of the region.