By Prateek Sharma in VARANASI: From the Himalayan heights of Leh-Ladakh to the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, the Pashmina legacy handcraft has taken on a new identity.
The premium Pashmina products created by Varanasi’s highly talented Khadi weavers were launched on Friday in Varanasi by Chairman KVIC, Vinai Kumar Saxena.
Pashmina items are being produced outside of the Leh-Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir regions for the first time. KVIC will sell “Made in Varanasi” Pashmina goods through its showrooms, outlets, and online platform.
Pashmina is well-known as a fundamental Kashmiri art form, but its revival in Varanasi, India’s spiritual and cultural capital, is distinctive in many respects.
The preparation of Pashmina in Varanasi frees this legacy craft from regional constraints and provides a confluence of different artistry from Leh-Ladakh, Delhi, and Varanasi.
The first two Pashmina shawls manufactured by Varanasi weavers were presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 4th by Chairman KVIC, Vinai Kumar Saxena, prior to the formal introduction of Pashmina products in Varanasi.
JOURNEY OF PASHMINA FROM LADAKH TO VARANASI
The process of producing Pashmina in Varanasi begins with the collection of raw Pashmina wool from Ladakh, which is then transported to Delhi for de-hairing, cleaning, and processing.
The processed wool is brought back to Leh in the form of roving, where it is handspun into yarn by women Khadi artists using contemporary Charkhas given by KVIC.
The resulting yarn is then transferred to Varanasi, where it is woven into final Pashmina goods by professional Khadi weavers. The name of the weavers and the name of the city Varanasi will also be quietly imprinted on the Pashmina items manufactured by Varanasi’s weavers as a symbol of authenticity and affiliation.
Vinai Kumar Saxena, Chairman of KVIC, praised the highly skilled Pashmina spinners and weavers, as well as the sheer amount of hard work needed in manufacturing this historical craft, in a poetic tone.
“Just as the fragrance of a flower does not have any colour, a stream of water or the blowing wind does not have any destination and the rays of the rising sun or the smile of an innocent child does not have any religion; a thread of Khadi too is a unique creation of the nature because the one making them does not belong to any region or religion…He is just an Artisan,” Saxena said.
He went on to say that Pashmina manufacture alone in Varanasi would bring about Rs 25 crore to Khadi’s turnover in Varanasi.
The major objective behind this rediscovery of Pashmina in Varanasi is to create long-term employment prospects for women in Ladakh while also diversifying the abilities of traditional weavers in Varanasi, as intended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As an exception, Pashmina weavers in Varanasi are getting paid more than 50% more, which is a significant boost for these craftspeople. In Varanasi, Pashmina weavers get paid Rs 1300 for weaving a Pashmina shawl, as opposed to Rs 800 for producing a conventional woollen shawl.
Pashmina weaving in Varanasi would ensure round-the-year livelihood to women artisans in Leh-Ladakh where spinning activities are suspended for nearly half the year due to the extreme cold. To facilitate this, KVIC has also set up a Pashmina wool processing unit in Leh.
Notably, Pashmina weaving in Varanasi is being done by 4 khadi institutions namely: Krishak Gramodyog Vikas Sansthan, Varanasi, Shri Mahadev Khadi Gramodyog Sansthan, Ghazipur, Khadi Kambal udyog sansthan, ghazipur and Gram Sewa Ashram, Ghazipur.