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Pashmina: The Kashmir Shawl and Beyond

Janet Rizvi (Author) Monisha Ahmed (Author)

The classic Kashmir shawl is among the most exquisite textile woven, the product of consummate skill and artistry applied to one of the world's most delicate fibres. It has been an object of desire for Mughal emperors and Sikh maharajas, Iranian nobles, French empresses, Russian and British aristocrats and, eventually, for the increasingly prosperous bourgeoisie created on both sides of the Atlantic by the Industrial Revolution. It has left a permanent imprint on the aesthetic sensibility of the modern world in the so-called paisley, derived from a motif developed in the ateliers of Kashmir's shawl designers.

This authoritatively study introduces the Kashmir shawl as cultural artefact with known history spanning four centuries, and a geographical reference from Tibet to the United States. The authors' original research lays many persistent myths to rest. Monisha Ahmed provides the first authentic account, based on years in the field, of the production of the raw material, pashm or "cashmere". Janet Rizvi shows how the manufacturing technique of the shawl is rooted in skills indigenous to Kashmir's villages, and invites the reader's sympathy with the weavers whose skilled fingers created these amazing textiles, but who were themselves the poorest and most exploited section of the people. She traces the development of technique and design, takes a fresh look at the nature and use of the shawl in Mughal India, and analyses the structure of the industry in the 19th century. Her research reveals the extent of the trade in shawls to Iran and the Ottoman Empire long before they became an article of high fashion in the West. finally, she documents the recent revival in Kashmir of ancient skills believed to have died out.

Lavishly illustrated and accessibly written, this book has much to offer textile scholars, and those interested in the history of Kashmir, or of India's material culture or its pre-modern trade. It will also delight anyone who has ever owned or admired a shawl from Kashmir.

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About the authors

Janet Rizvi

Janet Rizvi, freelance writer and researcher, was brought up in Scotland and graduated with a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge. Married to an Indian Government officer, she spent many years in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Her book Ladakh, Crossroads of High Asia (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2nd edn. 1996) has been continuously in print for 25 years. She is also author of the highly praised Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999). As well as writing the chapter "Woven Textiles" in The Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (ed. Jaya Jaitly, Mapin, Ahmedabad, 1989), She has contributed articles on the Kashmir shawl to several authoritative reference works: The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 2004), The Encyclopedia of India (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 2006), and The Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (forthcoming from Berg Publishers, Oxford). She wrote the chapter "The Asian Trade in Kashmir Shawl" in Textiles from India, The Global Trade (ed. Rosemary Crill, Seagull, Kolkata, 2005).

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Monisha Ahmed

Monisha Ahmed, one of the editors of the volume, is an independent researcher based in Mumbai. She has been visiting and writing about the Himalayan region of Ladakh since 1987. She has a doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford. The subject of her dissertation developed into the book Living Fabric-Weaving Among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalayan, which won the 2003 R.L. Shep award of the Textile Society of America for the year's best book on ethnic textiles. She spends several months of every year in Ladakh, continuing her research on the region's material culture.

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Bibliographic information

Title Pashmina: The Kashmir Shawl and Beyond
Format Hardcover
Date published: 31.03.2009
Edition Reprint
Publisher Marg Publications
Language: English
isbn 8185026904, 9788185026909
length 324p., Plates; Figures; Maps; Appendices; Glossary; Notes & References; Bibliography; Index; 31cm.