Handloom Weaving-State of Art of Tribesof Kullu Valley: Himachal Pradesh, India


Most of the craftsfrom the past continue to flourish due to their utilitarian nature,their availability to the common people and popularity indomestic and foreign markets. There is a great demand for rich brocadesand zari work. The repertoire of saris ranges from Banarsi Amru, Tanchoifrom Surat, Paithani, Patola, and Kancheevaram to the cotton saris fromthe tribal regions of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh etc, to enchantthe modern Indian woman. There is a profusion of materials available tothe consumers these days. One can get a variety of garments madeof different silks. Richly embroidered garments, woven shawls andhousehold items are in vogue these days. Mainly craftsmen from Kashmir,Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, North Eastern states etc.create these products. There is a flourishing market for pherans andtablecloths from Kashmir. Woolen shawls from Himachal and North Easternstates are also popular. Products like bed-sheets, table mats, napkins,household furnishings etc. made out using the various styles of textileprinting ranging from tie and dye, block printing, hand-printing etc.are in great demand now a days. Art and craft not only contribute a lotto the sustained development of the countrys rural economy but also contributea prominent element to the cultural interview schedule (Table1)

The results wereinterpreted and discussed here. Data given in table 2 revealed that in privateunits 60 percent of the respondents were engaged with weaving profession from 5-15years. Only 20 percent were engaged from less than five years followed by 12percent from 15-25 years and 8 percent of the respondents were attached withweaving profession from 25 years. In Government units 40 percent of respondentswere engaged from 5-15 years followed by 32 percent respondents engaged from 15-25years and sixteen percent from 25 years and above. Weaving of Kullu shawlsgives income to a good proportion of state population, so many big and smallweavers at household, cottage or industry level dependent

upon handloom weavingfor their living. Table 2 is showing the information regardingcraft learning centre and it was found that maximum of the respondents (42%)were trained in cooperative societies followed by 28 percent of respondentstrained by their family members and 20 percent in private units. Only tenpercent of respondents had learnt this craft from their friends. Duringdiscussion it was found that only 32% of the weavers attended one or anothertraining program.

Table 1: Distributionof respondents according to their profession period (n=50)

Sr. No.

Period (Years)

Commercial Units

Private Units (25)*

Govt.Undertaking (25)*


Less Than 5

5 (20)

3 (12)



15 (60)

10 (40)



3 (12)

8 (32)


More Than 25

2 (8)

4 (16)

* No. of Respondents In One Unit

Table 2: Distributionof respondents according to their craft learning centres (n=50)

Sr. No.




Family Members



a) Government

b) Private




Cooperative Societies





@ Multiple Responses

The Distinctive Handloom Woolen Products Made in Kullu Valley is:

Pattu: A woolen fabric draped by women like a sarong, used for everyday wear are plain or chequered with simple borders. The ones worn during festive occasion are ornately patterned with designs motifs along with the weft as well as warp. Many times pattus may have a red border called Khusti running along the vertical edge. Since the last few years however their is a trend towards stitching a separate khusti or a patterned border at selvedge of the pattu with the intension of reducing the labor involved and making it lesser cost effective, without reducing the visual appearance. The pattu is draped around the body and secured at the shoulders with a pin, locally referred to as the bumni. A muffler or sash is tied around the waist to hold it in place. Men wear shirt, coat, woolen pyjamas and white turban which are now replaced by Kullu cap. In these hilly areas, the garment except the shirt is made of patti. This is a locally manufactured coarse woolen sheet. Cotton trousers are also used.

Shawls of Himachal Pradesh: The shawl is believed to be relatively recent introduction to the tradition of Himachal Pradesh. Shawl weaving today become one of the most flourishing industries a means of livelihood. For people a secondary occupation to augment and supplement their income from farming. It is an employment generation device for household women of hills. The Himachali shawl is a light woolen fabric (mill spun or hand spun) measuring 1mtrs x 2mtrs. It is draped around and over the shoulders and chest. The fibre is merino wool, local sheep wool, pashmina, angora and mixture of these. Yak hairs are also used to add variety. The yarn used are mill dyed and also of natural wool color. Saraf wrote in his book Indian Crafts shawls have been the Himachals specialty. The most noble is these were the soft pashmina wool shawls. Nowadays, most shawls are made of woolen yarn called raffal. These shawls are either plain or patterned. The skilled Himachali weavers found inspiration in their beautiful environment and mythology.

1) Kinnauri Shawl: Widely renowned for their intricacy and fineness in weaving, they are truly unique. Their elaborate geometric designs bear a strong central Asian influence. Many of the motifs woven have a very special symbolic and religious significance. For patterning on white, black, grey and brown backgrounds red, orange, pink, blue, green, yellow, black and white colors are used. Out of which five colors represents five elements. The white stands for water, yellow for earth, red for fire, green for air and blue for ether. Many times, they have patterned border running along the four edges thereby increasing the labor involved and making them more expensive than Kullu shawls.

2) Kullu Shawls: Kullu shawls enjoy a unique position among different famous shawls of India. Hand-woven Kullu shawls are known for the unique process and techniques that give them significant value addition. Traditionally Kullu shawls have three borders at the end (Bansal et al. 1997). Kullu shawls own its origin to the Kinnauri shawls. The Kulvi designs and motifs woven today have originally been derived from intricate kinnauri designs that have been enlarged enormously and simplified with the passage of time. This has been resulted into a reduction unit of the people. Seated on one side of the crowded weaving room and pahari women spinning yarn on the charkhas, while the men and women who are weaving, sit before their large loom, pausing to pass the bobbin wrapped with woolen thread through the skeins of warp or working in the precise detail of the geometrical motif. Their skill lies in applying even pressure to the loom, to ensure that the weave is uniform. Based on an almost intuitive perception and an inherited ability the craft skill is nurtured and developed through years of practice. The state government apart, the great demand for shawls, caps and mufflers is the impetus that has transformed a domestic, need-oriented industry into a craft of high standards. Professional weavers from Kullu town have set up their workshops at Kullu-Manali highway. The Kullu dussehera, the Minjor fair held in Chamba town in August and September and numerous rural fair provide the weavers and traders with occasion to sell their woolen fabrics, shawls, blankets, lois, pattus and patties etc. The wool weaving industry has grown manifold in the past two decades, but at the same time, commercialization has caused an overall decline in quality. The shawl weaving districts in Himachal Pradesh are one of those nooks and corners of India, the traditional and ancient handicrafts of which contain certain valuable feature which are fast getting crushed out by the steam roller of the modern society. Kullu and Kinnaur districts have the peculiarities of being ground for Himachal Pradesh the Dev Bhoomi finds an important place in woolen industry of India. Due to unfavourable climatic conditions and geographically difficult terrains it becomes inevitable for the people of remote areas to remain indoor for about six months so they utilize their time for processing and weaving wool. A large number of woolen handloom products like Dohru, Pattu, Patties, Doras, Gudmas, Namdas, Caps, Mufflers, Carpets and Shawls are made in Himachal Pradesh. Some of the articles are made only for household consumption while others is marketed of which Shawls are most common interest.


Results and Discussion

People Involved

People from different castes engage themselves in weaving occupation which has become a cottage industry. Every household owns a pit loom and men as well as women have acquired this skill. Weaving is generally restored to during chilly winter months; when pharis are compelled to stay indoors. (Aryan et al. 1993) A survey was conducted in the year 2005 on Kullu shawl industry. For this purpose fifty commercial weaving units were randomly selected and data were collected through well-structured interview schedule (Table 1). The results were interpreted and discussed here. Data given in table 2 revealed that in private units 60 percent of the respondents were engaged with weaving profession from 5-15 years. Only 20 percent were engaged from less than five years followed by 12 percent from 15-25 years and 8 percent of the respondents were attached with weaving profession from 25 years. In Government units 40 percent of respondents were engaged from 515 years followed by 32 percent respondents engaged from 15-25 years and sixteen percent from 25 years and above. Weaving of Kullu shawls gives income to a good proportion of state population, so many big and small weavers at household, cottage or industry level dependent upon handloom weaving for their living. Table 2 is showing the information regarding craft learning centre and it was found that maximum of the respondents (42%) were trained in cooperative societies followed by 28 percent of respondents trained by their family members and 20 percent in private units. Only ten percent of respondents had learnt this craft from their friends. During discussion it was found that only 32% of the weavers attended one or another training program


Patti: Local tweed made for coats, jackets or trousers called patti. It is heavy twill fabric generally woven from two fold hand spun natural white or brown/ black local wool of coarse count. Sometimes mill spun yarn may also be used. It is generally in plain, stripes and check patterns. It is heavily milled into a well felted cloth, making it impervious to snow, rain and wind.

Dohru or Dohar: It is a woolen blanket woven in coarser wool spun into a thick yardage. Dohru/ blanket generally made from local wool in checks and stripes. Some blankets are woven on frame loom whereas for local market it is woven on pit of the labor and the time involved-thereby reducing and making them more commercially viable. Mill spun yarn dyed in various colors is used for the ground; while a vast range of acrylic colors are used for patterning the borders. These shawls are available in wool, angora, pashmina and handspun materials. The yarn used may be chemically dyed or naturally dyed and of size 2mtrs.

Kulvi Motifs and Designs: A distinctive feature of Kullu shawls is the stripes or bands running horizontally widthwise at lateral ends. These bands, a few centimeter wide and vary from two to seven centimeters on each side, are decorated with the variety of patterns woven in brilliant colours like yellow, green, white or red on contrasting backgrounds.(Aryan et al.1993) Reasons for using particular type of designs are given in Table 3. The data depicted in table 3 revealed that in private weaving units In demand scored highest (Xw = 4.71) followed by beautiful and different look (Xw = 4.31). In Government units same trend was followed In demand scored highest (Xw = 4.83) followed by beautiful and different look (Xw = 4.48), family Tradition scored lowest (Xw = 2.40) in private units and can be used for multipurpose uses was (Xw =2.15) in government units. Traditional designs were common throughout the region though names might vary from on place to another. All motifs and designs were named corresponding to their shapes. Most of the motifs were inspired from surroundings i.e. beautiful nature and their household. The weavers themselves had no idea about the ancient origin of the designs they weave, yet these remained relevant and personal to each weaver who named them after something of current interest. Designs included everyday objects like Ghanti Bel (bell motif), Gandu Bel (onion motif), Patta Bel (leaf motif), Jala (overall design), Aloo matter (potato and peas), Doop chauyon (sun and shadow) Bubul chasm (Nightingales eye), Ganesh (Swastik), Kanchi Tara (crossed stars), Titli (Butterfly), Kanghi (comb), mergenda (Lotus) and many more. In a continuous changing market and consumer choices, new designs are being incorporated.


Table 3: Reasons for Using a Particular Type Design (n=50)



Weight Mean Score (Xw)

Private Units (25)*




Most commonly used




Family tradition




Learnt during training




Beautiful and different look




Easy to make




In demand




Can be used for multipurpose uses




Attract consumers




Good appearance



@ Multiple Responses

* No. Of Respondents In One Unit

Conclusion and Recommendation

A visit to any weaving centre is a rewarding experience. One can hear the rhythmic sound of synthesis of the Tibetan and the Indian Culture. The uniqueness of these designs and importance of religious symbols will make it possible for the designs of Himachali shawls to find a market. For any craft, there are three essentials, the equipment, the raw materials and the ability and skill to use the raw material and equipment for creative purposes. With very little training one can develop the skill necessary to combine them creatively. Weaving brings manual skill, creative ability, confidence, knowledge of color and texture and last but not the least, lovely products to use or sell. The scope of designing increases as one acquires knowledge through experience.


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About the Authors

The authors are associated with Department of Clothing &Textiles, Institute of Home Science, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Source: www.krepublishers.com

The article is taken from Studies of Tribes and Triballs (Volume No. 7, Issue No. 2, Page from 115 TO 118, Year of Publication 2009) Kamla-Raj Enterprises, Delhi, India