Kullu is very famous not only for its scenic beauty but also for Handloom Shawls. The history of Kullu shawl dates back to pre-independence era. Mostly all the weavers are job workers who weaves for master weavers and cooperative societies and received wages as per their skill. In 1942 when Indian film star Devika Rani, daughter-in-law of famous Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, came to Kullu. She took a zealous interest in the looms and it was at her request that Sh. Sheru Ram of Banontar village fashioned the earliest urban size shawl (72" x 36"). On being inspired from Mr. Sheru Ram, Pt. Urvi Dhar started manufacturing shawls commercially. With time shawls are now being manufactured in a wide variety of patterns and the use of vegetable dyes, which augment an exotic array of subdued colors in apricots, ochre, rusts, browns, olives and many more, is in vogue.
There are 28,500 weavers and 22000 looms in Kullu and adjoining area. The weaver is a job worker and receives dyed yarn from traders & master weaver, does all the pre-weave activities and weaves product, hand over and receive wage. The average wage earning is `35-40 per day.
The base of co-operative societies in Kullu is very strong; there are around 180 cooperative societies. Most of the members of co-operative societies are job workers only.
The master weaver purchases the raw material from local spinning mills and supplies the yarn to the weaver later he receives woven product, and sells it through his own outlet.
The dyer receives the yarn from traders & master weavers, dyes it. The process of dyeing is modernized and using good colours, which provides high colour fastness.
Most of the nationalized banks branches and a co-operative bank exist within the cluster.
Local District Administration:
The DIC is providing skill up gradation training to the weavers, giving assistance under work shed scheme to the weavers.
Self Help Groups:
There are considerable numbers of SHGs in the cluster which are availing loans, grants from the government.
H.P. Apex Weavers Society:
The Apex Weavers society supply raw material to the co-operatives and in return receives the woven product from them.
Provided finance to few SHGs in the cluster.
The annual Turnover of the cluster is `40 crores.
The weaver is a job worker receives dyed yarn from traders & master weavers, does all the preparatory activities and weaves the product for which he receives wage. The average wage earning is `35-40 per day. There is need for skill up-gradation of weavers as many of them are using traditional looms with low productivity. The Looms used are both Pit and Fly shuttle looms. The production in pit looms is less than Fly shuttle looms, even the quality differentiation is observed. The process of shawl weaving consists of making of reels from Ruffle, Pashmina and Angora wool yarn first. In case of the pitloom, the warp is made manually by winding it around peg- stands separated by a definite amount of distance. The drafting and denting of the ends is done by pulling them through the thread healds and the reed with the help of fingers. The warp is then set onto the loom, its ends are tied and its tension adjusted as per the requirement. The warp for the fly shuttle flame loom is wound on the warping machine. It is transferred to the warp beam under tension, which is then put on the loom for drafting and denting. The warp ends are drafted and dented with a reed hook, the loom tie-ups and tension are re- adjusted and the loom is geared up for weaving.
Designing is entirely done at cluster level. Most of the designers develop designs on his own as per the inputs given by master weavers and traders. The daily earning of the designer is `50-60, which is far better than a weaver. There is no professional qualification observed in designers as such there is need to train them in modern designing from a professional institution like NIFT. Prior to early forties plain shawls were in fashion in the valley. With the arrival of Bushehras from Rampur Busheher (Shimla), the native weavers took to patterning shawls. The initial designs that were geometrical in outline basically depicted local flora and fauna. The colors, usually intense, perhaps endeavor to portray the Kulluites' enthusiasm for life. Mr. Devi Prakash Sharma who joined Kullu Shawl Improvement Center as a technician developed diverse designs, visited the various co-operatives and individual weavers and promoted new designs.
- Plain shawl made of single color without any design or pattern.
- Plain with border of a traditional pattern or colored stripes on the four sides.
- Plain with ek phool i.e. traditional pattern on its both ends.
- Plain with teen phool i.e. three traditional patterns on two ends.
- Shawl having design all over it.
- Designed Shawl with ek phool i.e. one traditional pattern on both ends.
- Designed Shawl with teen phool i.e. three traditional patterns on both ends.
Australian Merino Wool
Natural fair fleece- ends, imported from Australia are cleaned, carded and spun at the spinning mills at Ludhiana, Amritsar, Panipat, Kullu, etc. The fiber is soft and well in worth. Most of the Kullu shawls are prepared in this quality wool tinted in diverse colors. At times hand- spun Merino wool may also be used for the weft in the case of the handspun array of shawls. Usually the count of the yarn used for the body ranges from 2/44's to 2/ 50's. The count of the reed used maybe 36's, 40's or 42's. Most commonly, a 2/ 48's warp is woven using a reed of 42's count- this is considered to be the ideal combination for weaving the ground fabric as well as the patterned border of the shawl.
This is the wool acquired from sheep bred in Himachal Pradesh. Most of them are migratory. In summer, the sheep migrate from the villages in the lower plains to the higher up Himalayan paddocks for grazing with the Gaddies or local shepherds. Through the glacial iciness, the sheep are brought back to their villages in the lower 16 Himalayas. These sheep are sheared twice a year during the autumn and spring seasons i.e. in the months of September and April. This wool is obtainable in natural white, black, grey and brown. Due to its coarseness, local wool is usually used for floorings and blankets.
This wool is taken from the under belly of the Pashmina goat existing in Tibet. The shawls woven from Pashmina range from a fine to super- fine quality. They are pure and light, yet tremendously warm. Owing to the high cost of labor involved in the sorting of fine Pashmina fiber they are pretty expensive but trendy.
This is the wool of the Angora rabbit, procured from the local Angora breeding farms. These rabbits are imported from Germany. Since they have a very high birth rate and death rate, they are bred for about two years and then sold off as meat. They are trimmed once in every three months. Angora wool is enormously warm, soft and sleek to feel. Due to its fine quality, it is manually spun only on the 'takli' (i.e. the spindle). It is originally found in white, brown, grey and black colors and may be dyed in the same colors as sheep wool. Owing to its fibrosity, it is extremely difficult to weave a 100% Angora shawl; they are hence woven using merino for the warp and angora for the weft.
Staple Yarn: Cotton fiber, used as warp.
Acrylic Yarns: Synthetic wool, used in making patterns.
The price of shawls depends upon the quality of wool and the pattern and ranges from `300 to `12000. The ones made on the handloom are expensive as compared to those made on the powerloom.
Cotton is the most important natural fibres, accounting for almost half of all textiles in the world. It is an excellent clothing material with huge variety of uses. Because it is so strong it can be made into fine, thin textiles, as well as hard-wearing fabrics like denim. Cotton is now the worlds most important non-food crop covering five percent of the planets cultivated land area. It is grown in more than 80 countries around the world. Cotton has been grown and used by people in many parts of the world for at least 5000 years. India is producing 312 millions of cotton yarn bales per annum. India account for about 12% of the worlds production of textile fibres and yarn and second largest producer of silk and cellulose fibre and yarn and fifth largest producer of synthetic fire and yarn. Pieces of woven and dyed cloth, dating back as far as 3000 BC found near the Indus River in India. For ancient Greeks and Romans, the muslins of the Ganges delta are were an exotic and expensive luxury. The Indian textiles is one of the oldest industry in the country, renowned for their fineness and captivating colours for ages beyond 5000 years have attracted connoisseurs from all parts of the world. The handloom industry is second largest provider of employment after agriculture and it is estimated that it provides employment to 124 lakh persons working on 39 lakh looms. The share of the handlooms has around 20 percent of the total cloth production in the country.
Handloom weavers have been capable of producing cloth as per demand and designs required from time to time since the British India. Britains first links with India came about through trading cotton and other goods. In the seventeenth century, the East India Company began bringing cloth from West India, shawls and 3 silks from Kashmir, spices from the East Indies and Ceylon and sugar from Bengal. In return India brought metals, novelties and ivory. Visitors to India were impressed by the sophistication and skill of it crafts people, by the range of products and by the way in which manufacturing was organized and controlled by the State. Indian cloths were so popular that they transformed European fashion. When the British occupied the India their trade was to sell finished cotton goods. They found a readily available market in India, as it is a huge country with large number of people. However in process they have realized that the handloom industry in India is one of the finest world. There fore they systematically destroyed the local based industry, disposed the people, cut the fingers of hand loom weavers, levied excess taxes have done their best to destroy the Indian Handloom Industry.