6.1.15

Jamawar, the woven jewel of Kashmiri shawls

pashmina jamawar source

Who hasn't heard of Kashmiri shawls? They are world famous for their exquisite softness of material and beauty of design and colour. Of all the types of Kashmiri shawls the most complex, most beautiful and most expensive is the jamawar shawl which is often referred as "woven jewel". Jamawar has always been associated with fine taste, luxury and grandeur and have been passed on as heirlooms in many of India's old families. These shawls were originally worn by noble men in India and Persia. They used to be gifted by rulers to favoured diplomats, or courtiers in gratitude for services, successes, or loyalty. Jamawars woven by Sufis were used for prayers, as table-clothes and spreads during religious festivals.

Jamawar wall hanging, 1820-30.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

close up

Historically hand-woven in a twill tapestry technique with the aid of a small stick (kani) the size of a toothpick each shawl took several months or even a couple of years to complete and that is the reason original jamawars are highly valued. It is interesting that twill tapestry technique is not found in any other parts of India.  Weaving process is complicated and time consuming. Numerous kanis leaded with rich coloured threads are moved around even in a single weft line because of the constant change of colours which can be as many as 50 in a single piece. Dyeing is also a very special job done by specialists. It is said that in the old days something like 300 tints of vegetable extraction were used. The unimaginable colour combinations -  like magenta with pink, mauve with red, a shocking pink against a brilliant turquoise - look fantastic in the patterns of jamawars. Actually, a pattern maker is a higher rated and higher paid craftsman in the process of creation of these shawls.

jamawar, third quarter of the 19th century, wool, silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

close-up

The woven designs are often enhanced by embroidery. Embroidered on both sides jamawars are called do-rukha which literally means "double-faced". The front and back of such shawls is practically indistinguishable, there is no right or wrong side . Sometimes the same design is reproduced in two different colours, on the two sides. Another interesting type of jamawars' embroidery is called papier mache. The pattern is worked in satin stitch in bright paint-like colors such as those of papier-mache and each motif is then outlined in black. The delicate black outline is for setting each hue apart, so that colours don't neutralize each others by direct contact.

Brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan wearing antique jamawars from the personal collection of their father, designer Mayur Ali Khan. Scanned photo from Hello! magazine, Indian edition, December 2013

Traditional design of a jamawar consists of an inner border, outer border and large cone patterns at each end. The most popular motif is that of a boteh form. This form, which is mostly known as the paisley now, is an ancient Persian design based upon the tree of life and inspired by the growing shoot of the date palm.

jamawar, 1870 - 1900  Textile Museum of Canada

close up

Most of the jamawars nowadays are machine-made which makes them less costly and so, more people can afford them. Traditional, hand-woven shawls are created too. The most expensive jamawar I've ever seen was around 8 000 dollars. Wow, quite impressive price for a shawl...but on the other hand, when you think of all the time that was spent to weave this piece, of all the craftsmen who put their souls and skills in their work, when you feel the warmth of the Himalayan goat's wool against your shoulders, when you see all the beauty and finesse of that shawl, then you realize that it is worth every cent of those 8 000.

12 comments:

  1. Wow!!!! Very interesting and I formative post!!! Actually I have to admit....never heard of those shawls....but now I know and I love them!!! So luxurious, richly decorated and patterned! !! So much work was put jn to them...design, colour and then technique as well and all those months and years of work!!! Hose brothers look proud and happy to be wearing those shawls :)

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  2. I often admire these in the windows of those Kashmiri tourist emporiums you see all over India. They're beautiful, aren't they? x

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  3. What stunning colours and patterns - really beautiful pieces. Thanks for sharing the photos and information, Olga. xxx

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  4. I am impressed by the rich colors and the fantastic patterns of the shawls. They are really treasure. Thank you for your interesting introduction.
    Sabine xxx

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  5. Very impressive, beautiful designs! I'm not surprised that they cost so much. So much work! Great post, Olga. I'm still learning :))

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  6. how beautiful! I'm always fascinated by tradition shawls and these ones are really breath-taking!

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  7. Wow !! These shawls are awesome ... when I think about them were woven thread by thread by hand to get those magnificent drawings, obviously they are works of art !!

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  8. Once more you stun us with a tradtitinal work of art. How much we have lost with our western way of life. Although I can't imagine the weavers had much of a life. I go crosseyed even thinking about it!
    Thanks for sharing more beauty from your part of the world! xo JJ

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  9. Gorgeous! And very interesting to know about their traditional use ...I can imagine their lightness and softness!

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