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The Mandala Chandar (c. 1840, detail) is an unusual Kashmiri tantric moon shawl (chandar) with a mandala to the centre from which radiates zoomorphic tendrils, filled with multi-coloured millefleurs on a pink ground. Mandala Chandar, Kashmir 1840.jpg
The Mandala Chandar (c. 1840, detail) is an unusual Kashmiri tantric moon shawl (chandar) with a mandala to the centre from which radiates zoomorphic tendrils, filled with multi-coloured millefleurs on a pink ground.

Pashmina refers to a fine variant of spun cashmere, the animal-hair fibre forming the downy undercoat of the Changthangi goat. [1] [2] The word pashm means "wool" in Persian, but in Kashmir, pashm referred to the raw unspun wool of domesticated Changthangi goats. [2] In common parlance today, pashmina may refer either to the material or to the variant of the Kashmir shawl that is made from it. [3] Both generic cashmere and pashmina come from the same goat, but generic cashmere ranges from 12 to 21 microns in diameter, whereas pashmina refers only to those fibres that range from 12 to 16 microns. [4]



Samples of wool fibres dscovered from corroded copper artifacts from Harappa dating back to the Indus valley civilization are extremely fine and resemble Pashmina and Shatoosh. [5] The material gained prominence through its use in the Kashmir shawl. In Mughal times, this was used as an indicator of rank and nobility. In 1526, Babur (1483–1530) founded the Mughal Empire in India, and established the practice of giving khilat (or "robes of honour", typically made of expensive fabric) to members of their durbar to indicate high service, great achievement, or royal favour. [6] In his time, the Mughal khilat was a set of clothes, which could include a turban, long coat, gown, fitted jacket, sash, shawl, trousers, shirt, and scarf. [7] One or all of these could be made of pashmina and embroidered in gold cloth. [7] In 1568, Kashmir was conquered by Babur's grandson Akbar. [7] In Akbar's time, a pair of pashmina shawls were an expected part of khil'at ceremonies. [7] From the 16th to the early 20th centuries, the Safavid, Zand, and Qajar emperors of Iran also wore pashmina and gifted Kashmir shawls as khilat within their political and religious practices. [7]

Pashmina blankets were also vital additions to a wealthy woman's dowry in India, Pakistan and Nepal. [8] In nineteenth-century English writing, despite the fact that shawls were worn by men, Kashmiri shawls became coded as women's luxuries. They acquired the status of heirlooms, worn by a girl on her marriage and coming-of-age, [9] and as heirlooms that women would inherit rather than purchase. [10] Since English law restricted women's abilities to inherit land, the Kashmir shawl served as an item of high exchange value that a woman could carry. [10] In France, the pashmina Kashmir shawl gained status as a fashion icon through Empress Joséphine's enthusiastic use. [11] These shawls suited the French well, providing the needed warmth, while adding visual interest to white French gowns through the traditional teardrop buta pattern and discreet floral motifs. [11] The shawl became a symbol of French bourgeois status from the Bourbon Restoration (1815–48) through the Second French Empire (1852–70). As a class marker, it fulfilled 19th century French tastes because it looked rich, had extensive ornamentation, artistic qualities, and was made of expensive raw materials. [7]


A Kashmiri man sells a pashmina shawl from Kashmir in a market in Delhi, India. Kashmiri Man 2001.jpg
A Kashmiri man sells a pashmina shawl from Kashmir in a market in Delhi, India.

Goats used for pashmina shed their winter coat every spring. One goat sheds approximately 80–170 grams (3–6 oz) of the fibre. In the spring (the moulting season), the goats naturally shed their undercoat, which regrows in winter. This undercoat is collected by combing the goat, not by shearing, as in other fine wools. A traditional producer of pashmina wool in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas are a people known as the Changpa. These are a nomadic people and inhabit the Changthang plateau of Tibet, which has a minimum altitude of 13,500 feet (4,100 m) above sea level and a winter temperature which can drop to −40 °C (−40 °F) The Changpa rear sheep in these harsh climates for meat, and pashmina goats for wool. [12]

Raw pashmina is exported to Kashmir. All steps, from combing (removing impurities and guard hair, and aligning fibres) and spinning, to weaving and finishing, are traditionally carried out by hand by specialized craftsmen and women. The major centre of pashmina fabric production is in the old district of the city of Srinagar. The approximate time put into producing a single traditional pashmina stole (70x200cm) is 180 hours.

China accounts for 70% of the world's cashmere production, Mongolia 20%, and the remaining 10% of production is in Afghanistan, Australia, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, the United States, the Central Asian republics and elsewhere. Only a small percentage of this production is the ultra-fine cashmere known as pashmina. [13]


Pashmina accessories are known for their softness and warmth. They are available in a range of sizes, from "scarf" 12 in × 60 in (0.30 m × 1.52 m) to "wrap" or "stole" 28 in × 80 in (0.71 m × 2.03 m)

Raw (left) and de-haired (right) Cashmere Pashmina wool Cashmere12.8micronJos&fine.jpg
Raw (left) and de-haired (right) Cashmere Pashmina wool

to full-sized shawl 36 in × 80 in (0.91 m × 2.03 m) and in rare cases, "macho" 12 ft × 12 ft (3.7 m × 3.7 m). Pure pashmina is a rather gauzy, open weave, as the fibre cannot tolerate high tension. The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight.

A craze for pashmina shawls, known as shahmina in Kashmir, in the mid-1990s resulted in high demand for the raw material, so demand exceeded supply. When these shawls rose into fashion prominence during the era, they were marketed dubiously. In the consumer markets, pashmina shawls have been redefined as a shawl/wrap with cashmere and cashmere/silk, notwithstanding the actual meaning of pashmina. Some shawls marketed as pashmina shawls contain (sheep) wool, [14] while other unscrupulous companies marketed artificial fabrics such as viscose and others as "pashmina" with deceptive marketing statements such as "authentic viscose pashmina".

The word "pashmina" is not a labelling term recognized by law in the United States, where it is considered another term for cashmere. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

Some manufacturers use the term pashmina to describe an ultra fine cashmere fiber; others use the term to describe a blend of cashmere and silk. The FTC encourages manufacturers and sellers of products described as pashmina to explain to consumers, on a hangtag, for example, what they mean by the term.

As with all other wool products, the fiber content of a shawl, scarf or other item marketed as pashmina must be accurately disclosed. For example, a blend of cashmere and silk might be labeled 50% Cashmere, 50% Silk or 70% Cashmere, 30% Silk, depending upon the actual cashmere and silk content. If the item contains only cashmere, it should be labeled 100% Pashmina or All Cashmere, by the Wool Act or regulations. [15]

Related Research Articles

Textile Material produced by twining, weaving, felting, knotting, or otherwise processing natural or synthetic fibers

A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarns or threads, which are produced by spinning raw fibres into long and twisted lengths. Textiles are then formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, tatting, felting, bonding or braiding these yarns together.


Mohair is a fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat. Both durable and resilient, mohair is notable for its high luster and sheen, and is often used in fiber blends to add these qualities to a textile. Mohair takes dye exceptionally well. It feels warm in winter as it has excellent insulating properties, while its moisture-wicking properties allow it to remain cool in summer. It is durable, naturally elastic, flame-resistant and crease-resistant. It is considered a luxury fiber, like cashmere, angora, and silk, and can be more expensive than most sheep's wool.

Scarf Garment of fabric worn around neck or head

A scarf, plural scarves, is a piece of fabric worn around the neck or head for warmth, sun protection, cleanliness, fashion, or religious reasons or used to show the support for a sports club or team. They can be made in a variety of different materials such as wool, linen, silk or cotton. It is a common type of neckwear.

Cashmere wool Fiber obtained from cashmere goats and other types of goat

Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats, pashmina goats, and some other breeds of goat. It has been used to make yarn, textiles and clothing for hundreds of years. Cashmere is closely associated with the Kashmir shawl, the word "cashmere" deriving from an anglicisation of Kashmir when the Kashmir shawl reached Europe in the 19th century from Colonial India. Common usage defines the fiber as wool, but it is finer, stronger, lighter, softer and approximately three times more insulating than sheep wool. Both the soft undercoat and the guard hairs may be used; the softer hair is reserved for textiles, while the coarse guard hair is used for brushes and other non-apparel purposes.

Shawl Simple item of clothing, loosely worn over the shoulders, upper body and arms

A shawl is an Indian simple item of clothing, loosely worn over the shoulders, upper body and arms, and sometimes also over the head. It is usually a rectangular or square piece of cloth, which is often folded to make a triangle, but can also be triangular in shape. Other shapes include oblong shawls.

<i>Shahtoosh</i> Kashmiri shawl, woven of hair of the Tibetan antelope

Shahtoosh is a fine type of wool made from the hair of the Tibetan antelope. It is also a metonym for a type of Kashmir shawl traditionally made of shahtoosh wool. The Shahtoosh shawl is now a banned item with possession and sale being illegal in most countries for the Chiru is an endangered species under CITES. However, the weaving of Shahtoosh shawls continues in secret in Kashmir due to high demand by western buyers. The estimated market value of one Shahtoosh shawl in the western market is around $5,000–$20,000. Shahtoosh is the world's finest wool having the lowest micron count, followed by vicuña.

Cashmere goat

A cashmere goat is a type of goat that produces cashmere wool, the goat's fine, soft, downy, winter undercoat, in commercial quality and quantity. This undercoat grows as the day length shortens and is associated with an outer coat of coarse hair, which is present all the year and is called guard hair. Most common goat breeds, including dairy goats, grow this two-coated fleece.

Jamawar A type of shawl

Jamawar, or grown piece, is a special type of shawl made in Kashmir."Jama" means robe and "war/var" is chest and metaphorically body. The best quality of Jamawar is built with Pashmina. The brocaded parts are woven in similar threads of silk or polyester. Most of the designs seen today are floral, with the kairy as the predominant motif. Historically handmade items, some shawls took a couple of decades to complete; consequently, original Jamawar shawls are highly valued. Modern, machine-made Jamawar prints, produced in cities such as Kashmir and other parts of Himachal Pradesh cost less to buy but handmade Jamawar are very expensive.

Orenburg shawl

The Orenburg shawl is a Russian knitted lace textile using goat down and stands as one of the classic symbols of Russian handicraft, along with Tula samovars, the Matrioshka doll, Khokhloma painting, Gzhel ceramics, the Palekh miniature, Vologda lace, Dymkovo toys, Rostov finift (enamel), and Ural malachite.

Ladakh Range

The Ladakh Range is a mountain range in central Ladakh in the Indian Union territory of Ladakh with its northern tip extending into Ladakh in india. It lies between the Indus and Shyok river valleys, stretching to 230 miles (370 km). Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, is on the foot of Ladakh Range in the Indus river valley.


The Changtang is a part of the high altitude Tibetan Plateau in western and northern Tibet extending into southeastern Ladakh, India, with vast highlands and giant lakes. From eastern Ladakh, the Changtang stretches approximately 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) east into Tibet as far as modern Qinghai. The Changtang is home to the Changpa, a nomadic Tibetan people. The two largest settlement within the Tibetan Changtang are Rutog Town the seat of Rutog County and Domar Township the seat of Shuanghu County.

Silk in the Indian subcontinent An overview about silk in the India subcontinent

Silk in the Indian subcontinent is a luxury good. In India, about 97% of the raw mulberry silk is produced in the Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Mysore and North Bangalore, the upcoming site of a US$20 million "Silk City", contribute to a majority of silk production. Another emerging silk producer is Tamil Nadu where mulberry cultivation is concentrated in Salem, Erode and Dharmapuri districts. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh and Gobichettipalayam, Tamil Nadu were the first locations to have automated silk reeling units.

The manufacture of textiles is one of the oldest of human technologies. To make textiles, the first requirement is a source of fibre from which a yarn can be made, primarily by spinning. The yarn is processed by knitting or weaving, which turns yarn into cloth. The machine used for weaving is the loom. For decoration, the process of colouring yarn or the finished material is dyeing. For more information of the various steps, see textile manufacturing.

Animal fiber

Animal fibers are natural fibers that consist largely of certain proteins. Examples include silk, hair/fur and feathers. The animal fibers used most commonly both in the manufacturing world as well as by the hand spinners are wool from domestic sheep and silk. Also very popular are alpaca fiber and mohair from Angora goats. Unusual fibers such as Angora wool from rabbits and Chiengora from dogs also exist, but are rarely used for mass production.

Changthangi Goat breed

The Changthangi or Ladakh Pashmina is a breed of cashmere goat native to the high plateaux of Ladakh, India. The cold temperatures in the region are the primary factor in the growth of the fine pashmina grade of cashmere wool for which they are reared. It is also used as a pack animal and for meat.

Kashmir shawl Fine shawl made in Kashmir

The Kashmir shawl, the predecessor of the contemporary cashmere shawl, is a type of shawl identified by its distinctive Kashmiri weave, and for being made of fine shahtoosh or pashmina wool. Contemporary variants include the pashmina and shahtoosh shawls. In the late 20th century, they evolved to middle-class popularity through generic cashmere products, and raffal, shawls woven in the Kashmiri style, but using thicker Merino wool. Originally designed as a covering for men in India, it has evolved in the popular cultures of India, Europe, and the United States as indicators of nobility and rank, heirlooms giving on a girl's coming-of-age and marriage, and subsequently, as artistic elements in interior design.


The Changpa or Champa are a semi-nomadic Tibetan people found mainly in the Changtang in Ladakh and in Jammu and Kashmir. A smaller number resides in the western regions of the Tibet Autonomous Region and were partially relocated for the establishment of the Changtang Nature Reserve. As of 1989 there were half a million nomads living in the Changtang area.

Noori is a female pashmina goat, the first pashmina goat to be cloned using the process of nuclear transfer. Born on 9 March 2012, she is kept at the place of her birth, at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir, Shuhama, Srinagar in the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Goat farming Raising and breeding of domestic goats

Goat farming involves the raising and breeding of domestic goats as a branch of animal husbandry. People farm goats principally for their meat, milk, fibre and skins.

Kashmiri handicrafts Handicrafts of Kashmiri artsans

Kashmiri handicrafts is a traditional art of Kashmiri people and artisans who make, craft, and decorate objects by hand. Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Budgam are the main districts in central Kashmir which are making handicrafts products since ages. The rest of its districts, including Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Budgam are best known for its cultural heritage which extends handicraft industry in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India.


  1. "Cashmere | animal fibre". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  2. 1 2 Skarratt, Ben (August 2018). "From India to Europe: The Production of the Kashmir Shawl and the Spread of the Paisley Motif" (PDF). Global History of Capitalism Project.
  3. "Pashmina". Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  4. "Identification Guidelines for Shahtoosh and Pashmina" (PDF). US Fish and Wildlife Service: National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, Ashland, Oregon. 2002. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 March 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  5. Ancient Textiles of the Indus Valley Region By Jonathan Mark Kenoyer University of Wisconsin, Madison
  6. Skarratt, Ben (August 2018). "From India to Europe: The Production of the Kashmir Shawl and the Spread of the Paisley Motif" (PDF). Global History of Capitalism Project.
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  8. Reis, José; Varela, Gonzalo (October 2013). "Can Tourism Encourage Better Export Performance and Diversification in Nepal?". CiteSeerX .Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. Irwin, John, 1917-1997. (1973). The kashmir shawl. London: H.M. Stationery Off. ISBN   0-11-290164-6. OCLC   3241655.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. 1 2 Daly, Suzanne. (2011). The empire inside : Indian commodities in Victorian domestic novels. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN   978-0-472-07134-0. OCLC   617509005.
  11. 1 2 Joséphine and the arts of the Empire. DeLorme, Eleanor P., Chevallier, Bernard, 1943-, J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: J.P. Getty Museum. 2005. p. 167. ISBN   0-89236-801-2. OCLC   57432294.CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. Prem Singh Jina (1996). Ladakh: The Land and the People. Indus Publishing. p. 258. ISBN   978-81-7387-057-6 . Retrieved 5 August 2012.
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  14. Franck, Robert R. (October 2001). Silk, Mohair, Cashmere and Other Luxury Fibres. Woodhead Publishing. p. 142. ISBN   1-85573-540-7 . Retrieved 8 July 2008.
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