KULLU, HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA.
The hand woven shawl may have garnered fame and fortune for the dwellers of Himachal’s Kullu valley yet the prized product would never have existed had it not been for its more historic predecessor the traditional women’s wear known as the Pattu (up in the photo) – that gave birth to it in the mid 19th century (see Farbound.Net snippet: How the Kullu shawl came to be).
Though now gradually disappearing from wardrobes to make space for modern apparels that are easier to wear, maintain and in tune with the times, the elegant drape style dress (worn with silver pins and a cloth tied around the waist) is still far from entering the genre of those cultural garments that lost their appeal for everyday wear and landed up adorning mannequins in museums.
Typically produced from pure goat’s wool for warmth and decorated with borders sporting brightly colored motifs, the attire continues to be used by local women as it has been for several centuries. Dressed in them they gather harvest, scythe grass in meadows, cook food, work on looms and grace important occasions ranging from their own weddings to religious ceremonies and special celebrations.
The traditional wear may have possibly originated in the Harappan era as India’s other popular cultural drape, the Sari, then evolved independently up in the Himalayan hills where cold weather replaced lighter materials with wool and developed its distinctive style of wearing. The patterns that adorn the borders are relatively new and was sowed into the fabric somewhere around the 18th century by artisans migrating into the valley from a place known as Kinnaur.
Once solely produced for household use, the Pattu is a pick off the shelve product and can be found in stores across the valley – wearing one takes a bit of practice.