Buddhism in the patterns.

In the hierarchy of Himachali shawls, the Kinnauri occupies a top slot for both its refinement and unique spiritual nature. Developed in an unrecorded era, somewhere in the lush valley of Kinnaur, a district in Himachal Pradesh India, the woolen is a masterful amalgamation of three ancient cultures brought in contact by an old trade route today known as the Hindustan-Tibet road.

While the art of embedding motifs into the garment is an import from the yesteryear Tashkent in Uzbekistan, the decorative hexagonal and square symbols (artistically rendered) as well as colors used are predominantly Tibetan Buddhism – reflecting the five elements.

Typically the shawl takes around 6 to 7 days of thorough work at the skilled hands of a master weaver who produces the main body in a single color on a frame loom while simultaneously sewing in the symbols on the borders inch by agonizing inch with the traditional colors: White for air (usually the main body of the shawl), yellow for earth, red for fire, green for water and blue for sky. In modern times, market demand has led to the inclusion of the color black, sometimes with additional designs near the borders.

Since 1999, the shawl is registered under the Geographical Indications of Goods Acts, prohibiting the unauthorized production and misuse of its name (see Time of India article: Kinnauri Shawls get a GI tag).

Fun fact: A single Kinnauri shawl collectively contains all colors, normally distributed to five separate Tibetan prayer flags.


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