Category Archives: The pashmina road

PASHMINA ROAD, Part 3 : the himalayan cashmere goats

TUESDAY

300 km and 1790m of altitude separate Srinagar from Leh, the capital of Ladakh, it will take me 2 days to go through them. The small bus rushes to the bumpy road that winds through the mountains. Gradually the green valley of Kashmir gives way to the aridity of ladakhis landscapes, dotted with white houses with flat roof and gompas nestled on the heights, on a background of blue sky of absolute purity.

 

The Himalayas between Kashmir and Ladakh

 

Buddhist temple in the ladakh

 

Ladakhi are mostly Buddhists

 

WEDNESDAY

So here I am in Leh, the ancient capital of the Buddhist kings of Ladakh. Another culture, almost another world … But let’s go back to our sheep, or rather to our goats!

The capra hircus, or goat pashmina is traditionally bred by the Chang-Pa shepherds who lead a nomadic life on the Himalayan highlands, especially in ChangTang, near Lake Tso Moriri. They would be there now, so that’s where I go. The bus connects Leh to Korzok 3 times a month, no luck it was yesterday. As I do not expect to wait another 10 days, I have to find a jeep to share …

 

SUNDAY

And it’s gone for 8 hours. I will pass you the unexpected stops, this time it was the construction of a bridge by the army. They close the road 3h, are busy setting their bridge, then reopen briefly to let the vehicles that waited and it starts again. Traveling in Asia teaches patience …

But the goal is close and I see the first tents in yak hair. It is a very rough life, winter temperatures reach -30 ° C. The shepherds lead the herds in the pastures, the colder the goat, the better the quality of its down, and it ensures their livelihood. To avoid any drift and protect the nomads, the price was set by the Indian state, 3700 Rp for 2 kg of raw duvet (or 50 euros). The man explains that formerly some Kashmiri traders came to exchange the down for rice, taking advantage of their ignorance. Fortunately, it will not happen again. Extremely artisanal and traditional, the production of cashmere in Ladakh represents only about 2% of world production, far behind the absolute leader, Inner Mongolia (People’s Republic of China). Nevertheless the pashmina down will ONLY be produced in the Himalayan regions.

The pashmina goat give a very fine cashmere whose best quality is called pashmina

 

The pashmina goats give a very fine cashmere whose best quality is called pashmina

 

The pashmina goats give a very fine cashmere whose best quality is called pashmina

 

life at 5000m altitude is very hard

 

The goat is combed in the morning to collect the inner fleece, also called fluff or down; then the longest hairs are cut with shears. She does not seem too much to love the poor, the pashmina goat is a princess who does not like being pulled out …

 

The pashmina goat is combed to collect its cashmere down. The finest and best quality cashmere is called pashmina. Cashmere pashmina is the diamond of fibers

 

The pashmina down cashmere is obtained by combing the pashmina goat

 

A piece of the world lost on the borders of India and China, at the top of this Himalayas where the azure sky is lost in the purity of the waters of the mountain lakes, an arid land, goats, yaks, and these men skin tanned by the extreme rigor of the climate that still continue to lead the same nomadic life as their ancestors.

This is where the adventure of Pashmina begins …

 

PASHMINA ROAD, part 2 : pashmina weaving in Srinagar

FRIDAY

The next day I have an appointment to visit the weaving workshop where my pashminas are made. It is actually an old wooden house, nestled in the heart of the old town. The production of shawls here in Srinagar remains artisanal, family and therefore somewhat disorganized by our Western standards …

Faithful to the Kashmiri hospitality traditions, the family, who do not speak English, offers me a kashmiri kawa – their traditional tea – that I enjoy sitting on the carpet. As always in Kashmir only men sit with me, women stay in the kitchen …

It is on the ground floor that the down, using a traditional wooden wheel. Originally from neighboring Ladakh, it is crude and looks like big white flakes; the yarn thus obtained is then mounted on skeins. This work is traditionally done by women, here the weaver’s mother. Then the wire is assembled on the loom, also wood, which occupies the entire surface of a small room upstairs. This is the domain of Feroz, 40 years old, the weaver. It takes 2 days to handcraft a 2m shawl. This one, of natural white color, will be then washed and dyed.

 

The pashmina down is a very fine cashmere harvested on pashmina goats at over 4500m altitude in the Himalayas. Pashmina looks like a cloud of softness and sweetness ...

 

100% cashmere pashmina down is spun by hand with a spinning wheel to obtain a pure cashmere pashmina yarn

 

The pashmina cashmere yarn is mounted on skeins to be woven

 

The 100% cashmere pashmina is hand-woven: it's an old and painstaking work, the cashmere pashmina thread is very fine and must be handled gently. Kashmir workers weave true pashmina for centuries

 

The pure cashmere pashmina yarn must be woven with delicacy

 

In my hand I look at this impalpable cloud, the diamond of the wool, the down that protects the little pashmina goat from the harshness of the Himalayan winters. It is there that everything begins, so I will take the road to the mountains of Ladakh.

But in the meantime I have been invited to a wedding, and I intend to go there!

SUNDAY

A Kashmiri wedding lasts 3 days, but for my part I will only attend one, in the company of my Hindu friend, as novice as me in matters of Muslim marriage … We will spend all day in the huge old house of wood and the garden where was built a large tent decorated with embroidered Kashmiri hangings. Men and women are separated, the bride looks like a princess, the meal is excellent, although I have never eaten so many different meats in one meal, and I enjoy seeing that we distribute to all guests doggy bags to bring the remains home. I am told that it is a small wedding, 300 people only … Among other wonders, the bride received as a gift 3 pashminas, including a kani shawl, whose traditional pattern of intertwined flowers is directly woven into the frame. Its realization takes months and the price is up to the job! Around midnight the couple is finally reunited, and the bride rushes into the car head covered with a pink embroidered pashmina. Not even a kiss, I’m a little disappointed …

 

the kashmiri bride with jewels

 

But it is time to leave Srinagar, the Mughal city; the Himalayan mountains are waiting for me …

Princesse Moghole went up the pashmina trail : PASHMINA ROAD, Part 1

In an ever constant concern for transparency and since a good photo is better than a long speech, I did not have 36 solutions to tell you the story of a pashmina. So I went back to the field to go back on the track. It was June and here is my travel diary …

Kashmir has always been famous for weaving its shawls, so much so that it has given its name to fiber. Nowadays this state situated in the north of India on the border with Pakistan and China remains very politically unstable: the score left stigmas in the region, and remains discouraged by French foreign affairs. But it takes more than that to discourage me, so on the way to Srinagar …

 

THURSDAY

900 km separate Srinagar from Delhi, it will take me 24 hours to get there …

The night train to Jammu leaves at 20:40, and I’m alone in my compartment, great! All night long I will ask myself if the door will not open to let in the occupant of the upper bunk, but when the train stops in the early morning I’m always alone. It is 5:40 and the second part of my journey begins: the railway does not continue until Srinagar, I will have to share a taxi. The union is strength and as the jeep does not leave until it is full I join my efforts to those of Hemu, a young Indian banker in London who goes to Srinagar for the wedding of one of his classmates. We are gone, the trip will last 11h.

As we climb north, India changes its face and Jammu the Hindu gradually gives way to Muslim influences. An increasingly hilly landscape, forests, rice fields in full harvest, and villages with Central Asian accents. The men come out of the mosque at the time of prayer, they wear long white shirts and a beard that eats their faces. Sometimes their hair is dyed red and they wear the turban. At the stalls hang pieces of meat hallal and bakeries offer this round bread baked on stone that I had already tasted in Uzbekistan. I arrived at the heirs of the Mughal empire. It is here that for centuries the art of weaving pashmina has been perpetuated …

 

 

Srinagar prepares Eid festival

the old town of Srinagar in Kashmir

Meeting in Srinagar

 

A Srinagar j’accepte la proposition de Hemu de l’accompagner au mariage et rejoins mon houseboat, ces palaces flottants hérités du Raj et qui font la renommée de la ville.

 

The Dal Lake is in the heart of Srinagar

The gardens date from the Mughal period

Shikara on the Dal Lake

Dal Lake at sunrise

 

 

A suivre…