Opportunities Today :- April 2004 Issue

Kashida of Kashmir


Kashmiri embroidery is well known for the beauty of its colour, texture, design and technique. Probably, the best-known Indian embroidery is the 'Kashida of Kashmir'. This embroidery is revealed in shawls and in cottage industry done by the members of families in Srinagar. Kashmiri embroidery is practiced by men and it is essentially a commercial craft.

According to Ramala S. Dongekery, the shawl industry in Kashmir was introduced by Zain-ul-Abedin. Akbar was also responsible for introducing a new type of shawl - the Dowshala meaning “Twin shawl”. In this two similar shawls were woven together, then sewn back to back. So the under surface of the shawls were not visible. Khwaja Yusuf during his stay in Kashmir got the idea of producing shawls with help of 'Rafoogar'. These were later known as “Amli Shawls”. Amli shawls were plain-woven shawls, which were ornamented with needle wholly. The plain- woven cloth of the amli was placed smooth and flat and then rubbed with a piece of polished agate till it becomes perfectly even.The design is drawn on paper and with needles lines are pricked through. The charcoal powder is rubbed on the perforated holes to transfer the design on the fabric. The stitch used was the darning stitch, the thread being made to pick up the loops of the warp thread. The technique has made the embroidery look as prepared on the loom.


The motifs were mainly taken from nature; animal and human figures were not seen in this embroidery. Bird motifs were seen on the shawls (like parrot, woodpeckers and kingfishers). Floral motifs like lily, lotus, iris, saffron flower and tulips were mostly seen on the shawls. Other designs like grapes, cherries, almonds and apples were their favourites. The chinar leaf is considered as an important motif.

The stitches used were simple, the chief being satin stitch, stem stitch and chain stitch. Occasionally, the darning and herringbone are used. Crewel embroidery is done with the use of hook. Kashida is general term for Kashmir embroidery, which includes other stitches as Zalakdo (chain stitch), Vatachik (Buttonhole stitch), Talibar (Gold work). One outstanding feature of the embroidery is the fact that it is made with a single thread giving a flat, formalized appearance to the design. The satin stitch has been adopted to cover larger surface without pulling the cloth. It has become the variation of long and short stitch. Chain is used only in inferior places and never on expensive piece of work. The Indian customer sets a great store by embroidery which displays the same fineness on both sides so as to make the wrong side distinguishable from right and Kashmiri workman has made himself adapt at this art.

This embroidery is done on silk, cotton and wool fabrics. Colourful fabrics like white (sufed), green (zingari), purple (uder), blue (ferozi), yellow (zard) and black (mushki). The threads used were wool, cotton and silk.

Thus, this embroidery enhanced the beauty of Kashmiri shawls, silk sarees, dress materials, cushion covers, bed covers, purses, veils and articles of personal and daily use. There is no way one can compare the Kashmiri embroidery with any thing else.