This distinction of Kashmir, a long sustained art-culture infused into an article of use or utility, reflects also in the fine needle-work of the shawl, the work of the aged hands of Kashmiri embroiderers, their skill matured through the wrinkles around their socketed eyes borrowing much of their vision from the pair of specks held on them, a Kashmiri artisan’s family inheritance the same as the loom, commonly used like any other instrument by any family member, male or female, when working with his warp and weft. This adherence to tradition and the continuity of vision – in any sense, physical or aesthetic, shared across generations give to Kashmiri textiles their rare unity and timeless quality. Loom-born and worked with tiny needles of its embroiderers this Kashmiri shawl has a flavour : beauty, magnificence and grace, as no other piece from any land or by any hands might have.
A bit spicy : chilly-like biting by its sensuous appeal, broadly a new generation colour, this Picante brown, russet in common man’s diction, is one of the richest and the most gorgeous among textile-colours. Both maroon and deep brown and Picante brown are blends of red and a tint of black, though unlike the other two, maroon or deep brown, Picante brown blends red, the colour of passionate infatuation celebrated as the colour of love, in greater proportion revealing greater lustre and warmth. Black, the colour of transcendence leading to light and cosmic realization, endows the red with a certain degree of balance and sobriety, but in its subdued tint in this shawl its sensualism is only further enhanced. A piece with hardly any weight, and soft as a feather’s touch, in its art it reveals the lyricism of a ballad, symphony of a song and the beauty of a cascade streaming down a snow-covered mount peak.
This shawl is outstanding example of sozni embroidery, broadly the fine and intricate needle-work, the Kashmiri artisans’ distinction and the characteristic feature of sozni. Though a fully embroidered shawl, it leaves plain ends, about seven inches wide, on either side of the length. A course of variously styled floral plant and bel – creeper, motifs, about an inch and half wide, on the inner side of these plain spaces, just on the border’s outer line serves on one hand as the ‘palla’ – end-part of the shawl, and also as the dividers that separate the plain part from the embroidered. While the base stems, conceived squares-like, are uniform, the motifs surmounting them have at least four styles of plants and flowers : a five-petalled larger flower with floral shoots crowning it; a tiny plant with three branches for three tiny flowers to hold and a cresting offshoot over them; a Paisley motif styled as the plant’s trunk with a bunch of flowers grown on it; and a corn-like flower-form appearing in between each two of the other three forms.
The rectangular space between these two ends has been covered by fine sozni embroidery consisting of a border on all four sides affording the whole composition a frame, and the field, that is, the rectangular space within the framing border. The border’s outer line consists of a course of interlocking chain-stitches running on all sides. The similar chain-stitches define the inner line but inwardly it has tugged to it tiny leaf-like motifs. Within this so bifurcated space runs a tiny delicate floral creeper defining the border. The field has been adorned with bels consisting of linear branches and twigs, leaves rendered in colored silk and looking like tiny flowers and a wide range of flowers, some strangely modeled. Some of the bels are large enough as to creep across the entire length.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.