The fine intricate needle-work, which defines the borders and pallas of this shawl, is known in the tradition as Sozni embroidery. The term ‘Sozni’ ordinarily means merely the ‘needle-work’ – the work by ‘sozni’, a Persian term for needle. Sozni does not refer to any particular kind of stitch, or includes one or excludes the other, or to any kind of design pattern or scheme. Instead of, it is the needle-work’s exceptional fineness, great perfection, flawless finish, elegance and the highest quality of the workmanship that define Sozni as an exclusive class of embroidery. Such fine needle-work as merited to be defined by the term Sozni required great amount of patience, practice and period of time. More than anywhere else the embroiderers of Kashmir, confined to the four walls of their houses for the most months of the year due to climatic conditions, had greater opportunity for mastering such perfection. Hence, Sozni, despite that it does not have anything characteristic to a particular land, touched its ever greatest heights in the hands of Kashmiri artisans.
This magic of the needle-holding hands of Kashmiri embroiderers has transformed this plain untailored Pashmina length into a wondrous piece of ensemble. The embroiderers, as usually a team of them works on a piece, have identified three-centimeters wide edges of the length on both sides for defining its borders, and five centimeters wide strips on both sides of the breadth, some twenty centimeters inside, for defining the pallas. Except that in the scheme for the pallas the embroiderers have included an additional feature, a uniform design-pattern adorns alike both, the borders and the pallas. The central motif of this design pattern is a miniature tree composed of a squarish-octagonal outline with four floral forms within it defining its foliage part, besides a thread-line denoting its trunk. A pyramidal triangle defines its base. On mid-height, on each side of the trunk, there emerges an inverted Paisley motif, obviously conceived to define the tree’s horizontal expanse.
The space in between two such motifs has been manipulated by a large upright flower-motif modeled like a Javakusuma flower or like upwards held leaf of a fan palm. On one hand it appears to be a single flower, and on the other, a motif composed of a number of flowers. This flower rises on a tall stem radiating out of a leafy plant symbolised by a set of five distinctively drawn leaves. This design-unit : the main tree-motif and the flower motif, has been repeated on the entire length of the borders and pallas with unique precision, uniformity, neatness and accuracy. Besides this common designing scheme the pallas have over it a series of microminiaturized palm tree motifs rising over a waving line, suggestive of a mountain range, and with each tree motif some dots-like tiny fragments of lines, suggestive of shrubs grown around their bases.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.