Steel-blue, the colour of this shawl, as also of the sky and the ocean, reveals unfathomable mystique as has the ocean and the sky, and has the ocean-like depth and the sky-like lustre. Elegance and sobriety are the feelings that it generates. The fine intricate needle-work that defines its borders, pallus – breadth-ends, and corners inside the space framed within, obviously the work of the most skilled hands of Kashmiri embroiderers, immensely adds to the shawl’s beauty. Though most design-motifs used in conceiving this shawl’s embellishment have been obtained by blending the forms of the Paisley type extraneous motifs, the embroidered design reflects rare ethnicity and strange traditionalism. In embroidering this piece the artisans have used the finest silk thread with great sheen but with a very limited range of colours which being just three, golden, pink and red.
The shawl is an excellent example of Sozni embroidery, broadly the fine and intricate needle-work used for embellishing its borders, pallus and the four corners inside the embroidered space. Now used largely as a technical term defining a class of embroidery, and more often attributed to the skilled Kashmiri artisans, Sozni is a combination of ‘sozn’, a term of Persian origin meaning ‘needle’, and ‘i’, making it Sozni, meaning ‘by needle’, that is, the needle-work. The needle-work which the term Sozni defines is not confined to any particular kind of stitch. It uses instead a wider range of them : running stitch, darner’s stitch, button-hole stitch, interlocks, knots and even chains. Not the name of a particular stitch, design pattern, or arrangement of space, Sozni defines the fineness, intricacy, unswerving uniformity of design-patterns, perfection and finish. If any phrase might be used for defining Sozni it might be ‘secular aestheticism’ or the ‘magic of details’. Not needle, perhaps needle’s point alone defines the dimensions of the Sozni design-patterns.
The embroidered segments of the shawl are the borders, pallus and the four corners. In whatever form, in part or full, the Paisley motif constitutes a significant part of all design-motifs used in embellishing it. The larger motif, used for embellishing the four corners, is a combination of a number of flowers-bunches and variously styled Paisleys, the upper-most being a pair of Paisleys in outline laid with joined backs. The borders and pallus pursue a uniform design pattern except that each of the pallus has an additional course of flowering bush each comprising three flowers. The main design-pattern is a large flower contained inside a bracket which a pair of downwards turned Paisleys constitutes. The tiny Paisleys are topped by still tinier flower motifs.
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.