Pashmina or Pashm is a Persian word that means “soft gold”. It accentuates and emphasizes the elements of softness, featherlight and eternal warmth, making it truly as precious and priceless like gold. It is a fine product attained from a breed of goats known as Chanthangi goat, that are reared within the Tibetan area of 4000 meters in winter. The wool from this goat is specifically obtained from the undercoat of these goats. It is six times finer than any animal hair, so fine the wool has to be hand-spun by a skilled crafter, not by machines, which makes it rare and costly.
The existence of Pashmina shawls has documented evidence from 3300 BC (Indus Valley Civilization) to 2500 BC (Mohenjo Daro) when a famous priest of this era with trefoil patterns was unveiled. Pashminas were worn by the royals and elites for centuries. Many popular aristocrats who were in love with this fabric naming few like Akbar, Jehangir and Josephine (wife of Napoleon). Its well know when Napoleon discovered Pashmina, he gifted his wife a pashmina shawl. She was so pleased with its fine texture she told her husband to buy some more so she could share it with her friends. She is noted to have collected over 400 scarfs over the next 3 years. And it came into fashion among Europeans. Two centuries later, Princess Dianna brought pashmina shawls into the limelight by wearing them.
In India, the founder of the Pashmina industry is said to be the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn- Ul- Abidin who introduced weavers from central Asia where it was already in use as luxury textile. Over the years a large variety of shawls were introduced depending on the art, culture and availability of handicrafts. A large part of this was dominated by the place this craft was being practiced at.
Pashmina shawls have been worn by the royalty and the elites in the region for centuries. Their famous durability is evident as the royal families handed them down for generations.
However, today, one does not need to be regal to own a pashmina shawl, or even visit the high altitudes of Indian Kashmir, Pakistan and Nepal. They are available at most renowned retailers of fashion clothing across the globe. The members of fashion fraternity around world use and own products made of pashmina ranging from scarves, wraps, coats, pashmina shawls and stoles. It is a mark of the social and financial status.