The charming beauty of the valleys of Uttarakhand is complemented by the elegant and colourful crafts of Garhwal and Kumaon. Weaving is undoubtedly one of those traditional crafts that are deeply connected with the lives of the local hill people and their rich cultural heritage. Mainly famous for its woollen fabrics, the Himalayan weaving tradition in Uttarakhand also produces beautiful cotton and silk goods.
Largely, it is the Bhotia Himalayan weavers community which dominates the weaving industry of Uttarakhand. Apart from the Bhotiyas, there are also other weaver communities like the Rompas and the Kolees in the area. The industry turns out a great variety of textile products ranging from routine objects like socks, caps, scarves, sweaters, mufflers etc. to more specialized items like shawls or carpets.
The serenity and the grace of the Himalayas are perfectly matched by the traditional textile designs which are handed down from generation to generation. At times, the motifs used by the traditional weavers of Uttarakhand show interesting influences of the neighbouring states of Tibet, Nepal and China. However, in spite of these influences, the traditional textiles of Uttarakhand always reflect a unique ethnic character of their own.
The Himalayan climate of Uttarakhand and the local sheep rearing practices have largely contributed to the natural development of the woollen industry in the region. The weavers are mostly rural women from hill tribes who produce beautiful hand-woven products with the help of surprisingly primitive tools and techniques. It is simply amazing to see how the people in these Himalayan villages have been quite successful in keeping alive some of their age-old craft techniques and methods.
Every year, the nomadic Bhotiya weavers spend the winter months in Dunda in weaving their clothes and the summer months in selling those clothes in different seasonal fairs and tourism sites of Uttarakhand or harvesting fields in Harsil. While in Dunda of the Uttarkashi district, they weave gorgeous traditional patterns on their crude upright or pit looms, using Charkha-spun wools. Traditionally, the Bhotiya weavers rear their own sheep for wool in the grazing plains of Harsil. In the winter, when the sheep grow fat and have fully gown hair, the Bhotiyas come down to Dunda to begin their weaving activities. The Dunda weaving cluster in Uttarakhand is famous for the carpets and pashmina shawls made by the Bhotiya weavers.
The rugs and pashmina shawls of Munsyari are also widely acclaimed. Like Dunda, it is another significant site of the traditional Bhotiya weaving. Munsyari produces some of the finest cashmeres in the world. The dunn which is a type of rug and the thulma – a unique bedspread – made by the Bhotiya weavers of this small Uttarakhand town deserve much appreciation for their exotic beauty.
Gorgeous pashmina shawls are also produced by the local weavers at the shawl factory of Kausani. Kausani shawls and stoles have become quite a legend among the tourists and the craft-enthusiasts from all over the world. The local village artisans spend much time and care on their traditional wooden handlooms to produce these items. The shawls are made of superfine Angora rabbit wool and come with a variety of designs ranging from simple colour patterns to lavish embroidery works.
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