Hello everyone !!
In today's article, we're going to discuss about the renowned Kullu Shawls that are produced in the Kullu Valley situated in Himachal Pradesh. Kullu area also known as 'Valley of Gods' is also famous for its simply designed, bright coloured, fine quality shawls that are woven by native Kullvi & Bushair people. The handmade Kullu Shawl obtained it's GI Tag on 10 th December 2004. Kullu Valley attracts number of tourists every year due to its beautiful scenic views, Himalayan mountain range, open valley pastures etc.
The prime source of income generated in this valley is from tourism & handicraft industry. Around 25000 local people earn money by working in the handicraft industry that produces shawls, stoles, pullan footwear, mandri carpet etc. These all are made from handlooms which are available in almost every other house.
The pricing of this shawls is done on various factors such as quality of material, designing patterns, type of wool, etc. On an average, these shawls can cost you anywhere between 400- 5000. I know it sounds surprising but the price is worth it as it is hand-made and made out of best quality wool fabric. Kullu Shawls symbolises the traditional culture & heritage of the Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, state government of Himachal provides assistance to weavers in order to maintain their heritage.
• Distinctive characteristics :-
Kullu shawls are made from different natural fibers like pashmina, sheep-wool, yak's wool, and angora. The quality of these shawls is excellent as all these wools are sometimes combined to make the best varieties available. Manufacturing quality can be trusted as this is not a newly learned skill but it is transferred from one generation to another. The entire weaving process is done with joy and pride.
Traditionally, Kullu people used to weave plain shawls without any specific patterns. But with the professional craftsmen from Bushair and new trends in art & fashion the trend of depicting patterns on these shawls started. A bright coloured kullu shawl depicts geometrical pattern or floral patterns on both ends. Nowadays with changing trends even some dull colors are used to make these shawls. This combination of quality & appearance makes these shawls warm, cozy and preferred by most of the customers.
• Need for the GI tag :-
GI has proved to be a rescuer for this extincting art. Before the shawls obtained GI tag many imitations of Kullu Shawls were circulating in the market at a cheap price offering low quality shawls to the tourists at lower prices. This inadequate use of the name of renowned Kullu art by fraudulent shopkeepers had ruined the life of both weavers & consumers. This caused a very bad impact on the original market and the hardworking weavers who were giving their best to save their year old art. There was a need for some kind of protection to both weavers and customers from the fake market players.
Hence in 2004, Kullu Shawl was registered under Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 as Geographical indication No. 19. Even after the implementation of GI tag, the exploitation did not completely stop hence the state government made some strict rules against such false sellers. Now GI tags are only available to the shawls produced within the valley by using the handloom machine. Most of the shopkeepers are registered with Societies to prove their authenticity.
• Impact of GI Tag :-
As we all know a Geographical Indication (GI) is a special mark or recognition given to certain products who possess some special features due to its geographical origin or regional heritage. It acts as a proof that the particular product has some unique characteristics that makes it stand out from the other similar products. As a result when Kullu Shawls received GI tag it's prestige increased now it became easy for people to recognise the true craft and not fall for cheap inferior quality imitated shawls. Now that the GI tag was introduced it was difficult for the fraudulent sellers to sell their stock.
Therefore in 2004, when Kullu Shawls Weaver Association instigated and obtained the GI Tag for the shawls it was not accepted by many of the retailers as they cannot sell their imitated shawls anymore. Also some weavers who were practising this craft part time and were remotely scattered didn't want to indulge in the long government processes and travel all way long from their village to the government office. To improve this situation many NGOs, cooperative societies & associations came forward to lend a helping hand for such weavers and spread awareness about the benefits of this GI tag. Today the picture is totally different many sellers have become part of such societies themselves and are helping others to benefit from this as well.
Thanks for reading !!