UMEED Scheme Kashmir: Kani Shawls
In Budgam, awareness of UMEED scheme is spreading through friends. After doing her higher secondary, when a Kashmiri girl did not get employment, she contacted her friend who had joined UMEED and got associated with it. When she got some money, she started making Kani shawls with one of her friends. The two of them work on it for almost a month to complete the shawl. The Kani shawls go to international markets.
In 2013, through our friend we became aware of UMEED scheme, said another girl. We formed a group and started doing Pashmina work. I am also continuing with my studies. A senior lady said that all the girls and ladies should join UMEED so that everyone can move ahead in life. After seeing the girls taking the help of UMEED, even men in Budgam have started working. They have realised the power of UMEED and what strength the girls have got through the scheme. The girls said, today, people in our household love and respect us because of what we are becoming through UMEED. They are getting money from the income of their daughters. UMEED is our hope. The girls who are at home, not doing anything should come to UMEED and carry on their work forward.
Kani shawl is one of the oldest handicrafts of Kashmir. Kani shawl originates from the Kanihama area of the Kashmir Valley. This craft is part of the Valley since the time of the Mughals. The shawl is woven from Pashmina yarn. A Kani shawl is woven thread by thread just like a carpet. The weaving is based on the coded pattern called talim. The weaver is guided by the talim in number of warp threads to be covered in a particular colored-weft.
The government of Jammu & Kashmirhas granted a geographical indication to the Kani shawl. Thus it is illegal to sell shawls made outside of the Kanihama area as Kani shawls. Kani weaving art is indigenous to Kanihama and can be traced back to 3000 BC. The exquisite shawl was sought after by the Mughal Kings, Sikh Maharajas and British Aristocrats. The Ain-i-Akbari records that Emperor Akbar was an avid collector of Kani shawls.
The word ‘Kani’ – in Kashmiri – also means a small wooden oblong spool. Kani shawl is made from pashmina on a handloom. In regular pashmina shawls, a shutter is used, but Kani shawls use needles made from cane or wood.
Patterns, usually of flowers and leaves are woven into the fabric. The weavers of Kani shawls work patiently working between 5 and 7 hours a day, in between attending to their household chores. An artisan is able to weave only a few centimetres per day. The design, size and detailing decides how much time a Kani Shawl may take (anything between 6 and 18 months) to be completed. The knowledge and techniques have been passing down to next generations. It is estimated that out of the 10,000-odd Kani weavers, only 2,000 are left today.