Before knowing Pashmina or Cashmere let us know first the land from where this great fabric and fiber originated.
Kashmir” – a far land in the lap of greater Himalayas with 5000 years of histoy – was also known as the ‘Holland of the East ‘ by the great travelers of the west. ‘Cashmere’ – The word used first time by these great travelers for the most luxurious fabric which they found in this beautiful valley. (Kashmiri = Cashmere)
The Great Mughal Emperor Akbar was always astonished with this beautiful vale situated between the laps of highest mountain range on the earth – The Himalayas. He expressed his love towards this great land in his poetry, ‘If there is a heaven on earth, then it is here, it is here, it is here’. Yes, the vale of Kashmir is know by several names ‘the heaven on earth’ and ‘the land of saints’. It is the largest valley on this blue planet with population of more than 10 million surrounded by massive mountains.
The chronicle of Kashmir is not new to the world – A place with 5000 years of history and one of the oldest language Kashmiri (Cashmere). Its summer capital Srinagar has history which goes beyond 3rd Century B.C. Old monuments and places of more than thousand years record are still open to the visitors. Great Pandavas of Mahabharata are believed to have lived centuries ago on this land.
In Srinagar city one can see several old shrines and tombs which dates backs more than 800 years and people often visits them. One of places in the heart of city is knows as ‘Roza Bal’ meaning a ‘sacred place’ or ‘shrine’. There are theories that it is the resting place (tomb) of Jesus Christ (PBUH). Several foreign researchers come every year to visit the shrine and collect more data from the current historians of Kashmir and the local Muslim population who live around this shrine. There is a theory that when ‘Jesus’ (PBUH) was put on the cross and was left with other companions there, he was brought down by his fellow men during night time and then they left towards beautiful valley of Kashmir where Jesus lived his rest of life and is buried at the ‘Roza Bal’. But Muslims reject this claim by giving the Quranic reference that Prophet Jesus is alive.
There is a small mountain in the city of Srinagar, on the bank of one of the world’s beautiful lakes, which is known by Throne of Solomon (Soliman Tang), and there is a legend that King Solomon (PBUH) had come to this place and stayed there. There is very old edifice on this mountain which is beleived to be made by the Prophet Solomon, and since then the small mountain is called Mount Solomon. Even there are theories that Kashmirs are the lost linage of Jewish community when they were forced to leave the sacred land of Jerusalem.Indeed Kashmirs have totally different culture and look than rest of neighboring lands and their culture and tradition is called ‘Kosher’.
The history of Kashmir is beautiful, very beautiful where the great saints have lived for centuries. They always preached the local population towards perfection, spirituality and being humans. One of the Sufi saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani came with a group of artisans and crafts men from Hamdan, Iran (Persia) before 800 years. He became an engine for the conversion of local Hindu population to Muslims as the ruler of that day converted to Muslim because of his great characters and spiritual nature. The group of artisans from Hamdan, Persia taught locals the arts and crafts which included carpet weaving, Paper Mache (Naqashi), wood carving, perfect Shawl weaving with other handicrafts and cusines. These arts and crafts never forced Kashmiris towards beggary. Even in hard times of war and peace, the people of Kashmir live their simple life by earning small from this great industry. It is one of the reasons a visitor will not see a local beggar on roads.
One of the main handicraft was the Pashmina shawl weaving. Kashmiri artisans attained perfection in weaving Pashmina shawls with coming of the Sufi saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. Then during the reign of great King of Kashmir Sultan Zeyn-ul-Abadeen (Bud Shah – Great Emperor) in 14th century helped the local artisans to grow this business with other arts and crafts as well. So most of the population was engaged with handicraft industry. During forties and fifties Kashmir even had one of the biggest Mulberry silk factory in the world .
The Kashmir’s own last independent ruler , Sultan Yosuf Shah Check, who was called to Delhi by Mughal Emperor Akbar for talks as Akbar had lost all wars with this great emperor to control this beautiful vale. But this great king was betrayed by Akbar and was made a prisoner. He died in 1586 AD in an exile and was laid to rest in Biswak – a place in Bihar state of India. It was a decline time of handicraft business because Kashmiris were now under the Mughal emperor who was an alien ruler to them.
During the 16th century when western travelers came to Kashmir through Silk Route, they found the great arts and crafts in this vast valley. The businessmen from European countries like France and British discovered uniqueness and softness in their wool – ‘The Pashm’. They named it ‘Cashmere‘ and this new name came into existence from the word ‘Kashmir’. The great travelers and officers of British and French empire send these Pashmina(Cashmere) products to their mistresses and families as a precious gifts. This soft wool became famous by the name of Pashmina and more popularly ‘Cashmere’ in the western world.
In today’s world there is difference between Cashmere and Pashmina wool depending on the quality. Every Pashmina is Cashmere but every Cashmere is not Pashmina.