2018

Explore Kullu: "The End of the Habitable World"

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Nestled within a Himalayan valley, Kullu has become a centre of production for handwoven woolen shawls

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
If you are looking to find quiet, isolated, idyllic surroundings, away from the usual noise and chaos that is typical of India, then Kullu in Himachal Pradesh is the place to go. With a history that goes back to the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, one can find in Himachal lifestyles following practices that have not changed for centuries. Known as Devbhoomi or The abode of Gods, it is a place where even Buddha is said to have preached. 
Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Life in the quaint hills of Kullu
Kullu derives from the word 'kulant peeth', meaning 'the end of the habitable world'. The beautiful valley town nestles cozily between the Lower and Greater Himalayan ranges, along the River Beas. There are a few hotels and resorts now, but life still goes on at its old, quiet, rural pace in Himachal Pradesh.
Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Many monasteries and temples have been established and the Hindus and Buddhists live harmoniously together, establishing a culture of caring for the environment and animals.

Being well integrated as a community of shepherds, farmers, spinners and weavers, there are no differences between men and women in either work or aspirations. Elders and young people work together. Generations follow the same trade.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Sheep grazing on the hillside, terrace farming, brick houses and shopping establishments on the top of the hill, makes up the essence of what is the tiny hill town of Kullu.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Small village homes always have a patch of cultivable land on which the whole family cultivates some of the basic needs for their kitchen.

Everything is pure, organic and wholesome as is the wool they weave.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Process, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tiny clusters of houses like these can be found tucked away below, on slopes that can be accessed only by hardy locals and trekkers willing to descend and climb again as a routine exercise.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Along the mountain road between Kullu and Chamba, a sizeable collection of memorial or 'heroic' stones stand on display.

They were found by locals during excavations in a village field. These stones were made as offerings by victors or in memory of those who died in battle.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Typical of mountain roads anywhere in the world, on roads around Kullu and other parts of the Himalayan region, only sheep and goats cause traffic jams, and it is always kinder to give the right of way to them.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Faithful sheep dogs and baby lambs being carried by shepherds are part of the eco-system of Kullu shawl weaving.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The love of baby lambs in Himachal Pradesh is a part of the integration of the people with all manner of nature and reflects a relationship of interdependence between animals and man.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Wood craftsmanship in Kullu
Forests in and around Kullu are covered in pine and deodar trees, enabling the establishment of fine wood carving skills that can be seen inside houses and temples. 
Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A wooden structure that looks strangely top heavy is one of the many temples in the region.

This curiously made, elaborately carved one, called the Poochh Devi Mandir, is one of the popular places of worship for locals and those who come from distant places.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The wood panels on the exterior facade of the Poochh Devi temple in Kullu town hints at extensive wood carving inside.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The inner corridors of the Poochh Devi temple reveal a prolific amount of carving on its walls, doors and ceilings.

Wood craft skill is another specialty apart from Kullu handloom weaving, for which Himachal Pradesh is known.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A detail of the wood carving in the interior of the Poochh Devi temple in Kullu shows the devotion with which crafts people offer their skills to a sacred place or deity.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A detail of the wood carving in the interior of the Poochh Devi temple in Kullu shows the devotion with which crafts people offer their skills to a sacred place or deity.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Poochh means ‘asking’ or a query. The custom here is for petitioners to ask a question of the goddess in their minds.

The priest rolls a pair of dice before the image and answers on her behalf with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Om Prakash Malhotra, a skilled weaver who was once in the army, worships at the Poochh Devi temple with his family. The priest waits to roll the dice and convey the answer.

Malhotra swears this is not just superstition, but that he has had personal experience of accurate results.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
An active tradition of handloom weaving 
While many places in the world have mountain ranges, snow, shepherds, orchards, even a deep spiritual past and history going back millennia; not many such places also have such an active tradition of handcraft skills like weaving, existing alongside. 
Kullu Shawl Weaving: Process, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Prior to 1864, handloom weavers of Himachal lived in Shimla District, weaving on their pit looms. They eventually moved to Kinnaur and finally to Kullu, setting up frame looms.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Process, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The cold climate and plentiful sheep and goats, gave them enough raw material to weave lois as blankets and pattu lengths to stitch together to make heavy overcoats for winter.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Process, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Women in Kullu are as adept at weaving as the menfolk. Almost every weavers’ home has a veranda where women will take turns to spin, sort yarn and threads and weave.

A member of Om Prakash Malhotra’s family weaves a strip of pattu on a traditional loom. House work and craft work merge seamlessly in their daily activities.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Om Prakash Malhotra is a master weaver who encouraged his young daughter to become a textile engineer and come back to work on their family looms.

His family and workers pose together, surrounding the cheerful old spinner who clearly loves his work.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Narotam Ram is a highly awarded master weaver of Kullu shawls. He proudly conducts his weaving work and his business of selling shawls along with his family members.

He passes on his skill to his children and encourages his grandchildren to learn more about the craft world around him.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

He wears a typical Himachali topi, a common handwoven cap worn by men in Kullu.

Covered with strips woven on narrow looms stitched around a basic woolen cap, they keep heads warm in the cold winters and are picked up as an easily wearable souvenir by urban visitors.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Narotam Ram stands with his entire family in front of their own store in Kullu.

The flex banner may not be perfect in its graphics or aesthetics but they offer the best of the state.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Product, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A bundle of shawls lies in Narotam Ram’s store in Kullu, waiting to be dispatched.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Culture, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Narotam Ram and his son sit in their shop offering the best of Kullu’s handloom shawls to customers.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Process, 2018-03-27, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Shops in the town of Kullu sell Himalayan weaves in a variety of items and serve the needs of tourists. Smaller sundry crafts of Himachal Pradesh are also sold at such stores.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Product, Om prakash Malhotra, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The typical geometric designs that identify a Kullu handloom textile along with inputs of new varieties of wool like pashmina, merino and angora, gave the Kullu fabrics a wider range of finer textures, designs and colours.

Success in the marketplaces encouraged excellence and innovation, and increased their access to international markets.

Kullu Shawl Weaving: Product, 2018-03-28, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly, Charu Verma
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Charu Verma
Artisans: Narotam Ram, Om Prakash Malhotra
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile