Varanasi weavers have launched locally-woven Pashmina wool products, which are globally acclaimed and indigenous to high-altitude regions of Leh and Kashmir.
The Banarasi Pashmina is likely to be officially launched in the Prime Minister’s constituency at the end of this week.
The Pashmina project is the brainchild of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which has roped in four khadi institutions from Varanasi and Ghazipur for processing raw Pashmina wool from Ladakh and weaving it into fabric.
KVIC chairman Vinay Kumar Saxena said: “This is the first attempt to introduce the heritage craft outside Jammu and Kashmir and familiarise artisans in other parts of India with this unique skill.”
Khadi artisans from Sewapuri Ashram in Varanasi have been given 30-day training in weaving.
These four Khadi institutions of Varanasi division began processing raw Pashmina wool in Delhi, which was then supplied to artisans in Leh for spinning. Then the wool was brought back to Varanasi for weaving.
The project fructified after KVIC chairman met the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Ladakh, R.K. Mathur, last year.
The LG told him that around 50 MT raw pashmina is produced in Leh every year, of which only 15 MT dehaired wool is produced for woollen products after cleaning and processing.
Of the 15 MT dehaired Pashmina wool, a meagre 500 kg (0.5MT) is utilized in Leh-Ladakh by a few small units for manufacturing Pashmina products, triggering employment loss.
To turn the tide, Varanasi’s Khadi institutions purchased 500 kg of raw Pashmina wool from Leh and brought it to Delhi for processing.
“This ensured utilization of the entire de-haired Pashmina wool of Ladakh, opened job opportunities for local artisans and availability of genuine and affordable Pashmina wool products in Varanasi. KVIC will provide online marketing support to these khadi institutions,” said Saxena.
After a month’s training, KVIC provided 100 new 8-spindle spinning wheels to local artisans in four villages of Leh to begin spinning of Pashmina wool.
KVIC has also provided 25 high quality 48-inch width looms in Leh, which will not only minimize effort, but also produce all sizes of fabric.
It will deploy more charkhas as soon as the production increases.