Shahtoosh Weaving

A Shawl to die for

Mohit Sapru Posted On :
2 min 335 words

Categories: Kashmir

Tags: Kashmir

Shahtoosh(or Shahtush), a Persian word meaning "King of fine Wools", refers to a special shawl woven using the down fur of the endangered Tibetan Antelope(Chiru) by master weavers from Kashmir, India.

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Shahtoosh is the world's finest wool having the lowest micron(7-10)count which makes Shahtoosh shawls the finest and softest to be able to pass through a finger ring. The Chiru lives in the harshest of environment at an altitude of over 5000m migrating anually from Mongolia to Tibet and it is their fur which allows them to survive the freezing conditions, thus making the Shatoosh shawls made from their fur also the warmest.

As the Chiru have been hunted down mainly for its high prized fur, their numbers have dropped drastically from nearly a million (estimated) at the turn of the 20th century to fewer than 75,000 now. This led to the antelope now being listed as an endangered species and no commercial trade in shahtoosh is permitted. Infact the selling or owning of shahtoosh is made illegal in all the countries that signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Although being banned the illegal hunting and selling of chiru fur remains a serious problem in Tibet.

This Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) film traces the ancient craft of Shahtoosh weaving in Kashmir, and its links to the decline of the Tibetan antelope (Chiru) found in the Tibetan plateau. It also explores the struggle of former Shahtoosh workers displaced by the ban in shahtoosh production, and interventions brought about by the Shahtoosh Workers Rehabilitation Project of WTI and IFAW, supported by the British High Commission.

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