The Pashmina Trail in Ladakh
Just as each journey creates a little story, here is one about The Pashmina. The Story begins in the high mountains of Ladakh called the Changthang region, where the Changpas (nomads) and their lives.
The Pashmina Trail in Ladakh
By Shoba George / The Extra Mile
Legend has it that a Pashmina shawl that travelled from Kashmir to Iran reached the hands of the French Emperor Nepoleon Bonaparte during his campaign in Egypt. He gifted this to his wife Empress Josephine who thought it ugly at first and soon took a great liking to this delicate warm fabric that she soon owned over 400 pashmina shawls at a cost of over 20,000 gold francs. The Pashmina Shawl appeared in a French fashion 1790’s and was by now a fashion icon in Paris and soon to be the priced possession of the ladies of the high society in Europe. Well before Europe discovered Pashmina, the Mughal courts already flaunted it. It has been an important commodity in the Caravans on the Silk route trade and was known as the “Soft Gold”. Wars were fought and treaties signed to claim and control this pashmina trade routes.
It still remained the most coveted fibre in the world and has its origin in this land of High Mountains. Changthang region in Ladakh is an extension of the Tibetan Plateau, and home to pastoral nomads known as the Changpa, or “people from the north” and their livestock includes the Pashmina goat or the Changra. Over centuries they have been following the same migration pattern and lifestyle. From time in memorial this fibre was sent to Kashmir where the weaving was done and sent out to the rest of the world.
The Pashmina trail is a journey woven together by the stories told by Ladakhis, who are custodians of culture and heritage of their land. I invite you to join me on this carefully crafted tour that takes you diving beneath the surface and add another layer in your discovery of Ladakh.
Against the Stok Range the dancers performed Shandol Dance, the dance that was once performed only in the courts of the King. Today it is performed for all. I watched this at HIAL an institute founded by, well known innovator, reformer and educationist of Ladakh Dr Sonam Wangchuck.
One amount the best preserved Bhuddhist murals at the Alchi Temple complex, dates back to 13th or 11th century ..this is yet to be established, but the multi cultural influence in the murals makes you think more about the melting pot that Ladakh once was.
Sonam & Ming start with explaining the Fibre to Fabric process and the natural dyes used for LENA products. We sink our hands with the Pashmina yarn into the bucket of dye made from madder and wash the excess dye off in the flowing stream. No! there are no pollutants here.
The universal mantra of the Avalokitesvara Buddha ‘Om Mani Pad Me Hum’ is etched into these smooth stones.
Camping with the Changpas in Changthang at 15000 feet. I walked along with one of my hosts as she carried her baby in this little sack all snug and warm..the little one smiled when I sang her a song.
On my every visit to Ladkah , I meet wonderful talented people and discover an enterprise working on a truly Ladakhi experience. Here is a story of few of them thru a sensory experience.
A trek across this gorge and valley of Russian Sage is the only way to reach this small village called TAR, where the 15 family shave chosen a self-sustaining lifestyle that their ancestors have followed.
My favourite Contemporary artist in Ladakh is this young and funky lady Jigmet Agmo, with a distinct art style interpreting her Land.
Authentic food is an integral part of the itineraries I design and I always look for home chefs and food enthusiasts who can give a taste of those favourite family recipes passed down over generations in its full flavours.
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