Woven shawls in India have been worn as early as Indus Valley Civilisation. The most famous example is a statue of priest or priest king who is draped in a shawl coming under the right arm and covering the left shoulder. His shawl is decorated with trefoil patterns.
As for the fibre is also known as pashm or pashmina for its use in the handmade shawls of the Himalayas. The woolen shawls made in Kashmir are mentioned in Afghan texts between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. However, the founder of the Pashmina industry is traditionally held to be the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who introduced weavers from Central Asia; other sources consider pashmina crafts were introduced by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. In 14th – century Mir Ali Hamadani came to Kashmir along with 700 craftsmen from parts of Persia. when Mir Ali Hamadani came to Ladakh,(Kashmir) home land of pashmina goats, for the first time in history he found that the Ladakhi goats produced soft wool. He took some wool and made socks and gave them as a gift to king of Kashmir, Sultan Kutabdin. Afterwards Hamadani suggested to the king that they start a shawl weaving industry in Kashmir using this wool. Pashmina shawls have been worn by the royalty and the elites in the region for centuries. Pashmina blankets were also vital additions to a wealthy women’s dowry in India and Nepal. They are a status symbol in the East. The United Nations specialized agency UNESCO reported in 2014 that Ali Hamadani was one of the principal historical figures who shaped the culture of Kashmir, both architecturally and also through the flourishing of arts and crafts and hence economy in Kashmir. The skills and knowledge that he brought to Kashmir gave rise to an entire industry The test for a quality pashmina is warmth and feel. Pashmina and Cashmere are derived from the “capra hircus” mountain goat. One distinct difference between Pashmina and generic Cashmere is the fibre diameter. Pashmina fibres are finer and thinner (12-15 microns) than generic cashmere fibre (15-19 microns), and therefore, ideal for making light weight apparel like fine scarves. Today, however, the word “Pashmina” is used indiscriminately, and many scarves made from natural or synthetic fiber are sold under the name “Pashmina”, creating confusion in the market. The exorbitant price of a Pashmina shawl is due to the quantum of expert craftsmanship that goes into creating each shawl and the rarity of the Pashmina wool – the wool is used in an authentic Kashmiri Pashmina comes from the Changthangi breed of the capra hircus goat and this breed constitutes less than 0.1% of global Cashmere production.
As the fibre diameter is very low, Pashmina has to be hand-processed and woven into products such as shawls, scarves, wraps, throws, stoles, etc. However, the quality of a finished shawl is not solely dependent on the fibre diameter of the wool but also on the craftsmen’s skills. Pashmina products are made only in Kashmir and more recently in Nepal where the industry has seen a surge in production. Kashmir handmade pashmina shawl is 100% pashmina because the thread is hand spun, whereas machine made mixed easily with simple wool and acrylic.