Commercial organisation of traditional occupational groups in Kashmir under different regimes:
It is not clearly manifested when the growth and development of traditional occupations began in Kashmir. However, it is often believed that the growth of various crafts occurred in the form of rent or revenue. During the earlier phases of Shawl industry goods were produced in the village communities. The goods were represented and exchanged by the village communities during various festivals and fairs held at shrines and other holy places. Thus, holy places acted as a source of exchange of Shawls among various villages.
During the 3rd century B.C markets were setup in growing towns and cities in the valley of Kashmir, which lent basis of trade and commerce. The growth was further extended during the 6th Century A.D. which laid new foundations of market with full of supplies.
The ‘Muslim rule’ witnessed the Shawl trade organised on the basis of strengthening marketing system. The Muslim empire whole- heartedly contributed towards the growth and development of shawl industry. The Sultans held various amounts of fabric which they exported to different parts of the world through their merchants who had established their own marketing outlets. The Mughal rulers established new marketing centres at Lahore, Ahmadabad, Agra, Gujarat and Southern India. During their regime numerous steps were taken to supply regular quantity of fabric to Persia, Egypt and Nepal. In order to get popularity of Kashmiri Shawl Special Officers were appointed to procure the best Shawls from Kashmir. The Mughals maintained minute details of the Shawl industry. In Dastur-ul-Aml Alamgiri, we come across some orders sent by Indian merchants to Kashmiri manufacturers for producing various kinds of Shawls. We also find rates mutually fixed for certain designs and measurements, such as Jamawar, Kamarband, Plain Shawl, romal, hashia and pashmina of tus, in Massirul-Umara and other Persian sources. All these efforts lent support to the Shawl manufacture and business.
The Kashmiri Shawl entered into European market during the 18th and 19th centuries which laid foundation stone for commercial organisation.
Volume of Production: It is quite evident from the historical literature that Kashmir was conquered and ruled by different regimes among them some were keen interested in developing Kashmir and others were busy in exploitation of both natural and human resources. This has influenced the volume of production from time to time. In the regime of Sultans a large quantity of Shawls was produced annually. It is believed that during Sultans period 2,000 Looms were used to produce large scale production of Shawls. This number was further extended up-to 40,000 during the regime of Mughals that in turn consequently increased the volume of production. Transactions worth of lacs of rupees took place at the Mughal court.
During the tenure of Afghans the industry suffered heavy loss when the number of Karkhanas started declining from 24,000 to 16,000 that directly affected the volume of production. The revenue collected by the state from Shawl business did not exceed 4 lacs of rupees annually during the governorship of Azim Khan. During the Sikh rule, Moorcroft estimated that the total volume of the fabric production was estimated approximately about 35 lacs of rupees per annum. The years 1845-1869 marked by Dogra rule remunerated an annual income of 7 lacs. Several reasons are responsible for the decline of volume of production of those traditional occupational groups. The lowest out-come in volume of production was observed during the year 1870-1872. From 1872 on-words no statistical figures are available to show the conditions of volume of production though the production was increased due the organisation of swadeshi movement and the great two world wars. In the year 1947 the industry suffered on account of tribal raids from across the border and the artificial scarcity of pashm created by the merchants. In the year 1974, the production of Shawl was at its peak due to the increasing demand exercised by several developed countries. The below cited table clearly depicts the production worth crores of rupees:
Production worth crores of rupees
Production worth crores of rupees
Source Directorate of handicrafts, Srinagar, Kashmir
Exports: The process of export of Kashmiri Shawl began in the middle ages mainly in Lahore, Agra, Delhi, Rome and Egypt. Similar flows of export were happened in Turkey, Persia, America, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Chinese Turkestan and Russsia. George Forester who visited valley during the regime of Afghans noted that numerous merchants from different countries were trading in Shawl goods. Similar trend was recognised by Elphinstone, who saw Kashmiri Shawls were going to the zones of Persia as a principle item of Kashmiri’s export. He says that the king of Persia forbade the use of them with a view to encourage the manufacture of his country. Mohan Lal Kashmiri also found the fabric dispersed all over Afghanistan. Besides, Bombay, Lucknow, Delhi and Punjab provided vast markets for the Shawl. Indians of “high caste” and people with sound economic background made Shawl a necessary article of fashion in their apparel. When the demand of Shawl started decline in India and other Asiatic Markets the Shawl began to be exported to France where it became an indispensable item among the French Ladies who could afford it. From France the popularity of wearing Kashmiri Shawl diffused throughout Europe. As a result, the great demand of it came from France, Germany, Italy, United States of America and Britain. The percentage of export in these countries is as beset:
France = 80%
U.S.A = 10%
Italy = 5%
Russia = 2%
Germany = 1%
Britain = 1%
According to Young husband : ” from 1862- 1870, the export of Shawls averaged 25-28 lakhs of rupees per annum, or over a quarter of a million sterling, and when the trade was at its zenith 25,000 to 28,000 persons were engaged in their manufacture.
After 1870s no concrete data is available regarding the export of Kashmiri Shawl that has happened due to the irresponsibility of the state administration However, while passing many years of independence that Kashmiri replicated its tradition of export of Shawl to developed countries. This is clearly indicated by the following table.*
Exports/ Shawl export worth crores of rupees