Pashmina (also known as Pashm) is a fine cashmere wool, coming from Kashmir in India and some parts of Nepal. The word ‘Pashmina’ comes from the Persian word ‘Pashmineh’ which means ‘made from Pashm’, and Pash means wool in Persian. The Iranians, who came to Kashmir via the Ladakh route, gave the fabric its name, ‘Pashmina’.
The Pashmina wool comes from either a Changthangi goat or a Pashmina goat which are special breed of goats indigenous to the high altitude regions of Nepal and India. The famous Pashmina shawls are made from this fine fiber.
The Pashmina Goat was first discovered by a prominent Muslim scholar, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani in Ladakh in the 1300s. Earlier, the fiber was also known as pashm. The first mention of Kashmiri woolen shawls were found in the Afghan texts between the 4th century BC and the 10th century AD. However, it was the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who started the Cashmere wool industry in India by introducing weavers from Central Asian countries.
The Changpa tribe, from the Changthang region are known to be the traditional producers of Pashmina Wool in the Ladakh region. These tribal people rear sheep in harsh and chilly winter climate and lead a nomadic life to produce Pashmina wool.
The Cashmere wool is collected every spring from the goats shedding their winter coat. Approximately 80–170 grams of the fiber is collected from each goat and spun to produce Cashmere. Throughout the winter season, the inner coat of the goat’s wool re-grows and becomes ready for extraction of wool in the next Spring.
The quality of the cashmere produced in the Gobi Desert is regarded better than the Himalayas variant, because of its consistent manufacturing process and modern machinery.