What is Pashmina?

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A Miracle of Nature

The source of cashmere is the Changthangi goat (capra hircus) a beautiful but hardy animal found in the cold, arid plateau surrounding Ladakh in the northernmost Indian state of Kashmir. The goats grow a thick, warm fleece and the special fibres for cashmere come from their downy undercoats. The distinctive animals, with their large twisted horns, graze under open skies and many travelogues will capture them dotting meadows and foothills, their mostly white coats contrasting with their rocky surroundings. This unique Himalayan biotope also supports other endangered species like snow leopards and black-necked cranes.

Ancient Rhythms of Life

The local Changpa community has reared Changthangi goats, along with yak and sheep, for centuries. The Changpas are nomadic pastoralists. Academic accounts, state that they migrated from Tibet in the 8th century AD crossing the Himalayas to reach the Changthang region in India, which is a western extension of the Tibetan Plateau. The Changpas share a strong bond with their animals and their lives are governed by an ancient rhythm that aligns with the life-stages of the goats. For example, extreme cold is thought to be an essential element for triggering the growth of the Changthangi’s coats. In fact the Changpas have a saying that ‘as the days grow shorter, the wool of the Changthangi grows longer’. Unlike other nomadic tribes, in the region, therefore, the Changpas do not descend to kinder climes in the winter. Instead, the guardians of the Changthangi trace the migratory routes of their ancestors, grazing their herds in pastures at heights more than 4,500 metres. The wrinkled, tanned faces of the tribesmen and women reflect the harsh lives they live. Men are typically dressed in heavy jackets with layer upon layer of sheepskin while women wear thick felt coats. Their silver jewelry and headwear is brightly adorned with mountain coral and turqouise Himalayan lapis.