CHITRAL: The sale of hand-made traditional cultural dresses, pakol caps, waistcoats and chogha (long coat) witnessed a considerable increase as winter sets in Chitral as tourists and locals throng markets to buy warm cloths
These warm cultural dresses are made from sheep wool, famously called as Chitrali patti.
Chitrali patti has assumed the status of an industry in Chitral as women besides looking after their houses also wash sheep wool and extract thread from it with their hands. After this process the threads are converted into patti which is used in preparation of Chitrali caps, chogha, waistcoats and women’s shawls.
The hand-made woolen items of Chitral are famous throughout Pakistan and other countries. Visitors from different parts of the country and abroad take keen interest in buying these items.
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Sohaib Mukhtiar, a visitor from Multan, said he had come to Chitral to buy Chitrali warm clothes for his family.
“We have come to buy Chitrali caps, choghas and shawls. The handmade items of Chitral are of high quality and beautiful as well,” he said.
Hahi Bazaar is the main market for warm clothes in Chitral. A large number of national and foreign visitors come to this market and take keen interest in shopping. However, the people associated with the business of sale of warm clothes complain about lack of support from the government.
Some people associated with this business told the media that the government is paying no attention towards development of this industry and they still have to use old and traditional technique which is a time-consuming exercise.
They demanded of the government to provide financial assistance to the people associated with this business and also provide modern machinery to them. They said promotion of this industry will create thousands of job opportunities and prove a milestone in eradication of poverty from this -region.
According to Twilling Tweeds an organisation promoting Chitrali handicrafts, the main cottage industry of Chitral has been the production of shu or Chitrali patti; hand woven woollen Cloth from local sheep, yak and ibex. It is one of the indigenous skills developed in Chitral and deep rooted in the local culture. Other crafts include embroidery, knitting, crochet, rug making, woodwork, pottery, metalwork, and the making of agriculture implements.
Traditional embroidery used silk thread; local historians believe that silk was introduced in Chitral during the seventh century AD by the Chinese who were the principal power at that time with the local rulers paying them taxes.
Chitrali embroidery to date is carried out by skilled female embroiderers with articles are made for wedding gifts, dowries and other household decorative items. The common stitches used in embroidery are cross-stitch and Satin stitch. Other stitches are also widely used.
It is alarming to note that the cottage industry of hand loomed Chitrali patti is on decline owing to the emergence of factory-made cloth which is cheaper and finer than the hand-made cloth.
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The coarse cloth made of sheep wool, known for its attractive look and durability since long, was also a source of sustenance for a large number of families till 1970s.
With the passing of time, the people of Chitral switched over to other professions and livestock keeping registered a sharp decrease. Keeping livestock has a direct effect on the Patti industry as it provides wool, the main ingredient of the product. The Chitrali patti is an identity of this remote area as it has been named after the district.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2017.