By Kiran Badola
Crafts are reflections of indigenous traditions and requirements of a region. Natives immerse themselves in terms of skill and aesthetics. A good design serves form and function, both – the former pertains to shape and look, whereas the latter to utility. Emphasis is on utilising locally abundant natural resources. Warriors during the regime of Garhwal King Medni Shah (1614-1660) wore blankets made out of coarse mountain goat hair and Hemp as armour to protect themselves during combat.
Mountain goats are prevalent in all mountainous regions. Uttarakhand goats need to be given their own identity because they are unique to the state and are different from other mountain goat species. The breeds found are Chegu and Gaddi. Both sexes of Chegu goats have horns, directed upwards, backwards and outwards, with one or more twists. The Gaddi goats have long horns, long drooping ears and a convex nose line.
Uttarakhand goats are well adapted to harsh climatic conditions. They dwell within an altitude of 13000 feet and slightly above in Alpine and sub Alpine regions, which are above and below the tree line. “Bakrawal” (Shepherds) move with their livestock to favourable climatic conditions and make good use of goat hair by spinning it by hand, using a “Takuli”/drop-spindle. The yarn produced is the backbone of weaving textiles.
The three districts in Uttarakhand that are home to the mountain goat are Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh. Herds of Uttarakhand goats nibble on vegetation as against grazing by sheep in the ‘Bugyals’ (Natural pastures/Meadows).
Uttarakhand goat hair is readily available with a natural sheen in colours: Black, brown, gray and white, which is wear resistant. Hand woven designs using Uttarakhand goat hair of varying thickness, twist and ply as well as weave structures and colour combinations can be incorporated for making a wide range of products.
Uttarakhand goat hair is a potential value adding resource for mountain specific products such as “Tyunkha”/coats, shoe uppers, umbrellas, “Daukha”/carpets/rug/runners, “Paidan”/doormats, coasters, placemats, table runners, furniture upholstery, spectacle cases, pouches and lamp shades.
The process of manufacturing yarn is an indigenous one, involving steps of “Bhyora mathyon”/Shearing/Fleecing, Washing, Carding, Combing and Spinning. Uttarakhand goats have an outer coat and an inner coat, with varying lengths and coarseness of fibres. Down fibres are short and soft, bearing resemblance to that of Sheep wool.
The properties characteristic to Uttarakhand goat yarn are: Water resistant; Flame retardant; Insulating; Mildew resistant; Insect repellant; Protective; Decomposition resistant; High tensile strength; Wear resistant; Eco-friendly; Bio-degradable; and Fade resistant.
The Uttarakhand Government can uplift local livelihoods by providing job opportunities to the weavers living in the Himalayas for sustaining the craft, skill and heritage. By way of making cooperatives which seamlessly tie with the buyers world-wide, revenue can be generated to make Uttarakhand known for its weavers and natural resource.
The biggest buyer can be the Uttarakhand Government. All of the furnishings in Government buildings must make use of this naturally prevalent fibre. Fibres like Jute, which is imported, can be replaced with Uttarakhand goat hair, to weave useful textiles! By-products such as milk, cheese, butter and butter-milk can be an industry in itself. This underutilised resource must be brought to use for economic growth of the region.