The Women of the Mountains
Updated: Apr 2
The eco-friendly ‘Pahadi’ lifestyle
Himalayan women are some of the most highly skilled people in the world. Their knowledge/skillset ranges from organic farming, dairy-farming, agroforestry, horticulture, sericulture, hand-looming, handcrafting, and naturopathy(alternative herbal medicines). With no formal education and abundant traditional knowledge their lifestyles are an ‘epitome of sustainable living’.
Even after being a storehouse of such skills they live below the poverty line. A local Himalayan woman is independent enough to grow and prepare her own food; yarn, weave, stitch, sew, knit and embroider her own garments; make her own Koehl; and craft her furniture, utensils and jewellery. She possesses the knowledge of all the natural resources around her and uses them according to her need with minimal damage to the environment.
The mountains provide them with the greatest reservoir of raw products to support their needs but also become the toughest barriers to breakthrough. The villages in the higher reaches of the Himalayas are not well connected with the major road networks; they do not receive a continuous supply of power and the food is still prepared on the woods fetched by the women from the nearby forests. It provides a haunting contrast of lifestyles in the 21st century where on one hand wifi connectivity is considered a need and on the other, the struggle for basic life support.
The entire stretch of the mighty Himalayas is divided into multiple regions based on climate and ethnicity. The climatic condition of the regions provide a unique variety of yarn such as the hand felted Cashmere wool, the Yak wool, the Rabbit wool, the soft Lambswool, the fine Himalayan silk produced from the Silkworms that feed on oak, mulberry and the castor leaves, the hypoallergenic Himalayan Hemp Fabric to name a few. These are some of the most sought after raw materials in the fashion industry worldwide.
The arts and crafts of the mountains have been passed on through generations but have been confined within the tribes. These unique artworks require precision, focus and the creative use of colours to produce the finest quality. The hand embroideries practised locally such as the Crewel(Aari) hand embroidery using the silk thread, Needlework (Sozhni) embroidery on Pashmina Shawls, Chamba Embroidery-an intricate needlework from Himachal are some of the most exquisite designs adorned by the royals since time immemorial.
The variety of indigenous handicrafts include the Papier Mache; Dogri, Kashmiri, Ladakhi, and Gharwali woodwork; locally designed silverware, brassware, and copperware.
The exquisite paintings from the Pahari school of miniature paintings include the Basohli style, Chamba style, Garhwal style, and the Tibetan Thangka Paintings which are valued as aids in meditational practices.
There are multiple initiatives taken by the government to educate the girl child but hardly any to match their skill with the market and provide a source of earning. The hardworking women of the mountains toil all their life but never experience economic independence.
Role of Giri Foundation in the lives of these women
Giri foundation realizes the untapped potential of the women of the mountains and aims to provide the right platform to bring forth this talent to the world. It is the thread connecting the local mountain women artisans with the global retailers.
Giri Foundation envisions to preserve, protect, and promote traditional handicrafts and handlooms, besides creating job opportunities for these hard-working women, and in turn, providing them financial freedom.
As a foundation, we believe this is an opportunity to promote women's leadership at the community level with a hope that these empowered and liberated women would be torchbearers for the generations to come.