It was Russian painter and philosopher Nicholas Roerich's daughter-in-law Devika Rani, the Indian film star, who came to Naggar in Himachal Pradesh's Kullu in 1942 where Roerich came in 1927 from St. Petersburg and made the tiny village his home.
It was on Devika Rani's request that local weaver Sheru Ram of Banontar village weaved an urban size shawl on his pit loom.
Later, inspired by his handicraft work, Pandit Urvi Dhar stepped into the manufacturing of shawls commercially.
Today, traditional weavers in the hill state have kept the handloom heritage not only alive but also earned name globally.
The Kullu and Kinnauri shawls all rare masterpieces of the embroidery.
The state government is organising awareness camps and training classes for weavers who are also being directly benefited through various components of the cluster development programme, officials said.
Equipment related to handlooms are being made available to the weavers.
Marketing facility is being provided through the state Industries Department in fairs and exhibitions. Their products are widely sold in national level events like trade fairs, Dilli Haat, Surajkund, etc.
The Himachal Pradesh State Handloom and Handicrafts Development Cooperative Federation Ltd., popularly known as HIMBUNKAR, is a state-level apex organisation of primary cooperative societies comprising weavers and artisans engaged in production of handicraft woven on handloom and are promoting the Kullu shawl and caps since many years.
Around 1944, the Bhutti weaver co-operative society was registered under Punjab Cooperative Society, Lahore, presently known as Bhuttico, and trained thousands of Kullu women to fashion the Kullu shawls.
In 1956, Thakur Ved Ram became a member of this society and revived it again and since thereafter Satya Prakash Thakur, the Chairman of Bhuttico, has been running Bhuttico all over Himachal, and is providing employment to thousands in this cottage industry and others who are directly or indirectly associated with it.
Today, the annual sale of Bhuttico is around Rs 13.50 crore.
The state government has also started schemes for encouraging weavers and incorporating the latest techniques of textile production.
Earlier, the Kullvi people used to weave plain shawls but after the arrival of Bushehari craftsman from Rampur in Shimla district the trend of patterned handloom came into existence.
Typical Kullu shawls have geometrical designs on both ends. Besides geometrical designs, the shawls are also woven in floral designs, which may run all over, on the corners or on the borders only.
Each design may have one to eight colours. Traditionally, bright colours, viz. red, yellow, magenta pink, green, orange, blue, black and white were used for patterning and white, black and natural grey or brown were used as the base in these shawls.
Currently, these bright colours are being replaced gradually by pastel colours.
Much renowned for the convolution and finesse in weaving, Kinnauri shawls are unique.
In October 2010, these intricately patterned woollen shawls hand-woven by the indigenous community of Kinnaur district, was granted a patent under the Geographical Indications (GIs) of Goods Act.
Their elaborate geometrical designs have a strong Central Asian influence. The motifs woven have a very special symbolic and religious significance. Its designing techniques are greatly influenced by Central Asia and Tibet.
Few textile engines have been working as motivators by their innovative skills and ideas giving new dimensions to the handloom industry.
One such young textile engineer, Anshul Malhotra, from Mandi district is working as a motivator for the weavers.
Honoured with Nari Shakti Samman by the President on International Women's Day last year and the Kalanidhi Award twice at the Surajkund Fair, she's engaged in giving new dimensions to the handloom industry with the skill inherited from her grandfather and father.
She is using her skills to create new designs according to the market. Apart from Mandi, the weavers of Lahaul-Spiti, Kullu and Kinnaur districts have also been associated with her.
She has been providing training facilities to the weavers for weaving as per the market demand. Designed and made in Himachal by her, the Kano saree gained immense popularity last year and was also a part of many fashion shows.
With the encouragement of the government and the skill of the weavers, the handloom industry in the state is proving to be helpful in self-reliance, employment generation and preservation of traditional skills.