The paisley is a droplet-shaped motif, similar to half the yin-yang symbol. Resembling a large comma, it is one of the most recognized patterns in the world.

While there is some discussion as to where it first appeared (some say Mesopotamia, others claim Kashmir), there is no doubt that it owes its introduction to the West to the Kashmiri artisans who used it as one of the most common designs in their handicrafts and particularly the embroidered shawls. It has been a staple in Kashmir for at least two millennia.

In the 19th century British soldiers brought home cashmere shawls from the valley decorated with this traditional design. Kashmiri shawls became extremely popular, which in turn caused the price in Europe to escalate rapidly, making the item a status symbol for upper class women. The opportunity this presented was not lost on businessmen who sought to benefit by manufacturing shawls locally. Since the demand in Europe was for Kashmiri shawls, the local industry copied the original items, including the designs. The paisley motif was picked up and popularized when the women of the town of Paisley, Scotland adapted the design and wove woolen shawls, hence the design is popularly known as the Paisley pattern.

So while the paisley got its Western name from a town in Europe, it is in fact a contribution from that Valley in the Himalayas to the world of art and design. It serves as an enduring symbol of Kashmiri culture and a tribute to her master artisans.


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