Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rugs for Peace

Ranikhet, a small, polished hill town nestled in the high Himalayas about three hours north of Nainital, is the abode of the Kumaon Regiment.

The Regiment is one of the most respected Battalions of the Indian Army, having served not only in British lands before independence, but in battlefields all over Kashmir, Arunachal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Korea, Congo, Gaza, South, Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea post-independence. 

The town of Ranikhet is beautifully maintained, with a discipline and integrity that is characteristic of many cantonment towns in India. The roads are often occupied by young soldiers training on uphill roads, playing basketball, marching, shooting, etc. But the air is not one of defense or war. The range of Himalayas, which expand from the to the might Trishul to the docile Panchulis, creates an atmosphere of peace, harmony and a sacred reverence: beyond the body to the forces of nature.

And this integration of all forces into wholesome life activities is manifested most beautifully in the KRC Community Centre, which is a visual, architectural, social, cultural delight.

The KRC Woolens is run by the war widows of the Kumaon Regiment. An old British-made church has been converted into a factory, where the women work on hand-looms producing shawls and tweeds, and another section is a shop where their finished products are sold.

The shawls are knit with ethnic borders and patterns from the Himalaya, and the tweeds mimic a British sensibility of checks and warm woolen trousers.  

This way, the women form a community, eat together, sing together and exchange information about their families, about health and about wealth. Additionally, they bring in a fixed income for their family, gain a skill, stay creative and provide warmth for their families in the harsh winters.
Here are textiles for a social cause. 

Text: Wooly Eyes
Images: Google Images & Wooly Eyes

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