Spiti’s Traditional Lingti Shawl

It is a shame not to see the Lingti shawl so often these days. When I first came to the valley in the early 1990’s, festivals were a time to dress up, put on the traditional dress, your family jewellery and put your Lingti shawl over your shoulders. Looking at the crowds at a festival was a feast of colour and beauty.

When I went to a festival in July 2012, I expected to see the same, I’d brought my camera with the intention of getting some good shots of these beautiful colourful women. This was an important festival attended by Rev.N K Lochen Rinpoche. However, I was sadly disappointed, there was an absence of the traditional costume. The shawls were replaced by the Kinnour white shawl with a small decorated border, much quicker and easier to make but not nearly so dramatic. The jewellery style has changed too, I guess we women are all subject to fashion as in every culture. Instead of the classic pearl, coral and turquoise necklaces, the modern trend is to have 22 or 24 carat gold beads on a black beaded thread or pearls which is very attractive but looks more modern than the traditional Spiti style.

When I enquired about this, the women say there isn’t time to get the traditional costumes and jewellery out of the trunks where it is packed away, to spend one to two hours dressing up. Is this progress or is this the influence of the modern world we now live in? It is the same in European culture, if one goes to the Opera at Covent Garden in London, there is a mixture of dress from T shirt and jeans to Black tie and evening dress.

The Spiti valley has a rich cultural heritage that goes un-noticed by most of the world. It is so important to preserve these crafts in these fast-moving times.

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