Ancient Babylonians likened it to an uncurling date palm shoot.Providing them with food, wine, wood, paper, hatch, and string—all of life’s necessities—date palms symbolized prosperity and plenty.The shawls arrived in Britain in the 18th century when the soldiers and administrators of the British East India Company brought them back as presents for their loved ones.As the shawls became more fashionable, the Company started importing them and, since demand exceeded supply and the cost of the original Kashmir shawls was rather high, many manufacturers began imitating the product.Taking root in ancient Babylonia (where it decorated everything from plates to palaces) and moving west with the East India Company in the form of luxury shawls that became a status symbol for the stylish women of the Napoleonic era.My own fascination with paisley patterns was sparked by an exhibition of Kashmir shawls at the Textile Museum of Canada. The symbol sprang up millennia ago, somewhere between present-day Iran and the Kashmiri region straddling the Indian-Pakistani border.
The town became the epicentre of production for the iconic teardrop pattern over the following century and eventually the names of the town and pattern became synonymous. "The collection in Paisley Museum is internationally significant and a fascinating showcase of the creativity and craftmanship which defined the town and carried its name around the world.
As decoration on jewelry it can be traced back to the second and third centuries; later it appeared in other decorative arts from Persia.
By the seventeenth century it was springing up on textiles woven in Kashmir.
The pattern can indeed be traced back to ancient Babylonian civilisation where it was used as a symbol to represent the growing shoot of the date palm, also regarded as the "tree of life", since it provided Babylonians with food, drink, clothing and shelter.
The symbol first appeared to decorate a 17th century Indian shawl from Kashmir used by men.