This watercolour depicts Kashmir shawls being washed by the river bank, most probably the River Jhelum in Srinager, located in the heart of the Kashmir valley. Some hang on a line, whilst others are being beaten on stones or wrung out. A washerman treads a soap solution in a bowl, presumably working up a lather to clean the white parts of the shawl, plain water only being applied to coloured areas. Baden Powell notes that 'the process of washing the shawls, which is quite an art in itself, is always better done in Kashmir' (i.e. than in the Punjab). Shawl operatives believed that the waters of the River Jhelum held special properties that accounted for the superiority of Srinagar shawls to those made elsewhere.
For another example of washermen at work see the exhibition catalogue Kashmir Shawls, op. cit, no. 7.