By Syed Zulkifil Sarfraz
MUZAFFARABAD, Oct 25 (APP):The state of Jammu and Kashmir with enchanting landscape is not only famous for its natural beauty, tradition and culture and known as the paradise on the earth but also enriched with its handicrafts depicting its rich culture and civilization which is spread over centuries.
The kaleidoscope of Kashmiri handicrafts is unique in its versatile designs, eye soothing and eye catching beauty. Despite the increasing influence of innovation and automation, the artistry and skill of hand-made artifacts of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continue to receive world-wide acclaim.
The traditional woolen shawls, paper-Mâchié goods, wood-carvings and carpet weaving have all survived the onslaughts of many centuries of socio-economic evolution only because the craft objects of Kashmir are ingrained in the socio-economic ethos of the people.
The crafts and cultural traditions of J&K are deeply rooted. Here, the crafts reflect in equal measure its history, landscape and way of life. A beautiful amalgam of three cultures of the valiant earthiness of Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and the ethereal, but no more mysterious, isolation of Ladakh has a direct effect on the crafts of these regions. The skill of the Kashmiri craftsperson, along with their capacity for intricate workmanship is one of the most important yet most invisible resources.
Kashmiri handicraft is a traditional art of Kashmiri people and Artisans who make, craft, and decorate objects by hand. Besides, the summer capital of Srinagar( IHK), the rest of its districts, including Srinagar within the parameters of seven bridges of the city, Ghanderbal and Budgam are best known for their cultural heritage which extends handicraft industry in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most beautiful destinations for tourists.
Besides, there are many other things about this beautiful land to talk about such as its picturesque landscape, it’s gorgeous people, and its attractive art and crafts. Tourism has been one of the most revenue generating industries in Indian held Jammu and Kashmir, which has become slow in the past few years due to unrest in the valley and gross human rights violation of Indian Armed forces against innocent unarmed civilians in IHK, However, after more than two decades of violence, the cottage industry was gaining back its position as more and more locals as well as international tourists were flocking in the valley but after revoking the special status of Kashmir and abrogation of article 370 and 35-A from Indian constitution by Modi government and imposition of lockdown on August 5,2019 the whole scenario of the IHK changed which hit hard the tourism and cottage industry sector of IHK and the Kashmiri people are facing worst kind of economic and political lockdown for last 14 months which shattered the economy of Kashmir.
According to the historians, the huge skill of Craftsmanship is home grown and creativity of Kashmiri fertile minds and the Persian Sofis (Auliya) also played their pivotal role in harbouring the skilled artisans with them besides, preaching Islam.
The state summer capital Srinagar and its surrounding areas are the main hub of handicrafts and the handicraft industry provides livelihood to a large number of people of Kashmir and almost 45% population is either directly or indirectly attached with handicrafts earning their livelihood. The arts and crafts of Jammu and Kashmir have recognition across the globe and everyone in the state is affiliated to this occupation in one way or the other and is the major economic sector of the state. Crafts in the state vary from embroidery to shawl weaving, wood carving to paper mache, carpet weaving, Namda weaving and much more.
The famous Kashmiri arts and crafts which are unique in the South Asian region and are known for the art of craftsmanship involved in making the best handicrafts of the world. Pashmina and Shahtoosh Shawls, Carpet Weaving, Namda Weaving, Crewel Work, Wood Carving (Walnut), Paper Mache, Sozini Work, Copper Ware, Tila Sozi, Chain Stitch, Phool Kari, Basoli, Miniature Paintings, Ladakhi Rugs, Wicker Work (Willow Work),Silk Tweeds and Silverware.Some of the famous handicrafts which got international repute and recognition:Shawls: Shawls have a very prestigious position in handicrafts and shawls may vary in the quality.
The shawls may be defined in three categories Woolen, Pashmina and Shahtoosh.
The raffle shawls are cheaper and coarse in texture as compared to the Pashmina shawls. Cost of these shawls exclusively depends on the quality of the shawl and the stitch work done on it. Most expensive shawl is Shahtoosh also known as ring shawl as it can literally pass through the ring and its material is known for its softness, lightness and warmth.
But this shawl is no more in trade because of being banned by the Government. There are various types of embroidery on these shawls, the stitch work and Sozni work are very common, paper Mache work is another type of embroidery done on the panel along the sides of the shawl and sometimes on the entire shawl. Embroidery is usually done with the usage of three colors and sometimes two colors also work. Aari or Hook work is another type of embroidery work. The Pashmina shawl is woven with an embroidery pattern by using the dyed thread and warp. And artisans very expertly make the peculiar designs on these shawls depicting the nature like birds and trees, architectural designs or mythological figures and sometimes embroidery is done with such mastery that both the sides of the shawl look same, this shawl is known as Jamawar and ranges in lacs of rupees.
Moreover, The demand for the Kashmiri carpets from across the globe has increased magically. Reason is very simple that Kashmir is known for its best pure silken carpets that are too knotted, knots denoting the durability of the carpets and knots per inch is the easiest mode of durability measurement. The bases of the carpets are usually made of cotton.
Carpets are hand woven and there is particular language that denotes the design to be carried out on the carpet. The art of weaving carpet has arrived in Kashmir at the time of Sultan Zainul Abidin from Persia and it is one reason the design from Persia dominated the carpet designs with a very little variation from the natives. Wood Carving: The wood carving is the famous art of the valley and is done only on the walnut wood and is available only in Kashmir. The wood carving and fret work are with different depth levels. Deep carving is 2 or more inches deep and the popular motifs are dragon or lotus flower. Second comes the Shallow carving and is usually half inch or more deep, done on the entire flat surface, open or lattice work depicting the Chinar motifs. Finally there comes the semi carving done on the thin panel along the rim of the surface containing the center motif. The best part of the walnut tree is the root, its color is dark and grains are pronounced well, the color faints at trunk and branches have the lightest color and is little inferior in quality. And deep carving is the costliest because it consumes more labor and time. A decorative wood carving will be the best souvenir, you can take back home.
Paper Mache: Paper Mache is the most famous handicraft of Kashmir and is mostly exported to the European countries. The process of making paper Mache begins with the soaking paper until it disintegrates then the whole paper is pounded to fine pulp and added with the adhesive. The material is shaped over molds and given particular shapes and left to dry. These molds are then painted black that is the base color and left to dry again. Latter Motifs are designed in gold or silver colors. Bed lamps, pen boxes, decorative are the common paper Mache items made, it is worth visiting the household who are involved in the occupation and observe the process of making and coloring these items very minutely. The material is just a wasted paper of no use but it is the skill and art of Kashmiri craftsmanship which turn the dust into gold.
Willow Works or Wickerwork: The art of making baskets with the willow is the famous handicraft in the valley and especially in the Hazratbal area of Srinagar city. The willow that profusely grows in the lakes and marshy lands is dried and many beautiful things are made up of it. Visit any willow shop and you will find lamp shades, baskets, tables and chairs and many other objects for sale and at a very cheap price. Copperware Art in Kashmir: The copperware art in Kashmir done on the copper utensils. is another fascination . The Kashmiri craftsmen were famous for their expressions in portraiture and first-rate information and textures on bronze work. Their hands may be seen in lots of art works from principal Asia to Tibet. This artwork is beautifully designed on the copper utensils and its main hub is the central city of Srinagar. The Copper was mined domestically from the mountains of Aishmuqam in the Liddar valley of south Kashmir. The sources of copper mines had been stored a secret and were an underlying country problem to guard them from the Sikh invaders of that point. It is believed that Zain-ul-Abedin known as Badshah(grand king)in the history of Kashmir led a totally easy existence dedicated to making his kingdom a paradise and took no cash from the national treasury for his non-public use but lived at the income from one copper mine. Other Crafts: The state produces the world’s famous silk of the high quality cocoon reared in Kashmir. The yarn of this fiber is very thin and of extremely high quality. Copper and silverware are other things that have achieved applause all over the world. Captivating products of wood carving, paper Mache, embroidery, carpets, shawls, etc are exquisite art work to mention.