The Genius of the Kashmiri Handicraft

Kashmiri handicraft
Photo by Raisa Nastukova on Unsplash

The Kashmir valley besides from being known for a concoction of political disarray, freezing winters and alluring landscape, is the flag bearer of skilled weavers and adept craftsmen in India. The word Kashmir is derived from Sanskrit words: ka meaning water and shimeer meaning desiccated. According to some ancient texts Kashmir was previously a lake. As gradually the water receded, the land of Kashmir surfaced.

The culture of Kashmir is a diverse blend and highly influenced by Indian, Persian as well as Central Asian cultures. This translates into the diversification of the art and craft of Kashmir and their respective techniques and motifs. The pashmina shawl from Kashmir is world-famous. Pashmina shawl is made from the hair of the downy undercoat of the Changthangi goat. Legend has it that a pure pashmina shawl has the potential to pass through a ring. One google search on ‘kashmiri shawl for men’, and you’re exposed to the variety of traders and businessmen trying to sell you these shawls for a price that seems too good to be true.

Kashmiri handicraft - Walnut Wood Carving
Walnut Wood Carving

The wide assemblage of Kashmir handicraft also comprises of walnut wood, paper mache and exquisite needlework in the form of sozni embroidery and kashida embroidery. Kashmiri walnut wood carving is extremely detailed and executed on trays, dining tables, boxes et cetera and the walnut wood texture contributes to a pleasantly convoluted final finish.

Kahmiri handicraft - sozni embroidery
Sozni Embroidery

Kashmiri embroidery also includes crewel embroidery and the tilla embroidery which exhibit the mastery of precision as both these embroideries utilize either wool yarn or gold metallic threads which can be a task to present to perfection. Kashmiri embroidery designs mostly include flowers, blossoms, leaves, creepers and the prepossessing leaf of the chinar tree. The ‘chinar tree in Kashmir’ motif is used in almost every handicraft and embroidery.

Paper mache art was brought by Muslim saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani from Persia in the 14th century to medieval India. It is based primarily on paper pulp, and is a richly decorated, colourful artifact; in the form of vases, bowls, or cups, trays, bases of lamps and many more objects.

Paper mache crafts are symbolic of how political history continues to be memorialised through the craft. On a paper mache box that has motifs of Mongol soldiers mounted on horses playing polo, one can on a closer look, observe that the soldiers are indeed painted to have Mongol facial features.

Kashmiri handicraft - Chinar tree motif used in paper mache
Chinar Tree Motif used in Paper Mache

The ‘kashmiriyat’ of the kashmiri people is apposite to the carpet weaving and rug making industry that employs a multitude of kashmiri youth. The craft had witnessed a rapid proliferation in the rural belt of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara areas back in the day. However, in the current decade, the kashmir rug has seen a steady decline mostly due to stiff competition from Turkish and Iranian counterparts. A surplus blockade is the exploitation of kaarigars and artisans by huge conglomerates and businesses. At this point of time, the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign needs assistance from our fellow countrymen more than ever so as to improve the lives of these talented artists. So, if you look for a Kashmiri carpet online to add that one missing element in your room, make sure the authenticity is to vouch for along with the accreditation of it being a locally handwoven one! So, saying that the amount of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir is directly proportional to the vastness and grandeur culture of Jammu and Kashmir wouldn’t be a false statement! The cold climate and the cinematic explosion of the landscape would definitely give all Kashmir Ki Kali vibes and make you fall in love with the crowned jewel of India

Kashmir Valley art
Photo by Eshani Mathur on Unsplash

Article By: Ipsita Kaul

Ipsita is a fashion student fascinated by corresponding topics of art and sustainability. She aims to contribute to an effective dialogue tackling the above themes for a better understanding among people who are not familiar with these topics and shed light on the socio-cultural implications of the same.

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