(Last Updated on : 01/01/2009)
The J&K state has a rich heritage with respect to art and craft. Tours and travel to the state of Kashmir gives a chance to the tourists to explore the artistic tradition of the different tribes who make this vibrant and colorful region their home. There are several tribes living in different parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Each of these tribes has their own tradition and culture and it is still reflected in the day-to-day items like clothes, utensils etc.
The designs and naqqashi work done on the various handcrafted items have a strong imprint of ancient tradition. Kashmiri artisans endeavor to carry on the ancient tradition of artistry, though a few changes have taken place. Tours and travel to the remote rural regions in Kashmir gives you a chance to see these artisans at work and create exquisite works of art.
Kashmiri woodwork is very popular. Extensive carving is done on wooden furniture, wooden boxes and other decorative and useful items made of wood. Even Kashmiri Papier-mache work is also very popular Kashmiri art form. Papier-mache vases, bowls and other decorative items have exquisite traditional designs in vibrant colors on them.
Hand woven willow baskets are very common in Kashmir and the locals utilize these for their everyday use. Tours and travel to Kashmir gives you a chance to see these weavers at work. Kashmiri silk and woolen carpets have intricate designs woven on them. The wall hangings have naqqashi work done on them and are a favorite with tourists. The jamavar work that is done by artisans on silk and woolen shawls is characteristic of the state of Kashmir.
Carpet weaving in Kashmir in India arrived with the Mughals. The craft flourished in Kashmir and now Kashmir has become a hub for the quality rugs. The patterns are influenced by the Persian style with Indian version. One typically Kashmiri Indian pattern is the tree of life.
Far less expensive are these colorful floor coverings made from woolen and cotton fiber, which has been manually pressed into shape. Prices vary with the percentage of wool- a Namda containing 80% wool being more expensive than the one containing 20% wool. Chain stitch embroidery in woolen and cotton thread is worked on these rugs.
At first glance, all Papier Mache` objects look roughly the same, and the price differential seems almost unreasonable. However, besides at least three different grades of Papier` Mache`, some is actually cardboard or wood! The idea, however, is not to hoodwink the unwary, but to provide a cheaper product for someone who wants the look of Papier Mache`. To make Papier Mache`, first paper is soaked in water till it disintegrates. It is then pounded, mixed with an adhesive solution, shaped over moulds, and allowed to dry and set before being painted and varnished. Paper that has been pounded to pulp has the smoothest finish in the final product. When the pounding has not been thorough, the finish is less smooth.
The designs painted on objects of Papier Mache` are brightly colored. They vary in artistry and the choices of colors, and it is not difficult to tell a mediocre piece from an excellent one. Gold is used on most objects, either as the only color, or as the highlight for certain motifs, and besides the finish of the product, it is the quality of the gold used which determines the price. Pure Gold leaf, which has the unmistakable luster, is far more expensive than bronze dust or gold poster paint. It also has much longer life and will never fade or tarnish.
Varnish that is applied to the finished product, imparts a high gloss and smoothness, which increases with every coat. Cardboard, usually indistinguishable from Papier Mache`, gives slightly when pressed firmly. Otherwise the only difference is in the price, cardboard being cheaper than Papier Mache`.
Chain Stitch and Crewel Furnishings
The Kashmir region is well known for being the home of the most gifted craftsmen of this part of the world. One of the specialties of Kashmir is Chain Stitched embroidery, also known as ari embroidery. Chain stitch is one of the oldest of the decorative stitches and is the basis of a large group of stitches.
Saffron, Walnuts, Almonds, Honey
Pampore, outside Srinagar, is the only place in the world besides Spain where saffron is grown. The crocus Sativus, which blooms for a brief month in the year, has six golden stamens and one crimson one. It is the crimson Stamen which when collected and dried is referred to as the most expensive spice in the world. Sealed jars of this Spice, with the Government laboratory`s stamp approval, are available all over Srinagar. When buying loose saffron, sampling one strand is enough, for the flavor and fragrance of saffron are unmistakable. The climate of Kashmir is ideal for walnut and almond trees that grow here in abundance. Natural honey too, is a produce of the apiaries, which abound in the state.
Sericulture and tweed weaving are more important industries in Kashmir, with departments of the State got. Closely monitoring the process. Interestingly, just as little or no raw material for tweed comes from Kashmir, almost no weaving and printing of silk is done in the state. However, the cocoon reared in Kashmir is of the superior quality, yielding an extremely fine fiber, and any silk woven from this thread becomes known. The fineness of the yarn lends itself particularly well to the weaves known as `chinon` and `crepe de chine`, in addition to the universally recognized silk weave. Tweed on the other hand is woven in Kashmir with pure, never blended, wool. The resultant fabric, made with imported know-how, compares favorably with the best in the world. It is available by the length occasionally as ready to wear garments.
This garment, somewhere between a coat and a cloak, is eminently suited to the Kashmiri way of life, being loose enough to admit the inevitable brazier of live coals which is carried around in much the same way as a hot water bottle, Men`s pherans are always made of tweed or coarse wool; women`s pherans, somewhat more stylized, are most commonly made of raffel, which splashes of ari or hook embroidery at the throat, cuffs and edges. The quality of embroidery and thickness of the raffel determines the price.
The Kashmiri shawl is the most cherished acquisition of a lady. Get acquainted with traditional and contemporary designs, paterns, colours, embroidery being used in these shawls that suits the style and accentuate the individuality of the wearer.
Willow rushes that grow plentifully in marshes and lakes in Kashmir are used to make charmingly quaint objects, ranging from shopping baskets and lampshades to tables and chairs, all generally in expensive. To increase their life span, unvarnished products should be chosen and frequently sprayed with water, particularly in hot, dry climates, to prevent them from brittle.
The fame of kashmiri wood crafts and wood carving rests on the use of Walnut Wood as raw material. The walnut plants grow at an altitude of 5500 to 7500 feet above the sea level. Due to its durability and natural colour, it is regarded as most suitable both for carving and wood work. The carving is done skillfully in a variety like “Padri” where it is not deep, see through, undercut and deep carving with indigenous tools.
Copper and Silverware
The old city abounds with shops where objects of copper line the walls, the floor and even the ceiling made generally for the local market. Craftsmen can often be seen engraving objects of household utility-samovars, bowls, plates and trays. Floral, stylized, geometric, leaf and sometimes calligraphic motifs are engraved or embossed on copper, and occasionally silver, to cover the entire surface with intricate designs which are then oxidized, the better to stand out from the background. The work known as `naqash` determines the price of the object, as does the weight.