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  • Malika Kapoor

Kashmir - The Arts Galore

Home to majestic mountains, calm lakes and bracing climate, Kashmir can only be described as a paradise dressed in white .


To explore the unexplored land of Kashmir take a trip to these places. Hazaratbal Shrine,the holiest shrines in Kashmir houses the Moi-e-Muqqadas relic which is a heir of holy Prophet Muhammad . Mesmerizing Dal lake has to be on your itinerary ,walking by the lake with your loved ones or taking a boat ride in it can simply relax you down. Apart from this, buying vegetables directly from boat by visiting the floating market of Srinagar where vegetables are grown near the lake is another tourist attraction. Indra Gandhi Tulip garden with more than 70 species of tulips, Sonamarg also known as 'meadow of gold', one of the most scenic place on Srinagar -Ladakh highway. To all the youth who love to travel and trekking than Leh and kargil are two spot that calls you.

The 'heaven on Earth' is appreciated not only for its scenic beauty but also for its great art and craft. Kashmiri art is celebrated across the globe for their fine workmanship. The various handlooms are in tune with its age -old splendid civilization, which has been perfected over centuries by the Indian weavers of Kashmir. This flourishing handicrafts industry of Jammu and Kashmir not only offers you wonderful items but also employs several tribal as well as general folks of the valley. Kashmiri carpets appreciated for their uniqueness in style of making, is purely handmade , and are knotted not tufted. These knots determine durability and value of the carpets. Carpets can be made on silk or on wool with colourful themes which is not found anywhere. This beautiful art of carpet weaving was originated in Persia. Pashminas shawl one of the finest craft work, whose fabric is extracted from the smooth fleecy wool of kel goat. In mid of 1800s Kashmiri shawls became famous among the European elite mainly french. Emperor Akbar was a great admirer of the shawls,it was him who began the fashion of wearing them in duplicate ,sewn back to back so that under surface of the shawls were never seen. The skill and mastery of Kashmiri art have run through countless generation among the shawl-makers. Primarily it was women folk who carry out every part of shawl-making process. Kashmir walnut wood carving is protected under the geographical indication of the agreement on trade- related aspects of intellectual property rights agreement. The JUGLANS REGIA tree grown widely in Kashmir is used for wood carving. Apart from these esthetic work one can find several other handicraft items made of Cooper and silver like bowls, plates, trays, samovars and embroidery works.

Tragically, with increasing technology and industrialisation, people are forgetting the traditional crafts, due to which artisans are moving toward alternative ways of income and art is losing its grip. An interview with Niaz Ahmed who owns a shop in Srinagar's Lal chowk, shows his and other artisans struggle in field for this art work of making Pashmina shawl is effected with time. In 2016, he started to trace the Chang Thangi goats to retail store. The Chang Thangi goats are reared by nomadic Changpa pastoralists in the Chang Thangi region. Each Changpa family has at least 80-100 animals, and from one goat a family gets 200-300g of raw Pashmina per year. Everything changed in March 2016 when Niaz came to know about cooperative society in Leh which are purchasing raw pashmina at a fixed rate cutting out the middlemen. Only few families there want to continue the family business rest are slowly moving to other occupations. He met Stanzin Dolma lady in Leh ,who stopped spinning by hand as their work has blown down to power looms. Their are many artisans who are still working to not let these rich culture of art to die. Nowadays ,in modern homes, people have done away with jaalis altogether and the ones that do have them have cheaper, machine -made variety that are neither as intricate nor built to last. Mohammad Ashraf , walnut wood carver from Srinagar used to eke out a living repairing old jaalis when he first met Sandeep Sangari, a Bengaluru based furniture designer, who fall in love with the style of jaalis, but could not find a single artisans in valley who was still making jaalis. He wanted those designs to be included in some of his furniture so he asked Ashraf whether he and his team could make them of him. And this was how this craft came to be revived. Kashmiri traditional crafts is main source to empower local women. Financial independence enable female to be more effective decision -maker in their homes and communities. In Kashmir, where being an entrepreneur is risky for women. Arifa Jan, who has a craft management and entrepreneurial leadership degree from craft development institute in Srinagar had single handedly not only revived the NAMDA( a traditional felted Kashmir carpet) art but also employed many local women. By using higher quality Merino wool and paying higher wages, she has been able to bring back a handful of NAMDA craftspeople mostly women. Each piece can take up to two weeks to complete, from embroidery to working on wool, but the final product is unparalleled in quality. Understanding the global market, increasing interaction with the consumer, women empowerment, bringing back the mixture of old and new design , understanding promotional ways, conducting workshops are few small ways via which we can protect our dying handicraft

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