Jammu and Kashmir is one of the states in India that is best known for its cultural heritage and rich craft which has prevailed since a very long time. The famous Basohli Qalam paintings which are kept only in famous museums across the world are found in Jammu and Kashmir. The vibrant culture of the state is also reflected in the paintings costumes and ornaments which are truly world class. One can easily spot the sculptures and carvings of the god's goddesses on the pillars or several constructions especially temples which are a common characteristic of folk art and is equally credible.
The art and craft in Kashmir specially is famous for its workmanship. Kashmiri art and craft is admired all over the world for the papier mache, wood work, silk ware, jewellery, floor covering, basketry, metal work, Clays and ceramics, mat weaving, leathers and furs and stone crafting. For the normal households artisans here make different articles of copper ware which consists of cooking pots , sundry articles and samovars. When talking about Kashmir, how can one forget the textile industry which produces Kashmiri shawls, that are not only famous all over India but are also in great demand in international markets.
Kashmir is renowned for the vast variety of handicrafts that is produced here. Kashmir has always been a land of great poets and philosophers but one can not only restrict Kashmir to them it also houses some of the great artisans and artists who produce exquisite carpets, gold ornaments, embroidered shawls. Finely chiseled wood work of walnut and oak, silver ware, exquisitely colored and painted papier mache and garments are made of leather and fur.
There has always been a misconception among people as they tend to link Kashmiri handicrafts with carpets only but in fact there is much more to Kashmir's handicrafts industry. There are different qualities available in the market to suit every pocket from as low as Rs 10 to as high as few lakhs. People can always find things here suiting there budgets.
Carpet weaving is one of the most expensive and renowned art in Kashmiri handicrafts. The art came from the Samarkand in central Asia and then later on artisans from Iran modified the art of carpet weaving. The person who initially introduced the skill of carpet weaving to Kashmir was Zain-ul-abidn.
Many of the artisans and craftsmen who Tamerlane had collected from different parts of Asia went with the young prince to Kashmir after the death of the Tamerlane. During the period of influence of the Mughal emperor Jahangir Carpet industry was given a new direction when a Persian knot style of weaving, was introduced by the Kashmiri craftsmen from Persia.
Carpet Making Nowadays
Presently the minimum size of carpet starts from three by five foot and then extends to four by six foot and so on. There are a large variety of carpets some are made of pure wool and those with wool with small percentage of silk or pure silk are used more as decorative pieces than to be used in household normally. If someone wants to find out how decorative Kashmiri carpets are they should definitely go to Kashmiri restaurants where these carpets are used as decorative pieces on wall rather than the painting itself.
Kashmiri carpets are very expensive because of the hard work artisans put in to make a carpet. The price for a normal four by six foot carpet of a very good quality falls in the range of few lakhs and if the quality is pure the price can shoot up as twice the original price. But when buying carpets customer should be aware of cheap imitations and duplicate knotting that is used in carpet making.
Experience the Craft
The carpet industry in Kashmir is very wide spread. One can easily find someone on the houseboat selling carpets or someone nearby who owns a carpet factory. The fact is it is almost impossible to avoid carpets. The weaving in these carpet industries is done on hand looms by young boys who are worth seeing.
Basket weaving is done mainly by willow rushes which are found in abundance in marshes and lakes in Kashmir. All the objects made from willow are expensive and can range from shopping baskets and lampshade to tables and chairs. To increase the life of the final products should be chiseled properly and should also be made in contact with water frequently where the temperature is higher than in other areas so that they don't break easily. Baskets made from willow rush finds its use in different areas such as they can be used as picnic baskets, glass holders for holding teas, lampshades, work baskets and they can even serve as packing case which can hold the material when sent through road unattended. Hazratbal in Srinagar is the main centre for Basket weaving.
Namdas are the beautiful floor coverings which are made of woolen and cotton fibers which are given the shape manually and are cheap as compared to other products. The price of namdas depends actually on the percentage of wool used those with higher percentage are sold at a high price as compared to those with low wool percentage in them. Chain stitch embroidery in woolen and cotton thread is worked on these rugs. Emporiums in Srinagar houses a large variety of Namdas.
Kashmiri shawlas are known for their quality all over the world. There are generally three types of fibers used in the making of the shawl shahtoosh, pashmina and wool and for the decoration they are embroidered in Sozni and Motifs type embroidery. Pure pashmina is really expensive which in turn makes shawls expensive but if mixed the cost can be controlled. Pashmina is generally spun from the hair of ibex. Shahtoosh is known for the lightness and warmth but is now among the banned items.
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