Kashmir, the exquisite of the name reflects the splendour of the natural beauty and the wonder of hand-crafted artforms. Srinagar has been a cultural hub for centuries. From being the centre for merchants from Afghan, Persia and the middle east, the gratitude of influence reflected through the art and culture is exceptional.
Subtleties of Papier Mache, the intricate detailing of the carpets, the stories engraved in wood and so much more, Kashmiri handicrafts are not only a collector’s item but also pieces of art. All the major metro hubs, hill stations, tourist places, across the nation are graced with the ever so elegant Kashmir State emporiums that showcase the warmth, generosity and ubiquity of Kashmiri handicrafts.
Putting all of the Kashmiri heritage in a single blog is a very difficult task. The sheer magnitude of details and the immense artisanship take years to understand and ages to appreciate.
It is brief for some of the most exquisite and ever trending Kashmiri handicrafts.
It was the Persians who are believed to have introduced this subtle art form to the valley. This was used to design ‘qalam dan’ or pen holders for the elite and the common. As of now, this art form has been translated to every imaginable object in sight. A walk through a busy Kashmiri market will astound you with the sheer number and the immense range of handcrafted papier-mache products. You can find little boxes, cups, home decor, trays in all sizes and colours.
Suzani craft is believed to have Persian roots as well. The motifs are created in satin stitch and are worked identically on both sides of the cloth. Sometimes different colors are also used to present a nuanced contrast; for example, the dominant color may be red on one side and blue on the other. This type of work/stitch is sometimes called Dorukha.
The geometric designs, stylized flowers as well as paisley patterns are the most popular motifs. The dominant motif appears to be a ‘buti’ – a floral or almond with a bent tip.
The natural beauty of the flora and fauna seems to be the source of inspiration for Sozni embroidery. An expert ‘sozankar’ enforces the appeal of embroidery by combining basic and reinforced stitches. The finest quality suzani embroidery is said to be the one where the suzani stitch is used for outlining the motif with a darker shade of the thread. The empty spaces outside the motif are covered with fine suzani stitches in different colors making sure that no visible gap between the outline and the filling is left.
A fine suzani embroidery can take months to finish.
Kashmir is blessed with a sublime range of flora and fauna, and walnut trees are among the indigenous species to grace the valley. The close grain, the even texture and the uniform color of the wood present a canvas for absolute expression and pristine art.
This art form has had a tremendous impact on how people look at furniture. Every Kashmiri household has a walnut wood carved piece somewhere in the house. From carved tables to designer chairs to entangled and twisted bed stand designs, Kashmiri artisans have presented this subtle artwork to an immense variety of things and pieces.
It would be perfectly respectable to say that Kashmiri artists have perfected this art, and they offer one of the finest and most beautiful wood carvings all across the world.
These absolute majestic pieces of art dictate passion, hard work and persistence, unlike anything. The density of the knots per square inch on a Kashmiri hand-knotted carpet is unknown to exist across the globe. These carpets are one of the highly regarded artworks to come from the valley.
The carpets are made in silk on silk, silk and cotton, wool, cotton and silk, and wool and cotton. Available in variegated colors, designs and sizes, they are truly a collector’s item.
Pashmina is the crown jewel of Kashmiri art and crafts. It graces basic clothing Kashmiris wear through a bitter winter and is as much a sought-after luxury item. The warm woollen fabric is derived from the fleece of the Himalayan Mountain Goat (the Pashmina Goat) and was first introduced by the inhabitants of the state.
The best pashmina is collected from the soft, downy undercoat that grows primarily on the neck and belly of the goat. The raw wool is turned into a fine shawl through an elaborate process and is a highly specialized job as retaining the softness of the wool throughout the process is an arduous task.
It is generally woven in two patterns – twill or ‘sade bunai’, the popular diamond or ‘chesm-e-bulbul’.
Kashmir is a truly glorious place. The natural beauty, the people, its history, the arts, the isolation – all of these things imbibe a sense of pride and surreal love for the place. Owning a piece of Kashmiri handicrafts is almost like having an exquisite piece of art in your home. The tradition and culture speak volumes. It serves as a source of inspiration, an ornament of joy, a timeless story or a uniquely personal attire, depending upon how and where you were struck with the unimaginable beauty of Kashmiri handicrafts.