Kashmir, the paradise on earth, is rich and diverse tradition, beauty, nature, festivals, colors, fragrances, languages and religions, therefore Kashmiri traditional handicrafts promises everything - beauty, dignity, form and style. The majestic appeal of Kashmiri arts and crafts lies in its exclusivity and mystical tone which leaves people mesmerized. The vast cultural and ethnic diversity of Kashmir has enabled a variety of motifs, techniques and crafts to flourish on this land. The various handicrafts are in tune with its age old splendid civilization, which has been perfected over centuries. The diverse articles ranging from woolen textiles, pashmina shawls, embroidered suits, Kashmir silk saris, pappier machie, wood carving, hand knotted carpets etc. are crafted by highly skilled craftsmen, creating distinct products.
Silk Carpets and Rugs
Hand knotted silk carpets of Kashmir are renowned for their shine, softness and fine workmanship in the world. These silk carpets display fineworkmanship and intricate designs. The motifs and patterns are inspired form nature to hunting scenes, bird and animal motifs or thematic designs like historical romances. Apart from carpets, hand knotted rugs such as felt rug are made from beaten wool, which is then embroidered over, is an important branch of the kasida industry of Kashmir.
Kashmir has a wide range of verities in silk textile designs . The weaves popularly known as 'chinon' and 'crepe de chine' are some of the fine qualities produced from the silk yarn. Sericulture industry is supervised by the state government of Jammu & Kashmir. As the state provides little raw-material for silk, weaving and printing of silk is not done on large scale in the valley. But its a known fact that the Mulberry cocoon reared in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is the superior quality in the Asia. It yields a very fine fiber can be compares with the best in the world.
The history of Kashmir Shawls is very interesting and old perhaps. It is a work of delicacy, tremendous concentration and too much of patience. The decoration is formed by weft threads interlocked where the colors change, the weavers passing them between the warps using bobbins around, which the variously colored threads are wound. The raw material for pashmina is brought from and taken to for hand-weaving followed by embroidery and finishing. Kashmiri shawls are rare and unique, due to its peculiar charm that is derived from the symphony of color schemes depicting architectural and mythological figures interwoven with landscape designs.
Shahtoosh- a persian word meaning "Pleasure of Kings" - was the name given to a specific kind of shawl, which was woven with the down hair of the Chiru or Tibetian Antelope, by the weavers of Kashmir. These shawls were originally very few and it took very skilled artisans to weave the delicate hair (which measured between 9 and 11 micrometres). These factors made Shahtoosh shawls very precious. Shahtoosh are so fine that an average size shawl can be passed through a wedding ring. The Chiru antelope live in one of the harshest environments on earth, at an altitude of over 5,000 metres. Their special type of down fur, which is both very light and warm, allows them to survive in the freezing conditions of the plateau where they gather at one point of the year. They are migratory animals - moving down from Mongolia to Tibet - and traditionally followed closely by the nomads, who also make that journey every year. The nomads would hunt the antelope for all that it provided them - hide, meat, bones, horns and fur pelts - in short, everything that the nomads needed to sustain them through their journey. It is a long-perpetuated false claim, however, that the animals must be hunted and killed. To obtain the down fur, nomads gathered Chiru down from rocks and bushes, after it was naturally shed by the animals.The nomads had no use at all for the soft down - its incredible fineness making it virtually impossible to handle - and this is where the weavers of Kashmir played their role. With their experience in handling the finest hand-combed Pashmina wool, they could weave shawls of the most exquisite quality, and thus the Shahtoosh Shawl was born. When the British (of British India) traveled to Kashmir in Summer, they realised the worth of Pashmina and Shahtoosh shawls and introduced them to the world, which led to greater demand for these products. Subsequently, the antelope was hunted down specifically for its fur and this led to it now being listed as an endangered species and given the highest possible level of legal protection, whereby no commercial trade in Shahtoosh is permitted. This also led to the demise of the skill of the Kashmir weavers, who were the only ones in the world who could handle the fibre.The selling or owning of Shahtoosh was made illegal in all countries that signed the Convention on international Trade in endangered species. Many countries including the USA, China and India are cracking down on those involved in the Shahtoosh trade. Although Shahtoosh is banned under the agreement, illegal hunting and selling of Shahtoosh is still a serious problem in Tibet.
"Pashmina" is the Persian word meaning finest wool fibre, Pashmina shawls were originally shawls hand spun, woven and embroidered in Kashmir, and made from fine cashmere fiber. This fiber is also known as pashm or pashmina. Kashmiri Pashmina Shawls are known for its softness. Pashmina yarn is spun from the hair of the ibex found at 14,000 ft above the sea level, Every summer, Himalayan farmers climb the mountains to comb the fine woolen undercoat from the neck and chest of, himalayan mountain pashm, not to be confused with the endangered Tibetan antelope that is killed to produce shatoosh shawls. To survive the freezing 14,000 ft-altitude environment, grows a unique, incredibly soft pashm, inner coat, six times finer than human hair. Because it is only 14-19 microns in diameter, it cannot be spun by machines, so the downy wool is hand-woven into shawls. Different types of cashmere Pashmina Shawls made from top quality raw material, Pure Pashmina is expensive but mixed Pashmina with wool is less expensive. Kashmiri pashmina silk shawls are world widely praised for their unmatched quality & various kind of embroideries Art or hook embroidery.The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight. Pashmina accessories are available in a range of sizes, from "scarf" (12" x 60") to "wrap" or "stole" (28" x 80") to full sized shawl (36" x 80").
Kashmir has long been famous for exquisitely embroidered shawls, stoles, scarves, saris etc. and has been much coveted by foreign tourist centuries ago. The embroidery of Kashmir, called kasida, is world-famous. Varied, rich in color, elaborate in detail and exquisite in execution, the kasida patterns are freely drawn by the naqqash mostly from memory. The chain-stitch is also used for the making of a large number of miscellaneous articles such as bags, screens and cushion covers.
Kashmir is the only region where walnut trees grows . Walnut is a soft wood, so craftsmen do fine carving on walnut wood Carving is the demonstration of the carver's skill, and walnut take it very well, being one of the strongest varieties of wood. There are two types of walnut trees - one is the fruit bearing tree whose wood is well known, and the other which bears no fruits, is locally known as 'zangul'. Zangul is less strong & has none of the beauty of walnut . Chinar leaves, vine leaves and flowers like lotus & roses are some of the popular designs, which can be either carved along borders or can fill entire surfaces. The artistry of the carving and its abundance dictates the cost. The ranges of furniture can be from simple bed side table to a dining table or a double bed Wood-carving is one of the most popular cottage industries of the Kashmir valley. The Kashmiri specialty of woodcarving is Khatam-band which has the geometrical patterns on the ceilings of rooms. wood carvings beautifully done on the cabinets, chairs, tables, jewelry boxes and ornamental caskets produced in Kashmir. Wood carving is also done on a large scale on the doors, walls and windows of traditional Kashmiri houses
The craft is believed to be originated in Iran & been introduced in Kashmir by 15th century now Its become a popular handicraft item. Even though all the paper-Machies of Kashmir look similar at first glance but they must be different in prices. The price of Machie depends upon the type and the quality of the product. There are three different qualities of Papier-Machie. To make a Papier Machie object, the paper is not usually pulped, merely soaked, pounded, then pasted, layer on layer, over a mould. When the object is completed, a thin layer of chalk mixed with glue is traditionally applied to the surface, The last step in the process is printing and varnishing of the Papier-Mache.The designs painted on objects of Paper Machie are brightly colored. They vary in artistry and the choices of colors. 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 pure gold used which determines the price
The art of casting copperware & brassware in Kashmir had flourished from years. The Kashmiri brassware is noted all over the world for good quality and design. The brassware objects in Kashmir ranged from household, decorative and ceremonial items. They comprise mostly cooking pots and sundry articles for the household. However, the most celebrated item is samovars (tea-kettle of Russian origin). The Kashmiri craftsman also produces excellent products of copper-ware consisting mostly of cooking pots and samovars and sundry articles for the household or the mantelpieces ,they are admiringly adapted for electroplating. There is a good demand for beautiful copper trays inlet into tables of carved walnut-wood, There are floral, stylized, geometric, leaf and even calligraphic motifs that are engraved or embossed on copper or brass.
Silverware is one of the ancient arts in Kashmir ,The artwork known as ‘naqash’ determines the price of the object, as does the weight. For years its being used by Kashmiri peoples. The main production centers of silverware is Jammu and Srinagar. Ornamental picture-frames, are in great demand between the peoples of United States, European countries and Australia. Craftsmen can often be seen in old city, engraving objects of household utility- bowls, frames ,plates ,samovars, flower vases, tea-sets, scent chests, toilet sets, ornamental picture-frames, cigarette-cases, tumblers and trays. Craftsmen of Kashmir maintained the traditional work and the quality of products. Floral, stylized, geometric, leaf , calligraphic motifs are engraved or embossed and the
leaves of the Chinar or lotus are the trendy patterns. Lilac flower designs is also very popular.
Pheran is a traditional Kashmiri garment worn in winters to get some warmth from frigid weather .It is eminently suited to the Kashmiri way of life, because it provides space for "Kangri", an earthen lamp carried close to the body for more warmth when Temperature goes down from zero degree. Men's Pherans are always made of tweed or coarse wool , while women's pherans, are more stylized, commonly made of raffel with ari or hook embroidery at the throat, cuffs and edges. The quality of embroidery and thickness of the raffel determines the price.
Namdas and Gabbas
The valley of Kashmir offers you two type of floor covering beside carpet, they are Namdas and Gabbas ,suits to everybody's budget. These colorful floor coverings made from woolen and cotton fibers. Gabba rugs : Chain stiched rugs, Gabbas is made from old woolens on which different colored cut out forms are secured with chain stitch. The edges and the field are covered with large embroidery. these rugs are usually made of 65 % wool or silk yarn & 35 % of cotton yarn the base of the rug is hessian cloth in pastel colors 7 it is backed by by cotton cloth on the surface Kashmiri embroidery is done the motifs are traditional Kashmiri floral patterns. Namdas. These are like small carpets but less expensive than carpets .They are made from cotton or wool fibers ,The fibers, which is manually pressed into shape , can be plain or decorated by applique work of Chain stitch embroidery. Prices vary with the percentage of wool – a Namda containing 30 per cent wool being less expensive than the one containing 75 per cent wool. Namdas known for their bright colors &