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Is The Future Of The Kashmiri Craft And Weavers Uncertain?

Avtar
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Kashmir, the paradise on the Earth unfolds the different and distinctive techniques of handicrafts bringing global fame into our own home.

White mountains and sun rising in between, along with river coming down, a bamboo hut resides the sea shore having the advantages of Kashmiri apple orchids emulating the beauty of Kashmir on the canvas. The serene environment and colossal in-house talent make it prominent in the eyes of the tourists. Prepossessing sights and handicrafts subsume the introduction of Kashmir valley along with the well-known food items.

India, one of the richest countries in terms of heritage and culture introduces the diversified range of textiles and craft items from different parts of the country. The beautiful territory situated in the Himalayan range, Jammu and Kashmir provides the traditional and exquisite range of textiles. But the question that remains is that is the future of Kashmiri craft and weavers uncertain? 

The Kashmiri Craft And Weavers
For all the hard work and days of labor, the wages or payouts are very less

Kashmiri shawls are adored nationally and internationally. The Pashmina and Shahtoosh are worldwide famous which are very light in weight but warm in nature. Shahtoosh is made from the wool of the Tibetan antelope while Pashminas are made from the Kel sheep wool found in the Himalayan mountains. Extremely soft and heavy embroidered, Pashminas are less expensive as compared to Shahtoosh which is brown in color and can pass through a ring exemplifying its finesse. Globally they are famously known as Cashmere Shawls and encompass the interests of celebrities and big brands.

Kashmiri Carpets are another specialty which seize the eyes of the beholder. The art of weaving a carpet originally initiated from Persia with a combination of silk and wool. The ‘tree of life’, one of the famous designs are incorporated on the carpets which are sometimes made on Mercerized cotton. Kashmiri carpets are expensive and are considered one of the big investment because they are timeless.

Kashmiri Tweed, one of the best and fine materials in the world holds the utmost importance in Kashmir as it is woven in Kashmir embracing modern techniques. The good quality tweed accounts for more business relations and more hands for production which entertains the majority of career options for the people of Kashmir.

The Kashmiri Craft And Weavers
Toosh is made from the wool of the Tibetan Antelope and Pashmina from the Kel Sheep wool

The splendid handicrafts of Jammu and Kashmir incorporate the Basket weaving, Kashmiri embroidery, Paper Mache and Walnut wood products. Various furniture items and souvenirs are created out of the best wood form Kashmir which has been exported at the international level. Carvings, lotus flowers, lattice work, and chinar motifs make it famous in every house hold. The traditional Kashmiri embroidery known as Kasida is very difficult in its execution on the fabrics which is rich and elaborative.

The benevolent king, Zain-Ul-Abidin was the one who ruled the Kashmir valley and introduced the art of weaving to Kashmir. It also flourished in the times of the Mughals and continued well with the Afghan and Sikh rulers.

The parallel streets of the Kashmir towns where working-class resides and upholds the family tradition of weaving continues to carry it and pass it to its next generation. But restrained law and order and armed forces set back the Kashmiri textile and art to flourish and conquer the world. There have been numerous locals who have been drawing the attention of consumers towards their in-built talent of weaving but faced a lot of hurdles in contemporary times due to less recognition from the younger audience. The art of Kashmir has undergone many changes and had been affected by the uprising price of the wool, raw material and boundaries.

The Kashmiri Craft And Weavers
Most of the weaver's next generations are not learning this art instead they are finding other jobs with better payouts

“Twenty years ago, there were at least 100 families in mahalla who had the loom. Now, only two have remained in the trade” told Aslam Khan in the article “Kashmir’s Centuries-Old Weaving Tradition Faces an Uncertain Future” by Sugato Mukherjee. They have mastered the art of weaving and become an Ustaad of carpet weaving. Aslam with his father Sultan is two of the remaining weavers who continue their tradition with an uncertain future.

Weavers still deal with the problem of less income from these ancient crafts which are sold at an expensive price. The knots inculcated on the carpets varies from 200 to 900 knots per square inch and authentic hand-knotted carpet can be as expensive as $100 per square foot depending on the quality and finesse.

The problems of low income and labor-intensive work decline the importance of the art thus leading to the reduction of the supply. Typically amounted at INR 150-225 per day, hesitates the younger generations to pursue the weaving technique. A lot of artisans have undertaken different jobs at construction sights which welcomed them with more payout per day. With the ascending life standards, no artisan wants their children to be a part of this family tradition they would rather prefer them to acquire a definite job with good payouts.

Government’s major step towards the benefit and development of Kashmir, the abolition of Article 370 and Article 35 A opens the doors towards the progress of Kashmir. Article 370 holds the special status of the state Jammu and Kashmir under the constitution of India. It allows autonomy and its ability to formulate laws for personal residents. Article 35 A acknowledges the special and privileged rights to those permanent residents which are defined under “permanent residents” at the Indian legislature. 

The Kashmiri Craft And Weavers
Toosh shawls are generally in the same color as that of the wool (light and dark tones of brown)

The abolishing of the two major articles might evoke the newer companies to enter for the benefits of the newly formed union territories Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.  It would bring newer opportunities for children and generations in the field of education, business, and lifestyle. The termination of these articles creates opportunities for employers and local residents and artisans to exhibit their work and ancestry at the national and global levels. The expected up rise of the conditions of weavers and their business after the elimination would change the face of Jammu and Kashmir. A more civilized and organized work environment and forces with ample resources and the latest technology would transform the primitive ideation into experimental and advanced ideation.

IKF Desk - Is the future of the Kashmiri craft and weavers uncertain?

Every coin has two sides, where on one side the handloom weavers will have a bigger and direct market to cater to, the other side will call for development in terms of power looms which might affect the handloom weavers adversely.

Although with the Indian Government taking initiatives to uplift handloom weavers, there can be a direct influence on this art and weaving technique by the weavers taking the benefits of the various initiatives provided by the government of India.

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