The art of moulding raw paper into aesthetically pleasing objects, known as papier-mâché, is a widely practiced art form in Kashmir. The popular craft technique derives its name from the French language meaning chewed paper. Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, a Persian saint, first brought it to Kashmir in the 14th century. He brought 700 artisans from his home country to Kashmir during his visit. Local Kashmiris were taught a variety of crafts by these skilled artisans, including papier-mâché.

Kashmiri artisans added their own touches to the art form over time, gaining international recognition for their work. Vases, bowls, cups, jewelry, coasters, storage boxes, pencil stands, miniature hookah pots, and a plethora of other small décor items are among the delicately decorated vibrant artifacts. Stools, small chests, cabinets, and lamps are among the many pieces of furniture made of Papier-mâché.

Chinar leaves (five-pointed leaves), floral patterns, almond designs, Hazara (thousand flower pattern), jungle and its scenes, birds, Mughal era inspired designs, geometrical shapes, and so on are some of the common motifs found in Kashmiri Papier-mâché, one of the oldest form of Kashmiri Handicrafts.

Pashmina making

What makes Pashmina so special: Is it the delicate Cashmere threads, finest craftsmanship, regal touch it gives to anyone who shrouds themselves in or the fascination with its aesthetic looks? The word Pashmina, like Kashmir, has a timeless beauty, with a royal and rare heritage comparable to the exotic Changthangi goats. It refers to Kashmiri artisans' most refined craft, in which they hand spin and weave elegant fabrics from a specific type of wool obtained from an indigenous Ladakhi goat known as the Changthangi goat (Capra hircus).

Sufi Saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani of Persia's Hamdan city introduced the art of Pashmina weaving to Kashmir. He traveled to Ladakh while in Kashmir and discovered the specific goat species needed to produce soft wool. He gave it the name Pashm, which means soft gold, and gave it to Sultan Kutabdin, the then-king of Kashmir. The impressed king began the Pashmina shawl weaving industry in Kashmir at the suggestion of the saint.

Though this fine fleece is produced by goats in China and Mongolia, Kashmiri Pashm is the best of all. That is why, despite being produced in different parts of the world, the superior fabric of Pashmina is known in the west as Cashmere (an anglicized name for Kashmir). These opulent fabrics have found their way into the closets of everyone, from valley residents to British royalty.

The entire process of transforming Pashmina into shawls, wraps, scarves, sweaters, robes, handkerchiefs, stoles, and hijabs necessitates dedication and mastery of the craft. To create these sophisticated fabrics, Kashmiri artisans go through several steps. The raw wool is cleaned, sorted, and dehaired after it is received from Ladakh. The thread is then spun on a wooden spinning wheel (Yender), which is primarily operated by women, and the hand-spun wool is then woven.

It is a difficult task that requires two to three men to sit on the handloom at the same time and manually weave the fiber into the fabric, which is still in its raw form. The fabric is then washed, colored, ironed, and passed on to embroiderers who work intricacies of Kashmiri motifs and themes over its fine base, transforming the simple fabrics into masterpieces.

Tilla Dozi (metallic thread embroidery) or Sozni embroidery are the most common embroidery techniques used on fabrics (fine thread and needlework). Aside from embroidery, fabrics can be patterned, printed, ombre dyed, or woven like a carpet thread by thread in Kani style. Overall, Pashmina art can turn any dress into a head-turner and is a statement of class for the elite.

Carpet weaving

Kashmir's cultural history is inextricably linked to carpet weaving. People would rather sit inside during the long, harsh winters and weave the intricate art of handmade carpets, either in wool or silk, in groups of seven to eight people. These world-famous carpets are woven using a weaving technique known as Talim, which uses a coded script created by the technicians known as 'Nakkash,' and necessitates extreme precision, patience, and perseverance.

The members fill in the colorful threads of blue, red, and pastel shades to create motifs and patterns after the carpets have been woven on a loom. The dyeing process is then carried out, with minerals or natural pigments being used frequently. After that, soap, bleaching powder, and other natural chemicals are used to wash the carpets. Clipping, also known as finishing, is the final step of the process. Depending on the size and complexity of the design, this time-consuming work can take anywhere from six months to a year.

Kangri Making

Kangri, a type of earthenware, is a common sight in Kashmir during the winter. It's not an exaggeration to refer to it as the winter darling, as the portable, heat-emitting, earthen firepot aids people in surviving Kashmir's bitter cold. The earthen fire pot is filled with live burning charcoal and is encased in an intricate web of interwoven twigs.

Kangri is a source of cosy warmth in the valley's sub-zero temperatures, and even modern heating appliances haven't been able to replace it. The wicker willow plant twig case that encloses the Kangri has evolved into a work of art over time, with different artisans putting their skills to create new and more beautiful wicker designs. As a result, Kangri manufacturing has sprouted in a variety of locations. Ajas in North Kashmir, Seer and Wokie in South Kashmir, and Charar-e-Sharief in Central Kashmir are among the Kangri-producing villages.

Because it consists of several stages, making a Kangri requires a great deal of patience and skill. First, the slender wicker twigs are collected. After that, the twigs are scraped, boiled, and dried before being delivered to Kanigour (wicker weaver). They then weave them into crests and troughs around the earthen pot, as well as two handles to carry it around. In local jargon, the crests are known as Pohurs. Kangri improves as the number of pohurs increases. Chrar Kangri, made in Charar-e-Sharief town, 35 kilometers from Srinagar, is considered the best Kangri. There, the artisans create easily recognizable beautiful designs and pots to keep the embers hot for a long time.

Willow Cricket bat industry

The epicentre of the willow cricket bat manufacturing industry is Sangam, a sleepy village about 40 kilometers from Srinagar. Willow wood is harvested from nearby forests, then cut into bat-sized chunks known as clefts and stacked to dry for up to six months in the warm Kashmiri sun. This causes the bat to lose moisture and harden for up to 30 additional stages, transforming it into a good cricket bat.

Kashmiri willow is used to make nearly 90% of cricket bats in India, and it is found in the kits of the majority of aspiring batsmen. The fact that legends of cricket such as Vivian Richards and Sachin Tendulkar have used these bats attests to their greatness. Bats made from willow wood are a valuable craft with enormous potential in a country where cricket is worshipped like a religion, but they need help.

Copperware crafting

One of the most vibrant colors in Kashmiris art and craft canvas is delicately carved copperware. Copperware, also known as Traam in Kashmir, is an essential household item and an irreplaceable part of the local culture.

In Kashmir, silversmiths practice the art of making copperware. Silversmiths began creating beautiful copper utensils with intricate designs that mesmerized everyone during ancient times. People are still captivated by the magnificence of this fine art even after centuries.

Thanthur (the blacksmith), Naqash (the engraver), Zarcod (the glider), Roshangar (the polisher), and Charakgar are among the artisans involved in the production of copperware (the cleaner and finisher).

Somovars (tea pots), tasht-e-naari (portable basins), degh (round bottomed cooling pots), plates, cups, glasses, jugs, bowls, and trays are among the most popular copper items. Intricate floral designs, calligraphy, geometric patterns, and lovely Chinar leaves are among the themes of these items.