By Junaid Malik
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is bereft of any large scale industrialization in comparison to other states of the country barring the huge hydroelectric capacity of its rivers that too goes out of its kitty due to its sheer exploitation by the central government.the artisan revolution that flooded the valley with the advent of zain Ul Abidin or the budd shah to the throne changed the identity of state to international fame in the field of art,culture ,handicrafts,carpets and numerous other trades.
The advent of industrial revolution not only in west but also in india off late in the Later half of twenth century brought out cheaper goods effective both in cost and labour which by now has completely taken over the indigenous craft of different sates of the country.this rapid change of course itself put the surreal art to extinction.
the state of Jammu and Kashmir had some indigenous craft and weaving art peculiar to particular region which not only gave the source of livelihood to poor artisans and craft weavers but everlasting identity to that particular region.apart from ubiquitous craft industry of valley, some regions like basholi art and Kishtwari weaving craft were names of fame in the country.these art and handicrafts were beyond than a leisure but made part and parcel of daily lives of their inhabitants.
Kishtwar District,an erstwhile principality and later an administrative unit of the state set up had some unique craft art which was not only cost effective but an organized cottage industry run in the house hold of the inhabitants of kishtwar engaging both men and women of local populace.these crafts included the kishtwari hand made blankets, grass shoes and wheat grass carpets.
The kishtwari blanket was itself a master piece of art being crafted and weaved in an organized community hierarchical manner.the wool used to be collected from the house hold reared sheeps which the women weaved on their spin in the homes itself.the peculiarity of this art was multifaceted and simplest in terms of raw material and supporting other trades as well.these simple inhabitants reared sheeps which also met the local demands of meat.particular families were engaged in this blanket making art ranging from collecting yarn,spinning,dying and shaping the blankets but completely indigenous in its making and marketing.
The yarn used to be spinned in homes on hand made spinning machines called "yinder"which was somewhat a replica of kashmir carpet trade but lower in quantity and high in demand.the families engaged in this trade used to be called "wouds" meaning the weavers and those who dyed them with lively and magnificent colours were called as "rangur" meaning the dyers.the blanket used to come both in colours and with out colours called "khudrang" meaning the blanket weaved with out synthetic dye.these dyes were procured from local dyed herbs which has ever lasting colours life.
These blankets because of their warmth and finest colours and designs earned name and fame in the entire country.Politicians,bureaucrats and people of all walks of life wore these blanket with taste and grandeur.it was the daily attire for the people of mountainous regions particularly the Chenab valley like the one pheran of kashmir valley.people used to gift these blankets as token of love and gratitude to their friends and relatives to distant places.
Šheikh Mohd Abdullah,bakshi ghulam Mohd ,G m sadiq and many other politicians were very fond of kishtwari blankets as often seen wearing in his collection of life time photographs.Even the blanket used to be garlanded over the shoulders in functions in and outside the state by the local politicians which could be seen in government museums and art Galleries of the state.the blanket was source of livelihood, sustainance and identity for these weavers.these carpets were a must include gift during weddings, ceremonies and social gathering.
The other craft which went in to oblivion is the making of wheat carpets of kishtwar.these carpets which came both in long rectangular sheets and circular cushions has also died its own death.these carpets made from the grass of wheat was the finest example of environmental, economical and symbiotic art of any region.
these carpets made from wheat grass left after thrashing of grains were part and parcel of house hold furnishing.the rectangular and lengthy grass carpets made the floorings and the circular one were the back cushions of comfort and grandeur.their beauty ,simplicity and intimacy was such that the same used to be the gifts in the weddings of daughters and also for the guests of importance.they destroyed neither the environment nor added any pollutant to the environment .it was one of the best art of wastage management and environmental friendly craft of the state.
The other less mentioned and more vigorously depicted art during national festivals and cultural programmes is the grass shoe woven from the grass itself.these flip flops and shoes purely made of grass was more worn by the people of padder valley of kishtwar,the name itself known for the best sapphire of the world.these cost effective and most environment friendly shoes got replaced with the advent of modern wears. But these were themselves the a unique creations of their own.though their life span and strength was fragile but still the beauty and bounty of these hand made grass shoe was par excellence.it needed neither the tanned leather or any raw material but simply the grass around.
These handicrafts were multifunctional ,localized, community based cottage industry in well knit and organized society of interdependence.they served the purpose of jajmani system where the community members were dependent over each other both for the needs and survival.this itself gave birth a well coherent society knit together not only by cultural and religious bonds but mutual interdependence as well.
These handicrafts are hard to find now anywhere in the mountainous valley except in the rarest of the rarest case that too in the poor households of distant peripheries who couldn't bear the expenses of modern trade or remained aloof from the technological advancement of the present age.
This indigenous art and unique handicraft didn't die a voluntary death but only because of the apathy and parochial approach of the politicians and stake holders who neither paid attention to its survival nor gave any governmental impetus to sustain its glory.this beautiful art got extinct due to poor Vision of law makers who have destroyed the very existence of its last symbols.these poor weavers shifted to other works and the fallowing generations got completely detached from their history thereby annihilating the last remnants of our evolutionary history.
Though the weavers and other accompanying workers are now non existent but still the few among the survivors could still revive this great art which may not be attuned to modern industrial growth but still could be made relevant.it will revive the cultural and historical growth of our indigenous art which would eventually may be a field of research.this art would give an insight to our history and its evolution to the present age for better and scientific study of state and nation as well.
(The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)