In Kashmir, with its severe winter when climate conditions are semi-arctic, craftsmen utilize their lesiure as well as creative intelligence in creating artifacts of exquisite beauty. Princely patronage encourged these handicrafts from early times till these products, light in weight and rich in art, found a big market in India and abroad. The State Government has set up many training centres for coaching young boys and girls in traditional arts and crafts. As a result there has been a wide dispersal of handicrafts throughout the State.
1. The art of making carpets is a gift of caravans coming into the valley from Central Asia. In the time of Zain-ul-abdin Badshah, this art was greatly developed by imported skill and royal patronage. The Europeans also took a keen interest in it. It resulted in the establishment of more than 15 well known factories with about 350 looms weaving carpets. Finest wool obtained from pashmina goats and marino sheep is used in these factories. Cotton yarn is, however, imported from Amritsar.
2. Namdas are made of wool of inferior quality and old woollen blankets are used for making gabbas. The art of felting wool into namdas has come from Yarkand. Namdas and gabbas are embroidered with thread, which gives colour, beauty and strength to them. This cottage industry is concentrated in Anantnag, Rainawari and Baramula.
3. Lois (woollen blankets) of Shopian and Bandipore are well known. Hand-woven blankets of Rainawari are also durable and warm.Woollen pattus, tweeds, and worsted are manufactured in many hand and power looms established in and around Srinagar.
4. The Kangri making is a cottage industry concentrated in the areas on the banks of Wullar lake near Watlab and at Tsrar and Botingo villages.Kashmir is known for its wicker willow. Wicker is used for making baskets, boxes, lamp-shades, curtain rings, trays, chairs, tables, and cycle baskets etc. Srinagar, Harwan, Shalabug, Hazartbal, and Sowra are the centres of its production. The cultivation of wicker willow is the monopoly of the State .
5. Papier Mache is a monoply of Kashmir. Pulp and paper are shaped into a variaty of decorative articles and colorful designs are painted on them. The goods prepared are mostly boxes, table lamps, toilet sets, jewellery boxes and other articles of decoration. Srinagar, Rainawari and Anantnag are famous for this cottage industry.
6. Pashmina shawl industry is an old industry of Kashmir. Pashmina wool used to come from Tibet via Ladakh but since the invasion of China in 1962 and closing of the Leh Yarkand route, Pashmina shawl and carpet industries have been affected greatly. Now the raw material comes from Ladakh only. Moreover the water of river Jhelum is most suitablefor washing pashmina wool. Best pashmina shawl is known as ring shawl, a shawl that can pass through a wedding-ring.
7. Silverware and imitation jewellery. Silver-smiths, engravers and polishers work to make beautiful silverware articles like teasets, tumblers, boxes, trays, soap cases, toilet cases, and other articles of decoration. This work requires skill and craft. Engraving is a speciality of the Kashmiri engravers. Kashmir purchases about one lakh tolas of silver a year for this cottage industry. There are about 80 units of imitation jewellery at Srinagar. They prepare rings, cuff-links, bangles, broaches, braclets, ear rings and tops etc.The raw material con- sists of jade, cayz, pashm, tiger-gold, pheros, bakarmohar, cat's eyes and various types of glass chatons and beads.
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