Kashmir is a treasure trove of handicraft, heritage and natural beauty.Among the elegant treasure Kashmir possesses is Kashmiri Copperware (locally known as kandkari Work).copper ware known as Traam has been an indispensable commodity in Kashmir since ages. The age old art of crafting copperware is deep rooted in Kashmir culture. The art of Copperware in Kashmir is famous all over the world, the craftsmanship of beautiful Kashmir is known for their work of engraving and for making household and decorative products ,the household utensils include Lota (pot), Tream (plate), Naer (water jug), Tash- Near (portable handwash), dishes, bowls,trays ,vessels,Lamp Shades and many more…. most famous being Kashmiri ‘Samovar’--a large cattle for preparing tea.
History backs it, that the Sufi Saint and an Islamic scholar ,Mir Syed Ali Hamdani ,who travelled from Central Asia was instrumental in making copper popular among natives.He brought craftsmen from central Asia (especially from Persia and Iran ) to train locals.however during the reign of Budshah Zain ul Abideen ,this craft received good support and Zain ul Abideen became the active catalyst and pioneer to restore the grandeur of Kashmir.
Process Of Making Of Copper.
Copper ware requires ample amount of time and labour and making process is slow and difficult.
The process of making of a copper or brassware goes through many Hands (artisans) which are specialized in a particular technique. The process involves Khar(Local name ) – the smith, Naqash – the engraver, Zarcod – the gilder, Roshangar – the polisher and Charakgar – the cleaner or finisher. In past there were special localities or Mohallas like Roshangar-Mohalla were named after these professions,(however now the tale is totally different) , where these artisans were carrying out their craft practice.
Some of the tools used in the process of making a copperware are , Draz(Local name) – hammer, Mekh -stakes, Yandrewah – anvil, Compass ,chisels, punches, files etc.
The beautiful shops of household utility and decorative copperware items in Shehr-e-Khaas ,downtown area of srinagar city has been the hub of copper ware since the 19th century, the old markets of Zaina Kadal, SR Gunj ,MR Gunj ... still carrying this glorious art. Large beautiful copper samovars, cups, glasses, tasht naari’s, traami’s, jugs, bowls, trays, vases ,vessels ,water bottles ,table Lamps ,pendant Lamps etc are gracefully found in the beautiful shops even today.The old city is full of shops where craftsman (Naqash) are often seen engraving copper items.
Crafting Magic With Humble Hands - Untold story Of Mohamad Aslam.
On a narrow street in ShamasWari area of Zainakadal, old city (Shahrikhass) near Khanqai -moula is a small coppersmiths workshop .Mohammad Aslam 45, bearing beautiful beared on his face is sitting in his match sized workshop ,with a smile on his face, Aslam greets whoever enters his workshop .Aslam who lives permanently in Soura area of Srinagar city travels everyday to find solace and joy in his work ,which he is performing from his childhood .Aslam is often found beating copper meticulously .with his head bent and eyes spent on it as he shaped it stroke by stroke .the sound he hears while beating the copper is not less than music for him.
As Downtown area of summer capital, Srinagar has produced some of the finest and talented artisans in copper ware and Mohammad Aslam is one of the unsung hero ,a master craftsman who is keeping this art alive.
Hailing from Soura Srinagar, Aslam , said that he adopted the copper art from his ancestors and is in this profession from last 32 years.he added “My father ,Ghulam Mohammad and grand father Ghulam Nabi were working as coppersmiths and my grand father had taught and trained me to make new patterns and designs .with the dint of hardwork Aslam has been able to provide a good education to his children who showed reluctance in joining his (father's) work, his Son is an Engineering graduate from a reputed institute.
However Aslam has a sad story to tell ,taking a sigh of relief after a candid conversation, Aslam says ,Once an inseparable part of the culture, use of copper made cauldrons and utensils is seeing a steep dip... and added, that the craft will die because it finds no further takers in the current generation.
People prefer to buy machine made copper utensil which are relatively cheap, ultimately affecting the popularity of this Kashmiri art.
machine made copper utensils had left thousands of technical hand artists jobless and the art is at the verge of the extinction. Aslam has not received any help or grant from government or any other organisation. However this year a Delhi based organisation Commitment to Kashmir has come forward to help the beautiful art and true heroes like Aslam to carry forward this legacy ….he lives with a hope ,a hope to revive this dying art …….
Government till date has offered handful of schemes to help the artisans and promote Kashmir handicrafts, but the role of the government to revive the industry in the state and outside the state has not been up to the mark ,furthermore the society in general and the civil society members, Organisations in particular has to wake up from deep slumber to contribute in whatever way, to preserve this identity.
The artists associated with the art form have faced huge discouragement .. Unable to make a healthy living with the income that the art generates, artisans associated with this craft cry over the government’s apathy to the socio-economic conditions of the artisan community.if necessary steps are not taken this craft will soon die a silent death and kashmir will lose our identity.
Dar Javed is a Research project Fellow at Design Incubation Centre Central University of Kashmir.