Kashmir walnut wood carving
Woodcarving is one of the oldest art forms of the Stone Age and due to its durability, availability and plasticity has remained an art form common to all cultures. since then. The art of wood carving includes wood carving, from decorative bas-relief on small objects to life-size figures in the round, to furniture and architectural decorations. The woods used for carving vary in hardness and grain. Different types of wood are used for carving depending on the availability in the region, the most widely used type of wood is mango, deodar pine, pear, walnut, willow, sandalwood, oak and l ‘ebony. Indian wood crafts are famous all over the world for their beauty and durability and wood carving in India has been around since ancient times, started as temple art and as a way to decorate palaces. Various woodcarving centers have emerged over time with its distinct style and patterns. Kashmir is the most famous of all.
Kashmir, Heaven on Earth, a famous phrase is not only meant for its beautiful scenery but also for its traditional and amazing craftsmanship. Along with many other art forms, Kashmir is also famous for its distinctive style of wood carving. There is a popular story of bringing crafts to the valley. An Iranian scholar by the name of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadan once visited Kashmir and marveled at its beauty but, at the same time, was disappointed and disturbed by the miserable economic situation of its people. To lift the Kashmiris out of poverty, Shah Hamadan decided to bring in craftsmen from Iran. Seven hundred Iranian artisans scattered around the valley and began to spread their knowledge of crafts, of which walnut wood carving was a part. Walnut wood carving is a decorative and delicate handcraft process that is unique to Kashmir due to the clusters of walnut trees in this region. Later, it is believed that walnut wood carving was introduced to Kashmir by Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom during the reign of Zainul Abdideen in the 15th century. The art was also promoted by the king to improve the economic conditions of the valley. Handicrafts were initially limited to the creation of elaborate palaces and houses. History records the elaborate wooden carvings of the Grand Razdani Palace in Zain-ul-Abadeen. Several fine examples of intricately carved buildings, shrines and mausoleums still survive in Kashmir, such as the Noor-ud-din-Wali shrines in Charar-e-Sharif, the Naqshaband Mosque, and the Nund Rishi shrine. The walnut sculpture is protected under the geographical indication (IG) of Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. It is listed in Section 182 as âKashmir Walnut Wood Carvingâ of Government of India GI Act 1999 with a registration confirmed by the Comptroller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks.
The wood used for wood carving is obtained from a walnut tree known as “Doon Kul” which is not cut until it has reached the age of 300. One of the most important crafts in Kashmir is carved walnut woodworking. Walnut wood is extremely hard and durable, its tight grain and uniform texture allow artisans to create fine and detailed work. There are four types of walnut trees: âVont Dunâ, âDunuâ, âKakaziâ and âKhanakâ. The wooden planks obtained from these trees are added and stacked on top of each other with a layer of space between each for the passage of air which helps in the drying process. It also creates visually appealing effects with polished surfaces, even the skinniest ones. The Kashmiri craftsman, however, enjoys carving intricate and varied patterns. A variety of carved products bear repeated designs of the rose, lotus, iris, bunches of grapes, pears, and chinar leaves. Dragon motifs and designs taken from embroidered kani and shawls are also found in the wood with deep relief carving. Decorative wood panels for ceilings, arches and doors is one of the special crafts of Kashmir and it is called Khatamband. Several other products such as toys, bowls, trays, jewelry boxes, wall plaques and table lamps, box springs and larger furniture with intricate details are also a specialty of this region. Four main types of carving are commonly practiced in Kashmir including, engraved, undercut, and plain. Sculpting furniture and small items is an elaborate process and involves a high degree of skill and craftsmanship. These detailed and intricate wood carvings are made entirely by hand using small native tools and certainly require a lot of patience and precision. The master carver, popularly known as the naqqash, begins by carving basic designs on the wood, then uses delicate scissors and a wooden mallet to deeply enhance the design and make it appear as a raised surface. Carving out of assemblages of delicate furniture and objects is a very sophisticated and elaborate process that requires the ultimate set of skills and traditional craftsmanship. A kharkhana where the workshop is led by a ustad or master and those who work alongside him are called karigars.
The art of wood carving is centered in the city of Srinagar. Downtown Srinagar is full of walnut wood workshops where artisans renowned for their carving skills leaned over the wood, chiseling and polishing it. The craft of walnut wood carving includes three subcategories of crafts such as carpentry or carpentry, carving and polishing. Therefore, a karkhana or factory requires all three of these skills, and every karigar or craftsman has expertise in one or the other. Each of them has undergone appropriate training to acquire their respective skills.
Nowadays in Kashmir, walnut wood carving craftsmen face many problems, such as craftsmanship which does not generate enough funds. It therefore becomes very difficult for local artisans to continue the practice of the craft. With the decrease in the number of walnut carving trainees and the lesser number of karigars or artisans active in Kashmir, it is difficult for existing karigars to meet the demand for wood carved products. To meet the growing demand, traders in Kashmir are teaming up with wood carving artisans in Saharanpur and bridging the gap between demand and supply. The products of Saharanpur have contributed to the emerging demand for Kashmiri souvenirs available at a very reasonable cost for the visiting tourists. Saharanpur, a town in western Uttar Pradesh, is also famous for its intricate wood carvings. The origin of these trades dates back to the end of the 19e century there. It was influenced by Kashmiri designs due to the association and migration of Kashmiri artisans to this region. These artisans were famous for their unique jaali and grape leaf designs.