Catch the Craft: Wood carving in Kashmir

Golden Hands that craft Magic

Dar Javed
June 13, 2018 OPINION 90 Views

Kashmir is the valley of artisans, where many arts have found their roots. One such art which remains an integral part of the valley’s culture is the walnut woodcarving. Artisans design and craft various products, which are then sold in international and domestic markets.
Kashmir is only region in India bestowed with the presence of Majestic walnut trees. The walnut from Kashmir are rich and famous worldwide for their taste. Another dimension of walnut tree is beautiful carving it hosts.
Locally known as ‘doon’ tree. Wood is hard and durable .it is close grained and even textured which facilitates fine and detailed carving work. Walnut wood has an inherent sheen which comes on its own when polished with wax or spirit.
A walnut wood carving of Kashmir employs a process of hand carving done very carefully and delicately ,in various styles by means of varied tools ,fabricated locally depicting Forms and Motifs ,that have evolved over a period of centuries.
The Carving employs a host of motifs that depict the varied Flora and Fauna of the region in a highly styled manner.
Walnut wood logs to be used for carving are cut into planks of desired thickness with the help of machine ,locally known as “Bandsaws” and the process is locally known as “Laker Chiren .
Planks are then cut and stacked to dry naturally allowing air to pass through planks ,which are then kept in erect standing position so that sap in the plank descends .this process takes 4-6 months .wood that is dried completely is liable to carving .

During the process of carving wood undergoes series of steps :

a)Inscribing (Lyeakhun) it is the first step in the journey of carving ,it is inscribing the motif to be done on wood ,onto the walnut wood with the help of pencil ,which serves as the baseline for the Naqash.
b)Beating (Dagun): it involves digging out the material according to the drawn pencil lines.It is done with the help of Chisels called “Daagi Voul and a mallet called “Thaap.
c)Zameen kadun: the step involves a deeper digging around the motifs so as to obtain required depth of relief.
d)Giving Shape (Guzar dyun):Giving a broader outline to the inner intricacies within the motif determines the actual shape to be given to motifs.
e)Texture (SumbKadun): this is the final step in the carving of the walnut wood ,sumb is nail like tool with teeth like structure .
f)Polishing and Furnishing : the last step is polishing and furnishing given to the item before it can be sent out to market.the person engaged with this work is called “Roshan gaar”.

Walnut woodcarving is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Islamic missionary Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom during the reign of Zainul Abdideen in the 15th century. The king promoted the art to improve the valley’s economy. And the ever-blooming market for these master beauties kept bringing wealth and employment to the artisans until a few decades ago.

The craft was initially restricted to the creation of elaborate palaces and houses. Written records tell of Zain-ul-Abadin`s great razdani, palace, and its elaborate wood carvings. To this date, several fine examples of intricately carved buildings, shrines and mausoleums survive in Kashmir — the shrines of Noor-ud-din-Wali at Charar-e-Sharif, the Naqshaband mosque and the shrine of Nund Rishi are just a few of them.
It has moved from elaborate creations to a whole range of contemporary products across the spectrum.
Walnut wood furniture has a global appeal. Wood industry of Kashmir has been brought to the international arena for these excellent types of woodcarving. It enjoys immense popularity and global acclaim.

Conclusion:

In today’s Contemporary market, Kashmiri walnut carving is recognizable because of color and tone and its combination with the local craftsmanship depicting certain established motifs in a miniaturized form in traditional established styles.
Writer is postgraduate in Craft Management ,design and Entrepreneurship from CDI ,ministry of Textiles GoI, and Can be mailed at darjaveed305@gmail.com

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