Kashmir copper crafts

Photo: Shakeel / Excelsior

Suhail bhat
Copper craftsmanship has been deeply rooted in Kashmiri culture for centuries. Historians believe that this elegant art was introduced by artisans and traders from Iran and Iraq over seven hundred years ago. An Islamic scholar from Persia, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani, helped to make brassware popular among the natives and he brought in artisans from Central Asia to train the locals.
However, copper craftsmanship flourished during the reign of King Budshah Zain-ul-Abideen. During Mughal times, metalwork in Kashmir focused on making cannons and swords. The techniques of smelting and forging of iron as well as enameling or Meenakari as it is commonly called were used to decorate the hilt of swords. At the end of the 19th century with the decline of the Mughal era, the know-how of Kashmiri metallurgists turned again towards the manufacture of containers, now adorned with Meenakari. This has been applied to silver, brass and copper jewelry like serving jars, jugs, trays.
The elegantly designed copper utensils are not only used for cooking and serving food at home, but also at weddings and other widely attended functions. Commonly used products are the Taesh Naer (a drinkable hand basin), the Tream (a round copper plate used during exploits) and the Samovar (a large cylindrical urn with a fireplace, in which charcoal is burned, to prepare tea in the surrounding cylinder).
The markets of downtown Srinagar are awash with wonderful household utilities and decorations. Since the 19th century, Shehr-e-Khaas has been a center of brassware, the old markets of Zaina Kadal still carrying this wonderful know-how. Even today, large and beautiful copper samovars, mugs, glasses, tasht naaris, traamis, jugs, bowls, trays and degh (round bottom cooling pot) decorate the shops of the center. -city. Copper pottery is left in its natural coppery tone for ornamental purposes. Utensils for everyday use, on the other hand, are polished with a thin layer of shiny pewter (Kalai Karyen).
The most popular brassware in Kashmir and around the world, the Kashmir Samovar, is based on the Russian tea kettle, which was brought to Kashmir via Iran. Kashmiri artists used intricate floral designs, calligraphy, geometric patterns, and beautiful Chinar leaves to make it look grand. Hammer and chisel engraving work is known as Naqashi, and it is one of the two determinants of the price of the copper coin, the other being its weight.
Shahi copper samovars, which serve hot cups of kehwa and chai for nuns, are always the main attraction at special gatherings and wedding parties.
The soz Izband, another copper artifact found in every house is said to ward off evil eyes and evil spirits. The seeds of Izband (harmala, rue sauvage) are burnt on hot coals and the smoky scent spreads throughout the place. When a Kashmiri bride leaves her parents’ house for her new one, she is accompanied by the soz Izband to ward off bad looks. Izband soz is only used for one thing, Izband Zalun.
Tash-t-Naris (tashh naer) and traamis are wedding feast essentials without which no Kashmiri wedding is complete. Tast-t-Naari is a pair of serving and water containers that are moved around the wedding banquet hall to allow guests to wash their hands before and after meals. Traami, on the other hand, is a large, round dish around which four people can sit and eat during a feast. The conical dish that is placed on the trami before you start eating is known as a sarposh. All the guests in the wedding tent or banquet hall eat at the same time at Kashmir wedding parties, which is a wonderful tradition.
This brassware has stood the test of time and several new products including pots, trays and other elegant items, as well as decorative pieces such as vases, vessels or lampshades have been added from time to time. to other. Craftsmen and other artisans have multiplied as a result; in particular “naqashgars” (engravers) and workers in Bihar, UP and other states are now employed to meet the demand.
The process of manufacturing copper or brassware is meticulous and involves many craftsmen specializing in a particular technique. For example, a craftsman called Barak Saaz makes hard circular objects like handles, brackets, top rims for Samavors, and Tash naers from molten copper in the first step. The next artisan, Chargar, gives the raw material the final touch to make it smooth. Then the finished product is sent to Naqashqar, who engraves the traditional design on the finished metal. In the final Kalaisaaz step, a polisher polishes the engraved utensil.
Experts said this craft is unique given its history and every effort should be made to protect this centuries-old Kashmiri tradition. They explained that this craft is rooted in Kashmiri culture and almost every household has copper items that show how important this craft is and how much people love these items. They urged a redesign of this craft for the interests of those associated with this trade.
A copper craftsman in downtown Srinagar, 38-year-old Tariq Ahmad Kawa, told Excelsior that his ancestors learned the craft in Mughal times and carried on the tradition. “We have been running this business for centuries. Learning this profession requires patience and natural skills. It is a very complex job and requires hard work and time, ”he said.
He added that machines have also overtaken this business which prevents the new generation from learning this trade. “A law was passed in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2006 that bans the manufacture of copper articles by machinery. This act was aimed at saving the centuries-old tradition of copper craftsmanship in Kashmir. But this act has never been implemented, ”he added.
Another craftsman from Srinagar said that when it comes to traditional Kashmiri weddings, brassware is a must. “But, like all other arts and crafts in Kashmir, it succumbs to modern buffets and porcelain. We hope that it will continue to attract admirers at all times and in all eras, ”he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Law on Prohibiting the Manufacture of Specific Copper Utensils (by Machines), 2006 was passed to protect the interests of artisans associated with the copper trade. During the first year, machine-made products were also confiscated from time to time. In addition, local entrepreneurs were encouraged to set up their industrial units at HMT Naribal on the outskirts of town.
These insiders, however, had little effect on the copper workers as they were poorly implemented in the field. This threatened the livelihoods of around 28,000 copper workers who are employed in around 6,000 units registered in the valley.


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