“If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
As it is rightly said that Kashmir is the heaven on earth and the beauty of this heaven enhances in the winter season. In winters Kashmir turns into white-carpeted heaven. Kashmir is in a different zone from December to March, as the temperature decreases beauty of Kashmir increases. The snow-capped mountains with bare chinars, beautiful pine trees, and frozen lakes add to the Kashmir’s view and can make a person spellbound. The temperature in Kashmir can drop as low as -6 to -8 degrees. Kashmir has winters for 5 months but the coldest are forty days from December 21 to January 31 and are called Chila Kalan. There are different items which are specially designed to use in winters and to protect the body from the cold weather. The houses have Bukharis in them to keep them warm. Bukharis are also used in houseboats, some hotels, huts etc to provide warmth. People in the houses wear Pheran and kangris to keep themselves warm. The water in the pipes, taps, and lakes gets frozen. In winters, people in Kashmir enjoy winter sports like ice skating, skiing etc. There are a lot of changes in the food and lifestyle of people during winters to apt the climate changes and adjust to the winter weather and keep themselves warm.The few famous and most used items of Kashmir are briefed as under-
Pheran- It is a traditional outfit in Kashmir worn by males and females. It gained popularity in the late 19th century. It is made of wool to keep the body warm. The word ‘Pheran’ is a Persian word which means ‘shirt’. Earlier the length of Pheran was up to feet but now the length of Pheran has reduced to knees. The Pheran is made up of wool or wool and cotton mix known as Jamwar. It is designed with thread work, Tilla work or Aari Work. Nowadays it has made its place in the new fashion world as well. People wear it with jeans, salwar, palazzo pants, etc. Today’s Pherans are used for contemporary looks as they have slide slits and has a diffusion with coats which adds up to an altogether different style and looks very nice as well. Along with adding to the fashion statement, it serves its prior purpose of protecting the body from the cold weather.
Kangri- Kangri is basically an earthen pot filled with hot coals which is used beneath clothes and blankets to keep the body warm in winters. Kangri is made by molded earthen pots with two arms made with wicker sticks to give it support and thus it makes a perfect portable hand warmer during winters. People in Kashmir use kangri for different purposes just apart from getting warmth from it.Kashmiri pandits use kangri to burn Isband in them. Isband is burnt as a part of Kashmiri marriages as it protects from evil’s eye and is considered as to bring good luck.
Noon Chai- It is popularly known as Sheer Chai. It is a traditional tea of Kashmir which is the essential part of Kashmiri breakfast. It is made up of green tea leaves, baking soda, and milk. It is pinkish in color and is served with a topping of Milk cream (malai) and dry fruits. It is usually made in a copper vessel known as Samovar. It is also served in other states like Manipal and Chattisgarh. There it is made by adding sugar in it but in Kashmir instead of sugar salt is added to it, salt is called as noon in Kashmir and that is why it is called noon chai there. It is also served in marriages in Kashmir. It is prepared in a different way than the regular tea. The green tea leaves and baking soda are boiled till the water is reduced to half and attain a syrup-like consistency with wine like color. Then this syrup is added to a mixture of water and milk along with a pinch of salt and then set to boil and in this way, sheer chai or noon chai is made. It is pink in color. It is also served with Rotis made by Kandar( the local baker of Kashmir).
Kehwah- It is another traditional tea of Kashmir. It is a traditional way of making Kehwah is to prepare it in a copper vessel called Samovar. It is traditional green tea of Kashmir made with saffron and dry fruits mostly almonds. This tea is usually taken after meals. Kehwa helps in digesting food. It also helps in curing cold and cough. It is prepared by brewing green tea in water with saffron, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon sticks and when poured in a cup than chopped dry fruits mostly almonds are added.
Harissa- It a type of mutton spread used on bakery bread, naans etc. It is one of the most favorite breakfast options during winters in Kashmir. It takes a little bit of effort to cook but the effort is worth. For cooking Harissa, we need mutton, rice flour, onions, milk, vegetable oil and a mix of different spices. The meat is first cooked in the cooker for 1 hour then cooled down. To this mutton add rice flour mesh everything together make a paste and again cook it for 1 ½ to 2 hours and thus in this way smooth Harissa paste is made. Usually, it is cooked the night before the day of serving. Now- a - days readily made Harissa is available which tastes absolutely delicious and sold worldwide.
Alhach and Vanganhach- These are dried vegetables which make a wonderful and delicious dish to eat in winters. Alhach is dried bottle gourd and Vanganhach is dried Brinjal. These vegetables are sliced and dried in summers and then consumed in winters. These make a delicious dish to eat as themselves or can be added with mutton. The preparation of both has a similar way. These are first boiled in water then cooked in a cooker with vegetable oil and Kashmiri spices. It is best served with rice.
Nadru- Nadru is the name given to lotus stem. It is the edible part of lotus and makes a very delicious dish. It is cooked in different ways but among all nadru yakhni is famous and most liked all over the world. Nadru yakhni is a dish which is in every menu of a Kashmiri wedding or an important function or occasion. It has little threads in it which are also edible. There are different ways to cook or prepare nadru. It adds to the menu of many famous Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri restaurants as it is liked almost all over the world and tastes very delicious as well.
Guran- Guran is another edible item that is consumed in winters. Guran is a type of fish which is just the size of a finger. It is found in Kashmir only it can be consumed as fresh as well as can be dried as used later. It is cooked in a similar pattern as a normal fish is made. It provides warmth to the body and is best to be consumed in winters.
Walnut- The most widely consumed dry fruit in winters is walnut. Due to its various benefits, it is consumed a lot in winters. It is consumed as a dry fruit and can be added to various dishes as well. It is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants which helps controls cholesterol. It is also rich in Omega-3 Fatty acids. It also helps in lowering the blood pressure and control diabetes as well.
Varmouth- It is a type of pulse which is grown in the Baramulla and Bhaderwah region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is cooked in Kashmiri spices like the regular pulses are made. It is consumed in winters as well. It also helps in maintaining body temperature in winters. It is best served with rice.
Kashmiri Wicker Willow CraftWicker is the term used for products made by weaving and twisting thin slices of woods together. When such products are manufactured using willow wood, the craft is known as wicker willow. In Jammu and Kashmir, these intricate handmade wicker willow products are commonly referred to as Veer Kani or Keani Keam.
Artisans of Jammu and Kashmir state are known worldwide for making baskets, more commonly known as Kangri, using willow woods. Kashmiri Kangri was originally used by natives, especially farmers and tribal people, for carrying clay pots containing smouldering coal. They hold hot clay pots in these baskets beneath their long flowing cloths or pherans. It protects them from cold and keeps their body warm during the winter season.
Now the art has gained widespread popularity and is commercialised for making various other home decor items like chairs, tables, etc.
History of Wicker Willow Art
The origin of wicker manufacturing dates back to Sumerian Civilization in 400 BC. They used wicker woods for various purposes such as transport, housing, home decor, utensils, etc. However, evidence of wicker willow as an art form has been found in ancient Romans and Egyptians’ history. The oldest wicker furnitures that are present today are of Egyptian origin. Some examples include wicker chairs and hassocks, chests manufactured from rush and reed, and papyrus wig boxes. In Jammu and Kashmiri, this art was introduced in the 19th century. Natives believe that Maharaja Hari Singh brought 12 kgs of seeds and skilled craftsmen from Europe for making beautiful wicker willows. Before this, Kashmiris produced wicker willow baskets to help farmers. They needed a basket for storing and transporting goods. The state had rich forest and vegetation. So, tribal communities used local grasses, i.e., willows, for making mats and baskets. These tribal communities used a method known as Kangri for manufacturing such baskets. This is why the baskets made from willow wood in Kashmir are known as Kashmiri Kangris. Kalhana Rajatarangini is the first book known in history that talks about this process. It is one of the many popular books that traces Kashmiri history.It mentions that Suyya, a renowned engineer, regulated the path of the Jhelum river using Kangri technique to save the villages from flooding. This happened between A.D. 855 and 883 under the rule of Raja Avanti Verman. Suyya made circular dykes around villages which protected them from the flood.Mr Andrews, a Britisher, established a technical institute in Srinagar around 1914-16 to introduce the English technique of wicker weaving in the area surrounding Bage-Dilawar Khan. The present-day willow weaving in Kashmir has evolved from the teachings of that institute.
Manufacturing Process of Kashmiri Wicker Willow
Although the willow weaving art is commercialized, artisans still use traditional techniques to make wicker products. Some modifications have been made to increase the sales value of products. Step by step process of handmade willow weaving is described below:
Willow saplings are sown around February-March and harvested in October.
The stem of the plant, known as withy, is sorted according to length and girth.
Farmers then sell these stems to contractors involved in wicker willow manufacturing. They further send these stems to artisans based on what product they are supposed to make.
Artisans boil the stems in huge water boilers for a night to soften them.
After boiling, they remove the bark from the stem with the help of unique sticks known as zealan in Kashmir.
The stems are then dried for several days under direct sunlight to remove the moisture completely.
Stem, devoid of moisture, is used by artisans for making beautiful wicker willows. They may smoothen, dye, or cut the stems as per the requirement of the product.
Current Trends of Handmade Wicker Willow
Now the usage of willow woods is not just limited to manufacturing Kashmiri Kangris. Craftsmen make other products using this plant, such as picnic baskets, tiffin boxes, lampshades, chairs, tables, trays, curtain rings, and cycle baskets.
Artisans majorly follow two weaving processes for producing aesthetic wicker willow products:
For making small and lightweight products: Thin slices of wicker woods are carefully interwoven into each other, giving products a web-like appearance. E.g., baskets, tiffin boxes, etc.
For making large and heavy-weight products: Thick willow logs are used to manufacture the products’ basic structure. This helps build a strong foundation and makes the product sturdy. Then the splinters of the wood are interwoven to form the outer appearance. E.g., chair, table, lampshades, etc.
Traditionally, the artisans dyed wood in various shades, especially blue, red, and green, to give baskets and other products a colorful appearance. They make geometric patterns via careful multi-directional weaving. Embellishments such as mirrors, foils, and metal pieces are added to beautify Kangris.
However, nowadays, plain willow wickers having softwood colors are also very much in demand because of the aesthetic and natural feel. Thus, you may find chairs, tables, baskets, lampshades, etc. of willow wood color also in the market.
Both of the varieties mentioned above are available for purchase on the Hamiast website.
The best part about willow wicker artform is that it is not mechanised yet. Artisans still use the handcraft for delicate interweaving of willow stems for making aesthetic products. Also, wickers made from willows not only look beautiful but also have a real utility. These products are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of other objects.
Hamiast offers a range of home decors made by skilled Kashmiri craftsmen of willow wicker art. You just have to find a perfect one to enhance the charm of your beautiful home.
Kashmiri copperware is a magnificent example of the intricate and sophisticated artistry of metalworking. The craft of creating copperware is deeply rooted in Kashmiri culture and dates back several centuries. Historians believe that the art of copperware was introduced by artisans and traders from Iran and Iraq over seven hundred years ago.
Basholi, a town located in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, India, is renowned for its unique school of miniature paintings. Founded in the 16th century by Raja Bhupat Pal, Basholi has a rich artistic heritage, with its painting style, known as Basholi paintings, being considered the precursor to the Pahari painting schools. The Basholi paintings, celebrated for their striking and emotive colors, bold lines, and distinctive facial features, experienced their golden age during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Historical Context and Influence:
The decline of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century marked a significant shift in the patronage of the arts. Emperor Aurangzeb's focus on military campaigns and governance led to a reduced emphasis on cultural pursuits. As a result, master craftsmen and artists, seeking support and patronage, turned away from the royal court. They found new patrons among local chieftains, far from the turmoil of the empire's center. This shift played a pivotal role in the revival and growth of the Basholi school of painting.
The Basholi style, though primarily influenced by the Mughal and Rajasthan schools of painting, also shows traces of Deccan and Gujarat artistic styles. Its unique synthesis of these influences can be seen in the exquisite paintings that this school produced. Despite its initial prominence, the Basholi style later gave way to the Guler painting tradition, another significant school in the Pahari region.
Notable works from the Basholi school include "Dashavatara," a masterpiece from the mid-18th century by the artist Mahesh, and illustrations depicting scenes from the life of Krishna and the story of Usha and Aniruddha, derived from the Bhagavata Purana.
The Padha Family and Preservation of Basholi Paintings:
Post the Mughal Empire's decline, the Padha family of Basholi emerged as significant custodians of the region's artistic heritage. Padha Kunj Lal, a physician, received several invaluable Basholi paintings from the ruling monarch, a testament to the value and reverence accorded to these works. These paintings, treasured and protected by the Padha family, escaped the hands of Afghans, Sikhs, and the British, preserving a vital chapter of Indian art history.
Characteristics of Basholi Paintings:
Basholi paintings are distinguished by their vivid use of color, geometrical patterns, and a unique portrayal of figures. The colors are striking and rich, with ochre yellow, brown, and green dominating the palette. The figures in these paintings are notable for their stylized faces, elaborate costumes, and distinctive, large bulging eyes, giving them a unique individuality. Themes commonly depicted in Basholi paintings include portraits of local rulers, Hindu deities, narratives from Hindu mythology, and love stories like those of Radha-Krishna and Madhava-Malati, often drawn from the Bhagavata Purana.
Craftsmanship and Materials:
Creating a Basholi painting is an intricate process, demanding exceptional skill and precision. Artists traditionally use Veale paper or ivory sheets as the canvas. The brushes are crafted from squirrel hair or Kalmunha bird feathers. The colors are derived from natural sources like dried leaves, flowers, beetle wings, and khadiya earth, contributing to the paintings' vivid and lustrous appearance. For embellishment, 24-carat gold and pure silver are used, highlighting the luxury and attention to detail in Basholi artwork. The finesse of these paintings is such that, with a magnifying glass, one can discern individual strands of hair on the subjects' heads.
Basholi paintings, with their rich history, distinctive style, and meticulous craftsmanship, continue to fascinate art connoisseurs and historians, standing as a testament to the cultural and artistic legacy of Basholi and the broader Pahari region.