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Handicrafts are the main source of income for most people in Kashmir. Many different places are famous for the different handicrafts manufactured there. People from all over India prefer the original product of Kashmiri handicrafts for the excellent quality and authenticity. These products have been handmade for generations; some places like Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam are the oldest places to have been making authentic handicrafts.
Papier mache is artwork made from a mixture of glue, water and paper. It might seem weird as to what much can a person make of these three basic ingredients but the outcomes are always fascinating. Those who have a knack for art will find Kashmir Papier Mache very appealing. Though it is said to have come to Kashmir from Persia, Kashmiri artisans have embraced this art form and made numerous eye-catching pieces. Be it vases, boxes, bowls, cups or any other small objects, anything can be made by Papier Mache.
Juglans regia trees that are popularly grown in Kashmir on a wide scale are used for wood carving. Kashmir is one of the few states where these trees and this kind of wood is available. Black walnut wood is the most preferable type of wood which is carved using sharp tools and a mallet. The carved work on the wooden boxes or trays is very accurate and intricate. It takes up a lot of time and patience to make those beautiful art pieces.
The most famous Kashmiri textile is Shawls and not just any shawls but Pashmina Shawls. The very first designs have been in existence from the seventh century but they gained popularity in the sixteenth century during the Mughal period. People in the kingdom grew very fond of the pashmina shawls. As mentioned, not only the people but the Mughal Emperor Akhbar was fascinated with Kashmiri shawls and had them sewn back to back. Their borders were embroidered with gold and silver to add to their beauty. These shawls were made such that their insides were never seen. That is how Kashmiri Do Shallas came into existence.
The wool for Pashmina shawls is extracted from specials goats in Ladakh. They grow cashmere wool on their belly during the winters to stay warm which is then shed during summer. That wool is rare since there are not many of the species. Once the end product is achieved the shawls and rugs are very soft, beautiful and high in demand.
Kashmiri carpets and rugs are known all over the world as some of the most luxurious items to be sold. Millionaires buy them for their intricate designs and top of the class quality. The making of carpets and rugs was taught to Kashmiri weavers by Persian and Central Asian carpet weavers; brought by sultan Zain-Ul-Abidin. There are different types of knots used in manufacturing. They are hand-sewn and can be up to 3600 knots per square inch. Those carpets and rugs made of wool are locally sold while those made of fine silk are used as a display in museums. There are traditional Kashmiri carpets called Namda and hand-knotted piled carpets called Qaleen.
Kashmiri embroidery can be found on almost all kinds of clothes. The fine designs and intricate work makes clothes look out of this work. The most important kind is the crewel embroidery. When done with wool it adds a little weight to the cloth and uses pointed crochet on any suitable fabric. But when done using threat, the work becomes very fine and adds less weight to the cloth as compared to what wool adds. Crewel embroidery originally uses chain stitch and is used to chain stitch pillow covers, rugs etc.
Needlework embroidery is used in the designing of pashmina shawls and salwar kameez. It is done using a needle and is called ‘sozni’ by the locals. Another type is the gold and silver embroidery which uses imitation silver and gold embroidery on clothes. It is mainly used in ladies ‘pheron’ (cloak), shawls and salwar kameez. The locals call this method ‘tilla’.