Kashmiri handicrafts are known for their uniqueness and work far
and wide. Some of the handicraft items of Kashmir have even
earned global recognition. The Pashmina shawls of Kashmir are
one of such handicraft items that are famous throughout the
world. Have a look at some of the main shopping attractions of
Jammu and Kashmir include Carpets, Papier-mache, Shawls, Silk
and Tweeds, Woodwork, Pherans, Brass, Copper and Silverware,Wall
hangings with naqqashi work, Chain Stitch Embroidery, Saris
Cricket Bats, Wicker baskets, Crewel Furnishings, Namdas etc.
There are pure wool shawls called raffal which have different
counts of wool - 40, 60, 80 etc., and the shawl is progressively
more expensive as the count increases. Shawls mixed with other
fibers like cotton
and cotton derivatives are far cheaper. On the other and, woolen
shawls mixed with pashmina will be far more expensive. Then too,
there are shawls that look and feel like pashmina and which are
priced between wool and pashmina.
Naturally a pure pashmina shawl will run into thousands of
rupees. Depending on the count, two similar looking pashmina
shawls will differ in price if they have a different count.
And then there are the embroidered shawls. Embroidery is of two
kinds - hook and needle, and the former is generally less
expensive than the latter.
As a general rule, the better the material of the shawl, the
better the embroidery, with pashmina having the tiniest stitches
in needlework, and the less expensive mixed woolen shawls having
either hook work or somewhat coarser needlework stitches.
The handmade carpets of Kashmir are famous throughout the world.
Though quite expensive, Kashmiri carpets are a worthwhile
lifelong investment. Apart from being always
handmade, another quality of Kashmir carpets is that they are
always knotted, never tufted. The craft of carpet weaving did
not originate in Kashmir, rather it is believed to have been
acquired from Persia. The designs on the carpets, even today,
reflect a Persian touch. One of the most common designs seen on
carpets of Kashmir is that of the "tree of life". These carpets
are quite unique in themselves, differentiated from others by
their color-way (subtle) and other details.
The durability as well as the price of a carpet depends upon
it's knotting. The more knots per square inch, the higher will
be the carpet's price as well as durability. The knots are
counted on the reverse side of the carpet. Also, there are both
single and double-knotted carpets. You can quite easily identify
one from the other on the reverse of the carpet. A single
knotted carpet is fluffier and more resistant to the touch than
the double knotted one
Here too, the quality of papier mache differs markedly,
depending on two factors. The first is the papier mache in its
raw state. Unless it is smoothened adequately to be silky to the
touch, it is not considered high grade. On the other hand,
inexpensive papier mache, brightly painted and varnished, makes
a variety of gifts and souvenirs that do not cost a fortune.
Eggs, eggcups, candle and pen stands, kum kum boxes and
cigarette boxes are just a few options at the low end.
At the other end of the scale, high grade papier mache is used
to make vases, bowls, trays and a number of other products all
painted by expert craftsmen in lifelike images of kingfishers,
chinar leaves and other motifs. Gold used on these products will
be real gold leaf. On lower range products it will poster paint.
The real difference however lies in the skill of painting and
not in the product itself - two trays or vases can appear
roughly the same at firs glance - it is the execution of the
painting and the type of gold used that will determine the price
One may be a collector': item, the other an inexpensive
Items made from walnut wood come from three parts of the tree:
the branches, the trunk and the root. The branches have the
pales colour of wood, and the trunk the darkest Branches have no
veins trunks have the strongest marked veins. Objects made out
of the root will be the costliest because of the wood used.
As walnut is a soft wood, it takes carving very well. Chinar
leaves, vine leaves and flowers can be either carved along
borders or can fill entire surfaces the artistry of the carving
and its abundance dictates the cost. Trinket boxes and the
larger jewellery boxes shoul have invisible seams. Other walnut
wood objects are salad bowls, nut bowls, photo frames, trays and
furniture. This cans Srinagar from a simple telephone stand or
nesting tables to a dining table with six chairs.
In the case of furniture, the price is dictated by the
thick-ness of wood used. Two very similar writing desks can be
priced very differently, if one used ¾" wood and the other ½"
wood. The difference is barely discernible to the untrained eye,
but no dealer will sell precious root wood, ¾" thick for the
same price as his competitor who has economized on the quality
and quantity of wood for a cheaper product.
Kashmir has extensive mulberry cultivation. Silkworms feeding on
this produce resilient silk. Kashmiri silk may be thin, but it
is strong nevertheless, as is chiffon. Very little silk is
actually woven in Kashmir - Kashmiri silk is the term. Used for
silk produced in Kashmir. It is mainly used to make saris.
Surprisingly strong, wicker baskets can be used as picnic
hampers, lampshades, and glass holders for holding hot tea, work
baskets, even packing cases which can be sent unaccompanied by
road. The main centre of this craft is at Hazratbal in Srinagar.