Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Paper Machie: The Exquisite Craft of Kashmir

Afsana provides a historical perspective of a craft indelibly linked to Kashmir

(Ms. Afsana Rasheed, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

Paper machie: the Exquisite Craft of Kashmir


Origin of this ancient craft Art of Paper machie in Kashmir has great significance and history attached to it. Known by its Iranian title "Kari Qalamdane", this art form has acquired wide acclaims both for its impressive quality and unique character. Tracing down its history, CRAFT –a magazine published by the Directorate of Handicrafts, reveals that the art of Paper machie was invented in China in about 105 A.D. The word paper machie has been derived from the French word that means the "moulded pulp". In Kashmir, however, it was known by its Iranian title "Kari Qalamdane".

Initially this art was restricted to the preparation of pen cases only. The craftsmanship and the decorative motifs of these Qalamdans reveal that their preparation must have been commissioned by the nobles and the kings. Later on, this craft was given the title of Kari-Munaqqash that is nearer to the meaning of Kari-Qalamdani.

Substances like old rag, fishnets and waste were used to make the paper for the purpose of documentation or preserving some essential records. Samarqand was suitable place for this art because it had sufficient raw material and adequate water supply. In this background the art of paper making flourished in central Asia in 7th century A.D. From there it crossed over to Iran and then entered Kashmir during the reign of Sultan-Zain-ul-Abidin (A.D. 1323 to A.D. 1374) but there are still some traces such as a paper manuscript in Kashmir which dates back to 8th century A.D.

This indicates that paper might have been introduced in Kashmir before Zain-ul-Abidin's period that is evident from the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin's mother at ZainaKadal Srinagar. Paper treated with glue has been used for fixing the tiles on the outer walls of the tomb. According to different researchers the art of paper machie originated in Iran and was introduced among many other arts into Kashmir by King Zain-ul-Abidin. The firm, "Suffering Moses" founded by Aziz Mughal, the great grand father of Safder Mughal still exists in Srinagar.

Techniques of Preparation

Preparations of moulds, application of colours and designing are the important processes in the art of making Paper machie. To produce superb products and to gain the foreign market the Kashmiri craftsmen preferred and used the mineral colours. They generally avoided use of chemical pigments as they believed that the natural (mineral) colours would not loose their fastness after a long time. This, according to them, would mean that these colours would at least remain fresh for a period of more than fifty years.

The colours would not loose intensity, strength even if the objects were kept in direct sunlight or in water for days together. The process of preparation of mineral colours is a painstaking effort. At the first place, the minerals are tied in a sack/bag of cloth and moistened with water and then roughly beaten. This broken wet material is grounded into paste on a fislab and the paste is dried into fine powder. Finally, this powder is mixed with glue and water. The material is then rigorously stirred till a fine colour in the shape of mixture is obtained.

Generally, the colours are applied to protect the article from any kind of damage and to decorate the same in order to grab the attention of the customer. In the ancient times, the colours used to be obtained from natural sources (minerals). Most of colours were imported from Iran and China. Blue, green and white used to be imported in original form whereas black and red are extracted from minerals. The pots used for these colours are purely handmade clay pots with glazed inner side.

Different types of brushes are used for making different designs in this form of art work. The bristle of the hair of goat, cat and ass are set in handles of feather (quills) by means of silken threads, inferior bristles are cut and trimmed up. Craftsmen make use of these special types of brushes for producing exquisite designs. Brushes used for this art form are different from those used by painters and artists.

Floral motifs, natural objects, darbar (court) scenes, battle scenes, hunting scenes and mythological stories form the essential elements in designing various Paper mache objects. The art of painting was not restricted to papier mache objects only but was also applied to wood carvings, window panels, wall panels and even to ceilings as is evident from the ceilings of Madin Sahib Mosque of 1444 AD, the ceiling of Shah Hamdan's mosque at Srinagar and the baradari of Shalimar garden of Mughal period.

During the Mughal rule, most of the luxury items such as 'Qalamdan' (pen case) make up kits and scent cases used by the courtiers were made by the Kashmiri artists.

During the early stages the method adopted for the manufacture of Papier mache was very complicated. Small piece of paper were pasted with glue on a prepared mould. After drying of the first layer, a second layer was pasted and accordingly several layers would be pasted one over the other till the required thickness was achieved. Then the pieces of muslin used to be wrapped over it which was followed by a wash of "Gutch" (white wash).

Mostly the Paper machie objects are made in three dimensions for which different types of moulds are used. In early times these moulds were prepared from the clay by the artisans. Moulds were kept in shade in order to avoid any kind of damage.

1 comment:

Ashish Raval said...

Interesting information. I have a Papier Mache battle scene painting drawn on mat, either belonging to Mughal, Rajasthan or Iranian school. I am delighted to know it may be from Kashmir school to.