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.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Art Of Papier Machie In Kashmir

Musavirr discusses the Art Of Papier Machie In Kashmir

(Mr. Musavirr Wani, 27, was born in Srinagar and attened the Burn Hall School. He graduated from the Meerut University and joined the Kashmir Times as a reporter. Loves driving his car and surfing internet to seek out workshops and fellowships so that he can travel and present the true picture of Kashmir.)

Art of papier 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) laid down that the art of papier machie was invented in China in about A.D 105 and the word papier 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, workmanship and the decorative motifs of these Qalamdans reveal that their preparation must have been commissioned by the nobles, diwans and kings. Later on this craft was given the title of Kari-Munaqqash that is nearer to the meaning of Kari-Qalamdane, the magazine added.

Preparations of moulds, application of colours and designing are the important processes in the art of Papier mache. To produce its effect on the products and to gain 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 even 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 or strength even if the objects were kept in direct sunlight or in water for days together. The process of preparation of mineral colours was labourious. Firstly, the minerals were tied in a sack/bag of cloth and moistened with water and then were roughly beaten. This broken wet material used to be ground into paste on a fislab and the paste was dried into fine powder. Finally, this powder was mixed with glue and water was added to it slowly. This material was then rigorously stirred till a fine colour in the shape of mixture was obtained.

Generally, the colours were and are, applied to protect the article from any kind of damage and to decorate the same in order to grab the attention of the customers. The colours used to be obtained from natural sources (minerals) and most of these used to be imported from Iran and China. Blue, green and white used to be imported in original form whereas black, red and others used to be extracted from minerals. The pots used for these colours are purely handmade clay pots with glazed inner side. Before use, these pots were thoroughly dipped into water so that they absorb no more liquid.

Different types of brushes, as reported by CRAFT, are used for different works 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. Special brushes are prepared for use in varnishing and they are not supposed to be used in water colour or dipped into water. 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 Papier 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, make up kit 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 pieces 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) and was left to dry.

Mostly the Papier mache objects are made in three dimensions for which different types of moulds are used. In early times these moulds were prepared from clay by the artisans themselves. To dry them the moulds were kept in shade and those were not exposed to direct sunrays or heat so as to avoid any kind of damages like cracks. After the commercialization of papier mache products, wooden and metallic moulds were introduced.

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 (AD 1323 to AD 1374) but there are still some traces such as a paper manuscript in Kashmir which dates to 8th century AD. This indicates that paper might have been introduced in Kashmir before Zain-ul-Abidin's period which is also evident from the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin's mother at Zainakadal Srinagar, where paper treated with glue has been used for fixing the tiles on the outer walls of the tomb. Researchers have brought to light the evidence that the art of papier 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.

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