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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Koshur Kagaz" (Paper Hand-Made in Kashmir)

Iqbal travels in time to introduce the reader to hand-made paper in Kashmir

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Kashmiri paper (Koshur Kagaz)

When people of other lands used to write on stones and rocks, Kashmeries wrote on the local paper called ‘Koshur Kagaz’. They had discovered it very early and had been providing it to the people in the plans of undivided India. Many traditional domestic paper industrial units functioned in the valley lands which produced the local paper to its writers.

Unfortunately we lost this glorious domestic paper industry during the early decades of 20th century AD. It was destroyed by expansion of Indian mill paper industry, as it had no such capacity to meet growing demands of the large paper requirements. No traces of handmade paper industry are left anywhere now. The state authorities could not help in preserving the traditional equipments of its local paper industry. The state museum, cultural academy, research libraries and private collectors have been housing the last evidences of manuscripts of handmade paper but neither equipment nor the paper preparation methods are illustrated anywhere. That is, the people of today have no idea of the glorious industry that existed here even before the world was aware of it. They even have no information that the paper was produced domestically.
History is witness that Kashmir was famous for its paper industry. It supplied handmade papers to the writers of other Indian states. The two units of the industry existed one at Ganderbal and another at Nowshehra, area of srinager district and these units are said were functional till late Dogra period.

The industry is said to have been introduced by Sultan Zain-ul Abiden in 14th century AD. He is believed to have invited paper masters from Samarkand and provided them large jagirs to settle in Kashmir and encouraged them to cultivate proper production industry. George forester who arrived here during Afghan rule says, “Kashmir fabricated the best writing paper of the land and that it was an article of extensive traffic.”

The manufacturing of the paper suggested that the hand made paper was produced of pulp which was a mixture of rugs and hemps. It was obtained by pounding those materials under a lever mill worked by a water power lime and some kind of soda was used to whiten the pulp.

Lawrence provides a brief description of that paper making method. He writes; the pulp is placed in stone troughs, baths and mixed with water. From this mixture this layer of the pulp is extracted on a light and dried in sun, then it is polished with pumice stone and then its surface is glazed with rice water. A final polishing with stone is given and the paper is then ready for use.

The Kashmiri paper was durable and lent. It was in great demand in Punjab plains and in other hilly principalities of the north western regions. However, it could not stand by the mill paper. By the early 20th century AD the mill industry paper had expanded. Thus Kashmiri hand made paper lost its market. A stage reached when the local hand made paper became an out-dated object.

The machine made paper destroyed the glorious hands. No traces of that industry were left even the equipment used in preparation of such paper making culture are not preserved anywhere. There are some olden manuscripts and documents written on that hand made paper which are the lost evidences of hand made paper industry.

The earliest writing available is on ancient coins, stone plates, rocks and copper plates. This material was followed by wooden and birch sheets and Kashmiri writers introduced their pen on this material in about 7th century AD. The earliest birch bark manuscript was discovered by a European archaeologist at Nowgam in Gilgit province of undivided Kashmir.

It is the most famous manuscripts written on bark leaves (or sheets” in classical gilgiten characters. It is written in black ink. A copy of these manuscripts is also housed in SPS museum at Lal Mandi Sringer.

These materials in turn were followed by local paper known more popularly as “Kasure Kagaz”. It was produced domestically. It was a thick paper with a little shine. Almost all manuscripts available up to 18th century AD are written on these materials. People know it by the name of “Kasur Kagaz” Kasur means Kashmiri and kagaz paper.

These manuscripts are written in Sharda, Persian and Arabic languages. The most famous manuscripts include copies of Bhagwat Gita, Holy Quran with its translations and many other religious books. The other history and literary books include Sikander Nama, Shahnama,Khatuti Mughlia, Bharitavel etc. Although now a days we can not find any such paper industry here but evidences of this paper are available in shape of olden manuscripts and files, in Kashmir museums and repositories. Efforts should be made to properly preserve these lost evidences, so that the forth coming generations can also view this heritage and feel proud of their glorious past.


chinmai said...

Thanks for sharing the information in the kashmir paper making. I am currently documenting the traditional hand made paper making process and am very keen to know the traditional hand made paper making process of Kashmir. Can some one introduce me to any artisans who still know the art ? I am very eager to learn that. Contact of Mr Iqbal will also help. Many thanks in advance.

Ramesh marital shah said...

Chinmai, could you find out adres and contact no. Of Iqbal. I am Jain and we also need 100%handmade paper without using any chemicals for writing our old manuscripts. Kashmiri paper is best among all .if u can find glam Mohammed Mir lane no.3,ahamadnagar,Islamabad districts Srinagar he can also help us .pls ctct me on 09327036506 Ramesh shah,ahmedabad