Wood Carving and Lacquerware of Kashmir


Wood Carving and Lacquerware of Kashmir

A variety of articles with aesthetic appeal and functional utility — trays, bowls, boxes, tables, office screens, chairs, and furniture — are crafted in walnut wood. Some of the villages in the region practice the craft of wood-carving also. The wood is locally available. The main items produced include folding tables, flower pots and tea-mixing barrels. The dragon motif is generally carved on the wood. Other designs such as the eight lucky signs in Buddhism are also carved out. The products are painted in different colours; sometimes the motif itself is raised to make it more attractive. The raising is done by dough prepared from local clay and glue. The dough is put in a rubber tube with a thin brass nozzle on one end and is then pressed on the outlined motif; the clay drops on to the motif and creates an embossed look.

Wood architecture flourished in Kashmir from the 11th century onwards when the people were allowed to procure wood free from the forests. Emperor Badshah Zain-ul-Abadin of Kashmir built a grand wooden palace with an overhanging balcony. This burned down subsequently but present houses in Kashmir follow this style. The balconies and windows are enclosed with fine lattice work called acche-dar and azli-pinjra.

Deodar is a variety of pine favoured by wood-carvers as it repels insects naturally. The khatamband — decorative wood panels made from spruce — are used for ceilings and pillars. The work done here has delicate lines and decorative motifs with minute attention given to detailing; the wood has a beautiful grain and a natural colour. Walnut wood is known as dun in Kashmir and has a light-brown grainy texture; it is a good wood for delicate chiselling. European traders encouraged walnut carving, helping it become a highly ornamental art with animal and bird motifs decorating the tops of jewellery boxes, large tables, trays, picture frames, cabinets, vases, lamps, screens, writing desks, and finely carved bowls. Kashmir is particularly noted for its fine lattice work screens and caskets, owing their origin to the lattice work done originally in the windows of old houses. A type of wood called chikri (buxux semperuiens) which is smooth and ivory-coloured grows in the area of Rajouri district. Simple and primitive techniques are used to shape this into combs, spoons, and sandals with a hand driven lathe. Lacquering of wood is a very popular craft at Anantnag in Kashmir. Lac is a kind of resin which is coloured and used to embellish wood. Several kinds of ornamentation — dana work, atishi (fire) work, abri (cloud) work, nakashi and etched nakashi work, and decorative painting — are done. The items made are wall decorations, large-sized lamps, big flower pots, and fire screens which are embellished with rich patterns of birds and flowers and are made in the nakashi style.

Objects made out of lacquered papier mache include letter cases, table mats, trays, and boxes with typical Kashmiri designs. Composite designs are made by combing and painting with lacquering. Folk wood work here include objects like cooking spoons, sandals, cradles, baby walkers, and toys, often coloured deep pink, orange, and green. Wood of the horse chestnut tree and the willow are used.




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