Reviving Kashmir’s dying crafts, youth becomes an inspiration to bring back glazed pottery

Srinagar, IndiaWritten By: Idrees LoneUpdated: Dec 01, 2021, 03:54 PM IST

Kashmir's youth is restoring the art of glazed pottery Photograph:(WION)

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The glazed tiles and other items have been made for centuries in the valley but the art was on the verge of extinction

The Kashmir Valley was recently listed by UNESCO among the creative cities of the world. The valley has innumerable arts and crafts. And one such craft is Glazed pottery.

The glazed tiles and other items have been made for centuries in the valley but the art was on the verge of extinction.

A 26-year-old commerce graduate from Srinagar's Nishat area, Mohamad Omar Kumar has taken it upon himself to revive the craft. Omar has learnt the art from the only person alive in Kashmir valley knowing the craft. And with the help of Jammu and Kashmir's Handicraft department, Omar was able to set up a unit to make these items. 

''My grandfather and father have been doing pottery. But In the beginning I was not interested but once I finished studies I got to know that Glazed pottery is at the verge of extinction. It caught my attention and I searched more. There was only one old man in the Khanyar area of srinagar making the glazed tiles and other stuff. Even that person's children did not take it up. I went to him and learnt for around 6 months. I learnt how to make glazed pottery from him as he is the only person alive knowing the art. I thought of reviving the art and bringing it back to life. I did a lot of hard work. I learned how to make these glazed items here. The glaze is made at home with things which we generally throw away. '' said Mohamad Omar Kumar, Artisan. 

The Jammu and Kashmir government has various schemes for the revival of endangered arts of the Kashmir Valley. Among them was Glazed pottery. The government helps artisans establish units and also provide them with raw material as well as stipend. The Jammu and Kashmir governments want to make Srinagar into a craft destination. 

''The department of Handicraft launched a policy where we revive critically endangered crafts and glazed pottery is one of the craft which we are endeavouring to revive. We approached this entrepreneur, who was inclined in starting his enterprise of glazed pottery manufacturer. He did his basic training from one of the old teachers. From our intervention under KarKhanDar Scheme, we help in the form of raw material. We also provide stipend to the trainer and also to the trainee so it's a win-win situation for all. Our craft is revived and we incentivised the revival process. We are happy that intervention has borne fruit. Revival of one endangered craft has been accomplished. We want to approach more such individuals who are interested in these critically endangered crafts. This becomes even more critical in view of UNESCO creative city listing wherein we will be pitching in as a craft destination. '' said Mehmood Shah,Director, Handicrafts. 

The Kashmiri tiles were used centuries ago in palaces as well as traditional Kashmiri homes. But with time, people started using ceramic tiles and with no market, the artisans were left with no choice but to stop production. And now the artisans like Omar are trying to bring back the Kashmiri Tiles in the market. Within a short span of time, He has received orders from across the country for these tiles. 

''We are not unemployed, we have made ourselves as such. We have so much art here and if we take up all these arts again, no one in the Kashmir valley would be unemployed. Our older generations have left us with so much craft and art, we just need to work on it. The clay tiles I started making were completely finished but now I am making them again with a different design and I have so many orders in a short span of time. I can't manage it alone on my own. We need more and more people taking this up. It's our responsibility to bring alive all these arts. '' said Mohamad Omar Kumar, Artisan. 

The government is helping Omar in every possible way. As the orders increase, the government is helping him to meet the growing demand for these items. 

''In the years gone by we used to manufacture these glazed clay tiles. In fact our museum has one of the diverse collections of tiles. And The manufacture and baking of tiles is a historical process which has been carried out here and these tiles were all seen in all old houses but we nowaday we are finding it difficult to source but with this intervention we have a source who can churn out tiles. In Fact we are working with him and we are also helping him with production increase. Since it has gotten a lot of attention, people are interested in buying stuff from him so we also have to make sure of the production. '' said Mehmood Shah,Director, Handicrafts. 

The Srinagar city has made it to the UNESCO list of creative cities and now the government aims at making the summer capital of Jammu Kashmir into a craft destination.