Title: Transmission of crafts from Central Asia to Kashmir
Authors: Dr. Arif Ahmad Bhat, Parvaiz Hussian Bhat
Publisher: Gulshan Books, Residency Road, Srinagar, Kashmir
First Edition: 2023
Price: Rs. 1395
Kashmir served as an institution for varied types of arts and crafts. There are several arts which are born here but there are many such arts and crafts that have been brought from Central Asia, and cultivated here. The book tiled, ‘Transmission of crafts from central Asia to Kashmir’ is an attempt by its young authors Dr. Arif Ahmad Bhat, Parvaiz Hussian Bhat, to explore the intimate relationship that once existed between Kashmir and Central Asia.
Since in the modern historiography, the arts and crafts have also been used as source to understand the cultural and economic history. These are now considered useful material suitable for the reconstruction of the aesthetic history of civilization, which in other words, mean to understand the socio-cultural history of a country or an area. The study of so called minor arts also allows deducting the economic condition of the people involved in their commissioning and trade.
The present work highlights the growth and development of some of the arts made in central Asia particularly in Uzbekistan. Thus shows the socio –cultural strength of the people of the country who have learned the excellent handicrafts through the efforts of various peoples in and around this country.
As Kashmir has produced beautiful crafts and shows similarities to Uzbekistan’s arts, book also examines the impact on the skills of Kashmir from Central Asia, there by establishing the intimate relationship she with these regions in the past.
In fact, the tradition of the introduction of several Central Asian arts and crafts in this beautiful land cannot be rules out, but the narrative that almost all the arts and crafts of Kashmir have actually travelled from other lands is not fear.
The indigenous art history of this land is very old and several art historians have made mention of the respective arts of Kashmir in their respective accounts and travelogues.
Mirza Haider Daughlat, in his medieval period Persian account Tarikh-e-Rashidi writes, “in Kashmir one meets with all those arts and crafts which are almost uncommon in other cities (Central Asian), such as stone-polishing, stone-cutting, bottle-making, window-cutting, gold beating etc. He further writes that these are not found in the whole of Mavara-an-Nahr (Trans-Oxiana), except in Samarkand and Bokhara, these are nowhere to be met while in Kashmir they are even abundant.” He credits all these craft forms to the Sultan Zain-ul-Abiden, and writes that “this is all due to Zain ul Abideen, Budshah.”
Indeed, Sultan Zain-ul-Abideen (Budshah), has been the most famous and legendary Sultan of Kashmir. Obviously, there is no doubt that the period of Sultan Zain-ul-Abideen is regarded as the golden period of Kashmir history.
The great Sultan is rightly credited with introduction of several arts and crafts in Kashmir. But there existed several other local trades and crafts here, which is also known to have been revived by him.
He is recorded to have revived several dying arts, besides inviting master-craftsmen from central Asian states and providing them heavy Jagirs (lands). He is also credited for facilitating the trainings for Kashmiri artists.
Since most of arts and crafts of this land have almost last that pristine glory. The major setback which the glorious industry has suffered was at the hands of modernization where the handicrafts could not withstand the industrial goods. The modern industries made available variety and plenty of goods to the consumers.
No doubt, the elegance and magic of Kashmiri hands has its own charm, but it could not pick up the speed of flourishing industrial products. The Kashmiri craftsmen came to a pass where they had no alternative other than to give up their traditional trades and adopt a new business to suit the modern day needs.
Although many craftsmen gave up their ancestral trade and businesses, but they could not change their identity. There are still number of communities which are known by their respective trade names, despite the fact, that they have already left their trades.
Srinagar is home to scores of such families which have adopted their trade names. There are families with suffix or prefix with their sir names, e.g. Naqash (painters) Rangsaz (Colour Makers) Sheeshgari (Glass – Cutters) Shawl Baf (Shawl Weavers) Patgari (Silk-Weavers) Saraf (Coins-Makers) Sonar (Gold Smiths) Zargar (Jewellery Makers) Katas (Sculptors) etc.
Similarly, people with their respective trade names also live in other towns and villages. Since these people are nowadays hardly associated with their respective trades, they still preserve their trade identity.
The present book under review provides not only a deep analysis of different arts and crafts of Kashmir but through these arts and crafts attempted well to explore the ancient artistic links of the land with other central Asian states.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.