Thursday, 21 May 2015

Srinagar and its Traditional Crafts



Hand embroidered Kashmiri Crewel work is a very long standing traditional craft in Srinagar. It is very similar to that seen in England commonly used during the Jacobean period for bed and wall hangings, and on the clothing worn by the rich. The Bayeux Tapestry was also made using hand embroidered crewel work. Crewel work was reintroduced in England by Wm Morris during the Arts and Crafts period, and it experienced another revival during the 1960s. The Crewel embroidery style and designs are thought to have travelled from Persia (Iran) to Kashmir then to Egypt, Greece and Rome, before travelling to England during the Roman conquest. 
I wrote a post here about the actual origins of the generic term 'Paisley' in connection with Kashmiri shawls and stoles but never imaged that one day I would visit Kashmir.
For 20 years, until 2012, Srinagar and Jammu have been closed areas to British visitors. Srinagar is Kashmir's summer capital, their winter capital being Jammu. Travel was not permitted by the British Foreign Office due to Kashmirs position next to several borders of unrest and conflict - Pakistan, China/Tibet and Afghanistan. Although others can travel up into the mountains, for us, it is still not permitted by our government.
Shah Hamdan is a richly coloured beautiful old Srinagar Mosque made of wood, built in 1400 with a distinctly Nepalese feel to it. Non Muslims are not allowed inside but we were permitted to take photographs through the grills 

An old lithograph of Shah Hamdan Mosque dated 1847

Mosque Chowkidars (watchmen)
The Mughal emperors who ruled India for nearly 300 years arrived in 1346 from Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Central Asia. They greatly favoured the Persian art of Papier-mâché and introduced the craft to Kashmir - a rich tradition of craftsmanship which continues today
I have looked up the history of Papier-mâché and believe that Shah Hamdan Mosque in Srinagar is unique. It is possibly the only building in the world to be covered with Papier-mâché both inside and out. 
The entrance porch ceiling
In Kashmir they decorate with designs of small flowers and foliage favouring what we know as the 'Florentine' style
Carved wooden entrance door
The Papier-mâché inside the mosque has far brighter colours than my photos indicate
The weaving of pure silk and fine pure wool carpets is another long standing tradition in Kashmir also introduced from Persia (Iran). Only Kashmiri men weave the rugs and carpets in contrast to Turkey where all the weaving is done by women
Srinagar stands on the Jhelum River and has a distinctly Central Asian flavour; when heading south from Srinagar it is often referred to as 'returning to India'. Two weeks before we arrived they had severe flooding and you can still see the debris caught up around the bridge
 Time to return back along the waterways to our houseboat 

42 comments:

  1. Hello dear Rosemary!
    What a lovely place to visit!Kashmir is famous for the silk and for the lovely carpets !
    Your trip must been very interesting indeed!Gorgeous pictures!
    Congratulations to your grand daughter! You must have been so proud of her !!
    She is so preety!!Wishing to her all the best!
    Dimi...

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    1. Thank you Dimi for your kind wishes to my granddaughter.
      Kashmir is a fascinating place to visit - they have been greatly influenced by invaders over hundreds of years and still maintain a great tradition of arts and crafts skills from that time.

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  2. In the late 1960s, I was a girl being taught embroidery (still thought to be an important female life skill in those days) and I remember crewel embroidery was the pinnacle of expertise! I enjoyed all your photos today!

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    1. It is interesting to learn the origins of something that we are so familiar with

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  3. Dear Rosemary, Another fascinating post. Thank you for the close-ups...so much material for the decorative painter. Your first photograph reminds me of a crewel sofa I had made for our first house. It was surprisingly hard wearing. I finally gave it away.

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    1. Dear Gina - in my ignorance of I assumed that crewel work was English as I have seen it in so many houses here dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. As I learn more during my travels I am realising what a huge legacy the Persians in particular have given to the world.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, I had never thought of papier-mache as an architectural finish, but it makes sense. It is strong (if protected from water), has an interesting three-dimensional texture, and takes paint and various kinds of inlay well. The Shah Hamdan Mosque is a real tour de force, but then papier-mache is not a material known for its reticence!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I was surprised that it had stood up to the weather so well. Although we had wall to wall sunshine all the time we were in Srinagar they do get some torrential downpours and also lots of snow during the winter season. The mosque does have very large overhanging eaves that I suppose must help protect the papier-mâché work. I suspect that it must have several layers of lacquer covering it too.

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  5. Oh how amazing, such beautiful colours and wonderful designs in all of the architecture. You can see where the influence came/went with the beautiful embroidery and crewel work. Another fascinating and incredibly interesting post. Thank you so much! xx

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    1. Thanks so much Amy - the Kashmiri people are great crafts people making wonderful things down the generations.

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  6. So nice to see the handcraft and architecture, great post to read.

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed seeing it - thank you

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  7. How decorative certainly we don't see it here...the photos are lovely..

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    1. The papier-mâché work on the mosque is very unique

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  8. What a wonderful hand handicraft and wonderful decorations of buildings.
    So lovely images.
    Hugs

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Orvokki - delighted that you enjoyed seeing the papier-mâché decoration

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  9. Beautiful photo's Rosemary! All those colours. It must have been so impressive.

    Wishing you a good weekend!

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief - the people of Kashmir have a wonderful sense of colour and design

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  10. I am in awe of the exotic trips that you take, and am delighted that you share them with us. Thank you, Rosemary. Janey

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    1. I have a strong urge to see as much of the world as I can whilst I am still able - we only have one chance.

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  11. Oh wow! what a fantastic post about a beautiful place, such patterns and colours!
    xxx

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    1. The Kashmiri's have a great sense of their traditional style and do use very pretty colours and designs,

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  12. The mention of papier-mache takes me back to my school days! Another fascinating set of photos.

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    1. Seeing papier-mâché used to decorate this mosque was a complete revelation to me - I have never seen anything like it before. It was very pretty and interesting to photograph.

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  13. Amazing decorations in the mosque , my mouth opened several times :-) Such a great and informative post, thank you !

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    1. It is an amazing building Jane, I love the traditional colours and designs used by the Kashmiri's - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it.

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  14. This is amazing Rosemary! A whole building covered in colourful papier maché! Didn't think something like that was even possible. Also love the cradle work you show in the first collage. So pretty!

    I have a question for you Rosemary. My husband removed some hydrangeas that hadn't been doing good for the last years and he also removed the Lunaria, he thought it was just weed. Do you think it would still dry up ok now? It may be crazy trying to save it but I was so happy to find it blooming in the garden and so hoped to keep it. Should I put it in water or just hang it upside down to dry or is all hope lost?

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    1. I wouldn't want to loose mine either Marian - I think that the right choice would be to hang the stems upside down somewhere dry, then they will probably still turn silver. You can harvest the seeds from some of those round pods too when they have dried - they have about 10 seeds inside each one which I seem to recall you could actually see on the photo you showed.

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    2. I will try this and I had been hoping to harvest some of the seeds already. Hope they will ripen off completely so I can sow them. Fingers crossed.

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    3. If my seeds ripen well in the garden I will harvest them in the Autumn - should you need some I can send them to you if you let me know in October.

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  15. What an amazing journey Rosemary. The colours and textures of the weaving, the tapestry, the papier mache.....all just beyond belief. I am very very envious of this trip, and as always am completely overcome by your fabulous photography. I have much to catch up on, as I have not been following all y favourite blogs for a while. I know I'm in for a treat in catching up with yours. Fondest wishes, Janice x

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    1. Dear Janice - Thank you for your very kind comment - I have missed you not being around but it is good to know that all is well with you.
      India was a fabulous trip, one that we are very pleased to have taken. Lots of happy memories as I revisit it again through the photos.

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  16. This is another post I was really into, Rosemary. Whenever I see your travelogue, I enjoy and sigh in contentment with so many artifacts, traditional handicrafts, and architectures I haven’t seen. The paintings on Papier-mâché is so beautiful.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - the Papier-mâché work on the mosque was a total revelation to me, I have never come across anything like it before. I love the traditional designs and colours that the Kashmiri people employ in their crafts.

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  17. wow, what a mosque. Little and full of history.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. I have never seen a mosque like it before Filip

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  18. Dear Rosemary,

    Must have been a wonderful trip and to visit this gorgeous place. The Architecture of the Mosque is beautiful, the colours and to think some of it is papier- mache. Love all the pretty embroidery also.
    You asked about my camera - it is actually silver and we bought a protective cover which is a pretty burnt orange.
    Thanks for visiting me.
    Hope you are enjoying the weekend
    hugs
    Carolyn

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Carolyn - the Papier-mâché used such pretty colours and the flower designs were typically Kashmiri.
      Do hope you are enjoying your camera.

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  19. Wow the colours and patterns are stunning. How lucky to be able to visit here now and share these treasures with us too. Sarah x

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    1. The people of Kashmir and India do have a tremendous sense of style and colour. I remember thinking how lovely the women always looked even when they were toiling in the fields. Their hair would be elegantly twisted into the nap of their necks, they were slim and looked very beautiful in their colourful saris.

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  20. What a glorious riot of colour and pattern, Rosemary. It's almost impossible to believe that the surfaces are all papier-mache. Your memory must be overflowing with unforgettable images from this wonderful trip.

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    1. India was a delight with surprises at every turn

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