by Dar Javed
Srinagar, Kashmir is a treasure trove of handicraft, heritage and natural beauty.Among the elegant
treasure Kashmir possesses is Kashmiri Copperware (locally known as kandkari
Work).copper ware known as Traam has been an indispensable commodity in Kashmir
since ages. The age old art of crafting copperware is deep rooted in Kashmir culture. The
art of Copperware in Kashmir is famous all over the world, the craftsmanship of beautiful
Kashmir is known for their work of engraving and for making household and decorative
products ,the household utensils include Lota (pot), Tream (plate), Naer (water jug), Tash-
Near (portable handwash), dishes, bowls,trays ,vessels,Lamp Shades and many more….
most famous being Kashmiri ‘Samovar’–a large cattle for preparing tea.
History backs it, that the Sufi Saint and an Islamic scholar ,Mir Syed Ali Hamdani ,who
travelled from Central Asia was instrumental in making copper popular among natives.He
brought craftsmen from central Asia (especially from Persia and Iran ) to train locals.however
during the reign of Budshah Zain ul Abideen ,this craft received good support and Zain ul
Abideen became the active catalyst and pioneer to restore the grandeur of Kashmir ….
Process Of Making Of Copper …
Copper ware requires ample amount of time and labour and making process is slow and
The process of making of a copper or brassware goes through many Hands (artisans) which
are specialized in a particular technique. The process involves Khar(Local name ) – the
smith, Naqash – the engraver, Zarcod – the gilder, Roshangar – the polisher and
Charakgar – the cleaner or finisher. In past there were special localities or Mohallas like
Roshangar-Mohalla were named after these professions,(however now the tale is totally
different) , where these artisans were carrying out their craft practice.
Some of the tools used in the process of making a copperware are , Draz(Local name) –
hammer, Mekh -stakes, Yandrewah – anvil, Compass ,chisels, punches, files etc.
The beautiful shops of household utility and decorative copperware items in Shehr-e-Khaas
,downtown area of srinagar city has been the hub of copper ware since the 19th century, the
old markets of Zaina Kadal, SR Gunj ,MR Gunj … still carrying this glorious art. Large
beautiful copper samovars, cups, glasses, tasht naari’s, traami’s, jugs, bowls, trays, vases
,vessels ,water bottles ,table Lamps ,pendant Lamps etc are gracefully found in the
beautiful shops even today.The old city is full of shops where craftsman (Naqash) are often
seen engraving copper items .
Crafting Magic With Humble Hands
Untold story Of Mohamad Aslam
On a narrow street in ShamasWari area of Zainakadal, old city (Shahrikhass) near
Khanqai -moula is a small coppersmiths workshop .Mohammad Aslam 45, bearing
beautiful beared on his face is sitting in his match sized workshop ,with a smile on his face
,Aslam greets whoever enters his workshop .Aslam who lives permanently in Soura area of
Srinagar city travels everyday to find solace and joy in his work ,which he is performing from
his childhood .Aslam is often found beating copper meticulously .with his head bent and
eyes spent on it as he shaped it stroke by stroke .the sound he hears while beating the
copper is not less than music for him .
As Downtown area of summer capital, Srinagar has produced some of the finest and
talented artisans in copper ware and Mohammad Aslam is one of the unsung hero ,a
master craftsman who is keeping this art alive .
Hailing from Soura Srinagar, Aslam , said that he adopted the copper art from his ancestors
and is in this profession from last 32 years.he added “My father ,Ghulam Mohammad and
grand father Ghulam Nabi were working as coppersmiths and my grand father had taught
and trained me to make new patterns and designs .with the dint of hardwork Aslam has been
able to provide a good education to his children who showed reluctance in joining his
(father’s) work ,his Son is an Engineering graduate from a reputed institute.
However Aslam has a sad story to tell ,taking a sigh of relief after a candid conversation
,Aslam says ,Once an inseparable part of the culture, use of copper made cauldrons and
utensils is seeing a steep dip… and added, that the craft will die because it finds no further
takers in the current generation.
People prefer to buy machine made copper utensil which are relatively cheap, ultimately
affecting the popularity of this Kashmiri art .
machine made copper utensils had left thousands of technical hand artists jobless and the
art is at the verge of the extinction.Aslam has not received any help or grant from
government or any other organisation .however this year a Delhi based organisation
Commitment to Kashmir has come forward to help the beautiful art and true heroes like
Aslam to carry forward this legacy ….he lives with a hope ,a hope to revive this dying art
Government till date has offered handful of schemes to help the artisans and promote
Kashmir handicrafts, but the role of the government to revive the industry in the state and
outside the state has not been up to the mark ,furthermore the society in general and the
civil society members ,Organisations in particular has to wake up from deep slumber to
contribute in whatever way, to preserve this identity .
The artists associated with the artform have faced huge discouragement .. Unable to make a
healthy living with the income that the art generates, artisans associated with this craft cry
over the government’s apathy to the socio-economic conditions of the artisan community.if
necessary steps are not taken this craft will soon die a silent death and kashmir will lose our
Dar Javed is a Research project Fellow at Design incubation centre central university of