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ARTS AND HANDICRAFTS OF RAJOURI

 

Chikri Wood  Crafts

Photo : Maharajkar Singh Isher

The lush green valley of Rajouri falls in the northwest of the Jammu city, the winter capital of J&K State. The region is rich in forest wealth and the climate is cold during winter months. The high reaches of Pir Panjal, dividing Kashmir and Rajouri valley, experience moderate to heavy snow fall during winter months as a result of which during the winter months, when it is not possible for the local people to earn their livelihood outside their residences, they prefer to devote their time to handicraft activities, so as to supplement their meager incomes. Due to the variety of handicrafts, it can be said mini Kashmir or the Kashmir of Jammu region. Since the old Mughal road to Kashmir valley passes through the length of this district, the handicraft activities got a face off with the patronage of Mughal Emperors.

Embroidery, Chikri-wood carving, Tilla (Copper) work, basket making, Blanket making, Namda and Gabba making, etc. were the main handicrafts of the bygone days. With the ushering of modern age, some of these handicrafts due to high cost of production as compared to the machine made articles have lost buyers as result of which the persons who were involved in production of these articles have abandoned manufacturing such items and have resorted to other activities of earning their livelihood. But Embroidery, Namda, Gabba making, Blanket making and Chikri wood crafts somehow still survive heavy odds.

A number of  handicraft centres have been opened by the J&K Government to train local male and females  of the district in various crafts like Embroidery, Namda, Gabba making and Ckikri wood carving,  The Handicraft Centres are imparting training in far-flung areas of this district. The trained persons are encouraged by the Government to form cooperative Societies, which enable them to earn their livelihood. The State Government, to some extent, also provides market cover to them. The main crafts are briefly discussed hereunder:-

 

 

EMBROIDERY

 

 

The main items under embroidery craft consist of Shah embroidery (both Sojni and Aari). Embroidery on bed sheets, Pillows, TV/Radio covers, sofa set covers, table covers, curtains, wall Hangings, napkins, etc. The quality is so at present but with the intensive coaching, regular market facilities and financial help on the pattern of Kashmir valley, it will certainly see this craft breaking all shackles. It will help in brining prosperity and happiness to this area besides making available embroidery articles to the local as well as non-local buyers at reasonable prices.

 

NAMDA GABBA MAKING

 

 

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This craft a facing extinction since the local manufactures are poor and not in a position to buy the raw material in sufficient quantity so as to keep themselves busy during the winter months in particular and whole year in general. Selling their products in the Local Industrial Exhibitions held in Jammu annually or at the national level is also a problem to be tackled. This fine craft of namda, gabba making badly requires Governments attention for survival by providing raw materials and market facility through out the year, preferably at par with their Kashmiri counterparts.  

 

TILLA (COPPER) WORK

 

 

The Tilla (Copper) work some time back was the main stay of the cobblers of Darhal, Thannamandi and Budhal. But due to sky rocketing prices of the raw material as well as absence of market facility, this craft is presently at the death bed and badly requires government's attention, in absence of which its death is certain.

 

 

BLANKET MAKING

 

 

Blanket making is the old craft and it still continues on the same old line, without introduction of the modern technology the quality is poor. It seems really astonishing that though Rajouri-Poonch area has a sheep population of over 4.5 lacs no modern blanket industry has been established in the area as a result of which the raw wool produced here is purchased by the wool mill owners of neighboring Punjab state and consequently the locals could not get benefit of such a large number of sheep population. Unless some modern blanket manufacturing industry is established in the area neither Bakerwals can get reasonable price for raw wool nor the area can develop.

 

 

CHIKRI WOOD CARVING

 

 

This craft can, in the real terms, be said for a live craft with a few ailments. The artisans involved in this craft are mainly located at Shahdara Sharief, Thannamandi and Budhal. These areas manufacture a lot of articles for domestic use as well as ornamental purpose. Till very recently this craft was restricted to local aspirations and demands. But Mr.S.S.Blowria, Special Commissioner, Rajouri-Poonch took a keen interest in this craft and got arranged participation of Shri Haji Abdul Majid, Chikri Wood Artisan from Thannamandi along with his helper, in National Handicraft Exhibition held at  Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. With this the artisan was benefited in terms of wider exposure to the workmanship of other craftsmen as well as improvement in the designs of his products. It could also help if the government provides such exposure to all the leading Chikri Wood Craftsmen and help them in getting new designs of their carvings, which could have larger national and international demands. Though this craft is presently doing well but it does not seem that it will flourish as the government recently increased the price of raw Chikri wood six times, which certainly is beyond the reach of the artisans. The rationalization of Chikri wood price so as to bring it down to a level where it would be viable for genuine craftsmen in terms of the prevailing market rates of their finished goods is very much required.