The craftsmen and artisans of Jammu and Kashmir are naturally skilled and their products find a wide market worldwide.
Woodcraft and lacquerware
The wood used from the forests is finely crafted to make lattice screens and partitions to enclose doors and windows. Centre tables, folding tables, dining table sets, flower pots, jewellery boxes, picture frames, cabinets, trays, writing desks and other products in walnut wood, which is good for delicate chiselling, with the Chinar leaf design being the most famous pattern among locals and tourists, are elegantly carved by the craftsmen. Deodar wood and Chikri wood are used to make combs, sandals and spoons. Lac is a kind of resin, which is used to highlight carved patterns and emboss motifs onto wood.
Pottery, Clay, Terracotta
Kashmir is famous for the glazed pottery known as Dal Gate pottery. Glazed tiles, vases and tableware are made in rich colours of red, green, blue, ochre and brown. Ladakh has two types of pottery, one of the icons and large images in bright colours made for Buddhist monasteries and the other pottery artefacts like teakettles, kitchen stoves, oil lamps and barley wine pots. Masks of clay using flour, cloth, waste paper and glue are also made here.
Dolls and Toys
Walnut wood is a soft wood highly suitable for carving from which dolls and toys are made with intricate design and lustre.
The Kasida embroidery of Kashmir used in shawls, saris, bags, cushion covers and screens are exquisite in detail, rich in colour and varied and drawn by the Naqqash, in vivid patterns which have made them world famous.
Kashmir shawls are in great demand all over the world due to their colour, texture, design, warmth and softness. The two main types of shawls are loom woven Kani shawl or Jamawar and needle embroidered Sozini shawl. The famous Pashmina shawls are made from the wool of the Pashmina goat and they are famous for their texture, warmth, softness, lustre and colours. Shahtoosh wool is obtained from Tibetan antelopes and is so fine that it can pass through a finger ring, hence is also called ring shawl. To conserve wildlife, this shawl is no longer woven.
Carpet-weaving originated in Persia and travelled to Kashmir, hence the designs are local variations of Persian themes. Trellis designs which are the hallmark of Mughal traditions are combined with horse designs, hunting, animal and plant motifs. Kashmiri carpets are always hand knotted and the silk carpets are famous throughout the world. The carpets from Ladakh are Tibetan style known as the Khalidal and the designs woven are drawn from religious motifs inspired by the symbols of Mahayana Buddhism. They are used for sitting, sleeping and to seat guests during feasts and ceremonies. Woollen carpets known as Kalin, made in Kashmir are very famous and in great demand.
Cane and Bamboo
Bamboo is extensively used due to its great tensile strength and relative cheapness. A wide range of utility products like bamboo trays, baskets and boxes of various shapes and sizes, furniture, table lamps, ladies bags and fruit and vegetable bowls are made. Willow rushes which grow in lakes and marshes are used to make shopping baskets, lamp shades and a number of other utilitarian products.
The Buddhist blacksmith community of Ladakh is famous for excellent craftsmanship in brass and iron work. They make elegantly decorated iron stoves, locks, keys, conch bangles with decorative designs. Copper is used for casting household items like water jugs or aftabas, samovars for tea, milk containers and cooking pots. Silver engraving of products like copper ladles, lids for tea bowls, tea kettles and brass prayer wheels embellished with silver.
Plain and embroidered items like gloves, coats, shoes, suitcases are made with zari work with gold and silver threads. Special Ladhaki boots called Paboos made of hair of yak and goat, hessian cloth, used wood felt and tie and dye woollen tweed (thigma), which protect the feet against frost bite, are made by the craftsmen.
This art is said to have travelled from Iran to Kashmir and a variety of items like pen stands, flower vases, jewellery boxes, photo frames, trays, decorative and coasters with beautiful designs and colours, are in demand all over the country and even abroad.
The craftsmen make beautiful ornaments with finesse and excellence embedded with stones, gold and silver. Huge circular earrings called Kundalas, large anklets called Nupura, Silver cap or crown called Chaunk Phool worn on the head under the veil, the forehead Tika, the nose ring called Balu, the fine gold filigree wrist ornament called kada or band, the tight choker studded with precious and semi-precious stones and even mirrors, the stud which hangs on the upper portion of the ear called Dejihor, Gunus or thick bangle of gold and silver with a snake or lion head at either end are famous in Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakhi women wear ornaments like Sondus or Branshil, Perak or head dress, which are beautifully crafted and elegant.
Silk textile weaving is one of the biggest industries in Jammu and Kashmir which provides raw material for carpets, shawls, embroidery, Namdhas and many other products. Woollen textiles for sweaters, shawls, carpets and other products is another big industry here.
Namdha or Felting
Soft texture rugs made of felt which are used for floor covering are called Namdhas. Beautiful embroidery with coloured woollen threads woven with floral, geometrical and folk designs is famous here.