Srinagar as a ‘World Craft City’

Mohammad Hanief
Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, has been officially recognised as a ‘World Craft City’ by the World Crafts Council last week as its recognition will boost the handloom and handicraft sectors of the valley as this prestigious honour underscores the city’s rich heritage and the exceptional skills of its artisans whose dedication and artistry have earned global acclaim.
The recognition is a testament to the hard work and exceptional talent of artisans and it highlights the cultural richness of Srinagar city as this recognition as a ‘World Craft City’ will have a transformative impact on the handloom and handicraft sector, fostering growth, sustainability, and innovation.
With increased global recognition, Srinagar’s crafts will gain enhanced visibility on the international stage, opening up new markets and opportunities for artisans as the sector is likely to attract greater investment and funding, aiding in infrastructure development and introducing modern techniques while preserving traditional methods.
Artisans will have access to advanced training programmes and workshops, further honing their skills and fostering innovation in their craft. The increase in demand for Srinagar’s unique crafts is expected to boost production, leading to job creation and improved livelihoods for artisans and their families.
Tourism in Jammu and Kashmir especially in Srinagar city is also set to benefit significantly from this recognition. The city is expected to draw more tourists interested in cultural and craft heritage, providing them with immersive experiences of the vibrant artisan communities.
The city’s cultural and craft heritage will attract tourists seeking authentic experiences, including visits to artisan workshops and cultural events showcasing Srinagar’s vibrant crafts. The fact that Srinagar is known as a “World Craft City” shows how skilled and dedicated are the people who work as artisans. Their traditional craftsmanship and skills have not only made their culture rich but they are also admired around the world. The goal of this award is to honor and protect the wide range of crafts that are unique to Srinagar.
For Srinagar, being named a “World Craft City” by the World Crafts Council is a very important moment. It not only recognizes the skilled crafts people in the area, but it also makes Srinagar known around the world as a place where beautiful crafts are made. This recognition it will help both cultural understanding and business growth in the area.
Aileen Osborn Webb started the non-profit World Crafts Council (WCC) in 1964 to promote and encourage craftsmanship around the world. It was created after talks between foreign craft representatives in New York City, which led to its joining UNESCO. The WCC is split into five areas: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Its main office is in Belgium. Amazingly, the WCC has named more than 40 towns around the world “Cities of Crafts.” It changed its name to World Crafts Council International in 2020 because of new rules.
This achievement is a heartfelt recognition of the extraordinary efforts of Srinagar’s artisans. Their unmatched skill, creativity, and commitment to preserving traditional crafts have sustained these arts through generations and placed Srinagar on the world map. The city’s crafts, ranging from Pashmina shawls and Kashmiri carpets to intricate woodwork and papier-mâché, reflect the region’s cultural soul and artistic genius.
Handicrafts have been the main-stay of the economy since centuries in Jammu and Kashmir. The dawn of modern era of industries least affected the viability of the crafts that always had the capacity to hold sway in even International Markets.
A massive training programme for preparing the artisans in Kashmir valley was initiated by JK Handicraft department in 1972-73. The programme was initially confined to valley only but was stretched to far areas of the State in 1974-75. As many as 553 training centres were established for training of the pupils in different skills at elementary level.
After completion of their first course of training at the elementary level, the trainees are further coached for higher skills in Advance Training Centres. In fact, there is a programme to convert the whole elementary training course to advance training, though in the a phased manner. Out of the total lot of 553 Elementary Training Centres, 104 stand already converted into advance training centres, wherein a fixed stipend is given to each individual per month.
Srinagar has become the fourth Indian city to be recognised as a ‘World Craft City’ by the World Craft Council (WCC), three years after it was designated as part of the UNESCO Creative City Network (UCCN) for crafts and folk arts.
In the age of machine-led industries, the handicrafts of Kashmir attract travellers, both local and international, for their skilled nature inspired works. The famous ones to mention are carpets, rugs, shawls, paper mache and walnut wood crafts.
Srinagar has qualified because of its crafts and folk art, which is an intrinsic part of its tradition and culture besides the breath taking natural beauty of the city itself. Being the famous tourist city, the tourists from all over world come to this city in search to buy the best quality Pashmina shawls, carpets, hand woven rugs, woollen items, embroidered stoles and jackets, pherans, wood carving etc.
Traditionally the designers are heavily influenced by Persian, central Asia, Mughal and even Tibetian Art forms. The city is famous for many performing arts and traditional music. The artistic genius of the Kashmiri people is expressed in the fields of literature, poetry, literary images, shawl making, embroidery, wood work, wood carving, paper machie and metal work.
Paper-mâché the age-old craft of the Kashmir valley, first brought to the region by Mir Syeed Ali Hamdani-a Persian scholar and mystic, in the 14th century, involves moulding paper pulp into beautiful objects like vases, boxes, and decorative items. Kashmiri papier-mâché is distinguished by its vibrant colours, naqashi with Kashmiri symbols like almonds, Chinar leaf, flowers and often features influences of Mughal and Persian art.
Srinagar’s vibrant craft scene boasts over ten distinct art forms, each meticulously passed down through generations. From the delicate artistry of paper-mâché to the intricate carvings on walnut wood, the city’s artisans breathe life into stunning creations. The world-renowned Pashmina and Kani shawls, known for their luxurious warmth and breathtaking embroidery, are just a few examples of the city’s exquisite craftsmanship.
The art and crafts of Kashmir testify to the Kashmiri artist being a true lover of nature as it is reflected in all designs and decorative pattern of the Kashmiri Art and crafts.

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