Shopping for crafts in Srinagar

Kashmir, the mountainous region perched between India and Pakistan, contains a culture that is unique, and with it, numerous crafts of its own. Many of these travelled from Persia in the fourteenth century, alongside a Sufi mystic who helped shape the culture of the region. His followers – 700 of them, who travelled alongside him from Central Asia – popularised shawl-making, carpet weaving, pottery and calligraphy in Kashmir. With these art-forms maintained across centuries and refined, Kashmir arguably remains the subcontinent’s premier destinations for beautiful, handmade crafts.
Sunset on Dal Lake_Kashmir

Sunset on Dal Lake

These include:

Pashmina: made from the finest cashmere wool which comes from the undercoat of a Himalayan goat, these shawls and scarves are feather-light and soft yet as warm as a duvet. Be aware that many pashminas are in fact manufactured in Punjab, or are made from angora, not pashmina wool. Don’t trust the ring test – angora shawls too can pass through a ring.

Papier-mache: Hand-painted papier-mache products are a popular gift to take home from India and are widely available in souvenir shops across the country. Yet visit the craft’s birthplace in Kashmir and you will see just how refined it can be. Artisans use tiny feathery brushes to achieve astoundingly detailed paintwork, mostly nature-inspired patterms, of a quality that will take your breath away.

Paper Mache Product Srinigar Courtesy Kanksha Raina via Flickr

Paper Mache Product in Srinigar. Photo courtesy Kanksha Raina via Flickr

Copper products: Copper kitchenware is part of daily life in Kashmir. Popular items include the samovar (coal kettle), tashts (wash basins), or bowls and platters of all sizes and descriptions.

Carpets: Persian in style, Kashmiri carpets come in a wide range of colours and designs, and usually in pure wool or pure silk.  They are of high quality and as such are highly coveted and regarded. They often feature bright, jewel-like colours, and come in oriental, floral designs, however regularly feature Kashmiri motifs such as the distinctive leaf of the chinar tree.

Food products: Kashmir is a veritable fruitbowl, so come in the right season and pick up cherries, peaches, apricots and apples by the bucketload. Kashmir is also the source of saffron and walnuts, which also make excellent souveniers.

Shikara Florist_courtesy_wikipedia

Shikara Florist. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

There are far more outlets than listed here, but for high-end buying, these are a good start:

Andraab: Pashminas here are woven by hand, and come in an array of colours and intricately embroidered patterns. You can also find bedspreads, wall hangings and other textiles here.

Shaw Brothers: Another highly-regarded pashmina and textile shop. Tara Bhawan, Boulevard Rd, Srinagar ph: 0194 2501075

Kashmir Loom: Run by a textile historian, this shop is intent on reviving and contemporising traditional Kashmiri patterns.

 

Shawls at Lal Chowk_courtesy Soumya_p via flickr

Shawls at Lal Chowk. Photo courtesy Soumya_p via Flickr

Suffering Moses: An iconic shop on The Bund, the former high-end boulevard favoured by the British during the times of the Raj. Visit here for stunning papier-mache masterpieces, along with wooden carved items, tapestry, textiles, carpets and more.

Gulshan Bookstore: Home to a top array of books about Kashmir. Residency Road, Srinagar. 099068 52222

Zaina Kadal Street: Come here for copper utensils, servingware and more.

Kashmiri_samavar_via Wikipedia

Kashmiri Samavar. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Kashmir Government Arts Emporium: When in doubt, head for the government-run crafts emporium. It might lack some of the charm of other shops, however the prices are fair, the products are authentic and they have a good range.

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