Copper And Copper Work In Kashmir

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Medieval Period

We have references from the geologists of the extraction of copper from the mountain on which Aishmakam in the Liddar valley stands during the Shah Mir dynasty. Zain
    Abideen defraying all his private expenditure from the proceeds of a copper mine which he discovered in Kashmir. It is pleasant to turn to the more enlightened reign of Zain
        din, who was virtuous in his private life, self- controlled and frugal, paying all the expenses of his establishment from the income of a copper mine which he had discovered. (Walter Lawrence, The valley of Kashmir.)

        Jonaraja records the Sultan Zain
          abidin provided his subjects with a code of laws and had them all engraved on copper plates and placed in public markets and halls of justice. Importantly, the Sultan, as a way of boosting economy and making Kashmir a hub of cultural activities, invited several Persian and Central Asian artisans, including copper workers, to Kashmir. He appointed them in different areas of the old city, Srinagar – including Zain-Kadal, Mehraj Gunj, Kaid Kadal, Saraf-Kadal. Gaedbazaar,
          an area around Mehraj-Gunj, which
          is still renowned for the crafting of big copper objects – such as water containers used in mosques. The craftsmen adorned the copper objects with intricate carvings. Most of the copper objects made here were then consigned to the rural areas for selling purposes. (Culture and Political History of Kashmir, PNK Bumzai, Volume II; an interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

          The coppersmiths of Srinagar work with a hammer and chisels, and many of the present coppersmiths are men who used once to work in silver. They also work in brass. Their designs are very quaint and bold, and they are very ready to adopt any new pattern that may be offered to them. The copper-work of Srinagar is admirably adapted for electro-plating, and some smiths now turn out a finer kind of article especially for electro-plating. A large demand has arisen for the beautiful copper trays framed as tables in carved walnut-wood, and the carpenter is now the close ally of the coppersmith. Of the enamel work, the enamels on brass are, I think, the best, though the enameled silver-work is very pretty. Copper does not lend itself to enamel. (Walter Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir.)

          Shah Hamdan, a Sufi saint and scholar, had also invited and brought many Persian artisans to Kashmir. However, Zain
            Abidin would give so much emphasis on this craft that he immensely relied on the income that the copperwork generated. (An Interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

            Copperwork in Kashmir is of different types which include
            (copper objects made completely by engraving on them),
            (intricate designs crafted on copper objects), Shafaqdaar
            Kamii Khanith
            (objects made complete by engraving on them shallowly.) (An Interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

              Abideen would make metal money from copper. The making of which was done at Toonk-Sarai, Mehraj Gung. Srinagar has remained the hub of copperwork for a long time. It's pertinent to mention that downtown copperware is desired even in Iran and elsewhere. (An Interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

              Copper utensils in use for centuries include
              (a pair of copper items used for washing hands),
              (a metal urn),
              (a tea-pot)
              (a big pot-like object made from copper), jugs,
              (Traem is a round plate-like copper item used to eat rice in;
              – a conical copper artefact that covers it),
              (an incense burner) and so forth. (An Interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

              Interestingly, roofing at certain places of the Jamia Masjid was also done using copper in 1955. People would also attach a layer of copper on the roofs of their houses in Kashmir. (An Interview with Zareef Ahmad Zareef.)

              Practitioners Speak: Personal Interview with an Artisan

              It first comes in the form of rectangular-and-round sheets of copper. Rectangular sheets are used to make items such as
              (a metal urn made of copper), Steamers, and Water-containers. And circled sheets are used to make utensils like
              (a copper item bulged inwards with a base, which is used to keep delicacies in),
              (a copper item which is used by Kashmiri women to eat rice in) and several other small items.

              Firstly, these sheets of copper are marked with a sharp object, and then they are cut into small chunks of copper: spoons need a certain cutting of copper sheets;
              needs a different cutting of copper sheets, and so is the case with the other copper items.

              A large number of families give copperware to their daughters as part of the dowry.

              Let's take a look at how
              is made: the artisan makes a rough draft of it on a sheet of copper with a stylus, then it's accordingly cut with a sharp instrument (quite similar to scissors), which is used manually. These small chunks of copper are then formed into a
              by affixing it with the material having adhesive features, followed by heating it in a furnace to the point the adhesive material dissolves into the copper and creates a durable bond.

              After acquiring its desired shape, it's hammered. Hammering gives the object a strong edge. And when the object is crafted, it is tied to a machine which moves circularly at bullet speed. The machine is used to clear the thick layers of dirt off the finished objects of copper. The machine is firmly installed in a certain place in a factory. A handle, on the other hand, sharp at the tip, is pointed at the copper object (which keeps on moving circularly as a result of tying it to the machine) to clear the dirt, without any damage done to the object in discussion. This machine is locally known as
              Charakh, the cleaner, who operates the machine,

              After the copper object is done, it's cleaned further with water. The artisan then dries it, resulting in it acquiring a smooth and shiny finish. All circular copper articles – hollow in their structure – are to be
              Charakhed. As a copper item rotates with the machine, its inner surface remains exposed for cleaning. The other copper objects of varying shapes and sizes are cleaned by washing them with a brush, using a solution of water and sulphuric acid.

              Thereafter design-makers, who adorn the copperware with intricate carvings, come into the picture. There are different designs that the craftsmen are skilled at creating, and some of them are as follows:

              Naqashi: It's the art of carving copper objects with chisels and hammers to create intricate designs on them. This design is inspired by Islamic art and architecture which feature floral and geometrical designs. It can be seen on a Kashmiri Toor (a utensil which is used to keep the Kashmiri delicacies in), Samovar (urn made of copper) and so forth.

              Tracing: It's the technique of creating designs on a sheet of paper, and then the sheet of paper is traced on a sheet of copper using the stylus. Thereafter the traced piece of copper is carved using chisels and hammers, resulting in a beautiful design.

              Embossing: It's the art of creating designs on copper by hammering it from the back. Some trays bear this technical work on them.

              Engraving: This is the art of engraving a copper object with a burin to create a design. Then the design is filled with ink to give it a nice, soothing and cultural look.

              Filigree work: It's a process of twisting and bending thin strips of copper to make intricate designs. Examples of which are some of the ear-shaped handles of trays.

              Kalai (nickel coating) is an integral part of a copper object. It's finally done to the copper object to make it look clean. It's believed – and backed by science as well – that eating in copperware not coated with nickel causes health issues. As a matter of the acidic foods that the copper is reactive to. That nickel-coating doesn't let the small remnants of copper creep into the food. In Kashmir copperware was used by Muslims and brass by Hindus. Muslims would go for nickel-coating and Hindus for brush-cleaning.

              Expert Speaks

              His name is Ghulam Qadir Baba. His copper shop is located at Zainakadal. He has been selling and making objects of copper for a long time. Copperwork has been his ancestral occupation. He makes many copper items such as
              (a metal urn),
              (a small copper item in which Kashmiris keep delicacies),
              (a copper item in which Kashmiris eat rice),
              plates, tumblers, spoons, water-containers and so forth.

              Copperwork is no easy task. It needs one to have a strong grasp of the minute details of it. You need to be trained first for a period of 20 years to become adept at crafting such artefacts. Unlike Dairy Farming, copperwork is a profession of skilled people. Those who make copper objects are called
              Thanthur. And those who carve intricate designs on a certain copper article are called
              is derived from the word
              which is used in Persia. This little tweaking to the word occurred due to the local dialect of Kashmir: as in
              (nickname) for Sultaan. There are several other objects made of either aluminium or steel, challenging copperware and its makers. Be that as it may, copperwork has continued and is fairly preferred by the people so far.

              In the past, due to the paucity of human innovation, which is to say, machines,
              was done using hands. Machines came later. This sped up the production process and reduced human labour.

              However, there is an increase in the number of variegated machines that make copperware. It's not good. We hammer copper constantly, the machines do it in a single blow. The copperwares we make by using our hands are strong.

              We should keep this tradition of making copper objects using our hands alive.

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