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Kashmir: Srinagar youth strives to revive dying glazed pottery

By Standard Reporter | Dec 9th 2021 | 3 min read

A woman gets a drink of water from an earthenware pot at a public water station in Ahmedabad, India May 20, 2016. [Reuters]

A 26-year-old commerce graduate from Srinagar is aiming to revive the age-old but ‘dying’ art of glazed pottery in Kashmir after learning it from an octogenarian, who he claims is the only person alive to know the art.

Mohammad Umar Kumar, a resident of Ishber area of Nishat here, has now involved his family in the craft and he also teaches the skill to few youths in a bid to keep it from waning into obscurity.

Glazed pottery, known as Dal Gate pottery, is unique to Kashmir. Originally, glazed tiles in deep green, blue, brown and ochre were made in the valley. This craft later got bifurcated to tableware and vases made in red, green and blue glazes.

Once famous and sought-after, this art, like many other art forms in Kashmir, is slowly dying as not many from the new generation in the valley are willing to ‘get their hands dirty’.

Kumar’s family has been into pottery for several years now, but he took upon himself to wade into a rather different territory and take up the mantle of reviving the glazed pottery – the art form lost to modernisation.

The art is slowly dying as not many from the new generation in the valley are willing to ‘get their hands dirty’. [Courtesy]

“We have been involved in pottery, but I took this art just to revive it. This art was there 70 years ago but it has almost died in Kashmir,” Kumar told PTI.

“Only one person knew this art. He is an 80-year-old who lives in Khanyar locality here. I thought this art would die after him. But, I will not allow that. All my family members are helping me. I have told them that even if we run into losses, we will not let the art die,” he said, adding, it took him about eight months to learn the ropes.

Kumar manufactures various items, including decorative ones, and prepares the glazed colour himself. He uses waste glass, lead in used battery cells and powdered waste copper metal in his craft.

“I am the only one in Kashmir who is doing it. I have got offers from Bengaluru who want to market it internationally, but I cannot do it all by myself,” he said.

He said the customers are delighted to see the finished products and the feedback has been wonderful.

Kumar said a social media post by the popular ‘Kral Koor’ – the pottery girl of Kashmir – as Saima Shafi is known as, has helped generate a lot of goodwill. Kumar also teaches the art to seven students at a centre set up by Jammu and Kashmir’s Department of Handicrafts. While he said its director Mehmood Shah has helped him a lot, he believes there should be more support.

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