Cover story: Save The Treasure Trove
Intro: There is a need for resurgent political will to preserve
Kashmir’s natural sector economy.
Legend has it that the beautiful Kashmir Valley was originally called Kashyapa pura- According to Hindu mythology, the Valley which was earlier a lake was drained by the great Rishi Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son of Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula). The sage Kashyapa scooped out Kashmir from a massive lake called Satisar which was named after goddess Sati. Greek historian, Hecataeus mentioned it as Kaspapyros and Herodotus noted it as Kaspatyros.
An abode of historical legends, land of myth and mysteries, the Valley since ages for its mystic charm, sprawling natural beauty, and its art and culture has continued to attract people from all over the world. It was ruled by great Indian kings and monarchs-The Kambojas and the Panchala kings during the Mahabharat time; the Mauryan emperor Ashoka from 304 to 232 BCE; Emperor Kanishka from 127 to 151 CE; the Huns in the early 6th century; the powerful Karkota dynasty in the 8 th century AD; the Lohara dynasty in the early 11th century. The Moghuls, Sikhs, Dogras and British ruled Kashmir through the ages. Infact, in one way or the other rich cultural traditions of Hinduism, Islam, Sufism and Budhism have all contributed to the unique Kashmiri culture. Not only this, the Valley also has been home to many Sanskrit scholars, poets, writers, singers, saints, artisans and weavers. Nature has given Kashmir everything: An environment for spiritual attainment, scholarly and artistic pursuit and a wide range of economic activities which can be easily sustained in the Valley’s natural enviornment.
|The government needs to create a marketing outlet for original Kahsmiri carpet weavers and ensure transparency in the sale of handicrafts.|
Natural beauty of Kashmir has over the years inspired artists to create bewitching body of work. There are around 20,000 carpet weavers in Kashmir who make carpets from silk and wool. But off late these artisans are losing their interest and skill forlack of social recognition and business opportunities. Their space has been taken over by the cheap mill made carpets from China, Ludhiana and other parts of India. The decline of aesthetic sense among people, shift of priority from luxury items to basic amenities and inflation has affected the sale of original Kashmiri carpets which are not only superior in quality but come with a price. Unless state government does not stop the sale of fake Kashmiri carpets, the weavers of original Kashmiri carpet will be left with no choice but to call it quits. Because once the reputation is gone
the craft will no longer create employment for them.
The state government needs to create a marketing outlet for original Kahsmiri carpet weavers and ensure transparency in the sale of handicrafts, as the export potential of Kashmir carpet is immense and the craft tradition has tremendous potential to generate employment and foreign currency. Though genuine Kashmiri carpets are exported to Europe, the share of profit does not percolate to its original makers. Similar situation is faced by papier machie, wood craft and Pashmina shawl producers in Kashmir. There is no lack of funds but there is a lack of political will to correct the wrong.
To make amends, the state government needs to involve senior artisans in the planning and development of handicraft sector in Kashmir. Let artisans decide what is good for them and on their part the state government agencies should work to provide basic infrastructure required by them.
There are scores of little known places around Kashmir which can contribute to tourism sector. Magnificent mosques, gardens, tombs, Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, forts and places of archeological importance attract tourists across religions.
For instance, 8th century Narayan Nag temple on the way to Sonmarg is located high atop a mountain amidst the verdant beauty of nature. Today, the temple has been reduced to broken pillars and it’s unthinkable of how such a Magnus opus was created at such a height. Since the temple can attract large number of Hindu pilgrims and can generate employment for the local people, it will need to be restored to its original form and this would require immense engineering skill and technical knowhow. Then there is a Siva Temple, in Pandrethan- It is an 8th century temple on the outskirts of Srinagar made in the prevalent style of Kashmiri architecture with influences from the north-west community. In want of restoration today the temple too is in ruins. If restored to its original form the temple can be attract pilgrims and generate employment.
Unlike other Himalayan states where aggressive realty sector has ripped apart natural beauty, Kashmir has yet not completely fallen prey to the realty sector’s vandalism. But recently the sign of reality sector has begun eating into the city. Sri Nagar city has already started to become congested due to heavy traffic, unplanned construction and pollution from automobiles. Dal Lake which is the lifeline of Srinagar city has also been encroached at many places and no longer looks like the Dal Lake of the 70s. There is need for a resurgent political will to save the Dal Lake and the natural sector in the Valley which can provide jobs to many on a sustainable basis.
Large numbers of tourists visit Kashmir between April and October. Kashmir attracts tourists throughout the year including winters when people flock the Valley to enjoy snow covered mountains and adventure sports. It is when local people make good income for themselves. They drive taxis, work as guides, and take tourists for a sikara ride, rent out boat houses, sale handicrafts and shawls, sale apple, walnuts, almond, cashewnuts and the world famous saffron for a decent living. The benefit of the dry fruit economy should also reach people at the bottom of the pyramid.
It is the hard working and sincere Kashmiri folk who take tourists on horseback to different beauty spots. They earn in the tourist seasons and store ration for the harsh winter. It is the strong arms of the Kashmiri people which carry thousands of pilgrims to Amarnath caves in pallinquins. The sturdy gujjar tribe roams around in the mountain and vallies in search of pasture land for their cattle. These are the people who make a vibrant animal husbandry sector. Kashmir also has a flourishing agriculture sector with rice, wheat, pulses, gram, oil seed, maize, sugarcane and a wide range of fruits and vegetables. There is a need to put a check on the growing varieties of genetically modified Kashmiri fruits, rice and vegetables due to mindless biotech varieties. It is foolish to increase the scale of production at the cost of original export variety which could only erode foreign currency. Nature has woven a gamut of sustainable economic activities for the people to live happily. Let not the greed for money and power destroy the finest creation of the almighty.
-R Das(The writer is freelance journalist from Hyderabad, recently visited J&K to study Art and Culture)