The centuries old ‘Khatamband’ art is again in demand in Kashmir.
Ali Muhammad Najar (Giru) (70), a well-known Khatamband artist from Safa Kadal area in Srinagar said that he learnt the skill from his parents and grandparents as his forefathers have been associated with the oldest craft.
“My father and grandfather were decorating rest houses, houseboats, cafeterias and other buildings with Khatamband,” he said.
Khatamband work is mainly being carried out manually but with introduction of technology, a few machines are being used as well but still most of the work is being done by hands only, he said.
Khatamband used to be the domain of shrines, palaces, houseboats and royal houses but now every other person wants it for their house. The demand has also resulted in an increase in the number of Khatamband artisans.
“I have trained at least 70 persons who are currently working on their own,” he said.
According to him, there is demand for the art in foreign countries too and he has worked in Qatar, Muscat and his son has returned from Nepal recently after completing an assignment.
The raw materials used include deodar and walnut.
“There were more than 160 designs for the Khatamband in Kashmir. But currently there are only a few designs available that artisans can reproduce. They are compensating the old designs with new ones. It is an expensive art form and therefore not many people invested in it for a long time,” he added.
In the 1990s, the craft gradually faded due to its cost.
He said that the government can help in promotion of the crafts in foreign countries so that people associated with any art can earn their livelihood well.
The greatest quality of the Khatamband is that even if it is dismantled after centuries, it can be reused and reinstalled again, he said.
Other artists said that Khatamband demand is on rise as it has become a sort of status symbol in Kashmiri society once again.
It is believed that Khatamband was brought to Kashmir during the 14th Century by noted saint Shah-i-Hamdaan who visited Kashmir along with many followers that also included Khatamband artists from Iran.
Khatamband is an art of ceiling making, by fitting small pieces of wood (preferably walnut or deodar wood) into each other in geometrical patterns. The process is not done through machines but is painstakingly hand crafted and that too without using any nails—(KNO)