art and craft of jammu and kashmir

Art and Craft of Jammu and Kashmir

The art and craft of Jammu and Kashmir is very famous in India and outside the country. The state’s art and craft has a powerful imprint of the old tradition. The craft of the state is rich by wood work and embroidery work. The Papier-Mache craft of the state is worth noting all over the country.

Art of Jammu and Kashmir

 The art of Jammu and Kashmir is best known for its cultural heritage which has prevailed since a very long time. The famous Basholi Qalam paintings which are kept in famous museums across the world are found in Jammu and Kashmir. These are the examples of famous painting styles of Jammu and Kashmir.

 Painting Styles of Jammu and Kashmir

Painting styles of Jammu and Kashmir come under the Pahari painting style which originated in the 17th-19th centuries from Jammu to Garhwal in the Himalayan states of India. It was a miniature style of painting. This style of painting got its origin from the Mughal style of paintings and influenced by the Rajput paintings.

Important schools/styles of paintings of Jammu and Kashmir are given below:

Basholi School/Style of Paintings

Basholi is a town in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir.During late 17th and 18th centuries, Basholi emerged as a great centre of painting which was known as Basholi School of Paintings. It is considered the first school of Pahari paintings. The themes of this painting style are religious (Gita Govinda and Ramayana), historical,secular, contemporary and literary. The painting style includes strikingly blazing colours, bold lines, geometrical patterns, use of shiny beetle wings for jewellery, rich symbols and peculiar features. An important example of this painting style is the depiction of the ‘Rasamanjari’ or ‘Bouquet of Delight’ in 1664 AD (a long love poem written in 15th century by Bhanudatta of Tirhut Bihar). It was painted by Devidasa under the patronage of Raja Kirpal Pal.

Mankot Style of Paintings

These paintings have similarities with Basholi style e.g. bold subjects with vivid colours. This style of painting flourished during mid 17th century. Later, use of subdued colours and naturalism became significant features of this style of painting.

Guler Jasrota Style of Paintings

Jasrota place lies in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu or Jasrotapainting style emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries which has a similarity with the Kangra style of paintings. Shangri Ramayana paintings series were produced in Jammu during late 17th and early 18th century.

Nainsukh was one of the famous artists of this style of painting, who was a patronaged artist of Raja Balwant of Jasrota.He depicted the day-to-day activities ofRaja Balwant Singh in his paintings and also used Persian technique known as Neem Kalam.

Crafts of Jammu and Kashmir

The crafts of Jammu and Kashmir has recognition all over the world and everyone in the state is affiliated to this occupation in one way or another. Crafts in the state vary from the embroidery to shawl weaving, wood carving to papier mache, carpet weaving to namdas weaving and much more.

Some important and famous crafts of Jammu and Kashmir are as follows:

 Textiles The important textile works of Jammu and Kashmir are shawls and sarees. These are discussed below:


Kashmiri shawls are the most famous craft of Jammu and Kashmir. There are different types of Kashmiri shawls e.g. Pashmina shawl, Ring shawl, Jamavar shawl, etc wool of Kel goat is the main source of Pashmina shawl. This shawl is woven by looms and some shawls are embroidered by hands after looming is done. Ring shawl is given such name as its fabric is so sleek and smooth that can pass effortlessly through a ring. The threads of Jamavar shawls dyed before weaving. The shawl depicts architectural and mythological figures interwoven with landscape designs. Other Shawls are Shahtoosh and Kani Jama shawls.


Mulberry silk is used to produce quality sarees in Kashmir region. But this craft isnot practiced on a large scale in the state.


The embroidery work of Jammu and Kashmir is world famous. The state craftspersons do different types of embroidery work such as:

Chain Stitch and Crewel Work

Chain stitch work is done by ari or hook (Aurah) on any type of fabric instead ofbneedle. It is also known as Zalakdozi. Under this stitch work the designs ranging from floral patterns to animal and human forms. In this embroidery work, vibrant colours are used. Crewel work is more or less similar to chain stitch as it is done on white background similar to chain stitch. But the slight difference between the two works is that crewel work motifs and flowers are not embroidered on the entire surface.Wool is mainly used in crewel work and vibrant colours are not used. These works are mainly done on rugs, curtains, wall hangings, etc.



It is a very famous embroidery work of Jammu and Kashmir. It is done on woollen Kurtas, woollen rags, stales, sofa, cushions, etc. Important themes of this work are birds, blooms, flowers, vines, chinar leaves,mangoes, lotus and trees.


It is a type of embroidery work which is done especially on brides’s trouser. It is also done on salwar-kameez, dupatta, handkerchiefs, table covers, sofa, cushion covers, wall hangings, jackets, bags, footwear, stole, etc. It is a traditional and domestic craft of Jammu, which is practised by womenfolk.


It is the most delicate and beautiful embroidery work which takes years to complete even one shawl. It is mainly done on Pashmina shawls, woollen shawls, salwar-kameez and sarees with thin needles.

Tilla work

It is a traditional Kashmiri craft which is done on sarees, salwar-kameez, shawls, pherans, etc. The themes of this embroidery work are lotus, chinar and almond. It is especially done on a bride’s trouser.

 Calico Printing

It is a type of block printing which is mainly done in Samba and Jammu districts. The printing is done on hand woven cotton cloth and floor/bed coverings in vegetable colours with the help of wooden blocks. This printing is in great demand and widely popular.


The Kashmir ruler Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin introduced the carpet industry in Kashmir valley. There are mainly two types of carpets which are as follows:

  1. Khabdan-Pile Carpets

It got its origin from Tibet. These carpets are woven in Ladakhi designs which are mainly used in living rooms and monasteries for prayer. These carpets are woven by the method of looming woollen yarn around an iron rod in which 48 knots per square inch are made on a large perpendicular loom. Then craftsmen cut the loops with a knife and remove the rod to get a pile surface. It is very famous in Ladakh region which is also influenced by Chinese and Mongolian designs.

2. Knotted Carpets

These are mainly made by hand. These are locally known as Kal baffi or ‘Kashmir rug’. These rugs/carpets are superior in the world of hand-knotted rugs. These rugsare mainly made in pure wool silk and very rarely in wool and silk beads. These arevery famous in Kashmir valley which have primarily floral and oriental styles.Srinagar and rural areas of Kashmir are the source regions of these carpets.


Rugs are floor coverings of thick woven material or animal skin, typically not extending over the entire floor. There are different types of rugs such as:

 Gabba-embroidered Rugs

Gabba is made by recycling old woollen blankets which are washed,milled and dyed in various colours. After colouring these blankets these are stitched together and backed with waste cotton cloth. Then craftsmen embroidered these by crewel work. Chain stitched rugs are also formed by old woollens on which dissimilar cut outs are done and covered with chain stitch. These rugs are mostly made by woollen/silk yarns and very little by cotton yarns. Kashmiri floral patterns are used in embroidery work.

Namda Felted Rugs

These are floor coverings which are very famous in Kashmir valley. These are mainly made by woollen and cotton fibres. These are less expensive and small in size than the carpets. Emporiums in Srinagar have a large variety of namdas.

Tsug-Dul and Tsug-gdan-Woollen Pile Rugs

These rugs are made of fine woven strips that are stitched together. Tsug-dul is used as a blanket and made of six strips, whereas tsug-gdan is used as a spread sheet along the walls of rooms and kitchens in Ladakhi homes. It is also used as floor coverings in times of festivals. It is made of three strips. Sheep wool, yak wool and goat hair are used to make these rugs.


It is one of the famous crafts of Kashmir valley. It was introduced in Kashmir valley by Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin who invited accomplished artists and craftsmen from Central Asia. It is a craft of paper pulp and adhesive solution. In the process to make a product of papier-mache, first soaking paper is placed under water until it disintegrates. After that, adhesive solution is mixed in this paper pulp and give shape according to available moulded forms and then it left to dry. After drying the object, it is painted by three categories of colours which are mineral, organic and vegetables colours, then it is varnished to give it a shiny look. This process is very long and tedious. Important products of papier mache craft are picture frames, candle sticks, writing sets, handkerchief, vases, ring boxes, bowls, ashtrays, bangles, etc. To make the products more durable and useful, the craftsmen have introduced brass and metal-lining work in papier mache craft.

Metal and Stone Work

Metal work is done in Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh regions. Ladakh’s customary vessels,made out of iron and brass, are very famous. Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar is very famous for copper vessels e.g. cooking pots,milk containers, water jugs and ornamented glasses, etc. Copper is the most popular metal in Kashmir which is used in household items like lota, samovar (tea kettle of Russian origin), trays, etc. Some beautiful silver items are also produced in Kashmir. The silver articles include bowls, tea sets, flower vases, scent chests, ornamental picture frames, etc. Important patterns engraved on these articles are flora and fauna, leaves of chinar and lotus, etc.


This craft work is done in all the regions of J and K. The ornaments in J and K are designed with immaculate precision and require skilled craftsmanship. Jewellery is mostly made by gold, silver and stones like turquoise, coral and pearl. The women of Rajouri district wear silver cap or crown on the head under the veil. It is known as chaunk phool. The gold bridal jewellery of Jammu are tika, nose ring (called as balu) and fine gold filigree wrist ornament (called as band or kada), etc. Kashmir jewellery is mainly made by silver along with intricate designs and filigree work and stones. Srinagar is famous for its precious and semi-precious jewellery of both traditional as well as modern designs. Ladakhi jewellery is mainly made by beadwork with extensive use of turquoise, corals, amber, pearls and semi-precious stones. Ladakhi women wear a wedding ornament known as sondus or branshil, which is fixed on the left shoulder and has a few gold or silver discs connected by a number of long silver strands.Due to historical reasons, the jewellery of the state is influenced by Persian, Afghani and Tibetan cultures.

Wood Work There are many varieties of wood work done in the state such as:

Wood Carving

Srinagar is famous for wood carving. Important products of wood carving are trays, tables, bowls and other items of use.

Wicker Work

It is very famous in India as wicker is abundantly found in the state. Before making  any item it is cleaned and cut into strips-of about 5 mm width. It is a technique which uses plant stalks, branches or shoots and a kind of weaving material. Important regions which are famous for this work are Srinagar, Harwan,Hazratbal Soura, Shelteng. Important products are basket, pannier, kangri, etc. Today plastic strings are also in use.

Khatam Band

It is an old craft which is the speciality of Kashmir woodwork.Deodar wood is mainly used in this wood work. Important products of Khatam Band are floating boat houses and shikaras of Kashmir.Other items are bowls, boxes, screens, panels, cupboards, cabinets, etc.One of the best examples of this craft can also be seen in the shrine of Khwaja Naqshband, near Jama Masjid of Srinagar, Kashmir valley.

Walnut Wood Craft

This woodcraft was introduced in Kashmir by Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom and Islamic Missionary during the period of Zain-ul-Abidin in 15th century. Important products of this craft are boxes, bowls, trays, decorations, furniture, floor tiles and other small products. It is expensive than maple and oaks but still costs less pricethan other woods. Walnut is still available in Kashmir at an altitude of 5500-7500 ft above sea level. The wood is hard and durable, its close grain and even texture facilitating fine and detailed work. A variety of articles, both decorative and utilitarian like trays, tables, bowls, table lamps, etc are made from this. The art of wood carving is centred in the city of Srinagar.

Cane and Bamboo Work

It is a famous wood work in the state. Bamboo is mainly found in Jammu on the Shiwalik range of hills, the Jammu-Pathankot highway in Kathua district and adjoining Dhar-Udhampur road. Important bamboo products are ladies bags furniture, fruit and vegetable bowls, table lamps, other decorative items, etc. In Kashmir region, willow rushes are mainly found in abundance in marshes and lakes. These willows are used to produce shopping baskets, lamp shades and other utilitarian objects. The local folk of Jammu and Kashmir are the conveyors of the local folk tradition of bamboo and cane crafts of Jammu and Kashmir throughout India.

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