April 2018 News

Copper Ware Industry Faces A Downturn In Kashmir

29 April 2018
Rising Kashmir
Dyuti Khulbe and Prashasti Awasthi

Srinagar: The copper ware industry in Kashmir is facing a downturn with the number of craftsmen and the traders showing a significant dip. Though the use of copper utensils including cauldrons, plates and tea pots and other utensils has been in use in Kashmir, but the industry is now facing a decline. 'I have inherited the business of selling the copper wares from my grandfather. It is highly popular among Kashmiris as we have a tradition of cooking and serving in copper utensils especially during the weddings,' says Mohammad Ashraf, owner of A.R Copper Houses, Maharajgunj. 'This Kashmiri art was introduced by sufi saint Shah-i-Hamdan, who was also buried in this land and had come all the way from Baghdad,' says Zahoor Ahmed Gouji, vice president, Jammu and Kashmir Copper Workers Association. He has been carving out copper wares since the last twenty five years and 'it is not just a skill but a way of life for me.' Gouji says that the younger generation was not interested to learn the craft of making copper wares. He also blames the government for declining number of craftsmen as there are no schemes to motivate the workers. 'The government banned any machine work in Kashmiri art in 2006. However, there are some people who learn some skills here and go to Moradabad for easy money. Because of this, the value of copper utensils has fallen in the market which has affected the popularity of Kashmiri art as people prefer to buy copper utensils which are machine-crafted and relatively inexpensive.' Nisar Ahmed, the president of All Kashmir Copper Dealer's Association, agrees with Gouji and says, 'Though there has been 50-60% increase in demand of copper utensils, the number of craftsmen is declining. A son doesn't want to take up his father's skill.' The sale of copper utensils increases during the marriage season and for the wares the craftsmen are also finding buyers from other parts of India. But the sale is on decline. Ashraf, however, is dismayed by the fact that constant protests and shutdowns hamper his sale and affect the profit margins. 'We haven't been able to make enough profit in April due to frequent shutdowns. We are hoping to get more customers after Ramzan when the wedding season sets in.' says Ashraf. He sees the fake copper products which are made of aluminium, but passed off as copper wares as a threat to the trade. 'Ours is manual work. We only make 5 big utensils in a month because that involves carving intricate designs all by hands. So we cannot compete with big industries where work is carried out using machines,' adds Ashraf. 'I think people are realizing the benefits of eating on copper plates as plastic and aluminium are detrimental to health. The use of copper wares also is of religious significance and girls take it as a dowry, 'says a shopkeeper.