Craft

Timeless Troupe of Copper Ware

Sarah Muzaffar | 03/04/2019

Image Credit: Hilal Ahmad Fine Photography

What entices one most about the copper craft of Kashmir is the sheer elegance it commands. A symbol of royalty, picked as if from the treasure box of elite charm. Beautifully carved, the copper ware sits high in the court of Kashmir Arts and Crafts, mesmerizing coppery bronze hue casting a spell of grandeur in the floral vines and other traditional styles. Copper ware or traam as it is locally known as, has flourished in Kashmir and is still an irreplaceable household article.

Historically copper ware in Kashmir goes back a long time when copper was mined extensively in Baramulla and Sopore regions of Kashmir as is penned down by the Kashmiri author, Kalhana in his book Rajatarangini (River of Kings) in the 12th century. In Kashmir, regions like Aishmuqam, Handwara, Sumbal, Kangan and Lolab have surplus copper ores. The art of making copper ware however has been inspired by the silver artifacts that were hugely popular in ancient times. The silver smiths at that time started making beautiful copper utensils, engraving it in their fine skills that caught everybody’s eye. So much so, that even centuries down, even today we are spell bound by this fine artistry.

Interestingly, the copper ware has since a long time now been a part of the bridal trousseau. Earlier the Hindus used to give brass utensils to their daughters in their wedding as a part of their dowry. After the advent of Islam, the practice continues, wherein the brass was replaced by copper ware. To this date, the bride takes some traam plates, glasses and cooking pots to her new home. However, the newer generations are now refraining from this tradition.

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Beautiful household utility and décor flood the markets of Downtown. Shehr-e-Khaas has been the hub of copper ware since the 19th century, the old markets of Zaina Kadal still carrying this glorious art. Large beautiful copper samovars, cups, glasses, tasht naari’s, traami’s, jugs, bowls, trays, degh (round bottomed cooling pot) gracefully stand in the shops of downtown even today. For decorative purpose the copper ware is left as such in their beautiful coppery shade. However, utensils for daily usage are polished with a thin layer of shining Tin (Kalai Karyen).

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Though its daily usage might have decreased over the time, however some popular copper ware items remain a must have in every Kashmiri home.

The Kashmiri Samovar, the most popular copper ware in Kashmir and around the world is basically inspired by the Russian Tea Kettle brought to Kashmir through Iran. The Kashmiri artisans canonized it with intricate floral designs, calligraphy, geometric patterns, and beautiful Chinar leaves embossed on the entire surface which are then oxidized to make them stand out perfectly off the background. This engraved work done with hammer and chisel is known as Naqashi, one of the two price determinants of the copper object; the other being its weight.

Shahi Copper Samovars are still the main attraction in special gatherings and wedding feasts, serving hot cups of kehwa and nun chai.

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Believed to cast away the evil eyes and evil spirits, the Izband soz is yet another copper item found in every home. Used mostly in social gatherings and weddings, the izband seeds (harmala, wild rue) are burnt on hot coals and the smoky essence is spread across the entire place. While a Kashmiri bride departs from her parental home to her new one, the Izband soz accompanies her to ward off any evil eyes. Izband soz is used only for this one purpose, Izband Zalun!

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Image Credit: Aadil Hayat Bhat

Lastly, Tash-t-Naari’s (tashh naer) and traamis are the wedding feast essentials that a Kashmiri wedding can’t do without. Tast-t-Naari is a pair of water serving and containing vessels that are moved around the wedding banquet hall, for the guests to wash their hands before and after meals. Traami on the other hand is the large round eating plate that four people in a feast sit together and eat from. Sarposh is the conical bowl that is placed on the trami before eating begins. In Kashmir wedding feasts, all the guests assembled in the wedding banquet tent or hall eat at the same time, a wonderful tradition and a personal favorite for that :)

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Copper ware is indispensable when it comes to Kashmiri traditional weddings. But like all other arts and crafts of Kashmir, it too is loosing out to modern buffets and modern china ware. We hope it shall always find its admirers in every time, in every era!