The state of Kashmir arts as an industry

Kashmir news and incidents are surpassing people’s minds for decades now – veiling the state’s greatest achievements and business environment completely. But today, we would like to highlight some of the best attributes relating to the Kashmiri arts as an industry, most of which is made of the handicrafts and clothing segments. The central government is also expected to restore 4G internet facility in the Jammu and Kashmir from 15 October 2020, starting from Ganderbal and Udhampur on trial basis. Hopefully, this will add up to help Kashmiri startups, and entrepreneurs too.


The history of arts and crafts in Kashmir, Kashmiri handicrafts are world-famous. Right from Kashmiri clothes and jewelry to their homes and furniture and everything in-between, this legacy heritage of Kashmir, beautifully ingrained in the life of the Kashmiris and is now an integral part of their lineage. 

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Whether it is the intricate crewel embroidery or the elegant papier mache, every piece of art made reflects the mastery and dedication of these locals in keeping their tradition alive. Their skills are truly unmatched. For any art and handicraft lover, Kashmir is nothing short of a heaven.

Even if you aren’t a handicraft collector, the beautiful pieces made in Kashmir will entice you into buying something for yourself. Right from small papier mache items to the huge showpieces made from wood carving to the exquisite Pashmina shawls, Kashmiri gowns and carpets, there is something to suit every person’s budget from Kashmir. Google Keyword Planner shows, at least 10,000 to 100,000 people from India search for ‘Kashmiri Dresses’ online.

The Kashmiri carpets and Pashmina shawls aren’t just mere showpieces or a status symbol but rather prized possessions that make for lifetime investments and serve as precious heirlooms.

The Kashmir Arts Industry

The Kashmiri handicrafts are world-renowned for their excellent craftsmanship, intricate designs and unmatched quality. The comfort and warmth of the beautiful Pashmina shawls has people not just in India but the entire world captivated and people everywhere wear it with utmost pride.

Just like the Pashmina shawls, the Kashmiri carpets are world famous too. The beautifully hand woven carpets are a true treasure to own.

Papier mache is yet another art form that is highly popular here. The numerous decor items including vases, pen stands, storage boxes and a lot more made with the papier mache technique perfectly capture the essence of the highly skilled artisans.

The intricate crewel embroidery that adorns the Kashmiri pherans, suits, shawls as well as other garments is too gorgeous to be missed.

Some of the other handicrafts include basket weaving, wall hangings and wood carving and crafting. Kashmir is full of several such art forms and these art forms are what earn most of the locals here their livelihood. In fact, nearly 3.5 lakh artisans are directly dependent on the Kashmiri art industry for their livelihood.

Statistics Related to the Kashmir Arts Industry

The Kashmir Arts industry employs about 350K people including, artisans, salespeople, traders, and exporters. Therefore, the art industry is one of the main economy generators of Kashmir. As the state is facing conflict, the state of the industry is also in shambles. In 2014-15, Kashmir exported different handicraft items worth over INR 1287.04 crore to various parts of the world. The figure went down to INR 1090 crore in 2017-18 and further slid to INR 917 crore in 2018-19.

Shipments of Cashmere (hand-woven fine wool) shawls valuing INR 368 crore were sent to Europe and other regions in 2014-15 but the consignments squeezed at INR 284 crore in 2017-18. In 2019-2020 the industry has seen a big hit due to COVID-19 and other political situations.

Even with all the issues, the potiential of Kashmir Arts as an industry remains to be attractive. And it is hoped that the industry will recover in the future and bring life to the distratughted artisans of Kashmir.

History of the Kashmiri Arts

The handicraft industry in Kashmir has had a long and glorious history. Although when exactly did these art forms begin taking shape in Kashmir is unknown, the origin of some of them can be traced back to as early as the 7th century.

These arts and their taste was bought to Kashmir by the saint Mir Syed Ali Hamadani, popularly known as Shah-e-Hamadan. However, it wasn’t until the reign of the Mughals that this industry saw a major transformation. That was the time that Kashmiri shawls became immensely popular.

It is believed that these Mughal Emperors brought with them several artisans all the way from Persia who taught the local Kashmiris numerous art forms including papier mache and carpet making.

Since then, the Kashmiri art industry has only flourished and is now well-known all over the world.

The State of Kashmir Arts Industry Today

The art industry in Kashmir isn’t as thriving today as it used to be. Machine made shawls that cost way cheaper are now replacing the hand woven ones and slowly, somewhere in between all this their demand is decreasing and the traditional art of hand weaving is dying a slow death. The same is the case with the other art forms too. 

There are many reasons contributing to the slow decline of Kashmir’s rich art industry. One of the major reasons being the power looms taking over the traditional hand looms. With shawls and carpets and other goods being available at way cheaper prices, the age old art isn’t appreciated enough.

The lack of interest of the younger generations in learning these traditional artforms and the inability of the local artisans of taking their businesses to a global level also majorly contribute to why the industry is slowly on the verge of decline.

To sum up

However, recognizing the industry’s immense potential, businessmen, artisans as well as various other organizations together have been taking steps and providing the local artisans with enough opportunities.

We hope that the state of the art industry is restored back to its former glory and that it continues to thrive for generations and generations to come.

Mir Saaeid
Mir Saaeid

Seasonal feature writer, a British educated Marketer with 7+ years of experience in Online Marketing, Communications, and Branding. Also the Co-Founder of Srinagar-based e-commerce startup Kashmirica. Blogs at Mir Saeid

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