Kangri weaving: The art of keeping people warm
Kangri or Kanger is earthenware encased in a wicker basket filled with small pieces of burning charcoal that Kashmiri people use to keep themselves warm in harsh winter. Kangri is like a moveable heater and kept in Pheran, a traditional woolen cloak worn by the kashmiri people to fight the bitter cold climatic conditions. It is believed that Kashmiris learned the use of Kangri from the Italians who visited Kashmir during Mughal rule.
Manufacturing a Kangri requires labour, skills and craftsmanship. Men and women collect twigs from deciduous shrubs that are scrapped and peeled and go through a process of soaking, drying, dying and finally woven around bowl-shaped earthenware.
“Earlier, Kagri was made only from earthenware and would heat up, as a result, the people stopped using it,” says 80-year-old Asha Banoo of Verinag. “Nowadays, such earthenware Kangris are used during several religious and cultural rituals like burning Isband (Peganum hermalla) in it.”
Kangris come in a variety of designs and sizes, from small sizes for children to preferable size for old people. The most common type of Kangri has a broad base and wide-mouthed pot which costs around 150-200 rupees, the middle-class Kangri is made of finely weaved wicker that costs around 500-700 rupees and the high-class Kangri is called Charar Kangri, a slim decorated pot with minute wickerwork is the most expensive Kangri and costs 1500-2000 rupees. Charar Kangri is usually bought to decorate homes. Some Kashmiris gift them to non-local friends to promote and symbolize Kashmiri culture. Some Kangri are customized and polished and decorated in such a way that it symbolizes a piece of art.
Walter R. Lawrence, the British settlement commissioner in Kashmir wrote in his book “what Laila was on Majnoo’s bosom, so is Kangri to a Kashmiri. But this art imported from Italy and perfected in Kashmir may not survive for too long.”
Reyaz Ahmad, 40, a resident of south Kashmir’s Verinag says that he is not interested in modern alternatives like room heaters, gas heaters and believes that they are harmful and dangerous. “Due to unscheduled power cuts during winters, Kashmiris prefer Kangris to keep themselves warm.”
The skill of Kangri weaving offers employment to a good number of people in Kashmir. The families engaged in the skill of making Kangris are spread across Kashmir. Ghulam Rasool Shaksaz, 63, of Kanil Pora Verinag Anantnag is weaving Kangris since his childhood. “It takes me 2-4 hours to weave a Kangri and with this pace, I am able to make 2-3 Kangris per day.”
Shaksaz says that most of the Kangri weavers are switching to other jobs as the profession is not fetching them enough income.