Local youth striving to revive ‘dying’ glazed pottery craft; working on bulk order for Diwali
Srinagar: As Diwali draws closer, Mohammad Umar Kumar, who is aiming to revive the “dying” art of glazed pottery in Kashmir, is working passionately to deliver 15,000 earthen lamps.
Kumar (27), a commerce graduate from the Ishber area of Nishat here, says it is a tough challenge to revive the age-old craft but he is not giving up.
A recent order for “diyas” (earthen lamps) for the festival of Diwali brought hope as well as money.
“I received an order for 15,000 lamps for Diwali from a dealer in Kulgam district. The lamps must be delivered before the festival,” Kumar said.
Diwali will be celebrated on October 24.
Kumar said while he has delivered a part of the order to the dealer, it is a race against time.
“However, I cannot rush into it. This is an art. I have to make sure the product is absolutely fine,” he said.
Glazed pottery, known as “Dal Gate pottery”, is unique to Kashmir. Originally, glazed tiles in deep green, blue, brown and ochre were made in the Valley. This craft later got bifurcated to tableware and vases made in red, green and blue glazes.
Kumar’s latest order involves a process that includes giving a shape to the lamps on the potter’s wheel, then leaving those to dry and finally, clay-firing them.
He would also sell some of the lamps at his shop in the Hazratbal area of the city. Kumar has also engaged his father and brother in the trade.
The 27-year-old said the order has been a shot in the arm for the family, which is intricately involved in the art of pottery.
He said there were once over 500 families in the city engaged in the craft, which has now reduced to around 50.
“I am trying my best to involve more families and while I have succeeded in bringing back six of them, it is a tough challenge,” Kumar said, adding there should be support at the government level.
Kumar hit the headlines last year when he took upon himself to revive the “dying” art of glazed pottery in Kashmir after learning it from an octogenarian.
Not only has he involved his family in the craft, he also teaches the skill to a few youths in a bid to keep it from sliding into obscurity.
Once famous and sought-after, glazed pottery, like many other art forms in Kashmir, is slowly dying as not many from the new generation in the Valley are willing to ‘get their hands dirty’.
Kumar’s family has been into pottery for several years now, but he took upon himself to wade into a rather different territory last year to revive the glazed pottery, the art form lost to modernisation.
He manufactures various items, including decorative ones, and prepares the glazed colour himself. He uses waste glass, lead in used battery cells and powdered waste copper metal in his craft.
Kumar said the demand for glazed pottery items was so huge that he was finding it difficult to keep up.
“The demand is there, the market is there, but I cannot alone meet it,” he said.
Kumar said he wants to restore this art to how it was in the past.
“My goal is to have at least one pottery item in every house in the Kashmir valley,” he said.