Kashmir Valley has been hit by a long cold wave, with temperatures in the Valley dipping to sub-zero. People have been using every method and device to keep warm during the severe cold. But they still prefer to keep themselves warm with age-old Kangris (earthen pots).
A Kangri is a pot encased in a basket made of wicker. The intricate weaving is stunning. In the Valley, locals call it a portable heater they use to stay warm in freezing conditions. In central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the Chraar-e-Shareef area is known for making the best Kangris in the Kashmir Valley. From this area, lakhs of Kangris are sold every winter for their craftsmanship and quality.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention. We live in a region which is very cold with at least 4-5 months of winter. And to counter the cold, Kangri was invented. It keeps us warm. It has new designs now as well. We get raw materials from the jungle for weaving. We dry the twigs and later colour it. There is an earthen pot inside. It’s a lot of work for the artisans. There are various types of Kangris. And their pricing also depends on the same. It’s a part of our culture and also a necessity,’ said Ghulam Hassan Bhat, a Kangri businessman.
‘Although there are new heating devices in the market, this can never go out of fashion. It’s a craft which will always stay here. The best craftsmanship of making the Kangri is in this area of Chraar-e-Shareef. There is no electricity in our areas, we have huge power cuts and that’s why Kangri is our best way to keep warm,’ he said. Each artisan makes three to four Kangris per day. According to the artisans, the Kangri demand has increased. As a result of the long power outages, most of the new gadgets and appliances are useless. For the Kashmir Valley, Kangri is both a tradition and a necessity.
‘I have been making these Kangris for 21 years. Our Kangris are famous for weaving. We take a lot of time to gather the raw materials and use the best quality. We also get orders to weave Kangris for decoration. In our area, we must be making around 3 lakh Kangris every year. Now even people who were not associated with this craft have started making these Kangris,’ said Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, an artisan. Creating Kangris is a skill in itself. Weavers use different colors when weaving it, so it looks beautiful. The price of the Kangri is determined by the weaving process.
‘I make around four Kangris a day. The best quality Kangri is made in our area. We have beautiful colourful Kangris. It has many types. We differentiate the Kangris on the basis of workmanship. The weaving is done in steps and there are many such steps that make them better. I have been making Kangris for ages, although the rate of raw material has gone up. Kashmiris cannot do without the Kangri,’ Ghulam Nabi Bhat said. The younger generation has also begun to study this art. As unemployment grows, they have learned the art from their elders and will pass it on to the next generation.
‘I have been making it for the last five years. Due to unemployment I started making Kangris. The younger generation doesn’t want to be associated with it. We were taught by our elders and we will teach it to our future generations’, said Nasir Hussain Bhat, an artisan. However, Kangri burns coal, which can cause some side effects. As Kangri’s can cause skin burns, pollution, and sometimes even cause fires in many areas, a lot of protection needs to be taken while using them.