'The Namda Project': Kashmir’s traditional woolen rug makes a comeback

To revive this art, the Department of Handicraft has established 11 training centers, where nearly 2,200 candidates from six districts of Jammu and Kashmir have received training in Namda making

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  22 July 2023 2:45 AM GMT
The Namda Project---Kashmir’s traditional woolen rug makes a comeback

Srinagar: Namda----the near-extinct traditional woolen rug of Kashmir, is not only making a comeback in the living rooms of locals but regaining its share of international glory.

It is a traditional Kashmiri craft that involves creating felted carpets using sheep wool and hand embroidery. It originated in the 16th century and was introduced by a Sufi saint named Shah-e-Hamdan. Namda rugs provide warmth and are used as floor coverings and home decor.

One of the most exported handicraft products of Kashmir, Namda had gone out of production due to issues of raw material quality and lack of fresh hands to take up the art. To revive this art, the Department of Handicraft has established 11 training centers, where nearly 2,200 candidates from six districts of Jammu and Kashmir have received training in Namda making.

Director of the Department of Handicrafts Mahmood Ahmad Shah said, "Namda used to fetch us more revenue than Pashmina and carpets. To increase productivity now, a small machine has been made by IIT Roorkee, with whom we have collaborated, and the machines have been installed at the centers."

He said the raw material requirements have been facilitated by the Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan Institute of Carpet Technology, where carding of wool is being done and then supplied to training, corporate centers, and artisans.

Four days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a tweet on the revival of Namda craft, and that has encouraged the artisans. The dying art of Kashmir has been successfully revived through the Skill India project under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).

The project, implemented in collaboration with local industry partners, showcases the power of public-private partnerships in driving skill development and economic growth.

"PM Modi's tweet on Namda is a huge encouragement for us and he is consistently promoting Kashmir's art through his attire. This is a highly motivating thing for the artisans and the craft," he added.

Amina, one of the several Namda artisans, said she was not aware of the traditional art of Kashmir earlier. "As this is a traditional art form of Kashmir, we as artisans want to keep this legacy alive," she said.

Another artisan Kausar said Namda making will generate livelihood opportunities. "Being associated with this art form and rug making will aid in employment generation opportunities as it has for me. This art was dying but through the efforts of the Department of Handicraft, this training centre has been set up that will help in keeping the legacy alive," she added.

Upholding legacy

Imran Ahmad Shah, an instructor, said the idea behind setting up the centers was to revive and uphold the legacy of the traditional art form in Kashmir.

"At Mir Behri centre, 20 young women have been trained in Namda making which also helps in generating employment for these women and if we put more efforts into reviving this art form, it will increase employment opportunities for the youth of Kashmir," he said.

"I believe that if the youth of Kashmir start taking interest in the heritage and culture of Kashmir it will benefit in reviving the dying art as well as help in getting rid of the current unemployment rate of Kashmir," the instructor said.

To boost the revival of Namda making, the government has brought it under the artisan credit card scheme and loans are given to artisans.

"My father was an artist who made Namdas. In the 1970s, export was in tens of crores of rupees but in the 1990s, Namda making faced a downfall. By opening up centers where young people are being trained and educated in this craft, a revival of the art is possible," he said.

European countries were once buyers

Cold European countries were the prime international buyers of Namda. Besides woolen Namda, Pashmina Namda is also made by one of the artists of Kashmir which gets exported to Italy.

"But unfortunately due to lack of quality supervision and maintenance of the parameters of Namda, it resulted in its downfall. Now to address this issue, QR code-based labeling has been adopted," the Director said.

To further boost the Namda production, the Department of Handicraft Kashmir with the help of the central government has initiated the setting up of the raw material bank that has already been sanctioned. To boost production, a project to introduce machines is also in the pipeline.

Inputs from PTI

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