Over the past four years, the handicraft industry of Jammu and Kashmir has been undergoing a breathtaking revival, with the long-forgotten ‘Namda’ art making a triumphant comeback.
The concerted efforts of the Union Territory government to uplift traditional crafts have proven to be a game-changer, infusing new life into local artisans and garnering heartfelt recognition for their dedication.
Namda craft, involving the creation of sheep wool rugs through felting techniques rather than conventional weaving, had faced a steep decline in its export between 1998 and 2008. Factors such as scarce raw materials, a dearth of skilled workforce, and inadequate marketing strategies contributed to this downfall.
Sara Bano, a talented local artisan from Nowhatta Srinagar, recounted her initial despair as the Namda art was gradually fading away. “However,” she expressed, “the transformative initiatives by the government turned the tide. We received comprehensive training and vital financial support, refining our skills and producing superior ‘Namda’ products.”
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Another skilled artisan, Fatima Bano, hailed the government’s efforts in showcasing their crafts on both national and international platforms, opening up fresh markets. “Visitors from across the globe now deeply appreciate our handiwork, filling us with immense pride,” she exclaimed. The financial incentives and support, which were once lacking, have now brought a promising future for the artisans and their families.
The resurgence of ‘Namda’ art and other traditional handicrafts has not only uplifted the artisans’ quality of life but has also significantly contributed to the overall economy of Jammu and Kashmir. The escalating demand for these time-honored crafts has propelled the handicraft sector to become a substantial driver of the region’s economic growth. Additionally, tourists flocking to the valley are captivated by the exquisite artistry of ‘Namda’ craft, among other indigenous handicrafts, subsequently giving a substantial boost to the local tourism industry.
Mahmood Ahmad Shah, Director of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir, pointed out that around 2200 artisans were trained in the art of Namda making, thanks to the combined efforts of local centers and the intervention of the central government. “The United States, Japan, Russia, and other countries are now showing significant interest in Namda craft, with orders pouring in from these nations,” he remarked.
The successful revival of Kashmir’s Namda craft can be attributed to the Skill India’s Pilot Project, a crucial part of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). This project has not only trained numerous candidates across the Union Territory in this fading art form but has also exemplified a robust public-private partnership (PPP) model, implemented in collaboration with local industry partners.
On July 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded Kashmiri artisans for their unwavering efforts in reviving Namda craft, as the first batch of Namda art products embarked on a successful journey to the United Kingdom (UK). “This resurgence is a testament to the artisans’ skills and resilience, and a moment of pride for our rich heritage,” the Prime Minister tweeted. Earlier, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, ceremoniously flagged off the inaugural batch of Namda art products destined for export to the UK.
The revival of the Namda craft in Kashmir is now a reality, thanks to Skill India’s Pilot Project under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), which has provided training to nearly 2200 candidates from across six districts of Jammu and Kashmir. This accomplishment stands as a significant milestone in the preservation of this traditional craft, and more importantly, in empowering local weavers and artisans. The project’s reach extended across six districts, including Srinagar, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Budgam, and Anantnag, signifying a holistic effort to uphold the legacy of this unique art form.
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