Kandkari, the craft of copperware, has been kept alive by master smiths for years. The narrow lanes of Srinagar and Kashmir are dotted with artisans meticulously working on their skill.
The copper articles are engraved and embossed with various patterns and motifs. Earlier, the Kashmiri copper tea kettle (known as samovar) was a favorite for Kandkari.
Over time, as the popularity and demand for Kandkari grew, more useful daily items have been beautified by this craft, such as pots, jugs and plates.
Fun Fact: In Kashmir, there is a tradition of gifting daughters copper utensils at their wedding. In fact, during the wedding too, the famous Wazwaan, a traditional Kashmiri multi-course meal, is served to guests in luxurious copperware.
The process of Kandkari is one that involves multiple phases with each phase performed by a specialized artisan.
The process involves
Khar – the smith, who casts the raw materials into smooth objects
Naqash – the engraver, who gives a unique design to the object
Charakgar – the cleaner or finisher, who cleans the edges and gives the object a finished look
Roshangar – the polisher
Zarcod – the gilder, who performs Kalai (coating of tin)
Multiple tools are used in this process, some of which are Draz (hammer), Mekh (stakes), Yandrewah (anvil), chisels, punches, files, and compass: locally known as Basta, Thaj, Sharanz, Gosheper and Angus.
While some articles are simple without any ornamentation, the decorated ones are used for special occasions or as collectibles. The most common designs are geometric and calligraphic motifs that remain unique to Kashmir.
Kandkari has a captivating history, one with multiple twists and turns.
Way back in the 8th century, Kashmiri brass, gold, and silverwork flourished well under the rule of Lalitaditya. Artisans in Kashmir became famous, especially for their bronze work, such that the craft eventually reached Persia too!