The inspiration for the creation of the arts and crafts of Kashmir is the paradisiacal land of Kashmir in its physical and metaphysical meaning and expression. The artistic genius of the Kashmiri people as expressed in the fields of literature, poetry, literary images, shawl-making, embroidery, embroidered floor-coverings, wood-work and wood-carving, papier-mache and metal-work has been studied by the author, in the beauty of their composition, history, making and design movement.
The arts and crafts of Kashmir testify to the Kashmiri artist being a true lover of nature. Nature is reflected in the polished mirror of the designs and decorative patterns of ornamentation of the Kashmiri arts. Poetry in form to reach the realm of thought, idea, dream and vision that shows joy in this world as the world is joyful in Him.
This can be understood through the analogy of the traditional carpet being the earthly reflection of the cosmos itself. Therefore it follows that it is an indication, suggestion, or expression of the mirror image of the manifestation in worldly, material, mortal and whatsoever possible in non-spiritual world or the secular world the space, universe or the heavens above, which are divine and sacred. To sit upon it is to be located within a secluded precinct protected by its borders, of the composition of the universe of the art work, and often looking inward toward the centre where all the patterns meet as in a whirl-pool, which draws inward whatever revolves or is submitted or made to revolve around it and hence celebrating creation itself as embodied in the sound and the harmony of the expression of “kun fayakun” with its reverberations of the notes of harmony in creation. Hence, the logic of ‘carpet’ patterns – as bringing life to Kashmiri art work in their portrayal of decorative or ornamental patterns of indigenous developments – which bring the virgin nature to the eyes of the hearts of men, with its connotations and powers of nature, as to repeated or evolved so as to look inwards through the intricate design, making the gaze to look beyond, through being tired of the intricacy, from the detail of its repetitive, intricate, intriguing and absorbing beauty to be led to the path of comprehending or gaining a certain level of the conception of the eternal cycle of creation and re-creation. Thus it is the harmony of the composition with its connotations of the units of the design or the motifs of expression which give life to an art work.
The Kashmiri artist or craftsman can afford only two luxuries – the birds and the flowers – which grow wild, and the land holds one in charm by its free beauty. This natural beauty and the beauty of its arts and crafts have made Kashmir famous through the ages.
Also, Sufism, Islamic form of mysticism, has as in the case of the whole of the Islamic world permeated the Kashmiri society, though and literature and the philosophy f the creation of the arts and crafts of Kashmir, which also fulfill though in a meager way the economic needs of the maker. So it is metaphorically the desire for meeting the harmonious lip to express the pain of love, which results in the profound meaning of expression of the Kashmiri arts.
As in the weaving of the poetry of the harmonious beauty of shawls painstakingly, in one of the most difficult weaves of the world, each strand of thread moves in a static medium with such sinuous grace and force of expression as not only to enchant one in its fineness of grace and sensuous beauty but also to speak of the attractive, sensitive and appealing to the senses beauty – which intrigues, charms, captivates and absorbs the one touched and affected by it – of the land from which the materials of making and forming and composing and drawing the shawl spring forth. In a measure of transcendence the radiant and magnificent patterns and designs, in the case of Kashmiri metal-work, take back to the earth – from the material to the de-materialisation of the object afforded by the luminosity and movement of the line of the decorative pattern, though on the surface, to almost make one experience, if you like, something sacred – the bowels of which yield the raw materials and the rocks from which they are extracted. The Kashmiri embroidered rugs display the ‘soofyana rang’, while the wood-work and wood-carving praises the nature by taking it back to the woods. The papier-mache decorative designs in their miniature style of painting portray the verdant green and colorful landscape and the flowers in bloom and singing birds of the beautiful valley of Kashmir.
Nature speaks in the Kashmiri arts and crafts in the language derived mainly from Persian aesthetics a development of Islamic aesthetics – in the expression of the design of the arts; which has certainly taken Islam to be the influence and hence is born of the spirit of Islam itself.
The evolution of the significant and important ornamental design lay-out in Kashmiri arts and crafts is defined by the term arabesque with its centre being everywhere and nowhere to be seen as it is a continuous pattern so intricate as to make the eye tired of detail and carry it in a level of manifestation to the feeling, dream and vision of the transcendental meaning of life. It expresses the unity of existence in the continuous cycle of creation and re-creation with its underlying factor being that the things come and go but what remains constant is this very cycle and this passion and urge and love of creating and creation, celebrated by man by creating himself, as a defiance of nature (by creating a composition of a universe of art) but ultimately realizing his complete dependence upon it in thought, idea, dream, vision and material of existence and creating.
Thus there are levels of manifestation in the metaphorical and aesthetic expression (on the surface appearing to be endless cursive shapes, circles, polygonal figures and arabesque) to be explored and understood according to one’s knowledge and gift of ability to conceive the picture or the painting with its order, beauty, balance and harmony, which is truly man’s existence and which brings forth the expression of art. This beauty, poetry, music and dance of life is a way of bringing about recollection and of awakening within man an awareness of that supreme Beauty for posterity, of which all terrestrial beauty is but a pale reflection, for as Rumi says, as translated by Nicholson, that Kings lick the earth of which the fair are made. For God has mingled in the dusty earth a draught of Beauty from His choicest cup. It is that, fond lover – not these lips of clay – you are kissing with a hundred ecstasies. Think, then, what must it be when underfiled!
And the artist is a lyre whose strings are plucked by the Creator in a musical harmony with the embellishing ornament stylisd to the point of losing all resemblance with nature and obeying only the laws of rhythm – being a real graphic of rhythms with each line undulating in complementary phases, and each surface having its inverse counterpart for a balanced, harmonious composition – of the design of movement or the movement of design. Thus the ornament tries to stop the mind of the onlooker affected by it or the one who appreciates it and is absorbed in it from attaching itself on any particular form. This hindrance is to dissuade and stop one from arranging a definitive saying of “I” as an image says “I”.