‘Booyn’: J&K artisans give life to rare Chinar wood-craft

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Srinagar, October 21: While the Kashmir Valley is renowned for its exquisite walnut wood carvings, there exist a select few families in J&K who have diligently preserved the art of crafting articles from chinar wood.

However, procuring chinar wood is no simple task, given the ongoing efforts to protect the ecological heritage of these majestic trees.

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Nazaqat Mehmood from Thana Mandi in Jammu’s Rajouri district said they were in the business of carving articles out of chinar wood for generations.

“For generations, we have been deeply involved in the art of wood carving. While our primary focus is on chikri wood carvings, we also create articles from chinar wood. Nonetheless, chinar wood is quite challenging to come by. We sometimes acquire it when a chinar tree branch falls, and it becomes available. Our creations primarily encompass household essentials like ‘chakla belan,’ wooden pots, candle stands, etc,” Mehmood told The Kashmir Monitor.

Waseem Sharif, also from Thana Mandi, highlighted that approximately 30 families in the region are deeply committed to the craft of wood carving.

“In our vicinity, roughly 30 families are dedicated to wood carving. While our core material is usually chikri wood, we do venture into chinar art whenever we acquire this unique wood. It’s a cherished ancestral profession that has been passed down through generations,” Sharif told The Kashmir Monitor.

During the winter months in the Kashmir valley, fallen and dried chinar leaves serve as a crucial ingredient in the production of kangri charcoal, while the branches that have fallen become essential as firewood. The thicker chinar branches find an additional purpose as a base for meat mincing, commonly referred to as a ‘mound.’

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the traditional woodcraft of Rajouri, known as chikri, has recently earned the prestigious Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Chikri wood, a delicate, honey-hued variety, is primarily sourced from the hilly terrains of Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu province. The beating heart of this craft lies in the Thanamandi region of Rajouri district. Chikri wood is renowned for its ivory-like appearance and smooth texture.

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