Kulgam: Amidst the relentless grip of frigid temperatures across Kashmir valley, the residents of Wokai village in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district have embarked on an impressive mission of crafting an astonishing 5,000 Kangris each day to help Valleyites combat harsh winter conditions.
A Kangri, an earthenware encased within a wicker basket, serves as a portable and movable heater that the people of Kashmir tuck within their cozy woollen cloaks to brave the frosty winters, providing them with much-needed warmth and comfort.
Within Wokai, artisans fashion four distinct types of Kangris: Graes Kanger, Khoja Kanger, Mahren Kanger, and Sur Kanger, each possessing its own price tag and a loyal customer base.
Craftsman Muhammad Jamal Shaksaz said, “We diligently weave 3000 to 5000 ‘kangri’ (fire pots) daily within our village. This age-old tradition unites all families in our community, and our finely made kangri finds its way to every corner of Kashmir, from Kupwara to Qazigund.”
In Wokai, landowners nurture wicker in their lush paddy fields, which they subsequently provide to skilled artisans. Shaksaz said, “In our village, a significant number of individuals now tend to ‘Kani’ (twigs) in nurseries, fostering the continuation of this craft.”
He said in the village, every family is deeply intertwined with the same business. “From cultivating the twigs to crafting the Kondal, an earthen pot, every step in this unique process unfolds right here in our village.”
However, Shaksaz expresses a desire for government support, lamenting, “Unfortunately, the government has not been as supportive of us as they are of other artisans. We wish for financial assistance, perhaps in the form of bank loans, even when we approach banks, the requirement of a government employee as a guarantor persists, as well as the loan being approved leads to high interest rates.”
He said to truly elevate the trade, they depend on government assistance to usher them into the next phase of growth.
Aqib Rasool, a Kangri distributor in the village, shares that this season has seen a surge in Kangri sales, owing to the unusually harsh cold. He said, “Every day, we distribute Kangris from this village, transporting around 4,000 to 5,000 of Kangri’s to different parts of J&K.”
When asked whether the availability of modern heating equipment has cast shadow on the trade, he said that, “Kangri hold a unique value; unlike electrical equipment, fire-pots don’t rely on a constant power supply and can be used safely throughout the day and night. They are not prone to dangerous electric faults, making them a trusted source of warmth in our region.”—(KNO)