Despite modern eating dishes, ranging from bonechina to glass, taking over Kashmiri market, copper wares continue to thrive in the changing times, Tyba Bashir writes.

culture-20-april-2013-1Copper ware, known as Traam has been an indispensable commodity in Kashmir since ages. Used on daily basis as a household item, it ranges from Mughal style Surahis, rosewater sprinklers,Samovars (large tea-pot) to decorative plates and glasses, incense burners, large trays etc.

The old city (Shehr-e-khaas) is full of shops where craftsmen (Naqash) are  often  seen engraving copper tems. Floral, stylized, geometric, leaf and sometimes calligraphic motifs are engraved or embossed on copper, and occasionally silver, to cover the entire surface with intricate designs which are then oxidized, the better to stand out from the background. The engraved work on the copperware known as ‘Naqashi’ in the indigenous language determines the price of the object. The weight of the particular product also determines its price in the local market. Engraved work is usually done in a way to cater to the differing tastes of buyers.

The traditional copper ware of Kashmir is created by three processes of shaping, decoration, and tinning. The patterns are formed on the metal sheet using combination of techniques including reposing, piercing and chasing. The raised patterns may be further highlighted by oxidizing the depressed surface which in local language is known as ‘kandkaer’. Vessels made into ‘kandkaer’ are costly and are considered a luxury household item. It is usually manufactured on order. This very item takes a lot more time in making than other copper products.

culture-20-april-2013-2Copper tradition does not cease inside homes but numbers of products are utilized in pre-wedding ceremonies since copper vessels also form an important component of the trousseau of Kashmiri Brides. The wedding food or Wazwan is all prepared in large copper vessels. Chiefly, the items are manufactured on order, be it the household utensils or for bride’s trousseau. It also makes an excellent gift item in Kashmiri culture competing next to gold.

Copper is known to have medicinal properties and keeps water pure. It has been established that eating or drinking copper vessels can cure inflammatory diseases, chronic ulcers, cardiovascular problems, deep wound etc. In addition to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, copper is recognized by the ancients to have medicinal capabilities that are key to the healing process itself.

Despite the introduction of new materials in the market to lure people in the name of modernity, copper wares continue to rule the Kashmiri eating habits.

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