“Beauty is truth; truth beauty”,
said John Keats and it stands apt for the luminous arts and craft culture of Kashmir. The first thought that crosses one’s mind while witnessing art in Kashmir is of awe as the unique and enchanting crafts synchronise with the beauty of our valley. While Kashmir is famous for various things, the most known are the astonishingly beautiful Pashmina shawls, most keenly knitted carpets, and various handicrafts like Papier Mache, etc.
One of the finest talents of crafting in Kashmir is Wood Carving. It is one of the oldest craft in the history of the world, but exceptionally unique to Kashmir. Why? With its ornamental and delicate aspects, it achieves its individuality due to the use of Walnut Tree wood for carving. Kashmir is one of the few places where walnuts grow, thus making Walnut Wood carving an extraordinary craft in Kashmir.
Wood carving is an extremely difficult craft and takes years of hard work to master. We are blessed with two such master artists, namely, Abdul Ahad Muran and Mohammad Yusuf Muran. The Muran brothers are the oldest Kashmiri wood-carving artists who have been carving beauty from the wood from more than 50 years.
Our talented artists were tragically born dumb and deaf but Allah made no mistake in blessing them with the creative hands and minds. Abdul chacha, who is 72 years old and Yusuf Chacha, who is 56, are Allah’s gifts to Kashmir. Both of them are tremendously good at conceiving and executing the art of wood carving.
The brothers do not let their disability, health or age hinder their work and have recently begun working on some major projects. Abdul chacha has taken up on craving a Mughal- Era wall hanging that does justice to the minute details of king and queen sitting in their palace garden. On the other hand Yusuf Chacha’s project will transcend you to 15th century’s Kashmir. It has all the subtle representation that represent the art of valley: A woman on the spinning wheel, a man weaving shawl, another man grinding spices and the last man with a hookah. These projects are huge and will get much praises from admirers, as the proud son, Mudasir Munar, of Abdul Chacha says, “You cannot spot a single mistake in their work”. Mudasir sells the carved woods made by his father and uncle in the markets in the valley, which is vastly known among the locals as well as visitors, as the fame of Munar brothers has reached beyond oceans. They are also internationally known for their art of wood carving.
The Muran family has an ancient history in wood carving. Abdul and Yusuf chacha fall in the fourth generation of the family and are successfully keeping the tradition as well the almost dying art of wood carving alive. As their fame grew, the art also rode upon the roller coaster of recognition internationally. There is no a single artefact that they can’t perfect in. From carving animals, Hindu mythology gods and goddesses to the portraits of inspirational leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, the brothers have mastered their hands in all forms. They have successfully created the replica of a Hangul (Kashmiri Deer) to gift an US based NGO and carved the miniature replica of Srinagar’s Jamia mosque for the Iranian Ambassador.
The only tragic part to this glorious art is the fear of its extinction. The young generation needs to pay heed to such rich traditional art form of Kashmir and carry forward its lineage. It saddens the Muran brothers to see their art form fade. Unfortunately, due to old age, their health is challenge. Even though the artists die and their art lives forever, Kashmir will always fear the loss of its people.
Through Kashmiri Life, we aim to showcase the talent of our elderly artists and create awareness about the art of Walnut Wood Carving itself. Kashmir is blessed with the Walnut Tree wood and talented people, let’s combine them to keep tradition and the creativity alive.