Kumaar Mohalla, a locality in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, was abuzz with unprecedented activities this November, with kilns running throughout the day. Noor Muhammad Kumar, 54, a potter, roped in his two brothers and neighbours to meet orders for 10,000 earthen lamps from outside the State, for Deepavali. “It has been a busy month. The only time we would take breaks was during daily namaz,” he said.
Kashmir Valley has a minuscule Hindu population. However, with the growing number of jawans, migrant labourers, and Hindu families celebrating Deepavali in Kashmir this year, scores of temples, renovated across the Valley in the past four years, are set for special prayers on the occasion.
Kumaar Mohalla itself, however, once home to about 25 families of potters, now has just about six families whose kilns are still functional. Muhammad Umar, 29, from a traditional potter’s family in Srinagar’s Ishber Nishat area, is witness to the decline of the sector over the past three decades.
“The modern way of life brought down the use of earthen utensils in Kashmir, denting sales. The past three years, however, have seen a revival of sorts. Diwali has played a role in it. Besides, glazed pottery is again in fashion in Kashmir, making pottery a viable option to earn our living,” Mr. Umar, a commerce graduate, said. He has hired two additional workers to meet the demand of about 20,000 lamps this season.
Mr. Umar has innovated with earthen lamps this year. “We have created a special thali with lamps placed in a circular fashion. We have also painted earthen lamps to make them more attractive,” Mr. Umar, who worked for about 12 hours a day this month, said.
The localities of potters in Zewan, Lethpora, Nishat and Rainawari too chipped in to meet the demand. “We are getting orders from Jammu and outside,” Mr. Umar said. A rough estimate from the kilns in Srinagar and Ganderbal districts suggested that over 1 lakh lamps have been supplied from the Valley this year for Deepavali.
The revival of the pottery sector in Kashmir is spurred on by the introduction of electricity-driven wheels and spinners, making it less labour-intensive. This year, the government announced training, credit, and market support for potters in Kashmir under the PM Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman.