Carving calligraphy of several languages, motifs of the rose, lotus, iris, bunches of grapes, pears and chinar leaves; Jalaluddin Sheikh, 65, a wood-carving artisan from Srinagar’s Eidgah continues to craft the traditional wood-art by hands with utmost faithfulness for 40 years despite the craft being substituted by machines.
At his factory, located near his house; his pale eyes, white beard and old hands refuse to stay idle-a pair of large spectacles perched on his nose-he carefully carves the walnut-wood into diverse masterpieces.
Mr Sheikh was always been passionate about Kashmir art. As a young boy, he was fascinated by the intricate designs of the traditional Kashmiri carpets and the intricate woodwork of the furniture.
Determined to learn the craft and make something of his own, he started his journey as an artisan at the age of 19.
Initially, he used to carve small wooden items like boxes, trays, and other decorative pieces.
“It has been 40 years since I took this art- journey, it was full of risks and thousands of memories are knotted to this art, he says.
“Lately, my work gained appraisals especially when my handiwork was gifted to several dignitaries, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the British Ambassador.”
Today, I am a recognised artisans because hard work pays off, he says.
The traditional artisan believes that machines can never replace art of human-hands as they fail to carve deep intricate details.
He says he had seen the rise of technology and the increasing use of machines in many aspects of life, but he was certain that machines could never replicate the beauty and creativity of human-made art.
“People believe that machines have replaced handwork of Kashmir artisans, it can never do that, those who have an eye to perceive art can easily differentiate between the two,” he tells The Himalayan Post.
Even, he personally inspects each piece to make sure it was suitable for his work.
Once the wood was ready, he begin the process of carving. He would dig into the canvas and rub and burn the wood until the colour began to dissipate.
“I use forty tools to carve a piece,” he says.
He has also introduced Islamic calligraphy on wood, according to the report.
Mastering many languages, he have done calligraphy in multiple languages. Not only could he do it in Arabic and Urdu, but also in Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Punjabi. This was an incredible feat, and it was something that made him stand out from other artisans.
Jalaluddin became a master carver of Quranic verses when he engraved the intricate carvings of Surah Al-Nashrah, the last paragraph of the Holy Quran on walnut wood which is considered to be one of his greatest works of art.
In 2007, he had the opportunity to demonstrate his skills in Dubai, where he worked for 10 years.
“I would suggest our youth to know and learn about our history and art. If we forget our roots, we are oblivious of our identity,” he says.
“And art never abandon its artisans.”