Kundangars of Kashmir

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With passing away of Mohamad Amin Saheb, the last surviving artist of the Kundangar family, Kashmir’s famed Kundangari has become an art form of past, writes Saleem Beg

The craft traditions of Kashmir have withstood the depredation of time and phases of extremely harsh occupation by outside rulers and these continued to flourish till recent times.

It is mainly due to the open mindedness and dedication of the craftsmen to accept and assimilate new ideas that these skills survived the vicissitudes of time. Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya (D. 1988), the most eminent Cultural historian of subcontinent has placed Kashmir crafts only next to the Indian miniature paintings, a description and status not shared by any other craft community.

With passing away of Mohamad Amin Saheb, the last surviving artist of the Kundangar family, this has become an art form of past. Their father, Ghulam Mohamad Kundangar had achieved fame and prosperity in this intricate art form. He was survived by four sons; Ghulam Ahmad, Ghulam Mohidin, Maqbool Hussain and Mohamad Amin.

Out of the four, Maqbool Hussain had made a name for himself with a clientele spread among the high and famous all over the British Empire. He and the youngest brother, Mohamad Amin, pursued the family passion for Kundangari, jarah and wash kundan, different form of precious metal arts.

The clients were sourced by tajirs of Srinagar who would then engage this family for undertaking the manufacture. It seems to have been a respectable and symbiotic relationship, not exploitative in the least, only prevalent in precious metal arts.
The two brothers were commissioned to do silver crest for Royal Air force, UK by Habib Joo and Soms. This crest was awarded by the British Government for its intricate craftsman ship. Amin Saheb has shown me a gold bangle last year with engraved Quranic verses and as stated by him, the only object left with him from the huge art treasure of the family. I only hope some one some time researches the museums and family collections in India and UK to locate their creations and do a descriptive catalog. As of now none in site but who knows a fragment can trigger an interest in this. ( details from Khawaja Ghulam Mohamad, of erstwhile firm. Habib Joo and Sons)
HabibJoo and Sons, (Fateh Kadal and later on the Bund) had the privilege of participating in the first ever exhibition of Indian arts with their silver craft items held in London early 20th century. They also participated in the exhibition held in 1911 AD in Delhi on the eve of Darbar of Indian princes. More about them some other time.
image bellow is the standard crest of RAF.


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