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Carving Destiny | From Poverty to Prestige: Kashmir's woodcarver carves a path to Padma recognition

02:48 AM Jan 27, 2024 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
carving destiny   from poverty to prestige  kashmir s woodcarver carves a path to padma recognition
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Srinagar, Jan 26: In the heart of downtown Srinagar, amidst the intricate strokes of woodcarving, Ghulam Nabi Dar, a seasoned artisan, expresses profound joy and fulfilment as he reflects on being conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award. Seated at his workplace in Dana Mazar, the master woodcarver shares sentiments of achievement and gratitude, revealing that the honour feels like the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication and labour.

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Expressing his profound gratitude for the prestigious Padma Shri award, Ghulam Nabi Dar acknowledges the magnitude of the honour, stating, "It is a big honour; I have received national awards before, but this is something extraordinary."

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Despite the accolades, Dar remains humble and dedicated, emphasising his commitment to the preservation of the traditional art form that has defined his life.

He shares, "Since the time I heard about the Padma Shri award being conferred to me, I made a commitment that I will work even harder. My focus now is on imparting this intricate art to the younger generation so that it remains alive and vibrant even after I am no more." Dar's dedication extends beyond personal achievement, reflecting a deep-seated passion for ensuring the continuity and legacy of his craft for generations to come.

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Dar, a 72-year-old artisan hailing from Srinagar and renowned for his expertise in wood carving, has been honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri in recognition of his significant contributions to the traditional art form.

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According to Dar, government acknowledgement and support play a pivotal role in the preservation of age-old crafts.

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Having dedicated over six decades of his life to his craft, Dar has received numerous accolades, with the latest being the national recognition announced on the eve of the country's 75th Republic Day. Many believe that this honour bestowed upon Dar will act as a catalyst for the resurgence of the ancient craft deeply rooted in Kashmir's history, underscoring the resilience of traditions that have endured over time.

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In an interview with Greater Kashmir, Dar shared insights into his challenging journey. Born into adversity, he found himself introduced to a wood carving unit at a young age. Despite facing initial rejections from craftsmen unwilling to impart their knowledge, Dar's perseverance ultimately led him to a mentor, Nooruddin Tikoo, who shared his expertise through intricate designs on paper.

Reflecting on his humble beginnings, Dar recounted, "I was 10 years old when my father faced financial setbacks, leading to our inability to pay school fees. As a result, I was expelled from school. My maternal uncle took me and my younger brother to a wood carving unit at Sarai Safakadal to learn the craft."

Although Dar admitted that he didn't gain much knowledge during his initial five years at the wood carving unit, the experience sparked his interest in the art, motivating him to pursue it as a means of livelihood.

"I encountered numerous challenges in mastering this art. Multiple craftspeople rejected me, expressing doubt that I could learn the trade. However, my determination and hard work prevailed, and I am grateful to the almighty for it," he remarked.

"Despite Tikoo's paralysis from a stroke, upon hearing my story, he pledged to teach me through designs on paper. I diligently followed his instructions, and that's how I learned this art," Dar explained.

As Dar evolved from traditional designs to crafting his unique pieces inspired by nature, his artistic prowess flourished. Recognition came his way with a state award in 1984, followed by an opportunity to work in Baghdad in the early 1990s. The pinnacle of his craftsmanship was reached when he received the National Award in 1995-96.

The joy and satisfaction of recognition extend beyond Dar to his family, who share in his happiness. "I am very happy, and my family is also very happy. When a craftsman receives any award, it encourages, motivating further progress in the field. Without government support, artisans may lose interest," he asserted.

Expressing gratitude for the recognition, Dar underscored the significance of government backing in preserving traditional arts. He urged the establishment of a comprehensive institution or workshop to train and incentivize young artisans, ensuring the enduring legacy of wood carving.

"I am committed to persisting in my hard work, consistently creating the best possible designs. My dedication to this craft remains unwavering, and I will continue to exert effort to produce exceptional works."

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