In north Kashmir's Bandipora, a cultural renaissance is quietly underway, led by the determined spirit of Shahida Khanum. With an unwavering commitment to heritage, Shahida is on a mission to breathe life back into the fading traditions of traditional Gujjar attire in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hailing from the serene realm of Bandipora, this young graduate has established a centre in the picturesque village of Aragam, where she imparts the ancient art of designing, stitching, and embroidering to a new generation of eager learners.
Shahida's initiative not only stitches fabrics but also threads the delicate tapestry of cultural identity, weaving a vibrant future for the rich legacy of Gujjar attire.
In the shifting winds of cultural change, the allure of modern attire has gently overshadowed the traditional garments that once adorned the vibrant Gujjar community in Jammu and Kashmir. Recognising the fragility of this cultural legacy, Shahida Khanum's mission expands beyond mere revival; it is a conscious effort to rekindle the flame of appreciation for the traditional Gujjar attire among the younger generation.
Within the walls of her centre, nestled in the idyllic village of Aragam, Khanum is orchestrating a revival, one stitch at a time. More than fifty young girls are enrolled, their nimble fingers being guided through the intricacies of stitching, designing, and knitting the garments that echo the cultural heartbeat of the Gujjar community.
Beyond preserving the delicate artistry, Khanum's centre provides these young learners with a pathway not just to rediscover their roots but also to weave a sustainable livelihood. Among the treasures of Gujjar attire, the distinct laska – traditional caps worn by Gujjar women – takes centre stage in Khanum's teachings, each stitch a testament to the resilience of heritage.
"After completing my studies, I got married, and subsequently, I initiated the Noor training centre, where I began teaching young girls the skills of stitching and designing. Following the success of the training centre, I established a museum dedicated to tribal culture to raise awareness about our rich heritage."
"I believe that if the government promotes our village as a tourist destination, it will automatically bring benefits. I am grateful for the support and guidance my father provided, which has been instrumental in my endeavours."
She advises women to empower themselves by acquiring new skills.