Kashmir is known for its ethereal beauty and has a rich history of art in handicrafts, especially the manufacture of extremely fine, delicate and artistic hand-embroidered textile products, which are also one of the main livelihoods. of the Kashmiris.

A 72-year-old craftsman, Ghulam Mustafa Mir is known as the Sozni Maestro of Kashmir. He has trained people over the past seven decades and has represented Kashmir nationally and internationally with his unique craftsmanship.

Sozni (shawl baafii), is described as a meticulously fine embroidery layout technique to give fabric an inlaid look like tapestry. It is known as the most sophisticated form of needlework, introduced to the people of Kashmir by the Islamic saint Shah Hamdan (RA) in the 14th century. The delicate and artistic needlework is practiced only in Kashmir and has no equivalent anywhere else.

Hailing from Sonapah region in the central Budgam district of Kashmir, Mir is an expert with great knowledge of Sozni embroidery designs and unique color combinations. He is currently working as an instructor in the handicrafts department to train 60 girls under the Samarth 2020-21 training program.

“I had been engaged in this profession since my childhood and at 15 I officially started working as a craftsman with dexterity, devotion and responsibility towards his artistic abilities and traditional activities,” veteran artist Mir told Rising Kashmir.

Mir is now a devoted expert in organic farming and a great persevering personality who has done much to preserve the knowledge and practices inherited from Shawl Baafii by continuing to pass them on from generation to generation.

According to Mir, the artisans of Sozni are men and women from the villages of Kashmir who are mostly farmers. Since the valley is an area rich in agriculture and most of the inhabitants of the villages are involved in the farming of fruits, cereals and animals.

“Farming in Kashmir is not a full-time endeavor, due to the extended winter season. So most people’s livelihood depends on Sozni’s work as craftsmen,” he said.

Mir says he started practicing Sozni in 1965 and got his registration with “State Handicrafts & All India Textile Handicrafts” in 2008-09, due to lack of awareness and government initiatives.

He spent his whole life cherishing the heritage and bringing positive development to the Kashmiri society. Mir has contributed a lot to the profession and has represented India on the world stage for fine art.

Since then, her talent, adornments and vintage Sozni art have been recognized, appreciated and promoted on some national and international platforms. He has also won national and international awards for his unique work.

He received the National Award in 2013 from former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at a Shilp Guru Awards and National Master Craftsmen Award Ceremony for the year 2012-14 organized by the Ministry of Textiles in December 2015 .

He also participated in Craft Mela in Surajkund Haryana in February 2017, Master’s Creation Program in Delhi (Delhi Haat) in December 2018, and organized a workshop and the exhibition Dastikar Haat in March 2018.

Mir has also participated in various northern region workshops and exhibits hosted by DC Handicrafts and private organizations.

In Mir’s family, his son Mohammad Maqbool won the top award under his able leadership in 2012, which was presented by then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. In 2021, his brother Ghulam Hassan Mir was honored by LG Manoj Sinha for his contribution to Sozni’s work.

Apart from their achievements, Mir has represented Indian art globally. He was among the five artists who represented India in the Indian handicrafts exhibition titled “Namaste Stockholm” held in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

Mir has a remarkable contribution to the empowerment of women and the weakest sections of society. He organizes free training sessions and has mentored thousands of people since 1970. Mir has become the inspiration for young unemployed people in Sonapah, Beerwah, Attina, Hayatpora, Sodipora, and other adjacent areas. He helps them earn a respectable living.

In 2017, Mir started a special training program for poor and needy girls under the Guru shishya Parampara (Ministry of Textiles) program.

Mir explains that in the process of Sozni Shawl Baafii, “Block Printing” is an important step, in which the carvings of the wood block itself are part of a great craftsmanship.

“The patterns mainly include lotus flowers, geometric patterns, floral vines and paisley patterns,” he said.

Engraving the design on wooden blocks, based on a design prepared by the Naqash, is a master skill of wood carvers who specialize in shawl designs and who generally use traditional hand tools for carving.

Mir says another creative and meaningful step is the selection and sampling of colors to be used in the design by Tarah-Guru before the design is approved by another master craftsman called Voste.

“After the embroidery is completed, the final washing of the shawl is done in spring water with a mild detergent by specialist washers, and subsequent fringes can be added to dry the shawls,” he said.

“For those who religiously view their work as worship or prayer, it sometimes takes more than a year or two to create a masterpiece. The craftsman, as well as the client, takes great pride in creating and wear,” Mir said.

In the current cultural scenario and economic environment, he said, while mechanization is considered the most cost effective for mass production, these craft traditions are facing serious challenges and many Indian heritage skills. risk being lost forever.

“It becomes obligatory for us to support the work of artisans, to facilitate them and to motivate them to maintain craftsmanship,” he said, adding that it would also encourage the younger generation to come to learn, innovate and create. enthusiastically their individual styles, while carrying on the legacy and not worrying about financial problems and fame.

About the making of shawls, Mir says that the embroidery is usually done on a pashmina shawl. Pashmina fabric is a kind of wool obtained from Kelly goats in the heights of UT.

Then the wool is obtained from these goats, processing it manually and a thread is made by craftsmen. The pashmina fabric is made of threads and the artisan Sozni makes a shawl from the fabric.

“Then the beautiful piece of pashmina shawl is made available for the design to be drawn on, using a carved piece of wood as a stamp, in the Kashmiri language it is called Chhap,” he said. .

After doing the basic design work on the shawl, Mir uses colored threads from Rashim. This Rashim is obtained from silkworms raised on mulberry leaves in Kashmir.

The combination of different yarn colors is used to draw the unique design on the pashmina shawl.