Cased Treasures – Walnut

The walnut trees of Kashmir known as ‘Doon Kul’ have seen the love, giggles, mischief and various such emotions of generation after generations since this tree is cut only after it has reached an age of 300. It is the raw material for the woodcarving in Kashmir and the tree is special because of various reasons. Firstly, this wood is available only in Kashmir, secondly it is hard and durable, thirdly it has even texture facilitating fine and minute carving, and the list goes on. Usually the wood from the root is used for carving because of it being almost black and is very strong and thus most expensive. But these days, people have started using the trunk too because of shortage but it is lighter and thus not very efficient. After the wood is cut, they are numbered and piled and the gaps between the layers of plank allows air passage helping in seasoning process which goes on for 1 to 4years. After seasoning, the wood is sent to the carpenter to be used to make the desired objects. The entire process is carried out in the shade.

The dismantled pieces are brought for carving and the steps include inscribing the design on the wood with a pencil.

Woodcarving has mainly five steps which are Undercut, Deep carving, Open or Lattice work, Semi carving and Shallow carving. The designs on the craft are usually inspired from the four seasons of Kashmir, flowers, dragon, jungle scene, etc. The wood from walnut tree when polished with wax leads to the surfacing of the inherent sheen in it. The ever booming market of this wood has brought enormous wealth to these people but they faced a setback due to certain caste differences.

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