Making of a Kashmiri Boat

Ground Report | New Delhi: Making of a Kashmiri Boat; Kashmir is famous worldwide for its unparalleled natural beauty. Tourists throng Kashmir irrespective of seasons to witness the beauty at its zenith. The comfort and tranquil recreational spots of Kashmir are attracting tourists day in and day out. The stay in Kashmir is considered incomplete without having a Shikara ride in the calm waters of Dal Lake.

Shikaras are traditional boats mostly found in the Dal lake of Kashmir. The process of Shikara making is the classic and hereditary occupation of the indigenous dwellers of Dal lake.

Colourful Shikaras lined in the famous Dal Lake. Picture Credit: Muskaan fayaz

“My family has been manufacturing shikaras since times immemorial, but now I am losing the fervour to carry out this hereditary occupation,” says Aijaz Kunzu, a shikara workshop owner from Baba Mohalla Dal lake.

Aijaz Kunzu shaping a wooden plank for a shikara.

Earlier shikaras were made of Deodar wood but the decline in the supply of deodar has compelled the manufacturers to use Miranda wood which is less durable than Deodar wood. Shikaras made up of deodar wood costs around 1,80,000 rupees, while miranda shikaras cost 1,50,000.

Shabir Kunzu working in his workshop at the interiors of Dal lake.

There has been a decline in the sale and purchase of shikaras since August 2019. The low tourist thronging due to the COVID imposed pandemic has been the primary cause of low turnout.  ” We used to sell around 30 shikaras in a year, but since 2019 we didn’t sell more than two dozen shikaras,” says Aijaz. The workshops are desolated, lacking the usual staff. The owners are spending their time repairing the damaged shikaras.

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Farooq Shinglu repairing a damaged boat in the interiors of Dal lake.

 The workshops require skilful people to shape and build the mesmerising shikaras. The staff has to carve out each pattern meticulously to attract more and more tourists. The tools used for shaping and joining the wooden planks to build shikaras lying in the almirah at a shikara workshop in the interiors of Dal lake.

A newly made boat lying in the workshop at Baba Mohalla Dal lake

“Our work requires patience and perseverance. So many people come to work in my workshop, but very few stick to this profession. This is the work of art done by the masters.” says Shabir Kunzu, a shikara manufacturer.

A worker marking the wooden plank with a graphite pencil.

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