Arabia Altaf Hamdani
SRINAGAR: Famous Aari embroidery in Kashmir Valley is losing ground to newly introduced machine-made replicas produced by the labourers from outside the state.
Aari work is the Kashmir-specific art of embroidery that uses Aari (needle having a notch at one end and a wooden handle) as the tool. Artisans use Aari to craft designs with coloured threads over clothes.
Introduced a few years ago, the machine-made replicas of the work are now dominating the Valley markets, as can be judged from the overwhelming presence of the ‘counterfeit’ products in shops and stores.
Mass production is the believed to be the reason behind success of the machine-made products.
“Doing Aari work on a suit takes about a week, but the machines can produce a number of its counterfeit replicas in a single day, enabling the businessmen to meet the market demand,” Muneer Ahmad, who runs a shop of embroidered suits and shawls here, told Kashmir Reader.
“The machine-made replicas are in demand because of their low price,” he added.
The introduction of machine work has hit the artisans in the Valley.
“With the introduction of machines our handmade products find no place in the market,” said Noor Muhammad, an artisan.
“Even a labourer in Kashmir is paid Rs 340 to Rs 400 a day while we get a maximum of Rs 100 to Rs 150 per day for our work,” he added.
For machine work, the Valley-based businessmen hire skilled labourers from outside the state.
The clientele, however, is comprised mostly of the women who said they cannot make out the difference between the genuine Aari embroidery products and machine-made replicas.
“To me, the machine work looks the same as the Aari work,” Tahira, a shopper at Lal Chowk here, said.
Post flood situation has given further boost to the sale of machine-made products.
“Majority of the shopkeepers have ordered stocks (of machine-made products) to sell in disguise of the Aari work. Our artisans have resumed the work after floods, but it will still take them two to three months to get back to normal rate of production,” Zahoor Ahmad, a salesman at a reputed store for embroidery products, said.