Pahalgam: Amidst a festive setting, Sanaullah Shaksaz of south Kashmir’s Seer has brought a variety of his stock of willow work to Pahalgam. The middle-aged craftsman, who was among dozens of stakeholders at the three-day Pahalgam festival last week, is pinning his hopes on this festival’s enabling tourist spots to bustle with visitors again. He has not only brought Kangris and wicker furniture, which are common items in the willow trade, but a variety of stock including almost fifty willow dustbins which he wants the government to promote through its floriculture department.
“The response so far is positive. Such festivals should be held regularly,” he said, sitting under a traditional thatched-roof stall.
According to him, the craft of weaving wicker into dustbins is unique, and the product could be used in public places, not only in Kashmir but also outside. “Instead of steel or iron bins, the government can promote willow dustbins through the floriculture department. If that happens, we can send these outside as well,” he said.
Among the myriad stalls at the festival, young Aqib Ahmad, who had brought handicraft items including crewel work, said the public response is good. He pointed towards the embroidered bags on display, saying he had sold them.
Besides, the three-day festival held by the tourism department in the lawns of the Pahalgam Club had a variety of Kashmiri products to attract tourists to the scenic tourist spot. The well-decked thatched roof stalls, spread out across the Club lawns on the banks of the river Lidder, gave the festival a traditional setting.
In the aftermath of the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani last year, tourist arrivals in the valley dropped steeply, prompting the government this year to go for promotional events to invite tourists again.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) deputy general manager Rouf Shah said the idea behind the festival was to showcase the real Kashmir, which is why the department had erected traditional thatched-roof stalls. He said lots of people hesitate to visit the valley, and holding the festival is to send out a positive message to visitors. “These festivals will go on being held occasionally,” Shah added.