Inside A Village Of Craft

  • Publish Date: Feb 5 2018 2:01AM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 5 2018 2:03AM
Inside A Village Of Craft

Nearly a quarter of the residents in Nillow, Kulgam, are engaged in Tilla Dozi


Bashir Ahmad Teili caressed a needle in his wrinkled hand and gently tugged at a golden thread unspooling around his thin neck as he sat hunched to weave a golden pattern on a Pheran in his lap.

Teili, a tall lean man with a white beard and rimmed glasses that make him appear much older than his 53 years, does Tilla Dozi, a traditional style of embroidery popular in Kashmir. He has been practicing the craft for more than 35 years and has passed it on to his 20-year-old daughter Aasiya Jan, son Jahangir Ahmad and several neighbours who now work with him at his workshop in Nillow village of Kulgam district.

Nillow is a centre of Tilla Dozi in South Kashmir, with about a quarter of its people engaged in the craft, from the elderly to young boys and girls and even women married in the village. Most work long hours, running needles through pherans and sarees – Mahmooda, Jahangir’s wife, calls it “digging well with a needle” – but make barely make Rs 5000-Rs 6000 a month.

Nazir Ahmad Hajam, the 40-year-old Imam of a local mosque, has been practising the craft intermittently for over 25 years. He had left it to take up tailoring once but that turned out to be even more unremunerative. He has worked in Till Dozi workshops in Srinagar, and during the 1990s he went to work in Jammu, where he says he made more money doing work on sarees than he does in the Valley. Hajam has taught the craft to his daughters and daughters-in-law and, like many other women in the village, it has made then financially more independent.

Parveena is among the many women who picked up the craft after being married in the village. Originally from Pulwama, she is now teaching it to others. “Before marriage, I had been doing Aariwork. After I came here I learnt Tilla Dozi from my husband,” she says. “We receive work directly from customers and currently many girls are working with us and we pay them fixed rates. After learning the art from us, many girls have started working on their own.”

Her husband, Rather, started Tilla Doziat the age of 20. Now the couple and their three children are earning well enough to live comfortably. “It is better to do some work rather than sit idle and hope for money,” says Parveena.

In Nillow, many students have also taken up the craft to earn an income while they are studying. For Sajad Ahmad Hajam, a first year student of Arts at Government Degree College Kulgam, it also helps him supplement the income of his family. Sajad chose to learn the craft rather than get a job because he finds it more convenient working at home. It has come at a cost, though: his vision has weakened. Many other villagers also complain of weakened sight.