This world environment day, Ziveli had a stall next to the ‘Joy at Work’ stall, and there I met Devika Krishnan, who introduced me to a Bulrush, the Kashmiri’s call baggu.
Devika is also working with ‘Shepard Craft’. They are working on sustaining the traditional crafts of the nomadic tribes of the Gujjar and the Bakarwal, in Kashmir.
In the local markets of Palalgam (South Kashmir), you can find waggoos, a course, spongy reed mat made with baggu.
Traditionally every Kashmiri household would have a waggoo, but now synthetic mats and rugs rule the roost.
And the younger generation also take no interest in the craft.
The reed grows all around the famous Dal Lake and in other swampy areas of Kashmir.
The reed mat is also known as waguv, or wagu, and is valued for its’ comfort, versatility (can be used both in summer and winter), its insulation properties, and its biodegradability.
Zareef Ahmed, a Kashmiri author and historian, traces back the origins of the baggu craft to the 18th century, during Kashmir’s Mughal Rule.
But now its popularity is declining.
Until a few years ago, about 200 families wove reed mats at home. But today, no more than 15 women weave mats.
The prices commanded by the mats remain flat, because people prefer thermos-cool floor covers. But the cost of the reeds has increased drastically, because development and draining of the swampy areas have made it scarce.
Poor earnings are forcing weavers to abandon the skill.
The Artisans have golden hands, and their skills remain incomparable with any machine-work.
And we need more people to keep our traditions alive.
Waggoos are produced by plaiting reeds and is a skill developed over many generations, and should not be allowed to die.
We want to help keep this art alive.
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