While discovering Kashmir I discovered that it is not just famous for its wood carvings on Walnut wood or for hand embroideries like the needle work or the “aari” work. It is famous for its “Namdas” and “Gabbas” too. I knew about the “Namdas” beforehand because I had seen the same in high end handicrafts showrooms and shops. But “gabba” was introduced to me by a local artisan during my stay here at Jammu & Kashmir. His shop was located on the road connecting our house to the main city. I always admired the lovely black carpets with intricate and colorful embroidery hanging out in the shop display. Always in haste due to the daily chores could not stop to admire the same. But for how long would I have stayed away from this crafty work. So I stopped and learnt everything about this art.
Gabba is a recycled byproduct. Old woolen blankets are up cycled into this crafty piece of art. These woolen blankets are washed, dyed and stitched together to form a base on which the embroidery is crafted. To increase the life of the blanket and to make it sturdier a waste cotton cloth was sewed on the back side of this blanket. After all this treatment the blanket gets engulfed by the crewel embroidery which is a form of embroidery using a woolen thread. Once the “Gabba” is ready it is generally used as a carpet and even as a mattress and bedcover to offer warm and cozy environments in this chilly cold of Kashmir. To commercialize “Gabba”, new blankets are used and a chain stitch is used to weave out beautiful floral and geometrical patterns.
Also, Mr Nisaar Mir, the artist who introduced the “Gabba” to me disclosed that Anantnag district was the hub of Gabba production in Kashmir.
Description about “Gabba” is not complete without an analogous piece of art called “Namda”. “Namda” is made after felting the wool. For namda the wool is not weaved. In some parts of Kashmir, the wool is mixed with cotton so as to obtain the white color fabric as well as a convenient fabric for needle to show magic. Generally the thread used is colorful and beautiful color contrasts are used to create artistic patterns and designs to give a shine, strength and color to the namda. The use of namda is same as that of a gabba. Other than being used as carpets and mattresses, Namda are also made in smaller sizes so as to be made useful as prayer rugs. Needle work used to create a namda is the famous “Aari” work of Kashmir which uses a hooked needle to make the embroidery. And in comparison to gabba, namdas are more famous in other states of India as well as internationally.
Wanting to learn more about “Namda” and “Gabba” I asked what could be the origin of this art form. And this question led me to the lifestyle and living style of the people of Kashmir. All Kashmir houses, be it a rich man’s house or a poor ones, everyone has arrangements of sitting on the floor. They take care of their guests sitting down on the floor. And the floor gets agonizingly cold to sit upon during winters. And for saving all during winters and to provide all with a cozy sitting arrangement on the floor, namda and gabba would come to rescue. Gabba was the way of utilizing the house’s rags and to convert it into a smart commodity and Namda would have followed.
I became so mesmerized with the colors that I picked one for my adobe too and I feel happy to see that my son is cozy even while playing on the cold floor with subzero temperatures outside.