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Meet the Muran Brothers, Kashmiri Artists Who Bring Dead Wood Alive

The trembling hands of Abdul Ahad Muran and Mohammad Yusuf Muran are creating magic. The oldest of Kashmir's fabled wood-carving artists have been carving exquisite artefacts from dead wood.

Mufti Islah | CNN-News18

Updated:March 18, 2017, 1:39 PM IST
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Meet the Muran Brothers, Kashmiri Artists Who Bring Dead Wood Alive
Photo Credit: Bashir Lone

Srinagar: The trembling hands of Abdul Ahad Muran and Mohammad Yusuf Muran are creating magic.

The oldest of Kashmir's fabled wood-carving artists have been carving exquisite artefacts from dead wood.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

Abdul, 72, and his 56-year-old brother Mohammad were born deaf and dumb, but the power to assimilate the figure-carving art was God-given.

The two are masters at conceiving and executing the art on walnut wood blocks and sheets with great ease and accuracy.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

“They mostly do one-piece art. The item is seamless. You cannot spot a single mistake in their work,” Mudasir Muran, Abdul's son explained proudly.

He sells the ‘exclusive’ items produced by his father and uncle at a showroom just outside Srinagar. It is a big hit with locals and tourists alike.

“There is a lot of labour and sweat in these items. It is true, I do business, but the seniors are as passionate about their work as I am about selling them,” Mudasir said.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

“Their work has been recognised internationally and they are only getting better and better. The sad thing is that their health is failing,” he added.

Abdul recently underwent a heart surgery and had to spend a few weeks at his daughter’s home in Mumbai to ensure he doesn’t catch a cold or cough in Srinagar during the winters. A workaholic even at this age, he returned to Srinagar early in March to finish off an assignment he had undertaken last summer.

The duo do not let their disability come in their way and have started to work on some unique projects.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

Abdul is busy giving final touches to his Mughal-era wall hanging which depicts lot of detail. A king is seen courting his queen in a palace garden in three sequences put on a single wooden slab. A tree and a fountain in the backdrop, the queen pours nectar into the king’s cup, the latter on his knees apparently professing love.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

Mohammad's art transports you to 15th century Kashmir. A Kashmiri woman on a spinning wheel, a shawl weaver, a man grinding spices in a traditional kunz or a stone artefact and another ready to smoke from a hookah.

“These carvings are on a single piece of wood and would sell for a lot. It has taken each piece more than six months to make,” Mudasir said.

The brothers are passionate wildlife lovers. As they can't exchange ideas freely, they watch Discovery and Animal Planet on TV for design. “They have enormous retention power and design perfectly,” Mudasir added.

From animals to Hindu mythological gods and goddesses, to world leaders ranging from Mahatma Gandhi and Saddam Hussein, they have carved it all. They even presented to the Iranian Ambassador a miniature lookalike of Srinagar's Jamia mosque.

The two have also tried their hand successfully at creating a replica of Hangul, a Kashmiri deer, for free for a US-based NGO which was running a campaign to save the endangered species.
Then a model of a Kashmiri boathouse, a shikara, and the figurative pieces of a chessboard.

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(Photo Credit: Bashir Lone)

The Muran family has a long lineage in the art. Abdul and Mohammad represent the fourth generation of the family and they are keeping the tradition alive.

They had a unit in Karachi before Partition. Their forefathers used to sell products in Iran, central Asia and further up to Eurasia through the Silk Road. Those were the golden times but nowadays the business is not looking up, Mudasir said.

“Tourists’ footfall is falling and business is hit badly. The situation in Kashmir is a big letdown,” he added.

The Muran seniors regret the little recognition of their craft. They blame the Union and state governments for not encouraging skilled labour. They also regret that wooden items are being sold at higher price by big dealers but artisans are exploited.

“The government should create awareness by putting up stalls to showcase the talent of our artisans. Kashmiri handicrafts are famous world over,” Mudasir said.

Awareness about the uniqueness of Kashmiri walnut products being world class due to its colour, grain sheen and texture is also lacking, he said.

“We have abundant walnut wood in our forests to last for decades but young boys are not keen to learn the skill from their elders. If government does not encourage this skill, walnut carving as a craft in Kashmir would be lost forever,” he warned.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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