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Adept hands of septuagenarian Shah weave magic with thread and needle

Post by on Saturday, January 29, 2022

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Wielding a small needle and strings of golden and silver thread, Ghulam Mohammad Shah, 72, weaves them into elegant patterns on different traditional attires to depict an art that is commonly known as Tilla Dozi or Tilla embroidery.
Tilla is one of the most prevalent forms of embroidery in Kashmir. This embroidery work is extensively used to decorate ethnic wear. Gold or silver imitation threads are delicately tied by needlepoint over the fabric to create lovely designs. The whole process needs skill, patience and accuracy.
It takes almost one to two months to complete Tilla embroidery on one pheran, a long and loose robe worn in Kashmir mostly in the winter as protection against the cold.
Shah uses attractive golden and tilla threads and weaves Tilla embroidery on suits, shawls and pherans , caps for his lady customers in the downtown area of Barbarshah.
Shah says his day begins at sunrise and often stretches until dusk.
After offering prayers at his home at Khanyar, he covers the distance of a few kilometres to reach his shop.
 “I like to walk in the morning. I always stand ready for my work as I love it. Though it is time consuming, it gives me happiness as well. My work satisfies me and I earn a good amount of money," he says.
Tilla work is handmade and needs a good vision as well. But Shah lives by his virtues of hard work and kindness. He shows his determination towards his work.
Shah faced poverty and hardships but managed a smile on his face always. He believes hard work and positive thinking is a key role in success.
“I could not afford to study. Instead I told my father not to lose hope and continue to work hard. I mustered courage and started the work of Tilla,” he says. 
The septuagenarian also designs beautiful Tilla embroidery on Tweed, Terricot, wool, velvet and other attractive stuff.
Different varieties of Kashmiri traditional dress, pheran, are available at his shop.
The intricate Tilla design on different outfits especially pheran looks elegant and is found attractive by many. It is an integral part of the Kashmiri bride’s trousseau.
“The demand for the embroidery on pheran is most during the cold season. But, it is trending in summers as well. Young girls, especially brides, want Tilla designs on their summer outfits,” says Shah.   
It takes two to three months to make a Tilla embroidery on pheran and suits of brides-to-be, while the shawls and wraps of ladies need only one month.  
The price of Tilla embroidery on the suits ranges from Rs 9,000 to Rs15,000 while the price of pheran ranges from Rs 110,00 to Rs 70,000 depending on the embroidery.
 “It takes a lot of time, clear vision and energy to prepare even one outfit,” he says.
Pheran, the knee-length robe embroidered with golden threads of Tilla, with different colours of shalwar (a cloth tied around the waist) is the most popular and traditional attire worn in Kashmir.
Shah says, Tilla Dozi is a special handicraft of Kashmir. It is one of the historic art that has survived and its income supports hundreds of thousands of craftsmen in Kashmir.
The seventy-two-year old man started his work at the age of seven. “I have been in this field since my childhood. My parents had no money for my education and during my childhood people were hardly educated.”  
The golden threads of Tilla and the deep handmade designs attracted him. He learned the art dedicatedly and has been narrowing in on it ever since his childhood. He has now mastered the Tilla Dozi or Tilla embroidery art.
He says that the demand for traditional Pheran and dresses is increasing.
“Few years back young girls were not wearing Tilla embroidered suits but now the trend is picking up pace.
Shah says making Tilla designs is a time consuming task. But once the product is ready it gives a great feeling and refreshes his eyes.
“Despite working long hours in a day, I make few pherans in a month,” he says.
He says different patterns, designs of Tilla and other items used in making the royal embroidery have witnessed a sudden increase.
“ Different patterns of this special embroidery are Chinar, Badam, Tabatik, Tutwil, Iscalab,” he says.
He also claims that Chinar, Badam and Booti Designs are popular among the younger generation of girls. “I always feel happy to see the youth wearing traditional outfits instead of the modern ones which are not durable,” says Shah.
“Kashmiri tilla work is famous all around the world as it gives an elegant and royal look that dominates it from other collections, '' he says with a smile on his face.      
 
 

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