Willow craft of Kashmir has its roots in day-to-day life. Guided by the local requirements, the rural crafts persons moderated the natural raw materials in forms and shapes suited to the local demand. The abundance of profusely branched tree varieties became a source of rich raw material for products used in construction, hawking, carriage and household use. Settled farmers who needed containers to transport agricultural produce used baskets. While basketry has not attained the kind of sophistry as found in other crafts, the willow skills led to making of Kangri, the most ingenious of the products that provided great relief to common people from the harsh winters. The deftness and the attention to detail of the artisans led to stylization and sophistication of willow work creating kangris in varieties and designs suited to rich and poor. As in many other crafts, a wide product range like baskets, storage boxes, and other household items was evolved in which all members of the family are engaged. While men gather, strip and soak willow, the women dye the strips in bright colors. This skill base caught the imagination of European visitors in Kashmir in the early 20th century. They introduced English willow plantation in marshy lands of Kashmir. With a new, more attractive raw material, a new product range suited to European tastes and uses evolved in and around Srinagar. Thus willow wicker furniture, lamps shades, picnic boxes and similar other became part of the willow product range.
For all cottage and rural arts to survive, there is an urgent need for appropriate interventions. These include documenting the stages of production which can lead to standardization and product development. The markets are evolving and an information base is critical to the survival of the cottage and rural skills. This monograph is aimed at meeting this requirement. It documents the history of this craft, the raw materials, the skills and the products. We hope and expect that it will open up new vistas for this age-old industry thereby sustaining the craft traditions and securing livelihood of a vast number of artisans.