[Kundan jewellery is created by setting carefully shaped, uncut diamonds and polished multicoloured gemstones into an exquisitely designed pure gold or faux metal base.]
The story of art of Kundan jewellery in the Vale of Kashmir is quite interesting and it has been revealed to me by none other than my father Kh. Mohammad Amin Kundangar who until few days back was theonly living legend of this art. The story is,” Our fore father Mohammad Baba had come to Kashmir along with QAFILA NOOR of Shah Hamdan Mir Syed Ali Hamdani( RA) and got settled in as MUJAVIR at the shrine of Khanqahi Moulla Srinagar. One day a desperate Sikh devotee came to the shrine with his wife and approached Baba and requested him to pray for him for a SANTAN( a child). Baba being a simple n pious man prayed for him n the Sikh disciple left the shrine. Next year the same Sikh disciple appeared again and searched for the Baba. But the Baba could not recognise him: The Sikh disciple introduced him and recalled that due to his prayer last year on the same place he had a son now and he has come this time to pay his thanks from him n the family.
This became a routine for the Sikh disciple to come to the Valley and stay for time and even months together. One day it happened so that Baba went to see the Sikh who was busy studding jewels in an ornament. Baba got interested in the art n would spent hours together observing the technique n s of the Sikh. Baba later tried the same at his home during the leisure hours. Once the Sikh disciple visited Baba’s Residence and to his utter surprise found Baba imitating his art n skill. On knowing the keen ness of Baba to learn the art of Kundan the Sikh disciple faithfully taught Baba the art of Kundan and saw to it that he becomes a skilled Kundangar. Baba and his son Hakeem later passed on the craft to his son Nizamuddin who mastered the art of Kundan so skilfully that he became the Father of the art of the Kundan in Kashmir and this way the entire Baba dynasty turned into Kundangar Dynasty. The art thus passed on from father to son and so on.
In my child hood that is after 1947 the two master crafts men were Maqbool Hussain Kundangar and his teacher n guide Gh.Mohamnad Kundangar. According to my father Kundan Art remained vibrant till 1947 in Kashmir and declined gradually. He says,” The work remained worship for the craftsmen and the ornaments prepared are the mystic knots of energy,” The meticulously crafted ornaments were gracefully worn by royals, nobles, land lords and aristocrats. The most common worn ornaments include TICKA,TAWEEZ,HANG TAWEEZ, HALQBAND, JUMKA EAR RINGS. BRACELETS, JIGNI etc. In Kashmir the Kundan Jewellery was for the aristocratic families n also for Ranis of Maharaja n his courtiers. The commoners who could not afford for having Kundan jewellery were satisfied wearing duplicate kundan items called as WASH KUNDAN. These were prepared by common Zargars in Kashmir
Excerpts from original article-the dying craft of Kashmir-By Dr. M. R.D. Kundangar