Colouring cashmere is centuries old profession of Kashmir, which is apparently facing fall in following at the moment. Although many dyeing centres have been winded up over the years, but it seems colours haven’t totally faded over traditional dyeing industry of the valley. Scores in old Srinagar are still sustaining their living by colouring fabrics. Bilal Bahadur captures dyers in action from old Srinagar’s Rangerstop locality where traditional Rangrez dwell and dye in bundle.
Rangrez or Dyers preparing fabrics for dyeing.
Early in the morning, the dyers fill copper vessels jacketed with concrete with clean water. Firewood is then ignited in the hearth at their base. As the water boils, dye is added to it as per the colour requirement of the fabrics.
Subsequently the fabrics are immersed in dyeing pools and are stirred till they attain colour.
“At once, 60 to 100 shawls are dyed in a single pool at 100 to 180 degrees temperature. Many shawls of different colours are dyed in the same water. This is an inherent skill that provides us an insight of colour combination,” says Mohammad Ashraf, 52, an elderly dyer.
After dyeing fabrics with one colour, the same water can be used for dyeing blue or any other colour fabrics. It requires the knowledge of colour combination.
Over the passage of time, the community has been reduced to six families who live in traditional Kashmiri houses which reflect scenes of cultural abodes of yesteryears in old city.
Almost all types of shawls are brought here for dyeing that include Pashmina shawls, Raffal shawls, Count shawls, Toosha shawls, Silk sarees, Poly-wool, cotton, or Khadi products.
The congested workplace presents a nostalgic look with designed, wooden items visible everywhere. Some Rangreez families have moved to other places of the city to explore better options in life. But the oldest families associated with dyeing still live here.
Every morning, multi-colour shawls spread out on the ropes add to the vibrant atmosphere at Rangarstop area of old Srinagar city.