The Kashmiri craft of mat-making is yet another fascinating, artistic feat belonging to the region. Today we’re going to talk about the Waguv, a type of reed mat dating back to the 18th Century.
This charismatic craft entails the embrace of reed (called Peich in Kashmiri, obtained from the Dal Lake) and rice straws interwoven to create a consistent pattern till it eventually forms a piece of flooring.
The Peich is prepared by drying these grasses, typically during spring, followed by intertwining them with sun-dried rice straws. The serenity and calm of a waguv pattern tells a story, of who made it, and how it was made, about the effort that was put into it; and so much more. The story isn’t quite tuned into anymore.
Not more than 30-40 years ago these adorned, quite literally, every single Kashmiri house. In a radical change of events (like, the increased cost of raw materials and more importantly, the extreme drop in demand), very few families are now involved in making waguvs & even fewer are in the market for buying them; leaving this age-old craft on the brink of reposing.
Many people claim that waguvs are the answer to back pains and other similar issues; one can’t be so sure in the absence of scientific logic. Even though, most of these claims are nothing but pretence, what one can unequivocally say is that waguvs (literally) form the base of the authentic Kashmiri culture that we’re losing our grasp over each passing day.
Every custom, wanting to survive the next generation, needs to evolve. People want comfortable furnishings and aesthetic appeal which hinders them from buying waguvs. Social stigma also has an angle to play here. As depressing as all this sounds, there is actually a small but growing sense of cultural preservation among young people, thanks to the efforts of innovators and the internet. Perhaps there is hope. Time will tell.