The Ecosystem of Nagina Woodcarvers

The world where Nagina woodcarvers live and work

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Wood Carving: A walking stick (2018-03) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Nagina is a small town in the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh. A small town with a big name, Nagina stands tall worldwide for the quality and design of its woodcrafts. The town has a rural ambience, its narrow streets filled with small units of wood workshops. The products created here are produced on a small scale with a creative human touch, providing a fine blend of utility and aesthetics. 

Mughal wood carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Nagina being a smaller town always faced challenges of transportation of its products. Therefore, it deliberately focused on the making of small decorative wooden items, so that craftsmen could easily carry them and sell them from one town to another. The way this craft operates in Nagina provides a fresh break from the mechanised world and humanizes both the process and the product. 

Wire inlay and carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Nagina’s outstanding wood carving craft tradition dates back to the Mughal era. It is believed that some of the wood carvers moved from Iran to Uttar Pradesh and settled in Nagina and nearby villages, where Indian rosewood was readily available. People from Multan form one such community which has been associated with this craft for generations but today this craft isn't limited to a single community. Women also contribute actively to the craft and are happy to have their children help them after school, indirectly passing on skills to the next generation.   

Woodcarving and inlay work BookDastkari Haat Samiti

In the old days, Nagina’s woodcrafts had royal patrons, which later got replaced by British and craft-conscious customers from all over the world. This shift in consumer base is visible in the array and design of products transforming over a period of time. These range from finely carved wooden doors, windows, jewellery boxes, to wine bottles, pen stands, photo frames, key chains, spectacles cases and many other items of contemporary use.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Snapshots: In and around the wood craft centre of Nagina

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A common scene in a village household in Nagina. A woman prepares fodder for cattle.

Wood logs (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Planks of mango wood lie on the side of a lane, to get seasoned, in Nagina.

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Wood craftsmen in their workshops in the narrow lanes in the small town of Nagina define their way of life.

Wood sourcing unit (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The largest wood sourcing unit in Nagina is known for its multi-dimensional functions including storing, seasoning, selling of wood and wood products as well as providing formal training to aspiring crafts people.

Wood workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The whole town of Nagina is absorbed in wood craft ranging from beautifully carved wooden frames to simple wooden brackets for curtain rods.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Asha Handicrafts, a wood craft workshop supervised by skilled wood craftsman Yog Raj, is based in the humble rural setting of Qaziwala village near Nagina in Uttar Pradesh.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Life in Qaziwala village of Uttar Pradesh still follows the old classic ways of having hand pumps for water, cattle rearing for farming and produce, and cow dung for fuel and fertilizer.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A wooden cart parked outside a small hut in the Qaziwala village in Bijnor, reflects an innate aspect of a rural lifestyle.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Pritam Singh makes charpoys at his home in Qaziwala village in Uttar Pradesh. The simply crafted charpoy is a low cost bed made of a bamboo frame, mango wood legs and a body woven with rope made of a local grass.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The peaceful simplicity of Qaziwala village belies its importance as a well-known area for fine wood work.

Wood Carving: House of a master craftsman (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

From Nagina to New Delhi: a peek into the life of India's master craftsmen

House of a master craftsman (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Yogi Raj, a wood master craftsman from Qaziwala, relishes his lunch break while feeding his dog, and watches his daughters play.

The image demonstrates the quality of life in a village household, which celebrates closeness in family relationships.

Wood Carving: House of a master craftsman (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Girls play tic-tac-toe and block puzzle games with toy made of rose wood. The creation of wooden games combines traditional craft techniques with new artefacts.

Wood Carving: Making hair sticks (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

There is an increase in direct contribution of women in the wood craft industry.

Matriarch of family, Omvati, equally contributes in the making of wooden items as her husband at their family owned workshop.

Wood Carving: Making wooden combs (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Women’s creativity in this craft industry is no more domestic or non-professional.

Prerna Rani firmly holds a saw to create a delicate comb out of a wood log. She learnt this craft from her father.

Wood Workshop (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohammed Marghoob practices brass inlay in his father’s workshop in Seelampur, New Delhi. He aspires to be a National Award-winning wood craftsman like his father, Mohammed Matloob.

He grew up playing in and around the workshop and today works as an apprentice there.

Wood Carving: Elements like small holes et cetera are added using a drill machine. (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Sadiya uses drill machine to prepare a piece of wooden board for jaali (lattice) work. As a child she sat beside her father, playing with carving tools.

Wood Carving: The craftswoman's daughters learn woodworking skills from their mother. (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Shaheen Anjum teaches wood carving to her daughters. She excels in pattern drawing and jaali (lattice) making being born and married into a wood craftsmen’s family.

Wood Carving: Shaheen's middle daughter, Swaleha, at their wood workshop (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Swaleha adds some life and laughter to an otherwise dull looking wood workshop, while adding a jaali (lattice) design on a wooden coaster.

Neighbourhood view (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

On a Friday afternoon the narrow lanes of Seelampur in East Delhi, get filled with colourful prayer carpets. Men gather to offer namaaz, while sermons from the Quran play on a loudspeaker in the background.

Wood Carving: Neighbourhood view (2018-04)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A humble biryani shop next to Mohammed Matloob’s workshop produces around 70 kgs of biryani on a regular day.

Wood Carving: At the village (2018-03)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The journey of a wooden artefact starts from logs collected from different rural pockets of India to their transformation as objects sought after across the world.

Wood Carving (2018-04) by Mohammed Matloob's workshopDastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Woodcraft industry from Nagina here:

- High quality products
- Portrait of a master craftsman

Innovative Products
Credits: Story

Text: Rashmi Sacher
Photography: Subinoy Das
Artisans: Mohammed Matloob and his team of apprentices, Yog Raj and his team of wood carvers.
Ground Facilitator: Rashmi Sacher
Documentary Video: Subinoy Das
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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