Gufkral Caves and the history of ancient potters are being preserved in south Kashmir as part of
Gufkral Caves and the history of ancient potters are being preserved in south Kashmir as part of "Preserving Forgotten Treasure"

Tral, September 29: Amidst the picturesque landscapes of Tral, south Kashmir, a hidden jewel from ancient times languishes amid a treasure trove of history and culture. These caves, which are snuggled inside the traditional Gufkral settlement, are known as the Gufkral Caves. In addition to this, it is a testament to the passage of time as well as the ongoing heritage of eighteen different Potter families spanning decades.

It is a story of perseverance and history that is now being obscured by neglect and is gradually disintegrating despite our efforts to revitalise the traditional arts and crafts. The cultural and historical value of the hamlet warrants that it be brought back from the brink of oblivion and given a prominent location on the map of tourist destinations, with the assistance of historians and the addition of spot windows of interest and exhibits.


These caverns, which are now in disrepair, have not only been used as a place of refuge for several generations of potters, but they have also preserved a piece of history that goes back into the mists of time, with their beginnings perhaps reaching back to the eras of 2000–3000 BCE.

Even the name “Gufkral,” in which “Guf” refers to caves and “Kral” refers to potters, is a tribute to these holy caverns, in which potters have laboured for generations and where artists have flourished.

The way that this location is presented to visitors, whether they are tourists or residents, has to be rethought in order to be successful. Visitors should be allowed to explore the village as part of their experience, but they should also have the chance to buy ornamental pottery pieces such as clay dinner sets, lamp shades, health-friendly daily use utensils, and other decorative objects to make their trip both informative and entertaining. In the event that this does not occur, the archaeological importance, which is presently being ignored and disregarded, will quickly approach the precipice of oblivion.

The history of the Gufkral Caves is gradually revealed; it is a tale of tenacity, of skillful labour, and of the critical need for preservation. In spite of the evident significance of these caverns to archaeology, they continue to be ignored by government and tourist organisations, despite the fact that their echoes may be traced back over many centuries.

Harbaksh Singh, a member of the District Development Committee of Tral, is perplexed by the lack of attention paid to the cultural aspects of the city. He dreams of a renaissance for these eighteen potter families and has aspirations of transforming Gufkral into a centre of Kashmiri pottery. His goal is to make pottery not just a source of income for the families but also a renowned art form that attracts both locals and visitors.

Dr. Harbakash makes the following observation: “At a time when the current generation and cautious leaders are working to re-energise and re-establish the cottage industry while keeping the effects of climate change in mind.” Despite the fact that they are relatively few in number, these eighteen families of potters in Kashmir are deserving of assistance and direction in order to revive the charm of Kashmiri pottery. It has the potential to become a highly prized possession among both natives and tourists alike.

What is desperately required is for these potters to have a vision and get instruction so that their community may become a centre for the artistry of pottery that attracts admirers from far and wide. Dr. Harbakash has committed to approaching the Lieutenant Governor of J&K in order to push for the formation of the hamlet as a flourishing focus of local art. He sees an annual ceramic craft show as a way to foster excellence in the field.

The online search helps to unravel the historical tapestry that was woven inside Gufkral as a result of excavation work that was conducted in 1981 by an ASI team under the direction of A. K. Sharma. Their findings shed light on eras as far back as the aceramic neolithic and as far forward as the megalithic. Historians even go so far as to theorise that Gufkral may have been the first colony in the valley, many years ago, of people who lived during the early Neolithic period.

The status of the Gufkral caverns, which serve as the potters’ primary source of raw materials, is still unknown. This creativity is not only a means of subsistence but also a treasured component of their identity and history—a heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.

The tragedy is unfolding at the same time that the younger generation of potters struggles to meet the declining demand and mulls giving up their ancestors’ traditional art. This one-of-a-kind cultural enclave, which is only well-known among the residents of the immediate area, yearns for the limelight since its character is being lost with each passing day.

It is the grave obligation of the government to preserve this priceless asset in order to prevent it from being lost to the chronicles of history. One of these caves is thirty metres in length, but the invasion of civilization continues to surround it, posing a danger to the excavated places that yet have mysteries waiting to be revealed. However, the potters are pleading with the authorities to ensure that the preservation of the environment does not come at the expense of their houses.

They derive their identity from these caverns; thus, it is important for the government to recognise the predicament they are in and provide them with the education and skills necessary to both defend the caves and cultivate their art. Conflicting interests have prevented real preservation measures from being undertaken, and the low understanding among the public further exacerbates this precarious position, which has resulted in these old gems being left to languish as unproductive terrain.

When the preservation of Gufkral’s tradition is addressed with the well-being of the region’s potters in mind, it has the potential to invigorate an art form that dates back hundreds of years. It can instill a sense of identity and belonging, preserving a tangible link to their ancestors and forgotten history.

Let these caves become an integral part of the potters’ daily lives. They need to be trained, guided, and supported on how to make it a world-class attraction for tourists, preserving the heritage and culture while showcasing the local inheritance, all while keeping the modern concrete jungle at bay.

The government must support this village to become a model and a landmark, allowing Kashmir pottery to be known and recognised for its craftsmanship, with the responsibility to preserve and care for the forgotten caves. It is a responsibility that extends beyond mere rhetoric, one that demands concrete action and the embrace of this enduring art of pottery.



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