A walk through the old and narrow lanes and by-lanes of Bandook Khar Mohalla in Rainawari of downtown Srinagar takes you back in time. The intricately designed lattice windows and small brick houses from the era of Maharaja Hari Singh distinguish this locality from the concrete structures around them. This locality stands out for its craftsmanship too. This area remains abuzz with people coming from adjoining areas for repairing their old gadgets. They come to meet and greet the famous German Khaars (blacksmiths)—who have the distinction of repairing all kinds of machines and other items, mostly pre-electronic era. The craftsmen, mostly past their ’70s, in this locality have been part of the generation-old-growth-story. During the Maharaja’s regime, they came to be known as ‘German Khaars’ just for their ability to repair German-made machines.
Like Kashmir’s exquisite woodworking or papier-mache, blacksmithing too seems like an old-time craft that has been recognised as one of the master arts—these craftspeople are able to create usable objects out of iron or steel, generally by applying intense heat until the metal becomes pliable. “The thing that really amazes me is how art, architecture, heritage and mechanics dot this place of Srinagar. In our locality, every household used to have a legendary mechanic and craftsperson. But everything is fading away now,” says a fragile-looking Abdul Rehman Ahangar, a specialist mechanic, the most active of the German Khaars alive.