Like its scenic beauty, Kashmir valley is even famous for its cultural heritage. The valley of Kashmir is very rich as far as different aspects of its culture is concerned. Right through ages, it has adopted and assimilated components of various civilizations and religions. The amalgamation of Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist Philosophies has added colour and fragrance to the Kashmiri culture resulting into a composite culture based on humanism, secularisum and tolerance. Besides, it has borrowed certain features from its adjacent regions like Central Asia also. To sum up, the valley of Kashmir has a unique and peculiar culture, which is reflected in different walks of life. Some aspects of Kashmiri culture are given below:
To understand the cultural basis of a particular community, the study of its religious beliefs is very important. Religion forms an all-pervasive component of the culture of a community.
Kashmir is inhabited by believers of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. A few Christians and Buddhists also live there. Islam is the dominant religion in Kashmir Valley. There are different opinions regarding the spread of Islam in the valley. Some historians are of the view that a Syrian by the name of Hamim bin Sam was the first Muslim to settle in Kashmir. He came to Kashmir with Raja Dahir’s son Jasiya, after the latter fled to Delhi when Muhammed Bin Qasim defeated Dahir.
The conversion of Gyalpo Rinchana, the ruler of Kashmir to Islam at the hands of Abdul Rahman Bulbul, facilitated conversion of a large number of people to Islam. However, the mass conversion of the majority of population took place after the propagation of the new faith by Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamadani and his associates. Mir Syed Ali Hamadani, popularly known as Shah-I-Hamadan (in Kashmir), visited the valley three times and brought with him seven hundred disciples, known as Sadaat, from Central Asia. These Sadaat visited different parts of Kashmir and engaged themselves in the propagation of Islam. The present dominant position of Islam in Kashmir can be attributed partially to the efforts of these saints and the forced conversions into Islam as by some of the Muslim rulers of Kashmir.
Hinduism forms the second major religion of Kashmir. It is the oldest religion of the valley. Its followers are scattered throughout the valley and their presence is felt in every sphere of life. The community is highly educated. They belong to the upper stratum of the society and are generally known as Pandits i.e. the learned men.
Kashmiri Pandits have been profoundly religious people. Religion has played a pivotal role in shaping their customs, rituals, rites, festivals, fasts, ceremonies, food habits etc. Kashmir is widely known as the birth-place of 'Kashmir Shaivism' – a philosophy expounding the unity of Shiva and Shakti. Hence, Shaiva bhakti and Tantra constitute the substratum of the ritualistic worship of Kashmiri Pandits on which the tall edifice of the worship of Vishnu (Krishna and Ram), Lakshmi and Saraswati, and a host of other deities has been built.
Sikhism forms the third major religion of Kashmir valley. However, in comparison to Muslims and Hindus, Sikhs are fewer in number. Opinions vary as to how they established themselves in Kashmir. Some people are of the view that "they came into Kashmir with the lieutenants of Ranjit Singh, but some state that there were Punjabi Brahmins already living in Kashmir and they embraced Sikhism when the valley passed into the hands of Ranjit Singh." (Walter Lawrence. The valley of Kashmir). Another opinion holds that they came to Kashmir during the time of Pathans in the service of Raja Sukhjewan, a Hindu of Shikarpur, who was sent as Governor of Kashmir by Timur Shah of Kabul, in about 1775 A.D. It is also said that "the advent of the Sikh faith in Kashmir begins with the visit of Guru Nanak Devji (1460-1539) to the valley in 1517." (Encyclopaedia of India, vol. (Kashmir)
Kashmir has been a great centre of learning for several centuries. It has been a major centre of Buddhist learning for nearly a millennium during which period a sizeable number of revered Kashmiri Buddhist scholars traveled as far as Sri Lanka in the South and Tibet and China in the North. The contribution of these scholars commands a place of pride in the extant Buddhist philosophy. Unfortunately, this tradition was brought to an almost abrupt end by the Pathan and Mongol invaders in the 14th century. Though the advent of Islam produced a clash of civilizations, it also brought into being a ‘composite culture’ in which saintly figures (Rshi, Pir, Mot, Shah) came to be revered and respected equally by the polytheistic Hindu as well as the monotheistic Muslim.
Festivals break the monotony of everyday work and provide the members of a community with an opportunity to feel cheerful, happy and relaxed. Hindu festivals have a deep spiritual import and religious significance and have also a social and hygienic element in them.
In their lunar calendar Kashmiri Pandits’ observe a number of festivals and fasts, most of which fall in the dark fortnight (Krishna paksh). The eighth (ashtami), eleventh (ekadashi) and fifteenth (Amavas/ purnima) days of both dark as well as bright fortnights, and the 4th day of the dark fortnights (Sankat Chaturthi) are considered so auspicious that people generally would observe fast on these days. Kashmiri Pandits’(KP) new- year (Navreh) begins on the first day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra. On the eve of Navreh, a thali full of rice is decorated with fresh flowers, currency notes, pen and inkpot, curds, figurine/ picture of a deity and (dry) fruits. Early in the morning, the one who wakes up first (usually the lady of the house), sees this thali as the first object in the New Year and then takes it to all other members of the family, wake them up and enable them to see the decorated thali before seeing anything else. This signifies a wish and hope that the New Year would bring wisdom and blessing to every member of the family all through the year.
On the 3rd day of Navreh, the community members go out to nearby parks, temples, or outing spots to meet each other after four months of snowy -winter. It is a social gathering where men, women and children put on their best attire for the New Year chores. The eighth and the ninth days of the same fortnight are observed as Durga Ashtami and Ram Navami respectively. The fortnight marks the beginning of Spring, an important junction of climatic and solar influences. Durga Ashtami is celebrated to propitiate Shakti to seek her blessing and mercy. The eighth day of the dark fortnights of the Zyeshth and Ashar months are also celebrated with great devotion when people throng the Ragnya temple at Tulumula (Gandarbal), and Akingam, Lokutpur (Anantnag) to pray and worship Maa Shakti.
The 14th day of the bright fortnight of the Ashara month is specially dedicated to Jwalaji, the Goddess of fire. People in large numbers go to Khrew, 20 kms from Srinagar and offer yellow rice and lamb’s lung to the Goddess.
Purnima of the Shravana month is the day of Lord Shiva. On this day pilgrims reach the holy Amarnath cave to have ‘ darshan’ of the holy ice-lingam. People also go to Thajivor (near Bijbehara) to pray at the ancient Shiva temple.
The eighth day of the dark fortnight of Bhadrapada is celebrated as the birthday of Krishna, the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. On this day people sing prayer songs in admiration of Lord Krishna, in daintly decorated temples. They do not eat solid food till midnight. This is also called Janamashtami.
Mahanavami and Dussehra, marking Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana, fall on the 9th and 10th days of the bright half of Asoj. Episodes from Ramayana are enacted during this period.
Diwali, the festival of lights falls on the 14th day of the dark half of the Kartika month. All the corners, windows and balconies of the house are illuminated with lights. It is also believed that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya on this day and Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasur. Hence, this day symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
The third day of the bright half of Magara month is celebrated as the day of the 'Guru' (Guru tritya). Before the advent of Islam in Kashmir, scholars were awarded degrees to honour their academic achievements on this day (a precursor to present-day convocations). On this day the family purohit brings a picture of goddess Saraswati for a newborn baby or a new daughter–in-law in the family.
During the dark half of the month of Posh, the deity of the house is propitiated for seeking his blessings. The deity (dayut) is served rice and cooked raw fish on any chosen day between the 1st and 14th of the fortnight. On the day of GadI – batI feast, fish and rice will be placed on the uppermost storey of the house for dayut, who is expected to shower blessings on the family. This takes place in the late evening
The Amawasya of the same fortnight is the auspicious day of Khetsi mavas, when rice mixed with moong beans and other cereals is cooked in the evening to please the ‘yaksha (Yachh) so that he casts no evil on the members of the family. The 'cereal-rice' (yechha tsot) is placed at a spot outside the house, believed to be the yaksha’s place.
The purnima of Marga month is celebrated as Kaw purnima, that is crow’s purnima. On this day, the cup of a laddle like object, KavI potul-crow’s idol (a square front cup made of hay with a willow handle) is filled with little rice and vegetables and the children of the family are made to go to the upper storey of the house and invite crows to the feast. The children invite the crows thus :
Kaavi batI kaavo khetsre Kaavo yi tI baa gangIbalI Shraanaa dyaanaa kərith Saanee navee laree varee bataa khenee 'Crow pandit-crow cereal- rice crow come from Gangabal bath meditation having done to our new house to eat cereal-rice'
Shivratri (herath) is the most auspicious KP festival. Beginning on the first day of the dark half of Phalgun, its celebration continues for twenty-three days, i.e., till the 8th day of the bright half of the same month. During this period, the house is cleaned thoroughly for the marriage of God and Godess, Shiva and Parvati which is celebrated on the 13th day of the dark fortnight.
The 13th is the wedding night when watukh, Shiva as bachelor and in bridegroom form, is worshipped along with the bride Parvati, Kapaliks, Shaligram till late in the night. Watukh is worshipped for four days, i.e., upto the 1st day of the bright half of the month. On this day, watukh is bathed (parmuuzun > parimarjan) in the compound of the house. Then it is taken back into the house where the eldest lady of the house bolts the entrance-door from inside. The members carrying the watukh knock at the door and the following exchange of words takes place :
kus chuu? Who is there ? ram broor Ram, the cat kyaa heth ? what have you brought with you? ann, dan, gury-gupan, or zuu, food, money, cattle, good health, caan- myaan ti tini haha and offspring.
At the end of the watakh puja shivratri prasad in the form of kernels of walnut and roti made from rice flour is distributed amongst neighbours and relatives. The distribution of the prasad is completed before the 8th day of the bright half.
The 11th day of the bright fortnight marks the beginning of sonth ‘ Spring. On the eve of Sonth, a thali full of rice is decorated to be seen as the first thing on the morning of ekadashi or new-year eve.
The most famous festivals of Muslims are Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha. Id al-Fitr follows the thirty days of fasting in the month of Ramzan. Id al-Fitr is treated as the day of special thanks to mark the complete observance of the holy month of Ramadhan. The day begins with a special collective prayer of thanks in the Idgah, after which the Muslims congratulate and hug to congratulate each other. It is a festive occasion with people wearing new clothes and offering greetings to each other.
Id al-Adha is celebrated to comemmorate the sacrifice of the prophet Ibrahim when he was about to sacrifice his son to the glory of God. According to Islamic history Prophet Ibrahim had a vision in which he was directed to sacrifice his dearest thing in the name of Allah. Although he offered sacrifice of some animals, he again witnessed the same dream after which, on the morning of the tenth day of Islamic lunar month of Zil-Hajj, he set off to offer the sacrifice of his dear son, Ismail. However, when Ibrahim was about to slew his son, Angel Gabriel placed an Arabian ibex in Ismail’s place. Thus Ismail was also saved and the prophet too was declared successful in his examination. On this day it is obligatory for the wealthy muslims to sacrifice an animal to commemorate the event.
Another important festival of Muslims is Miraj-i-Alam, which marks the anniversary of the night on which prophet Muhammed ascended from Al-Quds mosque (Jerusalem) into the heaven. Id Milad is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammed. On both of these occasions, devotees throng the holy Hazratbal shrine where the holy relic of Prophet Muhammed is shown to the devotees.
The customs related to birth, marriage and death among Hindu and Muslim communities of Kashmir are very elaborate. Although there exist some differences in the rites performed by these communities, most of the customs run similar. A brief attempt has been made to trace the customs of these two communities.
Hindu marriage is not a social contract, but rather it is a religious institution, a sacrament or a spiritual or divine element which binds the permanent relationship between the husband and wife. The husband and wife are not only responsible for each other, but they also owe allegiance to the divine element. This mystic aspect of Hindu marriage necessitates a number of symbols. The marriage creates a new bond between the bride and the groom. They have to rear up this union by dedicating their entire energy in the direction of their common interest and ideal.
Traditionally, amongst Hindus, marriage was possible only between the families which have had no kinship for seven generations on the paternal side and four generations on the maternal side. Once the boy and the girl consent to join as man and wife, i.e., if they consent for marriage, the parents of both the girl and boy will meet in a temple in the company of the middleman (if there is any). In some families, a family member is selected from both the sides to vow that they would join the two families in a new bond of kinship
This ritual is known as Kasam-drIy. This is followed by a formal engagement ceremony (taakh or gandun) in which some members of the groom’s family and relatives visit the bride’s place to partake in a rich feast. The party brings cloths, preferably a Saree and some ornaments, which the bride is made to wear by her would be sister–in-law. During this ceremony, the two parties exchange flowers and vow to join together through wedlock. A younger brother or sister of the bride accompanies the groom’s party with a gift of clothes for the groom.
After this function, the two families begin to make preparations for the marriage ceremony which is held on some auspicious day after consulting a purohit.
Several rituals are associated with marriage whose observance begins nearly a week before the wedding day. Such ritual is known as GarInavai (literally get madeup) In this the hair of the bride is let loose. This is followed by malI məənZ or saatI məənz (first henna or auspicious henna) when henna is applied to the bride and the groom by their respective mothers and aunts. Close relatives and neighbours attend these rituals. Məənzyraath (henna night) is the first major event when all the relatives-men, women and children in the extended families-assemble at the girl’s and the boy’s respective places. This is a night of rejoicing and feasting. The evening meal is followed by a series of ceremonial acts. Henna is pasted on the hands and feet of the bride and the groom and almost every young boys, women and girls apply henna on their hands when elderly women sing traditional songs. Before applying henna, maternal aunt (maami) washes the feet and hands of the bride and the groom while the paternal aunt (bua) applies henna. The maternal aunt (maasi) burns incence to ward off evil. Meanwhile women, girls and boys sing traditional ditties as well as popular songs appropriate to the occasion.
While the singing & henna pasting is on, the bride as well as the groom is given a thorough bath (kani shraan) by aunts and sisters –in–law to prepare them for Devgun, the entrance of Devtas. After the ceremonial bath, the boy and the girl wear clothes brought by their respective maternal uncles. The bride is made to wear dejhuur-'a gold ornament', and kalpush-'a variety of headgear'.
Dejhuur is tied to a gold chain known as 'aTh', which is provided by the groom’s family on the wedding day to complete the holy alliance between Shiva – the groom, and Parvati -the bride.
Devgun is the religious ritual performed after the bath. The family purohit performs a small yajna on this occasion. ‘Devgun’, it is believed, transforms the bride and the groom into 'Devtas'.
On the wedding day the groom wears a colourful dress with a saffron – coloured turban on his head. He is made to stand on a beautifully made rangoli (vyug) in the compound of the house, where parents , relatives and friends put garlands made of fresh plucked flowers, of cardamom and currency notes round the groom’s neck. A cousin holds a flower-decked umbrella to protect the groom against evil. Conch-shells are blown, ditties are sung and the groom’s party moves towards the bride’s place usually in cars and other modes of transport.
Conch-shells announces the arrival of the groom and his party at the bride’s place where the lane leading to the main entrance of the house is beautifully decorated with colourful flowers and dyed saw-dust. Upon entering the compound of the bride’s house, the groom is welcomed by traditional songs sung by the bride’s relations. He is put on a rangoli where the bride draped in a colourful Silk Saree is made to stand beside him on his left side. There is another round of garlanding from the girl’s relatives. Then the mother of the bride comes with a thali of small lighted lamps made of kneaded rice flour and an assortment of sweets and makes the groom and the bride eat from the same piece of sweet, a couple of times. After this the bride is taken back into the house and the groom is made to stand at the main door of the house for a short dvaar puja, ‘door–prayer’. The groom’s party joins the bride’s relatives in a rich feast. Meanwhile the bride and the groom are seated in a beautifully decorated room for a series of rituals and ceremonies amidst chanting of Sanskrit mantras for several hours with little breaks in between. During these ceremonies, the bride is supported by her maternal uncle. The purohits of the two families recite mantras and make the bride, groom and their parents perform a number of rituals with fire (agni) as the witness. The boy and the girl vow to live together in prosperity and adversity, in joy as well as in sorrow until death seperates them. Lagan, as this ceremony is called, is followed by posh puja ‘showering of flowers’ in which a red shawl, held at four edges by four people, is spread over the bride and the groom and amidst recitation of shlokas all the elderly people shower flowers on the two ‘devtas’. After this ceremony, the bride and the groom are taken to the kitchen and made to eat from the same plate.
A rangoli is drawn on the floor of the compound and the bride and the groom are made to stand on it. Now the bride joins the groom to the groom’s place where yet another rangoli is drawn and the bride and the groom are again made to stand on it. Here the groom’s party relaxes and the bride is made to wear ‘aTh’, the gold chain that is attached to dejhuur. Her hair and head-gear (tarangI) are tied and she is made to wear a saree given to her by the groom’s family.
After this, they return to the bride’s place with a small party comprising groom’s father, brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, and a couple of friends. She is now a guest at her parent’s place. The groom’s party asks the bride’s parents to send her (the bride) to her family (the in-laws). After a small tea party, the party leaves for the groom’s place. A younger brother/ sister/ cousin of the bride accompanies the party to the groom’s place. On the next day, depending upon the mahuurat (auspicious day), the newly married couple visits the wife’s parents. This visit is known as ‘satraath or ‘phirI saal. Upon reaching the wife’s parent’s place, the man and wife are welcomed with aalath – a thali with water, rice, coins and flowers.
The nuptials in their utterances, promises, and hopes symbolize a great social transition in the life of the bride and the bridegroom. They have to earn their own livelihood, procreate children and discharge their obligations towards Gods, parents, children and other creatures of the world. The nuptial ceremonies address all aspects of married life: biological, physical, and mental.
During the first year of marriage, the girl’s parents send gifts to the groom in the form of cash, clothes, sweets, fruits, & cooked food. This is being sent on a number of occasions like birthday(prasad in the form of walnuts and baked bread etc.) Shivratri (herIts boog), Janamashtami and Diwali ( fruits, sweets etc), KhetsI maavas (pulaav etc.) etc. During the month of Magar, a special ceremony known as shishur is solemnized. On this occassion the bride is provided with a special kangri-'a brazier used during winter', and shishur 'til seeds wrapped in a piece of silk'. On this day, close relatives, especially ladies are invited and the girl’s parents send gifts to their daughter in the form of clothes or cash.
The marriage ceremony of a Muslim has great resemblance to that of a Hindu. Even here the services of a match-maker are availed to get a suitable bride. After the match is fixed, the betrothal ceremony, known as Nishan, takes place in which the groom’s father, with some relatives, visits and takes presents to the girl’s house. The visit is later paid back by the bride’s father and her relatives. Later a date is fixed for the marriage, which is duly solemnized in the Nikah ceremony in which the priest delivers a sermon highlighting the purpose behind the marriage. In the same ceremony a formal consent is elicited from the groom and the bride and the amount of Mehr (dowry) to be paid by the groom to the bride is fixed. On the preceding day of marriage, the groom’s father sends some mehndi to the bride’s house with which she stains her feet and hands, while the women folk sing traditional folk songs. This night of celebrations and dying the hands and feet is known as Menzhat (The night of applying mehndi). Next day, the groom visits the bride’s house alongwith his friends and relatives (Baratis) and a feast is served to the guests. After the feast is over, the Rukhsati or departure of the bride to her father-in-law’s house takes place. A female relative known as dudh moj accompanies the bride who gives her instructions regarding the formalities to be observed. On reaching her father-in-law’s house, the bride is taken to a room which is specially decorated for her. After the bride’s arrival, her mother-in-law takes the veil off the bride’s face and, at the same time, the bride passes on a handkerchief containing some golden ornament or cash to her and this is regarded as the mother-in-law’s perquisite or hash-kant. A great feast is served on this day in the groom’s house in which the world famous and choicest wazwan dishes are served.
When a person breathes his / her last, his/her mortal remains are washed in water. and cotton buds are put into his / her ears and nostrils. A coin is placed at its lips. The whole body is covered in a white shroud and tied with a thread (nEEryvan). The body is then placed on a plank of wood and four persons take the coffin on their shoulders to the cremation ground. The eldest son of the deceased carries an earthen pitcher in his hand and leads the coffin. The coffin is placed on the ground near the cremation ground, and the family members, relatives and friends are allowed to have a last glimpse of the deceased’s face. The coffin is then taken to the cremation ground and put on a pyre. It is the duty of the eldest son to light the pyre. From the second day of one’s death, for about eight days, the eldest son or daughter of the departed one, call upon their departed father/mother a couple of times, asking him :
boch maa ləjii baboo/məəje ! 'Are you hungry father/mother ?' treesh maa ləjii baboo / məəje ! 'Are you thirsty father/ mother ?' tIIr maa ləjii baboo / məəje! 'Are you feeling cold father/ mother ?'
On the fourth day of cremation, the sons, relatives and family friends go to the cremation ground to gather ashes (EsrakI). It is immersed into a nearby river / stream and a part of it is put in an earthen pitcher and taken to Haridwar for immersion in the holy Ganges.
On the 10th day, the sons of the deceased along with relatives and the family purohit go to a river bank where sons’ heads are shaved and a Shraadha is performed. On the 11th day, the sons and daughters perform an elaborate shraadha under the guidance of a purohit. The ceremony ends with aahuuti given to agni invoking almost all the deities, major rivers, temple towns, mountains, and lakes of South Asia. On this day the daughters too pay dakshina to the purohit and arrange food for the families of their brothers. Favourite vegetarian food is prepared in the name of the deceased. Burning of oil lamps on this day is meant to provide light to the deceased in the 'other' world.
For the first three months, a shraadha is performed for every fifteen days i.e. on the 30th , 45th, 60th , 75th and 90th day of deathAn elaborate shraadha is held on the 180th day (Shadmoos), 6th month. The shraadha on the first death anniversary (vəharvəəD) too is an elaborate one. On this day the close kins of the deceased one assemble to perform both shadmoos and vəharvəəD. After this, a shraadha is performed every year on the death anniversary.
Muslims believe in the life after death. When a Muslim approaches his death, he is laid on bed with his head towards the north or east. After death, the corpse is bathed and wrapped in white cloth (Kafan). The body is then carried in a coffin (Tabut) to the graveyard where it is buried in the grave. At the time of burial, quranic verses are recited by the side of the grave and supplications and prayers are made for the departed soul. There is active mourning in the family of the dead for three days and on the fourth day chaharum is observed.
The birth ceremony of a Hindu is an elaborate one, with mystic figures chalked on the floor, fire, pots and pestle being worshipped. The exact time and date of birth is carefully noted by the family astrologer. On the fourth day of the child’s birth, a special feast composed of sesame, walnuts and sugar fried in oil, is prepared and sent to relatives and friends. It is called te:l Panjiri. On the same day mother’s parents send some special food to their daughters house. On the 7th day, the ceremony of bathing the mother and the child (Sundar Sran) is performed and on this same day the naming ceremony takes place. On the eleventh day, the house is swept and the bed is remade. The family Brahmin is called and a ceremony called kah Netar is performed in which the mother takes five products of the cow, namely, milk, butter, ghee, dung and urine, thus purifying herself. A hawan is also performed on this day. Special vegetarian/ nonvegetarian dishes are prepared on the occassion. Pieces of paper (burzI) are burnt in an earthen plate to ward off evil. Seven plates of special food are served to the paternal aunts of the baby. This is exclusively a women’s ceremony. On this day the mother’s parents send ‘trIy phot’ (wife’s basket) which contains clothes, rotis, sugar, spices, cash for the newborn, and its parents and grandparents. The astrologers cast the child’s horoscope (Zatuk). When the child is of one month , the ceremony called masInethIr is observed. The ears of the child are pierced in its sixth month. On this day food is distributed among relatives and friends. In the third year, the ceremony known as Zara Kasa is performed. When the male child attains seven years of age, the thread ceremony called Mekhal or Yagnopavit is observed and from then the child is considered a true Brahmin. This is considered the beginning of Brahmachari life, the first stage of Hindu life where knowledge and wisdom are attained. After this, the Guru (family-purohit) whispers the Gayatri Mantra and the child is directed to recite this mantra every morning after bath. The family priest invokes the protection of sixty four deities. The boy stands on a mystic figure drawn on the ground while the women sing around him and coins are shed over this head. He is then taken to the riverbank where he performs his first prayer ceremony (Sandhya).
As far as the dress of early inhabitants of Kashmir is concerned, there exists literary as well as archaeological evidence. According to this evidence "the costume of the male population consisted of a lower garment (adhararan sukha), an upper garment (angaraksaka) and turban (sirahasta." (S.R. Bakhshi, 1996, Kashmir Through Ages).
There is little difference in the dress worn by Muslims and Hindus. Both Muslims and Hindus are seen wearing the local kurtan’ ye:za:rI or pə:Ia:mI shalwar-kameez. The ordinary headdress of a common Kashmiri is a cotton skullcap. Muslim women wear Phirak-yezar (lady suit) while as Hindu women opt for Sari.
The nature of the dress varies according to the season. In the winters, they wear garments made of wool, while as in summer cotton garments are used. The low temperature of the winter compels people to employ woolen Pherans (Kashmiri gowns), which spreads from the neck and extends to cover knees. It helps to "exclude the air and to keep in the heat of the Kangar when a man sits down on the ground" (Walter Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir, P. 251).
Ka:ngIr forms an indispensable part of Kashmiri culture. It is “a small earthenware bowl of a quaint shape, held in a frame of wicker-work.” (Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir). With hot embers in it, it is used under Pheran to keep a person warm during freezing cold winters. Besides the Pheran, woolen blankets and shawls are also frequently used during the winters.
In their make-up and nature, Kashmiri garments are unique and unparalleled. However, it needs to be said that due to the cultural impact of the west, Kashmiri youth are now adopting the western dress at a very rapid rate. Also the well-to-do and the government employees are at ease wearing the western suits so much so that pants, coats, jackets and T-shirts are no longer seen as alien to the Kashmiri culture.
The women of Kashmir, like any other woman, do not lag behind in their fondness for ornaments. The various kinds of ornaments worn by them include anklets, bracelets, earrings, necklaces etc. These ornaments are generally made of gold and silver but "sometimes beautiful colours of flowers and leaves and fruits are designed by studding jewellery with precious and semi-precious stones, shades such as jade, agate, turquise, rubies and the gold stone. There are necklaces made in yellow base metal, set with imitation emeralds and sapphires." (G.M.O. Sufi, 1996, Kashir (A History of Kashmir) Vol. II, New Delhi, Capital Publishing House) The Kashmiri ornaments are unique in their designs and "are unlike those of other places, that is, kaleidoscopic arrangement of geometric figures. On the other hand they carry the forms of products like almond, grapes, cherries and birds like myna, sparrow and bulbul. On these ornaments are not engraved horrifying figures of snakes, dragons and wild animals." (Wakhlu Somnath, 1998, The Rich Heritage of Jammu & Kashmir, New Delhi : Gyan Publishing House) In Sufi’s words, "The Kashmiri jewellers seem to have had nature as their model in most ornaments." (G.M.D. Sufi ............................)
Central Asia has influenced the jewellery making of Kashmir valley to a greater extent. The influence of Mughals can also be easily traced.
The ornaments worn by Hindus and Muslims are, to a great extent, alike. These include the ornaments of head, ear, neck and wrists. The ornaments of the head include jiggni and tikka, which are worn on the forehead. They are generally triangular, semi-circular and circular in shape and are made of gold and silver and are fringed with hanging pearls and gold leaves.
The ornaments of the ear include Bala, Deji-hor, Atahor, Kanadoor, Jumaka, Deji-hor and Kana-Vaji. Deji-hor is an indispensable ornament for Kashmiri Hindu married women, as it symbolizes hindu wedlock. Halqa-band, Kanthi, Sagalar, necklace, tulsi, raz are ornaments for the neck.
The ornaments for wrists include bangar, gunus, dula, kor etc. They are made of solid gold and silver.
Mere cultural survey of a nation cannot be confined to the study of religion, literature and art of a particular place. It includes a gamut of other things like food and drink, dress and ornaments etc. Food system of a community forms one of the important aspects of culture of that community.
Kashmiris are gross eaters. Majority of the Muslims of the valley are non-vegetarians even Hindus are very rare vegetarian.
Rice and knolkhol (haakh-batI) are the traditional stable diet of Kashmiris. The use of a wide variety of spices, e.g., aniseed powder, turmeric powder, chilly powder, ginger powder,black-pepper, cardamom, saffron etc., is very common among Kashmiris. Besides knolkhol they relish beans, potato, spinach, lotus-stalk, sonchal, raddish, turnip, cabbage, cauliflower, wild mushroom cheese, and an assortment of local greens like liisI, vopal haakh, nunar, vosti haakh, hand. However, the main specaility of Kashmiri cuisiue is non-vegetarian food. The major non-vegetarian preparations of the KP include kəliyi, roganjosh, matsh, kabar gah,yakhIny, tabakh naaTI, tsok tsarwan etc.
Rice serves as the main staple food for Kashmiris. The chief staple food of the valley include rice and other grains cooked as porridge, or ground into flour and made into bread, vegetables, oil, salt and pepper. The boiled rice is taken with vegetables or mutton. Being found in abundance, poultry (fowls, ducks and geese) is frequently used. Fish is also heir favourite food.
Kashmiris are very fond of tea, which may be either salty or sweet. Salt tea is commonly found here but Kahwa (sweet tea) of Kashmir is known for its taste.
Kashmir is very famous for its fruits. The apple, pear, plum, peach, apricot are the principal fruit products of the valley. Kashmiri dry fruits like almonds, walnuts etc., are famous world over. Among the spices used pepper, black-pepper, ginger etc may be mentioned.
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