Archive for the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Tourism’ Category

Tral bursts in Bhangraa in Kashmir’s militancy hotbed / Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images 


Screenshot JP Wedding Tral Kashmir 30Oct17.jpg

Follow Up

Tral bursts in Bhangraa in Kashmir’s militancy hotbed /

Rashmi Talwar

Wedding venue at village Dharam Gund of Tral district sounded terrifying. Tral, in Pulwama District of South Kashmir, a hotbed of militancy, raised not just worried eyebrows, but a verbal outrage in my family. Tral was home to militant commander Burhan Wani, whose house was merely 8-Kms from the wedding venue, and who’s killing by army triggered mass protests and brought several more to their graves, in a bloody aftermath since July 2016. Tourism to Kashmir remained at a standstill, ever since. The region was reporting armed militant-army encounters almost daily in the media.

However, the ‘Open Invitation’ by Jatinder Pal Singh (JP) a Facebook friend, had stirred senses. The Invite, encompassed entire FB world seemed- daring, lofty, imaginative and unimaginable.

Bashir Damna, an adventurer of Jammu-Kashmir expressed on JP’s FB wall “Open Invite has gone viral and become the talk of the town. So many guests will create law and order problem and authorities were thinking of imposing restrictions.” To Which Drcm Seth, a friend, jestingly wrote “JP has invited everybody including militants. For three days militants can enjoy marriage party and then can start their routine activities.” The last comment was not so funny anymore.

But the thought of a -‘village wedding’, virgin landscapes, living a part of village life, to participate in quaint rituals and the ‘Bhangraa in the Mountains’ was extremely enticing. JP had loftily assured all security, but it had to be experienced yet. Call it divine-infused guts with an open mind.

Throughout the flight, apprehension gripped, till final touchdown at Srinagar airport. The weather was lulling and the last of autumn flowers bloomed all over in the city of the Dal Lake and Shikaras. “Though the weather seemed to calm my frayed nerves, but the flowers – got me thinking – ‘Maybe I too shall become the last of the autumn blooms!’.

Srinagar to Tral

Bundling into a waiting vehicle, we zoomed alongside rock quarries of Pantha Chowk onto Awatipora.

On the way, enormous ruins of Awantiswami and Avantishwar Temples, a kilometre apart built by King Awanti Varman (AD 855-883) glorious specimen of rich Kashmiri Architecture, described as in colonnaded peristyle, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively, fascinated me. In a gesture of folded hands I prayed for safety and peace in Kashmir as well as in my home, even as antics of dolloping Jhelum River in serpentine cuddles, flushed with Chinars and pines on its edges, tried to charm me.

My mind remained occupied with thoughts of shootings and bombs as we neared the venue village Dharam Gund, 50 Kms from the airport. Passing through Tral Township, someone pointed out – “That’s Burhan Wani’s house!” and I turned my face away, not to look at the home of the poster boy of militancy in Kashmir, and instead thought about this beauteous region that had seen immense suffering.

Countryside

Glowing sunlight turned soft as we arrived in the countryside. ‘Aa gaye Gaon’! The driver exclaimed and I noted- Kashmiri Sikhs call it Gaon not Pind as Punjabi Sikhs refer to villages. Dharam Gund spreads across 60 hectares of rich walnut belt and tilling fields. “Trees here touch skies at above 70 feet, and produce choicest walnuts”, I am told. Cutting through fields flush with ripened Dhaan or shelly or rice crop, I was to see – tiny charming traditional haystack-barns called Goyen (Kashmiri) Thipree (Punjabi Kashmiri) or Musal in Punjab field-scapes, dotting the charming Tral countryside.

The harvested fields, sentried by Wasturvan Mountain range of Himalayas, through which silently flowed the Lam Nallah, a vast spread of river fed by snowmelt and rainfall, bringing in the charming scenic romance. It seemed the busiest month at harvesting, threshing, drying, stacking, rolling to make Giddis and Thiprees to stock grain and fodder simultaneously. Families pitch in, tiffins seen arriving from home, feeding sinuous homeworkers and women bulwarking the threshing. The Gaon is charming, a hamlet of about 500 souls sheltered in 94 homes.

Traditional Welcome

We reached JP’s home through an incredibly beautiful tree covered village and the scene changes – the groom’s grandmother rushes to the door, grabs a fistful, circles it around my head and let the sweet sugar-coated gram fall in a shower over me, hugs and announces – “Jee aya nu” – “Welcome In!” Seeing my surprised look, someone comments- “This is sweet stone-pelleting Kashmiri-Sikh Ishtyle.” And a round of laughter makes me a warm part of Jatinder Pal Singh’s wedding. The welcome ritual – is a sadka of keeping evil spirit at bay. It was one of the most beautiful welcomes, warming the cockles of my heart and served to successfully banish the hesitation and family teasers back home.

My family fatigued over not making me see sense in travelling to Tral had alternately tried a different tactic – “Begani Shaadi Mein Abdullah Diwana” and another –“Praii Janjh Ehmak Nachey” a refrain oft used in North India, meaning: Getting upbeat or crazily cherry in the wedding celebration of an unknown person! Indeed, I had ventured for the Wedding celebration- at an unknown place, of an unknown person, among unknown people and add to it -an unknown fate.

Traditions and Rituals

During my stay, I learned that many traditions among Kashmiri Sikh community are a mixture of Kashmiri and Punjabi culture. However I gauged, that village rituals and customs had a unique depth. Anticipating new life from conjoining a new couple the wedding rituals seek to blend the Human with the Glorious Creator through the medium of Mother Earth, praying for newlyweds to lead a life intertwined with environs and its values.

At dusk, the dhol beats resound through the mountains ushering a call. A signal and everyone hurries. Ceremony of Mitti Khodna is about to begin. At the wedding home, the groom JP- a software engineer, is himself creating the traditional basket with tinsel and LED light strips around it and a matching tinselled tiny spade. Someone comments –“Get LED lights for Shivala di pagri!” (Groom’s turban) everyone breaks into giggling merriment. Incidentally, Punjabi Sikhs refer to the groom and bride as Laraa and Voti, among Kashmiri Sikhs the couple is referred as Shivala and Boti, while the sarbala– young boy accompanying the groom in Punjabi weddings, is the ‘dost’ in Kashmiri weddings.

Dharam Bhen, walnuts & rituals

Dharam Bhen’ or sister by faith- Komal GB Singh with another friend Inderjit, lifts the LED embellished twinkling basket filled with walnuts, on her shoulder leading a procession near village Gurdwara. Soil is dug and put into a container with crimson Gulal water. Alternately, five walnuts are placed into the dug soil and covered. “It is an offering of walnuts to Mother Earth to succour them to sprout. Somebody shouts to the walnuts- “Tuhade vicho ek zaroor phutna chaida hai, Changa!” (One of you walnuts should sprout, Ok!) Hinting at fertility of the newlyweds, drawing chuckles around.

Boisterous Bhangraa follows and I am surprised to see Muslim families too join the dance. The procession then proceeds to the Gurdwara and Sikh symbol is written on a foundation wall using the Gulal soil with a twig, seeking blessings for the wedding. Basket is carried to a lower room where again the Sikh symbol is written on a placard with dates and names of the couple as a keepsake called Chappa –hand impression.

Rajbeer Singh, pursuing his PhD in Folk culture, explains to a curious me, the significance of some rituals- “In case of a mishap for groom or the bride, the Dharam Bhen or Dost are bound to take on the mantle of spouse of the survivor.” He also explained another mysterious ritual –“When a Bhabhi or brother’s wife applies Surma to the groom’s eyes, she indicates to draw a line of black, henceforth breaking all jesty relationships with her brother-in-law to emerge as an equal owner in the household”,

Teaser beats

As the deep tangerine sun vanishes behind the bluish mountain line, it leaves streaks of orange hues blazing on the greying skies. JP’s house twinkles with strings of fairy lights, and the Shamiana or Kashmiri tent, shimmers. The two Jammu Dholis start teasing with niki niki (soft, soft) beats, the boys step in, beats take on vigour, and the Bhangraa starts. Women rush to the in-lines of the Shamiana, to reserve the place with the best- view on the carpeted floors. The Bhangraa now is in full steam, rips and rattles, moves and shakes and women are pulled in, with whacky Punjabi bolis and tappas, to become one joyous night.

High sex ratio

In Sikh faith, women are known to participate in work and pleasure equally alongside men. So is the scene here in Tral, where 88 residing families out of 94 are Sikhs. Even the six Muslim families assimilate and happily join in the Punjabi dance with equal heartiness. Religious taboos are less visible. It is not surprising that Population Census 2011 boasts of high gender ratio with 930 females to 1000 males, in Sikh dominated village Dharam Gund. Boys in the village are increasingly shunning Dowry offers, thus creating an equal playground for the female gender. The work coordination amongst genders is equally distributed.

PS: Its night and we need to return in groups- reason: “If not the militants, you can surely be mauled by a Bear attack, if you venture alone in the dark,” a stark second biggest threat in this tree laden valley.

Sunrise and plentiful

I open my eyes the next morning, in the beautiful house of Ishpal Singh, an orchard landlord, agriculturist and a teacher, his lively wife Dali Kour, endearing daughter Kiranpal and son Rajbeer are my lovely hosts. Theirs is one of the most enviable homes in the village. A home with a fabulous garden outlined by a rivulet of pure spring water encircling, a quaint little cow-shed and home entirely self-sustaining with umpteenth vegetables, apples, pears, vegetable oil, milk, ghee, butter and even home produced honey with indigenous earthen honey-hives on its terrace and of course loads of walnuts.

The host allows me to pluck the day’s apples, and choicest vegetables- Collard Greens, Brinjals, green chillies. The house is already stocked with pickles, onions, potatoes, garlic, and a host of unkeep-able list of stocks including dried vegetables from last season. In less than half an hour delicious dishes of Haakh, Bringals and Achari Allu with special Kashmiri walnut and radish chutney are ready. Noon Chai or salty tea is a preferred concoction to ordinary tea.

Paani and Kangan

Today is ‘Pani Bharna’ ceremony and water is filled in a Ghaggar– earthen vessel, also titled as Garooli rituals in homes of Punjabi Sikhs. The groom bathed with this water drawn from the Gurdwara considered nectar, is applied turmeric paste for an extra glow. Kangan ritual performed with the groom worn a Gold Karra gifted by bride’s family.

The bride in her home, simultaneously is undergoing the same rituals with her multiple braided hair being un-braided with a lilting song – Mera Siraa na kholyoo mindri, mera ehi kunwariyaa da bhes” (Do not untie my braids, this is my unmarried appearance) apprehensive to enter into the married life of responsibilities and duties. She too is worn the Kangan or bangles, Jhumkas and Chunari – earrings and veil, gifted by the groom’s family.

A Chawal-Giri Prasad (soaked uncooked rice and nuts food offering) is distributed to all guests, while in Punjab Karra Prasad is the norm made from semolina-wheat ghee and sugar.

Public Reception

Earlier, a huge reception lunch is hosted for the entire village and outstation invitees. With music of hit Punjabi numbers belted out by a DJ arranged from Jammu, synchronized with Dhol beats, Bhangraa troops in full blast. Close family menfolk lovingly serve a sit-in Wazwan or the Wedding treat, in individual thalis or plates to baraatis, contrary to Kashmiri Muslims weddings – where Tramis – a large plate shared by four, is used to serve Wazwan on carpeted floors. Special guests are given the sadka welcome with modern candies or fistful of dry-fruit as in Kashmiri Muslim weddings.

Missing Wanwun

However Wanwun or Kashmiri songs for auspicious occasions are missing. These songs to the accompaniment of folk instrument Tumbaknaer or the goblet drum of Kashmir are sung at auspicious occasions in Kashmiri Muslim and Pandit households including in weddings. Somebody tells me-“In recent times the Wanwun seems to be sullied, sung as it was for funerals of killed militants”.

Militancy & Education

The thought of Wanwun, brings back the topic of militants. Shobha Singh, a village elder, also the village’s pride as first matriculate in 1960 and first engineer of the village in 1964 from Kota, Rajasthan, on a query, as to what do villagers do if militants forcefully seek shelter in their homes, tells me- “Militants enter homes of sympathizers or someone they know and feel secure in, they never enter Sikh homes or villages with Sikh population. Also, at every 6-8 Kms is an army camp which is also a source of strength for us. Basically Sikhs are peace loving and self-sustaining and hardly pose any threat to militants even though Sikhs are traditionally a martial race.

Sikh population abounds in Chattogam, Saimoh, Ladybal, Basantpora, Gulshanpora, Gaddpora and of course Dharam Gund among the 24 villages of District Tral,” he adds. On the side, Shobha Singh tells me, there was never an incident of civilian killing by a militant in the village. This bit of information, gives me a huge reprieve from the fear psychosis.

However, I notice, migration is evident. Many Sikh families have built homes in Srinagar for job convenience and easy access to educational institutes. Many young ones have taken flight due to education in other states and subsequent jobs in big cities. – Surprised over many village children pursuing higher studies, Shobha Singh who started the trend, nods – “Literacy rate of the village is an impressive high at 71.2 %.”

This is true, although the figure dates back to Government Census 2011; a high literacy factor is soundly legitimatized, as any girl-boy from the village, I meet, is pursuing Masters, MBA or PhD. It a comforting feeling of villages getting educated, yet migration arouses deep concern.

Mehandiratt – Night of the Henna

Turning back to celebrations, the same night ushers in the celebration of Mehandiratt or Maanziaraath or Night of the Henna, a tradition, amazingly followed by all hues of Kashmiris- Muslim, Hindu, Pandit or Sikh although with slight difference. Among the Sikhs here, the groom is applied Mehandi or Henna on hands and the impression is left on the keepsake. Then he is publically applied Mehandi on hands and feet with a large currency garland around his neck. The shagun or gift of rupees is stuck on his pagri with pins, by relatives and friends. This ritual is hardly seen amongst Punjabi Sikhs and moreover considered feminine.
Boisterous Bhangraa again follows and this is the third night of Bhangraa that shows no sign of declining, rather being the last night, dancing carries through midnight. Interestingly, as we walk to the wedding venue in the dark with our mobile torchlights, the group knocks on all enroute doors not only to go together as a bigger group but also due to the larger fear of bear attacks and not militants.

Wedding

On the fourth day the wedding procession or Baraat heads for Srinagar in a cavalcade of cars, with select people. The groom’s car is decorated and reaches the Alluchabagh Gurdwara. Except for dhol no music band plays, no mounting the horseback. With milni or hugging introduction, of close relatives from both sides, the wedding ceremony of Anand Karaj begins and is a solemn affair. The couple circumbulates the holy Sikh book Guru Granth Sahib four times and after offerings, the couple is announced man and wife.

Shobha Singh tells me of the times of his grandfather –“In Kashmir during my grandfather’s times, the Hindu Pandit used to perform Sikh weddings with circumbulation around the holy fire to the chanting of Sanskrit Shaloks, decades later, Sikh tradition of Anand Karaj was brought into practice”.

JP’s take on the open invitation

JP’s idea for an Open Invitation was -“To bring people who want to visit or love Kashmir, on an all paid visit. I offered to host as many as those who can traverse and dare to come for this ‘cultural -adventure’.

Call it a service for my Kashmir which has hardly seen any robust tourism, as it used to be. Lately, tourists of most hues are mortally fearful of visiting Kashmir, affected by adverse reports in popular media. However I am happy 13 friends and 70 more outstation baraatis came from different areas including from parts of Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi and Punjab”.

Last Take

JP’s grace didn’t let him single me out but among all invitees, I was the lone unknown face. Days in the lovely valley had banished fears of militant attacks.

The scenic charm of the countryside was something to die for. Lofty mountains like guards over rippling riverside, running hens and roosters, grazing horses, climbing high on the trees and shaking them for a walnut shower, lolling on the boulders near the waters, trekking along the waterways. Each one those times became so special.

On the way back, holding tight memories and bags of walnut gifts, one by a poor domestic help of Ishpal’s home lovingly called Begum Fikri (One who is gripped by worries) whose dimpled smile and ever ready dancing, showed no signs of any worry, I felt, a part of the Gaon clung on to me, complete with its warmth, its love shower and its sweet stone pelleting.

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com 
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Kargil-V Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, A Walk Into The Past/By Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Munshi Aziz Museum Part VDATELINE KARGIL PART V

Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, A Walk Into The Past 
Rashmi Talwar

The sun became milder taking on a tangerine halo. As we returned to Kargil, I was to learn a Hill-folk jugaad- Reversing the vehicle deep into a waterfall on the road, gave a fabulous car-wash! The trade through silk route was etched along waterways and rivers; Munshi Aziz Bhat was one such towering Silk Route trader, a pioneer, visionary, social entrepreneur and above all a collector.

Sarai- a treasure trove

Along the gushing Suru River, Munshi Aziz Bhat built a Caravan Sarai in 1920 and a wooden bridge over the raging river. The three storied Sarai besides serving as an Inn for travellers and traders from Kashmir, Tibet, China, India and Central Asia, had seven shops set up by Bhat. The ground floor used as stable for rest and feed to transport animals and a comfort zone for exchange of goods, cultures and news. Rich and precious wares along with commodities were bartered or bargained. A treasure trove of these collections was accidently discovered by Bhat’s grandson Ajaz Hussain Munshi. “We were about to raze the old Sarai building but ended up curating its treasures into –‘Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian and Kargil Trade Artefacts’.

The story went like this – “A mason chanced upon a sizeable turquoise in the Sarai building and informed us. My father, who was ill at the time, told us about many such possessions and goods lying in the basement of the Sarai. Around this time a researcher Jacqueline Fewkes came looking for us, she had letters in her possession from my grandfather. That was a turning and starting point of the museum set up in 2004,” Ajaz, its curator tells us, and adds “ In 2005 the museum that was then supported by India Foundation for the Arts and Roots Collective, attracted researcher Latika Gupta to Kargil as its curator. The result was a building designed to look like a thriving old market, above our home!”

Walk into History

I walk the trail to the museum, which is just a few steep steps ascending, shadowed by leaves of fruiting ripe apricots and still-green baby grapes. The view from here is spectacular of mountains overlooking the Suru River.

The museum proved an exceptional glimpse into the Indian and Central Asian trader-culture of 19th and early 20th centuries. Collection of artefacts and mercantile, exhibit the enormous range, apart from services, jingling their merry ways, on many maritime and overland trajectories of Silk Route, by traders. Adding on to the story –“The traders were as varied as their buttons ! – Punjabis and Kashmiris, Afghanis and Persians, Chinese and Tibetans, Spaniards and Somalians, Egyptians and Italians rubbed shoulders, broke bread and bartered and bargained for goods with Dardis, Argons, Baltis, Bohto, Purkis, Tajiks and Uzbeks. One can imagine the loads and varieties of goods that arrived here.

Many such items were stored in the Sarai. We found some 4,000 pieces dating back to 1800s, and set up the exhibits along with my brother, Gulzar Hussain Munshi as Director and Muzammil Hussain Munshi as its outreach programmer,” the Curator of the museum fills in.
Interestingly, “Munshi Aziz Bhat, was once the official petition drafter for Maharaja of Kashmir, before he ventured into trade which was mostly then controlled by Punjabi Sikhs and Hoshiarpuri Hindu Lalas. Kargil Khazana, Resham Raasta and the Sarai, encased the narrative of life in Kargil- a melting pot of trades.” Ajaz explained –“Kargil is a nodal point, equidistance from both Leh and Srinagar, in addition to links with Tibet, China, through Gilgit-Baltistan to Afghanistan, gave it an enviable position in Karakoram ranges lower than Himalayas comparatively being an easier passage for traders,” Ajaz pools in, while showing us horse saddles from British times, bridals, drapings, camel trappings, horse foot nails from ‘Mustang & Sons’ and equine accessories of yore. Besides polo sticks and balls, helmets and gloves.

Plant that preserves

I lift up a dry twig, placed in every glass enclosure of artefacts, clothing, paper testaments -everywhere– “what is this?” “It’s dried Khampa twig to prevent critters, moths, beetles, termite, silver fish and every other bug”, and I learn another hill folk nuskha – prescription.

Memorabilia

The mercantile turned memorabilia is an enduring peek into lives of merchants, horsemen, herders, pilgrims, artisans, nomads, travellers and farmers that despatched and received essentials and the luxurious. Besides this, the path saw many a wayfarer, besides potters, weavers, jewellers, blacksmiths, cooks, porters, even pimps, prostitutes and Princes. “The overland and sea silk routes were famous during the reign of Alexander the Great and Han Dynasty in China and became a transcontinental thoroughfare for goods transported using horses, mules and donkeys, to camels and yaks, besides on foot”, feeds in the curator.

I am completely astonished by packets of chemical dyes of Batakh brand from my hometown Amritsar, from late 19th century, the brand carried through 60s and 70s too.
Munshi holds one of the three jade pieces –“This is a ‘Zehr Mohra’ cup that detects any poison by changing colour of the brew.” Then removing his ring, he pulled a whole yarn of Dhaka Malmal’- one of the most prized fabrics produced in Bangladesh, and made it pass smoothly through the ring.

A gramophone of 1905 by Columbia, a lantern dating to year of Indo-China war of 1962, German petromax lantern, huge stone cauldrons and giant ladles used during festivities, samovars and bukharis from Bukhara, a pair of colourful socks from Yarkand, opium snuff-boxes from all over and their dainty cases are all here.

“We even have documentary proof that the King of Hapur in Skardu owes 6,000 in silver currency to my grandfather,” Ajaz laughs showing us a rare Russian 100 rouble that made its way to Kargil measuring 48 sq inch rectangle.

The artefacts range is extensive, Nanakshahi coins and currencies of the world, jewellery, carpets, hosiery, utensils, clothing, armoury to paintings and manuscripts. Assorted caps – Kashmiri, Karakul, Tajik, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Mangolian, Turkish, Balti and Glass Shades from Yugoslavia, Germany and England too are displayed in the Museum.

Trends and Happiness quotient

Many types of merchandise set up trends for the elite. If one was to serve Hookah, Yarkand ones were considered the best. If rugs were to be bought they had to be the Kashgar ones, thus silks from Khotan, buttons and combs from Italy, “every item hides a story of its travels” the museum director Gulzar Hussain Munshi believes. Similar were the inclinations for food- as in salt from Akshai Chin, spices from Hind, Rice from Kashmir. It was thus fashionable to serve Tea from Tibet and Apricots from Skardu.

Kargil’s large heartedness is evident in their hospitality, in not over-charging tourists and visitors, their Happiness quotient thus, is high, which manifests itself in the fact that many additions to the museum were free contributions from the local populace, for instance, a recent gift of hand-written Koran along with precious Tibetan manuscripts claimed by owner to be about 600 years old. Ravinder Nath and his wife Madhubala the lone Hindu family of Kargil gifted the family’s prized possession – a “Passport” issued to Ravinder’s grandfather Amar Chand – which reads – Lala Amarchand resident of Jahan Kalan, Hoshiarpur, issued by the order of ‘Her Majesty Counsel General at Kashgar’- British Subject by Law”. It may be one of the rarest of passports. Once the museum attracted attention, the tourism department too promoted it and along with that came the trust. Thus, locals who were suspicious of antique proxies started contributing voluntarily. “No one has ever asked me for money,” Ajaz beams with pride.

Photographic memory

The photographic display of Italian geographer and explorer Giotto Dainelli taken in 1904, of rows of caravans of camels, mules and horses – carrying traders along this historic route, did set the stage for documenting the precious history of the bubbling cauldron of trade. This is amply supplemented by Rupert Wilmot’s collection -‘The lost world of Ladakh Early Photographic journey 1931-34,’ as a feast, to draw and delight generations.

On Heritage track

The incredible wheel of trade may have been clogged by war-boundaries, but the trodden paths have left in their tracks, a treasure chest of exquisite heritage that Kargil sits on, waiting to be explored and showcased for the world.
The scorching heat melts, dipping into light cirrus clouds, the smouldering light of the morn, curls and spirals into a dramatic sky theatre before curtains call. Unquestionably, tomorrow is just a wink away when silk rays will again draft a new Horizon; every snowflake will reveal its story. To inquisitive tourists, descending upon this region to peek into Kargil’s glorious past of Emperors, Kings and Queens, of palaces and forts, sculptors and faiths, savouring its surreal tales and exquisite beauty.

Rashmi Talwar, is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL:http://dailykashmirimages.com/Details/149180/munshi-aziz-bhat-museum-a-walk-into-the-past?

Photos : KT Hosain Ibn Khalo

Kargil-III Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans/By Rashmi Talwar/Kashmir Images


Screenshot Aryans Part III.jpgDateline Kargil III
Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans

Rashmi Talwar

(CONTINUED)

Road to Double way traffic

• The traditional pastoralists have given up on rearing goats and sheep, and now seek employment in military services; thirty percent of them are still into farming, which spells huge economic dividends for the population, owing to the road network. Since 1947 Indo-Pak Partition, army gradually developed an outpost which provides income opportunities to villagers. Many villagers are increasingly opting for education and have taken up jobs in Kargil, preferring to remain within the state or in neighbouring Punjab. Tsering Dolker has applied for a police officer’s job. Another girl, by the same name Tsering Dolker, has done her Masters in a Miranda House College of Delhi University and is a headmistress at ‘Rigjung Public School, Kargil’. Tsering Sonam Garkon is a teacher in Kargil.

• Telecommunication is the poorest here; a lone satellite connection works with assistance from the army. One Tsering Sumphal Garkone (65) and his son Sonam ferry local artists and others during cultural festivals in Kargil, Leh, Delhi and elsewhere and organise festivities in village during visits of important guests. Brokpa villages are famous for scenic splendour, ensconced greens and colours amidst menacing rocks, combined with a unique sense of dressing and quaint tradition and culture. Both Men and women wear colourful hats embellished by joyous looking flowers earning them the sobriquet of ‘Flower People of Ladakh’. It is this very unique culture that fascinates the world and their cultural exhibition has become a huge tourist attraction. They are seen to join in festivities and occasions in Kargil as well as Leh due to road networks.

• Road connectivity has given a fillip to local economy in a big way. While in ancient times Apricots were mainly bartered for salt from Changpa nomads brought from Chang-thang and Aksaichin in Tibet. Now, lucrative trade fetches around Rs 35,000 annually from each apricot tree. Besides apricot fruit, over-ripe apricots are dried and sold and those that fall to the ground are soaked, cleaned for nuts to be consumed or used for extraction of pure apricot oil. Walnuts, apples, grapes, pears besides vegetables especially tomatoes and barley are its other produce, supplied to outlets in Kargil, Leh and Srinagar, apart from fulfilling home needs.

• ‘Payu Pa’ owned by Tashi Lundup is a guest house in Garkone while in both Dah and Hanu villages, few guest houses and home stays are available as tourists are welcomed.

Purity of the Pure

Many scholars have been fascinated with the deep obsession of Aryans with purity and purifying rituals. Tsering Sonam says –“We Aryans adhere strongly to the concept of purity and feel cleansing oneself with the smoke of a smouldering juniper as the ultimate purification. When the home needs to be purified, it is smoked with juniper. Utensils too get the boiled water juniper douse especially on the occasion of ‘Gunla’ or when new agricultural cycle or livestock is sent to pastures as also on ‘Losar’ or New Year festival.” For Aryans, certain trees, flowers and animals which inhabit higher regions and some particular colours are symbols of purity.

During New Year celebrations not only individual homes but entire village is cleansed with the villagers carrying burning juniper torches to cleanse the atmosphere. So much is the obsession with the cleansing and properties of juniper that when I asked about few old ones having very dark faces, I was told it was due to the ancient practice of not washing the face with water in fear of losing barkat or original charm, but purifying it with the smoke of smouldering Junipers. This has however been forsaken and many vibrant faces of women can be seen.

Women when sexually neutral in old age are considered pure while men are deemed pure throughout life. Women are forbidden from approaching the juniper shrine at Dha Brog.The priest who takes fruit and flower offering to the deity or sacrifices and brings these offerings to the village for distribution has the power to enhance purity. The shepherd who comes down from the pastures is seen as imbued with purity. The sweet smelling flowers from higher valley are saturated with purity and deemed to purify. Whosoever goes to the pure regions of mountains and glaciers acquires purity as well. Achieving of higher purity is also through anyone completing six cycles of ‘Losar’ (each equivalent to 12 years).

Though cremation of all corpses is outside the village, at the lower end or impure part of the valley, worship of ancestors takes place within the village. A crevice in the rock is made called ‘Munal’ where the bone of the ancestor is placed to which offerings are made in the ‘Mamani’ festival devoted to ancestral worship and food and juniper rituals are performed. I saw many Munals with blacked rocks and was told that juniper is burned beneath the crevice to purify and every household possesses its own Munal.

Purity factor is dominant in households and social customs carry it forth, hence, it was a custom of holding a smouldering juniper over the head of an outsider, before entering the village and no outsider was allowed to approach the hearth, no one was allowed to cross over the chimney in fear of causing impurity to food. So much so, no one could carry back rations from a journey back into the village; food meant to feed other communities was brought from the kitchen and served in the receiver’s own utensils. If one were to meet someone in the village, he would call out his name and meet him outside the village. This was considered the wish of the protecting deity of the village.

Locals tell us- “In 1955, The German Hindukush expedition was reluctantly allowed into the village with all purification rituals’. A daughter too has to follow norms – A married daughter cannot sit on the left side of the hearth in her natal home where the women sit. She must sit near the central pillar where grandparents who are sexually neutral or children with un-reached puberty sit, and must thus maintain lineage and ethnic purity. To maintain purity about 80% of the marriages are conducted in their own village and 20 % from other Buddhist Dard villages.

However many of the customs are forsaken now and many are relegated to be observed during festivals only.

Environment, Culture and Traditions

• Aryans worshipped Lhamo goddess before converting to Buddhism and partly to Islam, now Buddhism is dominant among them, seen from Buddhist prayer wheels and temples while still retaining their ancient culture, rituals and traditions.

• Married women support braided hair. Few old ones have dark faces; it was due to the ancient tradition of not washing the face with water but purifying it with the smoke of smouldering Junipers.
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• Sattu (barley), yak butter, yak cheese, apricot oil are extensively used in traditional food like Kholak, Papa, Marzan, Popot, Thukpa. Now most homes make vegetables in light curry and Rice. Momos are new additions, along with packed commercial packets of chips, Maggi, etc.

• The villagers make a variety of wines – ‘Chhangg’-Barley wine, ‘Gunn Changg’-Grape-wine and ‘Bras Changg’– Rice wine.

• Generally abstaining from eating chicken and eggs, Aryans eat meat mostly of goat during important festivals. They do not drink cow’s milk and milk products though they do own cows, bullocks and yaks for agricultural operations. Goat’s milk is used in tea preparations. Buddhist Dards observe the custom of not consuming cow meat. It’s a taboo; hence neither the flesh of cow nor its products are consumed. Traditionally, goat milk is used to make salty pink tea. However, at present cow’s milk too is being used in villages along with butter, ghee and curd.

• I saw no monkeys or dogs in the village; neither did we notice flies and mosquitoes.

• Terraces are used to dry apricots and rocks used to dry grass for fodder.

• Aryans use a dry pit for a bathroom spread with sandy soil with a hole, called ‘Chakraa’. Faecal matter collects in a three-walled enclosure below the hole. Soil is continuously added for faster decomposition. After about six months, before the sowing season, the matter is lifted and mixed with animal manure and spread in the fields. Each household uses its own ‘chakraa’ for its own fields.

• The custom of marriage is also unique, where the groom pays the bride price and women have rights of divorce. “We are free to seek divorce, but must return the husband’s property which includes silver jewellery. There is no taboo on changing partners”, says Dolker.

• Every year Losar, which is a New Year festival, is celebrated on the first day of the luni-solar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. On its seventh day the children prepare a feast for elderly of the village. The elderly in return sing hymns to the children about evolution of the world.

• Aryans’ flamboyant head dress, “Kho” embodies their spirit, studded abundantly with flowers and exotic rows of coins, some even antique, with bright ribbons or wool strings. Married women wear the Monthu Tho in their head dress and support multiple braided hair, signifying marital status. They also adorn themselves with silver ornaments. Traditional Goncha– attire of Brokpas is made of sheep’s wool. The signature flower hat of Brokpas is considered a prized possession and is not for sale.

• Brokpa villages were divided when Kargil became a district in 1979, Garkone and Darchik thus fall under Kargil, Dah and Hanu come under Leh district.

• The world’s obsession with Race as a marker of identity and nobility, and an additional promise of an Aryan experience, sees tourists from all over the world flocking to these villages. Tashi Lundup, owner of ‘Payu Pa’ guesthouse says tourists from France, Iceland, Austria, Japan, Korea, Poland, Israel and of course Germany visit these villages.

• Located deep in the valley along the Indus, the Aryan villages remained safe during the Kargil war 1999.

Last Word

Seeing, optic cables being laid on the way from Kargil to Aryan villages, I pondered, about the double onslaught of road construction and high end communication of mobile connectivity and internet, of the modern world on their lives, how long would Aryans remain an elusive people?

Much as their quaint existence and practices fascinate, it is not long before inter-marriages would take a leap in numbers, with children seeking education in mainland towns and cities and intermingling with the outer world. Soon the Pure-Aryan gene pool, if ever there was one, is bound to pass into eternity. The little village children are already adopting western wear of Jeans and T-shirts and reciting ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’. Time is not far before they fly into the world and make their own decisions about careers, marriage and lifestyle. Customs of poly and group-marriages, free sex may also become things of the past owing to Education.

However, I am comforted by their ancient ways for sustainable living, agricultural practices and their lands possessing divinity for fertility. Human Faecal matter is one of the best soil nutrients, I had long ago learnt in my Bonsai class. The value Aryans attach to their vibrant cultural heritage including their signature glorious flower-nest hats, resplendent attires, musical hymns and splendid festivities has already become their ‘Unique Selling Point’ for world tourists. From average, it will soon assume a greater earning avenue. Being bang on the LoC, military services come to them as a geographical choice.

A recent article in India Today –‘Aryan wars: Controversy over new study claiming they came from the west 4,000 years ago’ by Razib Khan -a blogger geneticist at UC Davis, quoted recent research, wherein the ANI (Ancestral North Indian) DNA is quoted to be different from earlier studies. However it’s the treasure trove of a unique culture of Brokpas which would ultimately define their inimitable identity and live on for eons on the wings of time beholding an astonished world, as long as they hold on to the many colourful threads that make them matchless.

—————————-BOX——————————-
Tashi, Hero of Aryans and unkempt promises 
If Tashi Namgyal had not blown the whistle on intruders in the mountainous heights, the Kargil war of 1999 would have had different connotations for both warring neighbours India and Pakistan. On May 2 1999, Tashi Namgyal went up the mountains to Banju Top to search for his yak. He owned two, out of which one was lost. Using binoculars he combed the mountainside and saw about six people moving rocks and making bunkers. “I kept scrutinizing for nearly 10 minutes and then rushed down to my village Garkone to inform people, including a teacher Tsering Sonam Garkon. We went together to inform the army post in Batalik. The officer there was astounded and retorted –“Tashi if your information is incorrect- you and your family will suffer” he said menacingly. “But if it is correct, action will be taken and you shall be rewarded.” But Tashi stuck to his stand, three soldiers accompanied him to the heights and were stunned to see the activity as Tashi vividly described it.
The army men suggested calling for reinforcements to neutralise the intruders. Tashi and Sonam declined being part of active offense, but assured provisions of food and water to troops as well as logistic support.
Sonam believes the intruders hunted at least 10-12 of their yaks for food. During the Indian strike on the intruders, Tashi mobilised villagers to help in carrying ammunition as well as food and water to soldiers. “They carried everything in hind-baskets. The village also helped to bring back injured and dead bodies of Indian soldiers. “At least 4-5 bodies and about 20 injured were brought by us.” Tashi remembers vividly about helping to retrieve the body of Major M Sarvanan, of 1-Bihar Regiment, and was hailed by top officers.
“In 2002, I found the body of a soldier of 1-Gorkha Rifles on Kukarthang ridge, which paved the way for compensation to the martyr’s family”. Displaying pictures of his parents with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and his own pictures with Minister of Defence George Fernandez, Tashi remembers “I was overjoyed to receive Rs 50,000 by the Div Commander of 8-Mountain Regiment soon after the war. The Div Com in Batalik told me that my name has been sent for a National award and my children would be provided government employment. But 17-years later all promises lie broken. I have educated my children and pray for help in getting government or army jobs for them to improve their lives. This is all I ask for rendering service to my nation.
————————————–BOX-END————————————–
PHOTOS : Hosain Ibn Khalo and Tsering Sonam Garkone 
KT Hosain Ibn Khalo 
Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Journalist, can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

URL : http://epaper.dailykashmirimages.com/10920…/newsdetails.asp…

Kargil-II Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans / By Rashmi Talwar/ Kashmir Images


Screenshot Aryans Part IIDateline Kargil –Part II
Glimpse into the life of Pure Aryans 
Rashmi Talwar

Looking at the stars I wonder how many souls would have passed this way, a hot-bed, a melting pot, of central Asian trade, the mysterious silk route that carried communities, seeds, men and material; animals and stuff and forked them to mainland. A land where finest of caboodle, made their journeys, yet some remained unalloyed, basking in the glory of their embryonic purity for thousands of years. Indeed the prospect of meeting ‘Pure’ Aryans remained overwhelming.

Snuggled in our tiny car we set on a 70 Km tour, zooming past village Apachi to Hamboting-La pass perched at 13,202 feet, falling in Kargil’s North-East. Dearth of oxygen cohabiting wind chill, nearly gives me a head-swim. Through astonishing rugged stonescape, protruding rock-hills seemingly scratched by giant paws, along lilting streams, deep gorges, leads us to Batalik sector, bang on LoC ‘Line of Control’ between India and Pakistan.

Amidst serene mossy banks, River Indus (Sindhu River) careens along in hopping waves, like an excited child jumping along an elder. Pockets of greenery lie hidden with contrasting greens hallowed by light coffee coloured rockeries as valley touches fresh glacial melt of freezing sapphire waters of Indus below, lending a romantic aura.

Seeing us, Tsering Gamphil, a ‘Brokpa’ – Brok- mountains; pa- inhabitant; meaning a highlander-approaches, his triangular turquoise earrings bobbing on loose lobes, blue eyes glinting in scorching sun, his heavy moustache lifts to flash a toothy smile. He juts out a rough hand in recognition to my friend Hussain-ibn-Khalo, Editor, Owner of Kargil Today, a local TV Channel, accompanying me. I smile, at the 65-year old Gamphil’s black cap embroidered with “BOY”, and notice a single safety pin holding a bunch of dried flower buds. “Yes I am in Garkone- the professed Pure-Aryan village!”

A cluster of four villages claims to hold a bastion of pure bred Aryans—presumably pure, the last, un-muddied, un-adulterated by outside gene pool. Gamphil, a Surna artist, Surna-musical instrument likened to-Shehnai, is invited to every festival to play to melodious hymns and rhythmic dances of Aryan Brokpas. “I even played Surna on J&K Tableaux on 26th January Republic Day, parade in Delhi,” he tells us. There are seven other artists in this tiny village inhabited by more than 1200 people.

Darchik and, Garkone are lesser known, falling in Kargil sector while Hanu and Dha Aryan villages nestle in Leh- are more frequented due to air connectivity and a greater tourist inflow.
At the confluence of rivers Shyok and Indus in District Kargil, village Darchick claims- “Welcome to the Abode of Red Aryans” emblazoned on a semi-circular gate flanking the entry. I wonder if ‘red’ was a sign of caution! Gamphil tells us –“Some outsiders were refused passage in Darchik recently. They followed their ancient tradition”.

However Garkone village ventures us a welcome with a large swirling Buddhist prayer wheel in midst of the entrance whirled by two young giggly girls. Foreigners are presumably disallowed or allowed only by special Inner Line Permit (ILP) from District Commissioner, in this highly militarised zone. On the way, we see, the battlefront, a portion of Batalik post was wholly destroyed in Kargil war of 1999, there now stands a Mata Rani Mandir and an Evil Subjugation Stupa, built by army on local beliefs of divine call for warding off aggressors. Inhabitants of these Aryan villages are known as ‘Dards’, local parlance – ‘Brokpas’.

Garden of Eden

Garkone, with its splatter of grey rocks flecked with black spots, along pathways and gnome doorways, is a welcoming hamlet, visible as a virtual oasis amongst dull rugged cliffs. An artistic rockscape slanting across as the river meanders between and beneath, enhancing its beauty as swathes of fertile lands break the severity of rock to croon a melody for colours, music and dance, like a mysterious merry ring.

Like Garden of Eden, a stream of crystal clear water swaggers through the village, overhanging grape bunch’s criss-cross branches, constructing natural green tunnelled pathways that run along a stone trail, flanked by rockeries on one side, that hold elf-doorways to elusive homes and habitats of Aryans. Alongside, running rivulet swings lush fields of barley and assortment of luxuriant vegetables. “Our Tomatoes are the reddest”, says Londhup Nawang Dolker owner of ‘Payu Pa’ guest house. “It seems to be a garden of bounty”, the gardener in me responds admiringly.

On the sides of the fields, trees stand laden with ripe orange apricots, green apples and unhardened soft green walnuts. It’s a riot of colours, predominantly orange hues – symbolic of colours of dawn-dusk, the carrot shade of perennial Monthu Tho adorning doors, finds pride of place in Brokpa hat-nests of flowers and the tangerine light of apricots. Garkone is a fertile, warmer, water surplus area, ensconced in lower rock crevices, in an otherwise rainless Ladakh. Primarily being agro-pastoralists they own yaks, goats and sheep, harvest world’s most luscious apricots, varied vegetables, extract oils and seemingly remain uncluttered.

Brokpas

The Brokpas, believed of Indo-Aryan stock, descendants of Dards, settled along Indus River, centuries past and are an enigma for the world’s imagination. Their claims of pure Aryan descent are of deep interest to anthropological research, ethnologists, scholars and backpackers. A popular belief carries of Brokpas as progeny of remnants of the army of Alexander the Great that came to the region over two thousand years ago.

Another strong belief traces their descent from Gilgit (Pakistan).
University of Heidelberg, Germany’s seminal research by Rohit Vohra on Aryans in his book ‘The Religion of the Dards in Ladakh’ and ‘An Ethnography – The Buddhist Dards of Ladakh’ quotes Roman Historians Curtius and Justin who claim invasions of Alexander the Great, along Kunar river in Chitral (Pakistan).

Interestingly, he notes –“The Kalash of Chitral have Caucasian features-sometimes with blonde hair and blue eyes-which gives some credence to their claim, that they descended from five warriors in Alexander the Great’s army. There are only about 4,000 of them and they have remained pagans- religion based on reverence of nature, including origins, history, rituals, and devotions- despite being surrounded by Muslims in Pakistan. The Kalash, relate a story of Alexander’s bacchanal with mountain dwellers claiming descent from Dionysus. They worship a pantheon of gods, make wine, and practice animal sacrifice.”

Aryans, settled along Indus meandering through bedrock, claim to be inhabitants of Gilgit, a region close to Chitral, sharing much of its history and culture with Gilgit- Baltistan in Pakistan. There are numerous similarities between the Kalash and Aryans, including the latter’s facial features, pagan traditions, despite having majorly converted to Buddhism, they have retained their ancient roots. Both communities have prominent blue eyes, colourful attires; once pagans making wines, the concept of animal sacrifice is common to both. The Chaumas festival of Kalash is learnt to be very similar to the Bonanah festival of Aryans, including the finale of spiral dance bidding farewell to the Deity.

Vohra writes- “One of the early migrations, about which there are oral traditions, relates to the arrival of brothers Dulo, Melo and Galo in Aryan-land”. During weddings, the door of the bride’s home is knocked and the wedding party announces “We are from the family of Dulo, Melo and Galo”, who locals believe were from the army of Alexander.

That they are settlers in regions of one of the oldest civilization along the elusive froth of River Indus connected with Indus Valley Civilization, adds sheen to their claims of being ancient Aryans. Incidentally, Dards or Aryans, their pedigree known from the ancient Sanskrit and classical Greek literature, draws besotted German Women- to seek Brokpas for racially pure progeny. Germany has a chequered history of Hitler’s obsession with racial superiority and the master race of Aryans.

Tsering Sumphal Garkon (65), an elder in the village with two sisters as his wives admits-“I know of seven German women, and out of them at least five were thus impregnated by Brokpas to carry the presumable elusive Aryan gene pool to their country.” Munching on a biscuit with his tea, he adds, “The government has banned the practice but still smitten German women pilfer in present times, seeking an elusive pure Aryan seed,”

Film: The Achtung Baby

Indian filmmaker Sanjeev Sivan made a documentary in 2007- “The Achtung Baby – In Search of Purity”. In it, he investigates stories of German women seeking to impregnate themselves with what they consider pure-Aryan sperm in Aryan villages of Ladakh.
Andrea, a German girl in the film, feels she is doing it as a gift for her grandfather who studied Aryans and hinted at an organized system behind the transaction. “I’m paying for what I want.” A village Darchik Aryan- Tsewang Dorji, her paramour, an apparent simpleton claims to have impregnated three German women thus, and is hoping his children would seek him and take him to Germany someday.

Sex is Pure

According to marriage statistics for three subsequent generations, average of 80% marriages were from within Aryan villages. Only in exceptional cases, inter-village marriage in Garkone, Darchik, Hanu and Dha were seen as recent as about 10 years back. “The types of marriages amongst Aryans are numerous, -Monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, endogamy but also group marriages of varying form”, reveals Vohra. “The most common group marriage was of two brothers marrying two sisters where all partners had access to each other”.

Quoting Goldstein: 1971, Vohra writes “An exceptional group marriage was of a father and son sharing a wife. Such were in Katangpa and Auduz households; or an uncle and nephew sharing a wife. Also, if a mother died prior to the children’s marriage and father took a wife then father and son shared the wife and this was a bi-generational marriage.”

Opening up to the world however has brought new connections and about ten Aryans of this exclusive pure population have ventured to marry beyond the Aryan boundary. “Where even Leh Buddhists are least preferred as spouses, Garkone’s Paskit married a Muslim from Nubra Valley; Yangay married a Hindu Nepali driver who converted to Buddhism”, revealed Tsering Dolker, a Garkone girl of marriageable age.

Ajaz Hussain Munshi, curator of ‘Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum of Central Asian and Kargil Trade Artefacts’, a virtual encyclopaedia on Aryan’s ways says –“Since many of the Aryans converted to Buddhism, they were able to retain their culture, practices, rituals etc. While, those who converted to Islam, lost their heritage as Islam is a forbidding faith for music, singing, dancing, idol making. Hence, ancient pagan rituals of Buddhist Aryans are still intact and are followed.

Among Buddhist Aryans sexual rituals are freely exhibited at Bononah festival (Big Harvest Festival), celebrated annually, each time in a different village. The celebration in Dha is followed by Garkone and then in Ganoks (Pakistan) but after the conversion of inhabitants of Ganoks to Islam, the celebrations there were discontinued, thus the year of Ganoks’s turn falls vacant. During festival, a barley (sattu) wine brew (Changg) from still green grains holds a vital place.

Strong Sweet- smelling, flowers Thizim Kaliman being the most essential, are brought from pastures to decorate hats of men-women and hymns of the origin of the world are sung to melodious music, following the second crop’s harvest and threshing. Additionally, it heralds the return of shepherds from glacial heights.” Huru, a dish made with roasted barley or Sattu cooked in hot water or namkeen (salty) chai to form dough with yak’s butter, has an intoxicating effect when fermented for a day.

During Bononah, dances in memory of ancestors are performed and along with hymns of happiness, prosperity, bounty, are sung hymns with sexual connotations and accompanying amorous dances. Singing competitions are held between group of women and men and obscene questions-answers are exchanged.

Men kiss women they like and the husband or father is not to take offence. The festival is closely guarded; permitting no outsider into the village during the celebration, as the village is purified. Free sex is practised. Sexual hymns in riddle form are sung between groups of men and women. These are supposed to release forces and heighten the atmosphere of the festival. Dances with sexual movement heighten the same effect. Hymns of sexual connotations are sung addressed to Aryan deity Yanding along with dough figures, decked walls, balcony & pillar drawings as a part of fertility cult. Corresponding Hymns and songs are a secret not to be revealed to an outsider…… ( TO BE CONCLUDED )

PHOTOS: Hosain Ibn Khalo & Tsering Sonam Garkone 
Amritsar based writer can be emailed at : rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

http://dailykashmirimages.com/…/glimpse-into-the-life-of-pu…

Amritsar Based writer can be contacted at email: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir / By Rashmi Talwar/ Daily Kashmir Images


Screenshot wedding open invite

Sikh promises ‘Bhangra’ cheer to Turmoiled Kashmir

Rashmi Talwar

When I think of October in Kashmir, I visualize the skyline awash with Harud or Autumn hues of reds, oranges and golds. In those Almighty’s favourite tints, Chinars dazzles over most other greens, in majesty and sheer beauty of its wavering shades from ochre to buttery yellows fingers, turning gold and finally crimson. To the famed – Aatish- a-Chinar or a Chinar on fire, as Emperor Jahangir famously exclaimed, describing Chinars incredible beauty in Autumn. Few saw the resplendent blooming tulips, the spring’s exotic European flowers, Badamwari’s almond blossoms, this year, while Mughal gardens of Shalimar, Nishat, Harwan, mesmerized just a few locals with its exquisite blooms.

It was deeply saddening for Kashmir especially this year during peak summer season to host just a trickle of tourists. Merely 5% occupancy in hotels, huts, guest houses, homestays and houseboat were reported from Srinagar from last July to this year too. But, come September end and early October, the horizon may cheer for a change, albeit, for just a few days. The menu is Punjabi Bhangraa and not Wazwan – the Kashmiri favourite platter that shall take centre-stage in a Kashmiri wedding.

It was delightful to read Jatinder Pal Singh’s wedding invitation on social networking site Facebook, on an otherwise languid Sunday, that managed to refresh the brightness of the holiday –It stated –“An OPEN INVITATION for my wedding scheduled for on October 1, 2017 for all known or unknown Facebook friends.”
JP- A Kashmiri Sikh, software engineer, from Tral Kashmir, settled in Gurgaon, has 3932 strong friend-list with 581 followers and the invite went not only to them but as a public profile open to any and every one. JP is a promoter with a start-up- easywaylabs.com- a website ‘making things convenient’ for laboratory tests as also a coordinator for United Sikhs- a Charitable International NGO, that’s on the forefront during disasters. JP did commendable work during Kashmir floods in 2014, collecting a sum of more than Rs 4 lakhs singlehandedly, before the NGO collaborated to push nearly half a Crore, in aid to flood-hit. Hence his popularity is high in the region.

Incidentally, militancy in Kashmir and JP Singh were born the same year. Moreover, the venue of the wedding is Tral- a place ignominiously highlighted as the region of Burhan Wani,- Hizbul Mujjahidin commander, killed on 8th July 2016. Killing of Wani spiralled militancy to an all-time high, last seen in 1990, reminiscent of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. JP’s house is merely 8 Kms from Burhan Wani’s house in the next village.

Moreover, JP’s dad Kanwal Nain Singh and Wani’s father Muzaffar Ahmed Wani were colleagues till last year when JP’s father was Vice Principal in the village’s Higher Secondary School and senior Wani was the Principal.

In trouble torn Kashmir, Sikhs – a minuscule minority, (less than one percent) amongst the dominant Muslim populace of the state, has a high concentration of the community, in Tral region. On JP’s friend list is a medley of faiths- Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims (Sunnis and Shias), Kashmiri (Muslim and Pandits) and Buddhists. The invitation has drawn 540 likes and 323 comments.

JP who defines himself as – ‘I am Not a player, I’m the Game’ surely knows how to play one- “The idea is to bring people who want to visit or love Kashmir, on an all paid stay, much like a destination wedding . But contrary to downsizing of guest lists, JP is ready to host as many as those who can traverse and dare to come for this ‘cultural -adventure’. Lately, tourists of most hues are mortally fearful of visiting Kashmir, affected by adverse reports in popular media. Given the time of the invitation, in coming days his friend list invitees could swell in numbers.

He has referred to Dharam-Gund in Tral as his ‘beautiful picturesque village’, and announced the happy occasion to be a “Kashmiri Sikh and Punjabi” wedding- a four-day event, of ‘Band Baja Barat’ starting on September 28th.
Allaying fears, he wrote on his Timeline- “If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you. Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility” Ready to put on display the famed Punjabi-Kashmiri Hospitality, he sweetly urges –“I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it!”

And underlines the convenience for his Baraatis,- wedding guests, outlining the location of the venue and nearest exit and entry points by air, road and travel modes – “ Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46Km’s from Srinagar International Airport and 20Kms from Awantipora (National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want, we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora -If you are coming by road”.

With a tongue in cheek emoticon he adds as a Post script.–“PS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA!

The Kashmiri –Sikh wedding rituals are quaint and different from Punjabi Sikh weddings, JP says. The celebration will commence with Gandiaan – a Kashmir Sikh ritual where celebrations formally begins with groom’s family going to the bride’s house to present her precious jewellery , in return the bride’s family presents a Gold Karra – Sikh faith symbol of Bracelet, to the groom, followed by merriment with wedding songs. Sangeet amongst Punjabis isn’t as innocent as it sounds and actually means boisterous Bhangra and dances by both genders.

Another ceremony is of hand impressions on the wall of the house, after dipping them in coloured water- Chapaa. Followed by Mitti Khodna – digging soil near a village Gurdwara, putting walnuts in it and inserting a pinch of the ‘divine’ soil in Mehandi – Henna to be sent to the bride The muh-boli- bhen or the groom’s adopted sister, commences the ceremonies, along with ritual of – Pani Bharna– when water is brought in a Gaagar- earthen pot, from a village Nag or spring and mixed in haldi ubtan – the turmeric mixture with curds, applied to the groom in a pre-wedding ceremony, believed to render a glow to the skin.

The grand finale on October 1, would be the wedding day for morning Baraat – groom party’s arrival at the bride’s house and Anand Karaj pheras – Sikh wedding circumambulation with recitation of holy scriptures and hymns, around the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib, at Aluchabagh Gurdwara of Srinagar, near the bride’s house. “Other than the jewellery that both sides gift to the bride, we don’t accept or give dowry,” JP adds with pride.

“Along with me, as one unknown-never-met baraati, how many had confirmed their attendance”, I ask. “At least 20 unknown people have messaged me, wishing to come for the wedding. They are confirmations from Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu and Delhi and now I have four from Amritsar including you,” he laughs
“Accommodation and security?” “People in our village hold us in respect. My uncle Rajinder Singh Rajan, is an award winning Punjabi writer of book ‘Taja Bawri’ -about a Kashmiri girl gone insane due to turmoil. He won the national award for his book in 2015 and was felicitated in June last year by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Since few in our family were intellectually gifted, Kavishris- poetry symposiums, were often held in our home, which villagers attended. Today every villager has opened his home to host guests for my wedding.” And added –“A nearby police station has assured us all security for guests.”

Did both sets of parents agree? Both me and my fiancée Vipeen Kaur, a dentist in Noida are from Tral, her family is now based in Srinagar. We could have had the safest wedding in Delhi, but I insisted that I want to marry the girl I love, in the place we both love. The families are more than happy with this decision.

I tried to contact Vipeen Kaur, JP’s fiancee and sent her a message but did not receive a reply.

Since liquor is a typical of Punjabi weddings, would you serve?”- “Mum is the word!” he responds.

The responses to his timeline post have been welcoming, appreciative, longing, assessing and touching. Nidhi calls the invitation a cool idea. JP’s adopted sister Komal Jb Singh is gleefully petulant as her name has not been added in the invite. Shabangi Mushtaq, a Kashmiri based in Zimbabwe, calls him open hearted and broadminded for writing this beautiful post cutting across the barriers of religion, class and caste and promises to try to attend. Akhilesh Khurana comments,- ‘The invite made us part of the celebrations virtually’. Rauf Tramboo, a Kashmiri, adventure travel consultant, called it a chivalrous invitation and confirmed his presence to perform the bhangra after a long time. However a distraught Adventure tour operator Bashir Damna pointed out ‘Till date no visitor or tourist was harmed in valley and locals are good hosts and helpful. Some Indian media men are spreading false rumours about Kashmiris and that is why our brother (JP) has said ‘prime responsibility’ (read security).

Arjimand Hussain Talib termed it the most beautiful invitation that he had ever come across. Raja Farooq teased –“Good to know Rangeela JP is going to marry. Free invitation another of his innovative styles.”

What warmed the cockles of the heart was a desire expressed from across the border by Umar Javid, a resident of Mirpur in Pak Occupied Kashmir –‘Congratulations, I wish I could participate’, to which JP answered ‘Please try to come, it would not be that tough and let me know if you need any documented invitation from India that can help you with the visa. We would love to host you’ To his friend Sudhir S Parihar who Congratulated him, JP Singh responded- “Agar tu na aaya teray chittar peen ge…” that sums up the quintessential Punjabi Ishtyle of
friendship, I have no translations to offer.

Rashmi Talwar is an Amritsar based Independent Writer, can be emailed at: rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
00—00

AN OPEN INVITATION!

I am getting MARRIED on 1st, October, 2017. 🙂
Wedding is planned at a beautiful picturesque village in Kashmir and will be a mixture of kashmiri-Sikh and Punjabi rituals/traditions.
It would be a 4 day event {28-Sep(GANDIAAN-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 29-Sep(CHAPPA-A kashmiri Sikh marriage Ritual and ladies Sangeet), 30-Sep(Lunch + Mahendi) and 1st-october (Baraat to Srinagar City)}.
It is an open invitation to everyone. Please ping me if you want to attend. If you know-me/have-met-me or NOT, it hardly matters. Please confirm your availability; I and my whole family would be more than happy to host you.
Lodging, Boarding and your safety will be our responsibility. 🙂
PS: I am telling you, do not miss this. It would be worth it. Our Village Dharam-Gund is 46km’s away from Srinagar International Airport and 20kms from Awantipora(National highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar). If you want we can pick you from Srinagar Airport or from Awantipora(If you are coming by road).
PSS: This LADIES SANGEET function is 10% of Ladies Sangeet and 90% of BHANGRAA! 😜 🍻

“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” ….By Rashmi Talwar / Trip Advisor


On the flower laced path to St Mary's Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

On the flower laced path to St Mary’s Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush green undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. The wavy hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.

Gulmarg- ‘The meadow of flowers’, appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I  expect a thunder of drumming music to follow the opening scene. Instead, much cackle follows, unmindful of the cacophony, I feel immersed in the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg. At first it appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.

Someone calls it ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I believe it. Just then, I step out onto the path and my foot squashes on warm horse goo! I look around for help, skidding on one leg, kicking the other to let go of the poo and looking around to wipe my shoe with an old newspaper or grass. Conversely, I see most side paths lumpy with animal excreta. I wonder if ‘poo bags’ were still to be invented or has the discovery yet to catch the political eye of the area to impose sanitized laws? I am at a loss. When I do happen to broach the subject of ‘poo-bags’ with a local horse-walla later, his kohled eyes look menacingly at me as his henna reddened beard shakes, with a whip in one hand, he threatens –“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” I smilingly point towards a known India-Pakistan border close by called –Line of Control’ in the region, saying –‘Of course you can go anytime to Pakistan!’ Later, I was to thank my parents to have been born a girl, and their production being a little pretty, lest, as I was told –“If you had been a man, your comment could have led to blood-fights and you surely would have been lynched”.

My life spared, I learn to live for the rest of the days with the horse poo, pooled around and the goat or sheep dark granules naturally manuring the grassland. The slight stink mixing with crush of grass blades and the hilly flower scented air and I begin to enjoy Gulmarg. I do have to keep my vision field synchronized to admire the flowers on the slopes, a wide view of the ravishing spread of quaint huts on green ranges and avoid a stare at the dirt on the circumnutating road.

On my trekking ways, as special treat for my lungs, heart and pores, I happen to encounter many tourists in altercation with locals. The reason, I learn, the horse-wallas and taxi operators threaten outstation taxis to enter the main roads. They fight so brusquely with tourists that I join my hands in prayer that I was spared the ignominy as I was ‘staying’ and not just ‘visiting’ Gulmarg.

Asia’s highest gondola or cable car is close to the tourist huts that I have booked. The place also gives me an opportunity to peak at Khyber Resorts, the only five star hotel property, close by and a muzzly waterfall in the corner. It costs me Rs 1400 both ways to ride two phases (13, 780 ft.) of Gondola or cable car. I click, click pictures, of down below from the cable car glass, as it mounts and watch smart trekkers along the Kongdoori Mountains, dotted with Gujjar Huts, to reach the first phase of the ride.

Apharwat glacial peaks are higher, beyond Kongdoori. I hear they take skiers to the top phase considered the highest ski slopes. Gulmarg’s other asset is the highest golf course in the world. Some locals at the glacier, point out a shape that automatically takes on a look of ‘an army picket’ when it’s described so, on another peak—“That’s the LoC –the infamous Line of Control between India Pakistan border that divides Jammu and Kashmir, for which three India-Pakistan wars took place, one as recent as 1999 Kargil War,” he booms. I feet historically enriched, on seeing a prominent landmark, denoting past events.

My dependable guide gives me advice on the Apharwat glacier-“The sledge-wallas will demand Rs 1500 but you settle at Rs 800 and so also with the skier”. I make it to the glacier with a continuous barrage of bargaining that goes on for snow boots, snow jackets, sledging, skiing on rent. The bargain ends at Rs 900 for sledging and another 900 for skiing, with extra costs for boots, ski sticks, jackets. Emptied of all money, carried that day over a wonderful meal of biryani, coke, curd and parantha on Kongdoori Mountains we also see the ‘Satt dhara’ where seven streams meet with a distinct shade of water. I would have loved to go to Alpather –The frozen lake, a little trek from Apharwat glacier ,but the weather was changing swiftly in the snowy peaks and gondola timings have to be adhered.

I head to the hut and give the guide a generous tip along with the caretaker of the hut who recommended the guide. Later, my taxi driver tells me I was looted all the way. The payment for sledging, skiing, boots, and jackets was three times more than the actual. “They work well together- ‘Aak ashh ishara!’ they work with Eye signals!”

My daughter insists we go to the best place for dinner. So we head for Khyber Himalayan Resort. The Taxi guy asks for an exorbitant Rs 300 for a 150 mts ride to Khyber nearby, earlier too a taxi walla had shouted out an overpriced sum for rescuing us in the incessant rain. The fact that someone is visiting five star property automatically targets them as a sitting duck for fleecing. Instead, we settle for three horses at Rs 300 inclusive of waiting and return, and feel like royalty, riding up to the high stone-walled property, till a Posh Pajero sports SUV, honks and the Resort’s Durban brusquely asks the horse-walla to vacate the entry. Poof goes our royal ride, but unending tickles and giggles make up for it. I wonder if smart floral buggy rides to the hotel would add to the charm of Gulmarg.

Nearly 10,000 ponies strut along the roundabout road. Ponies that have been part of Gulmarg since its inception are in for heavy competition with nearly 150 PVC – the all-weather open vehicles, allowed by the government to swoosh on roads charging a princely Rs 2000 for a round. However an environmentally sound setup is of solar panels, seen all over. Sitting quaintly are also two baby penguins model Swiss huts, facing a ‘Rani temple’ complete with temple bells, perched atop a hill. The British built, St Mary’s church parked amidst a pathway of Lupins, Daisies, touch-me-nots, an exquisite white bench, amongst the picturesque surroundings, guarded by heavy fronds of oaks and Chinars, is exquisitely charming.

Fish out the ‘Gora Kabristan’ where many English nobles and sundry rest in graves marked by gravestones in an innocuous enclosure or look for a Maharaja palace that I couldn’t locate. Mughal Emperor Jahangir lover of Kashmir was known to be mystified by the charms of Gulmarg, which also gets the credit of being the place to get the first Ski Club of India in 1927 by the British.
Gulmarg where prime property of Sheikh Abdullah –‘Lion of Kashmir’ is located, especially the ‘Hotel Highland park’ with walls lined with collectibles and memorabilia, as in times past gets the lion’s share of day-time tourists to Kashmir.
I only pray, the Meadow of flowers blooms may not become prey to poo or pelf.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN TRIP ADVISOR ON OCTOBER 2, 2015
URL: http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r315333253-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r3153332
53-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html#

“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” ….By Rashmi Talwar / Trip Advisor


On the flower laced path to St Mary's Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

On the flower laced path to St Mary’s Church Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush green undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. Undulating hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.

Gulmarg- ‘The meadow of flowers’, appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I only expect a thunder of drumming music to follow the opening scene. Conversely, much cackle follows, unmindful of the cacophony, I feel immersed into the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg. At first it appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.

Someone calls it ‘Heaven on Earth’ and I believe it. Just then, I step out onto the path and my foot squashes on warm horse goo! I look around for help, skidding on one leg, kicking the other to let go of the poo and looking around to wipe my shoe with an old newspaper or grass. Conversely, I see most side paths lumpy with animal excreta. I wonder if ‘poo bags’ were still to be invented or has the discovery yet to catch the political eye of the area to impose sanitized laws? I am at a loss. When I do happen to broach the subject of ‘poo-bags’ with a local horse-walla later, his kohled eyes look menacingly at me as his henna reddened beard shakes, with a whip in one hand, he threatens –“Kashmir will join Pakistan the day poo-bags enter Gulmarg!” I smilingly point towards a known India-Pakistan border close by called –Line of Control’ in the region, saying –‘Of course you can go anytime to Pakistan!’ Later, I was to thank my parents to have been born a girl, and their production being a little pretty, lest, as I was told –“If you had been a man, your comment could have led to blood-fights and you surely would have been lynched”.

My life spared, I learn to live for the rest of the days with the horse poo, pooled around and the goat or sheep dark granules naturally manuring the grassland. The slight stink mixing with crush of grass blades and the hilly flower scented air and I begin to enjoy Gulmarg. I do have to keep my vision field synchronized to admire the flowers on the slopes, a wide view of the ravishing spread of quaint huts on green ranges and avoid a stare at the dirt on the circumnutating road.

On my trekking ways, as special treat for my lungs, heart and pores, I happen to encounter many tourists in altercation with locals. The reason, I learn, the horse-wallas and taxi operators threaten outstation taxis to enter the main roads. They fight so brusquely with tourists that I join my hands in prayer that I was spared the ignominy as I was ‘staying’ and not just ‘visiting’ Gulmarg.

Asia’s highest gondola or cable car is close to the tourist huts that I have booked. The place also gives me an opportunity to peak at Khyber Resorts, the only five star hotel property, close by and a muzzly waterfall in the corner. It costs me Rs 1400 both ways to ride two phases (13, 780 ft.) of Gondola or cable car. I click, click pictures, of down below from the cable car glass, as it mounts and watch smart trekkers along the Kongdoori Mountains, dotted with Gujjar Huts, to reach the first phase of the ride.

Apharwat glacial peaks are higher, beyond Kongdoori. I hear they take skiers to the top phase considered the highest ski slopes. Gulmarg’s other asset is the highest golf course in the world. Some locals at the glacier, point out a shape that automatically takes on a look of ‘an army picket’ when it’s described so, on another peak—“That’s the LoC –the infamous Line of Control between India Pakistan border that divides Jammu and Kashmir, for which three India-Pakistan wars took place, one as recent as 1999 Kargil War,” he booms. I feet historically enriched, on seeing a prominent landmark, denoting past events.

My dependable guide gives me advice on the Apharwat glacier-“The sledge-wallas will demand Rs 1500 but you settle at Rs 800 and so also with the skier”. I make it to the glacier with a continuous barrage of bargaining that goes on for snow boots, snow jackets, sledging, skiing on rent. The bargain ends at Rs 900 for sledging and another 900 for skiing, with extra costs for boots, ski sticks, jackets. Emptied of all money, carried that day over a wonderful meal of biryani, coke, curd and parantha on Kongdoori Mountains we also see the ‘Satt dhara’ where seven streams meet with a distinct shade of water. I would have loved to go to Alpather –The frozen lake, a little trek from Apharwat glacier ,but the weather was changing swiftly in the snowy peaks and gondola timings have to be adhered.

I head to the hut and give the guide a generous tip along with the caretaker of the hut who recommended the guide. Later, my taxi driver tells me I was looted all the way. The payment for sledging, skiing, boots, and jackets was three times more than the actual. “They work well together- ‘Aak ashh ishara!’ they work with Eye signals!”

My daughter insists we go to the best place for dinner. So we head for Khyber Himalayan Resort. The Taxi guy asks for an exorbitant Rs 300 for a 150 mts ride to Khyber nearby, earlier too a taxi walla had shouted out an overpriced sum for rescuing us in the incessant rain. The fact that someone is visiting five star property automatically targets them a sitting duck for fleecing. Instead, we settle for three horses at Rs 300 inclusive of waiting and return, and feel like royalty, riding up to the high stone-walled property, till a Posh Pajero sports SUV, honks and the Resort’s Durban brusquely asks the horse-walla to vacate the entry. Poof goes our royal ride, but unending tickles and giggles make up for it. I wonder if smart floral buggy rides to the hotel would add to the charm of Gulmarg.

Nearly 10,000 ponies strut along the roundabout road. Ponies that have been part of Gulmarg since its inception are in for heavy competition with nearly 150 PVC – the all-weather open vehicles, allowed by the government to swoosh on roads charging a princely Rs 2000 for a round. However an environmentally sound setup is of solar panels, seen all over. Sitting quaintly are also two baby penguins model Swiss huts, facing a ‘Rani temple’ complete with temple bells, perched atop a hill. The British built, St Mary’s church parked amidst a pathway of Lupins, Daisies, touch-me-nots, an exquisite white bench, amongst the picturesque surroundings, guarded by heavy fronds of oaks and Chinars, is exquisitely charming.

Fish out the ‘Gora Kabristan’ where many English nobles and sundry rest in graves marked by gravestones in an innocuous enclosure or look for a Maharaja palace that I couldn’t locate. Mughal Emperor Jahangir lover of Kashmir was known to be mystified by the charms of Gulmarg, which also gets the credit of being the place to get the first Ski Club of India in 1927 by the British.
Gulmarg where prime property of Sheikh Abdullah –‘Lion of Kashmir’ is located, especially the ‘Hotel Highland park’ with walls lined with collectibles and memorabilia, as in times past gets the lion’s share of day-time tourists to Kashmir.
I only pray, the Meadow of flowers blooms may not become prey to poo or pelf.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN TRIP ADVISOR ON OCTOBER 2, 2015
URL: http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r315333253-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g297623-d6533524-r3153332
53-Discover_Gulmarg_Adventures-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html#

Kashmir is Organic, not manicured: Imtiaz Ali…/ Rashmi Talwar


Kashmir is Organic Not Manicured :Imtiaz Ali

Kashmir is Organic Not Manicured :Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali

Don’t go by the Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali’s golly-lock looks, neither by his humble demeanor, underneath lies a sharp mind and heart that not only explodes in cinematic best in such blockbusters like ‘Jab we met’, ‘Rockstar’ and recent ‘Highway’ but has brought Kashmir once again on the tourist circuit in more ways than one. Apart from highlighting virgin landscapes, the film Rockstar had Nargis Fakri attired in kurtas and shawls in exquisite Kashmiri embroidery. RASHMI TALWAR caught Imtiaz Ali in Srinagar (Kashmir), while he was shyly treading the celebrity tourism path chalked out by Jammu & Kashmir’s Tourism cell.

Q1. Don’t you think other countries with similar luxuriant landscapes could offer better locales than Kashmir?
Ans: There couldn’t be a single film maker who doesn’t want to shoot in Kashmir. In my movies, I have shown not even five percent of Kashmir. Nothing can match Kashmir and its endearing backdrops or its innocence. My top priority would be Kashmir compared to any other part of the world as beautiful as they may be. If I may put it in a few words which I know would not suffice the emotional bonding I have towards it, I could say –‘Kashmir is organic, it’s not manicured’ that is why it is so special.


Q2. Was it an effort to promote the place you fell in love with, even though you are not of it?

Ans: I didn’t do film shoots here with a conscious effort to promote Kashmir. It just happened and I am happy it did. Punjab has its own flavors and one can see a lot of Punjab in Yash Chopra’s films, plus Punjab is the current flavor too. I used Punjab in ‘Jab we met’ but in terms of visual beauty Kashmir is matchless.

Q3. Kashmir is indeed lucky to have you?
Ans: No, I consider myself the lucky one that I was able to shoot in Kashmir and not the other way around. I come here to fulfill my greed. I had no clue that showing Kashmir would develop as vast an expanse as it eventually did and I am indeed humbled by the response. There is immense talent in this place. I once did an impromptu short film ‘window seat’ of only five and a half minutes duration and a shikarawala sang a song in it. With a mere back score and sound of rippling water it caught the limelight on you tube. The film revolved along the varied touristy experiences of the shikarawala. The impromptu song by the shikarawala Habibullah Butt, of Dandi, became the highlight of the film. Even now Butt rows the shikara in the Dal Lake.

Q4. What level do you give to music in your films?
Ans: Music is very vital to my films as it is to the entire spectrum of Indian movies. I am very particular about the background scores, the soundtracks, the song and the lyrics. They should not only gel together to bring forth the story but in places I have chosen them for the sheer effect of the travails. I try not to insert a playback singer’s voice that does not match the character’s personality, even though I may be emotionally affected by it. I try to use it appropriately; rest is up to the Almighty.

Q5. You think you have something unique in you that other directors may not have?

Ans: Yes, I have an e-mail address ‘standingingalerybelow’ (smiles) and it has a unique story. A girl who once worked with me kept this name for our production house’s email, because in all my films there was always a character under the gallery. When she left, she gifted me the email and ever since it has become my prized personal email.

Q6. Can I safely address you as a hit director given the fact that you have had a string of blockbusters in a short span?
Ans: I never know if my work would be attractive to my audience or hit the dust. There are always layers and layers in creating a film. It is the script, the storyline, the conception, writing, presentation, direction and final outcome and no one knows whether it will click or turn into a flop. Yes, instinct is very much present but instinct and period, beyond that I don’t think. That is how I make it; the end result is not something that I or anyone can predict.

Q7. Which one of the actresses would you prefer Aaliya Bhatt or Kareena Kapoor? Do you like happy or prefer open endings where audience draw their own conclusions?

Ans: Aalia was amazing. In every new shot she surprised me during the making of ‘Highway’. Kareena is of course more experienced and is a very good actress. I haven’t experimented much with open endings I don’t feel there is a choice in a storyline. Whatever the story demands I meander it that way.‘Rockstar’ had a tragic ending, ‘Highway’ had a good one so did ‘Jab we met’.
Q8. What is lacking in Bollywood today? Is there anyone you would love to work with?

Ans: Bollywood is missing out on the strength of good writers. Strong storylines are missing. I would have loved to work with Dalip Kumar; he is one of the greatest actors India has seen. But I do not foresee my dream coming true.
Q9. Do you take time or make instant decisions? Which one would you consider for a re-make of an old or a regional hit?
Ans: I take snap decisions. I don’t linger around too much (running his fingers in his curly hair and giving it a gentle flick). I find no fun in remakes or rehashing old stuff be it songs or stories. There is a whole world of new stories.
I love to make movies on human interest stories where characters are vital and I choose them with care. I would however love to make a character movie someday like Farhan Akhtar’s–Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Also I would try a period film someday in the backdrop of Mughal period when Urdu was developing and poets were writing in mixed languages, the period of Hazrat Aamir Khusro, the emergence of Hindustani music.

Q10. Any love interest in your life? What are your views on marriage?
Ans: No, I wouldn’t like to talk about my love interest. Marriage is very difficult; people should go into it on their own risks.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON JUNE 29, 2014 ON PAGE 7
URL :http://www.risingkashmir.com/kashmir-is-organic-not-manicured-imtiaz/

Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013/ …Rashmi Talwar


Rashmi Talwar bagged the Tourism Professional Writer’s Award Jammu and Kashmir-2013.
Department of Tourism Kashmir honored Rising Kashmir newspaper with two awards for promoting tourism at global level.
Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parvez gave away the Awards to Rising Kashmir. An Amritsar based journalist Rashmi Talwar who writes for Rising Kashmir on Tourism was given the first award for promoting Kashmir Tourism. She has been writing a series of pieces on tourism after she visited Kashmir this summere. Her write-ups have been published in Rising Kashmir regularly highlighting the potential of tourism in Kashmir . Rashmi Talwar also writes on Indo-Pak relations.

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Award -2013

Rashmi Talwar, Journalist from Amritsar bags Kashmir Tourism Award -2013


Here is letter from department of Tourism

Dear Rashmi Talwar,

Good Evening,

Congratulations! Your Series of articles in Rising Kashmir have been found to be qualifying for the number one position in the professional category of Tourism articles published in the newspaper. Consequently, you will be awarded with a cash prize as well as a memento. The ceremony is scheduled to be tomorrow at Pampore (31st October 2013) on the occasion of conclusion of Saffron Festival. The event will be covered in local press as usual. Simultaneously, we will upload the articles onto our Official Website.

Warmest.

Husain Jt Director Tourism
Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir

http://www.risingkashmir.com/rising-kashmir-bags-2-awards/#

Hilarious kick-start to the first Football in Kashmir….. By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


While buying roadside knick-knacks, if an old man is seen looking closely at a tall gate of Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School in Sheikh Bagh locality of Srinagar, surely, that night’s bedtime story would be an inspiring and hilarious tale of the first football of Kashmir.

The first football- a mini humpty-dumpty- traveled with a newly-wedded English couple of Rev Cecil Tyndale Biscoe, his new bride Blanche Violet Burges in 1891 from London, England. It sailed the seven-seas and reached Karachi, bumped on to Rawalpindi and bounced over to a horse–carriage to Baramulla to finally set sail in a ‘doonga’ – an indigenous Kashmiri boat- and reached Srinagar in 1891.

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

FIRST FOOTBALL IN KASHMIR

Tyndale Biscoe and the first football in Kashmir

Tyndale Biscoe (TB) recalled with glee his tryst when he brought the first football to Kashmir in the autumn of 1891 – “When I brought my bride to Kashmir in November 1891, I brought, also a leather football. When I held it up before the assembled school they asked, what is that?
TB- It is a football.
Boys- What is the use of it?
TB- For playing a game.
Boys- Shall we receive any money if we play that game?
TB- No!
Boys- Then we will not play that game. What is it made of?
TB- Leather.
Boys-Take it away! Take it away!
TB-Why should I take it away?
Boys- Because it is jutha (unholy) we may not touch it, it is leather.
TB- I do not wish you to handle it. I want you to kick it and to-day you are going to learn how to kick it, boys.
Boys- We will not play that jutha game.

So instead of the usual English lesson with the senior class, where many boys had whiskers and beards and some were married and had children, Biscoe described the game and, drew a map of a football ground on a blackboard, showing the position of the players, etc.
Anticipating trouble, he called the teachers, who were all Brahmins, and ordered them to picket certain streets to prevent the boys from running away. When all was ready he gave the orders to proceed to the ground and-“shooed them on like sheep or cattle to the market” when the boys entered the gate. It was a great sight never to be forgotten- All boys shuffling along the street wearing wooden clogs-kharav, carrying their firepots-kangris under flowing phirans or cloaks, on their way to play football. Some were wearing huge gold earrings, some had nose rings and all of them wore their caste marks.

Soon goal posts were put up and teams lined up. A crowd of townsfolk grew every minute, all eager to see the new mischief this foolish young sahib (Tyndale Biscoe) was up to now. When everyone was set, Biscoe put the football in the centre and ordered to kick.

The black-bearded Brahmin looked at him, then at the crowd of fellow co-religionists around, and hung his head. Biscoe again ordered, “Kick!” – Nothing happened. He boomed: “I will give you five-minutes to think, and then something will happen, which you will not like.” What was going to happen, he had not the slightest idea, but fortunately he had armed his teachers with single sticks, in order to drive the boys to the common ground. He lined up the teachers at the goals and told them that when they heard him shout “kick”, should the order not be obeyed immediately, they were at once to rush from the goals at the teams waving their single sticks, and shouting blue murder.

The countdown began: “10 seconds left, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Kick !!!” and down came the teachers shouting and waving their single sticks. Off went that ball and in five seconds all was confusion, for the boys forgot their places on the field, or that they were holy Brahmins, and a rough and tumble began. As they tried to kick the ball, generally missed it, their clogs flew into the air and their pugaris (turbans) were knocked off while their gowns or cloaks (phirans) flapped in one another’s faces; a real grand mix-up of clothes and humanity, it was.

Then all of a sudden there were sounds of agony and horror. A boy was brought sobbing, this Brahmin boy had the unholy leather kicked bang into his face. A terrible predicament, what could the gods be thinking about it? Biscoe told them to take him to the canal and wash him. Away went the crowd with the defiled boy. Back came the washed boy and the rest of the players, all of whom to his surprise at once resumed the game and continued until Biscoe called time. Sightseers were wildly excited and went off to give accounts of this “first game of football played by Brahmins in Kashmir”.

When the so ‘defiled’ black-bearded boy reached his home, his wickedness had reached before his arrival. He was not allowed to enter his home for three months and stayed with a kind relative. Brahmin priests were sure that it was a naughty game. For twelve months, no football could be played unless Biscoe was present to play or referee. Many pricked and deflated the ball but were caught.

After ten years, football was taught to students of ‘State School’ as a game of higher caste gentlemen, later other schools followed. The Hindu or Mohammedan schools too bought footballs and before long inter-school matches were played.

At first, during matches witchcraft was used. Opponents would bring a Brahmin priest to exorcise the goal to prevent the ball to goal. After years, Kashmir succeeded in exorcising the demon from football and despite the valley’s unabated turmoil football’s fascination, is visible in phiran-clad youth holding kangris with one hand, being playful with a football in grounds all over villages of Kashmir, although, few may have had a chance to hear a bedtime story of the furore this little brat caused when it first stepped into Kashmir.

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
http://www.risingkashmir.com/hilarious-kick-start-to-the-first-football-in-kashmir/

A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl…. Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir


A la ‘Veer Zara’ wedding of Amritsar’s grandson with a Pak girl

Rashmi Talwar SEPTEMBER 13, 2013—–
Rising Kashmir

It may be a little bewildering but it happened! Of course Yash Chopra’s hit film ‘Veer Zara’ set the track and tone for cross-border, cross-religion marriages but nothing could have prepared the Hoon family- of the Potadhar tribe of Hindus, Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus, when their son Kanav Partap Hoon, lost his heart to Muslim Samiya Siddiq of Lahore, Pakistan. More so as Kanav happens to be the grandson of (retd) Lt general Prem Nath Hoon, a former Indian army commander, settled in Chandigarh.
The innocent interaction by two youngsters Kanav, 27 and Samiya, 26 started over the internet. With strict visa policy and even harsher rival country situation, combined with the fact that it could turn out to be a mere infatuation, they decided to meet in Dubai as friends first. But after Dubai there was no turning back as each had fallen madly in love.

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandiagarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav Partap Hoon (chandigarh) weds Samiya Siddiqi of Lahore

Kanav, took a strong stand with his family especially his father Ronnie and grandfather that Samiya was the only girl he wanted to marry. “It was not only about the girl being a Muslim but about her being from Pakistan,” commented a family friend.
Even though the situation caused heavy creases on the foreheads of both the father and grandfather of the boy, no amount of cajoling worked for the young boy or the Pakistani girl to give up their relationship. Finally the Indian family had to relent for the sake of the happiness of their only son.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR  Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR
Veer Zara- Indo Pak , Hindu Muslim Wedding

Early this year, the pre-wedding, shagun ceremony was held in Lahore, whereby the family from Chandigarh had traveled to Lahore, but till then the father and grandfather had not given in to the desire of Kanav and so did not accompany them. Also, people in services are not given visas to each other’s countries by both neighbors. However, the boy’s mother Radhika @Radhu and maternal grandmother of Kanav, and a few more close relatives chose to do the right thing in the circumstances and the ceremony of consolidation of promise of marriage, was happily entered into at the maternal home of bride-to-be Samiya, in Lahore.
A marriage party of 55 persons came down from Lahore to Chandigarh for the wedding on this Friday in which there were more women than men including young girls. There were four functions for the wedding including a Mehandi raat and a cocktail.
As is the norm in Punjabi weddings these days, family members and friends prepare a cultural programme on bollywood numbers. From the bride Samiya’s side, Pakistani girls danced on latest saucy and raunchy hit Indian bollywood numbers like ‘meri photo ko chipka le saiyaan fevicol se’, ‘loongi dance’ ; ‘firebrigade mangva de tu’ etc. A guest from the Pakistani side later revealed that the Pak girls who danced were not all from the family but professional dancers, who had accompanied the marriage party from Lahore.
Samiya, is the daughter of Shazia Siddiq, as was claimed by her family, who had lost her father Mian Mohammed Siddiq early in life. But speculation ran riot during the wedding that bride Samiya was the daughter of Shahbaz Shrief the Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab, the brother of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Shrief .
The marriage was first registered in court without any formal religious vows and a grand reception was held in Taj Hotel, Chandigarh. The fact that Shahbaz Sharief’s divorced wife Aaliya Honey and her sister were present during the wedding celebrations, had triggered the rumors. The Tareek E Insaaf party of Imran Khan was quick to grab political mileage out of the situation, and known to have put the news links on their Twitter and Facebook posts, later however they removed it.
The bride’s family had brought a specially designed Doli (palanquin) in the shape of a blooming Lotus for the bride to be carried by four carriers. The trend of Dolis is often seen in big fat Punjabi weddings in India these days.
“The Doli was exquisite, I have never seen a more beautiful designed doli. Matching the doli were miniature lotus flower candle holders that were put in the entire pandal,” said one guest. The bride’s families were wearing Indo-western outfits instead of pure ethnic wear of Lehanga, Shararas, Sarees etc and the designs were out of the world, beamed one guest. The outfits had been designed in Karachi. Incidentally, the groom’s mother is the owner of a high class fashion boutique in Chandigarh and so both sides were going gag over each other’s outfits as Indians and Pakistanis Punjabis are considered to be too fashion conscious.
A guest at the wedding and close family friend told Rising Kashmir that tongues kept wagging about the bride being from Pakistan’s ruling family of Shariefs’. While the bride and groom kept mum over the issue it was grandfather (retd) Lt Gen Hoon who cleared the air and said this was false and angrily stated that people concoct stories out of nowhere. Being unwell, 85- year old Ambar Hoon, grandmother of the bridegroom couldn’t attend the wedding.
A Senior journalist who attended the wedding along with some top politicians of Punjab like Rana Gurjit Singh stated – “Cyber space has given a handle to religious fanaticism in groups but on a personal and singular level it has served to build bridges and reject snobbish ideas of religion. If any wedding has been the cynosure of all eyes after Ashwarya Rai and Abhishekh Bachchan and Sania Mirza and Shoaib, it is this of Pakistani girl marrying the grandson of the former Indian army commander who is known to openly air his views on Indo-Pak relations in the face of violations and provocations at the LoC that has caught the imagination of people as the way forward for better relations between the two warring countries. Even though the Hoons are known to be a martial tribe from central Asia says Autar Mota, a Kashmir who has worked on Huns, Mihirkula being once rulers of Kashmir. However, the Hoon family of Chandigarh traces its origins from Potodhar Plateau and natives of Abottabad- in Pakistan, the infamous hideout of the Osama Bin Laden- the 9/11 mastermind.”
The former commander of Indian army Lt Gen Hoon headed the 15 Corps that had recaptured Siachen glacier in April 13, 1984 in Op Meghdoot.
The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com
URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/a-la-veer-zara-wedding-of-amritsars-grandson-with-a-pak-girl
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

More Orchestrated than the Orchestra? …. By Rashmi Talwar


DSCN0289EHSAAS~E~KASHMIR

Ehsaas-E-Kashmir

More Orchestrated than the Orchestra?

Rashmi Talwar

The tallest of Chinars and the tiniest of Rose buds rejoiced and swung in divine unison to the enthralling tunes emanating from the grand orchestra; majestic snows felt captivated with a tingling sensation; lush gardens emitted a more sweeter fragrance; bluish waters got intoxicated and many a weeping willow smiled broadly and whistled a tune to match the musical notes of melodies as Zubin Mehta and Abhay Rustam Sopori waved their respective batons at the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Soz-o-saaz ensemble of the best of Kashmiri instrumentalists.

Alas, humans- Ashraf-ul-Makhlookaat- the loftiest species, endowed with the gift of creation, acumen as thinkers and protectors were seen standing in divided queues slotted into countless paranoiac segments during the grand display of melody at the sprawling Shalimar Garden of Srinagar, on September 7, 2013. About 90 musicians from Germany showcased magnificent musical creations face to face with 2000 invitees. Many invitees were short-listed months in advance from a list of music connoisseurs.

The curtains rolled up with a music piece by top Kashmiri instrumentalists who played music of 19th century famed poet Rusul Mir’s rustic, romantic hit “Rind Poshmal Gindanay Draay Lo Lo; Shoobi Shaabash Chyani Poth Tsaayi Lo Lo” (O the lover of beauty and wine, Poshmal has come out to frolic; Even the shadow of your shadow deserves praise).

As the East met the West in a matchless assemblage, more than 15 musicians from Soz-o-Saaz, brought folk and Sufi color to the majestic evening and played compositions of Kashmir’s proud son Abhay Rustam Sopori, Santoor maestro, master composer, son of legendary musician Pandit Bhajan Sopori.

ZUBIN MEHTA AND GERMANY'S BAVARIAN STATE ORCHESTRA IN KASHMIR 7TH SEPT 2013

ZUBIN MEHTA AND GERMANY’S BAVARIAN STATE ORCHESTRA IN KASHMIR 7TH SEPT 2013

Top Kashmiri Instrumentalists at Zubin Mehta concert Shalimar Gardens Srinagar

Top Kashmiri Instrumentalists at Zubin Mehta concert Shalimar Gardens Srinagar

But elsewhere a boy defying halt orders was injured in fire by security, in the heart of Srinagar. Four more were killed by security forces in sensitive Shopain of South Kashmir while 12 of the security were injured. “I feel so honored for my compositions to be played by master musicians of the Bavarian State Orchestra with Musical great Zubin Mehta” said Abhay Sopori in his humble style to this writer. At the concert, German ambassador Michael Steiner called out ‘Khushamdeed’ extending a Kashmiri welcome.

Western instruments harmonized seamlessly with distinct Kashmiri music flavors and created melting moments of classic symphony with ethnic instruments of Santoor, Rabab, Sarangi, Tumbaknari and Matka. As Fusion music receded, it was gently taken over by mellow and climactic strains of Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Strauss.While world over these concerts have a select audience, in Kashmir the select audience became an abrasive issue, a status symbol with snob value. Predictably then, some high profile invitees with little sense of music, walked around during a recital; yawned or drove their ears and eyes to the who’s who and fiddled with cell phones. Zubin promised that next time the concert would be for everyone instead of an elitist audience. He was clearly trying to clear the creases from the brows of many uninvited and hullabaloo caused by Kashmir over the event. The grand maestro quoted – Many nightingales entered the garden and flowers made way for the nightingales – taking a leaf out of poetry of famed poetess of Kashmir, Habba Khatoon.

“To audience across the world, Zubin Mehta brought a message of optimism and conviction about the shared destiny of humankind,” The Kashmiri-Bavarian blend music-piece a 7-minute recital created history in the music world. Abhay Rustam Sopori had painstakingly created the music score sheet for foreign musicians of the Bavarian Orchestra, to read and play while the Kashmiri Musicians played by rote – a symphony that found itself as the first in the legendary history of Kashmir. The tingling Santoor matched other musical beats of the valley taking on the Bavarian compositions to fall neatly into folds, in the back drop of historical Shalimar gardens. Kashmir’s robust floriculture department laid the grandeur famed terraced lawns of Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the 17th century with a thorough facelift, not seen in last 40 years. The gardens seemed to have turned all ears and eyes for the lilting musical aura, in decades.

“This is true”, says Kapal Bhrany, an ardent lover of Kashmir in Amritsar in his late 70s, “It leaves me in raptures to recall the musical nights during Shab-e-Shalimar. I saw it first in 1959 and in the 70s with my family. It was a Kashmiri music fare with a son-et-lumiere with Rauf and other dances”, he reminisced.
In 24 European nations, TV viewers watched mesmerized musicians in the grip of creative delirium, as the foothills of ZabarwanRange in the backdrop of Dewan-e-Khaas reverberated and ensconced them in the magnificence of one of the greatest music scores, for nearly 90 minutes.

Those miffed by the 77-year-old celebrated Zubin’s ‘Ehsaas-e-Kashmir’ (the feel of Kashmir); seem to have wished no joys or pride for their Kashmir. They concocted stories and assigned meanings and stepped up all opportunity to play politics. On the sidelines they yearned to be invited and refusal made them label it the ‘sour grapes’ .The event was a threat to their power to evoke wailings and tears for every misfortune that arrives in Kashmir. “Kashmir, should remain embedded in the throes of despair nothing should soothen the wrinkles of the past,” is their wish.

Insiders say, ‘If separatists really care, let them impose restrictions on big fat Kashmiri weddings and smoothen lives of Kashmiris.” That the concert will facilitate the Indian state to publicize normalcy in Kashmir, is their assault. But Mehta countered-‘Music uplifts forlorn lives!’ ‘Provocation is easy in Kashmir. Who in Kashmir has not watched the live telecast of the musical night in protest?’ The shutdown in protest, rather served civic administration keeping most mischief mongers indoors.

In the entire scenario, nature exudes the warmth of a welcoming, like a father of a bride, to this alien music, while human beings are playing the ultimate villain. The ear that has loved, slept, dreamt after countless musical lullabies by doting mothers ever since birth, how could those ears become believers of destructors, how could they threaten to draw blood over the innocent softness of the healing touch of music?

Published in Saanjh on Wednesday September 11, 2013
URL : https://saanjh.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/more-orchestrated-than-the-orchestra-by-rashmi-talwar/

Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ? … By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Will Kashmir Cheer for India or Boo Rasool ?

 By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir ——–Cricketer Parvez Rasool  

Cricketer Parvez Rasool

When Prakash Chand Mehra, a 22-year old Amritsari, hollered ‘India, India’ into the hooter that he had made a night before to cheer the Indian team while watching the finest dribbling the world had ever seen by the Indian hockey wizard Dhyan Chand at 1936 Berlin Olympics, he actually had watched sports history in the making, what more could he have asked for, than the mighty Germans conceding defeat to the powerful Indian Hockey team.
Under the leadership of Dhyan Chand, India’s star player, India drubbed the Germans badly to win the Hockey Gold at 8-0, not even conceding one goal to rival Germans, that too at a time when the so- called ‘Superior Race’ belief for Germans was being brazenly flaunted by none other than Hitler himself to give wind to the hate wave for persecution of Jews, the old, the infirm or the diseased. Olympics were specifically showcased to display the German’s superiority over all other races of the world. Hockey, however, proved to be a spoiler to that belief. It also gave India, still under colonial rule, a new hope and unified its numerous contradictory identities, at least till the time the jubilation of Victory lasted.

Indisputably, ‘sports’ and ‘calamities’ are the biggest unifiers of a community or humanity. The decision to include Parvez Rasool – a Kashmiri, in the Indian squad for the Zimbabwe tour may have nothing to do with politics but among his detractors speculation is rife that the decision has been taken to appease Kashmiris. Whatever be the truth, the fact remains that Rasool’s inclusion in the Indian squad has given a big, proud moment for Kashmiris to rejoice.
The 23-year old Rasool, of humble beginnings from Bijbehara in Anantnag district of Kashmir and the first from the state to bag an IPL contract, has finally made it as the blue-eyed boy of Kashmir. The achievement has its reverberations in quaint narrow lanes of the cities, townships and even in the village gullies, where  Kashmiris are hooked to Cricket as festively and traditionally  as they are to  their ‘Kangris’. After all Kashmir produces the best willow that goes into making of the finest bats in the world.
A familiar sight anywhere in Kashmir is that of a group of boys having innovated some wooden clefts and improvised balls to have a go at a game of cricket even in an undulating spot. Such is the craze for the game that they continue playing indoor cricket during snows and rains. Often, they have their mothers run after them mumbling incoherently and dragging them away to finish their homework. Yet, they soon reappear within minutes, declaring to have finished their home-work, owing to their raging love for cricket. Hence, every household is sure to have a bat, especially a family having a male member. And of course in Kashmir, ignorance about cricket can silently turn you into an outcast.
The only glaring contrast of Kashmir with the rest of the India is that Kashmiris would invariably cheer a team playing opposite India and if it was rivals Pakistan against India then it was seen that most Kashmiris, especially of the majority community of the region, would cheer for Pakistan. “This is tradition! (To cheer for Pakistan). Aap nahi samjhogey!” (You will not understand!)  A young Kashmiri Aijaz Rasool shook his head and told me. Aijaz works as a cameraman for a TV Channel.
A young Kashmiri driver who met me is a real contrast to his compatriots who disliked his own name ‘Ramiz Raja’ kept after the name of a Pakistani cricketer. When asked about his name, he said he hated his name and his first preference would be to be named Amitabh Bachchan or second, Salman Khan. Perhaps he felt free with those who were not of his own state to freely speak his mind and choices.
Kashmir and the rest of India are waiting with bated breath when off-spinner Rasool, the lad from Kashmir bowls his first ball or scores his first run for the national cricket team in the forthcoming tour against Zimbabwe. India would turn all ears for cheers from Kashmir for the Indian team. “Rasool is in a position to inspire a generation,” says hotelier Sajid Farooq. It is not certain how well Rasool will perform in the one –day series that begins by the end of the month, but he has crossed his first hurdle and become the new hero.
In recent years, some Kashmiris have taken leads in various fields. Only a few years ago Shah Faesal became India’s first IAS topper leaving a heavy burdensome past of sufferings far behind and inspiring many Kashmiris to look ahead. Not only this, Faesal as an inspiration became a reality when a record number of Kashmiris were able to crack the IAS after his success. Few allegedly separatist Kashmiris had called Faesal names for appearing for the ‘Indian’ Administrative Services, but most are relegating biased notions of their forefathers against India behind them and trying new ways to move ahead.
I also recently heard of a boy who created an indigenous simple hydro power generator and operated it in the Lidder River that flows through Pahalgam. Yet, above all these formidable achievers, a player comes tops. He is the one who has a matchless aura. And who better than a cricketer from one’s own state, at that.
No matter what some jealous or biased persons may point out about Rasool’s joining the Indian Team, it is true that the 33-wickets that Rasool took in seven matches in the 2012-2013 Ranji Trophy season is an impressive achievement. His 594 runs with two centuries too are no small feat. Harbhajan’s slackness means that India badly needed an off spinner and Rasool has made his mark and is a genuine replacement for him as an off-spinner.
With Rasool’s inclusion it remains to be seen-“Whether youth of Kashmir will also make indigenous hooters and holler -India! India! during the cricket tour or will they resort to using the same hooter to boo Rasool for playing for India?”

The author can be mailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON 19TH JULY 2013 
URL: http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/will-kashmir-cheer-for-india-or-boo-rasool-51577.aspx

Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!… By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


Heritage & Tourism Series-III

Srinagar’s Heritage of Fallen Stars and Rising Suns!

By Rashmi Talwar

"KASHMIR 'S HERITAGE OF FALLEN STARS AND RISING SUNS !"

“KASHMIR ‘S HERITAGE OF FALLEN STARS AND RISING SUNS !”

No patch of civilization stands as a ghost; behind it are always marvellous tales of strengths and weaknesses, sufferings and challenges, growth and falls, courage and betrayals. Every civilisation has a heritage bubbling with stories of fallen stars and risings suns.

As an ancient city, Srinagar ensconces the source of one of the richest tangible heritages emerging from the footprints of a cross section of the greatest influences of time including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Hindu kingdoms, followed by Muslim rule, culminating with the Mughals and later Sikhs and Dogras, have left many stories in their wake. Stories of grit and grind, translating into fabulous visible heritage, are so varied and spectacular that they have to struggle hard to find a match.

There is urgent need to protect and preserve this tangible heritage. Tourism is the singular and the most potent factor that has the unique power to provide incentive for sustaining this rich but crumbling and decaying heritage.

GARLANDS OF VEGETABLES OUT TO DRY FOR WINTER STORE

GARLANDS OF VEGETABLES OUT TO DRY FOR WINTER STORE


As an audience is to a singer and spectators are to a game of cricket, heritage tourism is to heritage conservation. Attraction amongst tourists can be enhanced when heritage is put to attractive use, like the ‘Food Street in Lahore’ that has used beautiful heritage building facades, lighted up on both sides of a wide street, to showcase the savoury heritage of culinary delights, in an ambience that transforms them to ancient times. Not only do the residents in Lahore prefer to take guests and enchant tourists with a special dinner to this street, instead of fancy restaurants, they actually take great pride in it.
SHAH-I-HAMDAN

SHAH-I-HAMDAN

Delight in heritage can only be realized when its optimum strengths are recognized and used to advantage. Tourism can give a vital push to preservation when it becomes an income generating enterprise. If we consider only one city i.e. Srinagar – it is a veritable storehouse of rich heritage, including floating heritage, open air heritage, heritage in the entwining lanes of its downtown or heritage perched on picturesque hills and more.

Significantly, heritage buildings in developed countries solely bank on tourism for their upkeep with little or no help from government funds. Many private enterprises have taken over such heritage properties for the purpose of creating their private tourism circuit and generate income, thus conserving heritage buildings, artefacts and unique habitations.

Such examples like the Glow Worm Caves of New Zealand, the stalagmite-stalactite formations at famous Luray Caverns in Virginia near Washington DC, USA, are entirely managed by private concerns. Even some heritage churches like London’s St Paul’s Cathedral charges 16 pounds each from sightseers. These heritage properties are thus able to sustain maintenance and repair entirely by tourism along with generating jobs for unlimited tertiary or related units.

History of Srinagar

Srinagar has a rare combination of medieval charm and modernity. Its topography can indeed make anyone fall in love with it at first glance. One theory of the origin of the name Srinagar is that a Pandava King Ashoka (not to be confused with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) built the city of Srinagari (Srinagar). Another theory is that Mauryan Emperor Ashoka founded the original city of Srinagar, then situated on the site of the present village of Pandrethan, 5 km to the north of the existing capital. Some say that Srinagar has a history dating back at least to the 3rd century BC and before being known by the name Srinagar, its name was Pravarsenpur as it was founded by the King Pravarasena II.

Pre-historic Sites in Kashmir

Few people know that Srinagar’s habitation dates back to 3000 BC, referred to as the ‘new stone age’, traces of which were first discovered in ‘Burzahom’- the first Neolithic site in Kashmir. Burzahom, located in Srinagar between the banks of the Dal Lake and Zabarvan hills, is just about 5-kms from Shalimar- the world famous Mughal gardens, It is not the only one, more prehistoric sites have been discovered in nooks and corners of Kashmir.

‘Burzahom’- the name translates as ‘place’ (hom) of ‘birch’ (burza) in Kashmiri. Interestingly, it was found with burnt birch remnants during excavations that proved that an abundance of birch trees flourished in the New Stone Age in this area. The unique feature of Burzahom is the discovery of tools manufactured using animal bones and antlers besides which the strangest ritual prevalent at those times of ‘animal burials’ was found that has not been seen at any Neolithic site in any other parts of India.

Plenty of food from forests, abundant water supply and a raised location protected Burzahom plateau from seasonal flooding, thus remaining continuously settled from the New Stone Age onwards to the Early Historical period.

Lifestyle and Crafts

Remnants of the bygone era, through the ancient city’s maze of crisscrossing lanes, could give a glimpse into the dwellers unique lifestyle that carries on undeterred by changing times, not entirely due to stubbornness of people, disallowing change, but the turmoil and survival tactics that naturally came into play dealing with varied circumstances for inhabitants and their families. For many thus, time has stood still, as animal instinct took precedence and time or avenues for outward vision of the changing world were a faraway dream, if they were a dream at all! Many rituals continued for fear of divine wrath or reprisals. Superstitions and ritualistic beliefs gripped the populace and grew deeper roots due to the tumult and disturbances. Yet, many lifestyles continued on the same pattern, unaffected by the vagaries of time.

Even though supplies have become plentiful all year around in recent times, people continue to store, as a way of life. Watch for many an open window, especially facing east, that would hold vegetable garlands in summer. No, this is not a decoration or ritual–it’s a way to dry vegetables for storage and use during the winter chill. Similarly, pickling and drying fruits like apricots, storing nuts and grain were meant to tide over the scarcity of food. Dr. Aneesa, a senior tourism official who accompanied me on a city tour recently, laughs and says –“Wish that, vice-versa, we could also store icicles that hang from the roofs after snow, to use for sherbets in summers, as temperatures in summers have risen steadily in Srinagar as compared to the olden times”.

In the by lanes of Srinagar, however, the beehive of close houses may not entirely dispel the winter chill or fear from hearts but they have surely insulated people from extreme weather conditions, time and again. The ‘dub’ or the frontal balcony, jutting out in Rajasthani ‘Jharokha’ style, of an old Kashmiri house, that is still inhabited, could have tiny little, shy, hazel eyes or shrouded faces of giggling women and children, peeping out on the street.

Art and Kashmiris

Arts and crafts have been an integral part of life in Kashmir since time immemorial. The ruins of Martand and Avantipora bear ample testimony to a great tradition of sculpture that flourished in these parts many centuries ago. Not many people are aware that it was the Kashmiri artists who painted all monasteries in the region of Tibet, Ladakh and Lahul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. Later the arts and crafts also entered Kashmir when Shah-i-Hamdan came to Kashmir from Persia (now Iran) during the 13th century. Among the seven hundred followers, who accompanied him to Kashmir, were men of arts and crafts who flourished here. They popularized shawl-making, carpet and cloth-weaving, pottery and calligraphy.
In the downtown area in Srinagar where many craftsmen live, if you find a Kashmiri hunched over something, it could either be a hookah or Kangri or better still he could be engaged in tracing a treasure trove of hand paintings of birds, fruits, flowers and tree branches on a Papier-mâché jingle bell, or sewing an intricate pattern of interlocking Chinar leaves with Tulips and Paisley using Sozni embroidery on world famous Pashmina shawls or even Pashmina Sarees that were once prized heirloom as dowry gifts amongst affluent Kashmiris, especially the Kashmiri Pandits. His sharp light eyes could be watching as his hands carve fabulous patterns of daffodils, Chinar leaves and Shikaras or Deers onto soft furniture wood. What do you know! It may be the Kani shawl or the finest silk carpet with Persian designs or his deft fingers could be leading a willow twig’s fascinating journey in a zigzag tumble to create a duck shaped bread-server or a ‘Sarposh’ of woven willow- the royal covering for bridal Shagun or offerings of dainties, or he could be intently filing a willow, to get that perfect angle for a Sachin Tendulkar look-alike bat.

If you are inquisitive about more such handicraft-making clusters then the J&K Government’s Arts Emporium exhibits 11 traditional handicraft demonstrations by Kashmiri artisans including the rare sapphire-ware, crewel embroidery on ‘Namdas’ or mats and tapestry etc. But if one is willing to dart to real time artisans then Kashmir’s fabled silver, copper and other metal-ware craftsmen creating such beauties and workable objects d’art as ‘Samawar’, or the traditional ‘Tashnaer’ are clustered in Zaina Kadal. Papier-mâché items are made in bulk mostly in Magam village near Gulmarg populated by Shia Muslims, the best mortar and pestle comes from Pandrethan near Srinagar close to stone quarries, while units making carpets or Kaleen are clustered near Hazratbal Shrine. The best willow work, as also ornate Kangris or wicker fire pots, can be found in Tsrar Sharif. Most handicrafts making work is carried out in downtown areas in close knit residential colonies. Similarly, Kokker Bazaar is for Kashmiri spices, Hari Singh High Street is hub of gold jewellery. Ghonikhan is a market for home décor and garments.

Best Ways to Explore Heritage

Walking is one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of awe-inspiring architectural marvels of Kashmir’s capital city -Srinagar’s interior or downtown area, which has many a gem veiled away in its crevices.

HERITAGE WATCH IN SHIKARA

HERITAGE WATCH IN SHIKARA

• Taking a shikara boat on River Jhelum is another novel way to see the heritage buildings. You may also observe some that seem to hold secret passages for a clandestine back-door entry!

• Given the nature of the labyrinthine lanes of the ancient city, it would not be amiss for the tourism department to introduce ‘Segways’—a two-wheeled electric upright transporter, for a single person that looks like an overgrown child’s scooter used extensively for tourism in developed countries. “Segway, could be a good option for Kashmir, especially as it is non-obtrusive, non- pollutant, taking minimal space and can afford even the Greying-but-Adventurous (GBA) population of the world an opportunity to visit without tiring themselves by walking”, says a global tourism expert.

Hiring a taxi, though expensive, is of course the most convenient as the driver remains always stationed behind the steering wheel and one needn’t park in touristy venues in narrow winding lanes. The driver can always move the vehicle in case of need. Otherwise, due to space constraints, parking could blow your ears out with Kashmiri shouts, spanking, blowing horns and screams and ‘if looks could kill’ stares –an eye-popping menacing gaze could hold you frozen.

• An audio-device guide used extensively abroad would be a wonderful way to guide the tourists during their visit to the old Srinagar city. It provides a recorded spoken commentary, normally through a handheld device, for an attraction such as a museum or a walk through an old township. These devices could facilitate self-guided tours of outdoor locations or as a part of an organised tour. The headphone audio device guide provides background, as well as information on the things being viewed. Audio guides are in multilingual versions and can be rented on the spot for a small fee and keeping the identity proof of tourist, as security. The vast and sprawling Louvre Museum in Paris has utilised this facility to great advantage and it can also work wonders in Srinagar.

• Another way is a ‘single’ pre-paid ticket that can be used for Shikaras, Taxis and Auto Rickshaws in Srinagar thus facilitating tourists in visiting the places of their choice in the mode of transport of their choosing. This can be purchased by the visitors in the form of a ticket book which can be given to the Shikara, taxi or Auto Rickshaw person in lieu of the services utilised, who in turn can redeem it from the vendor of the service. It will work in a manner similar to pre-paid taxies in rest of the country and the idea of having a single ticket for rail, road and water transport is already working very successfully in Switzerland, London etc.

• Mini coaches run from bus stops in 22 km. range. However wouldn’t a single ticket of 24 hours on ‘Hop-on, Hop-off’, Tourist coaches or open deck tourist coaches be a better idea for the state government? Why, even battery operated vehicles could be best formulated for interior areas.

Heritage Sites

If you have been through the first flush of love with the delightful frolics of Srinagar with Jhelum River, also known as Vitasta, majestically meandering between banks and connected by various kadals or bridges, you may visit the winsome sites that the city offers. The scenery of Zabarwan range of mountains, surrounding shimmering waters, the scene of house boats lining the Lakes, the loud fun-n-frolic of Dal with its colored water fountains is breathtaking. Its floating vegetable market, floating fields or gardens in which vegetables are grown, amidst a sight of lotus blooms or ‘Pamposh’, or savouring the pouch shaped lotus ovary or ‘Pambachch’ for its nut-seeds is a delight that can be enjoyed in a wading shikara ride. Your eyes may just pop out as you notice a ‘floating post office cum museum’ marked small houseboat, with a real time working office.

FLOATING POST OFFICE CUM MUSEUM ON DAL LAKE

FLOATING POST OFFICE CUM MUSEUM ON DAL LAKE

The Nigeen Lake is comparably serene with a Lotus garden for company or the Wullar Lake of changing moods, pregnant with fish and birds declared a protected wetland but known to retort ferociously when winds try their teasing tricks.

The Mughal gardens are charming daytime leisure as Shalimar –(garden of amusement) called Farrah Baksh or ‘the delightful’, built for Noor Jahan by her husband Emperor Jehangir, Nishat Garden- a 12-terraced ‘garden of gladness’ symbolizing 12 zodiac signs, Royal spring or Chashma Shahi, Harwan- outlined by majestic Chinars, through which a quaint rivulet gently flows. Dachigam National Park for wildlife lovers, The Sri Partap Singh museum- a visible treasure trove of stone sculptures and artefacts but a missing curio shop, to take back a memory piece or two of photographic and written history or some souvenir to faraway homes.

Also gardens like the Botanical, the Tulip, the Zabarwan or Government Arts Emporium gardens are worth many, many leisurely strolls. Pari Mahal too is a terraced garden built by Prince Dara Shikoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan, who named it after his wife Pari Begum. It is also an observatory from where the entire scenic beauty of Srinagar gets a bird’s eye view. The sunrise and sunsets are unsurpassed when watched from this palace of fairies.

Overlooking the Dal and similar panoramic view of Srinagar is the Shankracharya Mandir, built in the 9th century after Adi Shankracharya is said to have preached here in the 8th century atop a hill- an ancient beauty in Kashmiri stone architecture. Heavily fortified, due to security threats, the view from the topmost terrace is breathtaking. Alas no cameras, cell phones or electronics are allowed here. This oldest Shiv Temple in Kashmir, the Shankracharya mandir is also held sacred by Buddhists who call it ‘Pas-Pahar’ and Muslims among whom the place is known as Takht-e-Sulaiman. According to an inscription etched on the wall the ceiling of this temple was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1644.

The Hari Parbat Range

Hari Parbat or Koh-e-Maran- ‘the hill of snakes’ is perhaps the only mountain to host shrines or structures from four different religious influences in Kashmir– Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist. Legend has it that it is most revered as the pebble thrown by goddess Parvati- the consort of Lord Shiva, which grew into a mountain and named Hari Parbat, and is said to have become the home for all the gods of the Hindu pantheon.

SHARIKA MATA TEMPLE AND GATE IN BUDDHIST STYLE AT HARI PARBAT

SHARIKA MATA TEMPLE AND GATE IN BUDDHIST STYLE AT HARI PARBAT

sharika mandir buddhist enterance kashmirAlthough the Fort is currently off limits for tourists, it can be seen closest from Sharika Mata Temple occupying the middle part of the western slope of the Parbat or hill. The Hari Parbat hill is considered sacred by the Kashmiri Pandits due to the presence of goddess Sharika – having 18-arms and regarded, the presiding deity (`Isht`-Devi) of Srinagar city. The goddess is represented by a Swayambhu Shrichakra, also called Mahashriyantra, which consists of circular mystic impressions and triangular patterns with a dot or bindu at the center. Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Sharika Devi or Ma Shakti (an emblem of cosmic energy pervading the universe). Strangely, the entrance to the temple is in the Buddhist style of entrance gates found outside Stupas. The gate is inscribed with Sanskrit Shlokas.

• An imposing Kathi Darwaza – Main outer entrance to Fort is visible to tourists. It has Persian commemorative inscriptions on its walls and ceilings. The fort is surrounded by fragrant almond orchards and their blooming is a celebration at Badamwari.

NOTICE THE CARVED 'CORBELS' IN MAKHDOOM SAHIB ON HARI PARBAT

NOTICE THE CARVED ‘CORBELS’ IN MAKHDOOM SAHIB ON HARI PARBAT

Makhdoom Sahib is on the southern side of the Hari Parbat. Nestled in the hillside, this magnificent shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdum or Makhdoom Sahib is considered one of the most sacred shrines in Kashmir. Multi-storeyed and pillared, the monument not only exhibits a remarkable architectural style but is thronged by people from all faiths, throughout the year. Inside the shrine is a narrow water channel. The entrance has a dome inside the main structure, reminiscent of a mix of Mughal and Sikh architecture while the ‘ornate corbels’ are something to watch out for along with Khatamband decorated ceiling and marble trellis work.

Gurdwara Chhatti Padshahi is another shrine on this hill, worshipped as one of the most revered Sikh shrines in Kashmir. It is believed that the sixth guru of Sikhs, Guru Hargobind travelled through Kashmir. Situated near Kathi Darwaza, it is built entirely in the Sikh architectural style of Gurdwaras. The story goes that the 6th Guru paid a visit to an ardent blind disciple Bag Bhari who had prepared a garment-Khadar Chola-in wait for the Guru, who granted her wish for a vision of himself with a water fountain, struck from the ground.

The Charming Downtown

In the delightful old bazaars of downtown Srinagar lie the original flavours, sounds and the real pulse of the city, whether you reach them by road or from the water channel of the Jhelum River. Interestingly in a mere two kilometre radius in downtown Srinagar, just a little distance from each other, stand four-varied structural wonders, distinct from each other. Each of them, a diverse architectural marvel and embellished uniquely, is seen to be influenced by varied rulers or are a mix-match of some well known architectural designs that in some ways symbolize Kashmiriyat or a spirit of harmony that Kashmir stands for. The Patthar Masjid, Shah-i-Hamdan Mosque, Jamia Masjid and Budshah’s tomb all are magnificently varied.

Although Buddhist, Persian, Mughal, Sikh influences are discernible but few heritage experts feel that Kashmir has its own style of architecture and has contributed a distinct stream of indigenous wooden architecture. The use of wood and its conversion, stylization in combination with rocks, stones and tiles into elements of building technology as well as craft forms is typical of this style. The ‘shooting flute spires’ on most shrines in Kashmir seem to be similar to Buddhist and other architectural styles in shrines the world over. Although the division of roofs as different from a steady circumambulation flow of the roof around the central structure, as seen in most pagoda style of layering and the exquisite style and use of woodcraft besides Papier-mâché and absence of any inlay work is indeed unique.

ROOF OF PATHAR MASJID

ROOF OF PATHAR MASJID

Pathar Masjid – The Pathar Masjid, a conventional stone mosque built by Mughal empress Noor Jahan in 1623, is unique in Kashmir where other structures use indigenous wood. Its distinctive designs and structural patterns make it as one of the age old Mughal structures known for its nine horizontal arches and 24 pillars with ornate stone carved roof. It is situated on the opposite bank of the River Jhelum in Nowhatta area. According to tourism records, “The Masjid is regarded as desecrated building by high priests of Islam”, presumably owing to its structural style or because of the fact that its building is attributed to a woman.

Jamia Masjid– is one of the most important shrines composed of 370 pillars of pure deodar wood, symbolizing one of the best architectural specimens that have survived the ravages of time and severe weather conditions. This spacious mosque holds a capacity to accommodate more than 33,333 people offering prayer at the same time. Four gateways of this mosque represent the four directions of the Universe.

Shah-i-Hamdan—is like a Kohinoor Diamond in Kashmir, perfection in aesthetics and artistry, truly Kashmiri. If you haven’t seen Shah-i-Hamdan you have missed the real and authentic spirit of beauty of Kashmir. Built for Syed Ali Hamdani- a true sufi by Sultan Qutab-ud-din and Sultan Sikandar in 1395, it was gutted in a fire and rebuilt by Abul Barkat Khan in 1732. After Timur’s rise in Iran, Hamdani was forced to leave and he came to Kashmir with 700 Sayyids or followers. The Hamdani Urs festival is celebrated in Kashmir with much reverence. These Sayyids were skilled craftsmen of the Shia sect of Islam and most of Kashmir’s introduction to current exquisite artistry is attributed to them.

It is then no wonder that Shah-i-Hamdan’s beauty is breathless. The combination of papier mache work and wood carving, the cornices and corbels are matchless. As one circumambulates the entire structure the backside that rests on the shores of Jhelum too is not left untouched either by the artist’s nimble fingers or by the hues of his palette or his mind that conceived the magnificent architecture of this lone structure woven with ornamental cornices, cresting and crockets. Apart from this is a Dome under the layered pagoda style structure. An artful woodwork with fine Papier-mâché workmanship on its walls and ceilings, it is one of the oldest shrines, with five facets, each of which has five arches, symbolizing the offering of five daily prayers.

Budshah’s Tomb – An octagonal dome constructed in 1465 AD over the grave of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother. Many greats are buried here as Sultan Sikander, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (Budshah) and his mother and reputed nobles of the time. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was reputed for being enlightened and for restructuring Kashmir, inviting artists, architects, craftsmen and artisans from Iran, Turan, Hindustan and Turkmenistan to prosper through their skills and settle in Kashmir. He was aptly surnamed –Budshah- The Great King! The tomb has unique blue tiles embedded in the brick masonry that give this domed structure a distinctive look.

Most Prominent

While there are very few surviving Buddhist Viharas, numerous examples of wood work of later periods exist in Srinagar even today. The mosque of Madin Sahib, Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother’s tomb and the shrine of Naqshband Sahib, are all examples of this composite architectural style.

Pir Dastageer shrine—built in 1767, this more than 200 years old ancient shrine was gutted in a devastating fire on June 24, 2012. This place is close to the hearts of Kashmiris of all faiths, so much so, that whenever in distress even a boatman would mumble ‘Ya Pir Dastageer! ‘Pir’ or spiritual Guide, and ‘Dastageer’ or one who holds your hand in distress.

SALVAGED FROM FIRE PIR DASTGEER

SALVAGED FROM FIRE PIR DASTGEER


The shrine is being rebuilt at a feverish pace. People staying in Khanyar area still remember its green color and large windows, ceiling made of Khatamband woodwork and stained glass windows, Chandeliers, magnificent ‘Dubs’ or Jharokas, the trellis work or Pinjarkaari in wood on the windows. To Kashmiris it epitomized Kashmiriyat or composite culture, which is an assimilation of ancient Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Central Asian, particularly Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen and local traditions.
WORK ON 'KHATAMBAND' ROOF OF PIR DASTGEER

WORK ON ‘KHATAMBAND’ ROOF OF PIR DASTGEER

A water dispenser with Persian verses, still in use, and an iron vault were some of the remnants from the 2012 fire. Others salvaged artefacts and sacred testaments are stored in the safe vaults.

• Hazratbal Shrine — On the banks of Dal Lake, the Hazratbal Shrine is as popular as the Ajmer Sharief shrine in Rajasthan. Tourists can hardly give it a miss as its twinkling lights in the evening are bound to attract. Famous for the holy relic – Moi-e-Muqqadas – The most Holy Hair, displayed to the public only on special occasions. Incidentally, barbers make a lot of money from the ritual of Zar Kasai or Mundan — the first hair cut of the new born child, as performing this ritual in this shrine is considered most sacred.

Pandrethan Temple— Founded by Emperor Ashoka, Pandrethan is about 6 Kms from Srinagar and is the former capital of Kashmir. Devastated in a fire, it is survived only by a Shiva temple that stands in a water tank. Known for its unique symmetrical and geometrical design, it was considered by the British as one of the most perfect pieces of ancient architecture that exists in Kashmir.

Aali Masjid — This shrine, like a jinxed beauty, lies in the famous Idgah built by Ali Shah, son of Sultan Sikander in 1415 AD and rebuilt in Aurangzeb’s reign by his governor in 1664-65 . Strangely, this most beautiful structure, almost entirely made of wood and stone, showered with shade from four majestic ancient Chinar trees, was abandoned and no namaz was offered here till 2012, when Namaz has restarted. Its rich interiors made entirely of deodar wood with Pinjarkaari windows is cool inside during the summer heat and mere fastening of thick crewel embroidered curtains to windows in winters ensures warmth in the wood floored Masjid. It lay abandoned in post independence period, notes a former director of Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah.

On the Water Front

It’s an altogether different experience to wade in the luxury of a shikara and enjoy a puff of hookah while watching the fascinating old cityscape from River front of Jhelum, the rear-view of the Hospital named after famed Kashmiri poetess -Lal Ded.

FASCINATING OLD HOUSES WITH BAY WINDOWS CALLED 'DUB' ON JHELUM OR VITASTA RIVER

FASCINATING OLD HOUSES WITH BAY WINDOWS CALLED ‘DUB’ ON JHELUM OR VITASTA RIVER

Fascinating but crumbling houses, many of them belonging to Kashmiri Pandit families and also to the royalty of the time on either side, sit humbly on the shores.

• A number of Temples, mostly devoted to Shiva, Hanuman and Ganpati, on the ghats of the river on either side dot the shoreline with many bells dangling from the rooftop or on the entry doors that have grown more silent over the years.

• The most fascinating are the private staircases of houses of nobility or royalty leading to the river which obviously would have been constructed either for work or travel purposes, but were known to be used as getaways for romantic rendezvous too.

• An ancient wall runs along one side of the banks presumably built by Maharaja Partap Singh along his Mahal or palace in Colonial style with the Maharani’s residence next door. It has been renamed as Legislative Assembly (old) and Governor’s House (old) respectively.

• On the backside of Shahi-i-Hamdan mosque, down the steps, one is greeted with a padlocked door beyond which is Kali Mata Temple touching the waterfront of Jhelum.

• A tourist may also notice that all important entries from the waterfront to sensitive shrines are blocked with concertina wires and sandbagged as a preventive measure, to avoid any untoward incident.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR
URL: http://risingkashmir.in/news/srinagaracutes-heritage-of-fallen-stars-and-rising-suns-50065.aspx

Tourism-II: Rural Flavor to boost Tourism ……By Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


RURAL FLAVOR TO BOOST TOURISM

RURAL FLAVOR TO BOOST TOURISM

Rural Flavor to boost Tourism
By Rashmi Talwar

Lying atop a light haystack in a bullock cart, gazing at the clouds, singing-‘Mein chalee, Mein chalee, dekho pyar ki galee….’, slipping down to sit in the cart-man’s seat, a flying tail lashed my face and nearly entered my open mouth. It singed my cheek, felt like a slap, but then someone splashed a glassful of water on my reddened face and everyone broke into guffaws.‘Tujhe pasand nahi karta’! (The bull doesn’t like you !) “As if I was gonna offer him a marriage proposal!” I retorted, and laughter resumed and went on as long as the litlu litlu cart wheedled away tingling with cowbells.

This piece of personal memory brings smiles and gurgling laughter whenever I happen to look at a bullock cart during village detours. Turmoil in Punjab for almost two decades halted all rural fun and a flight of youth took place, while turmoil in Jammu & Kashmir tore up income resources, and left little to finance any fancy dreams of urban or metro settlement. Going abroad was also lesser in comparison to Punjab whose ‘entire villages are aging’ and where the once robust countryside of lush gold of mustard flowers and wheat fields that flowed alongside roads and rugged paths shrank rapidly with fragmented landholdings and unsupervised grabbing by land sharks.

Punjab youth’s growing infatuation with fairer lands and fairer maidens abroad and the commercialization of rural land had coined a slogan ‘ek kilaa vech, te munde nu bahar bhej’ (Sell one acre of land and send your son abroad). In comparison stringent land laws have saved J&K and rural tourism has larger-than-life potential in Kashmir.

Unlike Punjab, Kashmir still retains its rural flavor, its weather adds to the unspoilt caresses of its emerald grasses and undulating slopes. Its upper reaches, and some of its lower ones, still hold a bountiful in luxuriant topography unmatched by any in the sub-continent or the world, wherein lies exquisite scenic beauty and delicate scents. Visionaries with their eye on niche Rural Tourism – for those who seek places lesser known, need to study the successful tracks carved by other countries with similar weather and scenic strengths and indigenously adapt for a self sustaining and robust rural tourism that not only allows a rare glimpse into pastoral life but also has potential to retain and sustain the virgin and pristine beauty of the region.

Carin Jodha Fischer, a German national working in Gogaldara village near Tangmarg and the entire Khag region for last seven years, on the lines of rural tourism says, “Initiative in this direction may not find favor with the traditional tourist infrastructure of houseboat owners, hotels, resorts and urban-stays that is the mainstay of most tourist host cities, but rural tourism holds a huge potential of alternative income in the non-agricultural sector for rural dwellers. Joint Director J&K Tourism Mohammed Hussain too is intensely keen to start this hereby untapped natural attraction for increased tourism through the rural tract with this niche tourism circuit.
rural tourism_4
Government Input:

Director, J and K Tourism, Talat Parvez, claims that the state tourism department is avidly looking to develop rural tourism,- “towards this end, 50 villages are identified as rural tourism villages under the programme. Three rural tourism circuits have also been identified and sanctioned by the Centre for development. In addition, a plan for conservation of both urban and rural heritage sites has been formulated. Moreover, pilgrimage destinations like shrines, temples and monasteries, often located in rural areas, are being developed to boost pilgrim tourism to these localities. New rural tourism destinations include Gurez and Bangus Valley and a few others are currently being considered for future tourism development, including the Khag area in the Beerwah Constituency of Budgam District in Central Kashmir.

Interestingly, some rural tourism projects were given the green signal even during the years of militancy under the Government of India project for promotion of Rural Tourism. Despite the lumbering situation at the time, turning worse in 2010 with stone-pelters, these projects in J&K displayed remarkable success wherein all work had been expeditiously completed in sanctioned time. Seven out of eight -sanctioned ‘rural tourism’ projects by the union ministry were adjudged ‘successful’ and only one took the blame for being average. No other state fared better than this northern mountainous beauty, save for the aspect of attracting tourists to it.

To safeguard rural areas emerging as targets for animal attacks, the government has undertaken an unusual drive of applying the most dreaded hot chilli ‘ghost pepper’ or ‘bhoot jholokia’ – the oil of which is smeared to fences to ward off wild animals, thus reducing the man-animal conflict and injury which could have been a big deterrent for rural tourism projects. A security man commented, ‘Wish this oil could be applied to concertina wires to negate cross border militant infiltration too’.

Jobs and economic upliftment of villagers:
• Rural Tourism promises plentiful jobs for rural youth as builders, painters, masons, artisans, carpenters, guides, cooks, porters, hosts, providers, trainers, horse owners, gillies (angling experts), adventure-sports assistants, photographers, artists and others. Simple villagers, who cannot afford opportunities for their progeny, would be thrilled about having a profitable stake in such community or cooperative ventures of a particular rural tourism circuit and would readily pool in for a build up as well as infrastructural needs of the project, with government help.

• Instead of building new structures incongruous with the surroundings, existing rural homes could be given additional incentives to add more rooms or dorms to accommodate tourists. Rural home-stays could boost income of families, which could include all meals, including packed lunches, bonfires, barbecues thrown in for outdoors, as part of the package.

• This could translate into a business opportunity for the locals and even for the likes of nomads, gujjars, bakarwals etc. to present the rarity of their culture as a means of earning for the prosperity of their clans, just as houseboat, lodges and hotels owners are doing.

• Entire ‘cluster infrastructure’ could be built with the replication of original architectural design to every new additional structure including community centers useful for get-togethers, experts’ training workshops besides exhibition of lost and existing performing arts. This could conserve existing architectural practices and revive lost cultures allowing a peep to a visitor into the rich cultural heritage of the region especially performing arts – not hampered by language barriers like dances- Rouf that graces all festive occasions, Hafiza Naghma of weddings, Bhand Jashan, Bacha Nagma during harvest season, where a boy dresses as a girl, Wanwun –song session during weddings or an adaptation of Bhand Pather –traditional folk theater of Kashmir.

• Revival of lost and prevalent handicrafts could benefit with a sales outlet in the base camp of each niche tourist circuit.

• It would invigorate the pride of villagers in their holdings and deter flight of local youth to cities and other regions.

• The situation could turn ideal as a natural and sustainable way for rural and urban economic exchange.

• Villages will retain their distinct architecture and their exciting indigenous innovations.

• Community or clan’s fascinating rituals, traditions and culture unique to the locals could become part of the tourism itinerary. Look at the habitation of gujjars in Yousmarg, log and mud huts with grass growing on their roofs. Some of them are so structurally imbued in natural groves so as to use the slope to carve a home in such a way that a dwelling hardly causes any disruption in the slope’s angle. Houses ensconced in greens are as innovative just as a rich tapestry of landscapes naturally born. A home stay in these could enrich a tourist, besides providing income to the families.

• ‘Native ways’ of doing certain peculiar activities can be showcased as workable models without formal knowledge of sciences, using mere common sense to secure themselves from vagaries of nature, prying animals and others. This could serve as a platform for display of native building techniques of nomads or gujjars or paharis, such as creating weird angles for sturdy logs, their fittings so meticulous, to bear heavy snow weights while occupants move away for green pastures in the plains to tide over the Chillia Kalan or 40 day harsh winter, could be real eye openers.

Jammu & Kashmir wears varied caps-
rural tourism_1

Jammu & Kashmir has the rare distinction to wear varied caps, given the wide spectrum of weather, terrain, topography, wind, snow, water, mountains, heritage, handicrafts of this beauteous state that could become individual, collective or combined focuses of Rural Tourism. While many of these activities are already being promoted by state tourism department, dovetailing these with rural tourism could enhance their charm manifold. Some examples:

• Kashmir countryside has tales & stories, legends & history, varied shrines built from multi influences including, Buddhist, Hindu, Greek, Persian and Mughal besides melas, festivities and celebrations of rituals, that could allow an entire HERITAGE focus to rural tourism.

• Adventure, sports, backpacking, trekking, camping, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and of course horse riding, rock climbing, paragliding, hay stack rides, could be slotted into DRY adventure sports, while white river rafting, parasailing, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and water ball, (in upper lakes), speed boat tours in silent waters surrounded by lofty cliffs and many innovations could be included in WATER adventure sports.

• Skiing, snowshoeing, sledging, snow scooters, snow mobiles and snowman-making or snow sculptor competitions for added fun in the itinerary of WINTER sports.

• ANGLING or FISHING has already formed it own rural tourism circuits, which could be enhanced by including rural stays such as in lodges or rural home stays.

• Bird watching, wild life watch, village walks, village stays, flora, fauna, medicinal plants could come under NATURE or ECO -rural tourism.

• Traditional Kashmiri architecture, built of environmentally friendly materials, including brick, mud, wood, stone or a combination of all these used by Kashmiris, Gujjars, Bakarwals and nomadic communities could be promoted as ‘Rural Architecture’ tourism. On similar lines could be ‘Pilgrim’ Circuit, ‘Border-Areas Rural Tourism along the LoC and added flavors could be ‘Rural Cuisine’ fests etc.

·Apart from this ‘Cluster Handicrafts’–focusing on areas where clusters of skilled handicrafts are prepared in villages as suggested by Director Tourism Mr Parvez could develop into another circuit. Tourists would be delighted to know about unique and exquisite handicrafts like ‘Khatamband’ or the nail-less interlocking woodwork for ceilings and walls, or ‘Panjrakari’ –the netted lattice work for windows or addition to doors. Rural Mela Tourismlike Rajasthan’s famed Pushkar mela or ‘Start to Finish’ Tourism for products like papier mache tour. Strawberry, apple, walnut, cherry, and other fruit orchards could have ‘As-much-as-you-can-Eat’ rural tours.

·Some of these tours could so easily translate into additional export avenues from the region’ is the contention of expert planners. These could be single or multi-day tours with provisions for rural stays.

rural tourism_2

Blueprint on setting up a base camp:

• Local labor could build similar architectural pattern congruous to the area.

• Eco–friendly septic tanks or easy disposal means besides stringent check on disposal & litter.

• Approach road to main hub.

• Medical station at base station for emergencies.

• Rural gift shops could be a big hit with tourists who love to take a piece of the place for posterity. Gift items related to ‘particular’ tours on every base station could be the answer, which could boost up huge job potential and income resources. Example ‘Fishing Tour’ could have trout fish look-alike key-rings, trout shaped penholder, or trout fish shaped car hangings, wild flowers or mini-fish glass paper weights, T-shirts, caps, etc. Architectural or Heritage tours may have miniature gujjar houses as gift items, winter sports having miniature papier mache skis or sledges. While traditional wicker, copperware, wood carvings and other handicrafts from the entire state could be also be promoted.

• Temporary, modular or prefabricated collapsible toilets & shower cubicles with Timer fittings.

• Tutoring and monitoring locals on hospitality, sanitation and home stay provisions.

• Soft loans to villagers to add living quarters to existing structures in a planned fashion

• Recce on all tours for focus points, like the ideal place to camp.

• First aid training /and teaching simple English language skills.

• Allowing only small batches of tourists to ensure quality services, assistance and long term benefits of good publicity by word of mouth.

• Employing village youth for security needs.

WE ALL KASHMIRIS

WE ALL KASHMIRIS

FULL PAGE RISING KASHMIR 

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON JUNE 20,2013.
URL: http://risingkashmir.in/news/rural-flavor-to-boost-tourism-49499.aspx

Kashmir’s Trout Fish trail …..By Rashmi Talwar………..Rising Kashmir


Rashmi Talwar

trout fish article

Tourism in Kashmir is bubbling with swarming number of tourists but at the same time, it is grappling with the challenges to cope up with the lack of infrastructure and other related issues. With tourism confined to a few spots in the Valley, most of the beautiful places remain virgin and unexplored. ‘Rising Kashmir’s’ Editorial Contributor RASHMI TALWAR was recently in Srinagar to attend the fortnight long Tourism festival in the month of May and tried to peep into some important facets of tourism. In this weekly series, she will look at various sectors and bring our readers a hands-on account.

Tourism Series —- Part I

Kashmir’s Trout Fish trail

By Rashmi Talwar

What the Chinar is to the most incredible horizon of the Kashmir skyline, the Trout is to the bubbly elixir of tumbling waters that unabashedly flows over the smoothened edges of the Himalayan rockery, in the magnificent valley.

I recall as a child, the soft nibble by naughty trout fish, as I dipped my toe in the crystalline waters of this vale and threw puffed rice over it. The sensation when the fish scooped up the rice from my toes still tickles me whenever I see a fish manicure being done in pricey malls that have emerged in metro cities recently. Strangely, even though the fish nibbles the same way, it can never draw the childhood giggles and is no match for the twinkling mischievousness of early infancy. The trout maybe the Rainbow or the Brown variety, but time has not eroded the innate impishness of this marine delicacy, even as the valley around it saw the bloodiest turmoil for more than two decades.

Unfettered and liberally flapping in multitude schools, the fish – in rivers, waterfalls, water parks, ponds, streams and lakes, completely lords over Kashmir’s flowing frothy waters and joining the dance of the tumbling friendly waves. I happened to watch their antics once again during the angling competition introduced this year in the Kashmir Festival 2013 organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism. The puffed rice sprinkled on the surface of water brought them in hordes to become an angler’s delight. They were finally caught and put on the griddle after an angling competition in the virgin waters of River Brengi in the Daksum- Kokernag area.

No one sleeps or dies hungry in Kashmir- the vale of plenty. The waters are abundant with the choicest fish, the fruit plentiful and grain in aplenty ensures a tummy full. Even a plastic string with a hook and a ball of dough can fetch you a kilo of fish that is enough for a meal for four or five with the rice as a staple fare. Fried, barbecued, toasted, saucy or curried- fish is indisputably one of the healthiest diets. Combine this with the cleanest air, water and one feels rejuvenated.

Although the Fisheries Department has put fishing by tourists on a tight leash it has given leeway in terms of obtaining a permit and issued guidelines on the period of fishing, the baits used and banned, the type of rods that are permitted etc. While fly fishing and fly rods are permitted, spinning rods or reels and live baits are forbidden. Also one has to reserve the beat on various rivers to have a smooth run in this beatific and holistically satisfying leisure.

Sit in a quiet corner along the river Lidder flowing through Pahalgam or River Brengi in the upper regions of Daksum and Kokernag, drop your line into the flowing gushes and engage in something so serene, scenic and fructifying that instantly merges one with scents of nature. And if you want to be warmed by the sound of human voice, an I-pod can do the trick.

Camp alongside the river and enjoy an outdoor experience or eat with the stars, in the moonlight. The Directorate of Fisheries has lodges in some of the finest spots and you may need only three days for an advance booking to enjoy close encounters with the sound of waterfalls. Your amateur or learned angling skills too may get a boost over fishing in the gurgling waters of Sindh, Nambal, Madhumati, Erin and other fabulous spots or beats.

However unsupervised angling could drastically deplete this rich marine dainty. An avid angler who has angled for years in the remotest regions of Kashmir along with his pet expert angler called ‘Gillie’ or ‘Shikari’ observed, “The size of the average trout has reduced.” Although this could be attributed to many other reasons including the effect of global warming and various changing weather conditions, it is tip-off that should be probed.

Fishy tales

Mohammad Altaf Wani, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Development Authority, Kokernag region contends that, in 20th century British were able to successfully bring in varieties of fish that became plentiful in the mountain streams falling over from Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range by early 1920’s. A mother trout fish farming project under European Union assistance too has been established at Kokernag.
High altitude lakes on a short drive of an hour or two from Srinagar can bring in hot catches.
April to October could be your best time bet. But catch no more than half a dozen per person with an average length of 7.5 cms, the younger fish should be left alone to develop as adults, lest you may have to deal with the law. Artificial flies are the only ones permitted and beats can be reserved ranging from a single day to a week.
The Lidder and Sindh streams provide best of trout. In April, August and September these rivers turn more silent and in the stilled water the big fish leisurely swims, giving a wonderful chance for a bigger catch.
‘Look under the boulders too, the smallish ponds or try for all season smaller tributaries and channels, they may hold many surprises for a marine bounty’.

Conditions

Flights to Kashmir do not object to a light two to three meter fishing rods that can be booked with main luggage and an eight cm reel, despite security concerns.
If you do not wish to carry your own fishing equipment or line or rod, you could pick one of the best at the most reasonable cost in terms of foreign exchange at Munawar Shah and Sons, the oldest fish angling equipment outlet located at Lal Chowk. In this business from the time of British in 1880, spanning a history of more than 130 years. It can cater to any of your needs that conform to angling in Kashmir. All of Munawar’s four sons run their outlets using the same brand name.
Regular flies used in Kashmir include Jinger Quill, Butcher, Peacock, March Brown, Woodcock, Watson’s Fancy & Green Coachman and equipment could cost you anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 10,000.
The water level, clarity, swiftness, and no rain are just the right weather factors for angling.
High end tourist demand has helped in carving out niche` clientele for whom customized itineraries are on offer, to include entire angling tours of Kashmir. Gaffara’s Tour and Travel’s Managing Director Ghulam Mohammed Khuroo, talking about the soaring demand of the high leisure activity says “We can plan a whole angling tour for enthusiasts including packed lunch, folding tents and camps, providing authorized gillies, advising and arranging permits, booking beats and other needs”. Many other travel agencies too have roped in this leisure in their travel offers.
Khuroo with a twinkle in his eye gives a solid tip, “Don’t underestimate the trout as easy prey, it is a crafty fish and will involve all your skills to make it bite the bait’. The angling package could also include rods and baits.
A multi-crore fish feed manufacturing mill close to Manasbal is likely to start production in the coming year for fish feed to be made like floating pellets that would further boost fish farming in Kashmir. The machinery has been imported from Holland.

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Fishing beats

Fisheries opened 198 beats for reservations this season; the choice range from the turbulent Wangat and Sindh Rivers to the serene high altitude lakes of Krishansar, Vishansar, Gangabal and Nunkhol.

Other nullahs and streams could be those of Bringi, Gurez, Hamal, Dachigam, Kishenganga, Kokernag, Lam, Ferozpora(Tangmarg), Hirpora, Naristan, Nowbugh, Madhumati, Puhru, Dessu Bidhar, Mather and others.

Trout is present in all the streams and high altitude lakes of the valley. The important ones are Lidder, Sindh, Kishenganga, Sukhnag, Doodhganga, Erin, Ferozpora, Bringi, Rambiara, Vishav, Madhumati and Puhru. These streams have been divided into a number of trout beats:

Lidder area encompasses Nafran, Aru, Sheesh Nag, Fryslan, Masjid, Langanbal, Batkote Yenner, Kutnari, Bumzu, Wahdan , Tricker , Nambal, Panzath.
In the Sindh Area is Kullan, Gund, Sumbal, Mammar.
The Wangath area has Kangan and Wussan to offer
In the lush untouched Bringi Area falls the beat of Nowbugh, Daksum, Mather, Dyus, Ahlan and Dandipora .
The Kulgam Area connects Aharbal, Kutnari, Isthal and Kandai beats
In the high reaches of Budgam Area lies Sukhnag Fall, Sukhnag Arizal, Beerwa, Shaliganga Burzkoor, Doodhpathri, Basant Wuder, Doodhganga Frasnag, Doodhganga kalnag, Doodhganga Charji and the Doodhganga in Yusmarg.
The Bandipura Area angles the beats of Erin Sheesh Sar , Erin Chuntmulla that is merely 70 kms from Srinagar and close by falls the Erin Shokhbaba and Erin Papchhan.
Further off from Srinagar the Madhumati consists of three beats namely Madhumati Athwatu, Madhumati Pannar, Madhumati Sonerwani
In the one of the most picturesque Gurez areas falls the Kishenganga and most beats are named after it as Kishenganga Sheikpura, Kishenganga Barzil, Kishenganga Dawar and Kanzalwan.
The Tangmarg area near the beautiful valley of flowers of Gulmarg is equally stunning. Add to it are the fishing beats of Hamal, Drang, Ferozpur
Another is the Shopian area and the angler’s delight at Hirpora.

Keep in mind

Each beat stretches to about 2.5 Kms.
With a permit for a day, one can take a catch of maximum of six fish.
Take the permit with you while fishing but refrain from sharing or sub letting it.
Seek help from only authorized gillies or shikaris .
If you try a balancing act whilst holding two rods in both hands or you may just think of using natural baits, beware ! You may see yourself hauled up by the law.

History

The History of introduction of Trout in Kashmir dates back to early 1900s. The first batch of Trout ova of 10,000 eggs arrived from U.K. in 1899 with the courtesy of Duke of Bedford, to whom the Kashmir Maharaja presented an excellent Kashmir Stag trophy through Sir Adelbert Talbot, British Resident at Srinagar. Unfortunately the first batch of fish ova perished enroute due to absence of air transport.

This of course did not deter the importers who ordered a second shipment of trout ova that arrived through Mr. J.S.Macdonall from Scotland in excellent condition in the winter chill of December 19,1900 which included 1800 fry . Almost 1000 fry were transferred to Panzagam, Dachigam (Harwan) while the rest were reared in the premises of a private carpet factory in the heart of city near Khank-e-Moulla.
Bringi in south Kashmir was one of the most prized beats where many VIPs flew down in helicopters to fish prior to militancy in the valley in 1989. Locals of Bringhi reveal that this area became a hot bed of militancy due to its direct connect with Chandanwari in a trekking trail that further connects to the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra.
Frequent Hartals in the valley came as a blessing in disguise for soaring demand for fishing. Earlier only houseboat owners bought equipment for their foreign clients as they accompanied them for angling but strikes led to more people leaving the city to go to quiet reaches and spend time in angling.
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