Archive for the ‘TOURISM’ Category

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/#

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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

Walled cities of Amritsar and Lahore —-By Rashmi Talwar


Walled Citiies Amritsar & Lahore —by Rashmi Talwar

-Amritsar-Lahore

By Rashmi Talwar ———–

‘Saare jahaan se achha Hindustan hamara…Hum bulbulain hain iski, ye gulistan hamara ….!’ The lines penned and immortalized by famous poet Allama Iqbal, are a potent reminder of the acclaimed fabric of matchless, rich, composite cultural-heritage of people of two Punjabs before the separating linear of the Cyril Radcliff line, ripped apart destinies of millions in the Indo-Pak partition of 1947, forever.

Not only did commoners, but poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Allama Iqbal, writers like Saadat Hassan Manto, Amrita Pritam felt completely torn with the choices to stay in India or Pakistan.

The fate of lifeless works of art was even worse. They came under the tearing wrath of the mob frenzy, who vandalized priceless heritage of sculptures, mostly of the British – and of art and artefacts belonging to minorities. ‘They spat and destroyed them as of the British oppressor or the Kafir’. Such was the hatred that tore through the cities of Lahore and Amritsar, that at present only a lone statue stands in the heart of Lahore i.e. of Alfred Woolmer and a gun, while Amritsar hardly boasts of any public statues, from that period.

Lord Hanuman idol in lahore museum

However the matchless contrasts and comparisons that conjoin the erstwhile twin cities of Lahore and Amritsar in an everlasting bond, truly delights with a visually tangible heritage as also in the common thread that runs through the people’s lifestyle, housing, the tastes and flavours of incomparable cuisine, the common denomination in music, arts, dance and most of all in the unrivalled naughty humour through the lens of intangible heritage.

That “No one goes hungry” is the exalted indisputable status of both cities with Golden Temple’s tradition of ‘Langar’ (free community kitchen) in Amritsar and a similar sentiment pervading in the revered ‘Data Darbar’ of Lahore that ensures food. No surprise then that one is know as ‘Guru ki Nagri’ -Amritsar and other as ‘Data ki Nagri’ -Lahore.

Field on Indo Pak border Amritsar

The fate of the statue of Queen Victoria at Fuhare wala chowk near Golden Temple, Amritsar is unknown, while a similar statue in Black metal at ‘Chairing Cross’ has only the canopy with no statue at one of the main crossings in Lahore, the statue of the queen has however been preserved at the Lahore museum, much to the delight of art and heritage lovers. Many such invaluable heritage artefacts including the ‘Trimurti’ of Ashok pillar and starving Buddha of Buddhist, the Sikh, Christian, Muslim and Hindu art and sculptors including of Hindu gods and goddesses’ idols have found some semblance of respect in the Lahore museum.
Thus, even today, similarities and comparisons of both cities continue despite the oppressive borders.
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Tangible and Intangible heritage:

The exhaustive matter of ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ heritage of both cities was recently highlighted in Lahore by Amritsar based Dr Balvinder Singh, HoD Guru Ramdass School of Planning of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar before an enthusiastic and expert audience at THAAP, (Trust for History, Art and Architecture of Pakistan) Lahore, Pakistan, as also to audience at the University of Engineering and Technology, in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design, Pakistan.

Dr Balwinder, touched the chord in the audience, while talking about the inclusiveness in the architectural pattern of both the ancient walled cities of Amritsar–Lahore and pressed on the urgent need for Integrated Conservational Approach, for the tangible and intangible Heritage of both, as part of his extensive research paper .

His claim has been a product of not only a thorough ground study, but of a painstaking work of passion in collecting historical and documentary proofs on the many tangible similarities. “We urgently need to take stock of situation to save this treasure lest they be lost in the growing consumerist society, gobbling up land, irrespective of either preservation or conservation, of their historicity or essence for posterity”, is his contention, that caught the rapt attention of audiences in a similar dilemma, in Lahore.

Experts in Lahore are aware that their city is replete with structures besides oral and performing heritage owing to reigns of various rulers. Amritsar too is a proud possessor of such heritage being the spiritual capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who at one time, also ruled Kashmir and parts of Afghanistan.

Heritage lovers and experts therefore are visibly angered by the apathy of successive governments towards heritage preservation especially the structural variety on priority, as in comparison, the intangible heritage is less financially draining.

Some diehards feel that “In just a few years, the structural heritage would become ghosts or mere stories or seen only in stage plays or purely as artificial structural decors for restaurants, hotels, resorts and people would gape at these fossilised museum decors in surprise”.

Amritsar, founded by the 4th Sikh Guru in 1577 was turned into a walled city during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in early 19th century due to urgency of erecting solid defence structures from the encroaching British.

Similarly, Lahore also an ancient walled-city has its umbilical cord attached to the Maharaja, although the legendary origins of Lahore can be traced to Lav or Loh, one of the twin son of Lord Rama, the king of Ayodhya, as the founder of the city-Lahore, acknowledged in the official website of Pakistan and by UNESCO on its information board at Shahi Killa Lahore where the Loh shrine exists. Interestingly, Kasur in Pakistan was founded by Kush, the twin of Lav.
Lahore as a famous trade-route bears the cultural influence of at least three empires including, Mughal, British and present Pakistan. Lahore became the cultural capital of the Maharaja, while Amritsar was his spiritual capital.

Amritsar’s Golden Temple- nucleus

The Golden Temple is the key building around which the city arranged itself. Its foundation can be credited to the approach adopted by Sikh Gurus as progressive. Inviting people of varied professions led to setting up of 52 Kittae (trades) and 32 Hattian (shops) still known as ‘batti-hattan’ first developed, followed by Katras.
Similarly, in Lahore the concept of Katra, Mohalla and Kucha exists, named after professions and many areas have similar names.
Besides this, are the fortified gates named after directions to city Like Lohgarh Gate, Lahori Gate facing road to Lahore (Amritsar). Likewise, is the Delhi Darwaza, Multani Darwaza, Kashmiri Gate in Lahore.

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Walled cities

Balwinder points to ‘Shehr’ of Amritsar and the ‘Androon Shehr’ of Lahore as the walled cities are referred to respectively, having varied pattern with Lahore’s lanes in a zigzag pattern and dead ends while Amritsar’s in a ring or grid form with rayed pattern and connectivity.
The values, life styles and way of life are depicted from its land use, street pattern and ‘Mohallas’. Interestingly, both cities had a wonderful ‘mixed’ land use making it socio-economically viable with high degree of community spirit.

Many interventions by the British were made to forward their interests in inculcating English education and introducing greater communication in the form of railways and post office services in both cities. Hence both cities have post office buildings dating to the British era.

Interventions in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s summer palace of Ram Bagh turned it into a hotch-potch of informal- formal styles, at Gobindgarh Fort, housing residence of Gen O Dyer (murderer of Jallianwala Bagh) and Phansi Ghar (Hanging Room). Similarly at Shahi Killa (Lahore Fort) many incongruous additions were made like the ‘Teh Khana’ (it was also used to house Pak PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for a short while before he was hanged by Pak military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq).
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Wagah — Amritsar Lahore Border


Globalization & Consumerism

But nothing has caused more harm, than globalisation which has proved to be a virtual ‘cultural bulldozer’ for tangible heritage. The lackadaisical approach of successive governments, their unimaginative and lacklustre vision, on preservation of ancient cities while making them congruous with modern development and poor enforcement of building laws have ruined the make up of these ancient cities exhibiting the best in styles of British, Sikh and Mughal architecture.

Tahir Yazdani Malik a passionate heritage lover and President of The Lahore Heritage Club , Pakistan and also working at Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD) says , we are getting global and robotic and need to redefine our goals in which our heritage should be a vital part of our lives. I know “we will never give up Coke and go for Lassi alone” he laughs, but ‘our monuments are our treasures’ he adds.

At present , Yazdani is working towards restoration of the Ghulam Rasool Building, creating photographic , and GIS images, as also of ‘Andaaz Restaurant’ with Ahmed Cheema which is considered as Pakistan’ first step towards Cultural Heritage conservation of a Restaurant.

Heritage expert Balwinder feels that today’s need is for battery operated non-smoke vehicles to arrest road widening plans and underground streets and to keep the city-scape clear of modern structures.
But with an elevated road and more coming up and the ‘overhead Pod-travel, envisaged for Amritsar in the near future the entire historicity and character of this city is threatened. Old timers feel that in times to come even traditional fruit along with rehris (hand carts) selling Mauve-Jamuns, green-Kaulchapnis from Kashmir, Purple Phalsas or black singarey (water chestnut) all may vanish.

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Of Past with Present: Lahore-Amritsar -Idhar Bhi, Udhar Bhi! :

Nazim, Mian Amer Mahmood’s announcement to retain original Hindu –Sikh names of 58 streets and buildings in Lahore and not let his “government” make Lahore “Islamic”, made heritage lovers of both Lahore and Amritsar euphoric over this decision.

Hence names like Laxmi chowk, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Raja Dina Nath Garden, Dyal Singh College and Library has given Lahore a liberal feel, less visible in other parts of Pakistan.
Humour has a permanent home in Amritsar as much as in Lahore. Where comic greats like Umer Sharif, Moin Akhter, Shakeel Siddiqui, Parvez Siddiqui, Rauf Lala, Irfan Malik and Ali Hassan have brought unparalleled guffaws, Azizi alias Sohail Ahmed’s Hasb-e-Haal programme on Dunya TV with his inimitable political and social satire is most watched in neighbouring Lahore. Of the laughter challenge variety, Amritsar’s funny bone too is a top scorer with Kapil Sharma, Sudesh Lehri, Bharti Singh Lalli, Chandan Prabhakar leading the laugh pack and Ghulle Shah alias Surinder Faristha, a famous Punjabi comedian imparting formal training to comedians. Kewal Dhaliwal, Amritsar’s famed theatre director, presents plays in Amritsar as well as Lahore

langoor mela amritsar


• “Hindu custom of wearing bangles and applying Mehandi has become more popular in Muslim marriages across the border”. -Fauzia Yazdani, Lahore, a senior resource person
• “Pigeon-flying, is still a craze in Lahore, once common in Amritsar, where Indian pigeons breeds like Jalandhari, Ferozpuri and Rampuri, fetch a good price. Besides other sports like “lattu-bazzi”, cock-fights, Dancing horses and ram-fights were common in both cities”. – Faisal Satti, Lahore-Senior TV journalist with a foreign channel.

• “Kasuri Methi and Pakistani rock salt are widely used in Amritsari cuisines and “Kasuri Jutti” is still popular in Punjab”-Anuja Mallik, Amritsar-(just returned from Lahore)
• Pigeons-as traditional folklore messengers- stamped with Urdu couplets thrilled Indian villages like Dauke (Amritsar), surrounded on three sides by Pakistan. ~Dr Inderbir Nijjar, Amritsar- Radiologist Amritsar, and ardent fan of famed poet Faiz Ahmd Faiz.

• Just so, kites with prints of Indian film stars still bring cheer to neighbouring countryside of Lahore. Interestingly, a village, surrounded on three sides by India in Jammu sector, bears two names. ‘Khanjar’ in Pakistan and ‘Chicken Neck’ in India. For Pakistan the village’s shape forks-forward like a knife or ‘Khanjar’ surrounded by India on three sides while for India it is as if the village is ‘chicken neck’ captive in the hands of India. ~ Dr Joginder Kairon, Amritsar- Expert in Folklore.

• “In Lahore, it was common to see Hindus showering rose-petals on the Muharram procession, while Muslims were seen to flock to Ram Leela festivities on the back side of Badshahi Mosque, at Minto Park as also take part in the Diwali and Dussera festivities,” in the days before partition, -Chaudhary Tabassum – Member Lahore Heritage club.

• There are many areas in Lahore that may surprise a visitor from Amritsar. For instance, a Landa Bazaar with the same name exists in Lahore and in Amritsar, selling goods from each other’s country. Both bazaars are interestingly, located near the respective railway stations of the two cities! The Hall Road in Lahore sells electrical appliances, while it namesake “Hall Bazaar” in Amritsar, too sells the same. Incidentally, most “C” grade hotels in Lahore are found near its railway station and bus stand, and the same is somewhat true for Amritsar. Lahore’s ‘Paan Mandi’ displays Indian paraphernalia like ‘chavanparash’ ‘paan leaf’, hajmola, Banarsi sarees, paan masala etc. – Sajjad Anwar Lahore – director at TV News channel .

• Kite flying denounced by Mullahs as Hindu-Sikh festival is still a rage in Lahore despite bans with competitions carrying on from night uptil dawn in the week of Punjabi festival of ‘Basant’ -Nabila Iqbal, Lahore -Senior IT Officer
• Amritsar’s gotta, dabka parsi, machine embroidery in suits are a rage in Lahore while Pak’s lace and lace embroidery its fine chicken embroidery and lawn – a fine cotton of Pakistan from Faislabad remains a hot favourite in Amritsar. – Monica Mehra, a boutique owner, Amritsar

• Lahore glitters with its gold market called “Suha Bazaar”, the “Guru Bazaar” in Amritsar is a nice shopping stop for wedding jewellery. However lately many elite ladies from Lahore are known to buy diamond jewellery from Amritsar. Club culture is prevalent since the times of British, and now the Mall culture has entered our lifestyles in both cities- Zareena Saeed, Lahore- Lecturer in Punjab University.

• Interestingly, ‘Kuch toh log Kahenge’ popular serial on Sony TV in India gives its credit on storyline to popular Pakistani serial of 70s ‘Dhoop Kinare’ which we have already seen on PTV – Anupama Arora, Amritsar-from Kashmir.

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Traditional Amritsari and Lahori food is – “Laajawab” and “Buraaaa”..!!
No Amritsar Lahore

1 Aamritsari Famous Veg & Non-Veg : Champ, Tava Tikka, Brain Curry, Tandoori Chicken, Seekh Kabab, Fish Haryali Kabab, Amritsari Fish Fry, Machi Kabab, Raita, Sarson Ka Saag, Shammi Kabab Lahori Famous Veg & Non-Veg : Nihari Paye, Sree Paye, Shorba Kabab, Kathi Kabab, Gurde-Kapoore, Amritsari Fish Fry, Rann, Mutton Karahi, Sarson Ka Saag, Murg Takka Tak, Raita, Reshmi Kabab

2 Indian Rotis: Allo Ke Kulche, Bread Kulche, Butter Naan, Missi Roti, Onion-Garlic Naan, Poori, Makki Ki Roti, Bhega Kulcha, Rumali Roti Pak Rotis: Tillian Wale Kulche, Rogni Naan, Kasuri Methi Kulche, Manji Dee Dewan Waly, Lahore Special Kulche, Poori, Mhandrra Kulcha, Makki Di Roti

3 Amritsari Desi Snacks: Samose, Sat-Poore, Kachori, Mutter, Paneer Pakore, Onion And Veg Pakore, Dhokla, Papri Chat, Golgappe, Tikki, Bun-Chaney, Pao Bhaji, Khandavi Lahori Desi Snacks: Golgappe, Fruit Chat, Dahi Bhaley, Pakore, samosa

4 Amritsari Drinks : Masala Chai, Coffee, Juices, Cane Juice, Buttermilk, Lassi, Mango Shake, Shikwanjvi, Bantey Wali Lemonade, Mausmi Juice, Nimbu Chai, Noon Chai/ Lahori Drinks : Kashmiri Chai, Kava, Phalsa Juice, Sugar-Cane Juice, Lassi, Shikwanjvi

5 Amritsari Sweets: Boondi-Besan Ke Laddo, Kalkand, Chena Murgi, Kaju, Badam, Pista Burfi, Pinni, Jalebi , Gulab Jamun, Rasgulla, Kheer , Phirni, Gur Ka Halwa, Mung Dal Ka Halwa, Karah Prasad, Kulfi-Falooda, Gajrrela, Lahori Sweets: Seeweiyaan, Jalebi, Mutanjaan (7 Colored Sweet Rice), Kheer, Phirni, Sheer Khrmma, Badam Khateein , Karachi Halwa, Loki Ka Halwa, Kasoori Katlmey, Lal Khoo Barfi, Kulfa-Falooda, Zarda, Pethhey


Royal Treat of Haryanvi ‘paanwala’ in Lahore

Shahi-paanwala-Lahore


Among Lahore’s most unforgettable visitations is, if one can catch the stall of Rana Bhai Paan Wala, ‘Shahi-Paandaan wala’ in any of the grand exhibitions in Lahore. Once the ‘shaan’ of Anarkali’s Food Street in Lahore, Rana originally from Ambala in Haryana India now sets up stall at national or international exhibitions in Lahore. But his style remains the same. He is still perched atop a royal throne-like chair, covered with satin covers.
What immediately strikes you, is his glamorous attire of satins, which some say, ‘looks straight from a drama company!’ However creating drama is his USP which he does with aplomb by dressing up as famous urdu poets. It is not surprising thus that many a times he is mistaken for a ‘Mirza Ghalib look-alike with ‘Turki topi’ and ‘khussa’ jutti, strings of ‘taveez’ and rose garlands on his wrists.
“What sets him apart is his style” points out Ms Neelima Naheed Durrani, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Lahore recently on vacation in hometown from a UN mission in Sudan. The stock of photographs that Rana grandly displays in his stall with Pakistan’s Cricketing greats and many from the bureaucratic and political spectrum of the country immediately catches the eye.
The Royal Treat: ‘A customer is first sprinkled with rose water and then showered with rose petals. In a leaf bowl “Paan” garnished with “vark” is served to the customer, who can see his own self being pampered in mirrors as well as the close circuit cameras strategically placed in the stall. After a few bites into the melting ‘galoori paan’ added with local made ‘gullukand’ prepared by special briar-rose petals prevalent in upper reaches of Chakwal District, Rana Bhai once again showers rose petals on the customer, to complete the ritual’. Eventhough, one is standing in a street full of people, being pampered thus, with onlookers staring, makes one feel no less than a King or Queen!
It is a different matter however that a hired sweeper, collects the rose petals again and puts them in a big sieve to separate it from the dust to be re-used again!
Talking from Lahore, Rana says he gets regular orders from Dubai and Middle East countries for festive occasions and sets up his stall during festivals and grand Exhibitions. Of course his paan leaf is the very famous Indian ‘Banarsi patta’. Interestingly, Rana has recreated the ‘Lucknavi Bazaar’ innovation with Barbie dolls dressed up in “Lucknavi” Salwar suits and others in burqa placed as decoration that surely becomes a cynosure for foreigners and locals alike.

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FIRST PUBLISHED IN “RISING KASHMIR” ON 31 JULY , 2012 AS A FULL PAGE

Will my love, give me my Peace-child?………. By Rashmi Talwar



Will my love, give me my Peace-child?………. By Rashmi Talwar

War does not determine who is Right !- Only who is Left..! Oft repeated, in areas of conflict where doves try to broker peace.

As I watch with glee the unfolding Kashmir of my dreams – pregnant with tourism, following countless miscarriages spanning more than two decades, I feel joyous and sparkling!

I wonder, pray and am deeply hopeful that a peace- child is born, one that grows to make its parents proud.

That peace and tourism make a magical concoction, spelling boundless prosperity for Kashmir, remains a forgone conclusion for this land, lovingly crafted by God .

I, and many like me, also know that until the full term of this pregnancy, the peace-child, surrounded by a secure albumen –( the guardian angels!) and gaining succor by its robust mother (the delighted local populace!) in a closed protected surrounding is a ‘fragile’ foetus.

Its birth – a dream, for expectant but anxious parents whose hands rise in everlasting prayer that this glowing health of tourism, that failed many attempts to conceive earlier, may not just crumble with a single blow.

Yet nothing at all, can deflate my soaring spirit as I hear happy tidings and watch the sheer radiant delight of droves of those who visited the valley this year or the last, literally spilling with joy. And hence, my answered prayers cling to my bosom with surreal dreams for brimful prosperity for Kashur– this gentle charmer, ensconced in emeralds, topped by sapphire blues and ablaze with colors.

Nevertheless, I cross my fingers and feel like resorting to the ancient tradition, existent amongst both Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits of touching seeds of ‘Isabad’ to the shoulders of some ‘noble souls’ and sprinkling them over a burning Kangri, for the divine pious fragrance of burning seeds to ward off the evil-spirits and let the potential of this heavenly vale once again glide and fly unshackled in the bluest skies.

Walter. R Lawrence’s seminal book “The Valley of Kashmir” urges me to look beyond the obvious and I let my imagination take wings about the vast dimensions of areas open to honourable means of livelihood.

The book talks about growing English and European vegetables in the cool climes; the abundance of currants, walnuts, canned or dried fruit and vegetables, juices and saffron and I think of …the newly revived ‘Tulip Garden’ to ‘enjoin’ it with bee-keeping for a double income boost and having a bottle of ‘Kashmir’s Tulip honey’ or one in Gulmarg with wild lupins – a la ‘lupin Gulmarg honey’ on a crisp toast or it could be daffodil, clematis, honeysuckle , jasmine, azalea, fuchsia – honeys from the umpteenth lurking flower gardens all across. Fisheries and Kashmiri food could be my other favorites.

The state’s boast of best blue sapphires in the world could be my proud jewel or souvenir to pass as a prized family heirloom.

Raising my head to behold majestic pines, firs, plum, peach, apples or quintessential Chinars makes me imagine budding robust ‘Bonsai’ culture of the Japanese that could be introduced here along with culturing ornamental plants and flowers in ‘multi-level’ green houses.

The global demand for exotic herbs cultivation of the likes of oregano, sage, rosemary, basil etc too is a modern day demand in culinary delights, accruing huge advantage from such export to plains or even abroad.

Furthermore, collection of the vast spread of green moss in forests, extensively used in floriculture baskets, moss-sticks and gardens; of self-dropped pine-cones and pebbles for landscaping or the bottling of crystal clear waters of natural springs like of Chashma-e-Shahi, hold untold opportunities for local and foreign needs.

Lawrence writes “Kailasa is the best place in the three-worlds, Himalaya the best part of Kailasa and Kashmir the best place in Himalaya”. The book is inspiring on silk production, hops, viticulture, and wine-making.
It talks about “varied Sports-excellent, abundant scenery for artists, mountains for the mountaineer, flowers for botanists, vast field for geologist , magnificent ruins for archaeologists, health resort, mineral-rich….air- rich, soil rich, water rich, …rich , rich , rich in every conceivable dimension.

From the orange hued silky dawn, I piece together a morning filled with thrill on water-scooters, canoe/banana rides, jet boat rides, water skiing, para-sailing or holding a world conference on a large cruise boat or just a quiet informative cruise down the Jhelum to trace the heritage of this enthralling valley.

A little later, starry eyed, I watch a rainbow hued ‘mela’ where boundless handicrafts, spreads, embroideries, candles, woodcraft, earthenware share corners with books, music, documentary videos, be gaily spread and I long to shrug my last rupee for a piece of this place.

While in the upper reaches of Gulmarg, Tangmarg, Sonmarg , Pahalgam I look to share the thrilling delight of gondola rides on every picturesque snow covered peak, snow skiing, sledging and varied fun times.

Looking at the swollen belly, with fervent prayers for a healthy child, when fears of its safety are somewhat lessened or quietened —
I think of enriching the child with multi-dimensional facets offered by the Universe.
Combining the backdrop of Mighty Himalayas with the robust- rich culture of performing arts of the valley and hosting world artists, I visualize a massive wooden-raft floating stage on the Dal/ Nagin /Wular lakes, where the finest music- recitals from the world, waft to touch the loftiest peak; dance- be such that ‘nasha’ of the ‘jhoom’ or intoxication, is stamped on hearts for life; theatre- to enthrall every evening.
Performing to audience lounging in gently-lit romantic shikaras that double as front seats, bordered with moored house-boat seats much like the Roman Amphitheaters.

I also think of adding multiple floating-stages with ‘Son et lumière’ or the light and sound show, a ‘musical’ fountain show, a blazing fireworks show or even a week-long Kashmir’s “International Film Festival” , a ‘Literary Festival’ with ‘Golden ‘Hungul’(near-extinct deer species native to Kashmir) Award’ as a top honour.

And as I leave my shoes out to step from a star-lit night onto Kashmiri carpet and ‘namda’ covered floors and cuddle on chinar-patterned embroidered warm cushions, near a massive ‘bukhari’ set in the centre, I lounge with ‘Kehva’ from a samovar, or Kashmiri wine in one hand, pretending to suck from a papier`-mache hookah and looking up at the exquisite beauty of the roof tastefully sculptured with small wooden pieces of varying designs called ‘Khaatumband taalav’ and I see myself melting with the mellifluous tinkling of Santoor’s magic droplet music, so soothing, engulfing me into a feeling like a first-love child ‘delightfully drowsy’ in its mother’s lap.

FIRST PUBLISHED ON OPINION PAGE 7 IN “RISING KASHMIR” ON JUNE 22, 2012