Kashmir People and Culture
Kashmir culture is interlinked with its geography: cut off from the rest of India by high mountains, it lies along the once fabled Silk Route. For centuries it has thus been open to influences from Persia and the countries of the Central Asia.
As late as the first decade of this century, some
parts of the bazaars of the Old city used to be crowded
with merchants from Yarkand selling porcelain bowls.
With herds of yak, these merchants, clothed in colorful
costumes, used to spend a few days at a hostelry close
to the seventh Bridge of the Old City which still
stands, now unused, as a testimony to Kashmir’s
erstwhile trade with Yarkand.
Other communities too have left their cultural imprint on Kashmir. These traces have been so inextricably woven into the fabric of everyday life that it is impossible to separate the strands of what was once imported, from that which is indigenous. Neither is modernity inimical to culture in Kashmir, for the history of the land has always shown the adaptability of the people to new elements, with no loss of the vital Kashmir essence.
Ask a visitor to Kashmir what image he associates most closely with the land, and his answer in all probability will be the shakara. Elegant, graceful, even romantic, this gondola-like boat has been figured as a graphic or logo on company letterheads so frequently as to have become a cliche. However, most Kashmiri's themselves do not see it as the most important adjunct to their way of life. Ask a Kashmiri what to him symbolizes his land, and chances are that he will refer either to the Kangri or the pheran. To most Kashmiri's, from the villager to the widely-traveled urbanite, life is unimaginable without either of the two.
According to historians, the ancestors of Kashmiris are early immigrants from India proper. With the spread of Buddhism, many scholars came to Kashmir from far-off lands for research and study. The contact of Kashmiris with the Roman, Greek and Persian civilizations resulted into a fusion of cultures. Most of the people claim their descent from the Indo-Aryan stock but one can easily find people belonging to diverse and different races inhabiting Kashmir with distinct looks, dresses, food habits, customs, speech and traditions. <more..>
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is famous the world over for its unique and splendid work of art and crafts. Travel through even the remotest parts of the state will give an insight into the world of art and craft in Jammu and Kashmir. Just about everything that is seen in Jammu and Kashmir has some kind of art work done on it. The most prominent is the embroidery work on the shawls and the cloths of Kashmiri people are very mesmerizing to be not noticed. You will also see the work of magic in wood works, steel wares, Papier-mache. <more..>
For many years Kashmiri men and women have worn the same style of dress. The Pheran and 'Poots' consist of two gowns, one on top of the other, falling to the feet in the case of a Hindu, worn up to the knees by a Muslim. Muslims wear the sleeves wide and open; Hindus wear them narrow with turned up ends. .<more..>
The Kashmiris are passionate about their food and known for spicy meat dishes and the delicate flavor of saffron. Meat being the staple, most of the special dishes have mutton as a major ingredient. Nahari, a special breakfast dish, is a stew of trotters and tongue, seasoned with cassia buds, cardamom, sandalwood powder, vetiver roots and dried rose petals. The sheermal bread goes well with this stew. <more..>