Kashmir – The Paradise of Migratory Birds

Hi friends, it’s that time of the year again when you’re expected to start thinking about winter vacation. And, without any doubt Kashmir wins the competition when it comes to decide for a best place for vacation.
Nothing in the world looks prettier than Kashmir in winter. It has always been synonyms for paradise, and rightly so. The place becomes magical during the winters. The bright golden Chinar carpet swiftly rolls out into white snowy carpet making it look magnificent.

Autumn brings the magic on the landscape of Kashmir with the Chinar trees changing their leaves while in winter you can see the magic in the migratory birds taking refuge in the gloomy landscape of Kashmir.
‘Bird watching is a lifetime ticket to the theater of nature.’
If you’re tired of winter’s snow and cold, take to watching our feathered friends.
Winter is the best time for bird-watching in Kashmir. The winter landscape of the Valley, a bare lonely tree, frozen fields and gloomy days comes alive with countless colours of three lakh winged visitors from places as far as Central Asia and Europe.

The onset of winters leaves the water bodies of Kashmir blanketed with thousands of Mallards, Common Mergansers, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Brahminy Duck, Northern Pintails, Common Pochards, Red-crested Pochards, Ruddy Shelducks, Northern Shovelers, Common Teals, Eurasian Wigeons, Garganeys, and Greylag Geese.

The navigation skills of birds might leave you in awe. They can migrate thousands of kilometers across the sea without getting lost. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate to avoid freezing to death in their native habitats.
Besides Hokersar wetlands, 10km from Srinagar city that serves as a safe haven for these migratory birds they also flock the Wullar Lake and other wetlands like Hygam, Shallabugh.
“We have recorded around three lakh bird arrivals in the wetlands of Kashmir so far. This is very good number as the concentration of migratory birds will peak around first week of February.” – Wildlife Warden (Wetlands), Roauf Zargar.

Kashmir lends its landscape to the birds during the winters. The birds feeding on insects, worms and fish in the water bodies adds colour to the valley thus presenting a beautiful picture.

Make sure to follow these steps in order to be greeted by their chirpy music:
-Be a morning person. Venture out early in the morning to get their chirpy best.
-Dress like your surroundings just so that you might be surprised by birds sitting next to you.
-Don’t be noisy. Sit quietly and enjoy their music.

However some survey reports by the state government, reveals that the number of migratory birds arriving in Kashmir has declined in the last two decades. The main reasons being rapid urbanization and noise pollution which acts as an irritant that puts off the feathered visitors.
“Noise of all kinds causes disturbance to the birds. This can lead to the birds finding alternate places to spend the winters in,” Zargar said.

Ideally the wildlife department should strive to protect all ground water and the birds habitat presenting them a comparatively hospitable alternate habitat. The Wildlife department took a series of steps to restore the natural habitat of these birds which were threatened by unfamiliar interference.
“The wildlife department is striving to protect and revive water bodies and prevent their encroachment.” Zargar added.

The migratory birds start return journey from Kashmir by the end of January month giving way to new grasses, tress full of new green leaves, cloudless skies and a pleasant, comfortable weather. Nature’s time to wake up once again.

Enjoy close interaction with nature while birding.
From kings to subjects, rich to deprived, humans to birds those who truly love nature – the valley of Kashmir attracts them all

Masterpieces from the land of magical embroideries, Kashmir.

My friend Stella had come to India and was staying with us for five days. On a Saturday afternoon, post lunch while we were lazying around, a local ‘kashmiri-shawl wallah (vendor)’, Gulzaarbhai visited our home to show his exquisite hand embroidered shawls, pherans, namdaas etc. He often visits us for kahwa and Krippè and shows up with a range of unique Pashmina. As he unfurled some of the finest Pashminas one after the other, Stella’s eyes lit up as she saw a black shawl with overall floral motif and fringes at both ends. A wise man that Gulzaar chacha is, he didn’t take a minute to grab the opportunity and said “Sozni embroidery of this kind is rarely seen these days. Should I pack it for you?” And guess what? Stella ended up buying three sozni embroidered shawls, one for herself and the other two as gifts. She told me she had loved the piece the minute she saw it and wanted to own it.Kashmir is blessed with a myriad of cultures, customs, traditions and a rich and ancient heritage of craftsmanship. It is called a land of wonders over the centuries. Mastering Kashmiri craftsmanship, the unique motifs and designing techniques takes years of training. The rich and ancient heritage of craftsmanship and designing shawls is an art that has been carried forward through generations of craftsmen.

One such exquisite embroidered form of Kashmiri shawl is a Sozni Pashmina shawl, locally known as the ‘setchni kaem’. Most of the Kashmiri shawls are incidentally inspired by ancient techniques. As a matter of fact, the shawls are produced by either of the two techniques – loom woven or Kani shawls and needle embroidered or Sozni shawls. The Sozni embroidered shawls are also called ‘amlikar’.

It’s a form of embroidery using thin needles spreading life in the intricate patterns that reflects the craftsman’s exceptional attention to detail. Minute and elaborate embroidered patterns are created by working on the root of the plain pashmina with the help of a needle.

We have often come across the word ‘less is often more’, but sozni shows that not always! The floral patterns are so closely embroidered with single silk threads with no place left for the pashmina base to be visible. Sozni embroidery needles vary in size, and one shawl may be worked on by as many as two or three artisans who work meticulously to make the exquisite wrap. Sozni weaving requires hard work and patience as each shawl takes two to three years to complete. The master craftsman must sit with the shawl for six hours every day to create the colorful motifs that adorn the shawl.  It is impossible to believe that they were needle woven. These fine yet intricate masterpieces are example of impeccable art.
Often you’ll find left hands of Sozni weavers to be full with pockmarks from the needle pricks.

Considering the delicacy of the work, you could easily believe that each shawl takes about two to four years to embroider, and it is such a painstaking and slow work.
A valley in the Himalayan mountains brims with stories about crafts that have been practiced here for hundreds of years.

Kashmiri embroidered shawls, scarves, pherans have been popular the world over for years, a heaven for shawl buyers. Just like my friend Stella, cozy up this winter in a typically pure Kashmiri Pashmina and flaunt it to the world.

Photographs do not do justice to these essential luxuries; you have to see them close up, feel them, peer at their amazing patterns to realise what treasures these are. Heirlooms in the making, just like the red one I treasure.