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Buying Kashmiri Saffron? Real or Fake?

I hear stories of an ancient land so pure.
I see photographs of bluer than blue skies
over a lake of molten gold.
I drink kahwa flavoured with almond and saffron
and add honey, sweetened by bees from the valley
– Jhilmil Breckenridge (Ballads of Kashmir)
Saffron Corm
The more one talks about the beauty of Kashmir, the more they fall in love with it. One such treasure of Kashmir is its high quality saffron. Sown in fields that appear like an innocent sun-drenched dawn, draped in the mystic of golden hue and dew, the saffron is a gift of two Sufi aesthetics who came to Kashmir in late 11th and early 12th century. While their stay, both the foreigners were caught by an ailing sickness. A local tribal man aided them by finding a cure to their disease. Both the wanderers were grateful to the native man and offered him a saffron corm as reverence. Since then, saffron, along with almonds and walnut kernels, has become synonyms with Kashmir. The major crop of saffron in Kashmir is found in the town
of Pampore, widely known as the Kesar Valley. The world’s most expensive spice is harvested by a huge number of labour that work together to extract it from the dried stigmas of a perennial plant, Crocus Sativus. The saffron crocus is found only in Kashmir, and in some parts of Spain and Iran.
saffron threads
Due to the purity of Kashmiri saffron, leading to an excessive demand, people have started selling fake saffron to the seekers. Coming from the golden land, it is my privilege to spread the awareness about it. Saffron is so versatile, it adds a rich charm to any foods, sweets and aids in diseases like cough, Alzheimer, depression, etc.; and is also often used for its beauty benefits, hence adulteration of saffron is an offense that should be addressed seriously. The expensively sold fake saffron is not even close to the aroma, colour and texture of the real one, it is rather distastefully sweet and contrasting the intense taste of real saffron. Thus, retrieved from various sources and real-personal experiences of people I have come across the following ways to identify the original saffron that hails from Kashmir.


Looks, taste and smell
 saffron
The first look of a saffron strand speaks soundly of its purity. An original saffron string will consist of an overall red coloured thread with a slight yellowish shade at the base. The first instinct to identify real saffron is its saturated red colour and then its taste. If you put a pinch of saffron on your tongue and it tastes sweet, know that you are fooled. The real saffron does not taste like anything, it’s more neutral tasting and also has a honey-bitten smell. The fresh saffron has an aroma as if dipped and soaked in honey while old saffron might lose its pungency. If so be the case, the colour and taste of Kashmiri saffron stand together to defend its purity and by keeping these three factors about saffron in mind, you can easily identify the pure one.


Water Test
Saffron water test
The Kashmiri women are best to talk to about this homely test of checking the authenticity of Kashmiri saffron like my nain (grandmother). In her numerous fairy tales from Kashmir one of them was located in a saffron field. As she began reciting it to us, she grew vehemently intense about the subject. She had told us the ultimate mantra and it starts with a bowl, half immersed in water.
Put a small amount of saffron in the bowl to see water change its colour”, she instructed.
But so can the fake one right?” I asked in child-like curiosity. To answer my inquisitive question, she explained that if the saffron is real, the water will slowly and initially turn pale yellowish and gradually a more vibrant yellow. If this happens immediately after adding saffron, it’s fake. Also, the strands of pure saffron will secure its original colour in water, whereas the fake ones will lose it. And, thus I had learned the lesson of my lifetime.
Store this enigmatic gift of nature safely in little “Dibbis” like my grandmother, and as she advised, keep them at room temperature and not refrigerators as the change in temperature might absorb its moisture. Saffron has become the victim of adulteration. Let us create more awareness about its subtlety and purity to maintain its great usage in food and medicine, honour the enigmas of nature, and to keep alive the stories of our ancestors, drenched in pure memories of Kashmir.
Kashmiri box
Buying real Kashmiri saffron has become a task in the present scenario. The sellers of fake saffron have covered the market at large. For people who cannot go to Kashmir, they can buy saffron online from websites such as Kashmiri Box (https://www.kashmirbox.com/), FabIndia (https://www.fabindia.com/), Kashmiri Bazaar (https://www.kashmiribazaar.in), etc. If you are buying saffron from physical store, ask them to take a water test to assure its purity. A simple step of heedfulness can uplift the usage of real saffron and reduce its adulteration.

Traditional Sufi songs gives way to Sufi Rock bands in Kashmir

The Valle of Kashmir is famous all over the world because of its beautiful mountainous landscape wrapped with unique culture, tradition and mostly, for it’s deeply interwoven Sufi Culture. Sufism has a great impact on Kashmir and is integral to KASHMIRIYAT.

Jammu and Kashmir is steeped in Sufi ethos, Sufi shrines, and music. There are a lot of old poets and Sufi singers whose Sufi poetry and music style has snatched hearts of people from all over the world.
But as they say, change is mandatory and every society grows through change. Rock music appeals to this current generation a lot more than classical Sufi folk.
Well, cannot stop quoting Vera Nazarian here:
If Music is a Place — then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple.”

Contrary to the popular perception of the stone pelting Kashmiri youth are in fact dishing out hard rock. From traditional Sufi songs to Sufi rock, how perceptions of decade change over time and how the musical ideas from a given era filter through to later generations– here are some of our favourite bands from the valley.

It’s time for some rock and roll revolution in the Chinar valley.

 

There have been very renowned singers and poets who have written Sufi songs. But today’s youth listens to Rock. So we take the same Sufi lyrics and remix it with rock music and make a fusion genre called Sufi rock”, musician, BLOOD ROCKZ BAND.
A pioneer of the Sufi genre moment was formed back in 2005, by guitarist Adnan Muhammad who is the only constant member of the band. Adnan’s band reached national fame and was ranked no 1 in the battle of band in Kashmir.
Bloodrockz has also started an academy called Band Inn, where now they teach young and then eventually group them into a band.

Sufi rock music has created a powerful impact across Kashmir and this new genre of mixing Sufi lyrics with rock music has become popular among the new generation of the Valley.

Our music is our expression, our voice, we speak through our songs“, Ubaid, 23, lead vocalist and guitarist, POETIC JUSTICE.
Formed in 2004-05 by three friends – Mir Ubaid, Anees Amin and Azhar Hafiz, this band has come up in this league of growing rock culture. The band has been composing songs in English, Urdu and in Kashmiri. It has since grown with new members coming in.

Through Sufi Rock, they aim to not only revive the love for Sufiyana music and entertain people with the new trend but also channel the youths’ energy towards something more peaceful.

Our genre is Sufi-rock and alternative rock. When we first performed punk rock, people merely stared at us with blank faces. We blended our music with Sufi poetry. Since then there has been no looking back“, says Mattoo Asif, drummer, TALES OF BLOOD.
These youngsters do not see themselves as rebels. Music is their passion and also an escape.

Starting out, these aspiring musicians had to learn by observation and had to be their own teachers.

 

The more you absorb music, the more you express”, said Mohammad Muneem, lead vocalist and songwriter of the Pune-based band HIGHWAY-61.
Mohammad Muneem is Kashmiri born and has quite a following. Muneem’s fusion of Kashmiri and contemporary instruments have been featured on Coke Studio, Kappa TV and several festivals across the country. He sings about Kashmiri rearranged folklore, political churnings and the trail of destruction the two decade-long conflicts has left on the state.

Members believe in experimentation, which may or may not fall into any specific genre.

 

With influences of Nusratji, Fuzon, Kailash kher & Junoon we have that Extra edge of versatility of sub-geners and entertaining music lovers of all ages. Moreover we also are into Kashmiri Sufi Rock which is the unique of all the genres”, is the USP of ROOOH, the Sufi Rock band.
Rahul, Ashis, Shivaji, Ramesh wants to be the best Sufi rock fusion band in India and World!

Since music has changed with time, the Kashmiri youths, adapting to the transient times, have got themselves involved in this new trend of Sufi rock bands.

 

 

It stuck with us, we did three songs in Kashmiri. It was never intentional that we wanted to do Kashmiri. It just came to us naturally”, Lead vocalist Khalid Ahamed, PARVAAZ.
A Bengaluru-based band with a lead vocalist from the Valley has produced songs that struck a chord with audiences all over the country. ‘Behosh’, the band’s first extended play that featured a song in Kashmiri was a happy coincidence of the band. There’s no looking back since then. They’ve created renditions of Kashmiri folk tales and poems blended with Western percussion instruments.

With this, they aim to revive all kinds of musical activities, including sufiyana music, and entertain people with the new trend.

You can be as sanskaari as you want, but today’s audience needs something different. Through this, we are trying to keep Sufi music relevant,”

 

There is another face of Kashmir that’s the one that frowns at all that the youth represents. We also had our first all-girl Kashmiri rock band which became a Victim of mindset, PRAGAASH.

The bands are drawing lots of attention, not just to themselves, but also to the Valley.

You’re probably streaming through music in your headphones at work right now. Since music is such a big part of our lives, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you this updated list of rock bands from our very own Kashmir.  The power of music is undeniable. Every short piece of happy or sad music will lift our spirits, connect us and make us one.
Let the music will flow.

MAIN

A picture perfect Spring in Kashmir!

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“Wanda tchali, sheen gali, beyiyibahar”, wrote the Kashmiri poet Mehjoor, which translates to — “winter will end, the snow will melt and again spring will come.”

While the days are getting longer and nights getting shorter and the first signs of life are coming forth after a seemingly endless pale winter it feels like God himself is breathing new life back into his creation. Each season is unique but by far spring is my favourite season.
If the main highlight of autumn in the Vale is the blushing chinars, the pale poplars and not to forget the saffron fields of Pampore, then the white-pink almond blossoms, the fresh vibrant tulips typify spring in the Valley.  Spring does not only serve as a break from the extreme winter conditions in the valley but also adds colour to the Valley, with the grey gloom of winter lifting to reveal vibrant blossoms and greenery.
My heart leaps out in joy to witness colors everywhere after the winter grays and whites and welcome the fresh colorful spring breeze.

Nature is in her finest moods in the valley now, encouraging more new buds to form and once again adding the bloom that has faded away. The entire valley is soaked in the freshness and tempting fragrance of new blooms of almonds, cherries, apples, peaches, pears, pansies, narcissi, daises etc. shooting out of their buds, strong enough to pull tourists from all parts of the world.

As the weather warms up here in Kashmir, there are many fun activities that you can add to your to-do list. Make the most of the beautiful spring if you plan to vacation in this paradise.

Tulip Garden in Kashmir


Come mesmerize your senses in the infamous Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden.

Located at the foothills of Zabarwan range with an overview of the beautiful Dal Lake is Asia’s largest spectacular Tulip Garden with over a two million colorful tulips.
Come make an amazing fragrant memory of spring in Kashmir with your friends and family.

 

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Enjoy a breathtaking view of Badamwari (Almond Orchard) 

The pretty blossom of an almond tree on a naked leafless stem after awakening from their winter sleep is an eye soothing view. Kashmiri almonds are famous for their sweet taste and even more famous for its pure white sheen.
Heal your soul amidst scores of beautiful almond blossoms that rests in the foothills of Koh-e-Maraan spreading over 300 acres, in Badamwari.

 

MUSTARD


The sun-gold mustard fields will make you feel the happy yellow and the lively green
To take a look at the true colour of nature, take a drive up and down the yellow carpet of happiness stretched over many patches of earth. The chinar trees standing tall in the mustard fields will caress your soul and spirit in the warmest hug as the sun shines on them.
Found on the way to Pahalgam and many other areas of Kashmir, the sun gold mustard fields is here to offer you the fresh treat of spring.
Locally known as ‘TeeliGogul’, believe me when I say, you must visit Kashmir in spring to make your heart skip a beat while you witness the stunning view!

Dal Lekh

 

Re-fresh, Re-new, Re-awake!
After a cold and harsh winter of Kashmir, spring is considered to be a season of rebirth. Along with the nature shaking off the heaviness of winter, waken up your body and soul with fresh green veggies and rich delicious fruits. Some of the best picks from spring in Kashmir are avocados, apricots, cherry and greens including chilies, coriander, cilantro, beans, collard greens, cucumbers, spring onions and a lot more.

 

 

Welcome spring with the chirps and songs of birds

“In the spring months, these birds of passage also spend some time in the valley before moving to their summer homes.” Sandhill cranes and cormorants arrive here in spring from the Indian plains to spend some time before they also migrate to their summer homes.
Orioles, cuckoos, starlings, nightingales, hoopoes, and doves arrive in spring to bring the Valley back to life with their songs and magnificent colours.

Spring has always been the season of colour and hope in the Valley.
 ‘Kashmir mesmerizes you whichever season you go. More so in spring. It is picture perfect!’

Being a Kashmiri mother

Being a Kashmiri Mother

The truth of living in times driven by media is that it loves to concentrate on the bad things in life rather than the positive ones. And as a result unlike the rest of the country, Kashmir manages to live in the headlines for mostly bad reasons that are visible to the media.
The coverage of Kashmir that the non-residents see is through a narrow lens of media, which is mainly the reason we at KashmiriLife choose to reflect on the daily life, traditions, festivals, art and culture, here at large. With the world celebrating Mother’s day on May 13th, let’s see what story Kashmir has to tell.

To start, let’s talk about our love – our mother and food. Our conversation starts with food and ends with food just as our days.
Our day starts at 5 with the pleasant Azaan heard every morning. We wake up and get ready and our ‘nun chai’ and ‘kandur chot’ (bakery of kashmir) is ready! What’s better than waking up to a scrumptious breakfast every morning? An even better lunch that follows.
Who has the time to worry about what to cook for lunch while having breakfast? Of course our mothers.Mother is the only person who’s ‘pro’ at feeding her children and constantly worries that the child needs to be fed. The one thing they’d never forget to do, is pilling on a few extra pounds on you when you come back home from the hostel as you are never fat enough for her. And let’s accept this who doesn’t crave for mom’s home-made food!

It goes without saying that mothers are creatures blessed with divine qualities of unconditional love, ability to sacrifice and Kashmiri mothers are no exceptions. They pray to the Lord to put them through all the trials instead of their children.
You’d often hear them saying things in Kashmiri like ‘Balai lagai’ ‘Rati chaep lagai’ ‘Zu panun vandai’ to their children which all in all mean ‘may all your hardships be mine’ ‘May all your mis-happenings occur to me instead’.
Though I’m not well versed in a lot of languages but, Kashmiri is definitely the most expressive and sweetest language. Here’s some heart warming phrases you’ll get to hear on a daily basis that mothers use to express love towards us, ‘Zu myon’ (My life!)  ‘Jigar’ (A piece of my heart)  Gobur myon (My loving child) and so on.

When they get mad, we are petrified of them. They scold us, threaten to the extent of ‘Naar di yiman kitaban’ sarcastically which means ‘Set your books on fire’ ,’Paei trath,tche mandchawak aes’ (May you get struck with lightning, you’ll put our name to shame) but here’s a gentle reminder, they’ll not spare anybody if they set a finger at you.
Well, these threats work great.

Nobody can match the warmth of a mother’s embrace. Remember, you never grow up for her. They’d wrap you into a huge bear hug and have a typical Koshur style of kissing. The warmth of a costly Pashmina shawl is no match for a ‘Mouji’s’ hug and kisses. The love is such that you can never miss it and it will definitely warm up your heart.

hug

Regardless of their different shades there’s nobody who makes you feel safer than mothers.
Kashmiri women are adorable! And they make really cute moms. We love them more for all of these qualities.

A very Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! May God bless them.

Kashmir, a proud backdrop to many Bollywood movies.

While thinking of a topic for this week’s blog, I wanted to come up with a different aspect of Kashmir, since we’ve already explored Kashmiri beauty and culture a lot. Reading the same topics, again and again, may get you bored, which is also part of my plan to diversify your reading.

One day while I was watching the movie ‘Yeh Jawaani hae Deewani’ and saw ‘the trekking trip’ scene, I thought of one of the most famous and widely accredited trekking in Gulmarg, and much to my surprise I learnt that the scene that was actually passed off as Manali in the film was actually our very own Gulmarg. Can you believe it?
This is why I thought why not to write a post about the bonding of Indian movies with the most romantic, tourist-friendly destination of Kashmir.

‘The heavenly beauty of Kashmir could echo perfectly the heavenly emotion of romance’, and why not? The destination of Kashmir has served a proud background for scenes in many famous Bollywood movies.
While the likes of
“Kashmir Ki Kali’, where the scenic Dal Lake became a backdrop to the evergreen peppy song ‘Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra’,
‘Junglee’, Shammi Kapoor’s first colour film was shot majorly in the valley,
‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’ where the story revolves around a Kashmiri boatman falling in love with a tourist,
to Aap Ki Kasam, Silsila” are among others, that romanticised the valley’s natural beauty in the 1960s and 70s, let’s move on to more recent releases that you probably did not know was shot in picturesque Kashmir.

Here then, let’s take you through some of the most notable Bollywood movies set in Kashmir!

  1.       Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

An amazing blend of trek, romance and never-ending friendships create a riot of adrenaline as they set out in the breathtakingly beautiful location of Gulmarg, Kashmir and not Manali!

  1.       Highway

Did the locations of Imtiaz Ali’s, Highway get you moving? Well then, a significant portion of the film was shot in Kashmir, including Aru valley, Pahalgam and the famous Srinagar-Leh highway!

  1.       Jab Tak Hai Jaan

While the scenic beauty of especially the song ‘Jiya Re’ is evidently shot in Kashmir, amidst the beautiful green valley, and houseboats lined up, many scenes were also shot in Ladakh and Kashmir besides London.

  1.       Student of the Year

Thinking of visiting the place where the song ‘Ishq Waala Love’ was shot? Think no more, pack your bags and leave for Kashmir. Yes, the indescribably beautiful snow-covered backdrop is majorly shot in Kashmir!

  1.       Rockstar

A portion of director Imtiaz Ali’s film, Rockstar was also shot in Kashmir. From food served in the traditional tram to Nargis Fakhri’s character and traditional outfit/ jewelry, the director has gone to great lengths to present the culture and tradition of the valley.

  1.       Lamhaa

Madno, from the movie Lamhaa, was shot at various locations in Srinagar such as Pari Mahal, Dal Lake and some gardens.

  1.       Tahaan

A must watch award-winning film shot entirely in the Kashmir Valley. A story of a young Kashmiri boy and his beloved donkey set in the beautiful landscapes of Pahalgam, Kashmir.

  1.       Saat Khoon Maaf

A song from Priyanka Chopra’s Saat Khoon Maaf was picturised in the mesmerizing backdrop of Gulmarg, Jallani House and Shalimar Gardens (in Srinagar).

  1.       Yahaan

This movie was shot entirely in never-before-seen locations in Kashmir!

  1.   Fitoor

Kashmir has always remained a fan of Bollywood, and as a fan, the Valley was once again eager to welcome the film fraternity for the shooting of Fitoor. Don’t miss the awe-inspiring beauty of Kashmir shown in the love story that surpasses social divide.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever!” Bollywood doesn’t seem to get over with the everlasting infatuation with the beautiful Valle of Kashmir. The love affair has only grown stronger.
Pack your bags immediately and travel to the most breath-taking backdrop for romantic scenes in Bollywood.

Raabta- a ray of hope.

At a time when negative news dominates the headlines around the world, there’s something very positive about this story that’ll brighten up your day.

“Happiness is meeting an old friend after a long time.” 
Let’s start with this optimistic note. ‘Raabta’, a small endeavor to re-establish broken links between Kashmiri families, friends, classmates and neighbours divided by decades of insurgency  and social bitterness is surely the need of the hour.
Raabta, which translates into “connection”, is a Facebook page helping search and reconnect people we grew up with. The ones we haven’t heard from each other in the last 28 years.

 

Our concept of ‘Kashmiriyat‘ is incomplete without Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. We were/are one society, one family.
Better late than never, almost a month since the page with over 21,000 followers was created; Raabta has already been able to connect five Kashmiri Hindu Pandit and Muslim families who live far away from each other, reviving our composite culture, our ‘Kashmiriyat‘.

Behind the initiative is a Kashmiri advertising professional based in Gurugram named Jaibeer Ahmad.
Despite polarisation, we continue to share bond as individuals. Bound together by our common heritage, culture, music, poetry, food and the pheran (the Kashmiri traditional overcoat),” Ahmad, 43, told IANS

Raabta, the name itself brings forth an explosion of emotions. A friend-to-friend, people-to-people connect.
“To that extent, Raabta is completely driven by organic search,”

Jaibeer hopes that the initiative he runs along with other Kashmiri friends — both Muslims and Hindus —will bridge the gap between the divided communities that together made “Kashmiriyat”, Kashmir’s unique composite culture.

As Ahmad puts it, “(Before 1990) there were no acronyms of KP (Kashmiri Pandit) and KM (Kashmiri Muslim). We were all Kashmiris.”

If you’re on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll be lucky enough to find Raabta there as well. But it is mainly the FB page that is driving the platform.
This amazing initiative has been generously supported by some major newspapers.

We are not Kashmiri. We are not Hindu. We are not Muslim. Our only identity is that we are Indian.
We at Kashmiri Life would request everyone to join ‘Raabta’ and spread the word to fill the gaps and bring the Kashmiriyat back.
Let souls reconnect and reclaim their friendships that had gotten trapped under the debris of time.

POST-OFFICE

India’s one and only floating Post office.

Jammu and Kashmir, one of the most beautiful places on Earth is set as the crown of India and crowns aren’t always made of rhinestones, but sometimes made up of  snow capped Himalayan mountains, picturesque valleys, magnificent chinar trees, vibrant tulip flowers, the beautiful Dal Lake and last but not the least – India’s first floating Post Office.

Are you packing your bags for Srinagar anytime soon? Then let us tell you, along-with the floating vegetable and flower markets and the unique experience of staying on a houseboat, you can also take a boat ride right up to the floating post office and send a special postcard to friends and family back home!
Now isn’t that a souvenir and memory worth cherishing for life?

For the ones who want to go beyond the highlights of a destination and experience the place in a more unusual way, a government post office that floats amidst scores of docked houseboats and bright yellow shikaras ferrying tourists and locals, is an obvious on the itinerary.

The “Floating Post Office, Dal Lake” is claimed to be the only such in the world and is built on an intricately carved maroon houseboat, anchored on the western edge of the Dal Lake.

We’ve got more surprises for you. The post office also includes a museum with collection of stamps and also a shop that sells postage stamps among other things. These include picture postcards, greeting cards that bear pictures of the beautiful Dal Lake, and have a distinctive stamp that depicts a man rowing a shikara, local souvenir items, stationary and several books on Kashmir.

 

These pictures will reach wherever these letters will be posted and will promote Kashmir as a tourist destination across the world“.
There are so many visitors to Srinagar who just visit the post office to send a postcard back home to their loved ones. That’s not all, other services at the post office allow tourists to call and email their friends all across the world.

A tourist enjoying in India’s first floating Post-Office

Inaugurated by then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Minister of State for Communications and IT, Sachin Pilot in 2011, this post office offers regular postal services on water and is frequented by both locals and tourists. Since then, it has been attracting tourists from all across the country.

It is a befitting tribute to the lake, which is one of the most famous and often quoted symbols of Kashmir, and often referred to as the crown of Kashmir“.
Set on the gorgeous view of the hypnotic Dal Lake, reflecting the grand Himalayan peaks dominating the horizon, this heritage post office is a tribute to the beautiful Dal Lake. This lovely floating post office just adds more to its gorgeousness!

WAZBAN-RECEIPIE

FAMOUS KASHMIRI WAZWAN RECIPES TO TRY AT HOME

The most popular saying about Kashmir is “Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast,” which roughly translates to “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”.
The vibrant valley of Kashmir is known not only for its beauty, carpets, shawls, paintings, metalwork, woodwork and paintings but also for its delicious food. I’m sure; the sheer beauty of the place along with the food of Kashmir continues to give meaning to Amir Kusrow’s famous words.
And ofcourse, the point of pride for every Kashmiri is the lavish multi-course wazwan meal.

Well, for a meal to become a wazwan you need to have a waza (master chef from Kashmir specialized in making ‘wazwan’) cook it for you. For our brothers and sisters who are missing their home town, or for the ones who simply want to show off their culinary skills, here is a four-course meal from the famous wazwan that you can begin with.

“A wazwan feast is not an everyday affair in Kashmir.”
Although wazwan usually contains around 15 items, but that number could just easily go up to around 36.

“Like a short story, a good recipe can put us in a delightful trance.”
Have you ever thought why recipes are written in the ‘imperative tense’ (heat the pan, peel the onion)? Before I explain to you, here are a few recipes we suggest you prepare to satiate your desire for the famous wazwan or simply present your guests with.

Everyone loves appetizers. Entertain your crowd with this perfect Paneer Gulnar from wazwan.

We’ve picked these two top rated dishes from the diverse range of main-course items that ‘wazwan’ meal offers. Go ahead & give these a try.

Who needs a special occasion to satisfy the sweet tooth? Just bring it on!

A dessert to conclude the main meal.

As you read the recipes on a slow day at work, or while trying to kill some time, sparing a moment in your busy day or simply with your head drowsily on the pillow, there is no onion, no lamb or dry fruits, but you’ve watched yourself peel that onion, cooked the fiery lamb and even soaked the dry fruits over night, but, all in your minds.
That’s how you’ve been fooled but at the same time gotten the most pleasure and satisfaction of a good meal. Thanks to the imperative tense used in the recipes. Yes, you might do the actual cooking tomorrow, but right now, you’ve sharpened your cooking skills, virtually with us.

Trust me, the very name wazwan is enough to bring aroma of Kashmir wherever you are even outside the valley – ‘the King of all feasts’.

P.S. I am already craving for it! Being Kashmiri

 

BULBULSHAH

Sufism In Kashmir

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any“–Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, June 1, 1921

 Our Kashmir is a living, breathing example of a society that has, traditionally taken the best from various cultures and infused those elements into its own best traditions. One such tradition is the noble, spiritual and humane Sufi tradition that is Islamic at its core and, while retaining the God-fearing attributes of piousness, has melded these attributes with the mercy and the all-encompassing compassion of the Almighty.

Unfortunately, our Sufi traditions have tended to suffer at the versions of Wahabi rigidity steadily exported from Pakistan and disguised as a vehicle for Azadi. It is against such impositions that Kashmir is gradually responding by declaring that “I refuse to be blown off my feet”. The campaign to preserve Sufi traditions, being an inseparable part of Kashmiriyat, has fortunately found a response among the Valley youth and is slowly, but surely, gathering momentum.

Sufi Music

One aspect of Sufism is the expression of devotion to our maker by way of pious and soulful dance, poetry and music (remember the dances of the dervishes?) often at the dargahs and mazars of men who, by their piety and virtue, attained the status of Pirs. Sufi devotional poetry and music were composed in the Kashmiri and Persian languages and their lilting sound, so full of devotion and immersion in the greatness and goodness of God came to distinguish Kashmiri Sufi traditions.

Although Sufi singers and dancers in the past have invariably been men; the women of today are taking an equal interest in the Sufi art forms. Shabnam Bashir, a bright and spirited Kashmiri teenager, took to learning classical Sufi music three years ago. She practised her singing in low profile at first, being diffident about opposition by her family but the family, upon seeing her talent and her application, relented subject to her commitment to Sufi music not affecting her regular studies. Today, Shabnam Bashir is a proud member of what her teacher, Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh proudly mentions as the first Sufi singing ensemble in Kashmir. Shabnam Bashir says her interest in Sufi music was primarily inspired by the desire to save ‘Sufiyana’ that symbolises the cultural ethos of Kashmir. In the wake of the trail blazed by Shabnam Bashir, her teacher has trained nearly 50 other Kashmiri girls and women in Sufi music, a cultural heritage that they shall proudly pass on to future generations.

 

Sufi Paintings

The austere harshness of life was mellowed by the softness of Sufi painting.  In March 2016, a solo Sufi painting exhibition, titled “Rhythm of Life”, by Shafique Farooqi was placed on display at the Alhambra Art Gallery on The Mall in Lahore, Pakistan.A book featuring the artist’s work was also launched with the same title to mark his 10,000 art pieces, 100 exhibitions and 50 years of working as an artist. The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Lahore Sufi Festival.

Tragically, while Sufi culture receives so much attention in Pakistan, it is sought to be stifled and subdued in Kashmir by doctrinaire hardliners. It is, thus, heartening that Badr un Nisa, a Kashmiri girl, has shouldered the responsibility of reviving the rich Sufi tradition through her paintings. She began as a child painter but has achieved distinction with exhibitions of her paintings being held in places as far afar as Turkey and Austria.

Sufi Architecture

Although Sufi saints were not architects, the people of Kashmir evolved a unique architectural style in the construction of mausoleums and shrines of these saints such that Kashmir also came to be known as “pir waer” or the Alcove of Saints. These are wooden edifices that are gloriously conceived and designed marvels of architecture. The oldest and finest example is the shrine of Shrine of Hazrat Syed Sharif-ud-Din Abdur Rehman ‘Bulbul’ Shah who arrived in Kashmir, from Turkistan in 1324 AD. Over time, people came to describe the Sufi shrine architecture as “Reshi Architecture” being an allegorical reference to the Sufi saint Nundreshi whose shrine was built at Charar-e-sharif.

 

Although ‘Bulbul’ Shah’s shrine was recently restored, many of these symbols of veneration and masterpieces of architecture have tragically suffered from neglect over the years eroding our heritage. The moment produces the man.  Iqbal Ahmed from Kulgam, a graduate with a Diploma in numismatics, archaeology and heritage is an accomplished cultural historian who has produced as many as 12 books on Kashmiri archaeology and heritage. Iqbal Ahmed has embarked upon a programme of forceful advocacy to preserve the iconic “Reshi Architecture’ of Kashmir arguing that it is an inseparable part of the Kashmiri culture, tradition and history; something that the Kashmiri people cannot afford to lose anymore.

Pakistani architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz has explained the spiritual dimensions of Sufi shrine architechture. He points out that the mausoleum consists of a cube, representing the earth, material body, and a dome, which symbolises the spiritual sphere. The point at which they meet indicates the human and divine.

The Glory of Sufism in Kashmir

“Old is gold,” is an English proverb that held true yesterday and would continue to hold true today and tomorrow.

Today let’s share our views and thoughts on the hoary and priceless culture of Sufism in Kashmir. While there is no doubt that the Heaven on Earth, Kashmir located in the lap of snow-clad mountains is world renowned for its apple orchards, the shade of fallen Chinar, lush green grass meadows, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam valleys, magnificent Dal lake, water bodies like Jhelum, Indus and Chenab, Mughal gardens, world famous elegant Pashmina shawl; it is equally well known for the Sufi culture.
The presence of Sufism in Kashmir has added the sparkle of tolerance to the beauty of the valley.

The word Sufi is derived from the Arabic word ‘al-tasawwuf’ adverting to the inwardness or the inner mystical dimensions of Islam.. Sufism’s essential message, a message holding true for all Sufi saints, is this; ‘to remember God and serve others’.
“Love is the divine essence in man and is due to God alone. saidHazrat Inayat Khan one of the most respected and honoured preceptors of Sufism..
A Sufi’s path is a path of love. Islamic mystics are called Sufis which includes an allusion to the softness of ‘Suf’ i.e. “wool” and their way of life is Sufism.

The Glory of Sufism in Kashmir
Ancient Kashmir has been a protected place of stay and meditation for the saints, Sufis, Rishis and other devoted worshipers of God. History suggests that these saints belonged to different religions that include Shaivism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Sufism evolved and developed a credo among Muslims which emphasised bonds of love with and surrender to the almighty.The philosophy spread along the valley after the arrival of Sufis from Central Asia. There is a strong belief that eclectic practices came to define a Sufi and the growth of Sufism in Kashmir.

Haven’t we heard beautiful stories of communal harmony? For centuries the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have lived together peacefully. The Muslims of Kashmir had a strong influence on Hindus, and vice-versa. During the rule of Chaks and Shahmiris there existed six orders of Sufism which were Qadiria, Sahurwardia, Kibrawiya, Naqashbandia, Noorbakhshia and Rishia. While the first five had arrived from Iran and Turkistan, the sixth one was originally from Kashmir and sought to combine the very best elements of the different religious orders.
The beautiful valley of Kashmir exerted a special attraction on the Sufis saint sat whose shrines, people flock in large numbers to pay homage. The most dominant influence on the Kashmiri identity, in terms of our Kashmiriyat, is that of the ‘Rishi’ order of Sufis. According to a scholar: “Where Sufis are Rishis and Rishis are Sufis”. The term `Rishi’ itself is clearly a derivation from Sanskrit and Indian traditions, though some Medieval Muslim scholars have tried to show that it is derived from the Persian word raish or rish meaning the “feathers or wings of a bird.”
Among the Muslim rishis, the most famous rishi is SheikhNur-ud-din (RA). Out of a feeling of deep respect and love, both the Hindus and Muslims call him ‘Nandrishi’. The shrine of Nandrishi is located in Chrar-e-Sharief, a small village about five miles from Nagam. Both Hindus and Muslims gather at this shrine to make floral offerings.. He was known not only as a Saint, Rishi, and Spiritual head of Kashmir but also as a great writer and poet who, through his verses, taught Kashmiris the importance of Islamic virtues of justice, sincerity, equality, truth, morality and spirituality.
It is also believed that Sheikh nurtured the ‘Koshur’ language that plays a role in our identity formation.

“We belong to the same parents.
Then why this difference?
Let Hindus and Muslims(together)
Worship God alone.
We came to this world like partners.
We should have shared our joys
and sorrows together.”

The Sufi traditions of Jammu and Kashmir still play an important role in the lives of people in the region for whom the traditions connote an understanding of the world in all its spiritual dimensions.

We shall revisit our roots and also talk more about Sufism in Kashmir in our next articles.