The culture of Kashmir is a blend of multiple customs that arrived from Northern India, Northern Pakistan and the Aksai Chin region. The state enjoys the presence of blended religious practices influenced by eachother and that’s why Kashmir is famous for its cultural heritage. It amalgamates Hinduism , Sikhism, Islam and Buddhism like no other place on planet, hence many artists and Kings called Kashmir , a Jannat (Paradise).
Origin, People and Background.
The Kashmiri population is an ethno-linguistic group that can be compared with an Indo-Greek with their racial structure of the Kashmiris. The natives of erstwhile Kashmir live in Pakistan, Upper Punjab and Potohar where they are organized in groups and live together. Although, Kashmiri people live in different parts of India they are mainly gathered in the Valley of Kashmir, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban tehsils of Jammu Division. Their language is highly influenced by the Sanskrit language and mostly spoken by Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus. However, one can find variation in language when travelling to different parts of Kashmir. Their writing script consists of Arabic style. Scripts of contemporary travelers and traders state that Wazwan and their culture is highly influenced by Central Asian and Persian culture. Their dance, music, cuisine, carpet weaving and Koshur Sufiana forms a significant part of Kashmiri identity. Kashmiri culture is mainly followed by people living in Kashmir valley and Doda of the Chenab region. The valley is known for the fine arts including traditional boats and houseboats, handicrafts and poetry.
Kashmir has wide variant of cuisine in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The cuisines are protein rich which enables the people in keeping them stronger to adapt to the mountainous terrain and extreme winters. The popular meat dishes are Kashmiri Kebag, Rogan Josh, Yakhni, Pasanda, Syun Alu and Methi Keema. There are a wide range of non- vegetarian dishes requiring skilled cooking. Some of the famous vegetarian dishes include Hak, Rajmah, Zarda, Tursh, Shree Pulao, Nadeir Yakhaen, and Ladyar Tsaman. These dishes are prepared with fresh vegetables with paneer to give an interesting taste to the cuisine. Sevaiyaan, phirni and barfi are the everyday deserts that define a Kashmiri house kitchen. Kashmiri hot sheer tea ‘Kahwah’ and Kashmiri Pulao are worldwide famous recipes that have their place in numerous Michelin Restaurants. To surprise of many, the Dum Aloo Curry – the only Potato dish that stands upright amidst Paneer and chicken dishes at Indian weddings’ menu is a Kashmiri Tadka !
The costume of Kashmiri people is very colorful and attractive. The majority of people wear traditional costume in their everyday life unlike, metropolis cosmopolitan culture and women attire themselves with gorgeous jewelry like nose ring, bangles, earrings, necklaces and salwar kamiz. Whereas, men dress themselves in kurta pajama, shalwars, gurabi and skullcaps. Pheran is kind of overcoat wore by Kashmiri people during winters which is decorated with colorful patches and embroidery work. Most of the costumes of Kashmiri people are loose gown and it just varies in quality of fabric according to the weather. Most of the men wear headgear and women wear a skullcap. The Kashmiri women cover their head and shoulders from strangers and elders as a matter of respect. The Kashmiri costume truly indicates their culture and lifestyle. It also shows that India is still following their cultural values.
Festivals and Observances
A large number of festivals are celebrated by Kashmiri people with full joy and enthusiasm. Besides a panoramic view of the landscape, Kashmir is a home to rich cultural heritage and it is easily reflected by the festival celebration by the Kashmiri people. Some of the popular festivals are Baishakhi, Lohri, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hemis festival, Tulip Festival, Shikara Festival, Gurez Festival, Sindu Darshan and Domoche.
A large number of people gather during the festive season and enjoy these auspicious days with lots of enthusiasm.Traditional dance, participation in painting, multi-cuisine and shops of handicrafts are an integral part of these festivals. Numerous fairs like Bahu Mela, Jhiri Mela and Craft Mela are also organized on some auspicious days where Kashmiri Culture is highlighted by those people. Kashmir is one of the best places where one can see rich heritage and culture along with its beauty.
Dance and Music.
Kashmir has its own style of dance performance and music that is simple and fabulous. Almost every festival and fair consist of dance and music that a tradition and culture. There is a wide variety of dance and music that is performed according to occasions. One of the popular dance forms is Mask dance that is performed during the Hemis Festival. The dancers wear colorful costume, wear face mask and brocade robes and perform ceremonial dances. Other major dance forms are Chakri, Ladishah, Ruf and Dandaras dance. Roul, Dogri and Wuegi-Nachun are some of the forms of folk dance. Kashmiri people love folk music and Rabab music. The common instruments played in this music are Sitar, Dukra and Nagara. Wanawun, Ghazals, Sufi and Choral are some major music forms in Kashmir that are sung during wedding ceremonies and festivals.
Kashmir is a popular place for their beautiful and unique Handicraft. The Pashmina Shawl is famous worldwide for its quality and fabric. Almost every woman love and desire Pashmina Shawl as it symbolizes royalty. The design and embroidery work on the shawl is breathtaking also, the warmth and softness that it offers is completely matchless. Kashmir is also famous for their hand-knotted carpets and woolen rugs having floral design. On the other hand, basketry, paper Mache, wooden carving furniture made of walnut wood and silverware are one of the best handicrafts offered by Kashmiri people. As Kashmir is one of the best attractions for tourist, the handicraft industry is getting expanded by the government.
Kashmiris are majorly involved in agriculture of Rice, Maize, Mustard, Cottonseed, Radish, Onions, Gourd, Lotus-stalk, Linseed, Carrots, etc. The climatic condition of Kashmir also helps in cultivation of fruits like mulberry, grapes, plums, apples, cherries, apricots, walnuts, almond, etc. Agricultural exports and exports of handicrafts, shawls, and rugs bring the state a handsome amount of foreign exchange. Jammu and Kashmir has a mix culture that has majorly come from Northern India.