In Kashmir, autumn season is often referred to as “Harud”. This harvesting season occurs every year in the fall. As the leaves in the valley turn yellow and golden, farmers return to their fields to harvest paddy and saffron as well as select numerous varieties of apples for export. The valley is bathed in a variety of red, orange, and golden hues as the autumn approaches. Children run around, excitedly stomping leaves and playing cricket under the shade of the enormous Chinar, which is a crucial part of Kashmir’s soul and existence.
Autumn gives the Chinar trees a brilliant sheen, and it looks amazing to see the carpet of red, gold, and orange leaves that cover the ground. In Kashmir, Chinar trees can be seen growing all throughout the valley’s topography. University of Kashmir campus is another well-known fall attraction. Naseem Bagh, which literally translates to “Garden of Morning Breeze,” is the most beautiful area of the university, especially in the autumn. One of the most tranquil places is without a doubt this picture-perfect garden with its tens of thousands of Chinar trees. Nothing can match the beauty of this place during the fall. The Dal Lake’s length and the magnificent mountain ranges in the distance combine to provide an extraordinary experience. The garden is much more alluring because of the cool Dal Lake wind.
The local bird reserves in Kashmir are protected from poaching and human interference for the benefit of migratory birds by a separate wildlife department. Compared to summer, autumn is more subdued and less characterised by stereotypes.
The Chinar tree has drawn and inspired Kashmiri poets for ages. And everyone is quoting Iqbal’s couplet. When one enters Chinar Garden at Srinagar’s Dal Lake, children are seen playing cricket on the fallen Chinar leaves at one end of the garden. Little ones are seen gathering fallen leaves in the garden so that, they could burn them to generate charcoal to use in the winter. Selfies are being taken by tourists to publish on social media. Chinar gardens see a lot of visitors in October and November as this is when the tree’s colours shift from blood-red to mauve to amber to yellow.
According to historical background, Chinar trees are indigenous to Persia and go by the name Che Nar (What fire). The trees were brought from Persia during the time of Mughal emperor Jahangir and were widely planted throughout the valley. The trees, according to local historians, were already in the Valley even before the Mughals. They claim that the tree remained a significant landscape during the Mughal era and still dominates the Valley’s old gardens. The University of Kashmir’s Naseem Bagh campus and some of the greatest Chinar gardens in Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Anantnag are located in the valley.
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah chose the phrase “the Chinar on fire” for the title of his autobiography to refer the autumnal colour of Chinar leaves. Despite the fact that there has been a decline in the number of Chinar trees over the past three decades as a result of pruning. The government and a few NGOs have made an effort to plant Chinar saplings throughout the Valley. Chinar is a heritage tree, and it is illegal to cut its branches. The tree grows to a height of 25 metres, has a circumference of more than 50 feet, and lives for around 700 years.
In Kashmir, there are more than 4000 Chinar trees, including a 627 year old specimen that was planted in Central Kashmir Budgam. It also has many new beginnings. Even those who are no longer in school, experience the feeling of starting over with new clothes, books, ideas, and air that is crisper and cooler. Additional trees will be fed by the leaves as they fall to the earth. Hibernation is a state of rest, conservation, and a promise that what feels like falling is actually about rising again, to borrow Alice Oswald’s beautiful expression “Falling Awake.” True, autumn has arrived, and that is a cause for celebration.
With the arrival of autumn, Kashmir’s terrain has taken on a variety of appearances. It has softened the light, added a chilling mist to the air and stripped the majority of trees, including the enormous Chinar trees, off their leaves. One can’t help but notice as they go down the streets that the famous Chinar trees‘ rustling leaves are piercing the silence. As you go through Srinagar during this time of year, you will see Chinar leaves in a variety of vivid colours that have been twisted and curled by the summer’s whims.
Every year, the Valley undergoes change as a result of the fall of Chinar leaves, or “Buen” as they are known locally. People start dressing in woollens and altering their diets to accommodate the changing seasons.
“Jis khaak ke zamir mein ho aatish-e-chinar Mumkin nahien ke sard ho wok hake arajmand”
(The spark that has in its conscience, the fire of Chinar trees, the spark, Celestial dust, will never become cold) – Sir Muhammad Iqbal.