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Kashmiri Culture

Customs & Traditions

The culture of Jammu and Kashmir is a comprehensive mingling of customs and practices of its three distinct regions, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. Apart from its demographical variations, specific cultural diversions of its elements are what make the culture of Jammu and Kashmir remarkable. Music, dance, cuisine, lifestyle, festivals all these only highlight the diversities prevalent in these provinces. Unity is restored when a common thread of cultural tradition binds them together thus making it a part of Jammu and Kashmir as a whole. Culture of Jammu and Kashmir is therefore an interesting reflection of color, zest, harmony and concord which makes Jammu and Kashmir to stand apart with its distinct features of age old tradition and deep ethnicity.

People of Jammu & Kashmir

The people of Jammu and Kashmir are renowned for their warmth and hospitality. They are simple, hospitable people and being invited to a village wedding or into somebody’s house for a hot cup of tea is not surprising.

Kashmiri language

The official language of Jammu and Kashmir is Urdu. However, Kashmiri is the local language of Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmiri, which is an Indo-Aryan language, is also known as Koshur. People living in Kashmir Valley speak Kashmiri. People living in Ladakh speak Ladakhi, whereas people in Jammu mostly speak Dogri.

Hindi is mostly spoken by the Kashmiri Pandits and the Gujjar people of the state. Urdu, an Indo-European language, is spoken by the Muslim population in Kashmir. The Urdu language sounds similar to Hindi. English is spoken by the educated class and guides in the state.

Religion in Jammu & Kashmir

Islam is the major religion in Jammu & Kashmir. In Kashmir valley, almost 90 percent of the people follow Islam. In Kargil and Jammu, majority of the people follow Islam.

Apart from Islam, people follow Buddhism and Hinduism. People residing in the Ladakh area follow Buddhism. In Kashmir valley, there is limited number of people following Buddhism.

Hinduism is the second most dominant religion in the state, after Islam. Primarily, Kashmiri Pandits and Gujjars are the ones to follow Hinduism. There are limited numbers of Kashmiri Pandits in the state now.

Food of Jammu & Kashmir

The food of Jammu and Kashmir differs from region to region with the Hindus Dogras of Jammu being predominantly vegetarian; eating a staple diet of rice, wheat and beans. The Ladakhis eat rice, wheat, millet, locally produced vegetables and fruits, goat meat and dairy products made from yak milk. Kashmiri food is characterised by its vast array of dishes cooked over a long period of time in exotic spices. The seasons and availability of fresh produce dictates the ingredients, some of which are dried and used in the winter months. The Kashmiri cuisine is essentially meat-based, while the eating habits of the Hindu and Muslim Kashmiri's differ in its use of certain spices and the prohibition of beef for the Hindus.

The highlight of Kashmiri cuisine is the formal banquet called 'wazawan' that includes a spread of over 36 courses cooked all night long by a team of chefs called 'wazas' under the supervision of a 'Vasta waza' or master chef, descendants of the cooks from Samarkand. The food is characterised by thick gravies using liberal quantities of yoghurt, spices and dried fruits, and is usually cooked in ghee (clarified butter) or mustard oil. Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is grown locally. It is used extensively to flavour the pulaos (rice dish) and sweets. The popular dishes include the starter yakhni, tabaq naat made of fried ribs, dum aloo (steam cooked potato curry), rogan josh made with mutton, gushtaba, a meatball curry and haleem made from meat and pounded wheat. A Kashmiri meal has to end with a cup of 'Kahva', green tea flavoured with cardamom and almonds.

A True Holiday Destination

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the ultimate tourist destination where you can experience the myriad cultures of its three regions. The people of the state are very hospitable and left no stone unturned in the service of guests. Learn the few words of one of its languages and it will be pleasure to utter these words back at home. An expedition to the hill areas will be interesting to find the Gujjars living in their hutment's on the steep slopes of High mountains. Come and explore the state called 'Paradise on Earth' because of beauty of nature as well as its people.

Music and Dance

Kashmir has had a rich musical tradition going back centuries. The early Brahman communities played music very similar to Indian classical music such as the sitar. The advent of Sufism brought a new musical tradition, that of sufiana kalam, which involves the instruments santoor and saz. With this music, there are many dance forms in Kashmir, the most popular of which is the rouf. This dance heralds the arrival of the spring, performed by girls, and is usually performed at Eid festivals.

The Music of Jammu & Kashmir reflects the rich musical heritage and cultural legacy of the Jammu & Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. Traditionally the music composed by ethnic Kashmiris has a wide range of musical influences in composition. Due to Kashmir's close proximity to Central Asia, Eastern Asia and Southern Asia, a unique blend of music has evolved encompassing the music of the 3 regions. But, overall, Kashmiri music is closer to Central Asian music, using traditional Central Asian instruments and musical scales.

Chakri

Chakri is one of the most popular folk music played in Kashmir. Chakri is played with the musical instruments like Harmonium, Rabab, Sarangi and Nout. Chakri was also used to tell stories like fairy tales or famous love stories "Yousuf-Zulaikha", "Laila-Majnun" etc. Chakri ends with the Rouf, though Rouf is a dance form but few ending notes of Chakri which are played differently and on fast notes is also called Rouf.

Famous Chakri Players

  • Gulam Hassan Sofi
  • Abdur Rasheed Hafiz
  • Gulam Nabi Sheikh
  • Gulam Mohammad Dar

Rouf or Wanwun

Rouf is a traditional dance form usually performed by girls on certain important occasions like Eid, Marriage and other functions. Rouf includes dancing and singing simultaneously. No musical instrument is required in this. Girls arrange themselves in two or three rows, each row has 5-6 girls. Each row of girls then move one step forward and then back in swaying motion while singing the Rouf song or Wanwun. Usually Rouf is called Wanwun when played in marriages.

Ladishah

Ladishah is one of the most important part of Kashmiri music tradition. Ladishah is a sarcastical form of singing. The songs are sung resonating the present social and political conditions and are utterly humorous. The singers move from village to village performing generally during the harvesting period. The songs are composed on the spot on issues relating to that village, be it cultural, social or political. The songs reflect the truth and that sometimes makes the song a bit hard to digest, but they are totally entertaining.

Sufiana Kalam

Sufiana Kalam is the classical music of Kashmir, which uses its own Ragas (known as Maqam), and is accompanied by a hundred-stringed instrument called the Santoor, along with the Kashmiri Saz, Wasool, Tabala and Sitar. Sufiana Kalam has been popular in Kashmir since arriving from Iran in the 15th century and has been the music of choice for Kashmiri Sufi mystics. The dance based on the sofiyiana kalam is the hafiz nagma.

Classical

Music in Kashmir performed by Hindus is mainly influenced by Indian classical music, using instruments such as the Sitar. Sarangadeva who wrote the famous Sangeet Ratnakara was a Kashmiri. Music and musical instruments find mentioned in the earliest texts like the Nilmatapurana and Rajatarangini by Kalhana. The very fact that a Kashmiri - Abhinavagupta (the great philosopher) who has written a commentary called Abhinavabharati on Bharata's Natyashatra shows how much of importance was given to music in the ancient times. The most popular folk instrument is Santoor (Shat-tantri-veena), a hundred string percussion instrument which is played by Goddess Sharada (the Goddess of learning and art in ancient Kashmir). Henzae is a music form sung by Kashmiri Pandits on religious and cultural festivals.

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