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CULTURE OF KASHMIR


Kashmir is a paradise with one of the most enchanting and beautiful natural locales you can find anywhere in the world. Since millennia it has attracted people from the North, West, South and East. The result is that the region has evolved a distinctive culture, a blend of Central Asia, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh traditions. Kashmiri is the language and the State has evolved music, dance styles and cuisines unique and identifiable. Though the state of Jammu and Kashmir is considered as one, three separate cultures prevail; one in the Kashmir valley known as Kashmiri culture; another predominantly Sikh and Hindu in Jammu and Buddhist overtones in Ladakh region.
The People
Kashmiris today are descendants of Turks, Afghans, Iran and Central Asia and as such have their culture infused with the original culture of these places. Generally Kashmiris are light skinned and have eye color ranging from brown to grey to blue and black. There are Hindus and Muslims, each following time honored cultures and traditions, reflected in lifestyles, music, food, dress and art. The Pandits are Kashmiri Hindus and lead a simple lifestyle. They are generous and warm hearted. Muslims are divided into Sunnis and Shias, both co-existing amicably. The Gujjars are the hill tribes of Kashmir, variously believed to have settled here either from Rajasthan or from Georgia in Central Asia. Another ethnic group is the Hanjis who mostly are to be found on the rivers and lakes of Kashmir. The Bakarwals, like the gujjars, are nomadic and herd cattle. Then you have the Dards to be found only in the valley of Gurez.
Kushur People
Mostly are found in Kashmir Valley but also found in Neelum Valley, AJK.
Pahari People
Majority are found in Azad Kashmir and also Indian side Kashmir such as Kupwara, Poonch and Rajouri Districts.
Gujri People
They live mostly in Azad Kashmir, West Kashmir Valley and North Jammu.
Dogra People
Mainly are found in southern Jammu.
Kargili People
Majority of them found in Kargil, one of districts in the Ladakh.
Ladakhi People
They live in north Ladakh.
Hunza People
Found in Northern-West Gilgit Baltistan.
Gilgiti People
Mostly are found in South-West Gilgit Baltistan.
Balti People
Found in East Gilgit Baltistan.
Language
Language is the mode of communication used in any area. Urdu, Kashmiri and Gojri are the official languages of AJ&K whereas; Hindi, Pahari and Ladakhi, Dograi, Kashmiri, are also spoken in some parts. Northwestern Dardic language of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European language family is primarily used in Jammu Kashmir whereas language used in Azad Kashmir is Pahari because this part of Kashmir normally contains mountains and hilly areas. Furthermore, variation in language is found when we travel in different areas of Kashmir i.e. the accent, pronunciation, and at times meanings varies from area to area. Arabic script is followed as their writing script.
Norms
Norms are the folkways, mores, taboos, rituals that people of a particular area follow. There are different traditions regarding food, dressing, ceremonies etc. Rice is the staple food of Kashmiris. Besides that, majority of the people have their own farms so they grow their own wheat, corn for bread, vegetables, fruit, herbs, rice etc. and they also have their own farm animals like cows, goats, hens etc for their feeding purpose. In the region of Muzafrabad, people do their breakfast with yogurt, naan, Kulcha and pink tea. At the time of ceremonies whether they are wedding or death or any kind of ceremonies, the food served must contain lobia daal chawaal. Also, pink tea and black tea (kehwa) are the compulsory items after food. Another important thing to be noticed is that Kashmiris use salt in the tea (black tea with milk).
Values
Kashmiris are really hard working people, they are independent and they work in their on farms for their livelihood because agriculture and cultivation is their main source of earning. They are very courageous as they live in the tough climatic region but still work hard. They are extremely brave as they are continuously striving for their independence regardless of the harshness and torture they face. Moving further, they are highly prone towards education. Children go to their schools in the morning and help their parents in every way they can after coming back from school. They are extremely patriotic. Talking about their kind of work, they are primarily famous for their hand work. The neatness, the perfection, the ideas, everything is just so amazing. Kashmiri handicrafts, carpets, shawls, wood carvings (decoration pieces, door styles, window styles etc.) are famous worldwide. Another rare thing is the sandal made of rope (baan) with hands. They call shawl for men Loo. Values of Kashmiri People.
Social Collectives
Likewise Pakistan and India, the cast system is very active in both occupied parts of Kashmir. People are known, identified and judged on the bases of their casts. Kashmir is densed with Rajputs, sudhans, jatt, chughtais, syeds, daars. And IOK is densed with casts of Msulims, hindus, as well as of Sikhs.
Statuses and Roles
If we look at the status, Kashmiris don’t really have very high standards but the fact can also not be ignored that they possess their own farms, animals houses etc. houses on rent are not really common.
Trends have changed. Now people are more educated, in fact every single person is trying to get the higher education. Due to the reason, they are getting jobs at higher posts. They also are going abroad and these overseas Kashmiris are adding their part in the foreign reserves in the form of remittances.
Recently, due to agreement between Pakistan and India on the border line (between Azad Jammu Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir), the crossing points have been opened where the exchange of goods can be done through trucks and only for the business purpose, that’s the reason people are getting better off financially. There are some complains of deceivement from Indian business community.
There is one negative aspect regarding business on the borderline that Indian army starts firing and shelling without any notice, therefore on the life is not safe, and doing business is a risky matter. Even people working on their own farms near the border line have a threat of life every time.
Cultural Integration
On the ground level, all element of culture are integrated. Performance of one element somehow affects the other. Kashmir is the beautiful place on earth with the natural beauty but unfortunately the tourism industry there is not developed. If the government pays a little attention towards this part of Kashmir this can be the major source of income for the natives and even for the government itself.
The Cuisine
Most Kashmiris, even Hindus, are non-vegetarian with rice and lamb featuring significantly in their diet. Lotus stalks, turnips and Karam Sag are the favorite vegetables and the kahva, a brew of green tea enriched with spices, is the popular beverage. Another variety of tea is made with Tea leaves and milk with salt added for taste. The cuisine here has distinctive overtones of Persian, North Indian and Central Asian cuisines with a local touch. Mutton is the mainstay, prepared in over 30 different ways using oils, spices and yoghurt with plenty of tomatoes, garlic and onions. Vegetarian dishes of Kashmir use Paneer, potatoes, lotus stem, kidney beans and spinach. The popular vegetarian dishes are Dama Oluv made with potatoes, Choek Vangan made of spinach, Nadeir Yakhean with lotus stems, Veth Tsaman and Ladyar Tsaman with paneer.

Everyone knows about Kashmiri non-vegetarian dishes Chamani Qaliyan, Gushtaba, Roghan Josh, Kashmiri Yakhni, Aab Gosht and Matshgand, involving use of dry fruits, ghee and spices. When it comes to sweet dishes and delicacies, Kashmiris use plenty of dry fruits and nuts. Popular sweet desserts are Phirni, Sevaiyan, Shakar Pareh, Panjeeri and Shufta. What others call feast or davit, the Kashmiri term as Wazwan, a spread of exquisite dishes prepared by a master chef. A typical menu would include Korma of mutton, sheekh kabab, lamb cooked in oil, milk and curds known as Gushtaba and Fish kababs.

Dress
The Pheran is a typical Kashmiri dress, different in styles as worn by Hindu and Muslim women. It is a loose gown that comes down to below the knees. The pheran of a muslim woman is more elaborately embroidered and knee length whereas that of a hindu woman reaches to her ankles and the sleeves have brocade embellishments. Churidar, Pyjama, shalwar Kameez, skull caps and taranga are the other items of apparel of this region.
Costumes

The costume of Kashmiri people is very colorful and attractive. The majority of people wear traditional costume and women attire themselves with gorgeous jewelry like nose ring, bangles, earrings, necklaces and lose salwar kamiz which make them comfortable during the hot season. Whereas, men dress themselves in kurta pajama, shalwars, gurabi and skullcaps. Pheran is kind of overcoat wore by Kashmiri people during winter 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. Most of the women cover their head and shoulders from strangers and elders as a matter of respect. The Kashmiri costume truly indicates their culture and lifestyle.
The Kangri
This is unique to Kashmir and sets it apart from the rest of India. The Kangri is an open clay pot set in a willow basket with a carrying handle. The purpose is to fill the clay pot with hot coal and use it to keep oneself warm in the bitter winter chill.

Handicrafts

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.

Dance and Music

Kashmir has its own style of dance performance and music that is simple and fabulous. Almost every festival and fair consists of dance and music that is a big attraction for tourist also. There is a wide variety of dance and music that is performed according to the occasion. 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 do ceremonial dances. Other major dance forms are Chakri, Ladishah, Ruf dance and Dandaras dance. Roul, Dogri and Wuegi-Nachun are some of the forms of folk dance.
Kashmiri people love folk music and tap their feet on the most famous 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.

Occupation

Kashmir occupation is majorly involved in agriculture and popular cultivated items include Rice, Maize, Mustard, Cottom seed, 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.

Tourist Attractions Of Azad Kashmir

Brace yourselves! What you are about to read will spellbind you to the point that you start to wobble, shake and agitate in your very own seat out of excitement and zest to travel to Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Pakistan is home to places that force you to marvel in the glory of fascinating natural beauty. One such place is Azad Kashmir, swamping of mesmeric areas that its existence makes one hard to believe. Azad Kashmir is one that defies all other claims of supremacy. Nothing matches its vitality and it is nothing like anywhere else. Azad Kashmir is a globally recognized heaven. It is all due to the vibrant green valleys that compel you to never bat your eyes once you catch sight of it. It is a place of waterways, abundant lakes and a wildlife adventure to experience. This piece of the nation is renowned all around the globe as high as mountains can be; lavish green valleys, powerful waterways, delightful lakes, and astonishing untamed life. Following are the top attractions in Azad Kashmir you need to see:

1. Neelum Valley

Tourist attractions are required to be captivating. This one is for sure. You will find blue waters and greenery, as stunning as anything. This is God’s magnificent gift to mankind, fortunately, located in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. It has many suburbs and small town villages, lakes, trekking drags, mountain passes and other sorts of grand highlights which find it among remarkable tourist attractions.

2. Rawalakot

A famous town in Azad Kashmir which is also known to be a district headquarter of Poonch. An alluring valley amid high hills, located about 80 kilometers away from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Summer season favors unfolding the ravishing beauty of Rawalakot. Getting around in this area, you must visit the famous tourist attractions of Tatta Pani, Sudhngalli and Toli Pir located here.

3. Banjosa Lake

You will definitely find your way here if you get around Rawalkot. This is ideally the area boasting a considerable amount of greenery. Green is the color you will find here mostly, followed by a little contouring by red. Above a clear lake are tall trees covering a large area beyond. As warm as summer gets, winter is forbiddingly cooler, while snowfall sheaths it all around.

4. Jhelum Valley

This particular valley of Azad Kashmir is a host of domestic and international tourists, crowding all around in summer. A natural wonder that people seem to find is the curling river passing from East to West amid the gigantic mountains. A region called, “Leepa Valley” in Jhelum is one of the popular tourist attractions people long to visit.

5. Ramkot Fort

This astonishing land comes on an ascending, bordered by River Jehlum, this tourist attraction in Azad Kashmir is asking for your cameras. Not really a stronghold anymore, Ramkot Fort bespeaks of a contemporary Muslim military design of buildings. The background of this fort belongs to 5th and 9th centuries which left behind its relics, discovered and removed by Muslim leaders during the 17th century. This area lays the foundation of excitement for people struck with wanderlust.

6. Toli Pir

A famous peak that you will find your way about if you head to Rawalkot, or if you are not aware of it, you will learn about it while your stay in Rawalkot. Located 8800 above sea level, this peak makes you feel like you are on top of everything.
Head to Toli Pir in the final months of Spring; the climate is favorable. The rest of the months it is just chilling due to its high altitude. Also, in order to explore the area to its maximum potential, it is always advisable to visit from April to early October.

7. Pir Chinasi

Situated in the capital of Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, this area is one of the top tourist attractions in Pakistan. Pir Chinsai is an astounding spot to explore. You are on the run for your patience as well as your safety. Despite its alluring location, you always require being very cautious of moving around.
Its history would introduce you to Hazrat Shah Hussain – a Saint of Greater Kashmir, whose Shrine is basically located in this area. A state-of-the-art nature of excellence exuded in every corner of this area. The lavishing greenery is what attracts tourists from all across Pakistan. Surrounding the area are pine and oak trees which bloom during summer, while remain blanketed in snow during winters.

8. Leepa Valley

The Leepa Valley definitely uplifts the value of Azad Kashmir as one of the top tourist attractions in Pakistan. Opened in May to November for voyagers in a most welcoming climate you can find in Azad Kashmir. Approaching in the area are high mountains and tall pine trees, this area is easily accessible from Muzaffarabad. There is also many facilities of commuting in local jeeps that operate from after you cross Reshian.

9. Red Fort

It is known to be one of the forts in Pakistan you must visit. This fort is a top zone for archaeologists and travel fanatics who like to glimpse in the history of this region.
You might think of it as a ruin now, but it has withstood many disasters and is in need of improvement. Yet, this area is a marvelous work of art. It is also known as Muzaffarabad Fort, so do not be confused. This location is a popular heritage site of Azad Kashmir which has seen many foreign tourists showing up as well.

10. Shounter Lake

The Shounter lake may be small but it is surely worth a sight should you board a Jeep from Kel. All in all, the magnificent geography of this area short lists it in one of the top tourist attractions in Azad Kashmir.