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Jammu and Kashmir – Culture and History

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Nomaan Nasir

Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term “Kashmir” denoted only the Kashmir Valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Range. Today, the term encompasses a larger area that includes the territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the Pakistani-administered territories of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans- Karakoram Tract.
In the first half of the first millennium, the Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism and later of Buddhism; later still, in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose. In 1339, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Shah Mir dynasty.
Kashmir was part of the Mughal Empire from 1586 to 1751, and thereafter, until 1820, of the Afghan Durrani Empire. That year, the Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, after the Sikh defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh War, and upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, became the new ruler of Kashmir.
The rule of his descendants, under the paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until the partition of India in 1947, when the former princely state of the British Indian Empire came under the direct control of India and some territories were left under the control of Pakistan, and China.
In the 1901 Census of the British Indian Empire, the population of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu was 2,905,578. Of these, 2,154,695 (74.16%) were Muslims, 689,073 (23.72%) Hindus, 25,828 (0.89%) Sikhs, and 35,047 (1.21%) Buddhists (implying 935 (0.032%) others).
The Hindus were found mainly in Jammu, where they constituted a little less than 60% of the population. It In the Kashmir Valley, the Hindus represented “524 in every 10,000 of the population (i.e. 5.24%), and in the frontier wazarats of Ladakh and Gilgit only 94 out of every 10,000 persons (0.94%).” In the same Census of 1901, in the Kashmir Valley, the total population was recorded to be 1,157,394, of which the Muslim population was 1,083,766, or 93.6% and the Hindu population 60,641. Among the Hindus of Jammu province, who numbered 626,177 (or 90.87% of the Hindu population of the princely state), the most important castes recorded in the census were “Brahmans (186,000), the Rajput’s (167,000), the Khatri’s (48,000) and the Thakkar’s (93,000).”
In the 1911 Census of the British Indian Empire, the total population of Kashmir and Jammu had increased to 3,158,126. Of these, 2,398,320 (75.94%) were Muslims, 696,830 (22.06%) Hindus, 31,658 (1%) Sikhs, and 36,512 (1.16%) Buddhists. In the last census of British India in 1941, the total population of Kashmir and Jammu (which as a result of the second world war, was estimated from the 1931 census) was 3,945,000. Of these, the total Muslim population was 2,997,000 (75.97%), the Hindu population was 808,000 (20.48%), and the Sikh 55,000 (1.39%).
The Kashmiri Pandits, the only Hindus of the Kashmir valley, who had stably constituted approximately 4 to 5% of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846–1947), and 20% of whom had left the Kashmir valley by 1950, began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s.
According to a number of authors, approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during that decade. Other authors have suggested a higher figure for the exodus, ranging from the entire population of over 150 to 190 thousand (1.5 to 190,000) of a total Pandit population of 200 thousand (200,000 to a number as high as 300 thousand (300,000).
People in Jammu speak Hindi, Punjabi and Dogri, the Vale of Kashmir speaks Kashmiri and the sparsely inhabited Ladakh region speaks Tibetan and Balti.
The total population of India’s division of Jammu and Kashmir is 12,541,302 and Pakistan’s division of Kashmir is 2,580,000 and Gilgit- Baltistan is 870,347.
Culture and Tradition of Jammu Kashmir
Jammu Kashmir is a diverse blend of various cultures. People from different religious and social practices of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist have created a composite culture of the state which is called Kashmiriyat. Kashmiri comprises of Kashmiri Pundits, Kashmiri Muslims, Gujjar’s and Rajasthani Rajputs.
Kashmiri Weddings traditions are full of joyful and traditional ceremonies. Emphasis is also laid into matching the background, status, and reputation of the family of the prospective match
Costumes of Jammu Kashmir
Costumes of Jammu and Kashmir are well known for their embroidery and intricate designs, which reflect the richness of the culture and landscape of the region. The form of clothing is designed to counter the cold climate of the region. Most of the garments are made of wool, silk designed with intricate embroideries and cotton.
The Pheran is the prominent attire for Kashmiri women. The Pheran is worn by women usually has Zari, embroidery on the hemline, around pockets, and mostly on the collar area. Ladies prefer a suit and Burgha in summer and Pheran are preferred in autumn.
The typical dress of a Kashmiris man both Hindu and Muslim is Pheran, a long loose gown hanging down below the knees. The men wear a skullcap, a close-fitting shalwar (Muslims), or churidar pyjama (Pandits).
Cuisines in Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmiri food is a blend of Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims, and Mughals styles. The Dogras are Hindu, so they are mainly vegetarian, eating a staple of rice, wheat, and beans. They take plenty of vegetables but the favourite dish is the hak or karam sag. In the cities, mutton is consumed in large quantities but in the villages, it is still a luxury reserved only for festive occasions. Beef is forbidden to Hindus.
Kashmiri food is meat-based, slowly cooked for a long time with many exotic spices. Although they are the inhabitants of a cold country, Kashmiris abhor the use of intoxicating drinks. The traditional green tea with spices and almond known as Kahva is consumed during the winters of Kashmir. A Kashmiri meal ends with a cup of ‘kahva’.
Kashmiri Pulao is a common dish for Kashmiri vegetarians other dishes are Dum Olav/Dun Aloo, Karam sag, and Nadier Palak. Also, spices, curd, and condiments are common ingredients of Kashmiri cuisine. Phirni is a sweet delicacy of Jammu and Kashmir.
Music and Dances of Jammu Kashmir
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 three regions.
But, overall, Kashmiri Valley music is closer to Central Asian music, using traditional Central Asian instruments and musical scales, while music from Jammu is similar to that of North India and Ladakhi music is similar to the music of Tibet.
The Dumhal is a famous dance in the Kashmir valley, performed by men of the Wattal region. The women perform the Rouff, another traditional folk dance.
Famous tourist attraction
In Jammu and Kashmir, the most important tourist places are the Kashmir Valley, Srinagar, the Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Jammu, and Ladakh. Some areas require a special permit for non-Indians to visit.
The tourism economy in the Kashmir valley was the worst hit due to militancy in the state. However, the holy shrines of Jammu and the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh continue to remain popular pilgrimage and tourism destinations.
Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit holy shrines of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath which has had a significant impact on the state’s economy.
(The author is a student of Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora. He hails from Srinagar)


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