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The Kashmiri Gushtaba: How to Cook at Home?

The Kashmiri Gushtaba: How to Cook at Home?

Just like its culture, heritage, history and nature, Kashmir’s delectable food is also unmissable. With a majority of the dishes here being meat-based, Kashmiri cuisine is nothing short of a paradise for all the non-vegetarians. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing for the vegetarians.

Kashmir is a paradise for all kinds of foodies. Rogan Josh, Dum Aloo, Modur Pulao, Yakhni Lamb curry, Aab Gosht, Kahwa- the list of dishes to try here is truly endless. The food here is a beautiful amalgamation of the cuisines influenced by the Persians, Mughals, and other Central Asian Muslim cultures.

And when we are talking about Kashmir’s grand gastronomic affair, how can we not talk about the Gushtaba? ‘Gushtaba’ or gostaba is a flavorsome dish made from minced mutton meatballs in a curd-based gravy. This traditional dish is full of authentic Kashmiri flavors. It  is so good that it’ll leave you wanting for more.

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In fact, the Kashmiri Wazwan – a grand feast with a whooping 36 courses is incomplete without the gostaba. And this dish is mostly served towards the end of the wazwan before the dessert. Refusing this dish is considered as an insult by the hosts. The gostaba is also a very special dish prepared for various occasions and celebrations.

Gushtaba
Gushtaba Served in a Restaurant in Kashmir

If you have been to Kashmir and tried this dish, you probably know why it is so special. And if not, you should still definitely try it out at home.

Want to cook the wonderful gushtaba at home? Then, read on! In this article, we tell you how to cook this authentic Kashmiri Gushtaba at home. So gather all the ingredients and begin your prep for this mind-blowing dish that is sure to be a treat for your tastebuds!

Kashmiri Gushtaba Recipe:

The recipe can be divided into three steps: preparing the meatballs, cooking the meatballs and preparing the gravy. So, without any more delay, let’s get into the recipe.

Ingredients:

Here are the ingredients that you’ll need for the gushtaba recipe:

For the meatballs:

  • 500 grams minced mutton
  • 100 grams mutton fat OR 1 egg
  • 1 small piece of ginger OR dry ginger powder
  • 2 green cardamoms finely crushed
  • Salt to taste
  • Saffron to Garnish (Optional)

For cooking the meatballs:

  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Gushtaba gravy:

  • 1 ½ cup curd
  • 2 medium sized finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dry ginger powder
  • 1-2 black cardamoms
  • 3-4 green cardamoms
  • Ghee (clarified butter) – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt- as per taste

Now that we know the ingredients, let’s get into the Kashmiri Gushtaba recipe.

Step by Step Gushtaba Recipe:

  1. First, we need to ensure that the mutton is very finely minced. For this, you can either use a stone pestle or even a mixer grinder works fine. Add the minced mutton to the grinder/ food processor and grind it for about 2 minutes. Then add the salt, ginger, crushed cardamom and either mutton fat or egg (whichever one you are using) and grind this for about 2 more minutes.
  2. Now, take the finely minced mutton and transfer it to a bowl. Keep it aside for some time while we prepare the other things. 
  3. Take a large vessel and add 2 cups of water to it and heat it on a medium flame. Add salt and all the whole spices (bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves) to it. Let the water boil.
  4. As the water is boiling, take the mutton paste and start making medium-sized balls out of it. Use a little water to wet your hands for making the meatballs.
  5. After you have shaped all the meatballs, add them to the boiling water to cook them. Cook these balls in the water for a good amount of time or till they become a little tender. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes for the meatballs to cook well.
  6. While the meatballs are cooking, heat sufficient oil in a kadhai. Now, add the finely chopped onions to the oil. Cook these onions till they become slightly brown. Let the onions cool down.
  7. Meanwhile, take the 1.5 cups curd and whisk it very well. Use a little water if needed. Add a little salt to it while whisking. Now, open the green and black cardamoms and add its seeds to the curd. Also add the dry ginger powder and fennel powder and mix well. Keet the curd aside.
  8. The onions would have cooled by now. Put these onions in a mixer grinder and make a very fine paste of it.
  9. To make the gushtaba, take a heavy bottomed pan or vessel. Now, add the prepared curd to this and cook it very well until it starts boiling. But, you also need to be very careful when cooking the curd and keep stirring it continuously.
  10. Now, add the onion paste to the curd and mix well. Also add the two tablespoons ghee to it and keep cooking it. 
  11. When the curry appears to be well cooked, add the meatballs to it. You can also add the water that the meatballs were boiled in to adjust the consistency. This is not just to adjust the consistency but it will also add a good taste to the curry.
  12. Let everything cook well for a while till it starts to boil.
  13. Voila, you are done! Your Kashmiri Gushtaba is ready to serve.
  14. Optionally, you can garnish it with some fresh or dried mint leaves.
  15. Serve the hot gostaba with some steamed rice or naan/ some other bread. Indulge in and enjoy!

Over to You

Here, we shared the Kashmiri Gushtaba recipe. Even though it might seem like a long process, trust us, the gushtaba is definitely worth it. This marvelous dish is sure to leave your taste buds wanting more. Do try out this recipe for tasting a bit of the heavenly Kashmiri cuisine. Also, do let us know how you liked it!

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Everything You Need to Know About Kashmiri Tea

Everything You Need to Know About Kashmiri Tea

Along with its breathtaking beauty, Kashmir is also popular for its lip-smacking delicacies all over the world. Not just the food but Kashmir is also home to some very special and heart-warming beverages like the Kahwa and Kashmiri Noon Chai.

Kashmiri tea, or what is also known as the ‘pink tea’ is an integral part of the Kashmiri hospitality and the Kashmiri way of life. It goes by many names- Kashmiri chai, pink tea, noon chai or namkeen chai. Known as ‘Noon chai’ in the local language, the word ‘noon’ literally means salt. This tells us that this unique tea isn’t exactly the ‘sweet chai’ that we all know.

And yet, it is incredibly special and loved. Not just by the Kashmiris but also by the countless travellers who’ve tasted it; for it carries the true essence of this heavenly place and its people. 

Even though this chai can be enjoyed at all times and during all kinds of weather, there is nothing quite like a cup of hot Kashmiri chai on a cold day. It is often consumed two to three times in a day.

What is Kashmiri chai or pink tea?

The pink tea or Kashmiri tea is indigenous to the Kashmir valley. It is known for its salty taste and the pretty pink color that it has. Now you might wonder what is it that makes this tea pink? Is it a spice? No. Is it any artificial food color? No! Rose petals? Um, no!

Noon Chai

What actually makes this tea pink is a pinch of baking soda. The soda reacts with the tea leaves to give it that beautiful pink color. Sounds pretty interesting, right? Well, it certainly is.

It is made using special Kashmiri green tea leaves, water, milk, some spices, salt, a pinch of baking soda, and then topped with some chopped dry fruits and nuts for a richer taste. The pink Kashmiri chai is then served with some homemade bread, salted cookies, and some other traditional snacks for a complete tea-time experience. 

Breads of Kashmir
A traditional Bakery Shop of Kashmir

Traditionally, the noon chai is made in a kettle called ‘samavar’. However, it can also be easily made in a regular pot. In fact, the traditional kettle is now getting replaced with everyday pots.

The chai has a rich, creamy, buttery and nutty taste and it is slightly thick.  This tea feels like a warm hug; especially on a cold day. 

Not only is this chai delicious but it is also believed to be good for your health. It is beneficial for the heart, good for stomach ailments like heartburn and bloating and the tea is also believed to help in the reduction of stress and anxiety. The tea is also quite refreshing and energizing and prepares you for the long day that lies ahead.

Although the origin of this tea is unclear, one thing is for sure- the Kashmiris love this chai.

Samawar & Kahwa
Samawar & Kahwa

Now that you know what the Kashmiri chai is, let’s take a look at how it is made.

Kashmiri Tea Recipe/ Pink Tea Recipe:

Before you head out to make the Kashmiri tea recipe, you must remember that it takes time to master the art of making this tea. You may not get it right in the first attempt but it is definitely worth the time and energy.

Also, this tea is best made with the Kashmiri tea leaves. You will only get the best and the original taste with the Kashmiri leaves. However, if you don’t have it, you can use regular green tea leaves. 

Now, without any further ado, let’s get into the pink tea recipe.

Kashmiri Tea Recipe Ingredients:

Here are the ingredients that you’ll need for making the Kashmiri chai.

  • 7 to 8 cups of chilled water
  • 3 teaspoons of Kashmiri tea (or green tea)
  • Some spices (about 3 to 4 green cardamoms, a small piece of cinnamon and 1 star anise)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • Sugar as per taste (optional)
  • Some chopped almonds and pistachios for garnishing
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Kashmiri Tea Recipe Instructions:

This tea requires efforts to make. So, follow the steps very carefully.

  1. Take about three cups of chilled water in a pot. Add all the spices and tea leaves to it and put it on the stove. 
  2. Bring this to a boil and add the baking soda and salt at this stage. Keep cooking it until the water has reduced to almost one cup. You will see that the tea will thicken eventually. 
  3. After the water has reduced to almost one cup, add two more cups of chilled water to it. Keep stirring it continuously.
  4. Again, you need to keep cooking this until the water has reduced to one cup again.
  5. After it has reduced to one cup, add the remaining 2-3 cups of chilled water to it and again keep cooking it until the water reduces to one cup.
  6. Thus, the base of our Kashmiri chai is now ready. Take it off the heat and strain the tea. This tea base can be refrigerated for about 4 to 5 days after it is made.
  7. Now, to make the pink tea, boil the milk. If you want it to be sweet, add some sugar to it.
  8. After the milk starts to boil, add the tea base that we had prepared. 
  9. Stir it nicely and let it boil for a few more minutes.
  10. Our Kashmiri tea is finally ready!
  11. Take 2 cups and pour tea in them. Then garnish the tea with the chopped almonds and pistachios.
  12. Voila! Now, enjoy! You can have it with some naan/ bread or cookies.

Over to You

This is basically how the Kashmiri pink tea is made. The recipe might sound complicated but the end result is definitely worth it.

Next time you visit Kashmir, don’t forget to indulge in a warm cup of this unique Kashmiri tea. But, until then, try out this wonderful recipe!

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A-Z Guide on the Dachigam National Park

A-Z Guide on the Dachigam National Park

A trip to Kashmir is basically incomplete without a visit to the Dachigam National Park. What once served as the hunting grounds for the royals, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kashmir today. This park is rich with its splendid variety of flora and fauna.

Filled with alpine trees, immaculate waterfalls, and beautiful meadows, the park looks like something straight out of a storybook. Dachigam National Park is also the abode of the endangered ‘Hangul’ or the Kashmiri stag. The Hangul is the only species of red deer found in India. At the Dachigam wildlife sanctuary, you can experience the Himalayan wilderness in its true essence. 

When translated, the word ‘Dachigam’ literally means ten villages. The park got its name owing to the ten villages that had to be relocated for the formation of the park. Quite an interesting name, isn’t it?

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Whether you are a wildlife enthusiast or a nature lover in general, this place has a lot to offer. The park is not just rich in flora and fauna but also has some great scenic spots, including various lakes.

Spend a few hours in nature’s lap and explore all the beauty that this park has to offer. So, read along and start planning your trip here with this detailed guide.

Where is Dachigam National Park?

The Dachigam National Park is situated around 22 kilometers from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir. It is towards the north-east side of Srinagar and located in the Zabarwan mountain range. The park is spread across an area of 141 sq. km. 

The forest area was initially owned by the then King of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh. And in 1910, it was declared to be a protected area. Its main purpose was to supply clean water to Srinagar city. Later on, after independence, the state government took over its management. In 1951, it was declared to be a wildlife sanctuary and in 1981, it was declared as a ‘National Park’. 

Now that you know where Dachigam national park is, let’s also know some other important details about it.

What is Upper Dachigam and Lower Dachigam?

The Dachigam National Park’s multi-faceted terrain is divided into two parts- lower Dachigam and upper Dachigam. The altitude of the lower Dachigam and higher Dachigam are at 1,700 m and 4,300 m respectively. Lower Dachigam covers about one-third of the park’s total area.

Bird in Dachigam

This is also the most accessible area for visitors. About 10 kilometers up the hill is the Upper Dachigam area. You need to trek all the way up here. The terrain is dramatically different here.

However, the upper Dachigam area is not easily accessible (especially during the time of winter) to visitors and you need to take a special permit if you wish to go all the way up there. This is because the trekking route here isn’t easy. It gets quite harsh because of its jagged and rocky terrain. Be very prepared and careful if you plan on trekking here. 

The two areas vary greatly not just in their terrain but also in their altitudes, flora as well as fauna.

Flora and Fauna of Dachigam:

Fauna of Dachigam Sanctuary:

What attracts most tourists to this park is the sighting of the rare Hangul- the only species of red deer here in India. Along with the Hangul, you can also find some hard to spot animals and birds here.

The Dachigam wildlife sanctuary is basically a paradise for animal lovers and bird watchers. So, if you love either of those, you are in for a treat! Other animals include the Himalayn black bear, brown bear, musk deer, Kashmir grey langur, leopard and jungle cat- among many others.

As for birds, the park has numerous species of birds including black bulbul, Kashmir flycatcher, golden oriole, Himalayan rubythroat, Himalayan monal, cinnamon sparrow and many more. There are around 140 different species of birds here.

Leopard in Kashmir
Leopard in Kashmir

Flora of the Dachigam Sanctuary:

The varied fauna at the Dachigam is also quite a sight to behold. The park is home to about 500 different species of herbs, 50 different types of trees and 20 different types of shrubs. It is extremely rich and includes trees like apple, peach, walnut, wild cherry, oak, chestnut, chinar, pine and poplar. For a nature lover, this is nothing short of a paradise. 

Now that we know about the park very well, let us take a look at some general information about it. Here are some things that you need to know before you visit the park.

Kashmiri Hangul

General information on the Dachigam National Park:

Best time to visit the park:

The best time to visit the Dachigam park is from April to October. The weather during these months is the most suitable for a comfortable and enjoyable visit to the park.

Dachigam Waters
Dachigam Waters

Climate of the park:

The weather here is always cold. Summer months have very pleasant weather.

How to get to the park:

Srinagar is the nearest city to the Dachigam national park. You can hire a cab or a rental vehicle from the city to the park.

How to visit the park? Are private vehicles allowed?

No, private vehicles are not allowed inside the premises of the park. The best way to explore the park is by strolling around on foot.

Timings of the park:

The Dachigam park is open from 5.30 am to 6.30 pm.

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Accommodation facilities for Dachigam National Park:

There are some accommodation facilities available inside the park as well. However, you can easily look for accommodation in Srinagar as you can find a host of places to stay there. It is better to find accommodation in Srinagar as a visit to the park is mostly a few hours’ affair.

Some useful tips to visit the Dachigam National Park:

Whenever you visit a tourist place, a few tips definitely come in handy. Here are some tips for you to make your visit here a smooth sail.

Wolf in Dachigam
Wolf in Dachigam
  • It is advised that you carry some warm clothes during your visit here. The temperature can often fall down and it can get chilly.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
  • Carry your own food as water as you won’t find any inside the park.
  • If you are carrying a camera and wish to video shoot, you need to obtain a permit for that.
  • Similarly, if you wish to camp or trek to Upper Dachigam, you need a permit for that as well.
  • While exploring on foot, only stick to the designated routes.
  • Follow the sign boards inside the park.
  • It is best to take a local guide along with you to the park.
  • Please maintain the decorum of the park. Kindly do not litter, throw trash, make noises or do anything that can harm the beautiful flora and fauna of the national park.

Follow the above tips for a safe and fun-filled visit to the park.

Over to You

In this article, we shared with you all the information that you need to visit the Dachigam National Park. The greenery, wide variety of trees and plants, animals and birds make it a worthwhile place to visit. Spend a few hours away from the use of your phones and revel in all the beauty that this park has to offer. When in Kashmir, the Dachigam is a must-visit.

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The Unimaginable Beauty of Kashmir

The Unimaginable Beauty of Kashmir

“If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!”- beautifully quoted by Emperor Jahangir on Kashmir back in the 17th century, this quote still holds true almost 4 centuries later. 

Right from its picturesque mountains, dense forests, green meadows, gushing rivers and lakes to its warm and hospitable people- everything about Kashmir is supremely beautiful. 

From being the royal retreat of the Mughals to being high-up on every traveller’s list, the beauty of Kashmir has stood in its magnificent glory even in the most uncertain times. 

But, what makes Kashmir so unarguably beautiful that innumerable poets, authors, filmmakers and artists around the world have dedicated their pieces of work to this land of paradise? Let’s find out!

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The Unimaginable Beauty of Kashmir: 8 Reasons to prove it

1. Picture Perfect Landscapes:

Streams of Kashmir
Streams of Kashmir

Ever been someplace so beautiful that it was hard for you to decide which of its sights was the prettiest? Well, that’s Kashmir for you. With each of its landscapes so breathtaking, it’s hard to not fall in love with the beauty of Kashmir valley. The mighty mountains, tall chinars, pristine lakes and rivers and nicely manicured gardens are a few of the many things that adorn the Kashmir valley. 

2. A nature lover’s paradise:

Flowers of Kashmir
Flowers of Kashmir

Who doesn’t love reveling in nature’s many wonders? The natural beauty of Kashmir is sure to leave you awestruck. Kashmir is abound with rich flora. You will find the magnificently large Chinar tree throughout the valley, a tree not very commonly found everywhere. This stunning color-changing tree is at the peak of its utmost beauty at the onset of autumn, making the already gorgeous Kashmir look like something straight out of a storybook.

Go a little further into the mountains and you’ll find dense forests lined with deodar, fir, pine and cedar trees. Come spring and the tulips here are in full bloom. The many fields here in Kashmir lined with colorful tulips are sure to make your stop and stare. The lush green and flowery meadows are sure to take your heart away too!

We could go on and on about the resplendent nature of Kashmir, but to experience it for yourself, you must come here at least once.

3. A land of many pristine lakes and rivers:

Dal Lake
Dal Lake

The land of Kashmir is home to numerous water bodies. There is nothing quite as calming as sitting by a lake or river and just getting lost in nature’s bounty. No matter where you go in Kashmir, you are sure to come across many pristine lakes, glaciers and rivers.

A shikara ride on the Dal lake in Srinagar is a complete experience in itself. Watching the floating gardens and markets will mesmerize you. The Wular lake is yet another famous lake near Srinagar. The Mansar and Surinsar lakes are the perfect places to spend some time relaxing and rejuvenating. Gadsar lake in Sonmarg is a hidden gem that can only be reached through a trek. Similarly, the Mansalbal lake in Ganderbal district is a bird lover’s paradise. 

Rivers like the Sindh or Indus, Lidder river, Zanskar river and many others beautify the landscape of Kashmir multifolds. 

Every lake and river offers an altogether different view and each one is sure to take your breath away.

4. The Lush Valleys:

Gulmarg
Gulmarg

The untamed and unspoilt valleys of Kashmir have their own charm. Aru Valley and Betaab Valley in Pahalgam, Nubra Valley in Ladakh, Zanskar in Leh, Baltal in Sonmarg and the Yusmarg valley near Srinagar are some of the top ones here. These verdant valleys are surrounded with mountains and abound with lakes, waterfalls and numerous trees and meadows. The natural beauty of Kashmir is at its peak here and will astound you in every way.

5. A land with rich culture and history:

Bridge in Srinagar
An Old Bridge in Srinagar

The beauty of Kashmir isn’t just limited to its surroundings but is also deeply rooted in its rich culture and history. Over the years, Kashmir has been ruled and loved by various rulers. So, its culture is a diverse blend influenced by various other cultures.

And it is prevalent in the day to day life of the Kashmiris. Kashmir’s rich history is prevalent in its various historic monuments like the Pari Mahal, Shalimar Bagh, Avantipur temples and Leh Palace. These monuments tell a story of an era gone long by and are pretty interesting places, especially for history enthusiasts.

Another thing that is deeply rooted in Kashmiri culture is the art of handicraft making. Kashmir is quite popular for its handicrafts right from the Pashmina shawl, carpets to paper mache and wood carving. When talking about Kashmir’s beauty, we just simply cannot ignore its rich culture and heritage.

6. Soothing Weather:

Shot from a Village in Kashmir
Shot from a Village in Kashmir

Even on the harshest of summer days, Kashmir has pretty soothing weather. So, where temperature rises over 40 degrees celsius in the rest of the country, Kashmir is the perfect place to visit. During the early winters is also a great time to visit Kashmir for an incredible snowy experience.

Kashmir basically turns into a wonderland as the winter season sets in. The snow-capped mountains and white surroundings are quite a sight to behold. The autumn season here is quite charming too. As the trees change their colors and the weather turns pleasant, Kashmir in autumn looks as pretty as a picture.

7. There is something for everyone here:

Right from the adventurous soul, the trekking enthusiast, the nature lover, leisure seeker and to every kind of person in-between, the beauty of Kashmir has something to offer to everyone. The adventurous soul can feel the adrenaline rush by taking part in various adventurous activities.

Kashmir is basically a hub for those who love adventure. Whereas, the leisure seeker can just bask in the beauty of Kashmir valley. Nobody ever leaves the Kashmir valley disappointed. 

8. The warm and friendly people:

The beauty of a place cannot be complete without its warm and friendly locals. And the same goes for Kashmir too. As soon as you set foot on this paradisiacal land, the warm people here will welcome you with open arms. 

We tried to summarize the beauty of Kashmir in 8 points. But you can only experience it for yourself when you visit this magical place. 

The whole of Kashmir is undoubtedly, very beautiful. Here are a few places whose beauty you absolutely must not miss.

Beauty of Kashmir valley in 6 places:

1. Srinagar:

The summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar is a city that you absolutely must visit. This is also the largest city in Kashmir. The Dal lake is one of the major reasons why tourists are attracted to this city. Staying on the stationary houseboats, a ride on the Shikara are some of the things that you must do here. This is also a paradise for all the photography enthusiasts. 

2. Gulmarg:

Also known as ‘Meadow of flowers’, Gulmarg is a beautiful place to visit. This place is also known to be one of the best skiing destinations in the world. A ride in the Gondola or the cable car is one of the top things to do here, offering a complete view of this gorgeous hill station.

Gulmarg is a true paradise for all the snow lovers and adventure seekers. The nature is also quite splendid here. Gulmarg is generously blessed with a huge variety of flowers, lakes and lush green surroundings.

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3. Sonmarg:

Sonmarg is yet another splendid place to visit in Kashmir. Like the rest of the Kashmir valley, Sonmarg too, is abound with natural beauty. Participate in some adventure sports or just take some time off and marvel at nature’s bounty when in Sonmarg.

4. Pahalgam:

This is THE place to be for all enthusiastic trekkers. With some easy to the most challenging treks, Pahalgam has everything. Pahalgam is also a place that you go to when you are looking for some serenity away from the grind of daily life. With its enchanting beauty that truly looks out of this world, Pahalgam is sure to give you an experience of a lifetime.

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5. Yusmarg:

This is one of the offbeat places in Kashmir that you must visit. Head to Yusmarg for some peace and quiet and unwind yourself amidst nature. Come here once and we are sure that you wouldn’t want to leave this extremely serene place.

6. Patnitop:

Picturesque scenery is what defines Patnitop the best. With a plethora of activities to do and numerous sights to behold, Patnitop is one of the best places in Kashmir.

Over to You

Of course, these 6 places are just some of the many amazing places in Kashmir. The mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the trees, the saffron and tulip fields, the valleys- everything about Kashmir is unfathomably beautiful. It is said that the beauty of Kashmir can turn anyone into a poet. And rightly so. With a trip to Kashmir, you are in for a wonderful surprise. It is an experience of a lifetime, a memory to cherish forever.

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Ultimate Guide Unveiling the Beauty of Pahalgam

Ultimate Guide Unveiling the Beauty of Pahalgam

Situated away from the hustle and bustle of city life, around 95 kilometers east of Srinagar, is the quaint little town of Pahalgam. Surrounded by the Himalayas and abound with natural beauty, Pahalgam draws thousands of tourists from all over the world every year.

This hill station is full of scenic beauty and laden with tall pine trees, gushing rivers, meadows, and mountains all around. The picturesque Lidder river gushes through this gorgeous town, making it even more beautiful. Originally inhabited by shepherds, Pahalgam is popularly known as the ‘Valley of Shepherds’.

Whether you are looking for some peace and quiet away from the grind of everyday life or a trekker looking for some adventure, Pahalgam is sure to leave you awestruck. Pahalgam, with its movie-like settings, even has the Bollywood world captivated. Quite a lot of Bollywood movies like Haider, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani and Jab Tak Hai Jaan have been shot here. 

Pahalgam truly has a charm of its own. Let’s delve deeper into the beauty of this place and get to know the little town that travelers around the world have an undying love for, a little better.

Why is Pahalgam Kashmir famous?

Pahalgam is famous for its mesmerizing beauty. Its beauty combined with the perfect weather and lush green surroundings makes it the number one destination for tourists running to Kashmir. A trip to this magical place is sure to rejuvenate your mind and body like nothing else. Be prepared to be astounded with Pahalgam’s breathtaking landscapes.

Pahalgam’s setting also makes it ideal for various adventure activities like trekking, river rafting and trout fishing. Unleash the adventurous spirit in you by indulging in many such activities that this place has to offer. And as for the less adventurous ones, can just sit, relax and get lost in Pahalgam’s old world charm.

So, have you mentally started planning a trip here yet? If not, we give you more reasons to add this place to your bucket list!

Best places to visit in Pahalgam Kashmir:

Here are the top 10 best places to visit in and around Pahalgam Kashmir.

1. Betaab Valley:

Betab Valley

Just close your eyes and imagine the sound of a river gushing by, the chirping of birds, tall pine and deodar trees and mountains as far as you can see. Sounds like a picture-perfect scenery, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly how the Betaab valley is!

Betab Valley is around 15 kilometers from Pahalgam and falls on the route to the Amarnath temple. Previously called Hagan Valley, it was renamed after the blockbuster movie ‘Betaab’ was shot here. You can have your own little Bollywood moment here. Go horseback riding or you can also have a picnic here. Just grab some food, find your favorite spot, and soak in all the beauty that this place has to offer, one sight at a time.

2. Sheshnag Lake:

Sheeshnag Lake
Sheeshnag Lake

This lake is situated around 23 kilometers from Pahalgam. This spot is also on the way to the Amarnath temple and pilgrims on this yatra visit this lake before moving towards the temple. You can either get here by trekking or take a horse ride.

According to legend, Lord Shiva is believed to have left a ‘sheshnag’ at this place. While another legendary story suggests that sheshnag himself dug this lake and made it his abode. Till date, the sheshnag or ‘king of snakes’ is believed to live here. This beautiful lake, with its clear water, is a treat to the eyes.

3. Aru Village and Valley:

Aru Valley
Aru Valley

This is yet another valley situated near Pahalgam. Aru Valley is popular for its meadows. You can take a day’s trip here. Take a horse ride or just trek along the way. Head here for some tranquility or take part in adventure sports like ziplining, paragliding or river-crossing. Aru valley is also the starting point for numerous treks; the Kolahoi glacier trek being one of them.

4. Chandanwari:

chandanwari
Chandanwari Road End

Chandanwari is the starting point for the Amarnath Yatra. This is a must-visit place for all snow lovers. You can indulge in snow fights to sledge rides or just play in the snow here. The enchanting Sheshnag river travels through this place, making its landscape even more beautiful. That and the snow-capped mountains make this place a must-visit.

5. Tulian Lake:

tulian lake
Tulian Lake

Pahalgam is full of lakes and the Tulian lake is one such lake that beautifies Pahalgam all the more. Snuggled between the Pir Panjal and Zanskar mountain ranges, is the Tulian Lake. Its crystal clear blue water is a beautiful surprise for the eyes. You can either take a horse ride or trek all the way here. The trek is often challenging but the view at the end of it is totally worth it!

6. Mamal Temple:

Also known as Mamaleshwar temple, this is one of the oldest temples in Pahalgam. The Mamal temple lies along the Kolahoi glacier and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This small temple is one of the top tourist attractions in Pahalgam.

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7. Baisaran Valley:

This place is popularly known as ‘Mini Switzerland’, owing to its meadows having a striking resemblance to those in Switzerland. Surrounded with lush green pine trees, Baisaran valley has breathtaking scenery. It cannot get any more beautiful than this, can it? Take a short trip here and revel in nature’s bounty. This is also a great camping site for trekkers.

8. Avantipur Temple:

Avantipur Temple
Temple Ruins

The King Avantivarman built this temple during his reign from AD 855-883. This place had two temples- the Avantishwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Avantiswami temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Today, all that is left of it are beautiful ruins telling the story of an era gone long by. This is an extremely interesting site; especially if you are intrigued by history and heritage. When in Pahalgam, do visit this place.

 9. Pahalgam Golf Course:

If you are looking to do a fun activity, you can go for some golfing. If you are an expert golfer, this 18-hole golf course is the best place for you. If not, you can even take up some golfing lessons. This is a great place for travellers visiting Pahalgam for leisure.

10. Kolahoi Glacier:

The only way to get to this spot is through a laborious trek. This is a tough trek and if you are an experienced trekker, you can add this place to your ‘must-visit’ in Pahalgam. The Kolahoi glacier offers some pretty stunning views. 

Things to do in Pahalgam Kashmir:

  • This hill station is a paradise for trekking enthusiasts. There are many trekking routes here including Chandanwari, Tulian Lake, Sheshnag Lake and many more.
  • Take a horse ride to the major tourist attractions like Betaab Valley and Baisaran Valley.
  • Go white river rafting in the Lidder river.
  • Go trout fishing. However, you need to obtain a permit for this.
  •  Enjoy a golfing session.
  • Go for a picnic.

How to reach Pahalgam?

Well, now you know the best places in Pahalgam. But, how do you reach there? Here’s how:

If you are travelling by flight, the nearest airport is the Srinagar Airport which is about 90 kilometers from Pahalgam. From there, you can either take a taxi or a bus to this hill station.

The other way to reach is by rail. The nearest railway station is Udhampur railway station, 218 kilometers from this town. You can then hire a taxi from here. 

However, the best option would be to book a private taxi from Srinagar.

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Best time to visit?

Now that you know almost all details about this gorgeous little town, the next important question that comes to mind is- What is the best time to visit?

Pahalgam has very pleasant weather during the summer season. This makes the months of April to June a peak season for tourists. However, if you love snow and would love to visit this place in all its white winter glory, you can also take a trip here during the winter months. This is an especially great time to visit if you love indulging in snow-related activities.

Accommodation

Right from cottages and guest houses to resorts and 5-star hotels, Pahalgam offers excellent accommodation to suit every traveller’s budget. For the backpacker, there are great economic options. For the leisure traveller looking to spend a few days in the lap of luxury, there are top-notch hotels with spas and other state of the art amenities.

Pahalgam Amarnath Yatra:

Interestingly, Pahalgam is also the place where the annual Amarnath Yatra begins. It is one of the two base camps for the yatra; the second one being the Sonmarg-Baltal route. However, this is the route that pilgrims most commonly take. The holy Amarnath cave is around 45 kilometers from Pahalgam. The route begins at Pahalgam and the first place that pilgrims reach is Chandanwari, which is about 16 kilometers from Pahalgam. The next point is Sheshnag, about 12 kilometers from Chandanwari. Then, Sheshnag to Panchtarni is around 14 kilometers. And finally, from Panchtarni, the holy caves are around 6 kilometers away.

All in all, Pahalgam is a place with supremely beautiful scenery. A trip here is truly a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

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Dal Lake: The Heart of Srinagar

Dal Lake: The Heart of Srinagar

Kashmir’s beauty is unmatched and the place is called ‘Paradise on Earth’. Making this place so beautiful are nature’s many blessings- mountains, lakes, lush green trees that wonderfully come together and form the beautiful place that Kashmir is.

And one such wonder is this scenic lake. One of the many reasons why tourists are drawn to Srinagar is due to what is often referred to as ‘Jewel of Srinagar’- the Dal lake. Considered to be the most beautiful lake, Dal jheel or lake is the second largest lake in the state. It covers an area of about 15 kilometers. 

Interestingly, this lake has five basins and numerous intricate waterways and canals that beautifully interconnect with each other. It is a shallow lake with a minimum depth of 5 ft. and maximum depth of 20 ft.

Any time one thinks of Srinagar, the first thing that comes to is this gorgeous lake. It is as if this lake has almost become a symbol of tourism in Srinagar and Kashmir. There is so much more to the lake than its pristine water. In this article, we take you along to explore its magnificence and tell you what makes it so incredibly special.

The Beauty of Dal Lake

Just imagine a scene that goes like this- A large lake with snow-capped mountains surrounding three of its sides, signature Kashmiri style houseboats and colorful shikaras that afloat the lake and the stunning Mughal gardens and orchards lined on its banks. Overlooking the lake are two hillocks that house the Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat temples. Yes, that is just how picturesque the Dal lake is. And the Dal lake images are a testimony to this fact.

Moreover, the floating gardens on the Dal have a magic of their own. They are an ecological system in the lake. Farmers residing here are dedicated to growing crops and vegetables on this lake. Over 6,000 families depend on these floating gardens for their livelihood. The produce obtained is then sold in local markets throughout Srinagar.

Its beauty hasn’t just attracted tourists all over the world but quite a lot of filmmakers as well. As many as 20 films have been shot in and around this area. Some of the most popular ones include Kashmir ki Kali, Lamhaa, Kabhi Kabhi and Dil se- among many others.

The temperature here varies between 12 to 30 degrees celsius during the summer and about 1 to 11 degrees celsius during the winters. If the temperatures fall down extremely low during severe winter, Srinagar witnesses a frozen Dal lake.

The History and Origin of Dal Lake Srinagar

There are basically two theories that suggest how the lake originated. One historical theory backed by geologists suggests that the lake is actually a post-glacial lake that formed after the Pleistocene period. While another theory suggests that the Dal lake simply formed from flood spillage.

During their reign in India, the Mughal rulers designated Srinagar as their summer resort. They defined the boundaries of the lake by building Mughal-style gardens as resorts to experience Srinagar’s splendid beauty during the months of summer.

Several years later, during the rule of the British in India, the Britishers also designated Srinagar as their summer resort. The Britishers weren’t allowed to buy land and build houses in the Kashmir valley. Although, they found a legal loophole in this rule- that there was no restriction on living on water. As a result, they built houseboats. Even though the houseboats in the Dal lake are made in the traditional Kashmiri style, they still have a hint of colonial feel to them even today.

The beauty of Dal lake Kashmir has stood the test of time and has carved a place for itself in its beholders’ hearts through the years.

Dal Lake Kashmir and Floating Markets

Yet another fascinating thing that makes the Dal jheel stand apart is its floating markets. There are many wonderful stories that surround the Dal lake and one such story is that of its floating markets. It is one of the most famous markets of its kind in the world.

Wake up at the crack of dawn and head to the Dal lake to witness its beauty from a different perspective. It is quite an adventure in itself- watching the local farmers wearing the traditional pherans making their way through the lake on their respective shikaras, selling the fresh produce that they obtain from their floating gardens. There are as many as hundred boats that gather here every morning.

All of these farmers gather in the middle of the lake.with their boats laden with a variety of vegetables and start calling out to the buyers in the local dialect. The business is at its peak during this hour and everything is wrapped up by the time the sunlight just begins to hit the water. 

The exchange lasts for hardly an hour. After this, everyone makes their way back to their respective homes; making it seem as though the market never existed. This wonderful scenario also portrays the life of local Kashmiris residing here, giving you an insight into the Kashmiri way of life.

Whenever you find yourself in Srinagar, make sure to visit the Dal lake early in the morning. We guarantee you that it is an experience that you’ll remember and cherish forever!

Wow, just the thought of this makes us want to be transported here immediately. Doesn’t it make you feel the same way too?

The Shikaras and Houseboats of Dal lake Kashmir

Shikaras

A shikara is nothing but a small carved wooden boat. This is one of the top attractions of the lake and the city. The shikaras are often compared to the ‘Gondolas’ of Venice. These boats are an integral part of the day-to-day life of Kashmiris residing in Srinagar. It is as if, with these shikaras, there is a whole another world in the Dal lake. Right from vegetables and baked goods to doctors and tailors- you will find everything on these tiny wood boats!

These boats are also used for transportation of people. There is nothing quite like a shikara ride along the Dal lake. Refresh your mind and relax your body as you prepare to set out on this epic adventure. The ride offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings. When visiting Srinagar, a shikara ride is high up on the travellers’ must-do list. An extremely joyous ride, every minute spent on the boat is worthwhile. Come equipped with a fully charged camera as every portion of the lake shows an altogether different picture of the gorgeous city and it’s hard to decide which sight is prettier- the one you just saw or the one that you’re about to see next.

Houseboats

Your trip to Kashmir is incomplete without a stay at the houseboats in Dal lake. Unlike many houseboats in other parts of India, the Kashmiri houseboats are stationary. A houseboat, as the name goes is nothing but a house made inside a boat. It has all the amenities that a traveller would need. Houseboats typically have 5 to 6 rooms.

A houseboat is the perfect example of ‘comfort meets luxury’; but, at an affordable price. The houseboats are designed in an antique style that give you the feel  of nothing short of a royalty. These houseboats are also examples of what a typical Kashmiri home looks like, with every inch of the boat carefully decorated with classic Kashmiri-style decor.

Once in, the caretakers will spoil you with their warm hospitality- something you aren’t bound to forget anytime soon. 

Aboard these wonderful houseboats to have an experience of a lifetime. Wake up to a picturesque setting of the mountains. Relax on the deck and watch the mesmerizing sunrise and sunsets.

Take a shikara ride to and fro from your houseboat and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Dal lake and maybe buy some flowers and other goodies to bring back to your houseboat. Just relax and take this time to rejuvenate your mind and soul and let the pristine waters calm and soothe you down. 

While many boats offer food on request, you can relish the lip-smacking authentic Kashmiri delicacies. Right from basic to royal and exquisite, there are houseboats to suit every traveller’s budget.

When residing on these houseboats, you can also take shikara rides to the famous tourist destinations like the Mughal Gardens and the Hazrat Bal.

What is the best time to visit the Dal jheel?

The best time would be to visit from May to November.

Right from providing a means of livelihood to the locals to providing a once in a lifetime experience to its tourists, the Dal lake’s splendour is unmatched. Come here once and experience its charm for yourself; and we are sure you’d want to come back again, and again.

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Everything that You Need to Know About Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

Everything that You Need to Know About Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

When we think of Kashmiri arts and crafts, the first few things that come to mind are shawls, carpets, rugs, and probably woodwork and embroidery. However, something that the world does not know is that Kashmir is also very well-known for its paper mache crafts. Today, the paper mache handicraft is as ingrained in Kashmir’s culture as any other handicraft. 

We know paper mache as the craft that we made for school projects or during vacations as kids. But, the Kashmiri paper mache craft is a true art that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

It is hard to imagine that something made out of waste paper could look so beautiful and elegant.  The Kashmiri craftsmen are so amazingly skilled that they can turn even discarded paper into an attractive work of art.

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‘Paper mache’ is a French term which when translated literally means ‘chewed paper’. This art is said to have originated in China hundreds of years ago.

Paper Mache Eggs

In this article, we share with you everything that you need to know about the Kashmiri Paper Mache crafts. 

The History of Kashmiri Paper Mache Crafts

The origin of the paper mache crafts in Kashmir dates back to as early as the 15th century.  And the credit for bringing this art form to Kashmir is believed to go to the eighth ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin. He came across this art during his time as a Kashmiri prince in Samarkand, Central Asia. That was when he was intrigued by paper mache handicraft. 

When he returned to Kashmir, he brought many craftsmen along with him to the valley to train his subjects on the same. 

Yet another legend suggests that this art was introduced in Kashmir by a poet and Sufi saint called Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani. He came to Kashmir from Iran in the mid 14th century. He brought along with him 700 artisans from Iran. These artisans are thought to have taught the local Kashmiris various art forms; and paper mache craft was one of them.

No matter what the story of its origin, this art was made highly popular during the Mughal rule. 

The art was originally known by its Iranian name Kar-i-Qalamdani in Kashmir. The word ‘Qalamdani’ is basically pen case. Initially, this art was only restricted to making pen cases.

But, through the years, the art of paper mache has tremendously grown in the valley with numerous items available these days.

Papier Mache Kashmir items

On your visit to Kashmir, you will find a host of paper mache items ranging in various sizes. You will find shops and shops lined across the street selling them. Paper mache items also make the perfect souvenirs to carry back home. Pick an item that resonates the most with you- as a fond memory of your trip to Kashmir, something to remember forever! 

You will find jewellery boxes, storage boxes, coasters, bowls, trays, pencil stands and a lot more. You will also find decor items such as vases, miniature hookah pots, photo frames, eggs, small elephants and an array of other decor items. 

Paper mache handicraft isn’t just used for utility items but for perking up living spaces too. If you are looking for something bigger, papier mache is also used for making furniture pieces like stools, small chests and cabinets, and lamps.

Each and every artifact is so beautifully painted that it is hard to not fall in love with every piece that you come across. 

Not just for making products, this art has also been used to decorate walls in historic places like the Shah-e-Hamdan mosque and the Naqshband shrine in Kashmir.

How are Kashmir Paper Mache Crafts Made?

The artisans involved in this profession are supremely skilled and practice the art for years and years. This art has also traditionally existed as a family profession in Kashmir. And like many other Kashmiri handicrafts, the trick and technique behind it gets passed on from one generation to another.

How is Paper Mache Made?

Even though the idea behind this handicraft might sound relatively simple, it is a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of precision. It basically involves two main steps- Sakthsazi (making of the actual item) and Naqashi (the painting and decoration part).

Now, let’s take a look at the making of paper mache handicrafts in detail.

Sakthsazi

The sakthsazi is the one involved with making the object with the pulp of paper. First of all, the waste paper is soaked in water for several days. Then, a mixture of the soaked waste paper, cloth and the straw of a rice plant is pounded manually in a stone mortar. This is pounded until the mixture becomes very fine and forms a pulp. Then, a rice based glue called ‘Atij’ is combined with this pulp mixture.

This complete mixture is then applied onto the desired mould and then left to dry for a few days. After it has dried out, the artwork is very carefully separated from the mould. The artwork is basically cut in two halves to separate it from the mould and the halves are carefully joined with the help of glue. The resultant object that is obtained is known as ‘Kalib’. 

Then, for the next step, the kalib is handed over to the women. This process is referred to as ‘Pishlawun’. As the next step, the women smoothen out the surface of the artwork with either a stone, baked clay or a wooden file.

After the object is nicely smoothened out, it is coated with a light layer of paint/ lacquer. It is coated again with a second coat of lacquer mixed with some chalk powder and water. This is again left to dry out for some time.

After the sakthsazi’s work is done, the artwork/ object is handed over to the Naqash.

Naqashi

When the object reaches the Naqash, it is first covered with thin sheets of butter paper. The butter paper is pasted so that it acts as a barrier between the main object and the paintwork so that the object doesn’t crack. After covering with butter paper, a thin coat of paint is applied all over the artwork. 

This is actually the step where the object is transformed into the beautiful piece of paper mache handicraft that we know. This work is also very intricate and usually takes about 3 days to a week. The designs are first drawn free hand on the object and then they are painted. The designer uses various different motifs like flowers, fruits, birds, creepers etc.

Mostly metallic paints are used for an illuminated effect. After the motifs are painted, often gold or silver is used to highlight them. Mostly the colors that are used for painting are all organic and either nature or vegetable-based. When the whole painting procedure is completed, the final step involves covering the artwork with a layer of varnish for an added shine.

This is the whole procedure that goes into making paper mache crafts. It is an extensive process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. But, the whole process is worth it as the end result is absolutely stunning.

Even though these handicrafts are made using paper, the extensive process that goes into making them is what makes these handicrafts extremely durable. Each of these individually created items has a unique story to tell. The Kashmir paper mache crafts are largely pursued by the Shia sect of the Kashmiri Muslims.

Popular Papier Mache Kashmir Motifs

Some popular motifs that are used in paper mache Kashmir include:

  • Designs inspired by the Mughal era
  • Flowers within flowers
  • Numerous floral patterns
  • Hazara or thousand flowers pattern
  • Birds
  • Jungle and its scenes
  • The majestic Chinar tree of Kashmir
  • Almond designs
  • Geometrical designs
  • And many more..

Your trip to Kashmir is basically incomplete without buying a beautiful artifact made with paper mache. Even if you don’t visit Kashmir, this beautiful artifact is a must-have for every handicraft lover. 

Over to You

While Kashmir takes immense pride in its beautiful paper mache crafts, its demand and sale have seen a decline in the recent years. Although we all take a lot of pride in our centuries-old traditions and art forms, we often fail to sustain the artisans who toil hard to keep our traditions alive.

The paper mache handicraft isn’t just a source of livelihood for thousands of Kashmiri artisans but also an integral part of India’s cultural lineage. We hope that this beautiful art form continues to grace the rich culture of Kashmir and more and more generations to come. 

If you are looking to buy paper mache crafts, you can check out our extensive collection and buy a gorgeous piece online. As we at Kashmirica, have pledged to bring exclusive Kashmiri goods at the fingertips of the global audience.

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What is a Pashmina? A Complete Overview

What is a Pashmina? A Complete Overview

People have various notions about Pashmina. Some think of it to be a goat, some a thread, some a form of embroidery. So ‘what is a pashmina’?

Well, Pashmina is a super fine quality of wool that comes from a particular species of goat. This wool is then used to make shawls and scarfs that go by the same name. Simply put, a Pashmina is a super soft and super warm luxury shawl that is indigenous to the beautiful valley of Kashmir.

While only a few have the eye for a true Pashmina, many believe that every shawl that comes from the Kashmir region qualifies as a Pashmina.

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Now that we have a general idea, let’s dig deeper and know this shawl better.

What is a Pashmina?

The Pashmina is made from the wool of a particular kind of goat that is native to Kashmir. This goat is called the ‘Changthangi’ goat or Capra Hircus or it is also popularly referred to as the ‘Pashmina goat’. The word Pashmina comes from the word ‘pashm’, which itself means soft wool.

The temperatures in some areas in Kashmir often fall as low as -40 degrees celsius during the winters. The Changthangi goat develops a special kind of wool to resist against such low temperatures. Later, when the spring season sets in, these goats shed their wool; which is then used in the making of a Pashmina.

A Pashmina Shawl is the perfect epitome of luxury, comfort and class. It is much desired by women all across the globe. 

What is the history of Pashmina?

There are various theories that suggest how the Pashmina originated. It is said that the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin introduced pashmina to the world. Whereas, another theory suggests that a Persian Sufi named Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani who arrived in Kashmir with 700 Persian artisans sometime during the 14th century introduced the art of Pashmina. 

Even though the exact story of its origin can be a bit controversial, Kashmir has been an expert of the art for centuries and centuries.  

It is also said that the great French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte presented a Pashmina shawl to his wife Josephine. And the shawl impressed her so much that she is known to have owned many of them.

Before the 20th century, only royals would own a Pashmina. There are various royal families that are known to have spent fortunes on them. But, times eventually changed and industries evolved greatly. And his beautiful piece of art became accessible to everyone not just in India but in the rest of the world as well.

Through the years, the Pashmina has maintained its reputation as the most luxurious yet comfortable shawl that is known to man and yet somehow, it has evolved too. Centuries later, Pashmina is still known to be a status symbol and hasn’t lost its prestige at all. 

Pashmina and Cashmere: Same or Different?

The answer? Same, yet different! People often confuse between the two.

One thing that is different between these two is that- Pashmina is made from the wool that is obtained from the Changthangi goats. It is super fine and each of its fibres has a diameter of around 10 to 15 microns. Pashmina wool can only be spun by hand. Pashmina wool is also quite rare. 

Whereas, the wool for cashmere shawls can be obtained from any kind of goats and not just the Changthangi goats. It has a diameter of about 15 to 18 microns. This wool is super fine too but not as fine as the Pashmina wool. This is the major difference between Pashmina and Cashmere. Cashmere wool can be spun using machines. This means, cashmere wool can easily be found.

Although, nowadays, these two are often confused with each other. ‘Cashmere’ is, in fact, an Anglicised term for Pashmina. During the 18th century, various Europeans visited India and returned back to their countries with various Pashmina shawls as gifts. And instead of calling them ‘Pashmina’ they re-named them to ‘Cashmere’ (denoting the place where it belongs- Kashmir).

How is a Pashmina Shawl Made?

The way Pashmina shawls are woven hasn’t really changed since centuries. Till date, traditional methods are used in weaving a Pashmina. The process of weaving a Pashmina shawl is called ‘Wonun’ and the weaver weaving it is called ‘Wovur’.

This is how a Pashmina is Made: Process of Making Pashmina Shawl

First, the wool/ yarn is obtained.

Around 4 to 8 iron rods are already fixed on the ground. The wool yarn is first wound around these rods. The rods are usually spread across an area of 10 meters. A person has to walk across these rods multiple times while winding the yarn across them. This is how the warp gets made.

The yarn is then stretched and perfected.

It is then dried out in the sun and then wound again on wooden spindles.

Then, the yarn goes on the handloom where expert weavers weave it by hand.

Since the Pashmina wool is so fine that it cannot be spun using machines. Hence, each and every process that goes into making a Pashmina shawl is done using hands.

It takes a few days for a Pashmina shawl to be made.

After the wool is weaved into a beautiful shawl, an amazingly skilled embroiderer works his magic next. The shawl is then covered with beautiful, colorful embroidery. At the end of the embroidery process, the shawl is first washed and ironed before it reaches the stores to be sold.

What makes a Pashmina so expensive and special?

A Pashmina’s warmth is incomparable. Since the Changthangi goats need to survive extreme cold temperatures, they develop a thick fur which helps them in resisting the temperatures. This gives the Pashmina a warmth like no other! A Pashmina isn’t just known for its warmth but also for its softness and lightweightedness. Only someone who owns a Pashmina knows why all this craze surrounds it. 

Every time you step out wearing a Pashmina shawl, you don’t just have something that’ll keep you super warm but you’ll also make a style statement. A Pashmina can add oodles and oodles of grace to any outfit. 

Not to forget, with a Pashmina, you also own a beautiful piece of heritage and legacy that has been passed on from generations to generations. It is truly a timeless piece. 

What makes a Pashmina shawl or scarf so expensive is the process that goes behind it. Since everything is done using hands, it can take several days and in some cases months to craft a single shawl. Another factor that makes it expensive is the rarity of the wool. The artisans toiling hard to craft the perfect piece of Pashmina for their customers are also amazingly skilled and working in the industry for years. All of this makes a Pashmina shawl truly worth each penny! 

What is a Pashmina scarf?

A scarf or a stole that is made using the wool from the Pashmina or Changthangi goats can be called a Pashmina scarf.

What is a Pashmina wrap?

A shawl or a scarf that you can use during the winters and is made from the Pashmina wool can be called a Pashmina wrap. A Pashmina can be wrapped around in various styles.

What is a Pashmina scarf made of?

A Pashmina scarf is made from the wool of a type of goat called the Changthangi goat. The wool gets weaved into a beautiful scarf.

How to identify Real Pashmina?

Now that you know what is a Pashmina scarf and what is a Pashmina shawl, it is important to know whether the shawl/ scarf you want to buy is real or not. Here is how you tell whether a Pashmina is real or not:

  1. The Burn test: Take a thread from your shawl/ scarf and burn it. If it smells like burnt hair, the Pashmina is most likely real.
  2. The weave: Test a pashmina shawl under natural light. If you see irregular weaves, the Pashmina is real. Since a real Pashmina is handwoven, its weave will have some irregularities as opposed to unauthentic Pashminas woven using machines.
  3. Rubbing test: Rub the shawl using your fingers. If it generates tiny sparks, the Pashmina isn’t genuine.
  4. The Price: A real Pashmina comes at a price. If you find a vendor selling it at unbelievably low prices, don’t fall for it as the Pashmina being sold in this case isn’t real.
  5. Shine: Unauthentic pashminas usually exhibit a lot of shine. If the Pashmina looks shiny, ditch it and look for better vendors selling genuine ones.

Over to You

We hope this article cleared your doubts on ‘What is a Pashmina?’.When you decide to buy a Pashmina, remember all the hard work that goes into making one. Buy only from authentic sellers as there is a whole market dedicated to selling fake Pashmina shawls.

You can check Kashmirica’s Shopping Page for Exclusive, Authentic Products from Kashmir

Also Read:

The Story of Shahtoosh: World’s Most Expensive Fabric

The Story of Shahtoosh: World’s Most Expensive Fabric

Shahtoosh or shahtush or simply toosh, is a type of luxury shawl made from the most expensive fabric in the world. It is a Persian word which literally translates to ‘king of fine wools’.

NOTE: Buying & Selling of Shahtoosh is illegal. We do not sell or buy this fabric. This post about Shahtoosh is purely for information purposes.

This super soft and super warm shawl is handwoven in the valley of Kashmir. To own a shahtoosh scarf or shawl is to lighten your pockets by several thousand dollars! And a few decades ago, people happily did so.

But, what is it that makes this shawl so exquisite? That at one point, the most elite of the elite class of not just India but also the US as well as other countries boasted to have owned at least one of these; before it became illegal to own one.

Right from supermodels and actresses to other celebrities- the shahtoosh scarf was a prized possession among them all.

Now that we have an idea about the world’s most expensive fabric, let’s delve deeper and see what all the fuss is that surrounds this type of shawl and what makes it so special.

What is Shahtoosh?

Shahtoosh is the finest quality of fabric that is known to man. Each of its fibres is only about 7 to 10 microns and it is considered to be one-sixth of that of a human hair. This fabric is used to make luxury shawls and scarves, popularly known as shahtoosh shawls. 

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The fabric is procured from the underfur of a species of an Antelope; locally called the ‘Chiru’. The antelope is native to the Tibetan plateau. Chiru is a migratory animal that lives at super-high altitudes of about 5,000 meters and develops the ‘underfur’ in order to survive the extremely cold and harsh weather conditions. 

Back in the day, when shahtoosh shawls were legal, poachers would hunt down the Tibetan antelope and slaughter it to obtain its fur. 

What is a Shahtoosh Shawl?

A shawl that is made using the shahtoosh fabric is a shahtoosh shawl. This shawl is super popular throughout the world for its warmth, comfort and softness. It was once an object of desire for people across the globe. People have claimed to be addicted to the impressive beauty that it has and have described it as ‘nothing else in the world’.

For decades, Kashmir has been the only place where this shawl is expertly manufactured. In fact, expert weavers had careers dedicated only to weaving these shawls.

The Origin of Shahtoosh

The origin of the shawl is believed to date back to the 16th century, during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is believed that he had a great passion for these shawls and was the owner of quite a few of them. In fact, shawl factories flourished and became a major source of income in Kashmir during the Mughal rule. That is, interestingly, also when the wool received its name -‘Shahtoosh’.

Until about Shah Jahan’s rule (1666), the toosh shawls were reserved for use only by the royals. Later, with changing times, the shawls became accessible to the commoners as well. The shawls soon gained popularity and became a status symbol for the elite class around the world.

Thus, the trade of the shahtoosh began and influenced the market for a long, long time. These were also traditionally gifted at weddings back in the day.

Types of Toosh Shawls

Basically, there are three types of this shawl. The types are categorized by the fabric used. They are:

  • 16 Dani or Shurah Dani: This is the 100% pure toosh shawl; made only with the toosh fabric
  • 12 Dani or Bah Dani: This type comprises of 75% toosh mixed with 25% pashmina
  • 8 Dani or Aeth Dani: This type is a combination of 50% toosh and 50% pashmina

How Long Does it Take to Make a Shahtoosh?

The shahtoosh shawls are only handwoven by the master artisans of Kashmir. The weaving of this shawl is a traditional art and many weavers are only dedicated only to exclusively weaving these shawls. The shawls are traditionally woven making the use of handlooms.

Since the fabric is super fine, machines cannot be used and everything needs to be done using hands. As a result of the extensive process, it takes a weaver anywhere from a month to a year to craft a single toosh shawl.

What makes the Shahtoosh so Expensive?

For manufacturing a shawl/ scarf, the process that goes behind it is quite labor-some and lengthy. First, the fur is obtained from the antelopes. The antelopes are hunted for this purpose. After the fur is obtained, weavers in Kashmir make use of handlooms to weave the fabric.

Every process right from obtaining the wool to manufacturing a shawl is done using hands by amazingly skilled craftsmen. 

To manufacture just one shawl, around 350 grams of wool/ fur is needed. One Tibetan antelope gives about 125 grams of wool. Hence, to make just one shawl, wool from 3 antelopes is required! This is one of the major reasons that makes it expensive.

But, this isn’t the only reason why the shahtoosh is so expensive. Another factor is its majestic feel. The fabric is so super soft that it is incomparable with any other kind of fabric. It is known to give its owner a taste and feel of royalty.

The shawl is extremely lightweight that it can be passed through a wedding ring! It is so light that you can hardly feel anything around your shoulders. Not just its lightness but its warmth is incomparable too. Legend has it that the shawl is so warm that it can be used to hatch pigeon eggs. 

The majestic appeal, feel and warmth of the shawl has made celebrities and other rich people around the world pay thousands of dollars to own this beautiful garment. Some celebrities became so addicted to these shawls that they have been reported to have owned multiple pieces.

Some even claim that the shawls became so dear to them that they would never leave the house without their favorite shawl. 

Shahtoosh Scarf Price in India

The scarf costs lakhs of rupees. It would be generally around 3-10 lakhs in cost. Saying that it is banned and illegal to buy and sell shahtoosh. While a toosh shawl combined with pashmina costs less than a pure toosh shawl, it is still quite expensive.

When these shawls were legal, shahtoosh scarf price in India for an aeth dani (50% pashmina with 50% toosh)  or bah dani (25% pashmina with 75% toosh) began somewhere around 1 lakh and for a 100% toosh shawl, it went up to at least 2-3 lakh rupees! 

The price went almost double for buying a toosh shawl at places like the US and Europe.

Why is Shahtoosh Wool Banned?

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) banned the trade of the Chiru wool products in 1975. It was banned globally in 1975.

The Indian government put a ban on trade of Shahtoosha in 1991. Then, the J&K government announced a ban on the manufacture and trade of the Shahtoosh wool in the early 2000s. After several court hearings and many years later, the law was finally enforced.  

Around 20,000 Tibetan antelopes or Chirus needed to be killed every year for the production of the toosh shawls. As a result, their population declined significantly. From around a million antelopes, the number came down to approx 75,000 by the end of the 20th century. The Chiru became an endangered species. All these reasons contributed to the ban of the Shahtoosh trade.

The sale and possession of a shahtoosh shawl is now illegal in most of the countries and is a punishable offence. 

The Chiru population has now stabilized and is thought to be increasing. Almost 15,000 people had been employed in the trade when the shahtoosh wool was legal.

The livelihood of thousands of families depended on the Shahtoosh wool trade in Kashmir. The weavers were later provided with other alternative ways of earning. But they are rather insignificant.

Since so many people depended on the trade, a parliamentary panel requested that the ban on the Shahtoosh wool trade be lifted to revive the industry as well as the employment opportunities. The traders welcomed this proposal with open arms. However, the request was not accepted and the trade of Shahtoosh shawls still remains illegal.

Any person who infringes the law can be subjected to a hefty fine and may also be sentenced to several years in jail.

Over to You

‘Shahtoosh’ is now a word that is talked about with much hush hush. But despite the ban, the demand for the toosh shawls and scarves still remains high in various western countries. 

Although we don’t know what the future holds for the Shahtoosh Shawl, a great alternative to the Shahtoosh is the Pashmina Shawl – one of the softest, warmest and lightest shawls in the world which is legal as well.

Also Read:

A-Z Guide on Kashmiri Embroidery

A-Z Guide on Kashmiri Embroidery

Just as its beauty, Kashmir’s history is unique. The handicrafts of Kashmir are as breathtaking as the lush green valleys it hosts. The beautiful art of Kashmiri embroidery is as old as the modern Muslim culture of the place.

The first thing that comes to our minds when we think of Kashmiri garments is the intricate embroidery that adorns them. Whether it is pashmina shawls, dress materials, kaftans, kurtas/ kurtis, sarees or even bags, the signature Kashmiri embroidery is what sets all Kashmiri apparel apart.

It is also popularly known as ‘Kashida’ embroidery, kashidkari in full. That’s for the Kashmiris though. The embroidery seeks inspiration from nature all around. Popular designs include flowers, leaves, trees, blossoms, creepers etc.

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If this ancient art intrigues you as well, then read on. In this article, I will give you deeper insights into the Kashidakari, or Kashmiri embroidery and answer all your questions related to it.

History of Kashmiri Embroidery

The Kashida is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in India. It is a centuries’ old art. The history of embroidery in Kashmir can be traced back to as early as the 15th century. However, it was during the Mughal rule (around 16th century) that the textile industry in Kashmir saw a major surge. 

The Mughal emperors are known to have patronized it. It was during this time that Kashmiri shawls and other Kashmiri garments started becoming popular around the world. Similarly, the Kashmiri embroidery too started shaping up and became an important part of various Kashmiri textiles. And since then, its demand has grown multifolds.

Types of Kashmiri Embroidery

History tells us that Art came to Kashmir from Central Asia. It traveled with Muslim traders who entered the valley through the Silk route. It evolved with time and artisans were able to mix and match various art forms they had learned from the traders from abroad. 

So, today there are many types of embroidery in Kashmir. But, the most popular ones include: 

The Aari or Crewel Embroidery

Even though its origin is unknown, it can be traced back to as early as the medieval period. This kind of embroidery is locally known as Zalakdozi. It is a very old technique but also very popular. The crewel embroidery makes use of a pointed crochet or an ‘aari’ as the needle. 

This form of embroidery can be done on cotton, wool, silk, velvet as well as other fabrics. This embroidery can be commonly seen on curtains, drapes and other upholstery, bedding, dress materials etc. Woolen or art silk thread is used for this particular embroidery. Mostly, the chain stitch is used for the crewel embroidery. 

Popular designs for this embroidery include flowers, blossoms, leaves, creepers etc. It has two types:

  • 1-ply embroidery: It makes use of 1-ply woolen thread. It is cheaper but less durable.
  • 2-ply embroidery: It makes use of 2-ply woolen thread. This is more expensive than 1-ply but is more durable.

The 2-ply woolen thread is more commonly used.

The Process: First, the design is drawn on a perforated sheet by an expert tracer. Then, this sheet is laid on the fabric and either chalk or charcoal powder is applied to it to trace the design. After that, in order to make the tracing more visible, some oil is added to it. After the design gets traced onto the fabric, the outlines of the design are drawn with the use of a wooden pen. 

The skilled embroiderer, also known as zalakdoz in Kashmir then proceeds to embroider the fabric. The time taken to finish the product depends upon the fabric and the size of embroidery to be done. It usually takes a few days. This is how the crewel or Aari Kashmiri embroidery is done.

The Sozni Embroidery 

This form of embroidery is quite different from the aari embroidery. A needle is used in sozni embroidery. The Sozni embroidery can commonly be found on shawls, jackets, dress materials etc. The work that goes into this embroidery is very intricate. 

Popular motifs for this embroidery are abstract geometric designs, paisley patterns. The Sozni embroidery is exclusive only to Kashmir and cannot be found anywhere else. The satin-stitch is used for making this type of embroidery.

The Process: The designer (or Naqash) first begins by drawing a design on a paper. The second step involved in the procedure is a very important step. A specialist wood carver then carves the design out of a wooden block. 

With the use of the wood that has been carved, the design is then stamped onto the shawl. After this, an expert embroiderer embroiders the design. This is how the Sozni Kashmiri embroidery is made. 

The Tilla Embroidery

Another type of Kashmiri embroidery is the ‘Tilla embroidery’. This kind of embroidery is done with golden or silver threads. It is mostly done on the Kashmiri traditional garment called Phiran. But now, it can also be commonly seen on shawls and sarees. The beautiful tilla embroidery adorns ethnic wear and gives it a royal touch. 

This classic type of embroidery is a true epitome of grace and class. Initially, real gold and silver were used for the embroidery. Only the rich could afford this luxury back in the day; making it super popular among the royals. However, now, just gold and silver-colored threads are used. 

The Process: First, the designer makes a design on a tracing paper. After the design is made, the trace paper is carefully kept on the fabric. A duster is then dipped in either blue or white ink (blue ink for lighter fabrics and white ink for darker fabrics) is moved all over the fabric. The design, thus, gets transferred to the fabric. 

An expert Tilla artist then works his magic on the fabric. The tilla thread is used to make the embroidery and then a cotton thread is used to fasten it. All of this is done with a special needle. This is how the Tilla Kashmiri embroidery is made. 

The Amli Embroidery

The Amli embroidery makes use of multicolored threads. It is relatively a new type of embroidery. This embroidery is mostly seen on the kani and jamevar shawls.

The Process: First, the design is drawn on a paper. Before the design is transferred, the shawl is first nicely smoothened out. Then it is transferred onto the shawl with the help of charcoal or other colored powder. The design is then embroidered using multicolored threads.

Now that we know about the types of embroidery commonly used in Kashmir, let us get into more specifics.

Which stitches are used in Kashmiri embroidery?

Many different stitches are used in the Kashmiri embroidery. The Kashmiri embroidery stitches are as follows:

  • The Chain Stitch: This technique involves creating a loop of stitches which ends up looking like a chain and hence the name, chain stitch.
  • The Satin Stitch: Another one of the Kashmiri embroidery stitches is the Satin Stitch. This kind of stitch is usually used to cover large surfaces.
  • The Stem Stitch: This type of stitch is mostly used to embroider the boundaries of a design/ motif.
  • The Darning Stitch: This method involves making rows of straight stitches which are placed next to each other.
  • The buttonhole or vata chikan stitch: This form of stitching is used to cover or fill larger areas.
  • The Herringbone Stitch: This stitch is used for making borders.

What are the different Kashmiri embroidery motifs?

Mostly, nature forms the basis for Kashmiri embroidery motifs. Since Kashmir is so beautifully blessed with abundant natural beauty, the embroidery artists need not look anywhere else for inspiration. 

Popular motifs include flowers like lilies, tulips, saffron and lotuses, leaves, twigs, fruits like grapes, apples, mangoes, almonds and cherries and various birds like parrots, woodpeckers and kingfishers. Geometric designs and paisley patterns are also quite common. These elements together form the base for Kashmiri embroidery designs. 

What are the different Kashmiri embroidery designs?

Various Kashmiri embroidery designs include floral designs, animal designs, hunting designs etc.

Some interesting facts on Kashmiri Embroidery:

  • All embroiderers use ‘nyath’ which acts as protection to their fingers. They are leather finger caps or thimbles. Without the use of these, the artists can develop holes in their fingers.
  • Men in Kashmir are known to do the finest embroidery.
  • Every piece after its embroidered gets washed.

Over to You 

Thus, it can be said that Kashmiri embroidery is an art that requires utmost dedication, patience and precision. Initially, only men are involved in the embroidery process in Kashmir. A son inherited this art from his father. But now, since the last few years, women have started participating too. 

It takes years and years’ worth of practice to master this art. Most men who are involved in this profession usually begin practising early, around the age of 9 or 10 and then work up their way to expertise. It is due to their hard work that this traditional art form is still so well-preserved and recognized all around the world.

Also Read:

All You Need to Know About the Majestic Chinar Tree

All You Need to Know About the Majestic Chinar Tree

The Chinar tree is a magnificent, vibrant tree whose leaves change colors to red, yellow and amber during the autumn season. This tree predominantly grows in the Kashmir region in India. The tree not only is a rare sight but is a form of majestic beauty.

One of the many tourist attractions in Kashmir, chinar grows to a height of about 25 meters or sometimes, even more, depending upon the growing conditions. Its botanical name is platanus orientalis and is called ‘Booyn’ or ‘Buen’ in the local language.

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The Chinar tree is a pride of Kashmir! Its leaves look a lot like the leaves of the famous Maple tree. This tree is known for its longevity and can be found throughout Kashmir.

One of the unique characteristics of this tree is that its leaves change colors. During the summer season, the chinar tree’s leaves are deep green. But, as the autumn season sets in, the leaves change color to a beautiful blood-red, amber and yellow.

Talking about the etymology of the word, ‘chinar’ is word of Persian origin which when translated means ‘What a fire!’. The reason it got this name is for the fact that during the month of November, the tree looks as though it has caught fire. It is a deciduous tree and sheds its leaves once a year.

This tree is also found in Greece, Iran, Kashmir as well as some other countries.

The History of Chinar Tree in Kashmir

It is said that the tree originated in Greece. The Chinar trees of India have been an important part of Kashmir for centuries now and have a lot of historical significance. In fact, the oldest Chinar in Kashmir is 600+ years old and is thought to have been planted in 1374. It is located in the Badgam district in Kashmir and stands tall at 14.78 m.

There is a Chinar in almost every village of Kashmir. The tree is also super popular amongst the locals; for they love to sit under its shadow and enjoy the cool breeze.

It is believed that the Chinar trees of India were brought here from Persia. Mughal Emperors like Akbar, Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir and even Aurangzeb were very fond of the tree. It was even declared as the ‘royal tree’. The great Emperor Akbar is said to have planted around 1,200 trees after he took over Kashmir in 1586.

A Small Chinar Island on Dal Lake

‘Char Chinar’ is a beautiful island on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The island gets its name from the fact that there are four Chinar trees planted on this island.

These four trees were planted by Emperor Jahangir in such a way that the island will always have a shadow from these trees. They are one of the main tourist attractions in Kashmir.

Kashmiri Literature and the Chinar

The significance of this tree is also predominant in Kashmiri literature, politics, religion and romance. The tree isn’t just an integral part of Kashmir’s heritage but it also has a very special place in every Kashmiri’s heart.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the former Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir has named his autobiography ‘Aatish-i-Chinar’, meaning ‘Flames of Chinar’. Makhan Lal Fotedar, a prominent leader of the Indian National Congress who also belonged to Kashmir named his memoir ‘The Chinar Leaves’.

Not just politicians but the first fashion designer from Kashmir has named his brand ‘Bounipan’, also meaning leaves of Chinnar. The mention of this mighty tree is also there in various books like ‘A Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings’ by James Hilton Knowles and ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ by Sir Walter Lawrence.

Several poets, too, have dedicated their poems to this majestic tree. This shows how everyone fortunate enough to behold the beauty of this majestic tree gets captivated by it. 

The Chinar Trees of Kashmir

The Chinar trees of Kashmir can be found throughout Kashmir’s landscape. Valley, cities, villages, hills; the trees are planted everywhere. A symbol for religion, the Chinar trees can be found in the Khir Bhavani temple as well as other Goddess Bhavani temples across Kashmir. These beautiful trees also adorn Kashmir’s popular mosques and shrines, including Sultan-ul-Arifeen and Hazratbal. 

Not just in mosques and temples but there are also over 100 Chinars planted at the Naseem Bagh garden in Srinagar. This makes the garden a picturesque and must-visit spot for tourists and locals alike. 

It takes a Chinar tree around 30 to 50 years to reach their mature height and around 150 years to grow to their full size! Just imagine the splendor they will bring.

The season of autumn celebrates the Chinar like no other! The Chinar tree of Kashmir, during this season, is at the peak of its beauty. The radiant red leaves that make the whole tree appear red, their rustling sound and a gust of wind in the air make everything look magical. One cannot just not fall in love with this scenery and marvel at the beauty that nature has blessed us with.

The Importance of the Chinar 

The Chinnar tree doesn’t just amplify the beauty of Kashmir but also has a lot of other things to offer. On a summer day, it provides shade in parks as well as on roads. Its wood can also be sawn easily. After sawing, it can be used in making decorative items such as trays, small boxes as well as some furniture items. Kashmir decor is famous for walnut art.

It holds various medicinal properties as well. The bark of the chinar has antirheumatic and antiscorbutic values. The bark when boiled in vinegar is a great remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea. The fresh leaves of the tree can be applied for the inflammation of the eye and also in conjunctivitis. 

The leaves of the tree are still useful even after they have fallen off. They are used to make charcoal to be used for a Kashmiri pot named ‘Kangri’, to keep warm on a cold winter day.

The Chinar trees of Kashmir: A Dying Legacy?

The number of chinar trees that have declined in Kashmir in the past few years is truly a matter of concern. The population of the trees has dwindled down from around 42,000 in the 1970s to about 17,000 in 2004 and the number has dwindled down even more now.

The trees are now nearing extinction. People and the administration cut down the trees for construction and for widening the roads.

Despite the laws imposed by the government on the ban of cutting down these trees, it is heartbreaking to know that illegal felling of the trees still continues.

There are various reasons why the chinar tree population is decreasing, but it is mainly due to:

  • The illegal felling of trees
  • Plant diseases
  • Not planting enough trees as they were being planted before

However, various efforts are being taken by the state to revive the heritage of Kashmir and more trees are being planted.

Over to You

The beauty of the Chinar tree is truly unfathomable. It is an integral part of Kashmir’s rich history and Kashmir is incomplete without its beautiful Chinar. We really hope that this legacy of the Chinar trees of Kashmir never dies and that the trees always stand tall in all their magnificent glory.

Also Read:

Know Everything About the Traditional Kashmiri Dress & Style

Know Everything About the Traditional Kashmiri Dress & Style

Kashmiri dresses have been showcased time and again in many Bollywood movies such as Kashmir ki Kali, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Rockstar, and more recently in Laila Majnu. Hence, the world is no stranger to the customs and traditions of the valley of Kashmir.

There are some intricacies about the culture and the ethnic clothing of Kashmiris that will tell you a lot  about the history and the culture of the people of Kashmir. Kashmiri traditions, the dressing, the language and the preferences make a vivid picture of how Kashmir connects to the rest of the world. That’s also the manner in which we get to know, how Kashmir and Kashmiris set themselves apart.

Today, I am going to narrate to you another bulletin on Kashmir. It is the story of Kashmiris and their dressing sense. Their clothing and fashion. So, hold your breath and enjoy some information on the traditional Kashmiri dress & style. 

 

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Kashmiri Traditional Wear 

 

When we talk about the ethnic Kashmiri apparel, it is exactly what you think it is. A traditional kurta and salwar for men, actually called the Khan Dress. In rest of India, it is famous as a pathani. Women wear Salwar-Kameez donned with a pheran. The hair of women is usually covered with a head scarf.

Although movies do exaggerate showing short shinning waist coats and pointy skull caps, which in reality are only worn when you have a fancy dress competition to win. Am not joking! 

The Preferred Traditional Kashmiri Dress of a Woman 

 

The Kashmiri dress for women be it Muslim or Pandit is completely the same. But there is a difference in the kind of jewelry each of them prefer to wear. Whereas most of the women in India have sarees as their traditional dress, Kashmiri women have a completely different style. 

We Kashmiri women have traditional dresses similar to that of Afghan and Persian women. The style and making of the Salwar-Kameez and the jewelry is very similar to the attire donned by the Pashtun women.

 

Also Read: What’s a Kashmiri Wedding Like? {Know it all}

 

The Salwar-Kameez is further beautified by a fancy pheran. Now when I say pheran don’t get confused thinking pheran is for wearing in winters only. Pherans are used to cover the bodies. Pherans were worn  by Kashmiri women over the centuries to cover their bodies as a sign of modesty. The pherans worn in summer are made out of light fabrics in accordance with the heat.

Next comes the head scarf. It is like a cherry on top of a cake. Without a scarf, any outfit is not complete. At least in our estimation. Interestingly, it is worn by both Muslim and Pandit women. It can be worn by either tying it to the head or letting it stay open. A scarf is called Kasaba or the Taranga by Kashmiri Pandit women. They wear it in a peculiar manner. It is tied to the hanging bonnet and falls up to the heels from behind.

Traditional Kashmiri Dress for the Man

 

For men, the traditional Kashmir outfit is a Khan Dress topped with a short Sadri (waist coat). in the past, they also used wear a long full length outer robe with long bell sleeves which is called the Chogha. Older folks wear it with a girdle around the waist. A head gear was also worn in older times. It was like a turban made by a small fitted cap covered with a cloth.

The manner of tying of the cloth varied among the Pandits and the Muslims. Sometimes, on special occasions such as marriages the turban of a Muslim man resembled with that of a Pathan man. In medieval times rich upper class Kashmiris wore silk on festive occasions.

 

Kashmiri Dress

 

The footwear consists of shoes made of grass called Pulharoo and sandals made of wood called Khraw. But this is talking about 5-7 decades ago. Today, with Globalization, Kashmiris wear whatever the world wears, but they still like to done their tradition.

So, you will find men often wearing a full Khan Dress, and women wearing a Salwar-Kameez. During the winters both men and women wear the pheran.  

 

Talking about the Kashmiri Dress in Winters

 

I am going to mention the pheran now. I love the pheran, O’, yes I do!

The winter in Kashmir can give full-fledged competition to the climate in Siberia and Antarctica. The temperature can go down to -15 degree Celsius.

We Kashmiris tend to be prepared for it. In all honesty victory over such a climate requires a complete preparation. In the past, people used to prepare for it months in advance. 

Pheran is the first item that comes to the mind when someone talks about winters in Kashmir. The Pehran! Something that Kashmiris love and deem to be heritage. It is an all-rounder garb that acts as a sweater, a jacket, an overcoat and even a blanket. The star of the Kashmiri customary dresses, the pheran has become a mark of identification for Kashmiris around the world.

 

Also Read: Get to Know the 11 Oldest Languages of the World

 

This woolen wonder has saved Kashmiris from crippling harsh winters which have to be tolerated without electricity in some areas. The only source of heat is the Kangri which is tailor-made for pehrans. Once you have a Kangri under your pehran, the winters just seem like any other season.

Btw, a Kangri is a fire pot.

 

 

The women folk wear the pherans in a much more fashionable way. It is not just a winter garment but also a centuries old customary clothing worn also for every special and important occasion. This is the Kashmiri dress that is famous the world over, not as much as the pashmina though.

The simple pherans worn at home have simple embroidery and designs. But pherans worn for during special occasions are ornamented with attractive tilla works and special embroideries crafted with special gold threads making them worth thousands of rupees in the market but priceless in the eyes of a Kashmiri.

 

Pheran

 

The Summer Dress of Kashmir 

 

In summers, Kashmiri people wear the lighter versions of their traditional outfits. Although ever since the modern times popularized global fashion in the valley, our clothing has drastically changed. It has paved way for western wear to penetrate into the market, but even then the evergreen and ever comfortable ethnic summer wear hasn’t been written off the valley yet.

The younger women wear Salwar-Kameez in summers with light duppattas whose making can be inspired from either sides of the border. The older women prefer to stick to their traditional roots and wear clothes made in the conventional Kashmiri style. As I stated earlier, the Kameez-Salwar is topped by a light pheran to cover their bodies fully for modesty and crowned with a Daejj (Head Scarf).

Similarly, men also tend to experiment with modern styles now-a-days. They prefer to wear pants and jeans with shirts winning the battle of the trends. But when comfort weighs more than show off traditional wear wins the war every time.

The customary Khan Dress is usually made in the Pathan style which can be sometimes topped with a waist coat adding to charm and elegance. The kurtas vary is sizes and shapes, they can be short or long and with our without a collar. Also they can be either typical salwars or pant like salwars. Some men wear trousers or jeans under them. Not only is the Kashmiri dress comfortable, it’s elegant and stylish. At the same time, it gives the wearer a royal look.

 

The Elegant Kashmiri Jewelry

 

The traditional Kashmiri jewelry is creativity and mystic art at its best. Every piece of the jewelry blends beautifully with the apparel and adds to the charm of the outfit donned. These ornaments are typically made of gold and silver and are studded with multi-colored stones or pearls. Kashmiris love birth stones. Some people say that Kashmir is the land of the blue sapphire as well. 

The well-known and frequently worn jewelry pieces in the past were Jiggni and Tikka. They were worn on forehead. They can be triangular, semi-circular and circular in shape depending on the use and occasion. Atta-Hor (ear piece) was usually worn by the Kashmiri Pandit women. It hangs over the head of the women on either side and is connected by a chain over the head.

Hard to imagine but this beautiful piece of ornament is a sight for sore eyes. Kana-Door (tops) is a simple ornament usually worn by young unmarried girls. Jhumka (ball shaped earrings), Deji-Hor (long chain like earrings) are a trademark jewellery piece of married Kashmiri Pandit women. They are a mark of their matrimony and are worn at all times by them especially during festivities and weddings. Finally, Kana Vaji are studded with turquoise with a fringe of hanging gold leaves and balls.

Kashmiri Earring

 

Over to You

That’s all in this bulletin. I have told you everything that you would need to know about the traditional Kashmiri dress. You may know that roots of Kashmir ethnicity are a mix of several civilizations. Thus, with every piece of clothing you can see different cultures being beautifully merged among one another. Doesn’t that create  a magical blend of many rich customs, arts and traditions?

Summarizing, Kashmir is an offspring of Central Asia, Persia, Arab, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and you can visit all these countries at once by simply visiting Kashmir. Hey, come and have a look at some unique products that Kashmiri craftsmen produce. 

Author: Ruwa Kitab 

What’s a Kashmiri Wedding Like? {Know it all}

What’s a Kashmiri Wedding Like? {Know it all}

Kashmiri wedding just like any other wedding ceremony is full of fun & emotions. It is a blessed occasion where family, friends and food comes together. Kashmiri weddings are unique. They are enjoyable. They are memorable. Most importantly, kashmiri weddings are known for bringing about distant relatives and old friends together. It is a time when old grievances are forgiven and all malice kept aside.

A mix of traditional Indian, Persian, Arab and Pakistani ceremonies make Kashmir weddings a mixed experience. The biggest part of the kashmiri wedding ceremony is the wedding feast. With mystic festivities, colorful attires, folk songs and wazwan, here I am going to narrate to you what a kashmiri wedding is like.

kashmiri wedding

A traditional Kashmiri wedding showcases different ceremonies and rituals taken from the Muslim as well as the sub-continental culture. Every ceremony that’s a part of the greater wedding blends seamlessly with the other ceremonies making it a magnificent experience.

Something is important to mention though, the Kashmiri culture is derived enormously from the Persian and the Central Asian mannerism. That’s because a large population of Kashmiris are migrants from the Central Asian belt. They came to Kashmir with the advent of Islam and brought with them various arts and crafts such as pashmina, paper mache, carpet weaving etc. That is when and why Kashmir flourished became a world renowned valley despite being seated deep among the Himalayas. 

Coming back to the topic of the majestic kashmiri wedding, let me get started by talking about its ceremonies.

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The Kashmiri Wedding  Traditions 

A Kashmiri wedding is not too different from any other Muslim wedding. The essential activities which deem a couple to be ‘husband and wife’ go by Muslim ethics. The couple should be of two separate genders, must have a judge or a contract writer in front of them. There should be a couple of witnesses present and importantly, the girl and boy must accept each other as their partner. Something important that occurs alongside is the payment of mahr or dowry.  

The Mehendi – Applying the Henna 

The mehndi ceremony is the most exciting and energetic ceremony among all the ceremonies. It is filled with non-stop folk music, folk dance performances and folk singing. Believe me when I say that it is the most exciting thing, it really is.

People are at their best during this ceremony and the fun and excitement is all the rage. It is the same whether on the groom’s side or the bride’s side. This is the last day which a girl/boy spends with her/his first family before they are a part of an extended family and begin a new chapter in their life.

Some girls of the groom’s family such as the sisters, cousins, sisters-in-law and friends go to the bride’s place with henna/mehndi for the bride which is applied to her one by one by every girl, although now a days boys are also seen to be a part of this ceremony. The henna signifies the in-laws wishing good health, happiness and prosperity to the bride as she starts her new journey in life.

The guests are in turn given gifts packs containing items like silver jewelry, personal care products, sweets and dry fruits. This ceremony usually has a close knitted guest list and only involves close family and friends.

The Baraat – Groom Gets the Bride Home 

This is the day where the actual marriage ceremony takes place and the girl leaves for her in-laws house. The Nikkah traditionally takes place in a Waqalatan Style where the ceremony first begins at the groom’s house. An Imam/Judge and some witnesses carry out the Nikkah ceremony. The groom is first asked about his consent in marrying the bride in a formal setting.  Once the groom gives his consent, the delegation goes to the bride’s place to seek her consent as well.

Once an agreement is reached, all the details such as the mahr/dowry etc are registered on the Nikkah Nama/Marriage Contract which is then signed by the copule, the imam, the witnesses and the guarantors. 

On the other hand in the Asalatan Style the girl and the boy are married in front of each other with a veil in front of them, this method is popular everywhere else in the Muslim world outside Kashmir.

After the nikah is done, a delegation from the groom’s side go to the bride’s place to bring her to her new home. The delegation is treated with traditional packets of dry fruits, wazwan, and some desserts. Actually, if you talk to anyone about a Kashmiri wedding, they will start speaking about the kashmiri wedding food. Kashmiri wedding traditions are full of food. Kashmiris just love their food.

All male family members and friends of the groom accompany him to bring his better half home. The arrival is welcomed with traditional songs, flower petals, flowers and beaded garlands, and in some cases, lots of fireworks.

Then the most emotional and heart breaking moment of a girl’s life comes when she has to bid farewell to some important relations and bring an end to an entire era of her life, but crying is not just limited to the bride. A dent in the pocket in the name of Kadal Taar/ Passing a Bridge bring tears in the eyes of the groom. It is a small mischievous tradition where the groom’s friends stop the procession on a bridge and ask for money in exchange for letting the couple go home.

The bride after reaching her new home home is given a great welcome. Her mother in law unveils her (Mohor Tulin) in front of the family and gives her a gift. The veil is usually made up of pashmina, and the attire of the bride is a perfect kashmiri wedding dress. So in the end lots of flowers, singing, food, emotions, pockets dents bring an end to this day.

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Saying this, there are many people who do not wish to celebrate their weddings in a fancy big way. They keep it rather austere. The money saved is given to an orphanage or is used in some other humane concern. This is done as the Prophet Muhammad had said, “The best Nikah is with the least expenses”.

The Walima – The Wedding Feast 

Wazwan Walima

This ceremony is equivalent to the reception party held in other wedding cultures. It a huge reception party hosted by the groom’s family where everybody related to or friends with the groom’s family is invited. Held during the day, after some light refreshments such as Kahwa, traditional wazwan is served followed by a delicious dessert.

Some Other Ceremonies of a Kashmiri Wedding Include 

  • Malmaenz – Small get together involving only close friends and family.
  • Aab Sherun/Mas Sherun – Aab Sherun is done by the bride where her hair is braided and decorated whereas Mas Sherun is done by the Groom where he is groomed for the baraat ceremony.
  • Phirsaal – Party for the Groom’s family some days after the walima hosted by the bride’s family.
  • Satium Doh – Party at the groom’s family 7 days after the marriage and the first time the bride goes to back to her parent’s home to live for a day or two.

The Kashmiri Wedding Food 

The food includes a full course meal with 36 mouth-watering and delicious food items ready to leave you wanting for more. Even after eating the whole thing, the impact remains in your mouth for a long time and the taste remains forever. People living in Kashmir are avid meat-eaters and the Wazwaan is reason for that, the flavor of every item on the Trami (platter) is induced in our veins and the Kashmiri people would eat nothing else for the rest of our lives if given the choice.

Wazwan Majme

The Trami is served with heavenly dishes like seekh kabab, chicken, tabak-maaz, and shami-kabab etc. and after every 5 mins the waza (server) brings in rest of the items starting from rista (red meatballs), rogan josh, martsewangun korma, paneer, some veggies like spinach and mushrooms, more meaty flavors like daniwal korma, doodh ras and many more finally ending with the all-time favorite yakhni and goshtaba (white meatball).

The wazwan is served throughout the wedding during every ceremony and on a funnier note the success or a failure of a party is usually judged by the guests by how good the wazwan was.

The Music – Folk Songs Galore 

Music is another important aspect of the wedding without which the wedding cannot be a success. There is music for every occasion with every range and tempo, there are nasheeds, wanwun and dance songs and even mashups of Hindi and Kashmiri mix songs.

The mehndi ceremony showcases the most variety of music in the whole wedding, it starts with the mellow wanwun (slow songs) and escalates into the funky gyawun (popular wedding songs), popular Kashmir singers like Reshma Rashid and Frankie Kashmiri specialize in this genre and are joined with the ladies of the house with dumbeks, tambourines and matkas into making the night into a musical gem.

The baraat is received by the slow and rhythmic wanwun and even leaves being serenaded by the same, the music sets the emotional mood and makes the moment more sensitive and passionate.

Kashmiri Wedding Dress

The traditional Kashmiri wedding dress has inspiration from the Central Asian couture when it comes to bridal wear and ethnic pathan style designing for the groom. Conventionally seen in a red suit, but more recently the brides have experimented a lot with colors and gone for all kinds of shades like pink, green, purple, blue and even golden.

Kashmiri-Bride
Bride before the Mohur Tulin Ceremony

The Kashmiri wedding jewelry and make up in the past used to be pretty but heavy making the bride look nothing less like the queen she deserves to be. However, in recent times, brides have broken the traditional wedding look and gone for make-up suiting their age and face and made subtle jewelry pieces that look in accordance with the dress, the makeup and the ceremonies and not look like she is wearing daddy’s bank balance.

The Kashmiri wedding dress for the groom has also evolved over the years, the traditional white sherwani with a white turban has been jazzed up with a lot more colors and designs with men becoming more exposed to the trending fashions and suitable styles and hence experimenting much more with the attire. Instead of simply blending in with the traditional style, Grooms today take the job much more seriously and make sure they fit into the role and play the part convincingly. The styling and the grooming starts much earlier in the gym and the salons and ends with the perfect picture in the album.

The Set up of a Kashmiri Wedding 

The wedding is mostly outdoors with tents and gazebos built for guests to sit in and eat as the Trami system requires for people to be seated on the floor. The gazebos are usually made in case there are any buffet arrangements. The tent has a small beautifully decorated stage for the bride and the groom to sit in during functions and has all the arrangement required to go in accordance with the weather.

Over to You

A Kashmiri wedding is much more than described above. If I wrote about all of it then I guess this whole website will be dedicated to that. It’s a celebrations of not just of the union of two souls but the union of two families and two generations who promise each other to have and to hold from this day forward, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse till death does them apart, and in the process people are dancing, eating, gossiping, fighting, mending lost bonds but more importantly they are happy and united. And this is all you need to know about a traditional Kashmiri wedding in my estimation.

Kashmir is known for producing marvel products, check out our shopping page for a collection of women’s clothing, men’s clothing, handcrafted decor and jewelry.   

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Kashmir Tourism: 21 Places You Can’t Miss Visiting

Kashmir Tourism: 21 Places You Can’t Miss Visiting

Are you looking to know more about Kashmir Tourism? Wonderful! You are at the perfect place.

I will deal with everything that you need to know in order to make you next vacations in Kashmir, exciting and fulfilling. 

Kashmir, a valley, a scenic marvel, a sacred land with a sinful history, and yet considered as a heaven on the earth. Kashmir is known for its tourism, its pashmina, its carpets, its paper mache and the chaos.

It was not just mere chance due to which Amir Khusrau wrote his famous couplet about Kashmir in the  Persian language;

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

(Translation: If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this)

The great poet Khusrau had known the Kashmir valley intimately well before writing this. It is not only him, but everyone who lands in Kashmir has an ultimate level of praise for this stunning valley.

 

 

Kashmir is filled with a montage of several different cultures and religions which make it the epic grandeur that it is today. But interestingly, the most exuberating characteristic of this land is the majestic treasure of the beauty it holds in every nook and corner.

 

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Like other tourist destinations, Kashmir doesn’t just have a couple of places that are stunning, but it is a destination where every place visited has a story to tell, and has a charm of its own. Whether it be the snow clad mountains, the dense forests, the marvelous lakes, the enigmatic houseboats, the massive glaciers, Kashmir tourism has always been a brand of a different league. 

Honestly, what is promoted by the Kashmir tourism department is just the tip of an iceberg. Much of the beauty of the famous or maybe the infamous valley is reserved for the locals to cherish.  Generally when you search for Kashmir tourism packages on the internet, you get a list of 5-6 places to visit and possibly get in touch to a tour operator. But those are not the places that we are going to speak about.

 

Kashmir Tourism

 

We are here to unveil the unknown mysteries about Kashmir tourism, so the next time you visit Kashmir, you are ready to roll and unwind. 

I certainly believe, the  the small and far away districts hold some of the best sceneries, ironically they are not present in the ‘Kashmir tourism packages’. Having traveled my valley far and wide, I want to share about every nook and corner of it, from the narrow lanes of down town, to the food streets of khayam. 

But, in this post, I will be easy on the traveler. I am going to talk about the major places of the valley, places that you must visit in order to explore real Kashmir tourism. Honestly, if you visit Kashmir this well, you will be bragging about it.

Without further ado, let’s get talking about the hidden mysteries of Kashmir tourism.  

 

Unveiling Kashmir Tourism, 21 Must Visit Places for a Tourist 

 

Sopore – The Mini London  

 

Sopore - Kashmir Tourism

 

Sopore is called ‘mini London’ by locals because of the massive wealth and all the business transactions that take place here. Filled with rich lush green apple orchids, Sopore is truly a sight for sore eyes. The infrastructure is still traditional with old customs like Tonga Rides (horse carts) still prevalent. The taste of the food is as exotic as the accent of the people.

Bandipora – The Home to Wular 

 

Bandipora - Kashmir Tourism

 

Bandipora is amazing, that’s what I would say. It has lush green sceneries all around. It appears green as far as eyes can see. The crystal clear waters of the famous wular give you a reflection of your soul. The town of bandipora should be on every tourist’s list.

Uri – The Electricity Chamber 

 

Uri - Kashmir Tourism    

Uri on end shares its border with Muzzafarabad, making it the highlight of the place. Uri is the home to a massive Hydro Power Project. That makes it simple, its a land full of fast moving streams. Streams there are in plentiful. It is one of the places that the Kashmir tourism department must cater to and showcase to the world.

I am pushed to say this, if you are really looking to come to Kashmir, a google search on ‘kashmir tourism packages’ is not the solution. You need to come over and get lost in the valley, like a real lost traveler.

Handwara – The Oft-Changing 

 

 

Handwara is a small district in Kashmir with lovely people, amazing food and spots. Come here and forget that the rest of the world even exists.

If you are craving for some solace and ‘me-time’, Handwara is the place for you.

Gulmarg – The Meadow of Paradise

 

 

This place doesn’t even need any introduction, it has been advertised and marketed automatically in every movie since the 1960s. In a way, its Bollywood’s go to destination. A small Kashmir within Kashmir would be the perfect definition of this place. Whenever someone thinks of picnics, Gulmarg is the first name that pops in the mind. With the thrilling Gondola rides along with the ones on a horse back, be sure to be on top of the world.

Gulmarg is a destination for adventure sports lovers. Known for its skiing and ice hockey competitions, tourists from all over the globe throng it during winters. It is probably the only place that the Kashmir tourism industry has been able to market properly. 

Preng – The Mystery 

 

 

Preng is a small village located in the Kangan Block in the Ganderbal District. A very popular picnic spot in Kashmir, it is known for the beautiful gardens and the never ending landscapes.

Pahalgham – The Betab Land

 

 

The place that has been giving Gulmarg tough competition for the top spot of the best tourist destination in Kashmir. Gulmarg and Pahalgham are like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of tourist destinations.  You can never really decide which one is better.

Pahalgham has abundant water bodies and the famous Betaab and Aaru Valleys.  Just naming these two is enough to make someone lose interest in city life. A person can easily picture himself giving up all the temptations of the world just to enjoy the mountains and water of Pahalgham.

Shopian – The Apple Town 

 

Shopian - Kashmir Tourism

You might know that Kashmir is not just known for its tourism, but for its apples as well. And Shopian is the apple capital of the valley. Shopian gives tough competition to Sopore in producing mouth-watering juicy apples but the apples are not the only thing to look forward to in Shopian.

Shopian is an enigmatic place to say the least. It should have been on Kashmir Tourism map, but somehow it has missed the attention. 

Baramula – The Cherished Place 

A very popular district of Kashmir known for many things like the lifestyle of the rich people living there, the local accent, the confectionery and also for sharing a border with Pakistan. Mughal Emperors like Akbar and Jahangir used to stay in Baramula during their visits.

Aharbal – The Waterfall Place 

 

 

Aharbal is known to have the Niagara Falls of Kashmir. It is a beautiful captivating waterfall which has an abundant amount of water encompassing a large area. The trek leading up to the waterfall is worth the effort. Apart from that the exciting trek to the Kungwatan meadows, you will be led to the mesmerizing Konsernag Lake.

Dhara – The Home of Gujurs 

 

Gujjar - Kashmir Tourism

 

Home of the Gujjar and Pathan population of the valley and an ideal place for trekkers, Theed and Dhara are best places to visit in Kashmir if adventure, treks, love for heights and unlimited skies run in your veins.

Gujurs are the ethnic Kashmiri nomadic community which is always on the move and mainly work as shepherds. Missing it on the Kashmiri tourism map is real bad, especially since it is just 20 kms away from the capital, Srinagar. 

Gurez – The Paradise Valley 

 

 

Located among the high Himalayan ranges, Gurez valley is nothing less than a piece of paradise created by the Almighty. Rich in a diverse range of landscapes and animals like the Himalayan Brown Bear and the Snow Leopard, Gurez has just so much to offer to everyone who visits.

Its main tourist attractions are the culture itself, the Habba Khatoon Mountain named after the famous poetess of Kashmir, and the ethereal Kishanganga River.

Yusmarg – Did Jesus Really Know This?

 

 

In Kashmiri Yusmarg means “Meadow of Jesus”. This is because it was believed by some people that Jesus had come to Kashmir for a brief period.

Yusmarg is covered with snow kissed mountains and large amount of meadows. Located in the Pir Panjal range, the famous peaks of Yusmarg are the Sunset Peak and the Tatakooti Peak. After a small trek the road leads to a frozen lake in the Sang-e-Safed valley which is known to be covered in snow even in the summer.

Doodhpathri – The Next Big Thing! 

If Gulmarg and Pahalgham were a human couple, then Doodhpathri would definitely be their child. Having majestic sceneries of Gulmarg and noise cancelling, soul touching water falls of Pahalgham, Doodhpathri is an upcoming tourist destination giving full competition to big guns like Gulmarg and Pahalgham.

Sonamarg – Ah My Favorite

 

 

Did the title recommend it enough?

When you are excited to go to Ladakh and want the journey to begin a little sooner, Sonamarg enhances the experience for you by showing you the beauty it holds and the treasure of adventure you will encompass when you hit the Zojila road from Sonamarg.

Kupwara – The Captivator

Known now a days for all the wrong reasons Kupwara still tries to regain its status and change its popularity for a better reason. Like I mentioned before every corner of Kashmir is a tourist destination even if it is not as popular as others. Kupwara is the best example of this statement. Not only the District but also the people of Kupwara are known for their captivating beauty.

Leh/Ladakh/Kargil The Marijuana :p 

 

 

No explanation needed, the names itself mean Eat, Pray, Love. “One will teach you love, one will teach you, patience and the other will teach you, pain.”

For those who haven’t visited these places yet this sums the places up in the best possible way.

Kokernag/Verinag/ Achabal – Three Musketeers 

 

 

Situated in Anantnag, Kokernag, Achbal and Verinag are three mystical Mughal gardens which are the living examples of Mughal architecture at its best. Designed in the typical grand Mughal styled garden with its main attraction being the “naag” or the spring. The geometrical designs of the colourful gardens with running water on one side and rainbow like different variety of flowers on the other side is a treat to watch.

Kishtwar – The Small Valley 

Kishtwar is a little far from a conventional tourist destinations. It is mostly the kind of place enjoyed by the bizarre travelers who seek much more than just a selfie. It is not just a place to go to for ticking it off the bucket list.

Another masterpiece missed by the Kashmir tourism department. People who visit induce themselves with the aura of the bewitching landscapes here with its mighty proud hills, lush green forests riddled with pine and deodar forests.

The national park in Kishtwar is a dream come true place for all the wildlife and nature enthusiasts who want to become one with nature. 

Pulwama – The Crops Town 

The infamous “Rice Bowl of Kashmir”. Pulwama is a small marvel in Kashmir and is an ideal place to see Kashmir’s beauty glow at its best. This place has a massive range of tourist destinations too eager to be explored especially if you are a first time traveler. The weather, pleasant odor saffron fields, and malleable citizens. One cannot have enough of the saffron fields and the rich culture in Pulwama.

I am sure that google searches like ‘Kashmir tourism photos’ and ‘Kashmir tourism packages’ won’t be an option that you’ll consider from now on.

Come here and visit us.

Get lost to be discovered. 

Anantnag – The History Mystery Town 

Call it Anantnag or Islamabad, this land has been the home of every soul living there no matter what their religion. It consists of Masjid Baba Dawood Khaki, the Martand Temple, the Ashmuqam Shrine. History hasn’t really captured what all this spiritual place entailed. 

Final Thoughts 

There are many more honorable mentions which I would like to have in this list. They are places such as Drang, Dras, Poonch, Tangmarg, Manasbal, and even the city of Srinagar. Srinagar itself has some enchanting places like the Zabarwan Range, Badamwari, Tulip Garden, Hari Parbat, Tral and the Mughal Gardens to quench your adventurous thirst.

Are you excited to come over to Kashmir? Is it safe to visit Kashmir? Let me know in the comments below. My team will try to be your online guide 🙂 

Author: Rohwa Kitab

Also Read: 11 Amazing Must Taste Types of Biryani

Also Read: Kashmiri Wazwan: A Non Vegetarian Delight

Kashmiri Wazwan: A Non Vegetarian Delight

Kashmiri Wazwan: A Non Vegetarian Delight

Kashmiri Wazwan, the 36-course meal wonder that’s responsible for the peeping bellies of Kashmiris, and the answer to the oft-repeated question, ‘Why do Kashmiris love mutton so much?’

Yes, for all these Kashmiri Wazwan is guilty as charged!

Among other attraction of Kashmir such as beauty, the landscape, the kangri, pashmina, paper mache, the kahwa and the pheran, Kashmiri Wazwan is a world-renowned cuisine.

It is one of the most loved and cherished offering of the valley. Kashmiri Wazwan has mesmerized everyone who has ever tasted it. It is prepared and served by a team of professionals called waza in large copper pots, commonly called a deygh. Needless to say that it is prepared with a lot of hard work, skill, precision and lastly immense love.

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We Kashmiris are obsessed with our culture, we just love it. And we love our food. Why shouldn’t we? Such tasty food is seldom found in any other culture. 

Kashmiri Wazwan

Kashmiri Wazwan

The History of Kashmiri Wazwan

Kashmiris are predominantly non-vegetarians. The special banquet meal that all of us cherish is the Kashmiri Wazwan. It is prepared on special occasions like marriage ceremonies and even on professional and business events. 

Predominantly prepared with Mutton, you might find chicken and fish along with a multitude of vegetables and dry fruits as key ingredients. Some accounts suggest that Wazwan came to Kashmir in the 14th Century when a Mongol invaded India. 

Some historians say that this Mongol invader was Taimur. He was instrumental in making some skilled professionals like artisans, carpet weavers, pashmina experts and cooks migrate from Samarkand to Kashmir. This is why the culture of Kashmir resembles that of Kashmir to a great degree.

The main reason for the popularity of Kashmiri Wazwan in the valley was due to the influence of Persian and Central Asian immigrants to Kashmir. Even today a large portion of the population of Kashmir draws its roots back to Central Asia. 

Map of Silk Route

Map of Silk Route

   

The Preparation of Kashmiri Wazwan 

The word wazwan, although generally used as a name for the traditional Kashmiri 36-course cuisine, is actually a mixture of two separate words. Waz (pronounced as waze’) meaning ‘cook/chef’ and wan meaning ‘shop’. A team of Wazas comprises of a head chef, called the Wouste Waze along with a number of junior chefs.

The main ingredient of Kashmiri Wazwan is freshly-slaughtered lamb meat. Remember, it needs to be freshly slaughtered for the Wazwan to taste right. In many cases, you can’t just cook some dishes of Kashmiri Wazwan without the mutton being fresh.

If the people who are to be served are more in number like at weddings and similar occasion, Wazas start preparing the dishes a day before. Kashmiris cook Wazwan all night and spend their day preparing and eating Wazwan.  

Prepration of Kashmiri Wazwan

Preparation of Kashmiri Wazwan

All the spices used in preparing the Wazwan are processed at home by the Waza himself. Wazas are very specific about the brands of creme, yoghurt, ghee, butter, oil and rice they would use. They argue that in order to get the perfect taste of wazwan, the ingredients need to be extremely precise.

The mutton obtained is grouped on the basis of its origin. Different parts of the body of the animal taste different and each has to be differently cooked in wazwan. So, the waza groups the mutton and starts some initial preparations.

Some of the mutton is minced on a stone with the help of a wooden hammer while another lot is minced with a sharp knife on a wooden table. Once the mutton is prepared at a basic level, the wazas then go on to process it further. 

The Seven Important Dishes of Kashmiri Wazwan  

Although Kashmiri Wazwan comprises of 36, there are seven main dishes that stand out. Whenever you would order Kashmiri Wazwan in a restaurant, or even in a 5-star hotel, the serving will be based on these 7 dishes only.

These majestic 7 dishes are:

  • Tabakh Maaz
  • Koshur Kabab
  • Riste
  • Aab Goash
  • Rogan Josh 
  • Naate Yakhin  
  • Goshtabe  

Manner of Serving the Kashmiri Wazwan 

Kashmiri Wazwan is cooked to precision. It is not like any other food in the Indian Subcontinent which is deeply fried. Rather, Kashmiri Wazwan is cooked at a low flame for hours together. The general preference is that it is cooked in an open area and not in a kitchen, and personally, I find the taste of the Wazwan cooked in an open area to be very different from that is cooked in a restaurant’s kitchen.

Below are some short descriptions of the main dishes that are pre-placed on a Kashmiri Wazwan platter:

  • Seekh Kabab – A long tasty kababs roasted to perfection.
  • Tabak Maaz – Crispy ribs of lamb simmered in yoghurt till tender, then deep fried turning the fat hard and crunchy.
  • Meethi – Small servings of finely chopped mutton bits mixed with a spice containing dried methi leaves.
  • Daen – Medium shaped very soft full piece of mutton which is said to have been eaten by the Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) himself.
  • Chicken – There are two types of chicken dishes on the platter (trami). The much loved spicy red chicken made with the red sauce and the sweet and tender white chicken made in the white sauce.

We enjoy eating our food while sitting down on the floor in groups. You would need to sit in groups of 4 to enjoy this delicacy. Before eating there is a ritual of the washing of hands in a mobile basin called the Tash-t-naer, which is taken around by attendants, this ritual is called Dast-Paak.

Once, the platter full of these delights comes to you, you may get started with eating. Then one by one the waza brings in more dishes that are a cure for the growling tummy and a treat for the tasting buds.

These dishes are:

  • Rista – A juicy meatball prepared in a paprika-saffron-fennel spice gravy coloured with dyer’s alkanet.
  • Rogan Josh –  Tender lamb cooked deeply in spices, it is the patriarch of the meaty items.
  • Daniwal Korma – Exquisite lamb roasted with yoghurt, spices and onion puree, topped with coriander.
  • Mushroom – It is one of the vegetarian items of the trami cooked with onions and special Kashmiri spices.
  • Waze’ Palak and Baby Ristas – Spicy spinach cooked with small meatballs.
  • Martsewagun Korma – A spicy and hot version of the Rogan Josh.
  • Paneer – Soft pieces of juicy cheese squares cooked with a spicy tomato gravy.
  • Al – Strips or pieces of sweet pumpkins cooked to balance the spicy and sourness of the meaty items.
  • Lahab Kabab – Flattened sour and spicy mutton kababs cooked in yoghurt.
  • Quince Apple–Another vegetarian delight cooked to add some sour flavour to the platter, part of an elaborate variety.
  • Doudh Ras – A big lamb chunk cooked with a fennel-based spice mixture, cardamom and partially evaporated milk.
  • Yakhnee – The most loved and savoured gravy of the trami made of cooked milk with a perfect blend of salt and mint giving a perfect end to an exotic meal.
  • Goshtaba – A big meatball cooked in a spicy yoghurt gravy mixed with the yakhnee.

These are the main dishes that are served usually with the Kashmiri Wazwan, but there are some items that are a part of the grandeur but not served as frequently as the above-mentioned food items. These items are the shami kabab, nadru, dum aloo, tsok wangun (sour brinjal) etc. They are served on request.  Sometimes the trami is covered with a rumali roti to enjoy the vegetarian delights.

Over to You 

The old saying “the way to someone’s heart is through his stomach” is best suited when the food in question is the ever tempting Kashmiri Wazwan. The wholesome meal fills the stomach and the heart with lots of joy. Its taste remains in the mouth hours after relishing it and the impact remains forever.

This is the story of Kashmiri Wazwan. I am excited to know if you have ever tasted the Kashmiri Wazwan or if you would like to taste it in the future? Catch you in the comments below : )  

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