A cap of white, a shawl of colour: In quest of Kashmiriyat

The land of snow-capped mountains and a shawl of diverse colours, of gushing rivers and spicy Kehwa to warm the soul. Of handsome men and women in phirans of all hues, fabulous walnut wood furniture, resplendent carpets and sentinel-like temples, age old symbols of a glorious past.

This is the land where Kashmiriyat- a beautiful traditional of harmony, tolerance and acceptance still resides. In the resilience of its people, in the timeless beauty of the saffron and tulip fields, in the gorgeous wares that bespeak singular perfection, in the multi-course Wazwan, a feast fit for kings, offered with customary hospitality to guests. In the time-honoured tradition of its shikaras bobbing on majestic lakes, in the deliciousness of its fruit and water.

So, come, do join Heritage India for a trip that will showcase the myriad mysteries of Kashmir beyond the myth and the hype.

A trip that will explain how and why despite the presence of so many beautiful snow-capped destinations the world over, “if at all there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”


Temples of Kashmir

Kalhana writes about many grand stone temples built in Kashmir during the medieval period. Of course, most of those magnificent structures have either vanished or are in ruins. However, some like the Martand Temple at Anantanaag and Awantipswamin and Awantisvara Temples dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva respectivelyalong the Jammu-Srinagar Highway exist to this day. Eighth and ninth century temples, all 3 are enduring testimony to a rich and sophisticated tradition of sculpting and building.

History has it that The Martand Temple was dedicated to Surya or the Sun God by Lalitaditya in the 8th century CE on the Karewa (plateau) of Mattan, ten kms from Ananatnaag. With adramatic mountainous backdrop, the temple overlooks beautiful plains boasting of two contrasting physical features that contribute to itsgrandness, simplicity and unity of style.  This harmony of design has prompted art-historians to regard Martand as the inspiration for latter-day temples that came up in the valley.

Meanwhile, both theAwantipswamin and Awantisvara temples have a similar plan and layout, conceived as panchayatanashrines (central shrine with subsidiary-shrines at four corners). This pattern seems to be inspired by the Dasahavatara temple, at Deogarh, of the Gupta period.

Walnut wood furniture, & phiran: Shop till you drop:  We’ve seen this lovely woolen garment on various Kashmiri characters in films. While there are variations depending upon the community and gender of the person, a phiran, either in cotton or in wool, is a must-have in every handloom connoisseur’s wardrobe. The distinctive embroidery along the neckline, sleeves and pockets is elegant and memorable. Apart from the phiran, the bazaars are full of striking walnut wood furniture, luxurious in feel and impressive in range-from drawing room sets to studies and bars, rocking chairs, dining sets and more.

Weaves of joy:  If you’re visiting Kashmir, do consider picking up a carpet or two. The history of these woven carpets dates back to pre-Islamic times. However, the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abiddin who ruled for 50 years from 1420-1470 A.Dis regarded as the golden period for the arts. The Sultan invited carpet weavers from Central Asia, particularly from Iran, which was famed for its carpets. They trained Kashmiri crafts persons in the new techniques and designs of weaving.

Kashmiri carpets are of different types. To begin with there is theHamadaan whose design includes large boxes, Kashaan, IraniAshaan with trees at the centre, PardeKashaan with peacock in the corners and Diamond kashaan with trees and candles.


Tulip Festival: King of Spring

Three and a half decades after Yash Chopra’sSilsila first introduced the average Indian to gorgeousness of the tulip flower, the flower continues to have a vivid fan following. In case you’d like the chance to swoon over the fragrance and velvety texture of these lovely blooms in person, the Tulip festival organized each year in Srinagar by the Floriculture Department with over sixty varieties on proud display, is a must-attend.

Themany-splendoured Mughal Gardens: UNESCO Heritage site

Kashmir captivated the imagination of the Mughals like nothing else.

For nearly a century and a half four great Emperors came here annually, in stately progress across the PirPanjal, accompanied by large and lavish retinues, all the better to get away from the heat and dust of central India, particularly Delhi and Agra, the very seat of their power.

The Mughal engineers were instructed to mould these gardens into paradise complete with terraced garden layouts and a design that make a virtue of the water body: the results are the NishatBaag, Shalimar Baag, PariMahal, AchabalBaag, Verinag and ChasmaShahi.

Dal Lake: Srinagar’s Jewel

As mentioned earlier, the gardens were usually built around a natural water body. Unsurprisingly,a scenic view of the lake can be witnessed from the shoreline and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colourfulshikaras.

To be accurate, Dal means lake in Srinagar thus making the popular name Dal Lake a misnomer. The most visible image of Kashmir, it is the very essence of tourism and recreation andfittingly termed the Jewel in the crown of Kashmir.

Himalayan Cheese:

Like we said, this is a land with more layers than one would imagine. All you lovers of cheese out there, listen up! You may well love your Mozzarella and Brie but do make room for the cheese whipped up by the indigenous Gujjars and Bakarawals of the Himalayas?

Can’t believe it?! Well, as it happens, a Dutchman called Chris Zandee who owns the brand Himalayan Cheese in Pahalgam, has brought to life a business that benefits both local communities as well as nature. Supported by his wife Kamala, Zandee reached out to the Gujjar community for milk to produce all the cheese while decently compensating them. The result is a delectable local cheese Kalari apart from gauda.

To be enjoyed with a hot cup of chai after a long walk—who’s up for a taste?

As you finally make way for home, you won’t know which memory changed you the most: the breathtaking beauty of this land, the dignity of its people, the food and the shopping or perhaps the purple swathes of the centuries old saffron fields, a mainstay of local economy, spreading its fragrance far and wide. Much like the land that cradles it in its lap. As it does the Kashmiriyat we were looking for…

The end?No, only the beginning of a happier new era where tourism and travel go the distance in bridging gap.


Comments are closed.