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The "Unidentified" Gun of Kashmir

The "Unidentified" Gun of Kashmir

May 21 On 21st May, 1990 three gunmen entered inside the bedroom of the Mirwaiz e Kashmir, Moulvi Mohammed Farooq who had refused security, and shot him dead. Mirwaiz had...

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Bhaand Pather: The Fading Folk art Featured

Bhaand Pather is the traditional folk theatre form performed by the ‘Bhaands’, folk artists of Kashmir.

Historians believe that the Bhaands of the Mughal period successfully symbolized the aspirations of general public through different acts or Paethers (plays) which include Buhir-Paether, Dard-e-Paether and Raaz-e-Paether. It is also reported that Maharana Partap Singh sent his underground agents who would watch the Bhaands performing in the villages to collect information about his administration. The artists would raise issues of misgovernance, corruption and biased unjust policies that made the society unhappy. Bhaands also performed sad plays based on the immoral practice forced labour. This form of art flourished during the period of Sultan Zain ul Abdin (Budshah). To perform Paether, they use masks, and colourful costumes. Bhaands are quick witted people.

            Bhaands of Kashmir hail mostly from Anantnag district’s Akingam, Mohripora, Shangus, Achabal, Kokernag and Gondpora area.  Various sources say that more than 150 families from the Southern Kashmir district have been a part of this theater.

            Here in Akingam in Southern Kashmir’s Anantnag, the Bhaands called the Bhagats claim that their roots in the profession date back to the 11th century. Gull Mohammad Bhagat’s father, Mohammad Subhan Bhagat was a renowned director, writer and a performer to take the theatre and profession to glorification. He developed the traditional themes and pioneered the script into a largely improvised form.

            Gull Mohammed Bhagat was 9 years old when he performed for the first time in Tagore hall in 1967 in a play directed by his father titled “Yeti Cha Mumkin” (Is this too possible). Since then, Gull has performed in more than 37 plays and he has earned a great name as an actor of this folk art. However his career came under a limelight when he performed Angreiz Pather, and played the Shakespearian dramas. The show became a major hit and was played on several occasions from 2009-2012. They were also invited for William Shakespeare Festival in Europe.

            “When my father spoke, reality became magic, fiction became fact, and everyone listening was absorbed. The humorous stories he told and retold made us think and want to hear and see more. A wonderful impersonator, he could switch accents at will, sometimes sounding like a man born and raised in Srinagar, and sometimes like a south Kashmir man” Gull Mohammed Says.

            The art is witnessing a decline and now the artists have taken up alternatives to earn their livelihood. The artists who have been a part of parcel of the great Kashmir history are now left to the mercy of a few institutes. “The worst thing a father can hear from his child is, ‘you have done nothing in your life’ and we are pronounced as nothing-ers by our own children” Gull Mohammed says.

            The pattern of urban influence on folk art was intensified to outright destruction, as soon as the capitalist economic system had developed to the point that culture could be widely bought and sold. In West, It was around Victorian times that the common people of the Western world were offered music as a commodity which they could purchase, for example, in the phenomenon of Music Hall. The commercialism forces made sure that they persuaded people to the need to buy their commodity; and between these commercial pressures, and the migration of the old agrarian communities to become the new industrial ones, the process of folk creation became lost to the people. “Nobody is against us, but the local population and the Government has provided less assistance. The love for the art has shrinked due primarily due to the growing political uncertainty in Kashmir post 1989. We are against any culture or tradition, but the irony is that local culture is seen as coming from a lesser mother. We have to be at Par with the global trends, but not at the cost of drowning our own culture. Then there is the problem within us, we converted the art into something funny which actually was a social and a political message” he says.

            The newer generations have been persuaded with ever more accessible and desirable forms of the commodity of art. Gramophone records became LPs and then CDs; the Music Hall gave way to radio, followed by television. The marketplace kept expanding and it generated an industry dedicated to the creation of artistic product by a paid elite of performers. This is the diametric opposite of 'folk creation', because its motivating force is individual or corporate profit rather than communal need, and also because instead of reflecting the lives of the people, commercial art tends to shape those lives. But Gull says “One has to be at par with technology and global culture. We performed ‘Angrez pather’ in 2009 and it became a big hit, it was only because of the advent of technology. We were invited to Europe, all credits to technology that our shows were viewed through internet in Europe and all over the world.”

            Our folk art and traditions cannot be kept aloof from our remarkable history. They provide a vast scope for research. But the one terrible truth is there is no such agency which could take care of them. And they are in the meantime gradually fading away creating a vacuum in the local sphere of art and traditions. “It is a tough survival. Some cultural academies, NGOs individually support us but not the government. We have shows happening in a quarter, which obviously means very less money and the escalating inflation, all factors contribute to the decreasing interest of our coming generations in what we have been doing since ages.” Gull Mohammed states.

            Gull Mohammed says, “In the brewing political atmosphere, we do not perform. You see, when the family is disturbed, you want to resolve the fight. When the heart is at peace, only then one can sing and perform, the conditions outside do not matter. Our fates have darkened, the conditions outside have disturbed our hearts. There can be a hope, peace will mean to be in love with everything that is our own.”

The author is a freelance writer and a journalism graduate from Bangalore university and can be reached at

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                Like any summer, as the marriage season mounts Kashmir this summer, the traditional Kashmiri Wazwan cuisine is being served at marriage parties with enthusiasm these days and the local chefs, ‘Waza’, who specialize in cooking this largely mutton-dominant feast, are in great demand.

                Gull Mohammed, a famous chef from Islamabad says even though he had to politely say no to a lot of old customers is booked till May and then after Ramadan till November.

    "We need to ensure that the food is healthy, delicious and hygienic. The ground spices make the food hygienic. So we add special quality spices including saffron, chilies, cardamoms, fennel seeds, tamarind, turmeric, onions, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, black pepper and cumin seeds” Gull Mohammed Says.

                The arguably first study on the traditional Wazwaan titled “Wazwan the Kashmiri Cuisine - A Caloric Bomb” by Mushtaq Ahmad, Sakina Akhter, Shariq R. Masoodi, Departments of Medicine, Endocrinology, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, Srinagar argued “The highly cherished cuisine rich in protein, calories, iron and vitamin B12 can is very useful for, growing children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, apart from its potential benefit in catabolic states like cancer or burns”

                Mustard oil used to cook ‘Wazwaan’ is believed to be beneficial for cardiac health against the pre conceived notion. Mustard oil into your diet may help protect against heart disease, according to a study in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which help lower bad cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol. Improving your cholesterol balance also helps lower triglycerides, or blood fat levels, which can in turn prevent obesity, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, in addition to improving heart health.

                It is also proven that Mustard oil also works as an antibacterial agent when taken both internally and externally and as an antifungal when used externally. Internally, it can fight bacterial infections in the colon, intestines and other parts of the digestive tract. Externally, it may be able to treat both bacterial and fungal infections when applied directly to the skin. Researchers from the Armed Forces Institute, reporting in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated that a 1:1 mixture of honey and mustard oil is effective at killing dental bacteria and may be useful in root canal treatments. It even helps fight fungal and vaginal yeast infections by massaging your body with mustard oil due to the allyl isothocyanate found within it.

    Cardamom is used in alternative medicine to remove toxins. It has also been linked to anti-tumor activity.



    Capsicum, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, has been shown to increase circulation and contribute to weight loss.


    Cinnamon is popular in Chinese medicine for its antioxidant properties. It’s also been shown to enhance glucose sensitivity.


    Traditionally, cumin was added to foods to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Recently, cumin has been shown to have antibacterial qualities, especially associated with the digestive tract.


    Ginger is often recommended for nausea and an upset stomach, especially associated with pregnancy. It has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.

    Black pepper

    As common as we find it today, black pepper was one of the most sought-after and expensive spices during the spice trade era. It has been proved to lower blood lipids and inhibit cholesterol absorption.


    Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, “has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses,” according to a review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

    Certain herbs and spices used in the traditional Wazwaan cuisine curb inflammation in the body, which may give rise to heart disease and cancer. For example, antioxidants in cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as reductions in blood glucose concentrations in people with diabetes.

                Though Wazwan with all the health packed benefits should be preferred by one and all, it is not feasible in situations like chronic liver disease or chronic kidney diseases. But one can always argue that since this cuisine is used irregularly, hence it cannot be an issue of concern in managing of such non transmissible diseases. But knowing that ready-made Wazwan is now available on a fly, it is not uncommon to see Kashmiris taking Wazwan every now and then.

                The author is a lecturer and a columnist at ‘The Kashmiriyat’

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