Friday, November 13, 2015




Rice has given comfort and trouble to kashmiris . If we look back just 100 years , we find that entire activity in Kashmir , revolved around cultivation , Harvesting , storing, Husking , buying , selling and finally consumption of rice. Rice crop was the major source of revenue for the state . Failure of this crop had disastrous effect not only on poor farmers but also on the population in general and revenues of the State in particular. Many kashmiris have migrated out from valley on account of rice crop failure . For kashmiris, Rice used to be the only staple food for many centuries . Generally , kashmiris ( who could afford ) , consumed white rice ( rich in starch ) grown locally and known as “Koshur Tomull “ as distinguished from the rice supplied by Government run stores known as “ Punjaaeib Tomul “ . The rice supplied by Government stores kept kashmiris engaged and busy . Quite often they would keep enquiring ..

“ Kyaa sa Gaatus trovukhaa tomull ?”

“ Have the Government rice supplies arrived for consumers ?”

I vividly remember how cooked rice helped a troubled husband (who also happened to be a mother's son ) find a way out from the Mother in law daughter in law wars of attrition in the joint families Known in kashmiri language “Haaeshi Noeshi Nyaay “.

The helpless man trapped in this feud would sometimes throw away his cooked rice plate ( Thhaal for kashmiri Pandits ) or bowl ( Toor for a kashmiri Muslim) , which he was about to eat .It went like a flying saucer and the man would leave hungry from the house silencing the warring parties( His mother and wife ) momentarily.

On festivities , Kashmiris cook and distribute Tahar ( rice cooked with a a little turmeric powder and finally mixed with heated edible oil and a pinch of salt). Kashmiri Halwai shopkeepers  use rice flour for making Nadder Monjji and Monjji Gooel.

Kashmiri Pandits in particular use rice flour (powdered Rice ) for making a Dosa ( South Indian ) Type Chapaati ( thin and crisp ), known as Tchheir Tcho’tt. White rice powder is also used by kashmiri Pandits in Almost all religious ceremonies and rituals like Birth of a child, Mekhla , Grih Pravesh , Marriage , Birth Day Pooja ,Shivratri Pooja , Making of a Vyoog ( Rangoli ) and almost all rituals connected with Death.

A plateful or a bowl of cooked rice was treated as luck. I quote popular kashmiri phrases.. 

"Hataa Ma dhi sheeirmitiss Ba'taaah Thhaa'llus Dhakaa"

"Don't be foolish and throw away the plateful of cooked rice put before you "

" Tche Aaiy ta Bataah"

" May you live long and have food ( cooked rice )to eat."

Not many of us know that till recent past , a special medicinal drink was also fermented in kashmiri households from rice water . Known as KAA’NZ, it was consumed as All Cure Drink. Our Younger Generation does not know what KAA'NZ was. From our elders, i have learnt its popularity and its preparation technique in kashmiri Households . 
Our women had developed a skill in preparing KAA'NZ. A somewhat fermentation process was involved in making of KAA'NZ . It was prepared in earthen pots/ Pitchers . Even Potters would bake special earthen Pots/ Pitchers for KAA'NZ which would be sold aS kaa'nz Noa'tt. In our household , Rice was washed thoroughly and the all this water was collected in a Kaaenz Noa'tt or earthen Pitcher . Once the pitcher was full, a small quantity of Jaavendha ( Ajwain ),Muth ( Pulse grown locally ), saunf seeds , Kala Zeera and Pudeena Powder etc. would be added to it . It was then sealed and kept untouched for exactly forty days on rooftops under sunshine for proper fermentation. Once fermented properly , it was consumed with food . For consumption , fermented KAA'NZ was boiled every time .
Many Vitamins, especially from the B Complex series, present in the dust of rice shell would be retained in this mixture . It was quite safe as neither chemical fertilizers were used for growing Paddy nor was rice husked ,shelled and polished in Modern Machines . Paddy was husked and Shelled in homes by our womenfolk using stone mortar and a large wooden pestle known as ' KUNZ' AND 'MUHUL’ respectively. A stone mortar (KUNZ ) was always visible in every house just in the courtyard while Paddy and rice were stored in Big Earthen Pitchers ( approximately 6 feet in height ) called Maa'ett.

KAA'NZ was taken as a medicine. Many Hakeems ( Unani Medicine Practitioners ) in srinagar recomended KAA'NZ as a general tonic to their patients . Although KAA'NZ  had bitter acidic taste  , it had a pleasant smell .Some trained practitioners of Allopathic system of medicine also recommended it as a Tonic rich in B complex Vitamins . In a kashmiri family , it was the traditional and age old treatment against Jaundice ( Kaambal ).In small quantity, Kaa'nz was also added to some cooked vegetables or fish the way we add Tamarind paste currently.

The practice of consuming fermented rice water is also prevalent in many countries of south East Asia and China . Chinese believe it to be good medicine for falling hair , premature Graying of hair and Heart ailments .

I am informed by some elderly relations that whenever someone complained of pain in legs or joints , a common suggestion would come from all quarters , 

" Diss  kaa'nz Gilaasaa "

" Give him a Glass of fermented rice water "

Even before the arrival of Machine husked polished rice , kashmiris had started identifying KAAN'Z with poverty and backwardness . As society got exposed to Modern living, Its consumption was dispensed with . 

( Autar Mota )

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