Wednesday, September 30, 2009



                             ( THE RED  CHILLI  POWDER  FROM  KASHMIR)

Every Kashmiri is a compulsive buyer of large food stocks essentially rice, edible oil and spices. He buys in kilograms what his counterparts in the plains buy in grams. His dishes must have oil and colour. For colour, he makes liberal use of red chilli powder. For dishes like Rogan Josh, chilli Korma, Rista , chicken, mutton balls, Damalu, fish, beans, brinjals, cheese and a variety of other popular Kashmiri dishes, Kashmiris use red chilli powder as the colouring agent. The vibrant red chilli powder imparts a rich flavour and colour to the dishes. This red chilli powder that upsets his stomach frequently remains a spice of choice with him. No matter he is a Pandit or a Muslim, you shall find him popping up antacid tablets or Omperzole formulations habitually. I have yet to find a community buying medicines over the counter or doing self-medication on a scale the Kashmiris do. A Kashmiri needs one prescription to keep buying the stuff life long for similar symptoms. Kashmiris suffer from bleeding haemorrhoids, duodenal or peptic ulcers, hypertension and various other digestive ailments primarily because of the enormous quantity of spices they consume. Medical professionals and pharmaceutical traders do a roaring business in J&K thriving essentially on this trait of Kashmiris.

Every day we have been looking at the advertisements displaying the availability of original red powdered Kashmiri chilli; original stuff from the valley, pungent, aromatic, the ultimate spice, long, fleshy, seedless, deep red, natural food colouring agent and so on and so forth. In Kashmir, I have seen the cooks  ( Waza ) advising a bride or bridegroom’s family that red chilli powder be purchased from Gana’s shop in Maharaj Ganj or from Kalwal’s shop in Maharaja Bazar or from Haji Mohd Sharif Wani’s  Masala ( spices ) shop in Qaziyaar, ZainaKadal for the feast they propose to organise in their marriage function. Similarly in Jammu, cooks engaged by Pandits for marriage functions advise them to buy red chilli powder from Prasad Koul’s shop or from Jain Masala Shop at Pacci Dakki or from Ram Sham Traders in Subash Nagar, Jammu or from Kangan Spices, Udhaywala, Jammu. The cooks, the bride’s or bridegroom’s family and the guests continue to remain ignorant about the real story of much-hyped red chilli powder of Kashmir. Leading Kashmiri chilli powder producing units of the state know it better wherefrom to procure the raw material for this hyped Kashmiri’s red chilli powder.

Where are Kashmiri red chilli peppers grown to such an astronomical commercial scale so as to feed the entire market of the state and throw tons of surplus for pan India markets and also set aside some stock for the international market ?. Can anyone make me understand? I could see chillies grown on a commercial scale in Noor Bagh, Bugaam area of Chadura or Pampore in Kashmir or some villages in Anantnag and Baramulla districts that too by individual farmers who generally use seeds imported from Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. These seeds give a crop that has lesser seeds with fleshy red skin. Kashmir’s traditional red chilli crop is frequently hit by the pest. It is full of seeds with thin skin. This crop is insufficient even to cater to the demand of the consumers within the Kashmir valley. Add to this, there is no ' Save Kashmir Chillies ' type of campaign from the government's side so as to bring more area under its cultivation or supply quality seeds at doorsteps to farmers or train them in the pest management of this crop. Much of the red chilli powder sold in the pan country market as ‘Kashmiri Mirch’ is actually obtained from the chillies grown in Andhra ( Guntur ), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra and West Bengal. I have also seen red and fleshy chillies sold in various Mandis of Rajasthan especially Jaipur and Udaipur. 

 It may not be out of place to add that chillies are also used for controlling rheumatic disorders. Chillies are a good source of vitamin c. The botanical name of red chillies is capsicum annum . Kashmiris burn them in Kangris( fire pots ) to ward off evil spirits. Garlands of red chillies being dried under the sun on windows is a common scene to watch in Kashmir especially during the autumn season. Shopkeepers too have learnt the trick of the trade. They keep two or three gunny sacks of Kashmiri uncrushed chillies for customers to see but sell Andhra or Karnataka red chilli powder. Kashmiris are not the only chilli lovers. Chillies are grown and consumed in China, Spain, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan

 Pungency, initial colour and colour retention properties are closely related to the maturity of the crop. If the harvested chillies are not properly dried and protected from rains or pests, it may lose colour, glossiness and pungency. 
Sun-drying is the age-old traditional method employed for drying the chillies. Chillies are now dried in solar dryers. One such solar dryer has been set up in Pampore which ensures complete drying in 4- 5 days. 100 Kg of freshly plucked chillies gives just 25 Kg of chilli powder after drying. 

What poetry can be combined with chillies I am unable to make out. Let me conclude this story of Kashmiri chillies  with some lines from  Dina Nath Nadim’s  poem “Me chhum aash paghitch pagaah sholi duniya ” or  " I am hopeful of a sunlit tomorrow". In these lines, an expectant mother also hopes for a sunlit tomorrow. she also wants peace to prevail everywhere in this anti-war  poem.

‘Yinam daderei paninei,
“Vadhav chhai mubaarak”
Ba chhus potra maej 
Chhatra buen phikri taarukh.
Hemakh kochhi heyvin,
Az ba ma kenh ti praarakh.
...........Me chhum aash paghitch ,
             Pagaah sholi duniya .
Dapaan jung chhu vothvun ,
Paggah  gotchh na sapdun,
Pagaah gotchh na aassun.’

( Dina Nath Nadim )

(My friends and companions shall come,
wishing the welfare of the newborn.
I , a male child's mother, 
like a tall shady chinar,
shall teach them their due lesson.
Should they attempt to take the baby in their lap, 
I shall seek the Kochh Hevin amount,
and nothing shall stop me to seek this money.
Let us not talk about the war rumoured to be imminent.
How can this war be tomorrow?
It should never take place tomorrow.
I am hopeful of a sunlit tomorrow.)

(Avtar Mota)

Five decades back, the joint family system was prevalent in Kashmiri society . Crushed under this system, our mothers knew nothing beyond service or sacrifice for the family. This thumb rule applied to almost every poor Kashmiri woman be she  a Pandit or a Muslim. They led almost a similar lives. The only happiness to a woman at that point of time was the birth of a male child. This would elevate her status in the family. Kochh Heyvin was a custom practised by the Kashmiris. The close friends and relations who visited the family upon the birth of a child, gave some money to the mother after they held the newborn in their lap. This money was meant  for the mother to enable her to buy some clothes for the baby. My mother clarified to me once that in every household, the mother in law would immediately come after the guests were out to take away this Kochh Heyvin amount from her daughter in law as she had her own expenses connected with ceremonies to be performed for the baby.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Soan Wattan Posh Hue ,
Taav Hyot Yaavun Bahaaruk ,
Shaalmaruk Gosh Hue.
Navi Poshaakuk Bosh Hue ,
Pholvunay Pamposh Hue ,
Soan Wattan Posh Hue

( Dina Nath Naadim )

Our country is like a flower
Like the fresh spring , full of vitality
Or like the scenic Shalimaar garden ,
Or like the happiness displayed in Newly worn clothes ,
Or like a fresh lotus flower opening its petals ,
Our country is like a flower only.

( Translated from original Kashmiri by a k Mota )

Some days back I had to visit Handwara town for some official assignment . In fact i visited the area thrice during 2009. This area was previously known as UTTER MACHIPORA .You can go to Handwara via Sopore or through Baramulla . It is about 24 Kms from Baramulla and in all about 88 Kms from Srinagar city . Plenty of Tata sumo Vehicles ply on this route from Srinagar and the journey is covered in just two hours. The road from sopore or Baramulla is lined with apple trees on either sides with some Walnut trees in between .Handwara is a tehsil Head quarter with a degree college , old market , two Higher secondary schools and roughly 20 private schools . The town has a functional Municipal committee catering to a rough population of 10700 persons living in 1245 households at present .From the main Chowk in the Bazaar , roads branch off to Villgaam , Kupwara , Baramulla and Bhadrakaali shrine via wadipora village . Bhadrkaali shrine situated in Raajwar forest range is about 7 Kms from the town. Gushi Sharda is about 12 kms from this town . A temple dedicated to Goddess Sharda still exists in this village . In olden days people would assemble at Gushi Sharda to perform pilgrimage to SHARDA TEMPLE ( Presently in POK ). A beautiful stream known locally as POHRU, coming from Kupwara and kunangaam , passes through the town and finally joins jhelum ( Vitasta a) at Doabgaah ( Sangam ) near Baramulla.. I could not find the name of this stream in Nilmata Purana or Rajtaringini though about 60 streams and rivers of kashmir have been mentioned in Nilmat Purana. It is certainly not Hiranya mentioned in Nilmata Purana as this river is clearly the present Erin Nallah flowing into wular lake . It is also not river Vaitarani mentioned in Nilmata as some people in Shopian area still call the RembyAra as Vaitarani. It is also not Kanakvahini as this river as per Nilmata joins Sindhu to finally merge in Vitasta . It is somewhat close to Madhuri mentioned in Nilmat Purana ( Page 33 Volume I Translation by Dr Ved kumari Ghai ) since Madhuri is mentioned to be a river flowing through Machipur Pargana though many rivers of Nilmat Purana like GOTAMI , GOTRANADI, KUMUNARI, MADAVA, MALINI, MANDAKINI, SAMULA, SATASILA, SILAMA, SANDILI, SUGHANDHA, SUKHA, TRIKOTI and VISVAMITRA remain unidentified .

Presently the town is inhabited by warm hearted people known for their hospitality .Pocket full of fresh walnut kernel were given to me when I interacted with traders in main Bazaar .

“ Stay for a night at ours ”
said Mohd Ramzaan Chopaan a trader in Main Bazaar .

“ Visit Bhaderkaali Shrine since you have come all the way from srinagar . it is just 7 kms from my shop ”
said Ghulam Rasool Pandith another Trader .

“ Did you meet B L Pandita Advocate from this town? . He is like my father . He is presently supervising construction of the Shiv Mandir complex in Main Market .”
said Altaf Ahmed another shopkeeper

“Recently (in July 2009 ) a tragedy struck this area . A fierce high velocity windstorm damaged several houses , shops , cowsheds and injured about 40 people and killing a woman besides damaging crops . It all happened in a few minutes . Trees were uprooted and roofs were shattered by high velocity winds . ”
said Gulzar Ahmed a trader of the town to me

During my visit to the Bazaar I observed that Handwara must have been a very old trade centre . Many Punjabi Khatri traders had their shops in the main market. One lala Madan lal still runs his cloth shop in the main market. So do family members of Kishori Lal have their independent shops in the main bazaar. Many Sikhs from DeedarPora , HutchiPora , Badrah and Chogul have opened their shops in the main bazaar and are engaged in selling medicines , Dry fruits and general merchandise . Jujhar Singh and Mohinder Singh are two Prominent Dry fruit traders of the town from Sikh community . A Gurdwara also has been built in the town. The town has a beautiful and spacious mosque known as Jamia Masjid or Idd Gaah .

Since apples especially Delicious variety are brought to market in October , the bazaar was busy with sale and purchase of Walnut kernel. Pavements were full of men grading the kernel or drying it and packing it for jammu Market . I could also see villagers coming with bagfuls of this kernel for sale to traders in the market. Lala Madan lal told me that Mrs sheela Dhar and Shamboo Nath Raina ( Contractor ) were his customers and they still lived in Handwara . Sh Maharaj Krishen Pandita who is General secretary of the Shiv ji temple committee Handwara (along with Sh B L Pandita as the president ) informed that Pandits lived in Razdan Mohalla , Kaw Mohalla and Ganesh Mohalla in Handwara for centuries in peace and tranquility with their Muslim brothers. "We enjoy enormous goowill of our muslim brethern overhere" added Maharaj Krishen Pandita . Mr Wani president Beopaar Mandal Handwara felt happy to receive us in his office . A Kashmiri to the core he did not allow us to leave without having tea since we had visited him after EID. EID was celebrated in Kashmir on 21st September 2009 .Enjoy some views of the town captured by me on 22nd September 2009 and some previous visits to the town .

(Avtar Mota )
I may informed my readers that while taking photographs at Lal Chowk srinagar , my camera slipped from my hands and its LCD got damaged. I had to buy a New Camera . Between the period of my purchasing a New Camera and the return of the old camera from the repairs shop at Abi Guzar , i clicked some views with a borrowed Camera . The camera used at Handwara belonged to Mr M K Pandita who is based in Srinagar ( 09419064007). The camera had the year preset as 2007 instead of 2009. The date appearing in some photographs is 22.09.2007 wheras it should have been 22.09.2009 when the views were actually captured by me at Handwara . In fact we opened a branch on 22.09.2009 at Handwara and i had to visit the area in this connection only.I regret the error.



I have already conveyed much about river lidder flowing through Pahalgham valley or popularly known as Valley of Shephards .I have also posted much about SUN TEMPLE on MARTAND Plateau ( Karewa )built by King Lalitaditya of kashmir . 

While driving to Pahalgham by road , one notices a small barrage just 6 Kms after The Ziyarat of AISHMUQAM near village Ganeshpora . Water from Lidder is diverted to a canal here only. 

 Irrigated by Martand canal ,  the oldest canal in Kashmir,  the  Martand Karewa ( Plateau ) in south Kashmir produces , Vegetables , Paddy , Flowers and fruits , Almonds and Walnuts .  This canal moves through Village Aishmuqam , Silligam , salia and Seer and goes up the adjoining hills to irrigate the entire Khoveripora and Dachhinipora area around Mattan or MARTAND. In a way entire Martand plateau is irrigated by this canal only. The canal is reported to have been built during the rule of King Lalitaditya of Kashmir .

Trusting the irrigation potential of the canal and the open sunshine of the karewa , Budshah encouraged people on this plateau to raise sugarcane crop something unheard in Kashmir  .  As per Historian Shrivara ,  the wise king made a daring attempt to produce sugar in Kashmir  for the first time. The crop proved economically unviable and the idea had to be shelved .
He also imported many fruit grafts from central Asia and got them planted on this Plateau. Rice , Vegetables , Fruits and and Oats are produced from this Plateau as a result of this canal . As a result of this well laid out irrigation system on this arid Plateau , Sikh rulers of Kashmir settled sikhs from Frontier area in Ranbirpora and Chathi Singh Pora on this Plateau. .So did Afghans settle some Pathan families in Village Wantrag on this plateau. These Pathans still speak PUSHTO (their mother tongue) apart from Kashmiri . During my posting at Mattan , i had given loans to some Pathan families and they proved quite good in repayments .Both these communities continue to live in this area and are engaged in fruit growing and rice cultivation .This gravity based canal irrrigates about 9.5 thousand Hectares of land around Martand plateau.lately govt of J&K has planned to irrigate more areas of Ananatnag district through Upgradation of this canal at an estimated cost of 200 crores . The lift irrigation schemes of Brah , Hapatnaar , Ainoo and Vailnagbal are a part of this project.

Enjoy the views of MARTAND CANAL as it moves from Ganeshpora and Aishmuqam Ziyarat area .
Aadunuk Badaam Hue,
Dal Bathis Peuth Shaam Hue,
Gaam Peuth Yechkaali Vothumut Treil Heith Zun Maam Hue,
Assi wattan Rut Gaakm Hue.
( Dina Nath Naadim )

Like the fresh Almond fruit of the season ,
Like an evening on the banks of Dal lake ,
Like the maternal uncle , after long time ,bringing Treil fruit
from his village Orchard ,
Our country is like a beautiful Village .
( Autar Mota  )
( Treil is Small late Autumn fruit resembling an Apple. It is juicy and tastes like an apple. )

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Gujjars and Bakerwals have statrted their annual down movement from Hilly pastures . Gujjars sell milk and rear cows or Buffalloes and Bakerwals rear goats and sheep to be sold to Butchers in cities or towns through a network of middlemen known locally as KOTHDAARS . Both are nomadic tribes . Presently they are moving to Plains of punjab and Jammu to save their stock from ensuing winter snow . we have regular trafic jams in Kashmir as they now move along highways . Previously they used to travel through tough mountain passes but now they camp on highways and move close to city or towns . O ! what a terrible and ferrocious dogs they keep with them to ward of thieves who might attempt their hands on the stock they carry with them.Though some gujjars and bakerwals have left this tough life and settled in cities and given education to their children yet most of them continue to stick to this age old hard existence .

Na Jaana Aaj Taq kyaa Shai Khushi Hai
Hamaari Zindgi Bhi Zindgi Hai.

( Firaq Gorakhpuri )

Till this day we are unknown to the world of happiness
Pity ! Is this existence worth calling a living ?

( english translation from Original urdu by a k mota )