Wednesday, April 29, 2015



( Photo Autar Mota  )

The springtime vegetables of  kashmir are Haak, Vostaa Haak , Kaanul Haak , Spinach (Paalak) , Lotus Stems (Nadru ), and small red Carrots  with green leaves . Summer time vegetables grown in kashmir are cauliflower , cabbage , Sonchal ,Peas , Tomatoes, Potatoes , Knol Khol( Monji)  , Lady finger , Bitter Melon (Karela) ,  Capsicum , Brinjals , Pumpkin , Bottle Gourds, White Beans (Razmaah Hemba ), onions, followed by  Turnips , Carrots  , Tola Haak, Kaatchha Haak in Autumn and early winter season.

I also add a brief  story on insects of kashmir to this photographs ...

Some insects of Kashmir that i remember are....

Insects that attack / irritate human beings..

Maettar Maetchh...Sandflies.
Pish..Fleas .
Tcharr..Bed Bugs
Tullur.. Wasp
Zoavv..... Human Body louse.
Kanahepeinn'....... Millepede
(I also remember khar and watteil )

Insects that attack plant kingdom and grains etc.

Daraz....Cabbage worm( family caterpillar )
Tomalla kraeel......Rice Weevil.
Aaett Kraeel......Flour Beetles.
Rice larvae Moth.......Tomalla Khodda Kyom..
Seaayii.....Aphid ( Plant lice )
Pana-Pompur ….. Butterfly
kaagaz kyom ….. silver fish
Bumsin …… Earthworm

(Autar Mota )

I would  say wasp for Toffa Tulur or stinging bee. Honey bee also gives a   sting but it  dies after one sting while wasp is aggressive and capable of multiple stings. Human beings are more troubled by wasp sting .
I am not convinced to call earthworm an insect.Earthworm could be defined as a kind of animal called an Annelid.
Since butterfly evolves from a moth and a moth is an insect, i am convinced to call butterfly an insect.

Daraz and Seiaayii that is commonly seen in kashmir's Haak and Monji leaves .Darz belongs to a family of Caterpillars . cabbage worm attacks knol khol ( Monjji )leaves , collards ( Haak ), cabbage leaves ,turnip leaves , cauliflower leaves . It is a caterpillar and also known as cabbage butterfly.It is capable of doing enough damage to the green vegetable leaves .

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Monday, April 27, 2015


 I give local ( KASHMIRI ) names of some common trees found in  the Kashmir valley.


Although poplar varieties range in height and breadth, most share some traits that make them easy to recognize. For example, you can often distinguish a poplar by its leaves that are often heart-shaped and rimmed with tiny teeth. Brilliant green in summer, they glow gold in autumn

 Poplar roots can crumble house foundations. Poplar trees don’t live long. A poplar tree can live up to a maximum of fifty years even under proper care. A poplar tree can rise to 150 feet in height with a trunk diameter of up to 6 feet. Poplars need fertile soil, acidic or neutral, as well as direct sun and sufficient water to keep their roots moist. Poplar trees thrive in warm weather and need moist to wet soil. There are about 35 varieties of Poplar trees in the world.

Tree grooves outside the forest range in the Kashmir valley comprise more than ninety per cent of poplars and willows. In the Kashmiri language, Poplar ( Safeda) is known as Fraes’t. “ Yohuy chhukh fraes’t hue “ is a common satire used in the Kashmiri language which means “you are simply tall without much utility “. This tree has now found much utility in the cricket bat, fruit packaging and plyboard industry. Accordingly, it is now cultivated commercially. Before that, it was used by poor people for house building in the Kashmir valley.

Poplars are the fastest growing tree species of Kashmir. The commercial plantation of this tree is considered as a cash crop. Apart from revenue generation, This tree has also been found useful in cleaning the environment by carbon sequestration and phytoremediation. It is also useful in ecological wastewater treatment systems, streambank stabilisation, soil building, biofiltration, soil erosion control, etc.  

  In Kashmir, this tree grows along canals and ponds or wetlands and needs low water table for its growth. Poplar tree in Kashmir looks brilliant green in summer season and during the autumn season, its leaves turn yellow and start falling to the ground. The tree looks like a naked Faquir during the winter season.

 In Kashmir, Srinagar- Baramulla road had rows tall poplar trees on both sides that added grace and grandeur to this highway. So are poplars seen along Srinagar -Anantnaag road with a peak concentration near Bijbihara town in Kashmir. This peak concentration patch of poplars on the highway looks like a green tunnel. The soft cotton-like white fluff of poplar seed that floats in the air during late spring / early summer season in Kashmir, has been proving a health hazard lately.  Some experts believe that the poplar tree  'pollen' has been  aggravating respiratory illness in the Kashmir valley. 

                                        ( Poplars forming a Green Tunnel  Photo  Autar Mota )

                                     (  Fresh Poplar Plantation  Near Bibihara Kashmir Photo Autar Mota )                                              


The Willow tree is believed to have existed in the Kashmir valley since ancient times. However, on the suggestion of Walter R. Lawrence ( who land bandobast in the state ) and J.C. Macdonell ( head of the forest department ), Maharaja Partap Singh ordered large scale plantation of the tree in the entire length and breadth of the Kashmir valley during the 19th century. The massive plantation of willow and poplar trees in and around the Wular lake by the J&K government during the twentieth century proved counterproductive. It dried up a major part of the lake and reduced the lake surface considerably. Walter R.  Lawrence,  in his book, 'The Valley of Kashmir', writes:- 

“The Veer, or willow, grows in every village of Kashmir where there is water or moisture, and its reproduction is very simple. There is an enormous waste of withies every year, as the young wands are cut down for fodder and after being stripped of their leaves are burnt for fuel. I have suggested that a Kashmiri should be sent to England to learn the basket industry. There is ample material in the valley to supply the whole of India with excellent baskets and chairs." 

 The willow is known as Veer in the Kashmiri language. Veer is a common tree in Kashmir's countryside. A cluster of willows, known as Veer-vaar in Kashmiri is a common sight near streams and brooks. making a heavy demand on water, it grows along rivers, brooks and streams and lakes in the Kashmir valley. It is used as an ideal timber while the graded variety of the willow is used for making cricket bats. This Cricket bat industry is localized in Sangam-Halamulla village near Bijbihara town. 

Apart from fuel, willow leaves are also used as animal fodder. dried willow leaves are stored on trees and used as animal fodder during the winter season in the Kashmir valley. These dried willow leaves are known as Baatchhi in Kashmir.

In every marriage function where cooks were engaged, willow stock was purchased months before the actual marriage date. It was cut to the proper size so that it could be burnt easily by the Kashmiri cooks in the open hearth or furnace known as Wura in Kashmiri. 

 The willow twigs or shoots are also used for Kangris, baskets, chairs and other useful domestic items. Many artisans of Kashmir are engaged in the manufacture of these willow items that are marketed within and outside the state. Fresh willow twigs were also used as Miswaakh (teeth cleaning brush ) in the Kashmir valley.

As timber, willow was also supplied through government depots to the public. It was much sought-after firewood at the government-run timber depots in the Kashmir valley.

                            ( Willows near sindh  stream in Prang Ganderbal  Photo Autar Mota  )
                                    ( Items made from  treated willow shoots  on display  Photo Autar Mota )


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Deodar ( Cedrus Deodara ) or Kashmir Cedar is also known as Divdhor in Kashmiri. Though a high altitude tree, Deodars also grow in the low valleys. I have seen some Deodar trees near Harwan as well. Its wood is ideal for making furniture, boats, houseboats, bridges, railway tracks, doors and window frames, etc. This is perhaps the best of timber that is produced in the state of Jammu And Kashmir in terms of utility and durability. Paddy husking mortars or Kunz was also made from this wood. Deodar wood is quite expensive and can withstand hot, moist and various other climatic conditions. It is a choice wood for building construction. Resin is also extracted from the roots of this tree that has much commercial utility. At some point of time, Deodars must have been available in every part of the Kashmir valley. I have found that every old building or shrine in the valley has plenty of Deodar wood used in its construction. Doda district, Jammu used to be a rich source of Deodar wood. Most of us must have seen Deodar wood sleepers being moved to Jammu ( Akhnoor ) from Doda, Bhaderwah and Kishtwar using Chenab river as the mode of transportation. I am told that before 1947, deodars from Jammu forests were transported to Wazirpur ( now in Pakistan Punjab ) through the waters of Chenab river.

Hindus believe that forests full of Deodar trees or Devadāru trees are the abodes of the ancient sages who were devoted to Lord Shiva.

                                                ( Deodar Tree source Wikipedia )



 The Himalayan blue pine is known as Kaayur or Yaari- Kul in Kashmiri. This is again a high altitude tree. It grows in the upper forests and this wood is used for making doors, windows and frames and furniture in the Kashmir valley. This evergreen tree can grow up to a height of 150 feet. It has a thick grey-brown bark. Kaayur wood is a poor man’s Deodar. A poor variety of this wood is also used as timber and its charcoal is also used in Kangris. This tree also gives a white resin and the portion with resin is known as Laesh ( in Kashmir ) that burns instantly. As a timber, Kaayur was also supplied through the government-run depots to consumers in the Kashmir valley. There is a popular Kashmiri saying ” Kaashur yaar guv kaayur naar “ or ' The burning charcoal of the kaayur timber is a friend of the Kashmiri' .Another Kashmiri saying  ‘Vunn tchein yaarein daai sundh sugg ’ or  ‘'The jungle pines are irrigated by god only' makes this tree closer to Kashmiri life.

 This wood decays easily on contact with the soil. Himalayan pines are also a commercial source of the turpentine and tar.


                                                ( Pine forest Source Wikipedia  )
                                                 (  Pine cones  photo by Autar mota  )



Nettle Tree is known as Bremiji in Kashmiri. A tree that grew from a small shrub to a magnificent shady tree in graveyards and shrines of Kashmir is facing extinction.

Bremjj Happens to be amongst some oldest trees world over. Known as Nettle tree outside Kashmir, it grows in many areas of Asia, Europe and the US. It also grows in Australia and some African countries.

 A cool shady tree that was seen near graveyards or Ziyarats of saints in Kashmir, whereat, as per local belief, it was planted by the Syeds from central Asia followed by Sufi saints. They possibly believed in providing some cool shade to those who lay buried.
In 2010, I could locate a few Bremiji trees in Malla -khah graveyard of the city near Rainawari and just one inside the Budshah's tomb in the downtown area of Srinagar city. May be more are still there in the villages that I could not check. I can only say about the city where it is almost extinct.

The fruit of Bremiji, reportedly sweet to taste, invited a variety of birds to this tree during summers. In Kashmir, the tree would flower in mid-April with seeds ripening in mid-October. The size of the Kashmiri nettle tree is comparatively small. Normally it grows to a height of maximum 10 to 12 feet from the ground and from top it spreads like an umbrella. The fruit is also smaller than the size of a cherry. The flowers are hermaphrodite( having both male and female organs ) and are pollinated by bees. Its leaves remain bright green in summer season and turn yellow in autumn before they fade away for winter. A very slow growth spread over many years changes a small shrub into a tall shady Bremiji tree. The tree can also grow in dry soil.

 Many poets from Kashmir have used this tree symbolically in their poems. I came across its mention in a Gazal of the noted Kashmiri poet Rafiq Raaz. This Gazal was written during the dark days of militancy in Kashmir. I quote four lines as under:-

Dhoo’r hu’thh Bremiji kullis aayii zabaan
 Natcheini laejji la’sha hubba shab chhu siyaah .
 Paan gotchh la’bana yunaai gham chhu yutuaai 
 Taaf gotchh raah e khudaa shab chhu siyaah 
 ( Rafiq Raaz )

(Faraway, that nettle tree has started to converse now,
 There, those dead bodies too are up and dancing.
 Lord! help us to trace out our own self now,
 Sunshine this way Lord, these nights are pitch dark now)



The Himalayan Silver Fir is known as Budul in Kashmiri. This wood is preferred by carpenters as it is easier to work on. It has almost no knots. Budul trees are found in the higher altitude forests of Kashmir and as a timber, Budul was also supplied through government-run depots in the Kashmir Valley. This was an ideal wood to be used for beams in building construction in Kashmir.

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Elm is known as Brenn in Kashmiri. It is a tall tree that grows in higher altitudes not less than 7000 feet. The tree could be massive to look at. There is a popular Kashmiri saying “Yohaai chhukh brenn mondd hue “ or " you look like a log of Elm tree " meaning hard and incapable of being cut or sliced for utility. It was used for making heavy doors of shrines and Ziyarats in the Kashmir valley. It was also used for making carts and window frames. Elm forests are to be seen in higher reaches around Lolaab valley in Kashmir. Hindus in Kashmir revered this tree and identified it with Lord Ganesha.

(8 )


Birch is known as Burza ( Bojh Patra ) in Kashmiri. A quite familiar tree in Kashmir as its bark was extensively used for writing books, manuscripts and making roofs of shrines and buildings. A thick layer of birch bark was finally covered with thick mud to give the final finish to mud roofed buildings in Kashmir. Hindus also used this bark in various religious ceremonies and rituals.Burza was also close to Kashmiri culture and life.Birch is a deciduous tree that has papery plates of bark. The wood is quite hard. In Kashmir, Silver Birch trees are found at a height of 9000 feet and above from sea level generally near meadows.

                                                        ( Birch tree Bark source Wikipedia )


False Witch Hazel is Hatab in Kashmiri. It used to be the most preferred and ideal timber in Kashmiri kitchen. It is heavy and was also known as Ironwood that came from shrubs and small trees. It was also supplied through the government-run timber depots in the Kashmir valley. The twigs of this tree were used in kangri making. The Muhul ( Kashmiri ) or pestle that was used in manual husking of rice in homes was made from Hatab while the husking mortar or the Kunz ( Kashmiri ) was made from Deodar wood. This wood was also used for making ladles in Kashmir. This timber gives a little hard variety of charcoal which was ideal for Kangris. This tree grows in coniferous forests of Poonch, Bani, Kupwara, Pahalghaam, Badherwah and Kishtwar. The tree appears to be extinct in the Kashmir valley at the moment.

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 Mesquite tree or Babool is known as Kikkar- kul in Kashmiri. Kashmiri Kikkar is also closer to the Acacia Nilotica family of trees.The thorny Kikkar tree is seen in many areas of Kashmir. I saw so many kikkar trees in Bijbihara and Kulgam. Unlike the desert Babool, the wood of the Kashmiri Kikkar tree is soft and easy to work upon. It was known as a poor man’s building material and would be mostly used for beams. The leaves of this tree are reported to be having medicinal uses.

           (11 )


 The cypress is known as Sarva -Kul in Kashmiri. It is a coniferous, graceful and ornamental tree that can grow to a height of 50 to 60 feet in the Kashmir valley. It is planted in gardens and parks and even in private lawns. The seed shedding of this tree is done by the dark brown cones that grow on this tree. Kashmir cypress holds its foliage year-round.

                                 ( Kashmirian Cypress tree source Wikipedia )


  The sweet chestnut is known as Punjeib Goar ( Singada ) in Kashmiri. I have seen these trees in Daara near Harwan, Srinagar and also near Dachhigaam wild sanctuary. The fruit of this tree has a dark brown shell and a soft sweet mass inside it. This fruit is known in Kashmir as Punjeib Gour or a chestnut from Punjab. The valley also has a wild variety of this fruit known as the horse chestnut or Haan-doon . The outer shell of the horse chestnut fruit is light brown and is reported to be toxic and not fit for human consumption. From all accounts, it is presumed that the sweet chestnut was brought to Kashmir for plantation during the rule of Dogras may be in the late 19th century. The sweet chestnuts are available in Srinagar during the late October and early November and are consumed after roasting them on charcoal.


                                                       ( Sweet chestnuts on a tree source Wikipedia )


The Mulberry tree is known as Tuel- Kul in Kashmiri. This tree is seen in every part of Kashmir up to an altitude of 7000 feet. The leaves of this tree are ideal food for silkworms and hence the tree is quite important in the silk industry. It is a protected tree. Mulberry tree twigs are also used by Kashmiri Pandits in some religious rituals and ceremonies. The mulberry wood is also used for the doors and agricultural implements like a plough. This wood is strong, elastic and comes up with a clean finish. After seasoning, it can be turned and carved that makes it ideal for making hockey sticks, badminton or tennis rackets.

 As per a rough estimate, there are about 7 lakh mulberry trees in J&K out of which more than 3 lakhs are in the Kashmir valley and the remaining in other parts of Jammu division. The tree has become pivotal and crucial for sericulture development in J&K.
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Chinar tree is known as Booen in Kashmiri. The chinar is a majestic tree that grows to a height of 100 feet from the ground and its girth could go up to 40 feet. The Chinar is a cool, shady and friendly tree that is seen everywhere in the Kashmir valley up to an altitude of 8000 feet from the sea level. Its botanical name is Platanus orientalis. It is found everywhere in Kashmir and even inside lakes ( Char Chinar near and Sona Lenk near Hazrat Bal in Dal lake, in river Jhelum ( near Shadipora Sangam ), outside shrines and inside all Mughal gardens of Kashmir. 

 A deciduous tree, Chinar traces its origin to Greece. The tree is at its most elegance and exuberance during autumn. In Autumn season, Chinars spread a golden hue all ver in the Kashmir valley. The Autumn Chinar remains a great attraction for lovers natural beauty of the Kashmir valley. During the summer season, this majestic tree wears green elegance and is home to many birds. The Kashmiris love to sleep under its cool shade during the hot summer days.

So close is this tree to the life and culture of Kashmir, that it finds symbolic mention in the Kashmiri poetry as well. Even the 14th-century saint poetess Lal Ded has used it. I quote Lal Ded:-

 “Kentchun roenni tchheyi shihij booen 
 Neruv neibur ta shuhul karuv”

“For some people, the wives prove like the grand Chinar tree ,
 Be near them and you feel the comfort of their  cool shade ”

The Sikh scriptures mention that Guru Nanak Dev Ji addressed Brahmins of Mattan under a tall and shady Chinar tree at Martand Teertha in Kashmir. Many references convey that Chinar, known as Booen in Kashmiri has been an ancient tree in the Kashmir valley that was widely revered as Goddess Bhawani. It was also called Bhawani. Some Sanskrit scholars are of the view that the ancient name this tree has been Bhuvan Vahini. The Kashmiri Pandits planted this tree with reverence in many temples  and  Shakti-Peeths including Kheer Bhawani in Tulamula. Many elders have confirmed the presence of this majestic tree in Sharda Temple ( now in POK ) before 1947. The Chinar trees have also been planted in Devi Angan just below the Sharika Temple in Hari Parbat area of the Srinagar city. A Chinar tree has also been planted outside the Sharika Temple gate on the hillock. Devi shrines of Tekar (Kupwara ), Kulwagishori (Kulgam), Akingaam ( Anantnag ) , Zeashta Devi ( Zeethyaar in Srinagar ) ,  Devibal-Nagbal (Anantnag)  and many more have Chinar trees.

 In his book Rajtaringani, Kalhana makes mentin of the Vata tree. The description of the Vata tree mentioned by Kalhana matches a Booen.  He again mentions some ancient trees  on the edges of rivers and canals to which Nishadas ( boatmen ) were fastening their boats.The name Chinar is a late adaptation, maybe around late fourteenth century when the Muslim started coming to Kashmir from Central Asia or Iran where it was already known by this name. Some historians believe that when Mughals saw this tree in Kashmir, they named it Chinar as they had already seen this tree in Central Asia. Mughals made good efforts for the propagation of this tree planting saplings in gardens and parks of Kashmir.

 The Muslim Sufi saints also planted saplings of this tree near Ziyarats and shrines. The Kashmiris credit Sultan zain ul Abdin for extending and encouraging plantation of Chinar trees in all the areas of the Kashmir valley during his rule. Researchers have found a Chinar tree, which could be the oldest in Asia, in Chittergam Chadura village in Budgam district of Central Kashmir. The tree is believed to have been planted by Hazrat Syed Qasim Sahib in 1374 A.D.

In Kashmir, many saints, Sufis, Sadhus people have used the large hollow trunk  ( Booeni Goff ) of the Chinar tree to perform meditation. This has added to the sacredness of the tree. At the confluence of rivers Sindh and Vitasta) near Shadipur in Kashmir known as `Prayag', a Chinar tree is growing for many centuries. It is surrounded by water on all sides. The Kashmiri Pandits call it ‘Prayaagitch Booen ’. Before 1990, they would come to this place for immersion of the ashes (remains) of the dead.


                                         ( Chinar Trees on shimla Ridge Photo Avtar Mota )
                                ( Majestic Chinar Trees inside Harwan Garden of Kashmir Photo Avtar Mota )

The Chinar tree can also grow in plains but does not acquire the height and girth that it has in Kashmir. Long back, Dr L S Negi, the then, Director of Agriculture cum Horticulture ( H. P. ), planted two Chinar trees on the Ridge in Shimla. Both the trees have grown and look majestic now. I saw them on my visit to Shimla. These Chinars are five in number. The large one is inside the ridge park while the other is just outside it. Two more medium-sized are also inside the park while another small sapling is growing fast near the statue of Dr Y. S. Parmar . Dr M. S. Randhawa also planted some Chinar trees in Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana and Chandigarh. The Chinar trees are also found in Bhaderwah , Doda , Kishtawar , Banihal , Poonch and Rajouri areas of Jammu Province 
 In Kashmir, this tree is home to many birds. Its grand leaves are dried and used as Kangri fuel. The tree gives a tough, hard, high quality and expensive wood for the furniture industry. Though Chinar is a protected tree in the J&K state,yet it is being continuously felled by greedy timber traders and other persons in an unauthorized manner. Many Chinar trees were felled during the road widening drive in the Kashmir valley.

( Avtar Mota )

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