Wednesday, May 6, 2015



                   (Photo Source Wikipedia )


Cotton was grown in  all the areas of Kashmir valley  upto a certain elevation that could not be more than 6000  feet from  sea level .These plants can not withstand  cold air. Suitable  places  for  cotton plantation in Kashmir used to be sunny Karewas ( plateaus )  or low lying areas with sufficient irrigation  facilities and sunshine . Credit must go to Sultan  Zain Ul Abdin for  rejuvenating  cotton growing activity in Kashmir by importing quality seeds.

Frequently ploughed soil  that was well pulverized  was ideal for cotton  plantation. Cotton seed was soaked in water  and mixed with ashes and  not much   manure was needed  for the plant after plantation. April end  used to be the sowing season. The plant rarely grew more than   2 feet  in height .It was remunerative for the farmer and the state that collected  taxes on its production . A Kashmiri farmer also extracted oil from cotton seeds apart from using the oil extracted   seed cakes   as  feed for his  cattle .
The Industry suffered a major jolt after the opening of  Jhelum Valley Road when cheap machine made fabric landed in the valley . The local Industry almost suffered a fatal blow and by independence time  ( 1947 ) cotton cultivation was not a part of  agriculture activity In Kashmir . 
I quote  local words  used in the cotton manufacturing ,

1 Kapas or Kapas posh …. Cotton or cotton flower

2 Ko'dd… Carder … ( who beat  the cotton to remove dirt and dust . Also known as Dhoo’n . After the arrival of Islam , a  community of  artisans  known as  Beften ( Persian word meaning cotton dresser  ) also came  to  Kashmir who were nicknamed as BAFANDS  or Bafanda ( present surname ). Nadafs  as these are called in UP or  Bafandfas of Kashmir   were artisans engaged in cotton dressing  . Many  Bafandaas  became Kaalbaafs ( carpet weavers ) after  carpet weaving was started in Kashmir and also  after death of cotton Industry.
3 Taa'yyii …. Genarally a lady who  weaves thread from raw cotton on the spinning needle.

4 Vo'vurr …. Weaver using Handloom 

5 Dho'bb … Washerman who would wash the cotton before it went to the tailor .

 5 Saa'tch …  A tailor  who made clothes from the cloth .

        ( Cloth Making activity in rural kashmir photo 1915 Photo Courtesy..Search Kashmir'.)

Dr Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani noted scholar and poet adds this :-

“ Punn Festval of kashmiri Pandits  is actually the festival of newly spun cotton with twin agricultural goddesses Bhima.and Garba being worshipped as its central deities. These goddesses later merged into the mysterious folk figure of Beeb Garabh Maae'j. Ganesh was also worshipped on the occasion but the worship of Lakshmi appears to be a much later affair. Cotton seems to have been cultivated in Kashmir till the early years of the 20th century, but the cultivation was discontinued perhaps because of economic non-viability. When exactly did that happen is not certain. The Kashmiri word "kapas" for cotton is derived from Sanskrit "karpaasa' from which we also have Hindi "kapaas".”

Kashmiris would often say " Massus ti Vanaan Kapuss " or " Hair is also known as cotton  " implying that it needs to be dressed up and kept free from dirt and dust .

Lalleshwari or Lal Ded has established    grand presence of cotton Industry in Kashmir  through her  Vaakhs  wherein she  has used cotton as a metaphor .. I quote the Vaakhs  (with my simple English rendering) ,

 “ Aami paa’na sadruss naavi chuss lamaan 
Kattie bozi daa’yi myon metti fiyaa taa’r “

( With loosely   spun  cotton thread ,
I tow this boat of existence ,
Would the lord listen my request , 
And carry me  across )
Lall ba draayus  Kapsi poshe satcheyi
Kaae’d ta dhooen Karnumm yatchiy”aa  lu’thh 
Tuyii yelli khaarnumm zaavijj tuye
Vovir vaa’na  gayumm alaae’nz  lathh..

( Here  Lalla I moved out , 
desiring to bloom like a cotton flower ,
There came the carder, 
 beating me to eliminate   all dust and filth from my being.
 The spinner put me over the needle to change me to supple  yarn
 hanging me on his loom , 
the weaver shaped me to a coarse cloth . “ 

 ( Avtar Mota )

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