Thursday, October 6, 2016





 Milk, curd and some more dairy products have been prominent items of food since the Vedic period. The process of churning curd with a churning stick was known to Indians since the Rig Vedic period. The minute globules of butter mixed with curd so obtained were known as Prasadajya.

 Curd and its medicinal properties find clear mention in Rig-Veda. It finds mention in  10th Mantra of 187th Sukta of 1st chapter (1-187-10) and 3rd Mantra of 179 Sukta of 10th chapter (10-179-3) of Rig Veda. There are some more Mantras in Rig Veda that mention curd or its uses.
Curd is an integral part of Kashmiri society. Apart from liberal consumption, over a period of time, it has assimilated itself in Kashmiri society in such a way that it became a part of their culture and tradition.

For Kashmiri Pandits, no ceremony ( religious or otherwise ) is complete unless curd is used. This applies strictly to birth, marriage, Shraddha, birthday Pooja and so many other ceremonies and rituals. In olden days, when the pregnancy of the daughter in law was announced in a Kashmiri Pandit family, it was customary for her parents to send a Dulloo ( big earthen pot ) of curd/yoghurt to her in-law's house. It was a signal that the girl needs to be put under extra care. Curd/yoghurt is not only a part of Kashmiri Pandit religious and social culture but also an important ingredient of their Cuisine. Curd or yoghurt is used by Kashmiri Pandits for preparing mutton Rogan Josh, gourd Yakhni and many more dishes.

 A cup of Curd is the essential item to be seen early in the morning in a Kashmiri Pandit family on Navreh or Sounth day. Navreh and Sounth correspond to the first day of the Bikrami calendar and spring festival day respectively. This cup of curd is kept in a plate full of uncooked rice,  flowers, walnuts, new Panchaang or Almanac, a pen and many other things. This ritual is known as "Thaal Bharrun"( meaning plate filling) by Kashmiri Pandits. In a way, it is something like the Haftsin of the ancient Iranians or Parsis.


My mother has told me something like this…

‘ We Kashmiri Pandits had a social custom called ‘Dodh ’. Though Dodh in Kashmiri means milk, in that particular custom, it meant curd. Ladies were shy in joint families.  The orthodox ways were prevalent in Kashmiri society. Many things were not discussed openly. So whenever a daughter in law was pregnant, it was a real problem for her to declare it openly in her in law’s house. Even if the husband felt that during pregnancy, his wife needed a little special care, little attention, some rest and comfort from tiring routine work, he did not dare to convey it directly to his mother or father. The daughter in law conveyed this good news to her mother in her parental home. The mother passed on the news to her husband or the father of the pregnant woman. The father took no time in arranging two big pots full of curd which he sent to his married daughter’s house. One-pot was meant for her father in law and the other for her Mother in law. The good news and the message were thus conveyed. The purpose of this custom has died down with time though we continue to send  curd  to our daughters in marriage and other rituals .’

A boy or a girl going to appear in some examination or interview was asked to take some curd before leaving. It was believed that the curd or yoghurt sip would make things simpler for him or her. The family of a married boy or even middle-aged person still receives curd from his in law’s home on his birthday. This curd along with Kashmiri bakery is meant for distribution amongst relations and neighbours. On her marriage day, a Kashmiri Pandit girl is still given two or three Dulloos ( big earthenware pots ) of curd for the bridegroom’s family the moment she leaves her parental home. Some saffron is also put over curd Dulloos ( big earthenware pots )  sent in marriages or to relations or guests by Kashmiris.
Along with milk, honey, sugar, sandalwood paste, flower petals, sesame seeds, etc, curd forms an essential ingredient of the Nirmal Jal ( sacred water ) offered to a deity for Snana or Abhisheka ( bath ) in every Pooja in Kashmiri Pandit family.

In the Unani system of medicine, the curd is believed to have many curative properties, especially for stomach and intestines. Many Hakeems in Kashmir would prescribe liberal consumption of curd to their patients. In Ayurveda, the curd is used to treat diarrhoea, infertility, indigestion, liver diseases and bladder malfunctions.

Many doctors practising the allopathic system of medicine have told me about some health benefits of curd as it contains, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Riboflavin. It is also believed to be useful for colon infections, skin infections, liver disorders, ulcers and hair growth.


             ( A Kashmiri  Curd pot with Saffron and Almond kernel ..Photo source Narinder Safaya )

Every morning one can see buyers crowding on curd selling shops in Kashmir. Kashmiris consume curd generously. They consume it during the hot summer season and freezing winter season. They consume it with lunch, dinner and as Lassi.  Curd is served in every Kashmiri feast.  Muslim Wazwaan or the Pandit feast has Yakhni that is prepared with curd. Apart from chutneys, the curd is separately served to guests in every feast. Thick curd is diluted with water to make  Lassi. Lassi is believed to remove ‘ Fires ’ ( naar ) that Kashmiris believe to be raging within once they consume spicy dishes in a feast. Quite often, one would see a curd seller churning a glass of Lassi for a customer who wanted to douse the ‘ fires’ created by some spicy food that he had consumed.

‘ Me Zun Chhu Naar or Me Zun Chhu Andhraa Tchtaan Hue . Talaa me Dhi Zaamut Dodhaa Laeiss ’ meaning
‘ I have fires raging within or something is rubbing my digestive tract in a wrong way. Just give me curd Lassi Only  .’

This is a common dialogue heard after a Kashmiri enjoys a  spicy feast.

(Avtar Mota )

 If you read Vedas, you repeatedly come across a food called Madhuparka. It is a mixture of curd and honey. During the Vedic period, Madhuparka was offered to the honoured guest, bridegroom, saint, VIP visitors to the family and the king. Offering Madhuparka or sweet curd was a symbol of love and affection. Since Kashmiri Pandits practise some Vedic rituals in one form or the other, this could be the reason why they continue to send curd to their loved ones on birthdays, marriage functions and other rituals.

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