Monday, December 28, 2020



( Photo of a Hindu marriage kitchen in Kashmir)
( Photo of a Muslim marriage kitchen in Kashmir)



In Kashmir , marriages were labour intensive . The marriage halls and the buffet system were nowhere to be seen .The families  had to collect and store  the foodgrains , spices , edible oil , timber ,cooking utensils ,bedding, flooring and anything and everything needed for the marriage . The relations and the neighbours would  send young volunteers who  were the much needed  workers  for the marriage functions essentially feasts  . These workers would also  help in  the collection of major items like bedding and utensils from relations and neighbours . The neighbours would  readily offer accomodation to the guests of the family marrying their son or daughter. Even Muslim neighbours would readily provide all possible help to Pandits  during such events.This help was reciprocated by Pandits .The  young workers  would  willingly  work as waiters on the feast days. They would be available to the family for any work before and after the marriage .Everything was done without any remuneration. It was the practice . So was the culture and  the tradition .


During marriage functions,  some trusted acquaintance or a close member of the family would be made incharge of the Wura or the marriage kitchen . The person had to be experienced apart from being firm . Custody and control over  provisions ,vegetables, spices, and edible oil would be entrusted to him. He would sit near the Wura as the cooks arrived . Quite often he would sleep on the Voguv (  hay mat) near the Wura.  He would be  there til the cooking and eating was over. He would ensure proper discipline and order in  the cooking and distribution of food to the  invited guests. He would gossip with the cooks and keep them in good humour to ensure that cooking was done to perfection. The cooks or Wazas would go to him for anything and everything they needed. He would be asked to taste dishes once they were ready. The cooks demanded some money from him as Zang ( a sort of Baksheesh) if everything was perfect.

A long hearth was erected with bricks and mud . This hearth was known as Wura  in Kashmiri. Wura or the huge makeshift Chulha ( hearth) was created in open for large-scale cooking during marriages in the Kashmir valley. Timber ,generally from  the willow trees was burnt in Wura for cooking many dishes simultaneously. Wura or the marriage kitchen  was erected on an auspicious day as per Bikrami calender. The cook would come to erect Wura  using mud and bricks. This cook had to be given' Zang ' comprising of rice, salt, and cash.


Cooking was done in big Degchas( brass pots ) that were usually collected from neighbours and relations . Special identification marks of these Degchas were noted in a diary to facilitate return. We would see marks like KN( for Kashi Nath) or MLR ( for Mohan Lal Razdan) or KKK ( Kanwal Krishen Kaul) engraved on the rim of the Degcha. Metal tubs, Kadaais , drums (for storing water) ,Samovars and Dullus  were also collected from neighbours or relations who demonstrated  unprecedented soldarity and support during such functions. Thalis (plates) ,glasses and khasus( bronze tea cups) were available on payment of  nominal  rent .  In Rainawari , we would rent  a boat ( demba naav) for these collections . It meant boating and a great entertainment. This activity would create new friends and newer  bonds amongst the volunteers and workers who would be Mohalla boys and  young relations of the family(  solmenizing the marriage). A spirit of camaraderie was starkly  visible amongst these volunteers and workers.


While procuring provisions for the marriage and storing them, every  Kashmiri Pandit family would buy three or more bottles of Rum for the cooks. This was done  through friends or acquaintances who had some source or link in CSD outlets .


The head cook would always bring three or more assistants for cooking food for the marriage guests .The feasts would have a variety in vegetarian or non vegetarian food . Food was served to guests in a Shamiyana .They were made to sit in rows .Before serving the food , some volunteers would carry water , soap and towels so that guests washed their hands . Therafter plates were laid in all the rows . It was followed by serving the dishes . Rice with some gravy dish was the last item. One could see the wotrkers and volunteers busy inside the Shamiyana carrying dishes and refilling their  serving bowls . On an average 400 to 500 guests were invited . It could be more also


I Knew one Jagan Nath  whom I saw in many marriages . He was always assigned the task of looking after the marriage kitchen. These assignments had created his popularity amongst the cooks ( Wazas ) . I have keenly observed Jagan Nath’s role in many marriages .I quote the communication  between Jagan Nath and the head cook that I heard  once in the marriage of a relation .  In our recent past , we lived this culture and communication  . 


The head  cook:-

 “ Nath Ji ,  cigerrette aav na  kehn.  Aeiss moklaavav ye krai-paak ta aeiss karav nendri ganta . Rum katie  chhe, tseir guv na .  Kyoothh chhus noon. Yathh thav  zang. “

 (  Jagan Nath Ji  , get some  cigarettes . We will finish this deep  frying  work and take rest for an hour or so. Where is the XXX Rum? We are late . Are the dishes tasty ?Put  some Zang (currency notes ) into  the plate .”


Jagan Nath  ( Incharge  Wura) :-

 “  Yim gayi cigerrette .  Chaav me ti akha.  Ye gayi  XXX  Rum. Yin zyada chakh. Vaeni chhuyi kaar aeti.  Baraat iya subhas  saada aath baje. Daftar valen gatchhi tayaar aasun. Akh gilaas thavizi  me  baapat  tal  kun. Noon  ta maza chhukh  zabar . Zang diyi yezman paanai . Ma he gham.“ 

 ( Keep these cigarettes . Light a cigarette for me as well. This is your XXX Rum bottle. Don’t  drink beyond limits . You have to cook  some more dishes .The Baraat will be here at 8.30 in the morning .You have to keep food ready for those Baraatis  who have to attend their offices . Make  a  drink  for me as well and keep it hidden over there .The dishes that I tasted  are well cooked .  The Yajmaan ( family head ) will himself put currency notes in your plate . Why do you  worry ?”


Jahgan Nath , the Wura incharge  also had some sleep after gulping the glass of  XXX Rum. I conclude this write up   with some couplets from a Gazal of modern Urdu poet Zubair Rizvi.


"Hai dhoop kabhi saaya

shola hai kabhi shabnam,

Lagta hai mujhe tum sa
dil ka to har ikk mausam.

Beete  huve lamhon ki

ḳhushboo hai meray  ghar mein,

Book-rack pe rakkhe hain

yaadon ke kayi  album ......" 


( sometime,it feels like sunshine
Sometime like shade ,
sometime i feel it like a fireball,
And sometime it feels like cool dew.
Every season within my heart,
Looks and feels like you only.

The fragrance of time spent ,
lingers in my  house,
And my book shelf is decorated by
Many albums of memories alone .. )

( Avtar Mota)

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Sunday, December 20, 2020


(Prem Nath Dar is explaining something to Shastri Ji while Indira Gandhi and artist Som Nath Khosa are listening. The photo was clicked in New Delhi during the painting exhibition of artist Som Nath Khosa.)
         ( Haksar Haveli of Bazar Sita Ram,Delhi )
                            ( Prem Nath Dar)

   ( Marriage invitation card of Prem Nath Dar)                                              

(This is a 2 page letter written by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad   to Prem Nath Dar  explaining his participation in the special Congress convention held at Tripuri ( MP) in March 1939. As per Bakshi  many  personalities attended this convention that included Babu Rajinder Prasad, Moraraji Desai, Subash Bose, Gandhi Ji ,Nehru  Maulana Azad and many more . Bakshi Sahib describe that much time  was wasted in speeches before actual voting . Gandhi Ji wanted Nehru  to be elected president but he didn't get the votes . Subash Bose was elected Congress president  in this session.)

( Write-ups on Prem Nath Dar published in Aina newspaper edited by Shamim Ahmed Shamim ) 

PREM NATH DAR (1914- 1976)
Pem Nath Dar,  Urdu writer and  close confidant  of  Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah  was married  to Kumari  Lalita Devi Bhat  (name changed after marriage- Prem Pratima Dar)of Chaurasi Ghanta, Bazaar Sitaram, Delhi. The ancestors of Lalita Ji had migrated out from Kashmir during  Afghan rule.
Sita Ram Bazar Delhi was  the main settlement of Kashmiri Pandits who moved  out  during the dark days of Afghan rule in Kashmir. Though they served  the  Maharajas and the Nawabs  of United Provinces , Rajasthan, Punjab  or Madhya Pradesh ,they  constructed  large Havelis  with  gardens in  Sita Ram Bazar( Delhi) . Dhars , Atals , Kauls , Mushrans ,Hukkus , Haksars , Bhatts, Zutishis , Kallas  and Handoos  stayed in this locality  before    shifting to Allahabad, Kanpur , Lahore , Lucknow, Rewa  etc.    Even Kamla Nehru was born as Kamla Atal ( Kaul ) in this locality in the famous Atal House . Her grandfather  Pandit Krishen Lal Kaul Atal had served  the courts of Maharaja of Rewa , Jaipur and Jodhpur. Dr Jagat Mohini  of Rattan Rani hospital ,Sathu Barbar Shah,  Srinagar also  belonged  to Atal family  which had moved to Lahore from Sita Ram Bazar ,Delhi . Another prominent building of Bazar Sita Ram was known as ' Swroop Narain Ki Haveli  'that belonged to the Haksar family. This locality was named after Diwan Sita  Ram Zutshi  .The Zutshis had a palatial Bungalow  in this area apart from Jagir in Ludhiana ,Jalandhar and some other places. Diwan  Sita Ram Zutshi's son, Mohan Lal Zutshi , travelled   to Europe,Central Asia and other countries during the British Raj  .

In 1975, when Sheikh Abdullah signed the accord with the then prime minister of India Indira Gandhi, he remembered his old comrade. The Sheikh recalled Prem Nath Dar to Srinagar to serve him as his Press & Publicity Advisor. Unfortunately , Prem Nath Dar died suddenly in September 1976 due to heart failure.  As an obituary,   Shamim Ahmed Shamim, former  member parliament from Srinagar   ( writer and a brilliant journalist ) wrote a memorable  write up  "Prem Nath Dar- Mera Yaar" (Prem Nath Dar- My Pal),  in his  Urdu newspaper  "Ainaa" published from Srinagar.

 Prem Nath Dar was  born at Badiyar Bala ,   Srinagar in 1914.  After completing his education, he joined hands with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullahin his fight against Maharaja's rule .For this ,he joined the National Conference party  headed by the Sheikh . After his marriage, he shifted to Delhi  and worked for the Statesman and Hindustan Times. From Newspapers, he moved to AIR and retired as the Deputy Director General in 1973. In Delhi ,he came closer to many literary stalwarts including Devendra Satyarthi, Josh Malihabadi, Arsh Malsiyani, Jagan Nath Azad , Sagar Nizami, Rewati Sharan Sharma . He was also associated with Progressive Writers movement and had close association with Ali Sardar Jafri, Syed Sajjad Zaheer , Rajinder Singh  Bedi and Krishen Chander .

 Prem Nath Dar was a prominent writer  of Urdu. His Urdu short stories like . Kaghaz ka Vasudev, Doodh, Uttarai, Aakh Thoo, Zanshirin, Gidh, Chadawa,Kofta, Neeli Aankhen, Geet Ke Chaar Bol, Paani se Gadha Lahu, Bhoot Pret, Faayada be Faayad Beech Andherey, Zindagi ke Ghoont, Neeli Botal, Dinon ka Pher,Tehalil Nafsee,Ghalat Phehami etc.  became quite popular. These short stories were  published in his collections titled  “Kagaz Ka Vasudev”  “Neeli Aankhen” , " Betaal Lamhe " and "Chinaron  ke saaye mein" . He also wrote some musical operas and plays.

His contribution towards creation and development of Pamposh Colony in Delhi has been immense. The colony was meant to create a single settlement for such Kashmiri families  residing in Delhi as had moved out of Kashmir in early forties of the last century. The colony was given practical shape in 1950s .

He  remained in good books of  Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru,Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi .He was close to Durga Prasad Dhar, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and many more  national leaders .Artist Som Nath Khosa was his close friend .

So long so much.

( Avtar Mota)

( My special Thanks to  Sh.Jag Prakash Dar son of Shri Prem Nath Dar  for the  photographs. )

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Thursday, December 3, 2020


                    ( A Deepawali Rangoli  )
( A Vyoog being drawn during the marriage in a Kashmiri Pandit family)
 ( Women drawing Kolam in Tamil Nadu)


Kolam or the artistic  patterns created by women in Tamil Nadu with powdered rice  or the  colourful Rangoli of north India  is  similar to the Vyoog drawn by Kahmiri Pandits during marriages and other auspicious events  .  


Sanskrit scholar, Dr Ved Kumari Ghai writes this :- 

“  The Nilamata Purana testifies to the existence of the art of  Bumisobha or decoration of the ground with paint . This seems to have been a necessary item of most of the religious and secular functions. Vyoog – a circular pattern drawn on the ground on which a Kashmiri bridegroom has to stand before entering, for his marriage, the house of the bride, is a direct descendant of Bhumisobha mentioned in the Nilamata Purana.”

Kolam in Tamil Nadu , Alpana in West Bengal, Jhoti or Chita in Odisha, Muggulu in Andhra Pradesh,  Aripana  in Bihar  and the colourful Rangoli in the  North India are akin to  the Vyoog of Kashmiri Pandits . All these decorations fall in the category of Bhumisoba .

( Avtar Mota )

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020


     ( Bachhi Darwaza .New construction..Photo Avtar Mota)
  ( Kathi Darwaza)
     (Hari Parbat fort )
         ( Sangeen Darwaza near Firdous Cinema)
( Kathi Darwaza)
      ( Inscription on the top of the Kathi Darwaza)


Emperor Akbar built a new city below Hari Parbat and constructed a fort on the top of the Hari Parbat hill  ( Koh e Maraan) . Tuzuk I Jahangiri mentions that the fort and the fencing around Hari Parbat was got done as per orders of Emperor Akbar in 1598.  However, some additions , alterations and renovations of the fort were later done during the period of Afghan rule in Kashmir.The new city was fenced ( 5km in circumference) with a high stone wall all around that had three gates ; Kathi Darwaza, Sangeen Darwaza and Bachhi Darwaza . All these entrances were erected with heavy stones.
At page 60 of the book " Kashmir Through Ages " we read this:-

"Akbar brought Raja Todar Mal with him to Kashmir. He fixed his camp at Pattan ,measured the whole land around Hari Parbat and settled the revenue. The labourers who were employed in the construction of the new city were paid at the rate of six Annas a day if  married and four Annas if unmarried. He maintained an army of 4892 cavalry and 92400 infantry. He visited Kashmir three times. "

R. C. Kak writes:

" The Kathi Darwaza seems to have been the principal entrance, judging from the fact that the inscriptions have been put up only here. It is a very simple structure, comprising a domed chamber in the middle with two side-recesses. Its only external decorations are rectangular and arched panels and two beautiful medallions, in high relief, on the spandrels of the arch. Akbar's inscription runs as follows:

Bina-e qila'-e Nagar-Nagar bud
Ba 'ahad-e padshah-e dad-gustar
Sar-e Shahan-i 'alam Shah Akbar
T'ali Shanahu Allah-u Akbar
Shahanshah-e ki dar 'alam misalash
Na bud ast-o na khwahad bud digar
Karor-o dah lakh az makhzan firistad
Du sad ustad Hindi jumla chakar
Na kardah hechkas bigar anja
Tamami yaftand az makhzanash zar
Chil-o char az julusi padshahi
Hazar-o shash zi tarikh-e payambar.

Translation: The foundation of the fort of Nagar-Nagar was laid in the reign of the just sovereign, the king of kings, Akbar, unparalleled among the kings of the world, past or future. He sent one crore and ten lakhs (of rupees) from his treasury and two hundred Indian master-builders, all his servants. No one was forced to work without remuneration. All obtained their wages from his treasury. (In the) forty-fourth year after the accession of the Emperor (and) 1006 after the prophet."

In fact there are two inscriptions on the top stones of Kathi Darwaza. The other inscription gives the name of Mir Muhammad Hussain who supervised the entire construction activity ordered by Akbar for this new city known as ' Nagar Naagar '.
The Sangin Darwaza, "the stone gate," differs from Kathi Darwaza in being more ornate. The exterior is decorated by two corbelled windows, and there are two stairs, one on each side, which give access to the roof. The Bachhi Darwaza has been built new as the old entrance had crumbled down.

( Avtar Mota).

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