Introduction.            Jammu and Kashmir is a union territory with diverse culture, traditions and ethnicity reflecting the glory of the history. The rich culture of Kashmir encompasses literature, architecture, cuisines, traditions and history of Kashmiri people. There is an influence of mixture of Persian and Central Asian culture due to the Islamic invasions that took place in Kashmir region. Earlier, the Kashmiri culture was rich in Hinduism and Buddhism as many scholars of ancient times such as Rishi Kashyap were the pioneers of the rich heritage of Kashmir. The Panchatantra is also said to be originated in Kashmir. When Pali was the primary language for Buddhist literature in the rest of the India, all sort of literature produced in Kashmir was in Sanskrit. The social stature of the women at that time was high as they were fluent in both Pali and Sanskrit. The culture of Kashmir amalgamates Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist people making Kashmir even more beautiful by adopting their own culture that has brought diversification in the lifestyle.

Literature.     Kashmiri literature has a history of atleast 2,500 years, reviewing its glory days of Sanskrit.In medieval times the great Kashmir Valley School of Art, Culture and Philosophy Kashmir Shaivism arose. Its great masters include Vasugupta, Utpala, Abhinavgupta and Kshemraja. Later, the father of Literature of Kashmir was poet Lalleshwari or LalDed in the early 14th Century, consisting mystical verses, another mystic at her time was popularly known as Nunda Rishi she also wrote powerful poems. Amongst modern poets are Gulam Ahemad Mahjor (1885-1952), Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948), and Zinda Kaul (1884-1965). After the Independence, a substantial number of well-educated students turned poets and writers from Kashmir which has added stars to the fame of Kashmiri literary works. The literature of Kashmir depicts variation in language as when we explore different parts of Kashmir.

Traditional Dresses.          The traditions of Kashmir are made to look outstanding by very colorful and attractive ethnic wears as majority of people in Kashmir wear their traditional dresses and women add on with their gorgeous jewelry. The residents wear clothes based on the season as during the hot season they prefer loose and lighter clothes such ‘kurta pyjamas, shalwars’ are worn by men and ‘salwar kameez’ are worn by women whereas during winters they put on ‘Pheran’ (warm overcoat), they also carry a ‘Kangdi’ which keeps the warm in chilling winters. These Pherans are also embroidered by local looms men which reflects the Kashmiri culture. Traditionally, most men wear headgear such as pagdi and skull caps and women prefer to cover their head and shoulders from strangers and elders as a matter of respect. The Kashmiri traditional clothes truly reflect the richness in the culture and lifestyle, in today’s world where people are neglecting their traditional values by each passing day here these traditions are still valued.

Festivals.      The festivals celebrated in a region exhibits the cultural depth and traditional values which have passed on from generations. An epitome of joy and enthusiasm is observed in the festivals of the Kashmiri people in the backdrop of panoramic picturesque views. Some of the popular festivals celebrated here are Lohri, Baisakhi, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hemis Festival, Tulip Festival, Shikara Festival, Gurez Festival, Sindhu Darshan and Chillai Kalan Festival. A large number of people gather on these auspicious days to celebrate the feeling of joy and oneness and to further transmit the message of harmony and peace to all. These festivals are a great time to display cultural dance, art, handicraft shops and multi-cuisines, etc. Locally various fairs like Bahu and Jhirimela, Crafts mela are also organized to exhibit the cultural diversity.

Handicrafts. Kashmir is also popular for its class apart handicrafts which are both beautiful and unique at the same time. The Pashmina Shawl of Kashmir is famous worldwide for its best quality fabric and texture as it also symbolizes royalty. The local artisans do a wonderful job of such breathtaking embroidery work on the shawl which also provides warmth and softness which cannot be outmatched. The special hand-knotted carpets are a rare find across the globe and Kashmiri carpets are one of its kind having floral designs. On the other hand, basketry, wood carving furniture made up of walnut wood and silverware are one of the best handicrafts offered by Kashmiri people. As Kashmir is one of the tourist hotspots, the government has also taken initiative to boost the purchase of local handicrafts to revive this industry.

Music and Dance.  Kashmir’s culture is very well carried by its folk songs and traditional dance forms in every other fair organized in the region, this reflects the simplicity as well as enthusiasm to celebrate every festival with the loved ones collectively. There is a wide variety of dance and music that is performed according to the occasion, one of the dance form is ‘Mask Dance’ that is performed during the Hemis Festival. The dancers wear colourful costumes, wear face mask, brocade robes and do ceremonial dances. Other major dance forms are Chakri, Ladishah, Ruf and Dandaras dance. Roul, Dogri are some of the forms of folk dance. Also, Kashmiri people love folk music and tap their feet on the most famous Rabab music. The common instruments played in this music are Sitar, Dukra and Nagara. Ghazals, Sufi and Choral are some major music forms in Kashmir that are sung during wedding ceremonies and festivals.

Cuisines.      The cuisines equally hold the importance of portraying the culture and traditions as spices and herbs used are generally found in this region only and also it defines eating habits of the locals. Kashmir offers some mouth-watering cuisines both vegetarian as well of non-vegetarian dishes. Some popular meat dishes are Kashmiri Kebab, Rogan Josh, Yakhni, Pasanda,etc which are preferred by all non-vegetarians. Some popular vegetarian dishes are Rajma,Zarda, Tursh, Shree Pulao, Nadir Yakhen, etc mostly these dishes have paneer and vegetables as its main ingredient and as a result a complete colourful meal is prepared. For dessert lovers, sevaiyan, phirni and barfi are the best options. Guests are welcomed by ‘Kashmiri Kahwa’ which is not available outside Kashmir. Kashmiri Pulao is one of the specialties of this region with Karam Saag which keeps them protected from the chilling winters.

Occupation. The majority of Kashmiri’s have agriculture as their primary occupation and popular cultivable crops in the region are Rice, Maize, Mustard, Cotton seed, Radish, Onions, Gourd, Lotus-stalk, Linseed, Carrots, etc. The climatic conditions also support the growth of few fruits and berries which are mulberry, grapes, plums, apples, cherries, walnuts, almond, apricots, etc. Also, local handicrafts constitute smaller section of self-employment. The exports of agriculture handicraft products (wood carved furniture, Shawl, Rugs) and tourism sector add to handsome amount of foreign exchange to its reserves.

Conclusion. Kashmir is famous for its beautiful scenery spots and tourist places such as Shikara rides at Dal Lake, Sonamarg, Gulmarg Gandola, Amarnath Cave, various gardens, etc. All these things knitted altogether makes Kashmir a complete package that provides great experience to the tourists as well as the socio-economic growth of the region takes place at a faster pace which brings good fortune for the nation as well.  

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