Kashmiri Muslims, who are in an overwhelming majority in Kashmir, are physically a fine stock, tall and well built, with complexions varying from olive to very light, almost fair. The women are beautiful lively and intelligent and the people are full of fun and fond of amusement.
Kashmiri Muslims are as noted for their hospitality as for their hard work. Theft in the villages is uncommon and personal crime negligible.
The staple food of the Kashmiri Muslims is rice with which they eat vegetables, the favourite being the spinach hakov karam. Kashmiri dishes are famous for their variety and taste. In spite of living in a cold region, Kashmiri Muslims do not like liquor. They drink large quantities of green tea to which salt is added instead of sugar. The Kashmiri samovar is always steaming with boiling tea.
Many of the ceremonies connected with the birth of a Muslim child are akin to those followed by the Kashmiri Brahmins, such as visiting of shrines, requisitioning the aid of saints and pirs and the keeping of religious fasts by childless parents in order to be blessed with children.
When a child is born, the mullah intones the azan, welcoming the new arrival into the world of faith. Then he whispers into the child's left ear the takbir (God is Great, God is Great, God is Great) and adds the warning that death is the end of all things. A boy is circumcised at the age of four or five. His feet are dyed with henna and the relatives and friends invited to a feast. For seven days before the ceremony, there is continuous singing and feasting.
Marriage: For a week before a wedding, festivities are held in the homes of the couple. The day before the marriage, a quantity of henna dye is sent to the bride, who paints her hands and feet with it. On the wedding day, the relatives give the bridegroom presents of money. First he and his party visit some neighbouring shrine and say their prayers and then visit the graves of his ancestors. Then they move on a procession to the bride's house. When they are near the bride's house, they are welcomed with songs sung by the women of the family. The nikah (wedding ceremony) follows the usual Muslim order. After the nikah, the bride is carried by her brothers or maternal uncles into the palanquin and, followed by a party of singing women, she departs with her husband.
Fairs at Astan Sharifs or the tombs of Sufi saints that are spread all over the State are very popular.
Perhaps the best example of the synthesis of the Sufi and Bhakti cults is provided by the emergence of the Islamic rishis. The founder of the order, Sheikh Nur-ud-din alias Nand Rishi is the patron saint of Kashmir and is venerated by both Hindus and Muslims. His teachings were conveyed through the Kashmiri language and have been collected and preserved in two volumes, the Rishinama and Nurmima.
A large number of Persian and Arabic works were produced by Kashmir Muslims during the medieval period. With the increasing patronage extended to the Persian language and scholarship by the later sultans, Kashmir's poets and writers produced works of beauty, style and depth of thought. The best known of them were Sarif, Ghani, Faani and Hubbi. Considering the abundance of Persian scholars in this region, it is little wonder that Kashmir was known as Iran-i-Saghir (little Iran).
The earliest of the Persian scholars was Mullah Ahmad Kashmiri, a distinguished poet and historian. He was followed by a long line of eminent historians. Hyder Malik,Chaudura, Mohammad Azam Di-damari, Mohammed Aslam, Maulvi Hasan Shah and Mohammed-ud-din Fauq to name a few.
Two outstanding Kashmiri poets and scholars of the time of Akbar were Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi and Baba Daud Khaki. The former was also the author of several works on Suftsm, Islamic traditions and travel. The greatest name associated with Persian poetry is that of Ghani Kashmiri who won fame in his lifetime within India and Iran.
A notable contribution to the study of comparative religion and philosophy was made by Mullah Muhsin Fanni, the celebrated author of Dabistan-i-Mazahib.
The Kashmiri language is indebted to several Kashmiri Muslim writers and poets. Nand Rishi's sayings are the jewels of Kashmiri literature. The lyrics of the great poetess, Habba Khatoon, written towards the end of the 16th century, are beautiful and much loved. During the last century, they were the prolific productions of Mahmood Garni, followed by those of Maqbool Shah Kralawari, Rasool Mir, Abdul Wahab Para and others.
The modern period in Kashmiri poetry was ushered in by Ghu-lam Ahmad Mahjur, a votary of Hindu-Muslim accord, and Abdul Ahad Azad who longed for a socialistic pattern of society.
Among the new writers in Kashmiri may be mentioned Mohi-ud-din Akhtar, Ghulam Hassan Beg Arif, Mohammad Amin Kamil, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Ali Mohammad Lone, Rehman Rahi and Abdul Khaliq Tak.
Kashmiri Muslims excelled in producing book illustrations. Numerous Persian manuscripts are copiously illustrated with miniature paintings of exquisite beauty,
Sufism: Sufism, which predominated during this period, was partial to dance and music, believed to be essential in bringing about a state of spiritual ecstasy. The Kashmiri bafizas (danseuses) belonged to a class, of professional dancers who had to undergo a long and exacting training under competent masters. Their style of dance was popular till the beginning of the present century. The rauf, a folk dance, is performed at marriages and festivals.
A distinctive form of classical music known as Sufiana Kalam developed with its style borrowed from Persian music and its 54 magams (modes) corresponding to the Indian ragas, some of which have Indian names (like Bhairavi, Lalit and Kalyan) and others Persian (like Isfahan, Dugah, Rasti and Farsi). Sufiana Kalam is always sung in chorus.
The santoor is the most distinctive musical instrument in use. It has a hundred strings, stretched over a hollow wooden frame of mulberry wood, which are struck with two delicate little sticks, beautifully carved and slightly curved at the end. Some other instruments are the saz-i-Kashmi sitarand durka.
The Kashmiri craftsmen, among whom are many Muslims are fine artists and have a great sense of the aesthetic, colour and design. Kashmiri weavers produce beautifully embroidered woollen shawls which have been famous in many countries, particularly those of Europe.
Their other cottage industries are carpet weaving, introduced by Sultan Zain-uI-Abidin, the carpets being beautiful and famous; hand embroidery done on silk saris, table ware, bags, etc.; making of leather goods; making of patterned silver ware; of exquisitely carved objects in wood; making of hand painted articles of papier mache; weaving of silk, fine and ordinary woolen fabrics and the cultivation of saffron.
(Last Updated on : 08-04-2009)
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