September 17, 2020

Cultural diversity and heritage in Kashmir

Jammu Kashmir is famous for it’s diversity in culture as People from different religious and social practices –Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhist have created a composite culture which is called Kashmiriyat. Our heritage is a legacy from our past. It is something we live with today and, hopefully, something that we can pass on to future generations. In every country, cultural heritage is both a record of life and history and also an irreplaceable source of creativity and inspiration. Our cultural heritage, like our DNA, determines who we are, giving us both identity and the values that will guide our lives in a changing world. Yet despite its importance, there is never any guarantee that heritage will survive and be passed on to the next generation. This has been true throughout history and it is even truer today. For this reason, and in recent years, an increasing number of countries have launched initiatives designed to protect and preserve their own cultural heritages. These initiatives are designed not only to protect famous monuments, buildings, and the natural landscape, but also the fine arts and crafts, and the more ordinary buildings and objects that reflect the history and ways of life in each country. There is a growing recognition in Asia, both by governments and individuals that heritage should be preserved and protected. Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that is inherited from past generations. Not all legacies of past generations are “heritage”, rather heritage is a product of selection by society. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity).Kashmir has a rich archaeological base as compared to Jammu and Ladakh. According to the records of ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), Jammu has eight monumental sites out of which four are under the supervision of ASI, while as Kashmir has 69 monumental sites out of which 41 are under ASI. All the historically important sites at Awantipora, Martand, Parihaspura, Ushkar (Baramulla) etc. are in shambles. The Buddhist site at Harwan is dilapidated and attention could have developed it on modern lines to show the Buddhist culture that flourished in Kashmir from centuries past. Kashmir is rich in archaeological remains of antiquity but unfortunately, none of the monumental remains has been documented or preserved on the modern lines. Though the ASI has excavated different sites at different times still authentic reports are wanting. We have some architectural surveys, maps, plans etc. but the public is unaware of them. Whosoever worked on it has left it incomplete and the people are still unaware about it. So the need of the hour is to protect, excavate and preserve the heritage sites so that the history of Kashmir could be reconstructed in broad perspectives. Additionally, many myths and legends have been created on the basis of non-historical literature, whose proper answer can be given by the proper archaeological surveys and excavations. The two excavated sites of Burzuhom and Gufkral had not even been excavated properly and there are little data about the two sites. The semi-monumental structures, the Megalithic stones, associated with these sites are an important historical asset. Neither the sites have been preserved nor have any special attention paid to its cultural entities. An ancient settlement of Burzahom was among the list of sites expected to get World Heritage status at a two-week UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) meeting held in Doha on 20 June 2014, which indicates the importance of Burzuhom. Neolithic site of Burzuhom is a storyteller of life between 3,000 and 1,000 BC. It is known for its unique subterranean dwelling pits, unusual petroglyphs, including one that appears to depict two suns, and evidence of ancient cranial surgery. Apart from Burzuhom, there are various sites which have not been explored by the Archaeological Survey of India and by individual archaeologists.
Jammu and Kashmir has a wonderful culture which has played an important role in earning accolades for it from across the world. Be it literature, lifestyle, language, religion, arts, crafts, music and dance, Jammu and Kashmir is an outstanding tourist destination.
The unplanned urbanization is also an important threat to the heritage of Kashmir. Like most urban areas in India, Kashmir has to affront intense development pressure. The impact of this pressure is harder in the old city where every inch is constructed, where population density is extremely high. (400-500 persons per hectare) Urbanization processes as a result of population growth, migration, infrastructure initiatives and illegal construction have a direct impact on cultural heritage. This unplanned urbanization destroyed various sites in Kashmir. The Kushan site of Kotabal in Kuthar Shangus was destroyed by Gujjars of the area, they used iron brushes to clean the plates thus damaged the inscriptions and used them for their constructional purposes; the rest of the site was brought under cultivation and was destroyed. A part of Martand temple has been converted into an apple orchard and some of the stones of the temple have been taken away for domestic purposes.The famous Martand temple built by king Lalitadatya of Korkata dynasty has a park in the front which is well developed and maintained and the temple is in shambles. The inscriptions and the artistic designs have been either destroyed or taken away and used for constructional purposes. Same is the case with other historical monuments. A temple at Parhespora (Pattan) was handed to Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department by Jammu and Kashmir Culture Department who completely destroyed the base of the temple and built a new shed, invited artists to built sculptures. Thus at the cost of heritage, a new art gallery was set up in Parhespora (Pattan). The temple at Lodhu in Srinagar is in the midst of a tank which is the earliest remaining stone sculpture is also in shambles. All this may be due to ignorance of Historical Knowledge, which could be outcome through proper research and documentation.
The immediate need of the hour is to protect the monuments of Kashmir, if not at least to document before it is too late. The monuments should be well documented and preserved through scientific lines for the future generations to broaden the knowledge about the architecture of Kashmir in ancient and early medieval Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has a wonderful culture which has played an important role in earning accolades for it from across the world. Be it literature, lifestyle, language, religion, arts, crafts, music and dance, Jammu and Kashmir is an outstanding tourist destination. Enjoy and experience the rich cultural heritage of the ‘Paradise on earth’ by planning a tour to Jammu and Kashmir.The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is mainly divided into three regions namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, each region having its own unique traditions and customs. Kashmir is mainly inhabited by Muslims, Jammu by the Hindus and Ladakh by the Buddhists. However the best thing is that they reflect unity in diversity. The Dogras are another community of the state.The colorful dresses of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are very attractive. The majority of the population wear traditional clothes. During the winters they wear a kind of loose overcoat called Pheran. It is basically worn over a kurta. And under the Pheran, is a warm pot of charcoals called ‘kangri’, which helps in keeping them warm.The main language of Jammu and Kashmir is Urdu. The other languages spoken here are Kashmiri, Ladakhi and Dogri.Numerous fairs and festivals are celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the famous fairs and festivals of the state are Baisakhi (the harvest festival), Lohri, Eid-ul-Fitr, Jhiri Fair, Bahu Mela, Mansar Food And Craft Mela and Purmandal Mela.Capturing the hearts of tourists, the dance and music of Jammu and Kashmir are simply fabulous. No celebration in the state is complete without dance and music. Ruf dance, Bachha Nagma dance and Dandaras dance? are the major dance forms of the state. Ladishah is a famous sarcastic form of singing, filled with a lot of humor. The beautiful and fine handicrafts of Jammu and Kashmir are famous the world over. Almost each region of the state has a lot to offer in terms of handicrafts. The most talked about handicraft of the state is the Pashmina shawl, famous for its perfect quality and beauty. The fine embroidery done on them looks stunning. The craftsmen of Jammu and Kashmir are also perfect in crafting articles in wood, metal and stone. Papier mache work is another art of the state. Food lovers will surely have a great time on their tour to Jammu and Kashmir as the state has much to offer. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian, you will have a lot to choose from. You must try the following famous culinary delights of the state: Non-veg- Roganjosh, Yakhni and Gushtaba; Vegetarian- Dum aloo and Chaman.
(The author is a teacher presently working in Education Zone Mawar of North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Views are his own ) [email protected]

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