Samovar: A Persian gift to Kashmir

A samovar is a metal container traditionally used in Kashmir to heat and boil water for making tea. It originated in Russia, but is well known outside of Russia also. The word ‘Samovar’ is derived from the Russian word -‘Samover’ meaning ‘self-boiler’. It was introduced in the valley by the Persian sufi Mir Syed Ali Hamadani. Samovar (Kashmiri: samavar) is a traditional Kashmiri flask used to prepare and serve Kashmiri salted tea (Noon Chai) and kahwa.
The samovar has a central cavity where hot coal is placed while the surrounding space is reserved for boiling the water and other ingredients for the tea. There are essentially two types of Samavors, the Qandhari Samovars and the plain Samovars. The Qandhari Samovars have their outer surface carved with complicated floral and chinar leaf designs. They are made up of copper and are exclusively used by the Muslims. In contrast, the plain Samovars are made up of brass and are used by the Kashmiri Pandits. Both outer and inner surfaces of samovar are nickel plated, which is locally known as ‘Kalai’. The artisan who crafts the Samovar is known as ‘Thanthur’ in local language, whereas the designer who creates decorative carvings and patterns on its outer side is called ‘Naqash’. People in Kashmir believe that tea prepared in a samovar is good for health. Without a samovar, every occasion is incomplete in Kashmir. The samovar is a part of culture of the valley. It is considered a must for every bride to take to her in-law’s home. The use of samovar has now been restricted to big occasions only. The fast-paced lifestyle and the advent of modernization have diminished its significance. Needless to say, it is necessary for us to preserve this rich legacy so that it will not remain lost in the pages of history.

(The author is pursuing Masters degree in Forestry at Faculty of Forestry SKUAST-K)

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