According to historians, the ancestors of Kashmiris are early immigrants from India proper. With the spread of Buddhism, many scholars came to Kashmir from far-off lands for research and study. The contact of Kashmiris with the Roman, Greek and Persian civilizations resulted into a fusion of cultures. Most of the people claim their descent from the Indo-Aryan stock but one can easily find people belonging to diverse and different races inhabiting Kashmir with distinct looks, dresses, food habits, customs, speech and traditions.
Kashmiris have made remarkable contributions to the arts of
story-telling and mystical poetry, the Shaiva philosophy, grammar and
the sciences. The artistic and cultural genius of the people of Kashmir
is evident in their folk songs and dances as well as the various arts
and crafts that are world-renowned. Known for their charming beauty,
most of the people in the valley are very fair complexioned, with light
brown to dark hair, blue or grey to black almond eyes, rosy cheeks
behind Indian tan, chiseled features and fine physique. Superstitious by
nature, Kashmiris are generally non-aggressive and temperate in nature
and are God-fearing. Regarded as non-martial in character, they are
considered extremely warm, friendly, and hospitable.
live a simple and frugal life. Individualistic
and largely intellectual, they avoid manual labor and cling to
professional and administrative jobs. Due to the terrorist activities
lately, many of them have been uprooted from their homeland but the
government has been trying to relocate them here. The Kashmiri Pandits
do not have castes like Hindus in the rest of India.
are generally more active, energetic and
dynamic in nature and are considered unrivalled craftsmen, known for
their time-honored intricate and beautiful designs that they produce on
papier-mâché, wood, silver and gold. Shrews businessmen,
they also indulge themselves in agriculture, sheep rearing, cattle
rearing and other cottage industries. Ninety percent of the population
in the valley professes Islam of both Sunni and Shia sects.
Kashmiri women generally have such love of jewellery that their
headgear, ears, necks and arms glisten with ornaments. The typical
ornament that Hindu women wear is the Dejharoo, a pair of gold pendants,
hanging on a silk thread or gold chain which passes through holes in the
ears pieced at the top end of the lobes. The Dejharoo symbolizes that
the Kashmiri Pandit woman is married. Muslim women wear bunches of
earrings, the weight of which is supported by a thick silver chain along
with several bracelets and necklaces. The whole ensemble lends a most
artistic effect to the appearance of Kashmiri women.
Rice and meat is the staple diet of the Kashmiris and Kashmiris pride
over Karam Sag (a kind of leafy green vegetable), nadru (lotus stalk)
and turnips that are considered precious enough to be presented as token
gifts. The culinary art of Kashmir, especially, the cooking of lamb
dishes in various ways, is very famous. The tea that the Kashmiris drink
is called Kahva, which is a concoction of green tea leaves brewed in the
samovar and enriched with pounded almonds, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon
stalks overdosed with sugar and served without milk. The other kind of
tea is Shir chai, which is salted and milked, pink in color and is
topped with lots of cream.
Kashmiri Muslims used to wear the pheran, a long loose gown hanging
down below the knees, a white turban tied on a skull cap, a
close-fitting shalwar and lace less shoes called gurgabi. A white piece
of material is hung on their shoulders like a stole. Hindu men wear
churidar pyjama instead of shalwar. The less affluent Muslims wear
skullcaps, which looks cute and does not carry any shawl. Unlike a Hindu
woman's pheran, which gives her a Roman look, the Muslim woman's pheran
is beautifully embroidered in front. Whereas a Muslim woman's pheran is
knee-length, loose and embroidered in front and on the edges, a Hindu
woman's pheran touches her feet. For the sake of smartness and ease it
is tied at the waist with folded material called lhungi. The long loose
sleeves are fashionably decorated with brocade.
With this type of Hindu costume goes the headdress called taranga,
which is tied to a hanging bonnet and tapers down to the heels from
behind. The folds of the taranga are made of brightly pressed lines
fastened to a pointed red-colored and brocaded skull cap with a few gold
pins at the sides. Over the head and ears are pieces of muslin
embroidered in gold thread. Muslim woman's headgear, the Kasaba, looks
very different from the Taranga. It is red in color, tied turban-like
and held tight by an abundance of silver pins and trinkets. It has an
overhanging pin-scarf, which falls gracefully over the shoulders. A
work-a-day shalwar goes with it. Unmarried Muslim girls wear skullcaps,
embroidered with gold thread and embellished with silver pendants,
trinkets and amulets. With the passage of years, an appreciable change
has come about in the dress of the Kashmiri women. Saris,
shalwar-kameez, churidars and jeans are becoming popular, yet none of
these belong to them as much as the good old pheran.
are the hill people of Kashmir, which are mostly
herdsmen by occupation. Said to be Rajputs migrated from Rajasthan and
adopted the Muslim faith, they are tall and well built, with a
prominently Jewish cast of features. Their dialect, Gujari is now
identified as a form of a Rajasthani. Their nutritious diet consists of
maize bread, whey, jungle roots and fruits. The dress of a Gujjar woman
of the hills in the valley consists of as ample shalwar and full-skirted
tunic with loose sleeves. Very much similar to that worn by the Turkish
village women, a thick veil on their head falls back to their shoulders.
They knit their hair in multiple plaits, which hang in front and cover
half of their moon-shaped faces.