Kashmir Towards Cultural Recession


A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it. This new civilization brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as well. Millions are already attuning their lives to the rhythms of tomorrow.

                                                                                                                          —.Alvin Toffler

Kashmir has always been the cynosure of all eyes. It has always attracted and enthralled outsiders due to its mesmerizing scenic beauty, rich socio-cultural ethos and its awe-inspiring ‘Material and Non-Material Culture’. The mesmerizing and bewitching scenic beauty is still there in its virgin form but the rich and blooming socio-cultural ethos and all that jazz have seen a huge recession over the years. The culture of love, warmth, togetherness and mutual fellow-feeling has been replaced with the things that no more sound socio-culturally good and befitting.

This recession has taken place both in our ‘Material Culture and Non-material Culture’. In sociological terms ‘Material Culture’ is that which includes the material artefacts of any culture like dress, crockery, etc.  ‘Non-Material Culture’ on the other hand includes language, ways of celebrating cultural rituals, religious festivals, and modus operandi of celebrating marriage etc. Both types of cultures have witnessed an abrupt recession and erosion. Some call it modernization. But for me it is only a recession of the worst kind.

Our traditional cultural artefacts like Kashur Pheran, Daan (Hearth),  Kashur Samovar (Kashmiri Tea Vessel) traditional clothes like  Kashur Tilli Pheran, (Embroidered Pheran for women), Kasab ( Headgear for older women decorated by fancy needles),  and  Kangri etc. etc. have  all been replaced by new-fangled, ultra-modern, and outlandish cultural artefacts. We feel slighted in using our cultural artefacts now. We have acclimatized ourselves to the new-fangled things but they do not become us well. In the name of modernization and all that we have said a sorry goodbye to our culture and have adopted the culture that is outlandish and quite alien to us Kashmiris.

The modernized lasses and guys don the apparels and outfits like ripped-jeans etc. that are westernized in style lacking in decency and culture. The dresses smack of high culture bereft of modesty and austerity. The high-culture life style has made this young generation (both boys and girls) of ours what Russian writer Alexander Pushkin calls “Superfluous People” in his novel ‘Eugene Onegin’. These superfluous people are always in conflict with the approved popular culture. They (our modern boys and girls) no longer love to wear our cultural dresses like Khan Dress, and an austere Kashmiri Frock-Shalwar; the dresses reflecting culture, modesty, and decency.

Traditionally, as we know, our mothers used to cook everything on the burning hearth (Daan) but nowadays not a single house hold has it. Similarly in the past, people were preparing tea in Kashur Samovar. The Kashur Samovar tea used to be tasty and all the more good for health. All the family members used to sit with peace and the woman sitting in the middle of the room used to serve umpteen cups of Kashmir tea to each and everyone in the room. But this has gone by. Because modernized woman with modern outlook and craze for new technological gadgets of cooking no longer use Kashur Samovar for preparing tea. They prepare the tea on gas-burner etc. and put it into the fancy kettle. The kettle tea neither tastes well nor smells good.. Preparing food in our culture specific items was good for our health. And nowadays, we make food in modern technological gadgets. The foods made by using these modern gadgets are inimical to our health system. Natural ways of cooking is always salubrious and cooking through electronic gadgets is so insalubrious and tasteless. The outlandish street and packed foods have also put an end to our Kashmiri food items. We love and feel elated while having an alien packed food in a street outside served by outlandish person. This is what in modern terminology is called ‘Neo-colonialism.’ The soft means of colonizing the culture of other people. These street foods have undermined our own variety of foods .We in Kashmir, are also heading towards the westernized culture of ‘outdoor lunch and dinner’. This is a recession in our material culture

Like Material culture our Non-Material culture has also seen an abrupt change and recession of the worst kind over the years. As foreign languages like English etc. have replaced our Kashmiri language, likewise our traditional modus operandi of celebrating marriages, religious festivals and cultural rituals  etc. has also been taken over by the ultra-modern ways of celebrating these ceremonies. In the past, as everyone knows, marriages were celebrated with simplicity, warmth and traditional Kashur Gawun (Kashmir Songs) would enhance the grace and beauty of the sacred ceremony but these days’ marriage ceremonies are celebrated with lot of extravagance and Bollywood and Hollywood songs are played to enthuse and entertain people around.

The modus vivendi of celebrating our religious festivals has also changed in such a short span of time. In the past, people used to celebrate Eid festivals with lot of happiness and people would visit their nears and dears on the occasion of Eid to convey love, congrats and happiness. But this has changed. As I have heard it from my grandparents, the Eid was celebrated with lot of entertainment and happiness. People would assemble in the Eid Gah to celebrate the Eid. Men used to play games like Kabaddi and Kushite, whereas women used to sing Kashmiri songs (called Rauf)  wearing Tilli Pheran. But all this has eroded and is present at some places only in residual form.

The traditional joint family structure/ system has also been replaced by the westernized nuclear family structure. The joint family system was characterized by love, proximity, togetherness and unity and the nuclear family structure is diametrically its opposite. The nuclear family structure seems so drab wanting in happiness, warmth, love and proximity. Each family member in a nuclear system seems so deserted and divided.

Our traditional and culture specific games like Saze Lung (Hopscotch) Lathkij Louth (Tip-cat) etc. have also been replaced by computerized games and all that. The culture specific games were good for the health of the children both mentally and physically. Our children are no longer inclined to our cultural games. Instead they remain glued to the computers to play games online. A computer game no doubt makes them mentally agile but it deteriorates their health badly by continuous sedentary life style. This is the flipside of these computerized games.

Some people may differ with my point of view by saying that it is not a cultural recession but modernization and technological advancement. I am not a Neanderthal and Luddite. I am for the advancement but not at the cost of our culture. I know in order to get going, we have to be abreast with every technological advancement and all that. But at the same time we should not forget our roots and dislodge our culture by adopting the culture that belongs not to us.  We should not allow globalization to put an end to our culture; the culture that is our identity badge. We should keep our culture intact, respect it, and ennoble it like European and Western nation do. We should feel proud while flaunting our culture. We have a rich culture, we have got it and we should flaunt it with dignity, confidence and pride!

Postscript: Did we come here to laugh or cry? Are we dying or being born. Carlos Fuentes

Bilal Ahmad Dar is a Research Scholar at the Department of English, AMU. He has qualified UGC-NET and JKSET for Assistant Professorship. He can be mailed at: [email protected]


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