Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It is the Season

Spring is here

Badamwari Comes Alive With Bloom

Srinagar: The early bloom of flowers on Almond trees in the sprawling historic Badamwari garden in the Hari Parbat area has become a source of attraction for nature lovers and tourists, alike.

Situated on foothills of Hari Parbat, the 300 kanals garden was dotted with trees, flowers and cascades providing a soothing experience to the visitors.

Historians maintain there was no record to suggest who laid the garden but they say it existed even before the rule of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin in the 14th century. A well covered dome in the garden is named after an Afghan ruler, Warris Shah.

The bloom on the Almond trees heralded the spring and marked the New Year for Kashmiris. But with the passage of time, particularly during the past three decades, it has lost its glory. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility and Heritage Trust, the garden was revived by the JK Bank and formally thrown open for public in 2008.

Most of the visitors in the garden said they didn’t know about its glorious past. “I just came with my friends to see the blooms on the Almond tree. I haven’t heard about the Almond festivals or celebrations here,” said Muhammad Altaf of Rawalpora.

But those who have witnessed yore days of Badamwari mince no words to say that it has lost its cultural grandeur. Sowing the plants in an Almond shaped flower bed, Ghulam Nabi, 65, a Gardner believes, the garden has suffered the onslaught of modernity.

“Till a few decades ago this garden was a repository of our rich culture. Now visitors come here for morning walks, picnics and taking pictures. With the passage of time, there has been a transition in our thoughts and approach towards our culture,” he said.

A prominent Historian, Muhammad Yousuf Taing says the Kashmiris used to organise functions to welcome the spring even before the 14th century.

“Almond trees exist in the garden from centuries together. The garden has been an important part of Kashmiri’s culture during different rulers,” Taing said.

Poet, Zarief Ahmad Zarief, says the Badam Wari was developed by the Mughal rulers and preserved by the Afghan ruler, Warris Khan.

“Its encroachment started in the Dogra rule. Since 1984, the people constructed houses on its land. Ironically, the government also contributed to its deterioration by constructing Pokhribal Water Filtration Plant in the Garden itself. If JK Bank wouldn’t have adopted and developed the garden, it would be been buried under the concrete structures. Kashmiris should be indebted to the bank for its endeavour,” he said.

Noted broadcaster and poet, Farooq Nazki says till late‘70s Kashmiris used to organise cultural programs and festivals in Badamwari to welcome the spring.

“Laced with Samovars and food, people from across the Valley used to throng the Wari. I vividly remember a day in March 1958 when the then Prime Minister, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad sat among the public for hours together and listened to the Sufiana music by Ghulam Muhammad Sofi, and Chakkar by other artists near Warris Shah’s memorial. He himself used to break water chest nuts and distribute it among the children in the garden,” Nazki recounted.

In absence of TV or Radio, the cultural programs at Badamwari were prime source of entertainment.

“A man used to sit beneath an Almond tree and move handle of a gramophone. He used to charge us listening Naats and songs. There was also a character called Chakwani. He used to sell make-up and other items. But the man seems to have disappeared with the passage of time,” he said.

Taking a deep breath, Nazki lamented that Kashmiris have failed to protect their rich heritage. “Only things we have been able to preserve is Wazwaan extravaganza and show-off. The Badamwari has been revived but it has lost its cultural grandeur due to indifference of people as well as successive regimes,” he said.

Noted columnists, ZG Muhammad, acknowledged that Badamwari formed the important constituent of Kashmiri’s culture. He says the almond blossoms festival used to be carnival of the have-nots and the elite.

“I remember the scenes at evening on Thursdays’ during the festival in my locality. The artisans, craftsmen and other daily wage earners after return from their workplace at dusk gathered in groups of five or six in the Mohalla to work out arrangement for visiting the almond blossom festival. It used to be an enlivened world - that made the working class see themselves at the top of the world,” he said.

He recounts that on Fridays the almond garden was no less than the day of freedom for the working class. “It was trilling to watch a magician Muma Bazigar and some gathered around the largely turbaned Pathan quacks selling dry fruit and preparations made out of dry fruits and herbs. The scenes of polo being played by the descendants of once the Maharajas prisoners from Gilgit amidst almond blossoms used to be more exhilarating, exciting and thrilling than watching India-Pakistan cricket match,” he said.

Though people may be enjoying the early bloom at Badam Wari, it has become a source of concern for the environments who see it as an affect of climate change.
“Usually the flowering of Almond trees take places by the end of March. This year early flowering has occurred due to early favourable temperature,” said Dr Rubika Bashir an expert on Horticulture.

She, however, maintained that in case of decrease in temperature or frost the blooms will be affected. “Subsequently the trees might not yield the desired output,” she said.

(Greater Kashmir)

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