Kashmir Folklore and Yore

Mushtaq Hurra

          Folklore is an integral part of our centuries old cultural heritage and it is our recognition and identification as a nation and society, writes Mushraq Hurra. According to him, in olden days, the folklore was the most important means of entertainment and transmission of knowledge.  It is  also a way to transform information from one generation to the other. It is tremendously helpful  in value inculcation as most of the tales, songs and saying are full of advices, sagacity and wisdom.  He identifies some interesting folk traditions of Kashmir.



WANWUN – marriage songs sung in chorus in praise of bridegroom and bride:

“Pleasure derivation is an important aspect of our folklore. Some four or five decades back, there used to be story tellers in every Mohalla, and people would gather in one house or the courtyard of a house to listen to different epics from the panorama of our folklore. Naegrai Heemal,  Zuhra Khatoon, Haya Bund,  Gulala Shah  etc… are some important epic tales which our ancestors would enjoy to listen. Typical marriage rituals including songs called Wanvun are an inseparable part of our folklore. Our marriages are incomplete without the typical Kashmiri wanvun. Womenfolk particularly young girls sing melodious songs in chorus in which the groom, his parents and siblings are admired. The new bride is showered with praises through different songs. This is an important way to conserve our language which is facing the onslaught of modernization”.


PAETHER – the traditional folk theatre of Kashmir:

Baand-e-Paether is another  important aspect of our folklore. It had been the biggest source of entertainment in bygone days. We have produced some renowned and world class theatre artist. It was not confined to entertainment only but these open air theaters would most often highlight some important social and even political issues through satire. With the advent of multiple sources of entertainment, and the three decade-long conflict in the Valley of Kashmir, this vital limb of our folklore is in doldrums. Though Doordarshan Srinagar and Radio Kashmir, Srinagar are trying their best to keep this legacy alive but the desired and required work is not done for the existence of this centuries old tradition of our folklore. Administrative workers just remember it on the World Theatre Day. Baands and theatre artists are in highly deplorable conditions. They don’t wish their children to continue this legacy because it is no more a source of livelihood for them”.


LULLABIES – mothers sing to make their children sleep:

“Children’s songs particularly lullabies is another part of our folklore. Mothers of bygone days would make their children sleep through melodious lullabies. Now, our mothers hardly know anything such. Modern and young mothers have forgotten this thing. Lullabies are now confined to our books only. It was not just  soothing to make the child asleep quickly but it was a source to cement the bond between the child and mother”.


STORY TELLING – was very common in Kashmir:

“Story telling particularly those of mythological monster was done in olden days. I vividly remember the story of ”  Raantas ” a famous mythological demon of Kashmiri folktales.  It was mostly attributed to the women with horrible looks or deeds, even many people  still use  the term to define a woman with quarrelsome nature. I vividly remember those bone chilling cold nights when my late maternal grandmother used to tell us those horrendous tales.Me and my other siblings would enjoy those episodes with zeal and zest. Every evening, we used to ask for early dinner and sometimes we were reprimanded for this demand by our mom. We used to force our grandma to take evening meals with us so that she could take us to that imaginary world of heroics and fantasies. Although “Raantas” was the symbol of death and fear but still we would enjoy it as we all knew it’s existence. In today’s world, people don’t believe in myths but such”.


MUSIC: Nende Baeeth, Chakari, Roof and Sufiana, music:

“Folk music is the backbone of our folklore. Nende Baeth (Songs sung by farming people during deweeding the paddy saplings), Chhakri and Rouf and our Sufiana Music are integral organs of our folklore. Our folk music is liked at global level. Many Bollywood composers have used our folk music tunes in the movie songs. And the story doesn’t end here. Legendary singers like Asha Bhosle and Runa Laila have sung typical Kashmiri folk songs. Our folk musicians have performed in different countries of the world, and have earned a good name for themselves and Kashmir”.


LADI SHAH – Ballads and satirical songs:

“Itinerant minstrel locally called Ladi Shah would travel across the streets and villages of the valley. Carrying a Dehra with them (A light iron rod with loose iron rings) , they would sing ballads and satirical songs  in a melodious voice by striking the iron rings with the iron rod very skillfully to produce a pleasing jingle. But, now, the Ladi Shah has disappeared from our Folklore though some TV and Radio channels are working hard to keep this tradition alive”.


RIDDLES – Proverbs and riddles are parts of our folklore:

“Sayings, proverbs and riddles (Pretse) are a big treasure of folklore. The sayings and the proverbs often talk about the realities of life with good lessons. The riddles though please children a lot but helps to preserve the language. Children love it, hence a great service is done to the Kashmiri  language”.


[Courtesy: daily Kashmir Observer, Srinagar, Kashmir, March 15, 2019.]


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