Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dress Codes

Kashmiri Boat Girl
By Pandit Vishu Nath, 1890s

"Inquiring of a boatman why he did not make his wife, a really pretty woman, and his children engaging little things, wash every day and wear clean clothes, his explanation was, that if he kept his wife cleaner than those of other boatmen the Baboo would report to the Vakeel that he was earning more, and he would be more heavily taxed.


'Topee and turban, or, Here and there in India'  (1921)
 H. A. Newell, 
The photograph by R.E. Shorter. 
The Hindoos, with the same cast of Jewish features, are fairer than the Muhammedans, and their women are seldom seen; but returning from Ganderbul to Srinuggur, early one morning at Shadipore, we surprised a great Hindoo festival. Shadipore is situate at the confluence of the Scinde river with the Jhelum, where the waters are peculiarly sacred, and on this occasion, six in the morning, a concourse of both sexes were bathing almost in puris naturalibus. As soon, however, as they saw boats approaching, the women rushed to the bank, and were soon, cowering and peeping from under their embroidered shawls. Not to disturb their devotions, we passed quickly to a camping ground in a grove of chenars a mile farther down, and later in the day went to the festival, preceded by the sepoy, clad in white, with a scarlet puggery, wearing the breast band of his order, and armed with a scimitar, which he is not allowed to draw except in self-defence. Sepoy attendants are sent by the Baboo at Sriiiuggur to accompany travellers ignorant of the country and its customs during their stay in Kashmir, and are useful in procuring coolies and provisions at the established rates, and in keeping off beggars, loafers, and loos wallers (thieves).

The mela, or fair, a very large one, was attended by many of the' wives and daughters of the chief Hindoos. Their hair, instead of being separated in plaited braids over the back as is the fashion among young Muhammedans, is gathered round a pad on the crown of the head, and forms a not ungraceful pyramid. Over it a silk shawl, scarlet embroidered with orange, is thrown, which falls to the brow in front and to the ground behind. Across the forehead they wear a fillet of gold or silver ornaments. A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold. Ears, thumbs, fingers, and toes are covered with rings ; and bracelets, armlets, anklets, and necklaces, with pendants of bright-coloured stones, coral, and turquoise, complete their list of jewellery. On their thumbs they carry a ring holding a little mirror an inch in diameter, which they consult frequently. They have much to look to, the gradations of collyrium round their eyes sparkling eyes in youth, brilliant from belladonna when their natural lustre has begun to fade ; the arch of their thick black brows ; the arrangement of their hair and rings ; and the devices and adornments by which, in attempts to heighten, they lessen their charms. For withal, and spite of all, some, not all, are beautiful. Soft, oval faces, large almond-shaped eyes fringed with abundant lashes, noses finely cut though of the Jewish type, classic lips, invariably pearl-white teeth, rounded arms, slender fingers bright with hernia, and forms tall and well proportioned, are often seen. They wear a boddice and loose trousers of scarlet or blue silk, fitting tight at the ankles, which are covered with silver anklets. Some of these clank like prisoners' chains ; others send forth a tinkling from the many little silver bells that hang from them.

" Rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes
To tell her dear husband the way that she goes."

But all is not couleur de rose even among " the brightest that earth ever gave " in the vale of Kashmir. To see them eating is not attractive. A dish 'full of rice, ghi and curry, unctuous and flavoured with onions and garlic, when placed in the centre of a group of women and children, is soon disposed of in the most natural, if not most graceful, style. Each grasps a handful, great or small as appetite dictates, and dexterously throws it into her widely-opened mouth. Me'las or fairs are mere assemblages of multitudes without amusements beyond those of eating, drinking, tom-toming, offering rice, flowers, and ghi to idols, and bathing a practice which they seem to reserve for these occasions. On the plains they rig up large roundabouts and turnovers, and then it is a truly absurd spectacle to see middle-aged men, and even patriarchs, grinning with delight at being whirled or tumbled about, a sport which in other countries would amuse none but a child.

~ "Letters from India and Kashmir: written 1870" by J. Duguid


Didn't know about

"A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold."


Which reminds me of the photograph in which it is hard to tell if the women are Pandit or Muslim....


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Map of Mughal Kashmir, 1770

A map of the Mughal province of Cachemir (Kashmir), 1770.
Compiled for Colonel Jean Baptiste Gentil, agent for the French Government to the Court of Shuja-ud-daula at Faizabad.
Source: British Library

Monday, November 25, 2013

A local Kashmiri Ad from 1969

A Kashmiri Ad from 1969.
Came across it in the book 'Holidaying and Trekking in Kashmir' (1969) by N. L. Bakaya.
The book actually has a bunch of such ads.
  [The watermark is not a mistake, it is the term most Kashmiris use while googling this blog.]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bhands of Kashmir

April 2013. Delhi.

"I have seen the best companies in Kashmir, though perhaps the best —the Bhaggats of Syebug— died off in the famine of 1877, and men now sigh : ' Alas ! poor Yorick,' and speak of their excellent acting. The Bhaggats portray village life in a most vivid manner. Their dresses and make-up are excellent, and they represent most faithfully the internal working of a village community. It is said that Maharaja Gulab Singh acquired a very intimate knowledge of village administration from the Bhaggats' performances, and I have picked up some hints from them as to the methods of the patwari, the village accountant. The plot is very much the same. The Raja rides by, burning to redress injustice, and his Wazir seizes on the patwari and the lambardar and calls for the village accounts. The unfortunate villager who has brought his grievance to the Raja's notice is at first very loud and noisy in his complaints, but as he sees the Wazir and the patwari laying their heads together he becomes silent and sits as one fascinated. The denouement is that the Wazir finds that the patwari is innocent, and the complainant receives a severe flogging. Other scenes of village life are depicted, and one of the most favourite representations with the country-people is the sowing, plucking and spinning of cotton. I shall have some more to say about these interesting Bhaggats later on. They relieve the sadness of village life in Kashmir.
The minstrels of Kashmir [Bhaggat or Band) can be recognized by their long black hair and stroller mien, and although they are practically a peculiar people so far as marriage goes, they sometimes recruit their companies by enlisting a villager. They combine the profession of singing and acting with that of begging, and are great wanderers, travelling down to the Panjab where they perform to Kashmiri audiences. With the curious exception of the Akangam company, which is formed of Pandits, the Bhaggats are all Musalmans. They are much in request at marriage feasts, and at harvest time they move about the country, and in a year of good harvest will make a fair living on the presents of the villagers. Their orchestra usually consists of four fiddles with a drum in the centre, or of clarionets and drums, but the company often contains twenty members or more. Their wardrobe is frequently of great value, and several companies which I have met are said to have dresses and properties worth more than Rs. 2,000. Their acting is excellent and their songs are often very pretty. They are clever at improvisation and are fearless as to its results. They have songs in Kashmiri, Persian and Panjabi, but the Kashmiri songs are the only ones which I have heard. The story of the Akangam Bhaggats is peculiar. Brahmans considered acting to be degrading, and even now the Brahmans of Kashmir regard the Akangam players with contempt. But the Brahman players say that they took to the stage by the express order of the goddess Devi. The legend relates that many years ago Devi appeared to the ancestor of the Akangam Pandits, and, placing a fiddle in his hands, said, ' Play upon this fiddle.' He protested his inability, but on the goddess persisting, he took up the bow and played unearthly music. He was bidden by Devi to sit under the deodars of Akangam [Akingam, Anantnag (the story now)] and play in her honour. For some years he and his sons obeyed the goddess' behest, but unable to withstand the prejudices of his caste, he finally declined to play any more. On this he was stricken with blindness and wandered away to the Liddar valley. In a dream Devi appeared to the Magistrate of the Liddar, and told him to take the old Pandit back to Akangam. On reaching Akangam the Pandit recovered his sight, and since that day he and his descendants fiddle away without further protest. These Pandits never send their children to school, as they believe that Devi would resent it and would kill the children. The Bhaggats are very pleasant people and their mirth and good humour form a cheerful contrast to the gloom of the Kashmiri peasant. They acknowledge two leaders or Sardars who arrange that the circuits shall not clash. They have a peculiar argot (phirkat) which they employ in stage directions."

~ Walter Rooper Lawrence's 'Valley of Kashmir' (1895).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flying to Kashmir

It's not so far
There's just a mountain
And at night
we can always fly

Music: Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata",The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor. Video: Flying from Jammu to Srinagar

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

on the wall

Over the last couple of years, I released thousands of photographs online, most of them now end up anonymously on Facebook walls of thousands of anonymous people.

If those walls aren't enough, on a recent visit to Jammu I found some on the walls of a community centre.

Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Nov. 2013
P.S. A cousin sis tells me she saw my Mekhal pics in an ad for hairloss treatment in Bangalore. Internet is weird.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kashmir in 'L'espace bleu entre les nuages' by Cosey, 1978

From personal collection

Kashmir in Jonathan series 'L'espace bleu entre les nuages' (The blue space between the clouds) by swiss artist Cosey (Bernard Cosandey) for Tintin Magazine No.147, July 4, 1978.

The plot revolves around sale of rare European paintings meant to fund a militant movement run from Srinagar. The movement in this case happens to be a veiled reference to 'Free Tibet' movement whose main agents have taken refuge in Kashmir.

Much like the old European travellogues, Srinagar here is presented as the springboard to the roof of the world. The comic comes from a time when comics were art, this collection apparently is supposed to be read with the background score of Beethoven (Concerto No. 3 in C minor op. 37) and Chopin (Concerto No. 2 in F minor op. 21).

To get the art and feel of the place right, Cosey actually travelled to Kashmir and seems to have soaked it all in quite well. The issue also carried a brief piece by Cosey about his experience in Kashmir  (along with some photographs by Paquita Cosandey, who usually did script and design for him).

Tintin Magazine was meant to be a space where new and future comic works by various artists could be showcased. 'L'espace bleu entre les nuages' as a complete work came out later in 1980.

At that time the west seemed to be much taken by Tibet, in this particular issue of the magazine, I would find two more comics themed around Tibet.

Kashmir in Indian Comics

Kashmir in The Wide World, 1948

Continuing with theme of Kashmir in European style...

From my personal collection, Kashmir on the cover of July 1948 issue of a London based magazine called The Wide World.

European 'Village Life in Kashmir', 1760

Village Life in Kashmir, c. 1760. By Mughal painter Mir Kalan Khan. A painting imitating European style, explaining why Kashmiri village here looks more like an alpine village.

Via: British Library:

"Gouache painting with gold of village life in Kashmir, by Mir Kalan Khan, working in the Lucknow/Faizabad style, c.1760. Inscribed on the border in Persian: 'majlis-i kashmir, 'amal-i mir kalan' (A Kashmiri assembly, the work of Mir Kalan).

This painting depicts scenes of village life and in the centre a group of people are shown gathering grapes and wood while also cooking. On either side are several multi-storied buildings, and numerous waterways can be seen in the distance with buildings on the land in between. Mir Kalan Khan's distinctive Europeanised style was adopted by other Lucknow artists, yet this kind of scene and subject matter remained unique to Khan. The source of his European influence is uncertain, but his extensive scenes often relate to Dutch and Flemish paintings. The facial type is distinctive, with frequent use of three-quarter face instead of profile. The artists place of origin is uncertain, but he may have been trained at the Delhi court, indicating that he came to Faizabad or Lucknow later in his life."


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kashmiri Woman's costume, 19th century

"Kashmir. Woman's costume, nineteenth century, worn by upper classes. Hat is usually covered by a white silk scarf. Silk brocaded with metallic gold, floral and medallion pattern. Hat is made of gold-colorer paste with red paste "jewels," seed pearls, and metal tear-shaped pendants. "

From 'Costumes of the East' by Walter Ashlin Fairservis, Jr. 1971

Interesting read: Kashmir issue of Design magazine Pool (Nov, 2013)

Kashmir State Forces Uniform, 1938

Cigarette Cards published by John Player & Sons, 1938

From the reverse:
"Indian State Forces:
Kashmir State Forces
The Maharaja of Kashmir maintains a larger number of State Forces than any other Ruler of any Indian State. These forces are organized into the Jammu and Kashmir Brigades, the latter of which is commanded by the officer in our picture, in Full Dress. They comprise one Bodyguard Cavalry regiment, two Mountain Batteries, seven active and one training Battalions of Infantry and a Transport unit consisting of both pack and mechanized transport. Several of these units served with distinction on the North-West Frontier of India and overseas during the Great War. Jammu and Kashmir lie to the north of the Punjab and cover nearly 85,000 square miles. The population exceeds 3,500,000. The background shows a view of Srinagar."

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