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Srinagar in 1930s and 1940s - Glimpses of Social Life

By Shamboo Nath Gurkha

It is a daunting task to recapture the social life we lived in Kashmir in 1930s and 1940s. So much has changed over the past 6-7 decades. 1947 is a watershed in the history of Kashmir. It not only marked the transition of Kashmir from autocracy to popular democracy, but also created conditions for Kashmir's plebian society to rapidly become a modern one. Purchasing power of the common Kashmiri increased manifold. Media, both print and the electronic, exposed Kashmiris to outside influences. Education also had far reaching impact on Kashmiri society. Growing economy opened up Kashmiri society, Kashmiris began interacting with others as never before. In this essay an attempt is being made to acquaint the new generation of Kashmiris with the sort of life Kashmiris lived in the previous decades when amenities of modern living were not available.

Daily Life:

People were early risers. They would get up in the wee hours and go to their respective places of worship. On return, they would fetch Kashmiri bakery from their respective bakers (Kandur). Since Kashmiris preferred to buy breakfast bread from the baker, it was not unusual to see people in ques at the baker's shop, waiting for their turn to purchase bread. After visiting the bakers the people would collect milk from the local milkman (Goor).

The morning breakfast was usually light. Employees used to take lunch at 9 AM. They were very punctual in attending the duties, latecomers were taken to task by their superiors. The labourers/carpenters (Chhan) Masons (Dasil) etc. used to carry food alongwith them in their tiffon (Ganjbana). Women attended to the domestic chores - house cleaning, clothwashing, husking paddy (Dhanya Munun) as few rice mills were available. The ladies also had to carry water from the nearby stream/river. Some families would arrange professional water-carriers (Paniyur).

At 6 AM vegetable growers would carry their produce-Hak and other vegetables to different parts of the city for sale. Large portion of vegetable land in Srinagar was reserved for Hak (Saag) and Monji (Kadam). Hak of Kawdara used to be superb and quite sweet. In Ali Kadal quarter two ladies Jigri and Zoona would bring big fatus of Hak on their heads from Kawdara.

Boat shopkeepers also brought their merchandise in the morning for sale. It used to be carried in big boats called Khochoos. They would attract buyers by shouting 'Gaer Ha', 'Mong Hai', 'Muth Ha', 'Makai Ha', 'Razma Ha', 'Warimuth Ha' etc. Ghat of Ram Kolun Yarbal in Srinagar city was a common place for this type of merchandise. Those days people did not use soap routinely, they preferred particular type of clay. Boats carrying Goret miech (a particular clay) were seen every other day. It was purchased mostly by Kashmiri Hindus. The seller carried it in fatus. Pandits used it for house cleaning, hand washing and ritual purposes. Other items of daily use were also sold through these 'moving' shops.

A non-Kashmiri Halwai (sweet seller) was often seen roaming around in the streets of Srinagar. He used to carry 'Halwa' (Sweet pudding) in a box and would recite Urdu verses to attract customers. He would say, 'Zara Aa Ke Dekho Mein Kya Bechta Hoon' (come to see what I sell), "Mein Khuyeh Walla Halwa Bava Halwa Bechta Hoon'.

In summers temperature hardly exceeded 340C. No electric (table/ceiling) fans were available. Hand fans (Wavaej) were used to have cooling effect. In summers sodagars (chhapdi farosh) were seen carrying on their heads baskets of 'snow (yakh)'. In colloquial Kashmiri they would say 'Kamiy Vana Volmakhu Yakho' , Yakho' (Ice from which forest I have brought you!), 'Kana Dur Garyo, 'Wah Yakho Wah Wah Yakho' (Ice, should I prepare earings for you), to attract customers. These sodaghars used to store snow in winter months in deep wells in Harvan forests. For daily use they would carry it in baskets.

One baker Sita Ram would be on the streets around mid-day to sell different brands of biscuits and bread. He carried these in a small box on his head. A middle-aged Muslim gentleman also roamed in the city with a book written in Kashmiri.

Twice a week two male strangers would be seen in Pandit mohallas, particularly around 9-10 AM. Their heads used to be covered with blankets. They would enter houses of Pandits and say 'Meh Asih Cheeza' (I want something) They were turned  off by offering them a cup (Khos) of rice.

'Sadhmakars' would move in a group. Their attire looked quite comical - Multicoloured long chogas (gowns), with caps on their heads. They would come to Pandit houses once a week. The head of the group would be an old man with white beard (safed resh). On entering the Pandit house he would loudly shout 'Jai Gosaen', 'Jai Gosaen' Chuh Anganas Manz Deetav Deetav, Vishnarpan'. After receiving a cup of rice, the 'Sadhmakar' would shower blessings on the family.

Also seen were 'Ladishah'. And non-Kashmiri Sadhus would come as snake-charmers. Ladishah wore white poch (gown) and white Muslim turban. He carried an iron staff with bangles, and would, after entering the compound of Pandits, recite few Kashmiri verses comically to entertain the family members. He would leave after receiving a cup of rice. The snakecharmer used to carry a snake in a coir basket and would make snake dance to the tune of his flute. At other times some people from the villages carried monkey or bear with them. They would visit different mohallas and entertain people by making monkey/bear play different games.

Lower income group ladies used to wear Pulhuro (grass chappels), woven in feet from soft and fine grass. Rich families used to wear leather shoes, which cost Rs 2 and 12 Annas per pair. Only members of feudal elite and the affluent people wore 'flex shoes', while middle income groups would wear canvas/cloth shoes (12 annas per pair) in summer. In winter they wore Bata rubber shoes (Rs 1-4 anna per pair). The butcher class used to wear black leather hard shoes, 'Puj Pazaar'.

Religious Life:

Both Pandits and Muslims were God-fearing, religious in outlook. They woke up early to go to temples and mosques to offer prayers. Good number of people in Srinagar city visited Hari Parbat early morning daily, while Muslims, would visit Makhdoom Sahib and Sikhs the Chati Padshahi. The ringing of bells in temples, Azan in mosques and Shabad Kirtan in Gurudwara provided a serene ambience, which also reminded about pluralistic character of Kashmirian society. Those days no loudspeakers were fitted in places of worship.

Pandits immersed ashes of the dead mostly at Shadipur, while some went to Gangabal. There were no special arrangements for Gangabal Yatra at the Governmental level. In 1947 there was no yatra due to tribal raid.

The plebian society had strong faith in soothsayers. Quite a few of them were popular with the people. Sona Mout and Mama Kaloo would roam bazaars of Srinagar city. Sona Mout wore a dirty poch (inner of pheran) and carried an earthern pot filled with charcoal on his left shoulder. He would hurl choicest abuses and talk rough. His face had fearsome look, people would feel scared. Sona Mout lived in the house of Pt. Shirdhar Joo, Ex-Conservator Forests at Rehbab Sab, Nowakadal, Srinagar. Prominent disciples of this mastana included Dr. Gwasha Lal Koul, renowned physician, Kh. Gh. Mohammad and his son proprietor of M/s Gh. Mohd. Noor Mohd. and Noor Mohd. Sons, Booksellers, Mahraj Ganj, Srinagar.

Another mastana was nicknamed 'Boundrich'. He used to roam mostly in Sumbal but would also visit Srinagar city.While roaming he would loudly shout 'Boundrich'.

Mama Kaloo was seen mostly in Ali Kadal area. His refrain was 'Allah Hoo'! ‘Allah Hoo! I have seven daughters, Oh God, kindly arrange their marriages, Allah Hoo! Zikre-Dam Peera Boztam". Some other distinguished religious pesonalities with exalted spiritual powers included - Saboor Sab (Tulmulla), Kash Kak (Manigam), Bhagwan Gopinath (Gadud Bagh), Nanda Mout, Swami Nand Lal, Grata Bab, Shiv Ratangir, Mathra Devi, Sati Maech, Devid w/o Late DN Raina, Proprietor of Remington Typwriters. These people had lot many disciples. These mastanas, as per their disciples, possessed powers which instantaneously solved the problems of their murids. Swami Lakshman Joo was a leading Shaiva scholar at Ishbar. Pandits and Muslims used to go to Moulvi Atiquallah for 'Taweez' (amulet).

Marriages :

Marriages were settled through middleman, called manzimyor. For Pandits the job was performed by Muslim barbers. One such young person was quite popular-Gh. Mohd. the Dwarf. He wore sharahi yezar (sherwani), a white turban, a short coat with a white cotton chadar around his shoulders. He used to carry dozens of Teknis in a Khaki bag hung on his left shoulder. The bride's father or the head of the family would take 2-3 teknis of prospective grooms from the middleman and then match these through their Kulpurohit.The two families enquired about each others' antecedents and exchange Kulawalis (status list of each families relations). After the families were satisfied, then confirmation was conveyed through Gh. Mohd. the middleman. After the nod from boy's family, the middleman would visit bride's side and wish them 'mubarak'  on the formal acceptance of proposal by groom's family.

The Kulpurohit would then decide the auspicious date for gandun (engagement) and lagan (wedding day). Gandun was performed at a temple or at the house of some relation of groom's family with austerity. Only 5-6 close relations were called and served tea and Takhtachi (Kashmiri Baker delicacy). Then an elderly person of groom's family would present a bunch of flowers, poshgond to his counterpart from bride's family. They would embrace each other. Then the elder person from bride's side would reciprocate the exchange of Poshgond. After the completion of tea session and other related formalities, the father of the groom or the head of the family would give a pledge that his family would treat the bride as his own daughter. He would also assure that his family members would not demand anything as part of dowry. On this assurance, the bride's side would profusely thank groom's side. Before dispersal the bride's side would offer 11 Kands (candy), 1 kg of Almond, 2 kgs of Sugar and 11 breads to groom's side.

The lagan ceremony too was solemnised in a simple manner. The Baratis were served a 7-8 course meal, no cold drinks or tea was served. During rot lagan. (night reception of Barat) the groom's side would prepare their own tea. The bridegroom would wear Achkan, a chooridar Pyjama and Kesari turban. These articles were usually borrowed from a nearby rais (wealthy person), who would gladly lend these to his neighbour. The groom would lead the barat and used to be mounted on horse first. Muslim biradari also borrowed choga, shilnswar, green turban from a nearby rais.

Amusement and Entertainment:

People were generally poor. They visited Mughal gardens and other parks for picnics. The melodious voices of Abbabel and Bulbul heralded the beginning of summer. Peculiar flowers with yellowish hue in graveyards and yemberzel and Nargis elsewhere would blossom in early summer. Buds of almond tree, badam, phulai, would first sprout near Hari Parbat, Ganesh temple and Devi Angan, Waris Khanun Chah garden and Badami Bagh, Zewan, Khrew etc. On Sundays Pandits and Muslims would throng to Devi Angan and Badam Wari (Waris Khanun Chah area) with Samovar, food and other eatables. Little girls would collect the petals of almond flowers, make garlands with needle and thread and then put these around their neck. To entertain the people, who had come to see the Badam Phulay (blooming of Almond flowers), Pandit and Muslim halwais used to put up their stalls in tents. Pandit halwai would prepare Luchis of maida (fried bread) and nadar munji (Lotus stalk pakodas). Muslim halwais prepared parathas and fried Mungfuli. Other vendors would roast raw singhara (waternuts) on fire prepared by grass and serve these to visitors. They would crush the roasted singharas with the help of two small stones.

Fairs would put spice into the otherwise dull life of poverty-stricken Kashmiris. They would participate in large numbers. Muslims visited Dastgir Sahib and Makhdoom Sahib on the occasion of Urs of the two saints. On the occasion of Mehraj-ul-Alam, Milad-ul-Nabi lakhs of Muslims would throng to Hazratbal to have deedar of Moi Muqadas. Pandits used to go to Tulmulla on the day of Jyesth Ashtami and also on Ashtami days. They would also go to Khrew to pay obeisance to Goddess Jwala. Sadhus in good numbers used to come for Amarnath Yatra. A month before yatra sadhus and sanyasis would throng to Srinagar and stay at Durga Nag, Dashnami Akhara and other mohalla temples. This event was keenly watched by natives of Srinagar.

Around spring time Pandits celebrated Navreh, Zang Trai and Ramnavmi. On festivals of Ramnavmi and Mahanavmi (Autumn), Pandits used to visit Hari Parbat and the Akbar's Fort on the hillock. The fort would remain open for all the nine days on these occasions, the fort temple housed an image of Goddess Kali.

Dussehra used to be celebrated officially at Chandmari (Khar Maidan-Ass Ground), Tattoo Ground at Batmalinu. The place is now used as Transport yard. One week before Dussehra effigies of Ravana, Kumbakarna and caricature of Lanka were prepared with Bamboo sticks and stuffed with crackers. At 4 PM the jawans of the state forces would  line up at the Tattoo ground. Maharaja Hari Singh, seated on horse, would take the salute and then sit in a specially decorated Shamiana. He would be received by his cabinet ministers, civil and military officials, besides, the distinguished citizens. After sunset 'Lord Rama', seated on a decorated rath would pass near the effigies and shoot arrows at these. Within minutes fires would breakout and effigies would perish. In the evening. Maharaja would host the prominent gentry, his ministers and officials and present a sovenior coin to each of them.

Maharaja Hari Snigh's birthday was celebrated with great pomp and show. On this day 1 kg of rice was distributed free to poor people. Students of all government schools, dressed in Kapuri colour turbans, would be present at different ghats from Amirkadal to Chattabal. Maharaja, after offering puja in Gadadhar Temple, would mount a specially decorated boat, Parinda, rowed by 100 oarmen. The Oarmen were attired in ceremonial uniform. At different ghats students used to raise slogans 'Hip Hip Hurrah', 'Mahraj Bahadur Ki Jai', 'Long Live Maharaja'. Maharaja would respond by raising his right hand, and salute them.

From Chattabal (weir) Maharaja would move to palace in a car. A Durbar was held in evening at Durbar Hall, Shergarhi. Members of Cabinet, Civil and Military officians and prominent citizens would present nazrana of 1 pound.

Cheaper entertainment was also available. A middle-aged Muslim gentlemen, would roam streets of Srinagar with poet Mehjoor's book in his hand. He would in particular recite poet’s 'Bagh-e-Nishat Keh Gulo-Naz Kran Kran Wali'  (This poem was published in Mehjoor's collection by M/s Gh. Mohd. Noor Mohd. and Sons, Mahraj Ganj, Srinagar). Subsequently, this poem was recorded by Hindustan company. Affluent people would hear it on their gramophones.

A 'Behrupia' would present varying poses of two sides of his face. This would provide comic entertainment to people. They presented him a 'paisa each. One Jabbar Chanta, a middle aged person from Dalhasanyar had suffered hemiparesis. Because of facial palsy he had been nicknamed Jabbar Chanta. He would be seen at many functions, fairs and Urs of different Sufi saints. He used to carry a bioscope machine on his left shoulder. At the function he would yell 'German Chhu Jang Karan (Germany is at war)', 'Sah (Lion) is roaming in jungle,' while exhibiting various soundless pictures to the audience. He would receive 1 paisa per show.

In 1931 there were only two Cinema halls-Regal and Palladium in Srinagar and seasonal one at Gulmarg. In 1940 Krishen Bal, Proprietor of Regal Talkis constructed one more cinema hall-Amresh Talkies. The charges for class III ticket was 4 annas (25 paisa).

Communications:

Before 1947 Jehlum Valley Road and Banihal Cart  Road (then open for 6 months only) linked Kashmir to the northern India. The last destination for the former was Rawalpindi and fare was Rs 5. Two Transport Companies--Nanda Bus, Charag Din and Sons used to operate passenger and goods services on BC Road to Jammu.

Nala Mar Canal with its arterial network linked different parts of Srinagar city and boat was main mode of transport in the city. Nala Mar  extended from Shelteng to Gadroo, Tulmulla and passed via Habbakadal, Baba demb, Mangleshwar Bhairav, Bagh Dilwar Khan, Khushal Sar etc. It divided Srinagar city into two parts. 5 bridges-Naidkadal, Bohri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Kadikadal and Razvori Kadal spanned across it. Canal used to be dry in winter months. In summers shopkeepers brought their house building material of green dry grass, firewood, timber, bricks, stones etc, besides firewood in big boats called Khochoos to different ghats. Canal also provided transport to Pandits to go to Tulmulla after passing through Bohri Kadal, Razouri Kadal, Kawdara, Aali Masjid, Idgah, Gadroo. The journey was covered in Doonga.

Essential Commodities:

Vegetables-Karela, Tori, Beans, Cucumber, Watermelon, Potato and other vegetables sold for one anna per seer. Apples, Apricot, Cherry etc also were sold at this rate. The same was the price for Moong Dal, Dried Beans, Muth, Peas and dried Waternuts. Flour used to cost 8 p per seer. The price of fish was 6 p per seer and that for gooran (small fish) 2 p per seer. Rs 1 bought six maunds of firewood, edible oil would cost Rs 1 Re and 12 annas for 5 seers and 3 chatanks. The price of different items was: Rs 2.7 Annas per Khirwar (83 seers), Sugar-6 old paise per 250 gms, Tea leaves, Kahwa and Sheerchai-5 p per pau, washing soap: 5 p per pav, Meat-6 p per pav in summer and 7 in winter, bread 80 for 1 rupee, Milk and Curds-5 p per seer, Brinjals 250 for Re 1, Rocksalt: 9 seers for Re 1, Lotus roots (Nadru)-6 p per one gedi (Dal Lake) and 5 p for that of Anchar Lake, Cheese-1 seer for 1 Anna, Karamsag-1 Anna per seer, white cotton (Latha), Chabichap and Shermarka sold for 4 annas per yard. The cost of Militia and night cloth was 2˝ annas per yard. This cloth was nicknamed Gari Vugra. The price of Japanese silk (Boski) was 4 annas per yard. The rates for Dhusa (Pashmina), Rafal Sari and Silk Sari were Rs 25, Rs 5 and Rs 3 respectively.

The umbrella would cost 12 Annas, while price of an electric lamp was 10 p. The gold sold at Rs 30 per Tola and Silver at 8 Annas per Tola.

Heads and legs of sheep were sold by selected butchers called 'Kalhari Puj'. Flies were seen swarming, all over. These butchers would shout 'Batar Maaz' to attract poor customers among scavengers. This meat sold at a pav per anna.

Currency:

British currency was used in J&K. Common denomination was Rs 1 coin (pure silver), 8 Annas (32 p), 4 Adhay paise (96 paise), 4 Annas (made of silver included 16 p, 32 adhay paise and 48 paise). Re 1 coin included 192 pais. In J&K State pais were not used. Before British currency Chilki Rupee was in use. It is said that two centuries ago an elephant owner was roaming in Srinagar city. He wanted to sell his animal and had priced it at 1 Kodi (Har). Not a single person came forward to purchase his elephant. In rural areas barter system was in vogue, while in Srinagar currency was being used for purchase of commodities. There was no paper currency for denominations of Re 1 and Re 2 but Rs 5, 10 and 100 were available in paper currency.

Breaking out of IInd World War pushed the prices of essential commodities up sharply. Average Kashmiri was hit hard by the rise in prices of rice, cloth, flour etc. Blackmarketers, hoarders would dump their stocks and then sold these at exorbitant prices. State Govt. took strong notice of it. It set up Supplies Deptt and appointed Sh. JN Zutshi, later DG Information, as Controller Supplies. Rationing was introduced for essential commodities, cloth, k.oil and sold at government rates on ration cards.

People dealing with handicrafts, Numda making, factory owners, traders, wholesale dealers earned lakhs of rupees. They had purchased goods at low prices and sold these at high prices. These people built up huge palatial mansions and demolished centuries old houses.

In the period 1931-1946, 90% population in Srinagar city lived below poverty line. Unemployment was rampant. Labourers received low wages and could not make two ends meet Commodities were cheap, yet majority of Kashmiris lived below subsistence level.

Purchasing power was low. People were resigned to their fate and attributed poverty to supernatural forces.

In 1939 with the onset of economic depression due to war, the British Indian government introduced currency denominations of Rs 1 and Rs 2 and withdrew silver currency. Traders and labourers made good money. Govt. employees faced hardship. To ease their problem Dearness allowance was introduced for the first time in J&K.

In 1940 one morning a Markhban from Budgam came to Srinagar with two bags of 'Mushkbuj' (flavoured  rice) laden on his horse. It was high quality rice with pleasant taste and smell. He wanted to sell it for Rs 2-12 Anns, people were willing to pay 4 Annas lesser. However, Markhban agreed. Meanwhile, some ladies took handful of rice near their noses for smell. Markhban took strong offence to it. He then went to other parts of city but could not find buyer for his special rice. He then prayed that there be bad harvest for shali (Paddy). He felt the prices would then skyrocket and Srinagar city people would learn a lesson for life. A week later heavy rains followed by flash floods destroyed the shali crops. Rice went out of market. Blackmarketers and hoarders had a hayday, minting money by selling rice at exorbitant prices.

In 1934 Pt. PK Wattal started Woollen Mills at Shirin Bagh-‘Shri Karan Singh  Woollen Mills'. Hundreds of skilled/unskilled Kashmiris found employment in it. Workers were paid six Annas (36 p). Since the prices of essential commodities were less, workers were generally satisfied.

Joint family system was the norm. Usually one member of the family was bread earner, serving either in Govt. or Pvt. Institution. Silk Factory was started by the State Govt. at Raj Bagh. It provided employment to hundreds of Kashmiris. Prior to it Raja Upinder Kishan Koul had started two factories- Match Factory and Pharmaceutical Factory at Baramulla, where many people were employed. After World War II Defence Ministry of GOI opened recruitment centres for taking soldiers and labourers.

‘Jabri’ schools were started by Maharaja Hari Singh for imparting free and compulsory education to people. The government provided free books, notebooks, slates, wooden Takhties etc. to enrol students. However, the educated youth did not have sufficient jobs available.

Radio:

Soon after the outbreak of IInd World War, BBC and Radio Berlin started daily broadcasts in Hindi at 7:45 PM and 8 PM respectively. BBC underplayed German advances. The listerners would get confused. In general people had sympathy for Germans and hate for the British.

At first, there were only six Radiosets in Srinagar City-Maharaja, SP College and the other 4 belonged to affluent gentry. The common people would listen to broadcasts in compounds of rich people to the BBC and Radio Berlin news.

Meanwhile, 'Himalaya Soas’ also installed a Radio set for workers at their Shirin Bagh factory premises, near Woollen Mills Karan Nagar. Residents of Shirin Bagh and Chattabal used to come to listen to Radio here. Even such prominent people-DN Raina, Shyam Lal Chrungoo, Bishamber Nath Kaul, Dina Nath Mirakhor, Dr Jia Lal Koul and Makhan Lal Matto (presently at Mumbai) used to come here)

Sanitation and Health Care:

There was no proper water supply scheme one and a half centuries ago in Srinagar city or other villages. People used Jehlum water for drinking, bathing and washing purposes. In rural areas streams and springs served the utility. During the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh water works department came into existence. Harvan Reservoir was built to provide clean water to residents of Srinagar. It was fed by Marsar nullah. When it started old ladies felt astonished on seeing underground pipes. They would exclaim:

"Vuchtav Angrezav Kiyah Kari sal

Nalka dabavikh Zaminas tal"

(See what trick the Englishmen have played

They have buried the tap pipes under the ground.)

The affluent people got water connections to their homes, common people made use of public taps. These taps, were provided mohalla-wise. To meet the increasing demands two more schemes-Rangil (Kangan) and Dudh Ganga water supply schemes were initiated. Subsequently, water supply schemes were extended to rural areas.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation also launched a sanitation drive. Public latrines were built in each mohalla of the city. A force of safai karamcharis were raised to clean these on daily basis. After cleaning, they would dump the excreta in big boats. From different ghats it was taken and put into deep wells. Subsequently, it was sold through bidding to vegetable growers for use as manure. This formed important revenue for SMC. Upper sections built their own latrines. Vegetable growers directly removed this excreta for use in their fields.

For overall cleanliness, SMC set up different wards, each supervised by ward officer. Sanitary supervisors were made responsible for the work done by safai karamcharis/sweepers. Sanitary Jamadars/Supervisors wore a badge on red cloth around their neck. The badge, a brass plate had 'Jamadar Safai' written on it. Sweepers used to clean the city twice a day, morning and evening. Mashkees would spray water on the roads.

For cure of flu, cough, cold, fever etc. people used to take 'Khamira, Bunafsha', 'Khamira Gulab', 'Mulhati', 'Kahzaban', 'Brandy', 'Sharbat' of Gul-e-Bunafsha'. For cure of illness people used to repose great faith in Pirs and Hakeems. Well known Hakims included Hakim Ahmadullah, Pt. Sahaz Bhat, Pt. Sham Bhat, Pt. Bal Hakim, Hakim Gulam Mohiuddin, Hakim Sansar Chand.

Tuberculosis, Typhus, Cholera would take heary toll of people's lives, Typhoid was rampant. Hakims used to charge 8 Annas (50 p) for visiting patient at home.

Leading Physician Dr. Gwasha Lal Koul, MRCP would charge Rs 5 for seeing a patient at home. Only rich people could afford this fee. Other well-known doctors of this period included - Dr. Shamboo Nath Peshin, Dr Dwarka Nath Muthoo, Dr. Janki Prasad Raina, Dr. Gopi Nath Chugtu etc. They played a pioneering role in setting up of National Hospital, Karan Nagar. Dr ON Thussu started Ratan Rani Hospital in memory of his first wife. She had died of burns at Tulmulla. There were some private clinics in the city but rural areas lacked modern health infrastructure. Missionary Hospitals at Rainawari, Drugjan, Baramulla and Anantnag served people well. Well known missionary doctors included Dr Neve, Dr Wasper, Dr Macpherson etc.

Pandit ladies would store water, made from washing rice, in a big earthern pot and then add Ajwain, muth and pepper-mint. After forty days this water was collected and named 'Kanz'. It had pleasant smell but bitter taste. It was boiled and retaken with cooked rice. Dr. Gwasha Lal Koul used to recommend this water for its 'Vitamin B content'. Some ladies used to collect water of boiled rice, called enema in local language in a big earthern pot daily and then put cooked vegetables like knol khol (Kadam/Monji), Radish and Turnip in this. The mixture collected after a week, 'Chokur' was then taken with food/cooked rice. It had also pleasant smell and bitter taste.

Society and Politics:

Till 1931 social peace prevailed. Events of 1931 and subsequently in 1934 shook the Pandit minority. However, after the riots were over, intercommunal relations got restored.

During this period NC was popular in Valley but did not have any impact in Jammu and Ladakh. Pt. Jia Lal Killam and Kashyap Bandhu were among the first to join NC. Subsequently, DP Dhar, ML Misri, NN Raina (Saraf), PN Jalali, ON Trisal joined NC. These Pandits played an important role in making 'Quit Kashmir Movement' a great success and even went to jails.

Kashmir was visited by a galaxy of national leaders in this period. They included Acharya Kriplani (147), Nehru (1938-1946), Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Mountbatten and Gandhi (1947) VD Savarkar and Jinnah. Dewan Chaman Lal and Asaf Ali had accompanied Nehru for taking up Sheikh Abdullah's defence. VD Savarkar, the Hindu Mahasabha to President was given a civic reception at DAV Magarmal Bagh, where he advised Kashmiri Pandits to join Hindu Mahasabha. The host and the leader of Yuvak Sabha, Pt. Shiv Narain Fotedhar opposed this suggestion arguing that the Kashmiri Pandits were in minority and had to devise their own ways.

Shri Mahraj Krishan Dhar, Governor of Kashmir, was a tough administrator. A day before Nehru's arrest, Dhar was seen personally supervising arrangements for despatching a company of Armed Forces. After paying regards to Nehru, Dhar told him, "I am your relative. Please forgive me for maintaining law and order. As such I request you to desist from entering the territory of J&K State. Comply with the orders of the ruler of J&K State, otherwise I would have to take you in custody".

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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