For two months, I traveled throughout Kashmir to document local people and cultures. Through being welcomed into homes and villages, I experienced an incredible hospitality that extended from the smaller villages to the larger cities. The region’s stereotypes–mainly a lack of safety for travelers–were disproven almost at once. The people I met were welcoming and eager to share their stories.

The Indian-administered State of Kashmir has been an area of dispute for over 70 years. Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety though each country only controls parts of it. Some in the Kashmir Valley support complete autonomy from both countries, while others support a merger with Pakistan. For many, the strife and tension surrounding Kashmir is all they know. Beneath the continued dispute, however, lies a place filled with pristine terrain and very kind people.

1

A woman offers prayers and touches a holy chain at the Shah Hamdan Mosque in the old city of Srinagar, Kashmir. The mosque is located on the right bank of the Jhelum River and was built around 1400 AD. Islam is the main religion practiced in Kashmir with approximately 98% of the population identifying as Muslims.

2

Along the border road between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, a grandmother holds her grandson in a shared taxi traveling from Sopore back to Limber Village in Uri. For those who live in remote villages, health care must be accessed in larger towns or cities. Vehicles are not common, and villagers from Limber Village in Baramulla District will make the near two-hour drive in a shared taxi to visit the local hospital.

3

Sringar, Kashmir is famous for its dried fruits, nuts, and spices. Lining the city streets are vendors, like this one in Lal Chowk. Though rice and meat are the most popular food items in Kashmir, dried fruits, nuts and spices, are routinely given as gifts, used in teas, and are served to house guests.

4

In Baramulla District in Uri, Kashmir, a man carries a load of straw back to his village. Straw in Kashmir has many uses. It’s not only used as roofing and fodder in rural areas, but it’s also used to make the beautiful papier mache art pieces for which the region is famous.

5

Mohammed Aazad Khan, owner of the clothing store, Shades of Shezan, in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar, takes a break behind his sewing machine. Khan, who says he’s around 50-years-old, has been a tailor for close to twenty years. He makes modern pieces as well as traditional Kashmiri pherans for both men and women.

6

A bread-maker, locally known as a kandur, stands in his bakery in Sopore, Kashmir. The art of becoming a Kandur generally takes at least 10 years to master, the skill passed down from generation to generation. It is seen as a very important job since a traditional breakfast for Kashmiris always includes bread. Almost every village in Kashmir has a local kandur who wakes up before dawn every day to prepare the tandoor (oven) and bake.

7

Workers move Deodar trees (Himalayan cedar) down the Pernyia Mountain in Uri, Kashmir. The trees will be loaded and taken to the capital city of Srinagar to be sold. A single tree can be sold for approximately 11,000Rs ($160). The wood is strong and durable and is used for houses, furniture, and general carpentry.

8

Three generations sit together in the family’s kitchen in Srinagar. Most all families in Kashmir are considered joint families, those that consists of many generations living in the same home. Typically, when a woman marries, she will move into the husband’s home with his family. The younger generations are responsible for the care of the elders.

9

In Sopore, Kashmir, local children climb onto a bus to go to school. Both government-run public schools as well as private schools are found throughout the state.

10

An old man waits in front of a butcher shop in the old section of Srinagar. Meat, specifically lamb, chicken and fish, is the staple food of Kashmir. Wazwan, the most famous dish, is a multi-course meat-based meal regarded by Kashmiri Muslims as a core part of their culture and identity.

11

Kashmiri men from Uri in the Baramulla District of Kashmir walk from work wearing traditional robes called Pherans. Made out of wool, typical pherans extend below the knees and are a great way to fight the harsh winters in the Himalayas. Women’s pherans are slightly different with a wider sleeve and feminine embroidery.

12

At a government run women’s health clinic, Nurse Hanifa Beno administers routine immunizations. The clinic, located in the Pehlipora Village, offers free health care, including check-ups and prenatal care. One day out of every month, Beno offers immunizations and sees about 40 children. On a daily basis, she sees approximately 15 to 20 patients for basic needs.

13

Women and children gather in their home in Sopore to watch as a one of the children is administered medicine. Traditional roles of women in Kashmir consist of taking care of the home and family. Generally, the men are the sole breadwinners of the family. This family structure can be seen especially in the smaller, more rural villages.

What did you think of this article?
Meh
Good
Awesome