Ramadan Special: Bandipora’s tribal girl promotes cultural heritage during the holy month of fasting

Tauseef Ahmad, TwoCircles.net


Bandipora: Shabnum Bashir, a 21-year-old tribal girl from Bandipora in Kashmir valley, is reviving a forgotten tradition of breaking fasts in open meadows during the holy month of Ramdhan. It is aimed at bringing communities together.

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“My objective is to revive our tradition, culture and attire. Our lifestyle is different from others. These days, the young generation prefer modern outfits over traditional clothing,” Shabnum told TwoCircles.net.
She said their ancestors used to break fast in the open meadows, but now people now have restricted it withing the boundaries of their homes in their families. “Reviving the practice will increase the brotherhood and unity in Kashmir’s tribal communities,” she said.
Gujjars and Bekarwals are one of the oldest schedule tribes of the valley, having a population of 1.5 million as per the 2011 census. These communities have their own distinctive clothing, cuisine, music, language and lifestyle, which, according to several community leaders, is about to vanish.
“I remember the days when my grandfather used to call all his neighbours in his lawn to break fast. That was a golden time. But these days, neighbours don’t even talk to each other. It is important to keep our tradition and these practices alive as it increases brotherhood and love,” said GH Hassan Gujjar, who belongs to Aragam.
He also said that the tribals in Kashmir have their own colourful traditional attire, food, music and language from centuries, which are different from other communities of the valley, but the young generation of tribal community under the influence of modernization is fast losing interest in everything.
“We used to go in every lane in our neighbourhood to awake our neighbours for their pre-dawn meals. But these days, our youth say they get disturbed from the traditional practice, which now has also diminished,” he said.
“The young generation shows less interest in wearing their traditional attire and participating in community gatherings, which were once central to our identity either in green meadows or our homes. To preserve our cultural heritage, I will embrace these traditions and teach their importance to the younger generation,” Shabnam added, emphasizing that by doing this, “we can instil admiration for our culture and traditions in younger generations, keeping our identity vibrant and alive”.
She further added the tribal youths have no idea how their ancestors used to live. She believes by reviving the tradition of breaking fasts in open meadows will increase the brotherhood and communal harmony.
“We prepared leafy greens, cornbread, and homemade yogurt, all cooked on a traditional stove known as “daan” under the open sky, to break our fasts together. I’ve heard from my family that our ancestors used to break their fasts in this manner,” she said.
Experiencing it firsthand, she said, she realized that gatherings like this not only during Ramadan but throughout the year foster a sense of togetherness. It ensures that no one goes to bed hungry.
Mariyam, 27, another young tribal girl, while emphasizing the importance of keeping tradition and culture alive, says that their ancestors used to cook in open meadows while using earthen pots, bring water from nearby streams and break fast together with their neighbours.
“Our culture is beautiful, we should keep our tradition alive, no matter how much modernization comes,” she added.
She said reviving these traditions is not just about remembering the past, it is about building a future where cultural heritage thrives amidst modern challenges.
“It is about ensuring our identity remains vibrant, ” Shabnam passionately concluded.
The tourism researcher from Quil Muqam village, a remote hamlet located in North Kashmir, about 64 km from the valley’s summer capital of Srinagar, has explored several tourist destinations.
She has authored a book titled ‘Unexplored Kashmir’, which was published in 2021. It is a guide to the people of Kashmir and outside to explore eye-catching destinations in lush green meadows.