According to historians, the ancestors
of Kashmiris are early immigrants from
India proper. With the spread of Buddhism, many scholars came to Kashmir
from far-off lands for research and study. This resulted in the emergence of
Buddhism. The contact of Kashmiris with the Roman, Greek and Persian
civilizations and the interaction, made for a happy blending of cultures. Most
of the people claim their descent from the Indo-Aryan stock. Actually, Kashmir
is inhabited by diverse and different races, distinct in their looks,
dress, food habits, customs, speech and traditions.
Kashmiris made remarkable contributions to story-telling, mystical poetry,
the Shaiva philosophy, grammar and the sciences. Folk-songs and dances as well
as the various arts and crafts, for which Kashmir is world famous, bear eloquent
testimony to the artistic and cultural genius of the people of Kashmir.
Most of the people in the valley are fair-complexioned, with light brown hair,
blue or grey eyes, chiseled features and fine physique. There are also people
with a whitish complexion, black almond eyes and black hair. Kashmiris tend to
Kashmiris, on the whole are non-aggressive and temperate in nature and very
God-fearing. They have been regarded as non-martial in character.
They can be singled out as
extremely warm, friendly, and hospitable. The Kashmiri Pandits life and habits are simple and frugal, he tends to
be individualistic and largely intellectual. Traditionally, he avoids doing manual
labour and has clung to professional and administrative jobs. In bygone days, he
used to be reluctant to go away from his homeland but now he has changed
completely. Kashmiri Muslims on the other hand, is generally more active,
energetic and dynamic. He is an unrivalled craftsman, deftly producing time-honoured designs - intricate and beautiful - on
silver and gold and embroiders and weaves the most exquisite shawls, carpets
and rugs. He is an excellent cultivator, rears sheep and cattle and is
self-employed in cottage industries. He is also a shrewd businessman.
Ninety percent of the population in the valley profess Islam of both Sunni and
Shia sects. The rest are Kashmiri pandits. There are some Sikhs. The Kashmiri
pandits do not have castes like Hindus in the rest of India.
Rice is the staple food of the
Kashmiris and meat cooked in delicious varieties,
goes with it. Kashmiris pride over Karam Sag (a kind of leafy green vegetable),
nadru (lotus stalk) and turnips. Wherever a Kashmiri goes, he carries
these precious vegetables as token presents. Kashmiris are known for their
culinary art or more accurately, the cooking of lamb dishes in various ways,
each distinct in taste from the other. The tea that the Kashmiris drink is called
Kahva - a concoction of green tea leaves brewed in the samovar and enriched with
pounded almonds, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon stalks overdosed with sugar and
served without milk. The other kind of tea is Shirchai-salted and milked, pink
in colour, with lots of cream on top of it.