Reliving history amid almond blossoms in Kashmir

March 31st, 2008 - 9:36 am ICT by admin  

By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, March 31 (IANS) As almond branches laden with purple white flowers spread their faint fragrance, Kashmiris are trying to relive history in this city’s Badam Wari or almond garden. Situated on the foothills of Kohi Maran mount atop which are two great icons of Kashmir’s eclectic culture - the shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom and the temple of Hindu goddess Sharika Devi - the garden has come alive after three decades.

For centuries the Badam Wari was the first to reverberate with life with the onset of the spring season in Jammu and Kashmir.

Till 1970, the people of Srinagar would assemble there to announce the arrival of the spring season - after braving the vagaries of a harsh winter - with music and mirth.

The vast expanse of the almond garden would remain dotted with singing parties that would amuse visitors. People would bring their own food and share it with friends and visitors.

“That was a great tradition. Like all good things, the tradition of the Badam Wari also died in the mindless race for development,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, 51, a teacher.

“Most of the area that belonged to the almond garden in the city has been encroached upon with houses and shops.

“It is a pity that a magnificent festival was allowed to die an ignominious death,” said Ahmad, who remembers going to the great spring festival of the city with his father when he was a child.

But after 30 years, the Badam Wari has come to life again.

Though its original area could not be reclaimed, the J&K Bank with its heritage preservation trust has restored the larger parts of the Bagh-e-Waris Khan that formed a part of the vast almond garden in the good old days.

A group of folk singers has been brought here to recreate the semblance of the old tradition. Encouragingly, the effort has not gone unnoticed.

Hundreds of people are visiting the almond garden, which was thrown open to the public a few days ago by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

“The Badam Wari might never regain its old glory. Its encroached areas might never be reclaimed, but still it is a great feeling being here once again. I am rather too old for such outings now, but this is a special occasion for me,” said Gulam Mohiuddin Bazaz, 89, who lives in the old city area.

Bazaz was accompanied by his grandchildren who are looking at the almond garden as something of a jogger’s park.

“Well, that is the difference. For me, it is history, tradition and culture, all interwoven into one. For my grandchildren it is just a nicely laid jogger’s park,” Bazaz said.

(F. Ahmed can be contacted

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