Indigenous Practices

DSC_01611. Bakarwals

Description: Bakarwalas or KhanaBadosh are nomads[1] people of the subcontinent. They come to Neelum Valley from Punjab during the summer where the locals provide them with their livestock for grazing during the summers. Neelum Valley is the main transit route, which they take on route to Domail and eventually Chitral.

Personal note: Local people give food, money and their livestock to these nomads. In return the Nomads or Bakarwals feed their livestock and also protect them from the wild animals.


2. Cosmic connection: The locals have a “Shamsi Nizaam” calendar advised by Amin Dada that predicts weather patterns and movement of the stars.

Description: Change in the weather, such as rain and snow, is predicted by the movement of the clouds. In different seasons they predict the location of the crescent as in from behind which mountain or sight it will emerge.

Note: Interested people should ask elders about Shamsi Nizaam as told by Amin Dada for more information on this.


3 story house

3. House patterns: 3 storey

A typical local house has three floors constructed keeping in mind the extreme weather conditions. The ground floor is used to house the animals in the winter, the first floor is the living area utilized by the family and the top floor is used for storage and drying grass. The kitchen of the house is the central and the most important place. The washrooms and the laundry are situated towards the end or the front of the house, slightly detached from the living quarters. Rooms are on either side of a long corridor that stretches out till the end of the house leading to the terrace at the back.



4. Collecting herbs and medicinal plant

collecting plants 2Description: Neelum Valley consists of dense forests, which are rich in medicinal plants and herbs. For centuries the residents of the valley have collected these herbs to cure illnesses and for other medicinal purposes. These plants are used to treat animals too.

Note: People collect local mushrooms known as Gucchi, which is used to cure Asthma and Cancer.It is exported as well as sold locally in dried form for nothing less then 1500/per 100gms.Some other popular herbs are Bagoo, Gazban, Googal, RatanJoog, Mushkbala etc.



5. Gathering hearth:IMG_0338

The kitchen is the hierarchal center of the house. It is the largest space able to accommodate the whole family at a time. The fire place/cooking area is the gathering point for the family who keep themselves warm in this room in the long winters.

Note: The fire in the kitchen is never turned off as it is a symbol of life. The kitchen is also used as a living space during winter. There is a stage/takhat, reserved for the senior members of the house.



6. Sacred springs 

Spring sites are used as spaces for meditation.

Description: Water is a major natural resource in the area. It also has a spiritual significance for the locals. Spring water is considered holy and sacred. Therefore Quranic verses are recited over it to cure evil eye conditions and other diseases.

Note: The spring water is considered as holy and used as a remedy for evil eye. It is also believed to cure headaches, high body temperature, oral and dental problems.



7. Chilimchi:

Description: To help the guests wash their hands; a Mughal practice and a gesture of hospitality. A utensil consisting of a trough and deep dish is offered to the guests for washing their hands just before the meal is served.

Note: A common practice in the Neelum Valley. It is a traditional way of offering respect and gratitude to the guests. Water is poured over the hands and a towel is offered for drying hands. The dirty water collects in the deep dish.


8. Continuous fire under stoves: Hospitality gesture

Description: The people of this valley are quite hospitable and it is an act of disrespect to turn out the fire in the stove in front of guests, therefore it is kept burning until they leave.

Note: It is noted that due to humidity it takes a while to light up the wood hence putting out the fire becomes tedious task. On the other hand, constant burning of wood fires will ultimately result in deforestation in the valley.

9. Pit to store vegetables:

Also known as Khai, a local cold storage method. A three to four feet deep pit is dug in the ground close to the house so that it is shielded from snow during the winters. This pit is used to store vegetables mostly potatoes for the winter season.

Note: Karam (local spinach), Koliyar, Sheeni, Ganyar are the names of locally grown vegetables. These are stored and used in the winter season.


10. Dhandoora: This is local bee storage device that is kept in the upper most or lower most quarters of the house. A wooden piece is coated with unprocessed sugar or honey to attract bees that eventually make a colony and feed on nearby flowers.

Note: The local bee breed is called “Treay Dalli”. Nowadays, this activity is outsourced to the Dhadoora man who is invited to house in order to install this device.


11. Burning Cowdung

Also known as Kariandh, a mixture of grass and cowdung, used as a mosquito repellent and to keep the livestock warm in the barns. The locals’ do not discards the cow dung but they dry and store it to use it as a fuel in the winter.


12. Cow dung fertilizer

When animals are huddled up in a closed space for four to five months in the winter; a lot of dung collects in the room, which is then burnt and used as fertilizer for the corn crops and vegetable patches in the summers. The dung serves as a natural fertilizer; it is distributed in the fields before sowing so that it is mixes well with the soil.

Note: The local women gather the cow dung in one place in their fields then the dung is distributed evenly all over the fields.



13. Mud plaster:

Mud plasters fill joints or gaps within the wood construction and acts as an insulator. Red (luss) clay is mixed with water and applied with cloth everyday after morning prayers. The women of the house perform this activity.


14. Danga

Description: A high platform beneath the tree canopy is used to dry grass. The grass is cut from the pastures; collected, dried on this platform and then stored in the attic of the house. It is used as a fodder for the cattle during winter.

Note: Since the water table of land in Arang Kel is high, hence the grass cannot be dried in the fields.

15. Laithree:

This is a term used for grass cutting and wood collection. Groups of 5-6 women collect these items for a single house at one time. This activity happens during the summer, when the cattle are sent up for grazing in the highlands. Grass is cut before the winter season and stored for the animals, which will be closed up in the house throughout the winter season. The mornings are spent performing this activity.[2]

Note: A single woman carries almost twenty to thirty kilos of grass or wood. The grass is carried in a twig basket and the wood is staged in a pile. The women carry the grass on their heads, covering a distance of three to four kilometers nearly every day during the summers.


16. Anti pot blackening agent:

Description: When women cook on firewood, the smoke blackens the pots. In order to prevent blackening; walnut and deodar wood is used in the stoves.

Note: Most local teashops and restaurants use deodar wood as it omits less smoke.


17. Sajji: Coal White ash is applied on pots to avoid blackening.

Description: The ash from the burnt coal is plastered under the cooking pots as a heat insulator and anti-blackening agent.

Note: The ash is mixed with water to make a paste which is plastered under the pots to secure them from blackening and to keep the food warm for longer durations.




18. Baradri

Description: The Baradari is a group of people from a community. Each Baradari has elders playing the role of administrators. These individuals tackle issues among the Baradari such as divorce, communal and property. Each Baradari has a “Jirgah” which serves the purpose of a family court.

Note: The community prefers the Jigrah because it does not disturb the harmony of the neighborhood. Hence the “Baradari” stays intact and relationships are fostered.


19. Charity/ khairaat before and after snowfall

People in this valley pay alms to the poor before and after snowfall in winters. This is done as a prayer for the winter; so that the season is bearable and spent with health and prosperity. Khraa is a halwa where 11 rupees were collected from every household, another one is kukkar khraa where they collect desi murghi and make rice on a communal level.


20. Graves along pathways

Locals bury their dead close to pathways so that any people who pass by them can send prayers upon the graves. Much respect is given to the dead hence their memories are kept alive by placing them near paths and houses.

Note: Many graves can be seen when wandering around the villages. To keep the animals away the graves are enclosed by a wooden fence.


21. Paanda Kirana

This is a local law that exiles one from the community. It is exercised in extreme cases where the head of a family has been shamed by a disrespectful act committed by any of his family member. The community parts ways with this man and does not talk, sit or eat with him. All ties are broken with this man and his family.

Note: This act is not spoken of in the community. It happens on rare occasions if a girl or boy of a family elope.


22. Musical instrument

Dhool, Surrnai, Flute are local musical instruments. These are played mostly at weddings, sports festivals etc. Qawalis, Tappey and Mahyeay (folk songs) are a major feature of different Urs.

Note: A sect in the Kashmiri community locally known as “Merasi” plays these instruments. These people sing Mahyeay and Tappey accompanied these instruments on special occasions.


23. Communal construction

People in this valley practice communal construction. This means that people in a community help their member build a house. All the chores are taken over and divided amongst the men, who cut wood, transport it and help in the stone masonry work.

Note: This practice is more popular with the slightly underprivileged people in the village who cannot afford to hire masonry teams to build their house.


24. Communal carrying of wood

Description: This practice is popular amongst the women who cut and carry wood for their houses. One day is used by a group of 3 – 4 to gather wood for one single house. This way, the week is used up and wood is gathered for all the houses.

Personal notes: Women in Taobat were found practicing this actively.


25. Seasonal Construction

Description: Due to extreme weather patterns, people in this valley use summer the time for constructing the basic frame structure and exterior of the house. The winter is used for working on the interiors.

Note: This practice is still popular among the locals.


26. Grazing at pastures in the highlands

Description: The locals and nomads take the livestock to the highland pastures for grazing, where the grass is abundant. A popular name for this is “back”. The quality of the grass makes up for the dried grass that animals consume all through winter season when locked up in the den.

Note: Taobat and Shauntar’s highland pastures are ideal for grazing. When the snow melts it results in the growth of thick grass along with herbs and rare plants which is healthy for the animals.


27. Seasonal/Summer house

When the animals are taken to the highlands and pastures for grazing, a light weight structure made out of hay and wooden logs by the locals for living which is taken down when moving back to their homes. In the next season, they use the same wood and gather hay to make a new structure.


28. Seasonal migration

When winters bound everyone to the house, men go down to warmer areas to find work and earn their livelihood. In most households, one man stays behind with the women and children of the house.

Note: In families where there is only one man, he leaves the house to the women.


29. Seasonal fireplaces

Due to extreme weather conditions, locals have a permanent cooking and hearth space and a temporary fire-place that is set up in winters. A portable Angeethi is set up in the room with an exhaust opening towards the ceiling. An exhaust pipe is attached to the Angeethi facing the ceiling to let the smoke out.

Note: Locals keep the temporary Angeethi in the storage areas during summers and set it up in the winters.


30. Sundook:

Every household has a big wooden box that is kept under lock and key. This wooden box is filled with fancy and expensive items. It also carries old ancestral things that the family members have association with. The Sundook is carved and constructed in the house. It is usually a very large rectangular box approximately 6 feet in length and 4 feet in depth.

Note: Sundook is usually stuffed with Jubbas and shawls that are woven by the locals. The key is often found with the women of the house.


31. Ancestral shawls

Women make shawls that are handed down to their daughters and their daughter’s daughter. This shawl is a symbol of the love between a mother and a daughter.

Note: The shawls are made of organic sheep slub. These are hand-woven on ground looms, which are found in nearly every household. Bright coloured threads are used to enhance the fabric.


32. Doga

It is a popular game much like hopscotch that kids play in this valley. The player has to throw a stone on one of the eight squares drawn on the ground. He or she has to hop over the squares and kick the stone from the first block till the last block to finish the game. These squares have names such as Pail, Duja, Teeja, etc


33. Punj gheeta

Using five stones, local children, especially girls play this local game. It is similar to playing marbles but with different rules. The aim of the game is to throw five pebbles in the air, which the player then has to balance on the back of his or her hand. The pebbles that drop on the floor have to be picked up quickly by the player and then the remaining pebbles have to be thrown into the air again.


34. River rocks, laangri and krees

Description: In the past, river rocks were used to design a bowl shaped utensil known as Laangri. It was found at riverbanks and was used for washing the clothes and Krees leaves were used as detergent, which is found locally.

Personal note: This Indigenous practice is no more in use, but the Krees plant is still found in the valley and is used as a bactericide.


35. Gabba Saazi (use of sheep fur)

Description: Gabba saazi is a practice of making organic wool thread, which is made by shearing the wool from local sheep and goats.

Note: This indigenous method is becoming extent day by day. Now only a couple of people in the entire valley know how to make wool from this method.


36. Charkha

The Charkha is a local noun for a spinning wheel. Made with wood the wheel is used to make woolen thread. A large wheel that is hand-operated is used to process the wool into slub, which is then spun around a spindle. This local yarn is used to make shawls, sweaters and bed sheets.

Note: Due to the availability of imported synthetic yarn, this ancient practice is rapidly dying out. Nowadays the village has only a couple of yarn-makers left. Charkha is now found with a few old people and the museum in Janawai village in Guraiz valley.


37. Grass slippers

In the past indigenous people used dried grass and corn leaves to make sandals and slippers. Flip flops were made by knotting the grass together in a pattern of a shoe.

Note: This practice has extinct now and a few samples can be found in the museum in Janawai village in Guraiz valley.




38. Jubba

Jubba is a loose over-shirt worn by the Kashmiri women. It is a heavy embroidered garment traditionally paired with a cap ‘lachka’. Jubba is worn to avoid revealing the female form while the women are working in the fields. It is culturally significant.

Note: In present day, these Jubbas are made by local tailors in the markets who use cloth that comes from Muzaffarabad.


39. Lachka patti,  Saaba

Description:  The women have to wear it as it is an important symbol of heritage and tradition and comes down from the Naag Qabaail. A part of the traditional dressing, Lachka is the cap and Patti is a flat embroidered band worn over the cap. This headgear is intricately embroidered. Multi colored threads are used to decorate the cap, which is worn over a traditional dress called Jubba. The Patti can also be worn without the cap. Elderly or married women mostly wear Lachka Patti.

Note: Young school going girls do not favor Lackapatti, they disregard it as old fashioned.


40. Kashmiri tanka

Circular Chain stitch; an embroidery style frequently appearing on caps, bed sheets and shawls of Kashmir.

Note: The stitch is in a chain format; small circles are formed with a thread and needle. The needle is passed through the chain and the threads are locked to form a close knitted stitch. Usually the embroideries are done with bright, fluorescent colors that appear prominent against a dark or contrasting background.


41. Kaajal

The Kajal is an adornment for the eyes. Local women use Kaajal to enhance their eyes by blackening them; it is forbidden for the unmarried. Kaajal is also used on the face to make dots for enhancing beauty.

Note: Nowadays unmarried women and girls are also seen to be wearing kaajal.


42. Coloring/Mehndi

Coloring of hands or use of mehndi is a common practice among the women in this valley. Walnut/Akhrot leaves along with its bark are crushed and soaked in water to form a thick paste. The mendhi of Akhrot is also applied on the hands to prevent extreme dryness caused by the daily chores such as washing pots in winter and doing the laundry. This serves as a local medicine to prevent the nals from falling off caused by dry skin.

Note: It is used to decorate the hands of a bride, dying white hair and decorating the coats of the cattle.


43. Akhrot dandaasa

Akhrot (walnut) Dandaasa (teeth cleaning agent) is used for cleaning and whitening the teeth. Walnut fruit is crushed and used as a powder. It also adds a reddish color to the lips and is a popular practice amongst married women.

Note: Small girls are also seen using this, as an imitation of their mothers or elderly females their family.



 44. Kashmiri kulchay

Kashmiri Kulchey: local scones made with yeast, flour and ghee. Sprinkled with couscous and glazed with egg-wash, the biscuits come out freshly baked with a crackling crust and an airy texture. They are baked in a large clay oven. These popular in the region as a breakfast item.

Note: The Kashmiri Kulchey are sold at rupees five each. The children buy these as a lunch item on their way to school. A local baker in Kel sells around three hundred of these in a single day.


45. Thaal

Big Dish, used by locals in the valley to serve and eat rice. People gather around the dish and eat it together. The Thaal is used to enjoy a communal feast. It usually has a diameter of 20” to 24” inches.


46. Walnut Yogurt

Description: This is food item made locally using soft or raw walnut in yogurt with salt and pepper. The key ingredient is soft fleshy walnut fruit.

Note: The dip is made with yogurt; fresh milk is required for the recipe. It is served with corn flat bread (makki ki roti), fresh lassi and butter.


47. Kashmiri tea

The most popular tea is the pink tea: made with locally grown herbs, that giveoff a pink color when cooked with milk. The locas drink it with rock salt in a bowl.

Note: Rock salt is khewera salt, which is brought up from Muzzafarabad. Rock salt is cheaper, hence is used by the locals.


48. Ghaghar

This is a silver container for storing water. When tap water was not available in homes, women used to go up to the springs or the water channels to fetch water. Water was then stored in silver pots and used for cooking, drinking and washing.

Note: Tap water is now available in most of the villages hence Ghaghar is not used a lot anymore.




49. Association with Maal

Any livestock they own is termed as “Maal”. It remains to be their one and only vital asset. The association is such that their whole life revolves around their animal. Taking care of the animals and providing food for them is the highlight of a household’s daily cycle. This is mainly due to the reason that “Maal” is their source of earning; food and a sense of identity.

Note: Every house has 2 to 3 cows and round about 12 to 15 sheep and goats. These are a food source, property and capital for the locals. They sell them to earn money. The female cattle are kept at home while the male is sold or slaughtered for food.


50. Sharing Maal with Community

The livestock they slaughter at religious festivals, “Eid”, and marriage ceremonies are equally distributed amongst their community. Once an animal gets old or ill, its meat is not only consumed by the family itself but is shared with the whole community as gesture of gratitude towards nature. Often when the locals face hardships they slaughter their favorite animals and distribute the meat as charity amongst the community. At the time of marriage, “White” colored animals are preferred for slaughtering and served to the groom’s family.


51. Cow gifting at weddings

This practice requires the Mother-in-law of a bride to gift a cow to her daughter –in-law on the wedding. The mother-in-law is inquired about the age, health and type of cow that she has given as a gift.

Note: This practice is still popular amongst people who keep animals. It also ensures material stability for the new household. The women are seen to be tending to animals in summers and winters.


52. Sharing Milk

Communal ties in this valley are strong and milk is shared with owners of a pregnant cow and often the milk is distributed amongst the community to celebrate the birth of a female cow.


53. Boli milk

After the cow gives birth, for forty days the milk is sour and is used for making rice as a celebration of the birth. Another practice associated with this occasion is that Boli milk is gifted to Hazrat Khizer by adding it to the springs.

Note: Boli milk is thick protein milk (yellowish in appearance).




54. Jandar

Description: Jandar is a hydro turbine commonly known as a water mill. It is used to grind grains such as corn and wheat. Locals have installed this in the water channels where the water pressure is high.

Note: Hydroelectric flourmills have replaced Jandar but in some areas it’s still in use.


55. Pachawa

People in this valley take care of their springs and it is common knowledge that tampering with the area where the springs sprout will lead to people becoming possessed by supernatural beings.

Note: Children are told these stories to keep them away from the springs. Saima’s father from Arang Khel told how he lost his eyesight while he was crossing the river at sunset “It was so sudden I felt the light going and by the time I reached home, I was blind and burning with fever”. The locals have mentioned incidents of severe headaches and temperature caused by going near the Spring source especially after Maghrib (Sunset).


56. Springs go dry

Locals believe that springs need to be kept away from the eyes of any outsider since it casts Nazar (evil eye) on the spring. The springs are also kept clean or are known to go dry if people make it impure by excreting near or in it.

Note: When locals are asked about way to the spring, they never tell the exact pathway leading to it.


57. Holy water

This is a folklore regarding the seven springs around Kel Valley region. It is known that visiting the seven springs and drinking or using the water from these can cure ailments and illnesses.

Note: A few old locals claim this to be true. The youngsters are not aware of this practice.

58. Durmot

Description: Durmot is a place high up from Taobut and it known to be the temple of djinns. Whoever tries to photograph it or go near it meets with bad luck.

Note: locals claim this to be true and have reported incidents of avalanches hitting and burying people who have gone to Durmot.


59. Wind as a carrier of supernatural beings

It is common knowledge that wind is the carrier of super natural beings. Locals share stories of hearing voices in the winds. According to some during windy nights, they hear movements in their verandahs. The wind is known to carry super-natural beings from one place to another.

Note: Elderly women usually tell these stories.


60. Autumn Weddings

Weddings are usually arranged in the Autumn season when all the crops are ready to be consumed and when the animals are back from the highlands.


61. Dharralla

This is a tinbox or container that is tied to a rope which runs through the crop fields into the house of the field owner. When brown bears try to eat from the fields at night, the owner tugs the rope which makes the tin boxes make a sound to scare the bear away.


62. Madhaanree

Madhaanree is an instrument to make lassi from yougurt. When making lassi, the women sing songs, which go like, Gum jaati, dudh baati, ghee aaway, lassi bi aaway, mei khaawaan, tu khaawein……