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Kashmiri Wedding and more from Srinigar

Srinagar, India


This is my first experience of immersion into a Muslim community. The first of five daily prayers led by the local Imam blares from the loud speakers of the local mosque just after 4am. All of the women have head coverings, and some wear the full-on black cloth that conceals every square inch of flesh, including their eyes. We've visited a couple of different mosques, watching the worshipers move from feet to knees, back to their feet, then touching the forehead to the ground, all the while facing Mecca. I've come across a couple of Sufi mystics, and learned a bit about the Dhikar, which is the recitation of the 99 revealed names of God. There are others who claim the title of Hafiz, who can recite the Qur'an, in the original Arabic, in its entirity.

My new travelling companion and I had the incredible opportunity of attending a Muslim wedding in Srinigar. I met Lyle in Dharamsala through our mutual friend who we were both visiting there. He's a super bright guy who went to Stanford and then was a Fulbright Fellow and then worked for the World Bank and is now going back for his MBA at NYU (Stern). He keeps me on my toes.

Matrimony is a week-long process in this culture, and we enjoyed dancing to the very unique Kashmiri traditional music until 4am, perplexedly observing the complete separation of sexes during the entire affair. It was a very traditional celebration, and from my view, the bride looked less than thrilled with some of the more cumbersome aspects of upholding the proper right and ritual (i.e. she had to eat a bite of cake served by each member of her extended family, numbering well over one hundred). On the last day, there were over eight hundred people at the ceremony, and I've never seen so much mutton (lamb) in my entire life as was served to the guests that night.

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I was halfway through my morning sunscreen ritual, ready for another day of sightseeing and people watching in Srinigar, when Riaz (a great guy who Lyle met and we ended up staying with his family for several days) came upstairs to inform us that the whole city was on lockdown due to the morningtime protests which resulted in tear gas and shellings from the military and police units. Such is life in Kashmir. The protest was in response to the death of a 17 year old boy who was killed when a tear gas canister was lodged in his temple. That incident took place during the recent elections, and it has caused the most uproar of the 36 polling-related deaths during the month-long parliamentary vote last month. Although progress has been made over the last twenty years in this region, Kashmir is still very much in conflict.

Without exception, every Kashmiri I've spoken with says they'd prefer for Kashmir to become an autonomous state, moving toward complete independence. However, most of them are quick to clarify that they would much rather be under the rule of India than the alternative of Pakistan. You may have noticed in the world news that things are heating up a bit in Pakistan right now, so it has been an interesting time to be just one hundred miles from the border with that (mostly) failed state.

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Srinigar is very cool because the main form of transport is by manually-powered boat. The city sits on top of Dal Lake, which has some absolutely picturesque coves and canals containing lotus flowers, floating vegetable markets, and docks leading to homes and shops. Lyle and I toured several markets, including one at sunrise which is the "wholesale" vegetable trading that involves a bunch of guys paddling their simple wooden boats in a very confined cove, slinging cabbages and carrots in exchange for green beans and rupees. We also toured the Old City of Srinigar. The equisite wood carving on the doors and window frames of the red brick buildings is very distinctive of this place. Shikaras (covered paddle boats which function as taxis) slide silently past each other in the canals, the drivers exhibiting not only masterful control of their craft, but also the impressive fading conversation with the other driver as they effortlessly conclude their remarks just as they float beyond earshot.

permalink written by  Katy and Mark Lewis on June 5, 2009 from Srinagar, India
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Katy and Mark Lewis Katy and Mark Lewis
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We are two siblings from Colorado (aged 24 and 26) who find ourselves simultaneously between a job and a graduate school program. We both came down with a case of itchy feet, so we're going searching for the cure while we've got the chance!

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