Babribeoul Treish: Iconic Iftar drink of Kashmir

Kashmiris have a rich tradition of ending their daily fast at sunset in the month of Ramdhan with a sweet gelatinous drink of basil seeds. Locally it is called Babribeoul Treish. Babribeoul Treish is water mixed with basil seeds for quenching thirst.  In Kashmir, it is also popularly known as Kand Sharbat. Kand/Qund is a Persian-cum-Arabic word meaning candy, sweet. Sharbat is Arabic word which means floured drink of water & sugar or drinkable syrup. Some “bloggers” on internet have distorted Kand Sharbat to Kan Sharbat. It is a fact that some Kashmiris name as Kan Sharbat which is a short version of Kand Sharbat. These “bloggers” have further written that “Kan” means “pebbles” & that the name Kan Sharbat is given to this beverage due to the presence of shining black basil seeds in it. However, etymology of the word “Kan” is totally missing in these blogs.  It appears that these bloggers have fallen in line with common error or distortion of the word “Kand” to “Kan” which in Kashmiri means few pebbles or husked-rice-grains that still remain in rice even after winnowing & threshing. “Kan” are removed manually by women on a rectangular sieve, called “Shup”. 

Babribeoul Treish is differentiated from falooda as latter is usually served in Indian subcontinent with ice cream on top of the glass & some nuts & fresh fruit chips mixed with the drink. Babribeoul Treish is prepared by soaking basil seeds in water for one to two hours. Once the seeds turn gummy, milk with raisin, small slices of, or grated, dried coconut, hint of sugar & few drops of honey, as per taste, are mixed with it. It is flavoured with few cardamom pods & rose syrup drops. The drink is then thoroughly stirred with locally made cooper handle or big spoon in a big copper or glass jug in which it is prepared. The drink is then ready for serving in separate glasses of water to each family member sitting around a dastarkhan at the time of Iftar meals. After breaking their fast with this iconic Iftar drink, mandatory-dates & fruits, Kashmiri Muslims immediately, thereafter, pray magrib Nimaz (sunset prayer). After the sunset prayers are offered, the family members re-assemble & re-sit around already spread dastarkhan for evening meal at homes.

It is not served only within households. During Ramdhan, it is also served to the worshippers & all those present in mosques & shrines at the time of Iftar. Besides, the drink is also served in good quantity during funeral & condolence meetings, & ashura processions.  

The black basil seeds are found in abundance in the valley of Kashmir especially during the holy month of Ramdhan. Some ‘writers’ have made imaginary claims in media that Babribeoul is after the name of Mughal Emperor, Babar. They attribute its introduction in Kashmir to Babar on the assumption that the name Babribeoul stands for Babar’s seeds.  Babar is a Turkish word which means lion. Babar neither directly nor through any Governor or army commander ever visited Kashmir. It was first time in 1540 AD, Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat Beg fighting for Himayun, son of Babar, captured Kashmir, ten years after the death of Babar. So, without any historical evidence, such claim appears figment of imagination.

The recorded accounts of accredited travelers & geographers who have visited the valley during the last few hundred years show that Kashmiri Muslims were strictly following fast during the holy month of Ramdhan. But their chronicles are totally silent on the use of Babribeoul Treish during Ramdhan days. Its use seems to have been of a recent origin in Kashmir, during the last one hundred years.  Basil seeds do not grow in Kashmir for its plant is very sensitive to cold & it best grows in hot & dry conditions. They are exported from outside. Before partition of 1947, the trade of Kashmir, among other activities, was mainly conducted through Silk Route of Ladakh & Jhelum Valley Route, running along Jhelum River via Uri-Muzaffarabad-Rawalpindi. Banihal Pass or cart road connected Kashmir late in 1956 after construction of Jawahir Tunnel.

So, it appears that basil seeds might have been transported to Kashmir by merchants during the days of last two Dogra rulers. Reason is that Lawrence who had a good stay of several years in Kashmir & who has recorded in detail possibly all kinds of rituals & traditions of Kashmiris during his long stay in Kashmir may not have missed to mention use of Babribeoul Treish, such a mega delight of Ramdhan specialty in Kashmir now, in his accredited work on Kashmir, if it was really in use.

In South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East & Europe there are some folklore associated with basil seeds. The researchers have found that Sharbat, of which Babribeoul Treish is a variant, as a soft drink, was first introduced by Muslims to the world.

Babribeoul Treish is a wonderful cooling & quenching drink of Kashmir. It acts as an energizer-drink after day’s fasting during Ramdhan adding strength to the body. It is a coolant that reduces the body heat, controls body sugar levels, relieves constipation & bloating, relieves acidity & heartburn. It beats dehydration during hot days of Ramdhan. Kashmiris add Qateer or granules of tragacanth or gum-arabic to Babribeoul Treish, usually if it is simmering hot outside, to prevent heat strokes, reduce urinary inflammation, improve digestion & avoid constipation.