Recently I came across a news story in some local English daily which was about the huge consumption of mutton in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir region.
First I could not believe this story. But when I saw the details and official figures carried in the story I was just shocked. The story reported that on an average the people of Jammu and Kashmir annually consumes 600 lakh kilograms of mutton and the highest consumption of mutton is recorded in Kashmir valley.
The story revealed that sheep, and goat meat consumption in Kashmir had witnessed a constant increase and in last four years the annual consumption increased by 130 lakh kilograms. In 2017, the annual consumption of mutton has been recorded 470 lakh kgs, which within five years reached up to 600 lakh kgs.
These were the official figures reported by the news reporter. Does it reflect the growth in the standard of living of the people or is it just the increase in the addiction of mutton consumption.
In fact the people here are fond of vegetarian foods. They would often prefer vegetables over meat. Where ever a KashmIri kitchen is referred to, it meant vegetables. Hawk te Bata (vegetable and rice) has been the popular term used in Kashmiri household. Indeed this is the stable diet for common KashmIri, while Vopal Haakh, Handh, Kracch, Gul like wild herbs were commonly used by the Rishi saints. Haakh, a local type of spinach with broad leaves grown in vegetable gardens is common for Kashmiris. It has many types, like Kawdari, Khanyari, Vandh Haakh and Gamukh Haakh, (also called Bagh Haakh).
No doubt there are other vegetable types which are grown in Kashmiri, but Haakh is known as the king of Kashmiri vegetables which is commonly grown throughout the year and is largely consumed one as well.
Obviously mutton was also used here but its consumption was extremely scarce, it was on special occasions, religious or social events, when non-vegetarian food was prepared and distributed among the family and guests. On the other hand there was no religious or social restriction on non-vegetarian food. In fact even the Kashmiri pundits consumed non vegetarian food. Although the Brahmins living outside Kashmir had got certain restriction on non vegetarian food.
On the other hand there was neither any such social nor any such religious dictat abstaining people from non vegetarian food. As we all knew that Kashmir society was influenced by the Reshi and Sufi doctrines as such they were less desirous and would not like to harm other living beings. There are several occasions in different areas of this land when people refrain from non vegetarian foods for some time.
One such example may be quoted from south Kashmir where the devotees of Reshi Moele (Baba Hardi Reshi) would not cook any kind of non vegetarian food during the entire festivity period of this saint. I myself observed this, only sometime back in Anantnag at the main shrine of this grand Sufi saint, where I had gone to pay my obeisance. There I met with several devotees who told me that for last weekend no one of them had non vegetarian food, neither at home nor in any restaurant. Similarly there are several such other places where people to honor the local Rishi saints would abstain from cooking non vegetarian food on their respective festivity days.
Since these Rishis had been very much influenced by the teachings of blessed family of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and his Ashabi Sufa so they had good control over their self and would hardly get addicted to spacey foods. Indeed the local instinct can also be not ruled out which suggests that these Rishis were also influenced by the Buddhist saints. Whatever have been the influences but one thing is very much clear that these Rishis have set the wonderful tradition of vegetarian foods.
In this context I would here like to quote a line from the main compositions of Shiekh Noor ud Din Rishi, popularly known as Nundreshi. He says: “Andhvan Nerith Teph Karha Aharhja Vapal Kas te Handhy Amich Chhakh Path Karha Te Yeod Karha Marha Kandhy”. It means that I want to go to meditate in distant forest and live on the simple diet of “Vapal and Kes”.
This is a type of wild vegetation naturally grows on higher altitudes of the local forests. He further says, I want to give up anger, so that I could die calmly. Several devotees of this saint still follow his traditions.
One of my pundit friends at Barbarshah Srinagar is also the devotee of Nundreshi. He collects Vapal haakh from distant forest lands and cooks at his home. He is very fond of Vopal haakh and would refer it as a Rishi diet. He says it is full of fibers and is good for health and soul. The Rishis are learnt to bring dry leaves of the vegetation, grind them in hand made stone grinders, make small balls and then eat. At several places those miniature stone grinders are still seen.
However, it does not mean that Rishis and Sufis have not tasted the non vegetarian foods. There are several traditions recorded in Sufi traditions of this land where we see that these saints have not totally disowned non vegetarian foods. They have also consumed it but in a very little quantity. On the other hand, the non vegetarian foods are not prohibited ( haram), so no one can question its usage, but the way we have been now consuming it clearly speaks that we people have become mutton addicted. This growing mutton consumption trend needs to be discouraged at every level, at social as well at domestic level.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.