Our Traditional Samavar

Samavar is believed to have reached Kashmir from Central Asia through Hazrat Shahi Hamdan
"The cone-shaped nose through which boiled tea or water is poured out is called the “Krantik” (‘Hee’ in Kashmiri)."
"The cone-shaped nose through which boiled tea or water is poured out is called the “Krantik” (‘Hee’ in Kashmiri)." Special arrangement

Not so long ago Samavar was central to Kashmir’s lifestyle. But as steel and plastic kettles took over, people associated with this craft faded away. Samavar, like “kangri and” pheran” was important part of the Kashmiri culture.

One finds mystic joy while taking “nun chai”, salte tea, or Zafran Kahva from the Samavar. Although samavar has become a thing of past yet  it is a common feature in marriages, condolence gatherings, in the fields at times of harvesting and at the sufi shrines of Kashmir .

I still remember when I got my first salary, my late mother insisted me to buy a samavar. I still remember how beautifully she used to make “nun chai “and “khava” in that samavar.

Billions of thanks to my teacher namely Mohammad Amin Dar, lecturer English from Pohrupeth Langate for grabbing my attention towards this unique cultural marvel of Kashmir, prompting me to write this column.

Samavar is believed to be of Russian, Persian or Turkish origin which reached Kashmir from Central Asia through Hazrat Shahi Hamdan (RA), who visited Kashmir some five centuries ago.

The revered saint is said to have introduced many arts and crafts here, besides doing missionary work; the art of making Samovar being one of them.

Samavar is found in every home of Kashmir. Samavors are made of copper or brass. Inside a samovar there is a metal pipe running vertically through the middle which acts as a chimney and as a compartment in which the burning coal is put.

The bottom of this chimney is porous to allow soot to exit and be collected at the base of it, to be thrown out later. It also acts as a discharge pipe for the leftover burnt coal. Not much coke is needed for its operation. One handle is provided for the Samovar to be carried from one place to another.

The cone-shaped nose through which boiled tea or water is poured out is called the “Krantik” (‘Hee’ in Kashmiri). A small cap is put above this tap called “Zew” in Kashmiri. The main body is connected to the bottom of the Samovar by the “Neck”.

It contains holes for the descent of excess heat and for air circulation. The bottom part is round and called “Tchook”. The whole weight of the Samovar rests on it. Ash and combustion products accumulate at this point which can be cleared. Around the fire-container there is a space for water to boil. Tea leaves, sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon are put in the water. The samavar makers, coppersmiths, are found both in villages and cities.

Zaina Kadal, Srinagar, is the main market of it. Samavar is safe to use in houses and is rust free. Qalai, nickel coating, gives it unique lustre. These nickel coaters are called” Qaliagars” in Kashmiri language.

Samovars have different size. Some samovars are very small. Other are very big. Samavar is a brand ambassador for our tourist industry also. Visiting foreign dignitaries are often offered an exquisitely crafted and beautifully calligraphed Samovar. Some Kashmiri parents gift this samavar to their newly wed daughters at the time of marriage.

Samavar from wherever has come to us is a inseparable part of our culture. It does go very well with rich, middle & poor kashmiris, says a veteran broadcaster, writer & former secretary J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages (  JKAACL), Dr.Rafeeq Masoodi; “,Samavar, be it simple copper or designed (Qandkaer), small or big, modern or old fashioned, has consolidated its place not only in the households but also in the hearts of Kashmiris.

On the 2nd day of daughter’s wedding a samovar filled by almonds, cardamon & zafran is sent to her in laws as “Qahwa khabar”. Dr.Masoodi further explains,”I remember when I was secretary of cultural academy J&K,  president Jb.Ghulam Nabi Azad (Chief Minster is always president of the academy) liked my idea of introducing SAMAVAR MEMENTOS gifted/presented to awardees/ diginitories & guests which not only encouraged small scale entrepreneurs but also represented our traditions, even on Republic Day we presented SAMAVAR mementos to Hon’ble president, VP, PM & DM in Delhi & all adored it”.

 Coppersmiths and nickel coaters are facing a lot of hardships nowadays because the newer technologies and industries have affected this gleaming handicraft of Kashmir badly. They are unwilling to pass on their legacy to their children. Their children switch to other professions for better living and bright future.

People prefer to use steel and plastic kettles instead of samavar. The reasons probably is unavailability of live coke and costly nickel coating called Qalie. That is why Samavar has become now a decoration item.

The copper smiths of Kashmir are now coming up with innovative ideas by making exquisitely crafted and beautifully calligraphed samavars to support this cultural marvel of Kashmir for its survival.

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.

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