Panzath villagers celebrate cleaning up spring; rejoice with fish

To mark the day, the children visit the graveyards before dusk to shower flowers mixed with rice over the graves of their kin, a practice believed to soothe the departed soul.
The day coincides with Roshan Posh (flowering the souls) - the traditional annual spring festival, specific to Kashmir which also marks the ripening of fruits.
The day coincides with Roshan Posh (flowering the souls) - the traditional annual spring festival, specific to Kashmir which also marks the ripening of fruits.Special arrangement

Panzath (Qazigund): It may sound a bit strange yet the practice has been in vogue for over a century now.

Come May and the people of Panzath village of Qazigund in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district choose a day to clean the Panzath Nag (spring) and simultaneously relish its fish.

The day coincides with Roshan Posh (flowering the souls) - the traditional annual spring festival, specific to Kashmir which also marks the ripening of fruits.

To mark the day, the children visit the graveyards before dusk to shower flowers mixed with rice over the graves of their kin, a practice believed to soothe the departed soul.

The elders pray for the dead and distribute home-cooked chapatis among the children.

Khalil Naik, now 70, has not missed cleaning the spring and catching the fish since the age of ten.

This year last Sunday it was no different.

“I vividly remember waking up early as a teenager, carrying a wicker basket and leaving to catch the prey,” Naik recalled.

He said he grew up seeing this and practice continues till now.

Known as Panzath Nag to locals, the spring has given the village its name.

Derived from ‘Paanch Hath’ — Kashmiri numeral for five hundred — the spring, as per locals, is the source for 500 smaller other springs.

Nearly 45 villages of Qazigund get water from the same spring and its rivulets also irrigate paddy fields downstream.

A nearby trout fish hatchery and an associated sale centre established by the government’s Department of Fisheries rely on the spring for their perennial water needs.

During the peak of summers, when the water table goes down, the growth of aquatic weeds overwhelms the spring.

But the collective fishing-cum-weeding activity of the local community restores the spring the following year.

“ Yes villagers get a chance to relish fish of these springs that day but the primary motive is to ensure its cleaning and in turn avail its water for drinking and irrigation, ” Naik said.

The locals are allowed to go fishing in this spring on that day only within 1 Km of the radius yet it remains out-of-bounds for the rest of the year.

However, there are no angling rods and no proper fishing nets.

Men and children, only carrying wicker baskets and pieces of mosquito nets, can be seen wading through the eutrophic waters, filtering it for fish.

Spectators, who do not prefer to take the risk, do not miss the festival.

They watch it from the spring banks, enjoying the carnival with whistles, hoots, and calls to their friends in the spring, waiting to get their share in the prey.

Shabir Ahmad, 31 has been following the practice for the past decade now.

“Earlier two decades back, the spring would give a breath-taking look. It would be scintillating with fresh waters but now it has lost its sheen and has drastically shrunk. No de-weeding is carried and the water level is coming down,” Ahmad said

He said the encroachments and pollution mainly from nearby stone crushers made things worse.

“The festival is an occasion to make these springs look a bit delightful. The results are immediate as the water level starts going up after the cleansing process,” Ahmad said.

Experts also opine that most of the springs have died out due to pollution and encroachments.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir
www.greaterkashmir.com