Handworks & surnames of old Kashmir

The Kashmiri surnames are mostly based on professions or nicknames of people
"Like Europeans, in Kashmir too, there are many surnames that are correlated to the profession, trade or job of ancestors of the families."  [Representational Image]
"Like Europeans, in Kashmir too, there are many surnames that are correlated to the profession, trade or job of ancestors of the families." [Representational Image] Special arrangement

The surnames did not exist from the time of Adam, is known to everybody familiar with human history. However, like nicknames, their correlatives, they did not come ex nihilo.

When did the surnames appear in human history cannot be exactly said but surnames definitely had a correlation with the profession or job of an individual or a family of individuals. There is incontrovertible evidence among all communities & countries of the world to support it.

It was much before machines had made headway in Kashmirian society when Athe Kami, handworks, gave birth to surnames of families & names of places.  However, among Hindus, most of the surnames are based on caste-related-jobs.

The professions are connected to four castes of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras &, as such, the surnames among Hindus are caste-based. In Kashmirian society , Brahmans or Kashmiri Pandits were invariably given to services of the governments [ Karkun], priests [ Goar] & astrologers [Jotshi].

Athe Kami were & are the handworks of overwhelming majority of Musalmans. The Kashmiri surnames are mostly based on professions or nicknames of people. Here we will deal with surnames that are directed linked to jobs; nothing doing with caste. Among Europeans, we have several surnames that end with suffix “er” which stands for job or calling or profession of a person.

Thus, Archer is the one who shoots arrows from a bow; Baker is the one whose trade is bakery  products or one who bakes; Barker is the tanner of leather; Barnes denotes the one who had duty at barns in the past;  Butler was the servant of medieval households; Carter is one who transported goods by cart of wagon; Cole or Coler represents the one who dealt with charcoal & whose  black-complexion was due to dealing in coal; Cook or Cooker is one who cooked food for others; Cooper is the maker or repairer of wooden vessels; Butcher is the one who worked as butcher; Fisher is the one who earned livelihood by fishing; Hunter represents the one whose job was hunting; Wheeler denotes the one who earned livelihood by running wheeled transport; Miller signifies the one who worked at a mill;  Taylor was the tailor; Potter signified the one who made pots for cooking & drinking;  Sadler is the maker & seller of saddles & suchlike are the examples of English surnames apparently connected with the professions of the people. These professional surnames are generally found suffixed with names of Europeans like Jofra Archer, David Miller, Mark Butcher, Allen Wheeler, Jimmy Carter, Kevon Cooper & so on.  

In Islam, there is no casteism &, as such, surnames have nothing doing with any so-called caste.

Like Europeans, in Kashmir too, there are many surnames that are correlated to the profession, trade or job of ancestors of the families.

However, all jobs & professions have not become surnames of the families in Kashmirian community.

There is a suffix “Gor”[ singular] & “Gir”[plural] in Kashmiri language that signifies doer or doers of a job. We have read & heard about different kinds of “Gor” or “Gir” in Kashmiri from written as well as oral story tellers. “Gor” in Kashmiri denotes a “Keim Kar”, a profession, a calling, a job, a person pursues for sustenance by working his/her hands on it.

It is all about what one makes with hands on a trade or a job. It denotes a doer, an artisan, making of things for sale. By pre-fixing nature of job, profession, to this term, you will easily understand the nature of profession or a job one performs or performed in Kashmirian society.

For instance, Raz e Gor was a professional rope-maker, one who lived by twisting and selling string, rope or simply a rope-maker simple. Raz e Gir is the plural of it which denotes a family or a group of individuals who carried on with this profession, Shish e Gor was a glass-maker or Ain e Gor was a mirror-maker.

The latter term was usually used by Kashmiri Brahmans for a glass or mirror maker in the past; Bana e Gor was the maker of vessels, utensils. The term Bana e Gor was used by Kashmiri Brahmans for maker of brass utensils while Muslims generally use the term Thanthur for a copper-smith as Muslims used copper-ware items & not brass in their kitchens.

Bangr i Gor was the glass bangle maker; Barn e Gor is the one who winds the woof in the shuttle for weaving woolen cloth; Boz e Gor represented the one who was making & dealing with “Boza”, a liquor which was made from grapes, molasses, rice, barley, in the past; Bast e Gor, denotes the one who collects & deals with animal hides of sheep & goat & Charam-Gor meant one who was using animal hides for for making sandals, or soles of shoes and slippers.

Charam is a Persian word, to note.  ; Chiir e Gor, represented the one who was selling fresh milk of, Zcha’vij, she-goat or, Ga’ib, ewe-lamb, called Chiir, by milking the animal on spot at the doorsteps of the city-dwellers in the past. 

The Chiir represents the thin stream of milk issuing at one pull of the udder of Zcha’vij, Ga’ib, Gav or suchlike domesticated animal, at the time of her milking.

Chirvi Gor or Lay e Gor was the one who made & sold Chirvi & Laye , by socking rice & other grain in hot water, adding sugar to it & then beat it in a mortar , Kunz, to make tiny balls of the parched grains as food. Livr i Gor was a maker & seller of sweetmeats like Livri, a kind of sweetmeat, a small cake of sugar covered with til/sesame seeds.

Dan e Gor, was the skilled man in making Daan, traditional cooking-stoves of Kashmiri kitchens of the recent years. Daan is made of the thick plaster of the mud & the husk mixed in water. The modern cooking gadgets have replaced traditional cooking-stoves almost in entire Kashmirian society, as yet, it is to be found in some remote areas of the valley still. 

Jild e Gor, is & was a book-binder. He was also addressed as Gandan Gor among Kashmiri Brahmans but overwhelming majority called this skilled person as Jild e Gor only. Kangni Gor or Kangau Gor denoted the comb maker & seller & it also means the one whose profession is to card the wool from which Pashmina cloth is made. 

Mandan Gor is the one who kneads cloth, Namda, Gabba, etc in water to soften it. He is a professional cleaner of woolen fabrics, carpets etc. Hogade Gor is a seller of dried-fish. Jarab e Gor or sometimes Moz e Gor was the maker & seller of stockings, socks.

Jand e Gor is the one who dealt with rags. He used to go door to door buying & selling rag clothes. Jande means the garments made of rags sewn together, a patchwork coat or garment, , obviously, a poor man’s ragged garment in the past & the tailor or patch-worker who made coats & other garments by sewing rags together was also called Jande Gor. A dealer in old clothes.

Kalai Gor is the one who works a thin coat of tin, called Kalai, on culinary household copper utensils. Some copper-smiths, Thanthir, are also tinners of culinary pots & utensils. Tin coating creates great shine on copper utensils.

The tradition of getting copper utensils tin coated regularly, especially on festivals of Eids ,is followed all over Kashmir. Mis-Gor or Mis Gar, is the one who deals with aluminum kitchenware utensils.  Initially, when aluminum utensils came to Kashmir, coppersmiths too dealt with the new item. Haris e Gor is the well known skilled maker & seller of Harisa during winters in Kashmir.

Their shops are set up in the city & towns also. Harisa represents one of many rich Perso-Arab traditions in Kashmir. Kharan Gor was the person whose profession was to apply a whetstone, a knife-grinder, a sword-grinder, etc, for sharpening of household items. Nowadays, sharpening is done by black-smiths or what in common parlance are called shutter-welding-walas & some outsiders also move door to door with knife-grinder for sharpening.

Bo’iz Gor or Bo’izgar, a tumbler, juggler, a rope-dancer. He would often perform on road sides with his magical tricks. A crowd of children was always watching his performance by forming a circle round him. He was a sort of Tamash e Gor.

Then, Mil i Gor was the one who was making & selling ink, mil, in bottles, Dawath. Monj e Gor is the one who makes and sells vegetable fritters & fried snacks called Monjgir Soda in Kashmiri common parlance.

The variety of items like Nadir Monji, Alve Pakode, Gunde Pakode, Til e Kareh, Til e Goji & Monjgir Gade, are prepared by dipping lotus-stem-pieces [Nadru], slices of potatoes & onions, chickpeas, kernel of water chestnuts & fish, respectively, in spiced-batter & then deeply fried. Paratha is also deeply fried in mustard oil.  

The confectionary items prepared & sold by Monj e Gor are Khand e Gazri, Lala Shangrum, Busrakh, & lately Halwa  has been added to the list of the items made & sold by these skilled Kashmiri men. Masal e Gor is the one who prepares and sells porridge of black-beans[wari muth], chickpeas[chole], red kidney beans[razma], wheat [kinke, ] & black Chole Masala.

Naqsh e Gor is the one who draws patterns designs, on cloth. Namd e Gor is the maker & seller of felts. Naf Gor was the one whose profession was to set right dislocated navel in the past.

Displacement of navel, considered centre of gravity of an individual, is called Naf Dalin in Kashmiri. Hakims in the past referred such patients to Naf Gor who was & is still known as Naf Maitravanwo, usually a Pir.

He would put his heel or inverted warm cup on navel [ toon] of the patient, press hard & whisper some Qilmaat. Nast i Gor was the one who was making & dealing with snuff items which was imported from Peshawar in the past.

Phul Gor is the one who deals with all kinds of grains, a grocer. Photh e Gor was one who made & sold “artificial” pearls, moti, necklaces of photh [mukhte male]. Rop e Gur is the skilled professional of making & selling of variety of silverware. Purez Gor is a Pashmina finisher. Shor e Gor was one who was making & selling gunpowder for guns in old Kashmir. 

Sran e Gor is the one who bathes dead bodies. Sindr i Gor was the one who was making & selling vermilion [ sindoor] among Kashmiri Pandits in the past. Tuji Gor is one who is making & selling spikes for Kani shawl weavers. Topi Gor is the cap maker & seller.

Wagiv Gor, also Wagiv Wol, is a person who makes & sells old traditional Kashmiri mats, Wagiv, made of a specially grass , called Pitch. Watan-Gor was a professional bone-setter like Dirki Gor ,  a leech-applier in old Kashmir.

Mahlam e Gor was the one who was preparing & selling plaster or ointments, called mahlam, for dressing of wounds in the past Kashmir. It was apothecary in old Kashmir done for Hakims by these skilled-men.

One professional group of Kashmiri Pandits needs a special mention. They were “poets” or “poetess” , Wan e Gir [males] & Wan e Garini [females]”. They were professional mourners who were hired by Kashmiri Brahmans to weep, mourn & cry on the death of a near & dear one in the family. But, mostly the females, Wan e Garini ,were hired for the job by the Brahmans. They did lamentation in a singing rhythmic pattern like professional poetesses or poets using deep breathes of sobs & sighs. They were paid for it by the family that hired them. It was an ancient custom followed among Kashmiri Pandits. They were what is commonly known as Rudaalis of old Kashmir.

Well, it may be noticed here that suffix “Gor” is substituted with “Wol”, representing a doer, a possessor, a provider, of anything , in many of the handworks mentioned above as, for example, Raze-Wol, Bane-Wol, Bangri-wol, Masale-Wol, & so forth. Then, we have Qismat-Wol, Beigran-Wol, Basan-Wol, Asan-Wol, Rupaui-Wol, Beni-Wol, Bozan-Wol, Gewan-Wol, Nachan-Wol, etc. And, you go on adding this suffix to a number of nouns, you will get the results. 

With the march of modernisation in Kashmir in recent past most of these professions & handwork [Athe Kami] of Kashmiri skilled hands have disappeared from the socio-cultural-economic landscape of the valley.

As yet, there are some localities within Srinagar that bear the names which indicate that people of these localities were associated with these professions. Some examples are: Tujigari Mohalla, Shehigari Mohalla, Charamgari Mohalla, Shoregari Mohalla, Razgari Mohalla & so on. Although the surnames of many Kashmiri have changed over decades, some families still retain age old names of their profession with their family-name like Phulgaroo, Jildsaaz, Chorisaaz [ bangle maker], Jandgaroo & the like. 

Bottom line:

Most of the aforementioned names of professions may have died down with changing times, but the suffixes “Gor” [male] & “Gir”[female] have remained in several Kashmiri terms that depict the typical behaviours of people in general.

They represent the habits & patterns which some people adopt in life with others. Hence, their names affixed with “Gor”or “Gir”, depending on the gender. Thus, we have Tarun-Gor or Tarun Gir [a deceiver, deceitful, fraudulent] , Tagan Gor or Tagun Gir [ pretentious planner, arguer], Wachan Gor or Wachan Gir [playing cheap tricks],  Tad e Gor or Tad e Gir[ one who plays foul in game , sport or bet by trumped-up excuses], Lad i Gor or Lad i Gir[ a professional quarrelsome] , Hil e Gor or Hil e Gir [one who is full of excuses or artifice, trick, a pretender, an evader, malingerer ; one who tries to lay the blame on others[,  Kashde Gor or Kashed e Gir , [ dry minded person], Fitn e Gor /Fitn e Gir or  Phasad e Gor /Phasad e Gir [both mean the one who manufactures quarrels within friends & families by mischief, slander, insinuations & the like], Harz e Gor or Harze Gir [idle talker, a gossiper], Machile Gor or Machile Gir [one doing drama, acting to attract attention] & so on.

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