Snow: Sheen e Pipin te Lol e Pipin

In Kashmir, snow and winter are laden with rich folklore in the shape of metrical verse, songs, sayings and stories
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind”, which expresses the idea of cycle of sorrow and joy, difficulty and ease. [File]
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind”, which expresses the idea of cycle of sorrow and joy, difficulty and ease. [File] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Sheen e Peto Peto, Bayi Yito Yito, Mama Yito, Yito: Who has not come across these musical sayings in the valley? But, before we deal with them, it may be mentioned that hardly any community will be there living on the planet that does not have nostalgic folklore associated with snow, which is an essential concomitant of winter.

In Kashmir, snow and winter have profusely rich folklore of metrical verse, songs, sayings and stories attached to them; and the people more in the past, less in the present, were glad to see the snowfall in winters.

The winter or Wande in Kashmiri gave people ample opportunities to create and pass on the folktales of multiple genres from generation to generation.

Wande or winter spread over three months of Bikrami Lunar Calendar, which was introduced in Sikh Rule of Kashmir, Poh, Magh and Phagun, and under Kashmiri calculations its harshest part with severest winter conditions is CHILLAI KALAN.

Chillai Kalan is a composite of two Persian words: Chilla and Kalan. Chilla is modified form of the Persian word “Chahal” which means forty. Kalan means old, big, bada.

So, together the two words connote big/ bod forty [days of winter]. Big/Bod/Bada in the sense of harshness of the weather when icicles are formed from the slopping roofs, trees, water bodies are frozen and snow piles up very deep in some feet everywhere and the valley shivers under the severest part of Chillai Kalan called “KATH KOSH” in common Kashmiri parlance.

Kath Kosh” is not the name of Wande or Chillai Kallan. Chillai Kalan is divided into Chillai Khurd of twenty to thirty days from mid-December-21st December, of very severe Wande and Chilli Bachha of last ten days of lesser severity of January.

Then, we have several phrasal words in Kashmiri language associated with Chillai Kalan like Chilli Kadan, Chillas Bihun, Chillis Achun,, long confinements simpliciter.

Harping back to our discussion. In the past, people did not have modern facilities and gadgets of communication and in winters, they had long confinements to their homes due excessive snowfalls and harsh weather.

A bride newly married in summer [ Retkol, in Kashmiri] or autumn [ Harud, in Kashmiri] may have been then finding it hard to be away from her parental-home [ Maliyon, in Kashmiri, Maika, in Hindustani] , a home-sickness like feeling, missing siblings, brothers, and parents, and joys and jokes of her Maliyon.

In closely knit traditional families, like Kashmirian families, the absence of lovely Maliyon in her mind might have prodded the saying, Sheen e Peto Peto, Bayi Yito Yito:

Now winter is approaching, none from the Maliyon has come to see me since days gone, O, snow come soon, my brother, siblings, will also visit me then here at my in-laws-home [ Variv in Kashmiri, Sausural in Hindustani].

O, snow come soon, might have been the deep cherished desire and bosom-Dua of the bride always on her lips in early phase of her marital life. Then, as she grew into a mother, she might have been singing it in lullabying her children to sleep with same two lines every night.

Or, the sweet couplet was sung by her while doing little domestic chores at Sausural when people lived hard but simple lives. And, then, the children hearing and learning it from her, their affectionate mother, from early childhood days continuing with it, of course, with a change in genre as mother’s brother gets now one more affectionate name, sweet and melodious Mama Ji, maternal uncle, bringing consequent change in rhythmic tone of the couplet.

So the saying, Sheen e Peto Peto, Mama Yito, Yito: O, snow come, fall, soon, O, Mama visit us soon. It has had been the singing chorus of Kashmiri children since centuries in Kashmirian life during snow-winters.

Now, coming to the saying and its background in traditional Kashmiri folklore. Shinah Peto Peto, Bayi Yito Yito: This is an old Kashmiri adage. It is also used as Shine Peto Peto, Mama Yito Yito, as mentioned already.

Both versions of the adage are known to Kashmiri language and culture. Literally it can be translated as: Fall, O Snow, Come O, Brother /Uncle!! It means yearning for the return of one’s dear one/s who is/are absent since long.

Folklore background of the adage: There is a small bird called Shin e Pipin in Kashmir, in English it is called streaked laughing-thrush which is famous for its singing call.

When that bird cried, it was indicated the coming or fall of winter-snow. People generally believed that bird’s cry meant approach of the snow fall.

Tradition has it that once there were two birds, Shin e Pipins, sitting, eating, enjoying and flying together. One day when one was going away from the other, it made him very sad and he asked him with tears in his eyes: “When will you come back, Brother? “ He replied: “when the snow falls, I will be back here with you, Brother”.

Time passed, it snowed heavily, but no trace of Shin i Pipin anywhere. No Shin e pipin came back. The sorrowful bird missed the absence of his Brother, so he daily sang, Shinah Peto Peto, Bayi Yito Yito. Hence, the idiom with nostalgic wisdom.

There are variants of Pipin. They are Pond-e- Pipin, Marse Pipin, Lol e Pipin: Pipin in Kashmiri is teetotum which gives sweet sound or music when you blow into it. It was available everywhere in the markets of Kashmiri till recent years and the children would love to play this little musical instrument in their hands.

Pipin is also used in some conjunctive phrasal words in Kashmir like Pond-e- Pipin, Marse Pipin. Pond-e-Pipin is/was the Pipin or whistle used by the Police Constables /traffic police for sounding a caution, alarm and directing traffic on roads.

It seems to have been used lately in Kashmiri society when the police force was established with Pipins in the past, and still it is used by traffic police at traffic signals.

It is also used bit derisively to refer to it as Ponde [cheap] Pipins or constables who people thought were annoying them by its excessive or, what they believed, un-necessary use.

Marse-Pipin is a combination of two words: Marse in Kashmiri, pepper and Pipin, as you know now, teetotum. It is and was used to refer to irritable characters, who are always emitting pepper-sneezes, displaying rage, rashness, rudeness, on others.

Lol e Pipin means insinuations or hints or whistles of love usually between romancing couples which is also manifested in literary imagery pairs drawn from Persian origins of Gul o Bulbul, [ rose, f and nightingale, m], Bombur Te Yimberzaal [ narcissus, fand bumble-bee, m] and Tote Te Ha’eir [parrot , m and myna, f]. Lol means love, romance, in Kashmiri literature.


Wande Zchali, Sheen Gali, Biyahi Bahar: winter will pass, snow will melt and spring will come again. This Kashmiri saying finds reflection in P B Shelly’s quote

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind”, which expresses the idea of cycle of sorrow and joy, difficulty and ease.

Every yearning, longing, waiting, is bound to be answered by the nature. Such should be the Faith and Trust in Him.

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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