Jammu & Kashmir is the most beautiful part in the South Asian region, which is full of widely varying people, rich culture and scenic geography. Administratively, these days, Jammu & Kashmir has a territorial dispute among three countries; Pakistan, China and India. Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). However, without going into this occupational controversy, the people of Kashmir are famous in the world for their traditions, customs and hospitality. The Kashmiri people usually practice Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and speak Urdu, Kashmiri, Pahari, Hindi and Ladakhi languages.

A Kashmiri couple in Kashmiri costume ( Sudarshan P's Image )

A Kashmiri couple in Kashmiri costume ( Sudarshan P's Image )

This is not feasible to cover the whole Kashmiri culture and tradition in one article. In this article, we’ll try to highlight the dress culture of Jammu & Kashmir. The dominating religion of Jammu & Kashmir is Islam, so the Kashmiri Muslim community loves to dress up with “Pheran”. Pheran , the traditional dress of Jammu & Kashmir is a long loose shirt which hangs down below the knees along with a white turban tied on a skull cap, a close-fitting trousers and lace less shoes called Gurgabi.

Kashmiri girls wearing the traditional Pheran ( Image: Khurram Aziz Shaikh )

Kashmiri girls wearing the traditional Pheran ( Image: Khurram Aziz Shaikh )

The Pheran for Kashmiri women is more stunning and graceful with the heavy embroidery and has broad sleeves. Pheran is considered a combination of Indian and Iranian clothing. The Hindu Kashmiri women also use Pheran as their dress with a little distinction. A Hindu woman’s Pheran touches her foot which is tied at the waist with folded material called lhungi. Their dress is fully embellished with brocade including the head-dress called Taranga. The men’s wear for the Kahmiri Hindus mainly includes Churidar Pajama and they use the beautiful skull caps without a shawl.

A Kashmiri bride on her wedding day ( Image : Avinash Anand )

A Kashmiri bride on her wedding day ( Image : Avinash Anand )

For the Kashmiri Hindu woman or a Muslim woman, one thing is common i-e the charm for the ornaments. With the splendid ornaments, the women of Jammu & Kashmir love headgears, arm glistens, necklaces and earrings. The additional ornament for the Hindu women may be “Dhareejo” which is the typical mangal-sutra for them. As the women of Jammu and Kashmir are known the best for their beauty, the use of these type of jewellery adds more plus in their magical appearance.

A typical Kahmiri Shawl prepared from Pashmina wool (Mohsin Khawar Photography- Pakistan)

A typical Kahmiri Shawl prepared from Pashmina wool (Mohsin Khawar Photography- Pakistan)

The traditional dress of Jammu & Kashmir also includes the delicate Cashmere wool products and Kashmiri Shawls. These Shawls are popular in the world for the elegant material and exotic embroidery applied on them. The most precious of them are the Shawls prepared with Pashmina Wool which is also combined with the rabbit fur. Pashmina wool is obtained from the native Ibex that lives on the high altitude on 14,000 ft. Similarly, the Shawls those are prepared in Ladakh with Shahtoosh wool are also very rare and considered very expensive. Shahtoosh wool comes from the Chiru antelope and nowadays this is enlisted as endangered. So there is a ban imposed by the authorities on the trade of Shahtoosh.

A beautiful Ladakhi girl in her traditional dress (Ladakh - Kashmir) Image: slider_ss

A beautiful Ladakhi girl in her traditional dress (Ladakh - Kashmir) Image: slider_ss

In Ladakh, the popular Ladakhi dress is Goncha which is normally an ample robe of a thick woolen cloth and which is supported with a brilliant belt tied around the waist. The loose trousers are used with Goncha and both the males and the females use this dress with a slight variation. As it is mentioned earlier, the most attractive feature is the colorful waist ( Kamar Bund ) and in the festive or ceremonial occasions the chromatic and showy robes are worn. The other appealing component of the dress of a Ladakhi woman is “Peark”. Peark is actually a headgear prepared with the coating of black lamb decorated with turquoise stones that appears a cobra’s hood and tapering to a thin tail reaching down the back. Some Ladakhi women also wear another robe known as “Kuntop” with  the additional attire, i-e actually a fascinating and colorful shawl and it is called as “Bok”.

A group of folk dancers from Ladakh in traditional costumes (Photo: brij khazanchi)

A group of folk dancers from Ladakh in traditional costumes (Photo: brij khazanchi)

The traditional dress of Jammu & Kashmir is unique in the whole Indian Sub-Continent as it comes from various cultural backgrounds. In the modern times, although the use of the typical and classical Kashmiri dresses is lessened by the Kashmiri youth as they prefer the jeans and shirt, yet in the festivals and in the wedding ceremonies, the use of the traditional dress seems common.

A wonderful group of Kashmiri girls in traditional Pheran performing the Kashmiri folk dance ( Ramesh Lalwani's Image )

A wonderful group of Kashmiri girls in traditional Pheran performing the Kashmiri folk dance ( Ramesh Lalwani's Image )

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