As a child, Dilshad Ara mischievously entangled women’s braids with each other as they performed the Kashmiri folk dance, deck-house. Over time, her focus shifted to their actions and she was able to synchronize the movement of her feet with that of other women.

Over the years, 65-year-old Ara, a resident of Karan Nagar region in Srinagar, has not only performed folk dance, but has also performed folk songs with other women on festive occasions.

During her school days, a party for Ara meant wearing colorful clothes pheran – a loose woolen dress – with silver jewelry to sing and interpret the deck-house, bringing together neighbors and relatives. “Deck-house has been played on all occasions as a way to celebrate, ”she said.

In the past, Deck-house was not only celebrated at weddings, but also during the holy month of Ramzan and on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr and Bakrid. “All of the women stood side by side, holding each other by the shoulders, gently taking a step forward and a step back,” Ara said. “Then the women would sing songs written by poets for specific occasions. “

However, in recent years, the tradition of deck-house is slowly fading – limited to wedding celebrations – as the new generation of Kashmiri women have little or no interest in learning or performing this art.

Remember art

While deck-house has remained the same over the years, the songs sung by the women would be based on the occasion on which the dance would be performed. Previously, women played deck-house through Ramzan, first to celebrate the beginning of the holy month and later to celebrate Eid.

“We would sing, ‘Reatas manz reat kusi jaan? yehe chui maahe ramzaan – What is the best month? It’s Ramzan, ”Ara said.

The women, according to Ara, performed the traditional dance the day before Eid before preparing the special lunch for the occasion with their families. “We used to celebrate with our hearts and sing: Eid aayi ras ras, eidgah was weyi (Eid is here, let’s go to Eidgah), ”she said.

At this time, play deck-house at weddings was considered very important, Ara said. “It was seen as a way to express happiness for the bride or groom,” she said.

Besides songs performed at weddings, deck-house for many women, it was part of their devotion and religious beliefs, Ara said. She added, “They would praise our religion and make dua (wish) for society through their deck-house. “

Ara still remembers the traveling merchant from his childhood who sold books with different versions of the deck-house detailed on them while singing loudly in the streets. “Any girl would love to buy her books to play them later,” she said. “These things are now gone.”

Cultural identity

Samrah Mir, a 21-year-old final year psychology student loves watching her elders perform the traditional dance, but has never been allowed to dance during wedding ceremonies or school events. “I even know how to do it,” she said, “but I’ve always been told that young women shouldn’t do that. “

Mir grew up hearing stories about deck-house be played on Eid day or during Ramzan. “Nowadays, the deckhouse is only played at weddings. People meet on these occasions, discuss, have wazwan [traditional Kashmiri cuisine for festive occasions] and dance, ”Mir said.

the deck-house dance form, like the Kashmiri language and other cultural aspects, is slowly being ignored by the younger generations who despise dance, says Mir. The new generations, she said, “just invented these standards, and then they discriminate on that basis.”

If women and girls want to perform the dance, said Mir, they should be appreciated.

Sadaf Zahra, a 28-year-old teacher from Nowshera in Srinagar has performed the dance form several times during her school days as well as at weddings and believes that deck-house is an expression of the joy of sharing. “The women would get together and celebrate,” she said.

While Zahra enjoys joining the women who perform the dance, she also thinks that most people today feel shy when they follow the culture. “We are just ashamed to embrace our culture,” she said.

The real purpose of Deck-house according to Zahra is to come together and share happiness. “For a place like Kashmir, even a moment of joy is a privilege,” she said, adding that dancing together would help women take a break from the stress of everyday life.

Dr Aziz Hajini, former secretary of the Cultural Academy of Jammu and Kashmir, believes that the deck-house is slowly dying due to the intrusion of western culture on local culture. “Today people follow the concept of individualism. It’s playing a joke on our culture and our social life, ”he said.

Dr Hajini believes that documenting heritage can be a way to preserve what is left of the people of Kashmir. “Deck-house is a cultural expression. This is our identification, ”said Dr Hajini. “If we lose what’s left of us, we will be nobody in this world. “

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