As the farming season in Kashmir is picking up with the onset of summer, the fields in valley are nowadays echoing with the traditional folk songs amid the planting of paddy saplings.
The tradition of singing folk songs especially by women folk during the paddy farming has been one of the oldest features in Kashmir farming.
It is believed that the songs are sung to ease out the most hectic job of planting paddy.
Although the tradition is gradually fading away from the fields in the larger parts of valley with non local labourers replacing local people, in some rural pockets the fashion is still in vogue.
“In rural areas, this job was done earlier on community basis and all neighbours would join each other and plant paddy in their fields on turn basis collectively. But now this work is done by outside labourers,” says, Abdul Rahim of Baramulla.
As sapling of paddy plants is considered one of the toughest job but people had discovered the ways to turn it jolly by entertaining themselves with local folk songs.
“For the farmers of Kashmir valley growing rice is very hectic yet very cheerful in this season. So ahead of the Kharif season, the back-breaking toil in water filled paddy fields is not after all just hard labour – it’s hope and happiness as well,” Rahim says.
“But the dominating feature of this hard task of farming in Kashmir remains the folk singing which one can hear in every field these days.”
“It is our rich tradition to sing folk songs during farming and other joint work. I feel pride to sing songs along with other women,” says Shazai Bano, while a group of Kashmir women plant paddy saplings and sing folk songs in back ground in Baramulla outskirts, Sheeri.
“We feel relax while singing songs and it helps us to finish the work early and divert attention. The singing also provides solace to our minds and time passes without telling,” she adds.
As has been the tradition, the farmers work in fields, they are joined by their family members and relatives and neighbours particularly the women folk as well who sing the folk songs that have traditionally been associated with the sowing which certainly keeps the drudgery of labour at bay. They relish food, namkeen tea and prepare special dishes for people who help them in farming.
“It is a very happy day for us. On this day, all family members come and join us in planting paddy. They bring food and we eat together and the whole atmosphere charges with joy amidst slight breeze,” says Rafia Bandy another women.
According to official statistics, Kashmir valley is all set to achieve a target rice production of five lakh tonnes during the kharif-harvest season this year. The farmers are too hopeful that this year would be bumper crop.
Mohammed Asadullha, a farmer, who like hundreds of his counterparts always hope for surplus crop production towards the end of autumn. “Last year it was not so good, but this time we hope it will be a good crop production,” hopes Asadullha.
The harvesting season of paddy starts from the end of September in Kashmir every year. The kharif crop is usually sown from June and is harvested in the winter months. The sowing of paddy starts before the arrival of the monsoons in June-July. Most of the traditional crops are photosensitive and thus the sowing time is the most important variable in determining the yield.
The story first appeared in the print edition of May 25, 2016.