History & Culture

Dhok: A peek into history and culture of highland pastures of Jammu and Kashmir

The Pir Panchal is one of the important mountainous ranges of the Jammu and Kashmir State which divides Valley of Kashmir from Jammu province. This track is a part of Jammu province. The whole terrain is a combination of snow capped peaks, mighty mountains, green forests, lovely lakes, glaciers, crystal clear streams, milky water falls, valleys, gardens, Dhoks (a cluster of hutments), Margs (meadows at the altitude ranging from 9000 feet and above), high pasture lands, healthy people and attractive lifestyle.

There are numerous peaks in this region like Tata Kutti (15560 feet), Girjan Chotti (12013 Feet), Rattan Pir (8500 feet), Kuth Gali (12600 feet), Darhali Gali (13460 feet), Chor Gali (13436 feet), Haji Pir (8600 feet) and Nil Kanth (12000 feet). There are charming dhoks and margs located in the base of these peaks. As per one estimates, 735 Dhoks and Margs are existing in Pir Panchal region. Some of the important dhoks and margs are Tata Kutti Marg, Nain Sukh Marg, Noorpur Marg, Pir Marg, Nandan Sar Dhok, Khouan, Panchtari, Girjan, Sari Mangiaya, Sari Mastan dhoks etc. These Dhoks and Margs remain under the cover of snow and uninhabited for about six months during winter season.

In the beginning of spring when snow melts from the upper reaches of Dhoks and Margs, Gujjar Bakerwal tribes and Pahari speaking people start pouring in these nature blessed areas with their flock of sheep, herds of goat, fleet of horses, cattle, dogs, baggage and luggage to pass the summer season. While leading towards the dhoks, the mothers usually lift their infants on their backs, while the young persons collect leaves and hay for the feast of cattle during the journey, while aged women and male persons travel on loaded horses. Normally, the Carvan halts during the night near the river sights, lit campfire, cook meal and sleep in the open.  Next day early in the morning, they start again their tiresome journey again toward Dhoks and Margs. During the course of their journey, these people face vagaries of weather in which they lose their cattle.

35 percent population of Gujjars, Bakerwal tribes and Pahari people of Poonch-Rajouri Districts migrates to Dhoks and Margs during summer season. They are having their own Dhoks and Margs where they shift along with Qabilas and families and move in the shape of Carvan.

Bakerwals are the offshoot of Gujjar tribes. Majority of them is nomadic. They remain wandering in the upper reaches along with their flock in search of fodder and live in tented colonies. Their livelihood depends upon the wool, mutton, blankets, etc.

The Gujjars and Paharis mostly rare cattle like buffalos, cows and goats, and stay in Dharas (one room hutment of wooden mud and stones with open front) Normally three to five families put up in a one Dhara. No road communication, administration, security agencies, school and health facility and no power and water supply is available in this track. Gujjar, Bakerwal and Paharis live jointly in these Dhoks and Margs in a very congenial and peaceful atmosphere. The whole family sleeps on a big cot known as Dangi. Normally, a thick layer of green leaves of a particular bush is spread on the Dangi beneath blankets to use it as a bed. Their breakfast comprises of saltish tea, sattus (backed maize flour) or maize bread. After breakfast, the elders drink lassi (shaked curd without butter) and go to forest areas to collect leaves for cattle. The youth (both male and female) move to the pastures along with cattle and flock. While the cattle graze in the pastures, the youth enjoy playing Algoza (flutes) while the damsels sing folk songs to attract the male youth. The house women go to collect the wild vegetables or remain busy in threshing curd, collecting butter, making Kalaris (special type of cheese). The aged women remain busy in doing embroidery work on their caps known as Tajkastani Cap.

The young women also keep themselves busy in making their hairstyle. They do constitute a large number of plaits of hairs which takes almost a day to weave. This is mostly done once in a month. The aged persons engage themselves in sheep shearing with special scissors. The children , indulge in funny games like Panja, Bihni, (Power Game) and Panj Gitti. The young members (males and females) return from pastures before the sunset. The elders also return with bags of grass, leaves and women with herbs and vegetables. Then flocks and cattle are gathered near the Dharas in a compound wall area to protect them from wild animals during the night hours.

The family takes dinner immediately after the sunset. The dinner mostly comprise of curry, rice, maize bread, vegetables and mutton. On important days the tribes do take rice with curd and sugar. On festivals and marriages they also slaughter goats and sheeps and enjoy the feast. After taking dinner they relish wild fruits available in the dhoks like Bhacanas (wild straw Berry) and Gruchh which the young girls collect during day time. After relaxing a while, they aflame a campfire outside the Dhara and the families sit around the campfire to narrate the happenings of day time and discuss the problems of the Qabila. Then the members of the families request the aged person to recite Sufiyana Kalam (devotional songs). The aged persons sing Sufiyana Kalams for a pretty long time during the night hours. This night session is a very amusing and thrilling, when the families sit in the open around the campfire in the light of moon and enjoy the night hours of Dhoks and Margs. After night session, the children, aged person and ladies sleep on Dangi, while the young male members remain awake turn by turn to watch the cattle and protect them from wild animals.

Their dresses in the dhok are interesting. Their dresses are according to the climatic condition of the area. The male members normally wear Shalwar (trousers) Long Shirt, turbans on their head, keep blankets on their shoulders and sticks in their hands. While the women wear trousers, long shirt and keep dupatta on their head

They celebrate their festivals with tribal flavour.

Their hobbies are hunting, ridding and singing sufiana kalam. Their favourit musical instruments are Algoza, Banjli and Jodi. They also conduct the bull fighting and ram fighting for their amusement. Their favourit dishes are saltish tea, sattus (backed maize flour), Lassi, mutton, wild vegetables etc. Majority of them believe in Pirs system (Holy persons). They invite Pir Sahib in their colonies for Nayaz and get blessings in the shape of Tawiz and Phook (blowing of breath by the holy man on an object). They presume that with the blessing of Pir Sahib, their cattle remain safe from wild animals, give more milk and they remain healthy in the Dhoks.

Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes and Pahari Speaking people are having very unique and distinct heritage. Most of the tribes are still living a Aryan style of Qabila life.

With the passage of time, this tribal lifestyle of Dhoks and Margs is vanishing day by day. The old traditions are disappearing as most of Gujjar Bakerwal tribes and Paharis people have embraced the modern life style. Majority of these tribes have stopped going to Dhoks and Margs and have settled once for all in the plane area and have become a part of modern lifestyle.

Therefore, there is a need of preserving this nature blessed lifestyle, old traditions, cultural heritage, through documentaries so that the new generations could know about the original heritage of Pir Panchal region.


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K  D Maini

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