A Photo Essay by Capucine Parvery

Kashmir, a remarkable region intrigues the public eye with political conflicts but has an unreal beauty behind the exaggerated threat. The fresh air of the mountains and the independent culture leads the capital of Kashmir to attract many Indian tourists for domestic travels. Located in the Himalayas, northern India, the environment provides both the option for tranquillity and physical activity. However, touristic activities and local occupations differ drastically, one more focused on exploration and pleasure, the other more on daily life and responsibilities. 

Traditional Kashmir

Rural Life

Driving up the mountains and hiking through different small villages and nomadic tents gives tourists the opportunity to discover the local lifestyle and daily occupations. The local lifestyle life is not easy; during winter the mountains are green and the temperature is relatively warm, however, during winter, all valleys are covered in snow and the temperature reaches -10Cº. Many Kashmiris living outside Srinagar are farmers or work in agriculture. Most are Muslim therefore many pray 5 times a day, the majority of women wear hijabs, and many villages have multiple mosques. Rural areas are very photogenic and beautiful. The people are very kind and welcoming, they wear traditional clothing and seeing their occupations is very interesting and inspiring. It also makes us realise how privileged we are. Most of these people have hard jobs, not very developed and clean houses and their limited life opportunities which remind us of our lives and the advantages we have. Most children go to local schools; they learn, Urdu, English, math, science and Islam. However, they have limited access to high school and college as it might be too far from their village or are not allowed by family. Through my pictures, I captured some moments of rural life.

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A shepherd bringing her herd of sheep to the Sind river before sunset in one of the villages near Kullan

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Women after finishing their laundry in the small river above their village

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Women doing her laundry in a water reservoir in Naranaag temple ruins, built in the 8th century AD

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Shepherd walking down the mountain, more than 5 km away from the nearest village

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Sheep in a herd

Urban Life

Srinagar, a lively city, filled with markets, dhabas, temples and mosques, surrounded by mountain peaks, large lakes and Mughal gardens, has gotten its name of the ‘Venice of Asia’ from its core city on the Dal lake. The multiple villages on the lake are not only an attraction for tourists but the home of about 40, 000 people. These people use ‘shikaras’ (small local boats) to navigate between destinations. The villages are very intriguing as what we would call streets are in fact canals. On both banks, multiple houses can be on top of each other making the canals very narrow. Outside the villages, Dal lake is full of vegetation: large maple trees, lotus flower fields, duckweed and other aquatic plants. In fact, many villagers work in the lotus fields, fishing or harvesting lotus; cutting the stems and extracting the lotus thread out of them, the fruits to sell in the market and eat, and the flowers as decorations. Apart from life on the Dal lake, most of Srinagar is on dry land. The city is full of mosques, calling to prayer multiple times a day starting at 4h50. Many markets are present as well, selling food, goods, books, local crafts…  I captured a city that is at the heart of religion, tourism, culture and commerce. 

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Man selling his fried fish in a local market

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Man smoking a traditional hookah while rowing on his shikara

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Girl looking out her window in a traditional brick house

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Man smoking while waiting for his silver cups to be cleaned in a store

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Man selling flower seeds to tourists on his shikara