The Waqt-e-Sahar call of Ramazan Kaak and its Cultural Significance

The Waqt-e-Sahar call of Ramazan Kaak and its Cultural Significance

Wala hoo baaghwaanoo Ramazan haa aaw
Waqt ‘e’ Sahar baang dene Ramazan kaak haa aaw
Bulbul wanan pooshan nov bahaar haa aaw
Gam te tafreek neni Ramazan haa aaw
Saneyan garan bahaaruk rang deni haa aaw
Keashereyan khosh khabar heath Ramazan haa aaw
Dil’lan manz womeeduk tcoong zaalni haa aaw
Panpoompras keyot gaash heath Ramazan haa aaw
(Aneesa Ali)

In the mid-night, when everyone is asleep, a voice reaches the ears like a clarion call, ‘Waqt ‘e’ Sahar… Waqt ‘e’ Sahar… Watheyu!! Watheyu!!…Dakh..Dakh..da..da..Dakh..Dakh.. Patti gassi tcheer.. Waqt ‘e’ Sahar… Waqt ‘e’ Sahar’…
i.e., It’s time for Suhoor! It’s time for Suhoor! Wake!! Wake!! Or, it’ll get late… It’s time for Suhoor… Time for Suhoor…
Followed by the sound of the musical instrument, a large-Size drum (Dhol).
What is this sound ? Who is doing this ? Why is he doing this? It’s quite obvious to understand that the purpose of making this mid-night Suhoor call is to awaken people from their sleep and make them aware of the time for Suhoor. If one opens the window (at mid-night), one will see 2-3 men walking on the road, one man holding drum sticks in his two hands (one in each hand) with a large drum hanging round his body and a rope encircling his neck, beating it while walking on the road. The second one calls people to wake up for Suhoor and the third one has a stick in one hand (as a tool for protection against street dogs) and a torch in the other hand. All the three, as a team, whom I won’t hesitate in calling ”The Ramadhan Avengers”, walk on the road and perform their duty cum service in the month of Ramadan. Among them, Ramazan Kaak is very famous across the valley, though there are others too.
The significance of this is quite clear. In the past, I mean a few years back, when there was nothing called as ”Smartphone”, It was difficult for the common public to wake for Suhoor and at that time, it was this mid-night Suhoor call of Ramazan Kaak that made people understand it was time for Suhoor. Men and women along with their children would easily wake for Suhoor without any difficulty or mess. If anyone wasn’t able to awaken amid deep sleep, the neighbours would call them up. Though people lived in separate homes but this was just a physical separation; in actuality everyone was in deep connection with each other because people were supposed to live as a single family, once upon a time in Kashmir.
Now, looking at the background of our ”Ramadhan Avengers”, they are actually Gujjar or Bakarwal, nomadic tribes who travel across different parts of the Indian Sub-Continent, or more precisely, northern India. We see them in the month of Ramadan when they are in groups of 3-5 men travelling across various parts of Kashmir. They leave on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, when they visit the homes of Kashmiris for the “Rukhsate” (ie, good bye). People offer them ‘Thanksgiving’ in the form of money, gifts, food items, rice, wheat, oats, clothes, etc (a kind of charity and sadaqah, too). Apart from this, people give them well-wishes, duas and lots of blessings and hope to see them again in the next Ramadan. They leave along with their women and children to migrate towards the hilly areas where they spend time up to the month of Dhul Hijjah (two months after Ramadan, i.e., Shawal and Zeeqadah). When the time for Eid-ul-Adha is near, they return to Kashmir but this time to sell their own reared cattles, sheep, goats, as ”Sacrificial Animals”, which they sell to the Kashmiri people for making their sacrifice (Qurbaani). After this, they again leave the valley up to the month of Ramadan and thus the cycle continues.
How beautiful this all is and undoubtedly, the purpose of writing this piece is to get some of the youth into understanding the things around them. They hardly notice because they are very busy in making their career, their life, and with technology, which is undoubtedly good but trust me, life gets a bit more beautiful and simplified when we take a step towards understanding our own culture.
Because of the ongoing threats and mess due to COVID-19, take at least an hour in the day to understand your own history, culture and its significance. Many say that there isn’t any need for this Suhoor call in present times because we have mobile phones, alarm clocks, etc, but the true ”Cultural Essence” lies beyond the world of technology. Even if we have ”something better” to serve us, whether it be the change from ”Suhoor Call” to ”Alarm Clocks”, from ”’Pherans” to ‘Thermals”, ”Kangiri” to Heaters”, ”Nun-Chai” to “Beverages”, ”Khandi gazir, Batte mithai, Phambi mithai” to ”Fast foods”, or, ”Kashmiri Language” to “English Language”, these ”Better” things should never become a “disguise in blessing” (I reversed the quote) for us because our ”True Identity” lies in “Our Kashmiri Culture”.
Unfortunately, If there was a Red Data Book of cultures, then Kashmiri Culture would definitely be placed under ”The Seriously Endangered Culture” because Kashmiri Culture is at the verge of execution (phansi kootis peath). What is the reason for this and how are we unique because of our cultural background and history with a distinguished identity from rest of the world is a question, ask yourself!

—syedaneesaali@gmail.com

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