Wazwaan: Extravagance or Traditional Feast?

Wazwaan: Extravagance or Traditional Feast?

Mir Iqbal

While the “Satte Sen” (Seven Feasts) is a common Kashmiri phrase used to show someone that how special the person is, once agreed to visit the hosts for a feast or for some special purpose.
“Satte Sen” is the Kashmiri translation of Wazwaan– the collection of seven non- vegetarian dishes prepared in different tastes in this Himalayan region. The Wazwaan has its historical background as the same was not Kashmir’s indigenous feast or Cuisine. It however, was a Central Asian feast, and was introduced in Kashmir during Muslim rule.
The region had been ruled by Hindus for about long 4000 years and 1200 years by Buddhists, so the people here were not familiar with non- vegetarian dishes. However, with the influence of Central Asian region- dominated by Muslim, the mass conversion of people took place, which subsequently introduced many non- vegetarian dishes and later on people here added some features into the feast- including “Trami” a big round shaped plate on which four people can eat together.
Thus, these seven dishes got the world recognition and were commonly known as Kashmiri Wazwaan.
With the passage of time, the cultural invasion and economic upliftment among the Kashmir society has its impact on these seven- dishes, as many new non- vegetarian varieties were added to the Wazwaan, thus, ruined it’s essence. “The Wazwaan was a gift from Central Asian Muslim rulers, when they invaded Kashmir and spread the message of Islam,” says renowned Kashmiri poet and social activist, Zareef Ahmad Zareef.
Zareef says, like world famous Kashmiri art and craft, Wazwaan has also achieved fame in the world. However, he rues that the essence of the same Wazwaan was lost in last some years. He terms it a conspiracy in the conflict torn region by saying many foreign items were introduced with these seven dishes one or the other way to defame this special cuisine.
“Only seven dishes a must in Wazwaan are- Kabab, Tabak Maaz, Daniwal Korma, Methi, Rogan Josh, Abe Gosh and Yakhni,” Zareef says, adding, Goshtaba, Rista and Chicken were introduced in the later stages.
In a sarcastic tune, Zareef says, despite serving dozens of varieties to the guests, hosts are still criticized despite no mistake in theirs in quality cooking.
In the initial phase of Wazwaan,1. 5 kilograms of non- veg. of the seven dishes were served on a Trami for ladies. Which was 250 gram lesser in quantity to that of served to male. And the special Trami meant to bridegroom was served with 2- kg non- veg. and a Chicken.
Since, it was not possible for people to eat all these dishes at the time of serving, people rather than wasting the cuisine packed it and carried it to home, which later on, become a part of Kashmiri culture to offer polythene to taking Wazwaan at home, says Zareef.
Today the Wazwaan has more than 22 dishes and most of these varieties have been introduced into the Wazwaan in diluted form.
Goshtaba, Rista, Marchangan Korma and many more varieties were added in the Wazwaan from last many years- raising the cuisine count upto 22 varieties at present. Abdul Rashid Dar, a local ‘Waaze’ cook says.
Gulzar Ahmad, a Waza by profession, has come from a small Village- Avend- Rawalpora in south Kashmir’s Shopian district and is presently putting up at Bhagat Barzulla, Srinagar along with his team of chefs, says that many new varieties have been added in the Wazwaan served during weddings and any other special occasion.
He says from seven- dishes of Wazwaan, the varieties have touched 22 at present.
The 22 dishes prepared by Wazaas in present are:
Tabak Maaz
Shami Kabab
Danwel Korma
Alobukhar Korma
Rogan Josh
Palak Paneer
Ruwangan Paneer
Labdar Kabab
Abe Gosh
Marchewangan Korma
Hindi Ragan Josh
Badam Korma
Kishmish Korma
Dud Yakhni
Chicken Korma
Social activists and religious scholars believe that the expensive Wazwaan has become a serious issues in the present society, as it has been symbolized a luxury, rather than traditional food now.
These people attributed many negative impacts- including delaying of marriage proposals, alarming immorality among the bachelors and show off that led to unnecessary expenditure in the society.

End this Menace
Social activists, religious scholars and a reasonable class of society believe that people should not only encourage the JK Government decision to end these fat weddings, but also rope in Masjid Imams, Local Mohalla Communities, Civil Society and reasonable people to discourage this menace. They believe the Wazwaan has been symbolized as a status and it’s show off sends a message that how influential a family is. “When something becomes a symbol of pride of ego, it must be discouraged,” activists believe.

Govt decision challenged
Many people believe that the government decision to guest control was the direct interference in their lives.
Syed Murtaza Rizvi, a senior journalist says that those who have been blessed with wealth- can spend as much as possible without any interference from any institution.
Rizvi is of the opinion that the government order over guest control was direct attack on the personal matters and freedom of a person.
“Why should government poke nose into the personal matters of a person,” he says, adding, today the government decided guest control and tomorrow it would put restrictions on birth control.
Similar, views were echoed by Farooq Ahmad, a driver by profession, he says this is an interference which would cost the bread and butter of hundreds of thousands of families directly or indirectly involved in this business.
Senior Columnist Javid Iqbal says that it is said that the charity begins at home, on a similar plane the regime that dared to challenge the societal thrift should first question their own bearings, their own style of living, before asking others to follow suit.
The guest control is questionale as the moral grounding of the agency which has passed the order, has not followed austerity in their lives. How ascetic is the regime calling for austerity? Does it have the moral authority to ask people to adopt austerity measures, given the fact that echelons of political executive as well as of the bureaucratic order hardly if ever adopt austere measures? The measures that could form a beacon light for people to follow.
How could such a regime ask people to adopt austere measures during marriage ceremonies by limiting the number of guests, as well as the number of dishes served to the guests?
Wazaa’s (cook) believe that the order might affect their business, if it is implemented seriously on ground. “We charge as per the quantity of the mutton to be prepared for the feast, and when the same guest number is restricted, it will have direct impact on our business,” Abdul Rashid Dar, a cook by profession.
There are hundreds of families directly or indirectly earning from a single wedding, when the same is restricted, these families would be badly hit.

How healthy is Wazwaan?
People have admitted that consuming Wazwaan has become a hazard due to addition of different varieties of colors, chemicals and extra species to make it attractive and tasty.
In present circumstance, when life has changed drastically and Diabetes, Fatty Liver, heart disease, kidney diseases, osteoporosis and deadly diseases like cancer, says Dr Shahid Shafi, who practices in Srinagar city.

Government initiative to check wastage of food
Last year government brought some measures to ensure there is minimum wastage of food in these ceremonies. And to keep a check on lavish weddings and exuberant celebrations, the number of guests and dishes were restricted, and the same was expected to be effective from April 1, 2017; however nothing seems at the avail.

Guests at daughter’s marriage 500
Guests at son’s marriage 400
Guests at small functions 100
Non-vegetarian/ vegetarian dishes: 7 each
Sweets and fruits or ice-cream stalls
Leftover food to be provided to poor
No gifts along with invitation cards
Ban on use of big generator set, high-pitch sound amplifiers, loud speakers, profuse lightning, bursting of crackers
Plastic, other non-decomposable material to be disposed off in eco-friendly manner
Violators to face action under CrPC

In the past, government took an initiative to bring Wazwaan under Food Safety Act. This would check and ensure the prevention of food adulteration.
To arrest the trend of lavish feasts in marriages, Former Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah has only invited 24 guests (4 Tramies on his daughter Khalida’s marriage) and again repeated it on his one more daughter’s wedding ceremony. But the idea was hardly borrowed by people in Kashmir.
Meanwhile the Jammu and Kashmir government this month has directed traditional Wazwan vendors and cooks to get themselves registered with food safety authority.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has directed traditional Wazwan vendors and cooks to get themselves registered with food safety authority.
Issuing an advisory, commissioner food safety has asked the cooks to declare their location premises and get registered. It also asked people to not allow cooks to use any artificial colorants in preparations.
“Consumers are advised to encourage use of safe and natural colour extracts like Cocks comb, sundried red chillies both at home and functions and festivals by traditional cooks,” it added
Issuing an advisory, commissioner food safety has asked the cooks to declare their location premises and get registered.
Some prominent faces in 1975 under the patronage of Khawaja Sana Ullah former editor of Daily Aftab and conveyor Dr Alaqband launched a campaign to spread awareness among the people.
The eleven members team used to visit the Mohallas, house to house to appeal people for curbing this menace, says Zareef Ahmad Zareef.
Zareef further said that once Shameem Ahmad Shameem was heading a similar team of senior lawyers in Khanyar area to raid a wedding party, when the family members and their relatives attached and beat them ruthlessly.
In the present circumstances’ not government dictates, but societal initiatives can reduce this burden on society.

Mir Iqbal is Kashmir based journalist specialized in developmental reporting.


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