Iqbal Ahmad

‘Khal Chhu Maethaan Phal Muklit’

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There   is an ancient Kashmiri proverb ‘Khal Chhu Maethaan Phal Muklit’ which literary means  that the fruits  turns sweet but only after its stocks are  finished.  Khal in local traditions refers to the paddy storage, where the harvested stalks are first collected and stored temporarily in pyramid shaped heaps.  These heaps of paddy are locally called ‘Gyien’ and it is widely believed that the rice when stored in such storages not only makes rice tasty but also enhancing its quantity and quality.

During the harvesting of the paddy fields, the paddy heaps are first collected in the khal, where the   seeds from the paddy bunches is separated by pushing the bunches against hard stem. The hard wooden stem called locally ‘Mound’, measuring 6 to 12 feet in length and 1 to four feet in width is first laid in a straight way, adjacent to the paddy granary. The stocks from the granary  layers  are  pulled in small heaps and then the farmers get into the husking practice  and will usually catch hold of their respective bunches and push it with force  to  the stem for few times till the  seeds are completely detached from the bunch.  The separating of the paddy seeds is a bit difficult practice, which is performed in groups. The seeds collected are then shifted to the wooden storages, called locally Kutch.

There are farmers engaged in husking of paddy, while there are several carrying their respective paddy produce to store it in khal.  During this season, the village beggars are also seen moving around the large granaries collecting their respective alms. It is during the harvesting season that the hustle and bustle of the villagers is seen at its highest at these huge granaries, which are locally referred to as khal.

Khal is basically a small place of walled hard, land suitable for temporarily housing of the harvested paddy and it is at this identified and enclosed palace that the heaps of the paddy are kept for weeks and sometimes for months together. These heaps are formed systematically in layers one after the other till a huge bundle is raised in a pyramidal shape, which looks like of a beautiful temporary structure.

The Zamindars and Farmers, during the harvesting of their respective paddy farms, collect their crops in the Khal and make large systematic heaps of these crops, for temporary storage.   During the harvesting season, a wonderful collection of these heaps emerge in large numbers in the paddy cultivating areas of the Kashmir valley.

It has become so popular in Kashmir culture that there are various assertions and examples driven from the same practice- for instance- when somebody is asked, to spend more and he is not in a mood to do so, he will just say ‘Yeit Chha khal’ which means- do you expect me to be like a Khal or in other words ‘there is no extra stock’. Similarly the saying that ‘‘Khal Chhu Maethaan Phal Muklit’ meaning that harvest collections turn sweeter after expiry of the stocks.

Since the paddy cultivation in the valley lands has decreased considerably and as such it has had its effects on the Khal culture of the rural Kashmir as well. Besides, the advent of new agricultural technologies has also badly affected the tradition. The traditional ploughs, used for ploughing,  the wooden hammers  used for levelling  and other such equipments’ have also been over taken by the new and updated technologies.

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