Meet the only man still distilling rose water by hand in Kashmir’s capital Srinagar

In Kashmir’s previous metropolis of Srinagar, Abdul Aziz Kozgar, 67, runs a rose water distillery which celebrated its 2 hundredth anniversary in 2020. Entering Kozgar’s newly renovated store, a soothing aroma of rose water, or Arq-e-Gulab as it’s regionally known as, invades your olfactory senses.Inside the store, Kozgar, a man of few phrases, sits quietly on a chair, awaiting clients. Wooden cabinets are stacked with dust-laden inexperienced clear bottles, jars and teal blue decanters, which have been imported by Kozgar’s grandfather from completely different elements of Europe. They have been used for generations, but now are empty and bereft of perfume. The handwritten slips on the jars, inscribed in Urdu and Persian, have begun to fade.“These objects you see mendacity listed here are a sworn statement of our historical past of what and who we’re,” Kozgar says. “Our household title is a Persian phrase meaning ‘customers of jars’, so for me retaining this store alive was an ethical obligation.”The store was established in the nineteenth century by Kozgar’s great-grandfather, Syed Mohammad Nooristani, who got here from Turkey to settle in Kashmir as part of the entourage of a Sufi mystic – Mir Syed Ali Hamadani – famend for introducing Islam to Kashmir.Khanqah-e-Moula, a shrine and mosque constructed in the reminiscence of Hamadani, is located diagonally reverse the Kozgar home, on the floor flooring of which stands their shop-cum-distillery.For centuries, Kozgar’s rose water has been used to fragrance the mosques and shrines of Kashmir. As a mark of respect, it’s also sprinkled on marriage ceremony friends. Besides that, it’s used in cooking, as an additive to aromatic kahwa tea, and new child infants have been historically bathed with it to maintain them wholesome.More from WorldThe rose water is made completely from Koshur Gulab (a Kashmiri rose), as a result of, as Baron Charles von Hügel, an Austrian diplomat and botanist, who travelled to Kashmir throughout the 1830s, mentioned: “The color of Kashmir roses is rather more lovely and their perfume is rather more nice than the roses produced wherever else in the entire world. Out of those roses, the finest rose water in the world is produced.”Kozgar has been capable of protect the conventional approach of creating the water regardless of a increase in trendy, machine-made water coming to the market. “I learnt this artwork from my father, who specialised in medieval Islamic drugs,” he says. “Besides rose water, we used to promote perfumes, [the sweet preserve] gulkand, and natural syrups like Kah-Zabaan or Arq-e-Neelofar.“However, these days folks choose English medicines over conventional Persian-Arabic remedies. That is why we [stopped making them]. But the rose water commerce is still alive. People still need it from us, most likely as a result of in Kashmir we’re the final ones producing it.”For a litre of rose water, Kozgar has set a value of simply 45 rupee (47p).Natural rose water is alleged to have antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties. Asked what use rose water might be, Kozgar provides an extended checklist: “It helps soothe pores and skin irritation and relieves sore throats and indigestion; heals cuts, scars and burns. Most essential for our occasions is that it has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, because it enhances temper and refreshes not only your thoughts however your soul as nicely.”Dust-laden glass bottles are relics of the perfumes and natural syrups the Kozgars used to makeThe strategy of distilling rose water has remained a carefully guarded household secret of the Kozgars. However, folks aware of conventional medicines are typically conscious of the course of.“It begins with accumulating the petals of a Koshur Gulab and boiling them in a lined cauldron on low warmth,” says Hakim Ghulam Rasool, a veteran hakim (conventional doctor). “After a while, the vapours evaporate by means of the vessel of the cauldron to a different cauldron, the place it’s saved. In order to make one litre of pure rose water, it requires 4-5kg of rose petals. It is undoubtedly a really time-consuming and laborious course of. That’s why only a few folks do that.”However, Rasool maintains, Kozgar’s rose water is completely different from others. “They didn’t simply make syrups and rose water as merchants, however there was a non secular connection to Mir Syed Ali Hamadani. They recite verses from the Quran and different zikrs (Islamic meditations) that are private to them. No one makes higher rose water than they do. If you employ even only just a few drops of their rose water, its scent will linger for days.”Rasool has been spraying rose water on mourners gathered in imambargahs (congregation halls) throughout the Islamic month of Muharram. “It got here from Iran and had an important presence in Islam,” he says. “In previous occasions, they used to wash the Grand Mosque of Mecca with rose water. In Kashmir, the Kozgars used to make it the excellent approach – however now their store is on a deathbed.”Kozgar is troubled by what may occur to the store after his dying. “First of all, there may be little revenue in this commerce, and second, the new era shouldn’t be in preserving their legacy or historical past. They transfer to completely different cities in search of a greater life.”His store is one in all the oldest in Srinagar. Previously a thriving enterprise, manually distilled rose water is now a dying craft – and Kozgar is the final man retaining that centuries-old custom alive in Kashmir.

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