Wicker Men: Kashmir’s Ancient Basket Fishing Festival

One day every year, hordes of men from a Qazigund village plumb the depths of the Panzath Nag spring, in a time-honoured ritual of nabbing fish and cleansing its waters.

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For one day of every summer, villagers of the Naagbal area in Qazigund, Anantnag, line up along the banks of their local spring, like rooks on a tree branch waiting patiently for their feed. Wicker baskets in hand, the men and children are here to partake in an ancient village tradition—a fishing festival. No anglers necessary, the baskets will serve as the hook and their sharp reflexes as the reel. And while the baskets duck into the water and out, the spring is also cleansed of weeds and floating moss during the process.

Panzath holds a special significance for the people here—their ancestors have fished here for generations. Often, villagers take the day off for the festival; those who can’t fish crowd along the banks to watch. Hundreds of men hitch up their salwars and wade headlong into the muddy waters, basket in one hand, the other hand roving the spring’s depths for fish. They wear plastic bags on their heads, which is then used to bag the catch. This year the festival took place on May 8, and a contributing photographer for NGTI was in Qazigund to chronicle this unusual practice.

 

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  • Syed Shahriyar is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Kashmir. His works have been published in various international news organisations including BBC, Al Jazeera, SCMP, and Vice News. He is one of nine journalists in the acclaimed photobook 'Witness: Kashmir 1986-2016', besides being awarded Winner in the Human Rights category in the RedInk Awards 2021.

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