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Ladishah: Our Cultural Treasure

As screens dominate our attention the echoes of this cherished tradition fade into obscurity
12:00 AM Apr 02, 2024 IST | MANZOOR AKASH
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Ladishah, an ancient form of poetry and storytelling indigenous to Kashmir, embodies the rich tapestry of its cultural heritage. Dating back to the 18th century, Ladishah served as a poignant vehicle for social and political commentary, conveyed through satire and allegory.

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At its heart, Ladishah is a form of street theatre, where performers, clad in traditional Kashmiri attire, wielded an iron rod, locally referred to as dhukar, adorned with small circular rings. With solemn expressions, they delivered their satirical compositions, addressing a spectrum of issues from societal norms to governance.

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Part of the Bhand Pather tradition, Ladishah performers traversed villages and later urban areas, captivating audiences with their witty narratives. In return, they were compensated with rice or paddy, reflecting the symbiotic relationship between artists and community.

While its origins may be debated, Ladishah's essence lies in its ability to mirror the sentiments of the people. Whether derived from the Shah dynasty or rooted in linguistic nuances, Ladishah emerged as a voice against oppression, championing the plight of the marginalized.

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I vividly recall my first encounter with Ladishah, a mesmerizing performance during a local celebration. The young artist, hailing from a village renowned for its folk singers, skillfully intertwined contemporary social issues with timeless satire, leaving a lasting impression on the audience beginning with, “Laddi Shah, Laddi Shah Darikin Pyaav, Pyawaniy Pyawaniy Haapthan Khyaav…” (Ladishah, Ladishah, fell from the window, and the moment he fell, he was bitten by a wild bear…).

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Associated with Kashmiri literature, Ladishah is the script, art, and the performer with dhukar in a wholesome. While at times the performer acted without the instrument, the storytelling genre is widely believed to have been first created by a Kashmiri singer from Pulwama’s Lari village.

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Yet, amidst the onslaught of modern entertainment, Ladishah faces the threat of oblivion. As screens dominate our attention, the echoes of this cherished tradition fade into obscurity. But let us not mourn its decline; instead, let us heed the call to action.

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The revival of Ladishah beckons us to reclaim our cultural heritage, to preserve the essence of storytelling that transcends generations. Through grassroots initiatives and community engagement, we can breathe new life into this age-old art form, ensuring its resonance for years to come.

In a world inundated with fleeting distractions, Ladishah stands as a beacon of resilience—a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. So, let us unite in our efforts to revive this cultural treasure, for in its revival lies the preservation of Kashmir's rich tapestry of traditions.

Manzoor Akash is a teacher by profession.

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