For the best experience, open
https://m.greaterkashmir.com
on your mobile browser.

Yarbal: Echoes of Tradition

As custodians of this rich heritage, let’s ensure that these spots continue to resonate through the corridors of time
12:00 AM May 17, 2024 IST | MANZOOR AKASH
yarbal  echoes of tradition
Advertisement

In the heart of Kashmir’s picturesque landscape lies a fading gem—Yarbal (also spelled as Yaarbal), usually reckoned as source of social exchange, information, gossip, etc. As a pond side meeting place of friends as the Kashmiri derivative ‘yaar’, means friend and ‘bal’, refers to a water body—Yarbal paved way to the famed water transport in Kashmir in the bygone era besides holding the routine gathering of locality women on the “ghats” of Jhelum bank or on the banks of streams and rivulets, elsewhere. From these meeting spots, women would fetch water for their kitchens when tapped water hadn’t marked its beginning.

Advertisement
   

Yarbal was a spot where womenfolk would give vent to their feelings. While coming to take water for their kitchens in traditional clay-pots, locally known as Nout, women deemed Yarbal as a tonic to relax and leave behind their hard domestic chores. The tranquil surroundings of Yarbal (also samunbal) which was a perfect escape from the everyday family issues, made it a remarkable place to pour out one’s heart, thus providing a secluded retreat from the dominant Hush-Noush tiffs that overshadowed Kashmir from Lal Ded’s time.

Advertisement

Not just this, but Yarbal also would buzz with activities like washing of clothes, utensils, etc. and taking a dip in the waters besides a spot to sit on the steps to watch the rippling waters flowing down the river to draw away one’s worries vis-à-vis providing an access to boatmen in ferrying their passengers to the other side of the river for variety of reasons.

Last Sunday while ambling on Srinagar’s famous “bund” (Jhelum-dyke) towards the least-visited Jhelum View Park, my eyes straight rested upon the dilapidated Yarbal across the Jhelum banks, close to the Ghat Masjid as known to locals. I was totally taken aback to notice no one on Yarbal stairs that once witnessed a great hustle and bustle of people.

Advertisement

Our own Vyeth (Jhelum), dotted with Yarbals at several places, especially in Srinagar along with Nallah Mar (navigational canal running through the old city), would witness a huge rush of people during Baskshi era until 1954. However, the biggest Yarbal was near Khanqah-e-Molla (oldest Muslim shrine)—the highest example of brotherhood, friendship, glory and harmony between Muslim and Pandit fraternity those days.

Advertisement

I have heard my grandmother Lt. Zoon Ded whom I often mention in my write-ups, narrate to me the stories of vicinity women referred to as Yarbal Kakini, who spent extra time at the Yarbal in gossiping with one another. She told me that these Yarbal sisters had developed such a strong bond with each other that they would not only leave for Yarbal together, but would also come back simultaneously while narrating freely their deeply felt emotions to their Yarbal companions.

Advertisement

In the days of yore, as nostalgia goes—I vividly recall, how my Mousi in Baramulla would take me along in a boat from the nearby Yarbal to a Mela (fair) at Khanpora during the annual Urs of Syed Janbaz Wali (RA). This Yarbal which in those days would buzz with lots of usual activities at its steps now wears a desolate look with hardly anyone around. Yet, in my ears, still reverberates Mahmud Gami’s lyrical song, “Yarbal Wasse Thaye Aethe Khore Chalaye, Chalethye Karhaye Salama. Dilbaro Mai Dilas… ” chanted by my Mousi till the boat make it to the other bank.

Advertisement

Unlike present-day social networking sites, solely meant for women, the gone glory of Yarbal mirrored us through the lives of people then, by transporting us to the timeless treasures of tranquility and simple traditional life-style, now faded into obscurity. Though, these Yarbals acted as ration ghats to provide people essential commodities. Yet, amidst the loss, Yarbal stands as a symbol of resilience, community and cultural heritage, and a reminder of the traditions that once flourished in the valley of Kashmir.

As custodians of this rich heritage, it is our responsibility to ensure that these sites continue to resonate through the corridors of time. We must talk about them to our children, share with our communities their cultural and social significance, and celebrate them as the enduring legacy of lost-into-oblivion treasures. For preserving these Yarbal spots, we preserve a part of ourselves; a part of our history, and a part of what it means to be a Kashmiri.

Advertisement