Ground Report | New Delhi: Trout Fishing Festival in Kashmir; All the children and men of a village take a day off to go fishing together once a year, it may sound like a tale of bygone days, but this village in Kashmir has been witnessing it for centuries. Kashmir is home to many freshwater bodies and springs. One such waterfall, which is the largest in the south, Panzath Nag village of Qazigund. Trout fish are cold-water fish and are being farmed in the hilly areas of the country. Kashmiri trout has none of the sponginess found in trout from polluted streams and industrial breeding pools in the west.
Trout Fishing Festival in Kashmir
The local people know this waterfall is Panzath Nag. From this, the name of this village has also got its name. The name is derived from ‘Panch Hath’, which in Kashmiri means five hundred. This waterfall is said to have once been the source of many smaller springs, mongabay reported.
Panzath Nag is said to be the source of many small springs. Since there is no formal calculation of the actual number, it is believed that most of them have now dried up due to pollution and land encroachment. The spring season is special for the people of Panzath, who take a day off every year to participate in the centuries-old cleaning and fishing festivities.
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Experts say that most of these deaths have happened due to pollution and encroachment. The reason for this is also the increasing population here. With the increasing population people built houses and commercial establishments. A stream rises from the waterfall. Apart from irrigating paddy fields, it also supplies drinking water to several villages in low-lying areas. through pipeline.
The annual festival, in addition to giving the locals a reason to celebrate, also helps reduce springtime to maintain the flow of water for the rest of the year. The waterfall feeds several brooks providing water to the surrounding 35 villages. It also doubles as a trout fish hatchery managed by the Department of Fisheries.
Every year in the third week of May, before plowing the paddy fields, the village elders choose a day for fishing as well as cleaning the Panzath Nag Falls. Traditionally, the day should coincide with Rohan Posh (souls to blossom), a traditional annual fruit flower festival specific to the region.
During the festival, they visit graveyards in the afternoon and shower flowers with rice on the graves of their relatives. It is a practice that is observed to pacify the departed souls. The elders offer prayers for the dead and homemade rotis are distributed among the children.
Earlier, in the day, locals are allowed to go fishing in the waterfall. During the rest of the day people do not go to the extent of the waterfall. A net is not used for fishing, but a special basket is used. The fish is removed by filtering the water with the help of a basket.
“Our aim is not just to catch fish. This is a tradition going on from the time of our ancestors,” says Shabbir Ahmed, a local resident. “There is a bigger purpose behind this, cleaning the waterfall. It provides good water for drinking and irrigation throughout the year.
The elders also expressed their ignorance when asked about the history of the festival. “It is part of our tradition since ancient times. It is going on from the era of Maharajas (1846-1947 AD). But our ancestors were equally unaware of this. They don’t even know when the festival started,” says 60-year-old Mohammad Ibrahim. (Trout Fishing Festival in Kashmir)
According to the local people, Panjath was famous for its Rainbow Trout and other fish species. But due to “rising pollution levels and official apathy” locals fear they may lose their water source, Panjath, Greater Kashmir reported.
Kashmiri trout, introduced by British in 1900
An official from Kashmir Fisheries Department told GroundReport.in that Kashmiri trout, introduced to the region by the British in 1900, is one of the healthiest and tastiest in the world because it lives in oxygen-rich, ice-filled streams. As evidence, the official announced that the survival rate of trout eggs in Kashmir is about 10 percent higher than the western average of about 46 percent. The information available on the website of the Department of Fisheries of Jammu and Kashmir, the association of trout fishes with Kashmir is more than 100 years.
Officials said several roadblocks blocked the way before the trout exports could resume. Kashmir had no international airport, while hatcheries were plagued by power shortages and inadequate investment. Corruption and overall lethargy and inefficiency were other problems faced by Kashmir’s trout industry. At the behest of British residents, the first consignment of 10,000 trout eggs was sent by the Duke of Bedford to the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1899 but was destroyed on the way.
Mitchell opened a trout fishery in 1901 where its eggs were produced. After the increasing popularity of trout fish in Kashmir, the Department of Fisheries was also established in 1903. (Trout Fishing Festival in Kashmir)
In the year 1978, the structure of this department changed and since then the department has many other responsibilities like trout fisheries, egg extraction, laboratory operation, sales center, etc. The Aquarium and Awareness Center is also run by the department at Leh, Jammu, and Kashmir. In June 2018, Anantnag district was named as Trout District of India. Several trout fish firms were established with the help of the government.