Srinagar: Kashmir is witnessing a remarkable resurgence of its traditional Hamams as winters have been recorded harsher in the valley for the last few years.
Traditional Hamams, an integral part of Kashmir’s cultural heritage, have been a place for relaxation, and socializing, for centuries. Over the years, many of these structures fell into disrepair due to various factors, including changing lifestyles.
However, a renewed interest in preserving Kashmir’s rich heritage has led to a resurgence in these Hamams.
Nisar Ahmad, a Hamam maker of Pulwama, said that during the last three years made more than 1000 Hamams in various parts of the valley.
“The interest in Hamams has resurged in the valley. We have a good demand for Hamams and each year we make more than 400 Hamams in various districts of the valley,” he said.
The reasons, he cited, were the harsher winters followed by the lack of constant supply of electricity in bone chilling weather.
“Hamam are best suited for winters in Kashmir. During winters, the temperature drops below zero Degree Celsius and the absence of electricity makes the season worse. People have realised that they can’t fight the cold anymore with modern gadgets and started building Hamams in their homes,” Bhat said.
A Turkish innovation brought by Mughals, hamam is an entire room lined with lime mortar and with a two-tiered floor, with the upper tier made of handmade limestone blocks.
Firewood is then spread between the upper and lower tiers, through an iron door. The smoke generated is piped through a chimney and a copper tank is placed above the fire pit, for plentiful supply of warm water.
Initially these rooms were found only in the mosques but now it is built into every home.
In Kashmir currently two types of Hamams are trending. In the most common Hamam, the special stone mainly found in Ladoo area of Khrew Pulwama and Sadrakoot area of Bandipora are used.
In another type, which although resembles in the structure, stones which are brought from Rajasthan are used.
Bashir Ahmad Mir (40), a mason from Bandipora who has 20 years long expertise in building these hamams said that the demand for them has not declined despite advancements such as central heating and other heating appliances.
This year so far, he has built more than 20 hamams, priced between Rs 70,000 and Rs 1,50,000.
“We even built Hamams in the houses which did not have this facility earlier. Now, every new house in Kashmir has a Hamam. It has become a prerequisite for every family in Kashmir,” he said