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Thugpa, Markhur, Suggoo: Muslims, Buddhists explore gastronomical route to sweeten relationship in Ladakh

SRINAGAR:  Politics divides, but food unites!

Leaving behind the bitterness of the past, members of Muslim and Buddhist community organized a traditional food festival at Khardun in Chiktan to showcase the rich cultural and culinary heritage of Ladakh.

 

Organized by the Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation, the members of Muslim and Buddhist community from eight villages participated in the Mamani food festival.

Collectively they presented 35 traditional dishes including Thugpa, Popot (grain soup), Hrtsrap Khur (yeast bread), Markhur, Azoq (Skinn and Kabchey) (Puri), Poli (pancakes made with buckwheat), curd, Suggoo (Kash or Pachae), Gangtur, etc.

The celebration of Mamani dates back to the introduction of Buddhism in Ladakh. At that time, people worshiped various spirits called Lha.  During Maman, each household would prepare a dish or even a set of dishes and offer each item in the name of Lha. 

Buddhist and Muslim communities continue to offer special charity, organize special prayers for their deceased ancestors and prepare traditional dishes to celebrate the festival.

Over the last few decades, the celebration of Mamani had started to fade, though many communities tried to keep the tradition alive. In 2016, Kargil-based cultural activist Anayat Ali Shotopa assembled many of his relatives and friends to revive the traditional festival.

“This festival has great cultural importance as it allows communities to bond together and celebrate their shared heritage. It also facilitates communal harmony as members of Buddhist and Muslim communities in Ladakh participate in this festival, which strengths social harmony in the region,” said the organizers.

In 2018 Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation formally took over responsibilities to hold this festival in different locations with Anayat Ali Shotopa providing the necessary leadership to bring people together for such celebrations.

Since the revival of this traditional festival, each year a competition is held as a part of the Mamani celebration. The dishes are judged on their taste, presentation, and varieties. In 2021, the stall of Kukshow village won the first prize, followed by Khardun B and Chiktan-Lungba won the third prize. They were presented with a cash prize of Rs 5,000, Rs. 3,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively along with a Certificate of Appreciation.

The dishes were judged by a panel that included Abeer Gupta from Kolkata, Gulzar from Leh, and Bashir Ahmad Wafa. The festival was attended by Sarpanch of Hagnis Haji Abdul Hussain, Nambardar, In-charge of Police Post, Chiktan, Sarpanches, Panches, and villagers from across the Shakar-Chiktan Block.

Former Executive Councilor and Councilor from Chiktan Mohsin Ali was the Chief Guest on the occasion.

Mohsin Ali thanked Anayat Ali Shotopa and Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation for their efforts in reviving the festival.

“Such festivals play a significant role in connecting people with their heritage and ancestral legacy. We should observe them with enthusiasm and fervor,” said Mohsin Ali.

Ali also thanked Venus for their support in organizing the event and making it a success. He urged the youth of Chiktan to take the initiative to organize such events to conserve Ladakh’s culture and tradition and ensure that future generations are connected with their roots.