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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Kashmir’s unique ‘Panzath Nag’ fish-catching festival draws hundreds to Anantnag


 Hundreds of people with their wicker willow baskets took a day off from work to catch fish from Panzath Nag, a centuries-old tradition of local communities, in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Sunday.

According to local people, the annual traditional festival is not only limited to catching fish in the spring but also to weed and desilt the Panzath Nag, to make the water body vibrant and clean.

The local people of Qazigund believe that about 500 springs lie within a radius of 1.5 KM from Panzath village where this annual festival of cleaning springs and fishing is held traditionally every year.

The renowned ‘Panzath Nag’ Spring, or (500 springs) has garnered attention from various international media outlets, in the past due to the ‘Panzath Fishing Festival’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also highlighted this spring in one of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme that brings this traditional annual festival before the world.

With its mythological significance documented in the ‘Nilamata Purana’ and ‘Rajatarangini’, the spring holds cultural and historical importance.

“Designating Panzath as a tourist destination would not only recognize its heritage but also promote tourism in the region, creating employment opportunities for our youth”, Umaisar Gul a resident of Qazigund told UNI.

He said the spring serves as a vital water source for approximately two dozen villages and hosts functional government trout-rearing units also.

“I have been participating in this annual festival since I was a child. Panzath Nag is just about a kilometre away from my home and I used to accompany my friends there,” Gul said,

He said the people usually look for boneless trout fish that they catch and take home to have a feast with families and friends.

“There are people who travel from far away villages to catch the fish, clean the Panzath Nag, or just watch the festival,” he added.

Gul said that every year in the third or fourth week of May, villagers pick a day when the apple, almonds, and walnut orchards are full of blossoms. They clean Panzath Nag, spread across a 500 meters area, and also catch fish, a practice they have inherited from their ancestors.

This practice of catching fish and cleaning enables the spring to provide clean flawless water flow throughout the year

Gul said that Panzath Nag irrigates and provides drinking water to over 25 villages of Qazigund including Vessu, Nussu, Bonigam, Babapora, Newa, Wanpora and Panzath.

He said to mark the day; people also visit the graveyards where they shower flowers over the graves of their departed kin, a practice believed to soothe the departed soul.

The villagers demanded that the village Panzath, which is just a kilometer away from the Srinagar-Jammu national in Qazigund, should be developed and made a tourist destination which will enable the local people to earn livelihood and increase the job opportunities for the youth.

“J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had announced 75 offbeat new tourist destinations and Panzath was one of them”, Gul said and added “but no development was made during all these years to the village except a park has been made functional”.

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