Jammu; the city of temples, a thriving tourism hub of the state and the gateway to Srinagar and Katra is a prehistoric conurbation of Northern India, boasting of its rich historical and cultural heritage. The ethnic groups residing in and around Jammu for centuries include Kashmiris, Dards, Ladakhis, Dogras, Hanjis, Gujjars, Bakarwals, Chibali, Sudhan, etc. The chief languages spoken in Jammu are; Dogri, Kashmiri, Hindi, Urdu and English.
The physical features of the Kashmiris can be described as broad shoulders, medium to tall stature, well developed forehead, a long and narrow face and a prominently straight and finely cut nose. The Kashmiris wear short pajamas, long and loose large sleeved kurtas; locally known as Pherans and a skull cap. The Kashmiri women are always loaded with ethnic jewellery, mainly long earrings dangling from the top of the ears. Kashmiris are cheerful, talkative and friendly by disposition.
Dogra is another predominant tribe of Jammu who in appearance are slim, short statured and wheatish in complexion, and they have brown eyes, hooked nose and dark black hair. Jammu’s Dogra Traditions and Culture resembles the ethnicity of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Gujjars, the second largest ethnic group of Jammu are noted for their semi nomadic lifestyle. Gaddis are mainly herdsmen are generally associated with emotive music played on the flute. The Bakarwals of Jammu are completely nomadic pastoral groups who migrate along the Himalayan slopes in the hunt of pastures for their huge goat and sheep flocks.
Most of the populace of Jammu dwell in villages and depend upon agriculture as their main occupation. The prime crops yielded in Jammu include saffron, paddy and fruits. The Kashmiris residing in urban areas are essentially engaged in tourism industry, hotel management, silk industry, carpet & shawl making, wood and papier-mâché work, other handicrafts and so on. Apart from that, Jammu city possesses a number of small scale industries, food grain mills and the largest number of cinema halls, shopping complexes, recreation centers in the state.
Tourists visiting Jammu make it a point to buy Namdas (Carpets), Pashmina Shawls, Kashmiri Dresses and Silk Saris, Woolen Clothes, Scarves, Pullovers, Wraparounds, Stoles, Pherans, Antiques, Embroidery Work, Handicrafts, Papier Mache, Walnut Wood Items, Basket Weaving, Cricket Bats, Wall Hanging, Dogra Jewellery, Brass or Silverware, Silk and Tweeds, Walnuts, Saffron, Almonds, Rajma, Anardana, Ampapar, Barfi, Cardamom, Cloves, Cinnamon, Dry Fruits, Honey, Etc. And the most noteworthy delicacies eaten at Jammu comprise of Rice, Morel, Kashmiri Pulao, Madra, Oria, Maani, Khameera, Rishta, Shasha, Kasrod, Timru-di-Chatni, Seekh Kebabs, Katha Meat, Tabak Maz, Rogan Josh, Yakhni, Kanti, Gushtaba, Burek, Hakh, Wazwan, Kahwa, Kebab , Kashmiri Macchi, Danival Korme, Lotus, Potatoes and Peas Fried, Dum-Aloo, Chaman, Kanti, Bakery Items, Shiri Pulav, Mitha Bhat, Sheermal, Nuts-Filled Kashmiri Naan, Bagerkhani, Shahi-Tukda, etc.
Music and Dance of Jammu: The Music prevailing in the Jammu region is known as ‘Sufiana Kalam’. The Kashmiri Music is heavily influenced by the Iranian music as a result of the advent of Islam in Jammu & Kashmir. Santoor, Sitar, Nagara and Dukra are the chief musical instruments used in Jammu and Mukam Duga, Mukam Nawa and Singha are the prime Ragas those comprise the key components of the Kashmiri music. Chakri and Rouff are two other forms of Kashmiri music besides the Sufiana Kalam. The most popular folk music of Kashmir is called Rabab. Geetru is performed in the Dogra Pahari area of the Jammu Valley at the time of rural weddings and other traditional festivals. Rouff is mostly performed during the month of Ramzan and the Idd festival.
Kalhana and Bilhana are the two brightest stars in the literary firmament of Jammu and Kashmir. Kalhana is hailed for his ‘Rajatarangini’; the fabulous account of the history of Kashmir as well as India, while Bilhana is commended for his ‘Vikramankadava Charita’; the chronicle of the history of South India. Charaka and Koka are applauded for their medical and sex related perspective while Anandavardhana, Vamana, Mammata, Abhinavagupta, Ruyaka, Kuntala, etc are acclaimed for their contribution in literary criticism. Furthermore, Kshemenidra, Shilhana, Shivaswamin, Somadeva, Mankha, Jhalhana, Matrigupta, and so on were some of the most eminent Kashmiri writers.
The most remarkable festivals celebrated at Jammu include Lohri, Baisakhi, Bahu Mela, Chaitre Chaudash, Purmandal Mela, Jhiri Mela, Jammu Festival, Shiv Khori Festival, Chamliyal Mela, Mansar Food and Craft Mela, Tihar, Guru Ravi Das Jayanti, Holi, Navaratri, Ramnavami, Shivratri, Diwali, Idd, Navroz, Buddha Jayanti, Mahavir Jayanti, Christmas, Kite Flying Festival, Accession Day, etc.
Lohri was traditionally celebrated on the day of winter solstice; even so, presently Lohri is associated with the Makar Sankranti Festival commemorated in the month of January. Lohri is celebrated as the harvest festival that honors the newly yielded Rabi crops. People offer their fresh harvest along with various food delicacies at the feet of their presiding deity as a mark of gratitude for their fine crop. Bonfire is lit at dusk, people offer sesame seeds, jaggery, rewaries, coconuts and sugar candies to the bonfire and sing and dance around it. Young boys go around the town and ask for gifts from the newly wedded couples and the parents of the new born babies. A unique dance named Chajja is performed on the occasion of Lohri.
Baisakhi is celebrated on the first day of the month of Vaishakh which generally falls on 13th or 14th of April. This festival commemorates the day when the Khalsa Panth was established by the Eleventh Sikh Guru; Guru Gobind Singh. Other than that, Baisakhi is also celebrated as the New Year Day when people bathe in the holy water tanks, pay visit to the temples and offer prayers. Baisakhi is also deemed the favorable season for the weddings. People in Jammu and Kashmir pay homage at the Nagbani Temple of Jammu and also partake in the grand fair organized here.
Bahu Mela is organized twice a year (March / April and September / October) at the Kali Temple of the Bahu Fort of Jammu when thousands of the devotees of Goddess Kali horde the fort and participate in the religious and recreational activities.
Chaitre Chaudash is celebrated at Purmandal and Uttar Behni of Jammu in the month of March and April.
Jhiri Mela is celebrated in October or November in the revered memory of Baba Jitu; an innocent and truthful farmer who rather killed himself than submitting to the unfair demands of the local landowner. As Baba Jitu died in the village of Jhiri, the Jhiri Fair is held here every year when the devotees and followers of Baba Jitu congregate here and worship him for his honesty and courage.
Purmandal Mela is celebrated at Purmandal for three consecutive days on the occasion of Shivratri to commemorate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Navroz Festival is a 9 days festival celebrated by the Shia Muslim communities in the months of March or April. People gather in Mosques, offer prayers and then greet each other by embracing. They wear new clothes, prepare delectable food items and pay a visit to their friends and relatives.
Mansar Food and Craft Mela is organized by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism at the time of the Baisakhi Festival at the Mansar Lake. This three days long carnival includes the demonstration and promotion of local Kashmiri crafts and food when tourists from all over the globe alight here to taste the ethnicity and customs of Jammu.
Accession Day is the public holiday of Jammu and Kashmir which commemorates the accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to the free India.
Guru Ravi Das Jayanti i.e. the birth anniversary of Guru Ravi Das is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Magh. On this day Amritbani is read, nishaan is ceremonially changed, special pooja and aarti are offered and a Nagar Kirtan procession is held when Guru Ravi Das’s portrait is carried through the streets.