Warming homes with Hamam

Srinagar, Dec 23: Kashmir people are preferring old traditional Hamam to modern central heating system for their new homes to combat harsh winter which lasts for over three months from December to February.The preparation to fight the harsh winters  commences with the ending of Autumn, by shopping heating appliances, woolens, coals along with Kangris (wicker covered earthen pots) and tin made Bukharis.To make homes cold resistant particularly in Chillia Kalan, – 40 days of the harshest winter period – people of the valley have shifted back to building Hamams.Ashiq Ahmad, a stone sculptor, said the demand for these sculpted stones used for Hamams have gone up.“Now most of the new households prefer Hamams in their newly constructed houses,” said Ashiq who runs his workshop at Samarbugh. Earlier, people of the valley were used to construct homes made up of bricks, mud and wood. As the time passed, Kashmiris started building homes in concrete with liberal use of cement, iron and boulders.The cemented concrete houses intensify cold in winters causing immense problems to the people during winter months.To offset the cold, the newly constructed houses are mostly built with Hamams. Jalal-U-Din, a businessman by profession, said his parents and grandparents were living houses made of timber and clay bricks.“Now, we have a newly constructed concrete home, along with Hamam. It is very difficult to live in these concrete houses in winters without a heating system. Hamam is best in Kashmir.”There are special contractors and masons who build Hamams.Shabir Ahmad, a Hamam making contractor, said, “ These are special types of stones which are sculpted for Hamam purpose. Not every stone can be sculpted for this purpose as these stones have to bear an enormous amount of heat.”Fire wood is burnt in these Hamams which produces the desired heat. The special stones used for purpose are mainly found in Ladoo area of Khrew Pulwama and Sadrakoot area of Bandipora.“Not every stone sculptor can make these Hamam as its construction is  complex. A minor leakage can spoil the labor of many days,” he said.As the demand for Hamams increases, employability of these contractors have also picked up. Earlier, Hamams were used mostly in Masjids. “Now 70 per cent to 80 per cent of our work comes from house constructions.”Earlier, only the rich could afford Hamam, traces of which can be found even today in the areas of Srinagar. Talking to Rising Kashmir, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, renowned poet and satirist said that Hamam has more than seven centuries of history in Kashmir.“Concept of Hamam was adopted in Kashmir from central Asia,” he said.Though there were public Hamams at various places like Hamambal, Saraf Kadal, Maharaj Gunj, Saraibal etc.However, various historians believe that Hamam has originated from Turkey.They are of the view that the concept of Hammam building arrived in the Mughal era.

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