Pheran of Kashmir By Ashok Ogra || LIVE IMAGE

When shadows get longer we know winter is here, and time for Kashmiris to sport traditional woollen wonder Pheran. This long dress is usually worn passed the knee. It's difficult to find a garment as widely embraced and worn in Kashmir as Pheran - particularly during winter. In fact, this symbol of Kashmir has found its way into the wardrobes of many Kashmiris living in other parts of the country and the world where cold wave conditions prevail.
I got one more Pheran stitched last week. Though my Gurgaon based masterji was not familiar with this dress but he managed to do a decent job. Just the right fitting: not too loose and not too tight; comfortable for both office and home use. After the first trial, masterji remarked that stitching it is ‘easy and not complicated’ at all.
In the valley, people keep a fire pot called kangri under a pheran. It saves them from harsh winter that experiences long power shutdown.
Traditionally made from wool or tweed, it is now also stitched from cotton for summer. It performs the role of a sweater, a jacket, an overcoat and even a blanket.
For some, the Pheran is not just comfortable but durable too. For others they're cool. Ordinary Kashmiris wear it but so do affluent classes, some politicians, and fashion conscious youngsters. Like jeans, Pherans are the most popular personal thing one can wear. Both are just not only a symbol of democratisation but also put different classes on a level playing field.
The etymology of the word remains unclear but could be derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Paridhana’ meaning wrap, clothing; Persian word for shirt, ‘Perahan;’ or even the Tajik word ‘Peraband’.
Some scholars believe it was Mughal emperor Akbar who introduced the long garment in the Kashmir Valley. Others believe Pheran came from the Persian travellers who invented the garment to protect themselves from the freezing cold during winters.
Over centuries Kashmiris love for the pheran has grown manifold.
Today the dress has become more than just a practical thing, an expression of our personality and identity- perhaps one of the last vestiges of our fast disappearing culture. I don’t mind if wearing Pheran makes me a bit lazy as long as it provides me the much-needed warmth in winter.
Over the years, Kashmiris have experimented with Pheran so much that it has become a fashion statement in the Valley and outside, especially in winters as designer Pherans are a rage.
When I wear Pheran I feel culturally rich as if providing the necessary nutrients to my roots – deeply weakened when militancy erupted in 1990. It strengthens my bond with my mouj kasheer (Mother Kashmir).
Taking cue from Oscar Wilde “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life,” to me wearing Pheran is an expression of my culture and image.

By - Ashok Ogra
  Media Expert 
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