Eid, election, henna: Mixing together this season in Kmr

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz. Updated: 4/3/2024 12:08:10 AM Front Page

Educated women who failed to get govt. jobs began henna application as hobby and discovered in it big business

Srinagar: With the Parliamentary election season progressing fast and the Eid-ul-Fitr, culmination of the holy month of the Ramazan, coming together with the spring blooming festivals at Badamwari and Tulip Garden in Srinagar, the beauty business of henna application has begun booming in Kashmir.
Thousands of enthusiastic natives and domestic visitors from different Indian States have visited the two famous almond and the tulip gardens since the day these were thrown open for the public early this week. Since the blooming lives rich for just two-three weeks, a maximum of enthusiasts want to enjoy a visit as soon as possible.
Officials at the Directorate of Tourism Kashmir insist that “more than 8,000 people” visit Badamwari each day. Commissioner-Secretary Floriculture Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad told ‘News Now’ that 10,000 to 15,000 people visit the tulip garden daily. “Last year, 3.77 lakh people visited the tulip garden. This year we are expecting over 4 lakh visitors”, he said.
Senior Superintendent of Traffic Police in Srinagar, Muzaffar Ahmad Shah, along with his team is grappling with “the season’s unprecedented rush” on the Boulevard, the road leading to the tulip garden in the foothill of Zabarvan. He said that on his request, the Department of Floriculture is creating another large space for parking of the thousands of vehicles.
Simultaneously, the District Election Officer Dr Bilal Mohiuddin in collaboration with Principal Prof. Ruhi Jan organised a unique henna art competition at the Government Women’s College, Maulana Azad Road, in Srinagar.
The competition of impressive participation was a part of the nation-wide Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme, encouraged and sponsored by the Election Commission of India. It is aimed at mobilising the maximum possible voter participation in the elections.
According to Dr Bilal, who also functions as Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, the competition was held to demonstrate the traditional art form of henna application “to convey the significance of participating in the democratic process”.
Dr Bilal applauded the girl students from various departments who participated in the event and transformed fingertips into miniature canvases of voter education. He said that with elaborate designs ranging from symbols of democracy to reminders of electoral responsibilities, each henna creation served as a colourful reminder of the power of the vote. According to him, the vibrant display of creativity and civic engagement is aimed at infusing voter awareness into the rich cultural fabric of the student community.
Principal Ruhi Jan hailed the initiative, emphasizing the role of educational institutions in nurturing responsible citizenship. She said the event exemplifies our commitment to empowering students not only academically but also as conscientious members of society. “By integrating voter awareness into our cultural activities, we foster a sense of civic duty that extends beyond the classroom,” she added.
The Henna Art Competition served as a colourful testament to the intersection of art, culture, and civic responsibility. As the henna designs fade, the spirit of voter enlightenment ignited during the event continues to leave a lasting impression on the community, inspiring meaningful participation in the electoral process.
One of the participants, Aisha Khan, expressed her enthusiasm. “Using henna as a medium to promote voter awareness is both innovative and effective. It's a fantastic way to engage with people, especially the younger generation, who might not be reached through conventional means”, she asserted.
There is historical evidence of henna application in Kashmir—mostly on weddings and festivals—over several centuries but under a blend of new Indian and Asian influences it has grown into a craze in the last 50 years.
“Some of its expensive designs and forms are still restricted to our elite, who pay anything between Rs 4,000 and Rs 20,000 per service, but over 90 percent of its forms are affordable for the upper and lower middle class. Some customers get it done even for Rs 200”, said Shehla, a student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Srinagar.
According to Shehla, “not less than 10,000 Kashmiri women”, in addition to hundreds from outside, who include males, are regular practitioners and service providers of henna application in Kashmir. They remain jobless for four months of winter but make a brisk business during the seasons of marriages and religious festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha.
“It all depends upon their professional and marketing skills, investment in business, location of the parlour and financial background of their clients”, said Ulfat, another practitioner who has returned with a degree from Mumbai. “Some of them earn lakhs (of Rupees) every month”, she added.
Since the militants had banned all fashion and beauty businesses, most of the people operated their businesses from hidden places for 20-25 years. At least one parlour worker was fired upon at Gonikhan in Srinagar. Two years ago, a young girl working at a henna centre in Nowhatta area of Srinagar, was subjected to a severe acid attack. The incident spread fear, even as the reason was different—the young woman’s refusal to marry the assailant.
According to the business insiders, the biggest henna hubs in Srinagar are operating around Jamia Masjid Nowhatta, in downtown Srinagar, Hazratbal, Gonikhan, Karan Nagar, Rajbagh, Baghat Barzalla and Hyderpora.
Many of the operators and practitioners hesitate to reveal their identities and refuse to say anything on camera but quite a number of them have their businesses flourishing audaciously. They have thousands of followers to their Instagram and Facebook pages and multiply their customer bases through the internet and e-commerce.
Sana of Baghat Barzalla, who is actually an engineer, is one of the female entrepreneurs whose business grew through Instagram. Her bridal henna application packages at ‘Mehandi By Sana’ are said to be starting from Rs 7,000.
‘Mehndi By Azmat’, ‘Mehandi By Saba’, ‘Mehandi By Zara’, ‘Mehandi By Iftisam’, ‘Mehandi Artist Afshana’, ‘Mehandi By Izat’ and scores of others, mostly run by well-educated young women who had no knowledge of the beauty business and started it as a hobby, are charging incredibly high rates for bridal and festival packages. Many of them used Instagram as their basic e-commerce platform.

Updated On 4/3/2024 12:11:18 AM

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