The literal meaning of Samovar is ‘’self-brewer’’, it is a metal container that was traditionally used to boil water. It originated in Russia and spread throughout the world. It uses coal for heating tea however some new designs of samovar use electricity to heat water like an electric water boiler. It is considered an antique due to the beautiful craftsmanship involved in making this traditional kettle.
They are crafted out of plain copper, polished brass, bronze, silver, or gold. It comprises of body, base and chimney, cover and steam vent, handles, tap and key, chimney extension, cap, crown, and ring. Size and design and shape vary. The Russian word was adopted as Persian سماور and Turkish Semaver.
Kashmiri Samovar was introduced by a Persian Sufi namely Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. It is handmade of copper with calligraphic motifs engraved. There is a fire container inside the samovar in which coal and live coals are present. Around the fire container, there is a space to boil Kashmiri salted tea (Noon Chai) and Kashmiri Kahwa. The work on its outer side known as ‘naqash’ along with the weight determines the price of the object. It is a very important handicraft of Kashmir and Zaina Kadal in Srinagar is the main market for it
There were types of Samovars in Kashmir: Copper Samovar which is used by Muslims and Brass Samovar which was used by local Hindus called Kashmiri Pandit. Based on the design, samovars can be categorized as Qandhari Samovars and Plain Samovars. The qandhari samovars have a craving for floral and chinar leaves on the outer surface and are designed intricately. Both outer and inner surfaces of samovar are nickel plated and the plating is locally known as ‘’ Kalai’’ the artisan who crafts the samovar is known as,’’ Thanthur’’ in the Kashmiri language. Samovar has good cultural importance in the valley and every occasion is incomplete without a samovar. A bride takes Samovar to her in-law’s home.
Parts of a Kashmiri samovar:
Kashmiri samovar consists of a metal pipe running centrally throughout the samovar which acts as a chimney and as a compartment in which coal is burnt. The other compartment forming the main body consists of water and acts as a water tank. The spherical chimney is a fire container in which coal is placed. The soot is collected at the base of the chimney and is thrown out later. A handle is provided for the samovar which is used to lift the samovar from one place to another. The cone-shaped tap called ‘’Krantik’’ (‘Hee’ in Kashmiri)is used to pour boiled tea or water. A small cap is put above this tap known as ‘’Zew’’ in Kashmiri. The body of the samovar is connected to the base by the ‘’Neck’’ which contains holes for the descent of excess heat and for air circulation. The bottom of the samovar is called ‘’Tchook’’ on which the entire weight of the samovar rests.
Kashmir Samovar tea:
There is no home in Kashmir that doesn’t own a samovar as it is considered the star of the Kashmiri kitchen. It is deeply embedded in the socio-cultural ambiance of the valley and the tea prepared in it is an integral part of the warm-hearted Kashmiri hospitality. Tea time is an enjoyable family custom in Kashmir as all the family members gather around the traditional samovar to enjoy Kashmiri noon chai.
While visiting any tea shop in Srinagar, the first thing that attracts the eyes is the dazzling and glowing samovars full of boiling noon chai and kahwa. Their fresh aroma brightens the mood so much that a person is addicted to visiting that place again and again. Kashmiri samovars attract tourists from all over the world. Some tourists buy it for decorative purposes, some consider it as a precious possession while others consider it as an emblem of Kashmiri art and culture. It is considered a brand ambassador for our tourist industry.
Around the fire container, tea leaves, sugar, cardamom, saffron, and cinnamon are put in water and boiled to make the famous Kashmiri kahwa. Also, Kashmiri noon chai leaves are boiled separately along with baking soda, then it is made in Kashmiri samovar. Milk and salt are added to Kashmiri Noon Chai and are served with Kashmiri Kulchas! Samovars were used to promote family togetherness and emotional cohesion. When Kashmiri kahwa or Kashmiri noon chai is prepared in the samovar, its taste and aroma are entirely different from the one that we make in normal tea vessels other than samovar. People also consider the tea made from it as healthy. It is safely used by people as it is rust-free, strong, and long-lasting.
The use of samovar is restricted to big occasions only as today’s fast-paced lifestyle and modernization have limited its usage and the legacy seems to have been lost. The introduction of new technologies based on steel and plastic has affected the old handicraft of Kashmir which needs to be supported for its survival. Every Kashmiri must try to maintain its legacy and heritage so that future generations will also understand and maintain its cultural significance.
Kashmiri Samovar is an integral part of Kashmiri culture and every household in Kashmir has a samovar. Every occasion is incomplete in Kashmir without a samovar. The tea prepared in this traditional Kashmiri kettle has a unique aroma and taste. If you are planning to visit Kashmir then you should definitely try Kashmiri Kahwa from a samovar! It is considered a hallmark component of every sociocultural event as its presence amplifies the festive cheer and it is imperative for all the Kashmiris to preserve its rich legacy so that it doesn’t become lost in the pages of history.