Panzath village’s unique ‘fishing festival’ combines tradition with environmentalism

Local communities taking a day off from work to weedout and desilt the Panzath Nag in South Kashmir. -Excelsior/Sajad Dar
Local communities taking a day off from work to weedout and desilt the Panzath Nag in South Kashmir. -Excelsior/Sajad Dar

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, May 26: In a unique blend of cultural tradition and environmental care, men of all ages from Panzath and surrounding villages gathered today to clean the local spring, which serves as a crucial source of drinking and irrigation water for several villages.
This annual event, known as the Panzath Fishing Festival, is more than just a local gathering-it is a tradition that merges cultural heritage with environmental care. Every spring, men from Panzath and nearby areas come together to clean this spring using unconventional methods that have garnered a lot of attention. The villagers hope that increased recognition and support will help preserve their unique heritage while boosting local development.

Rather than using traditional fishing rods, participants employ wicker baskets or plastic containers to catch fish. These containers are dipped into the water, collecting trash and, occasionally, fish. The trash is then unloaded on the banks for proper disposal. “We have been observing this festival for decades. Our forefathers practiced this for centuries. The aim is not only to catch fish but also to clean the springs,” said Abdul Salam Wani, President of the Central Awqah Panzath.
The festival involves the weeding and desilting of the Panzath Nag, a network of around 500 springs within a 1.5-kilometer radius of the village. These springs provide clean water for irrigation and drinking to over 25 villages, including Vessu, Nussu, Bonigam, Babapora, Newa, Wanpora, and Panzath itself. “We clean it so that clean water flows through the springs throughout the year,” Wani said. He highlighted the historical significance of the springs, which are documented in ancient texts like the ‘Nilamata Purana’ and ‘Rajatarangini’.
The festival has drawn attention beyond the local community. Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned it in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio program, bringing this unique event to the national stage. Mehraj Ahmad, another local resident, expressed gratitude for the recognition. “First of all, I want to thank Prime Minister Modi for mentioning this festival during his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ program. This festival has been going on here for centuries,” he said.,
Despite its rich cultural and environmental contributions, the locals believe more can be done to capitalize on Panzath’s potential. The locals have urged authorities to develop Panzath into a tourist destination. “We have made several representations to the authorities, including the current LG administration, to declare this destination a tourist spot. This will enable local people to earn a livelihood and increase job opportunities for the youth,” Wani said.
Panzath, located just a kilometer away from the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, has significant potential for tourism development, particularly due to its proximity to the Nav Yug tunnel. “This place has a lot of potential,” Ahmad noted. “It’s only one kilometer away from the Nav Yug tunnel,” another local said.