By: Ahmad Shabir
Anantnag: With winters for last several years getting harsher in Kashmir, Hamam, a traditional heating system seems to have become an inseparable part of the new fashioned houses to beat the cold.
Even though electric hamams and other electric heating gadgets are also available in the market, but keeping in view the worsening power scenario in winters, people prefer traditional hamams in their houses, which only requires firewood to heat up the room.
Until few years ago only, the financially sound people used to keep the facility available at their homes but now for last several years, hamam has become a necessity that people irrespective of their financial strength don’t even think of new house without the facility.
Muzaffar Ahmad, an architect said that he designs at least twenty houses in a year and none of the houses that he designed in last two years has been without hamam.
“It has become a necessity now. For almost last three years, whosoever comes to us for a design for new house, his first requirement is hamam,” Ahmad told Precious Kashmir.
Innovated by Mughal kings, hamam is a hollow room in which slab of thick limestone is laid supported by pillars of bricks and beams of stones. A hearth is attached to the room where firewood is lit from outside. The smoke passes through the chimneys erected in the walls of the room.
Such is the demand for hamams that people have to book the masons in advance by weeks or months.
A mason, Mohammad Ashraf from Wuyan Pampore, who has been constructing hamams for 22 years said that this year alone, he constructed at least 70 hamams.
“Earlier, I used to build 20 to 25 hamams in one year. But this year, I made atleast 70 hamams in different parts of South Kashmir. I think harsh winters that Valley has been witnessing for the last two to three years, is the reason that every one prefers this traditional heating system now,” Ashraf said.
Another mason, Farooq Ahmad from Hajin Bandipora said that the demand for hamams has grown manifold for the last three years.
“For last two years, I have been constructing atleast 80 hamams a year compared to 15 to 20 hamams four years ago. From March to October, I have mostly stayed out of home this year given the number of hamams I had taken up,” Farooq said.
Many people, he said, are adjusting the hamams even in old houses.
“For the hamams that we build in old houses with no hollow space, we fix the chimneys outside the room. Though many people cannot afford limestone hamams, we lay slab over the hollowed up room using sand, cement and Bajri. That has also worked well and is also affordable for everyone,” Farooq said.