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Keeping 400-year-old legacy alive: Aziz Kozgar’s ‘Arq-e-Gulab’ shop

Post by on Saturday, August 7, 2021

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Along the serpentine and dusty by-lanes of Srinagar’s Old City, the gentle aroma of rose water is a reason enough for a deep breath. It also allows everyone to forget the mundane routine and rejuvenate. Here is the Srinagar's 'Arq-i-Gulab' shop--the last surviving rose water distillery in Kashmir--located some steps from Khanqah-e-Moula shrine in Downtown.
The shop carries a 400-year-old legacy of Kashmir as it has survived many onslaughts and political turmoils in the region. And the valuable rose water from the Arq-e-Gulab shop doesn’t cost much. A litre of traditionally-made rose water is sold at just Rs 40 which is why it gained huge popularity in recent years and attracts young and old clients alike.
The store is known all over India and other countries like UK, France, the USA, and Germany for its natural aromatic syrups and water extracted from fresh roses. Its owner the 65-year-old Abdul Aziz Kozgar says the shop was opened around 1820 by his great grandfather after he imported jars, decanters and other things from France and UK to open the business in Srinagar.
There are many shops in the old city that claim some lineage dating back to the 19th century but Kozgar was able to preserve the traditional method of making rose water even as there is a boom of modern and machine-made rose water available in the market.
However, he says that his business may not survive the indifferences of the young generation towards the traditional business.
"This shop is close to my heart as it's a gift to me from my ancestors. I wish my children would also carry it forward to preserve this centuries-old tradition," he says.
Kozgar says the young generation happily uses the rose water from his shop. However, they don't want to do the job themselves, according to him.
"I think my children think that this shop may not earn them good money which is true also," he says.
"The traditional and natural method of extracting rose water is a time-consuming and tiring work while the returns are not the same," he says.
As per Kozgar, his family arrived in the Kashmir Valley from Turkey around 500 years ago. In India and other South Asian countries, rose water is traditionally sprinkled on devotees in mosques, shrines and on guests during welcome ceremonies.
"It's considered a blessing when used in sacred places and occasions," says Kozgar.
"It is also used in many dishes during cooking to get the aroma and refreshing addition to drinks in the summer," he says.
Despite many challenges and indifference of the young generation Kozgar stands tall in his shop; full of emerald glass bottles and filigreed decanters that were purchased decades ago.
Largely unused and empty bottles lined on the shelves give them an antique look. The Kozgars were experts in Unani medicine (an ancient Perso-Arabic system of medicine with roots in the teachings of Galen and Hippocrates), and Aziz Kozgar remembers stacked mountains of rose petals in the family’s courtyard, ready to be crushed for syrups and manually distilled into rose water.
He says his family would also make a variety of herbal concoctions, but the shop now specializes mainly in rose water and a couple of other traditional herbal syrups thought to aid in digestion, which are still prepared as they were centuries ago.
"We have been perfuming the shrines and sherbets of Srinagar for centuries," he says.
However, Kozgar rues the present condition of the trade saying that the manually produced rose water may stay till he is alive.
But till then the magical fragrance of a bygone era will stay and continue to refresh the people who pass through the bylanes of Downtown.
 
 
The shop carries a 400-year-old legacy of Kashmir as it has survived many onslaughts and political turmoils in the region. And the valuable rose water from the Arq-e-Gulab shop doesn’t cost much. A litre of traditionally-made rose water is sold at just Rs 40 which is why it gained huge popularity in recent years and attracts young and old clients alike.
 
The store is known all over India and other countries like UK, France, the USA, and Germany for its natural aromatic syrups and water extracted from fresh roses. Its owner the 65-year-old Abdul Aziz Kozgar says the shop was opened around 1820 by his great grandfather after he imported jars, decanters and other things from France and UK to open the business in Srinagar.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rose Water Benefits

 

1. Helps soothe skin irritation
One of the greatest benefits of rose water is its strong anti-inflammatory properties. These properties can help treat multiple ailments, both internal and external. It may even help soothe the irritation of eczema or rosacea.
 
2. Soothes sore throats
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for sore throats, but you may want to try rose water as well. Rose water has traditionally been used to soothe sore throats. While research is needed to prove its effectiveness, there’s strong anecdotal evidence to support it and very little risk in trying it.
 
 
3. Reduces skin redness
Rose water has been used as a beauty product for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that it can improve your complexion and reduce skin redness. The antibacterial properties may help reduce acne. The anti-inflammatory properties can reduce skin redness.
 
4. Helps prevent and treats infections
Rose water has powerful antiseptic properties, which can prevent and treat infections. Because of this, rose water is often included in a variety of natural and medicinal treatments. One study even found that when rose water was used in eye drops to treat conjunctivitis cases, its antiseptic and analgesic properties helped in treating the ocular disease.
 
5. Contains antioxidants
Rose petals and rose oil contain a number of powerful antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage. One study found that these antioxidants had potential lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects. This provides powerful cell protection as a result.
 
 
6. Heals cuts, scars, and burns
Rose water has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help wounds heal faster. These properties can help clean and fight off infection of cuts and burns. They can also help cuts, burns, and even scars heal faster.
 
7. Enhances mood
Rose water can have strong antidepressant and antianxiety properties. A 2011 study found that the extract of rose petals can relax the central nervous system in mice. This resulted in antidepressant and antianxiety effects.
 
8. Relieves headaches
Rose water and rose essential oil are commonly used in aromatherapy to help relieve headaches. This may be due to the de-stressing effects discussed in the section above. One study found that the vapor of rose water can soothe headaches. Another option is to apply a compress soaked in rose water to the head for 45 minutes for positive results.
 
9. Has anti-aging properties
Rose water is often found in beauty products aimed to reduce wrinkles. That’s because it may actually have anti-aging effects. In addition to soothing irritated skin, it may reduce the appearance of wrinkles when applied topically.
 
10. Soothes digestion problems
In folk medicine, rose water has been used to aid in digestion and reduce digestive upset. According to a 2008 study, there is some evidence that rose water can positively influence digestion and relieve digestive upset. It may also improve bile secretion, which can further aid digestion.
 

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