Like every other community, Kashmiri community has its share of myths that contribute to its folklore. Folklore, also known as folktales, refers to the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth. Folklore evolves with time, as each generation adds and omits words and phrases; the stories are molded from past to present, finding relevance in their own contexts and space.
Kashmiri literature is rich in folktales, and many people actually adhere to the myths prescribed in these tales. One of these myths is ‘the legend of shahmaar’. This myth has been adopted from the Persian legend of ‘shahmaran’, which describes it as half woman and half snake. But the Kashmiri variant of shahmaran literally means “the sultan of snakes”, which indicates that shahmaar is a male. As a result of alterations that have been made to the legend, a considerable number of people suppose that shahmaar is actually ‘the Queen of snakes’.
Shahmaar is a major character in Kashmiri children’s literature, pertaining to its depth in fantasy, it often mesmerizes the many young minds that read it. Although most people believe that Shahmaar is yet another mythical creature, some Kashmiri Pandits worship this legendary animal. They believe that all the treasure that is hidden inside the temples is guarded by none other than ‘the Shahmaar’ itself. Even after centuries, the legend of Shahmaar still lives on, in a constant evolution, from female to male, and from man to woman; this character may unfold into many more forms as we go on exploring.