Nestled in the enchanting landscapes of Baramulla, a mere 42 kilometers away, lies the timeless village of Dudran – a haven untouched by the frenetic pace of modernity. In a world fixated on technological leaps, Dudran emerges as a sanctuary of resilience and tradition, a place where the rhythmic pulse of life beats to the age-old wisdom of its women. Here, amidst the serene beauty, these guardians of heritage have elevated preservation to an art form, mastering the delicate dance of sustaining dairy treasures without the crutch of modern refrigeration. The secret to their triumph lies in the enchanting embrace of Doud Khot – natural fridges sculpted from stones, a whisper from the past echoing through the heart of Dudran’s time-honoured legacy.

For decades, people in Dudran have relied on Doud Khot to store their milk, cheese, and butter. Fameeda Begum, 59 years old, a resilient housewife and astute entrepreneur in the picturesque village, proudly recounts her journey. “Our reliance on Doud Khot transcends generations, evolving from a mere tradition to a thriving source of income.” The women of Dudran have honed their expertise in meticulously maintaining the Doud Khot, regulating its temperature to create the ideal environment for preserving the prized dairy products of the village. While the age-old technique preserves their cultural heritage, it also serves as a sustainable means of livelihood in the face of modern changes.

“To produce butter and curd, I store two or four pots of milk in the cave. After five days, I bring the milk home and churn it into butter,” says Fameeda Begum. Her efforts yield tangible rewards, and she proudly shares that she earns up to 20,000 a month by selling wholesome dairy products. What sets these entrepreneurs’ offerings apart is their commitment to purity. Devoid of any artificial preservatives, the dairy products emerging from Dudran’s Doud Khot are a testament to natural goodness and are rich in health and nutrients.

In the heart of winter, in the embrace of sub-zero temperatures, fresh milk finds a haven in the earthen or steel pots snugly stored inside the khots. This ingenious practice maintains the warmth of the milk while facilitating its effortless transformation into curd. The Doud Khot is thus a living symbol of sustainability, weaving together tradition, entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to purity. As these women navigate the delicate dance between heritage and the modern world, it stands as a living testament to the enduring strength and surprising benefits of age-old practices in a rapidly changing world.

It emerged as rustic sanctuaries, in the form of small cave-like structures strategically positioned over or near the village’s natural springs. These snug abodes, crafted with stone walls and sturdy wooden roofs, were soon the beating heart of Dudran’s dairy economy. A natural refrigerator, the Doud Khot maintains optimal coolness, ensuring the freshness of the dairy products it stores. The thoughtful addition of wooden fencing further shields these treasures from the curious noses of roaming animals, creating a harmonious blend of tradition and practicality. In Dudran, the economy revolves solely around cow milk and its various delectable offshoots, turning these unassuming Dodh Koths into the centers of a time-honored dairy trade that sustains livelihoods and preserves a way of living.

One of the primary advantages of Doud khot lies in its ability to keep milk and dairy products fresh for several days without the need for electricity. In a world where refrigerators are ubiquitous and harming the environment, Dudran stands out for its commitment to sustainable and climate-resilient practices.

Saima Akhtar, another resident of Dudran, explains. “Within our village, the absence of refrigerators is conspicuous. For years, we have relied on Doud Khot, and remarkably, it meets our needs with utmost efficacy. This indigenous practice is seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, proving its reliability over time. The absence of refrigeration technology has not hindered our lifestyle; instead, Doud Khot has been our faithful companion. Its consistent functionality has made it an integral part of our community, and shows how simplicity often begets efficiency. In our village, where traditions endure, Doud Khot remains a symbol of resourcefulness and practicality.”

In this way the Dodh Koth has become a symbol of self-sufficiency and empowerment for the women of Dudran. Through their innovative use of this traditional technology, they have created a local economy centered on homemade cheese, butter, and other dairy delights.

Another resident of this quaint village, Henna Jaan, 35 years old, reveals, “Our source of sustenance may be unconventional, but it is our lifeline. Despite the absence of a regular income, our lives revolve around our cows. Through the magic of Doud Khot, we preserve the milk, transforming it into cheese, butter, and ghee. These homemade treasures become our commodity, sold to local shopkeepers, ensuring not only our survival but also empowering every woman in our village to earn a livelihood.”

Fameeda Begum

Dudran’s literacy rate may be modest, and formal education may be a luxury, but Doud Khot has become an invaluable teacher, offering practical skills that sustain livelihoods. In a world where refrigerators remain unknown to some, Doud Khot has woven itself into the fabric of Dudran, providing a means of sustenance for these resilient women to script their own stories of independence.

In a conversation with Haji Ashraf Mohammad, a venerable 68-year-old resident of Dudran, he fondly reminisces about the tradition spanning decades, remarking, “I vividly recall my childhood, when our homes were graced by this natural refrigerator. During the scorching summer months, my mother ingeniously preserved milk and perishables in our very own Dodh Khot.”

Haji Ashraf shares how, “In our village, each household boasts its own Dodh Khot, and we wear this distinction with pride. Thanks to the Almighty, the tradition persists, and our new generation is fervently adopting this invaluable practice.” Their village stands as a singular beacon in Kashmir, proudly claiming the title of the sole community possessing a natural fridge, a distinction they cherish and guard zealously.

With a sense of responsibility and reverence for their cultural heritage, Haji Ashraf explains, “We take immense pride in our natural fridge, and we are committed to passing down this legacy to our future generations. It’s not just a tradition, it’s a testament to our resilience, resourcefulness, and the enduring bond we share with our ancestral practices.” In an ever-changing world, their Dodh Khot stands as a symbol of continuity, connecting the past with the present and safeguarding a unique cultural heritage for times yet to unfold. Dudran’s Dodh Koth is a shining example of how communities can thrive by embracing their roots. As the world grapples with the challenges of global heating and mass extinction, Dudran offers a timeless lesson – sometimes, the answers people seek are hidden in their ancestors’ wisdom.