The Traditional Music Of Kashmir
Music Maestros of Old Kashmir
For centuries Kashmir has had a history of invasions by outside forces to subjugate people by perpetual use of force and apart from persecution and plunder,the worst hit has always been the culture of this paradise on earth. Sufiana music, a very old tradition is dying out and an urgent action is needed to save it from extinction. Only a few families in Kashmir practiced this musical form, whereas the tallest Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Qaleenbaaf, Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Saaz Nawaz and Ustad Abdul Ghani Namtahali contributed to impart to their family members and were/are practicing artists.
The Maestros inherited from their forefathers, the elite class of masters like Ramzan Joo, Sidh Joo, Abdullah Shah, Muhammed Abdullah Tibetbaqal and Qaleenbaaf the art of Sufiana Mousiqee and devoted their life to the art which unfortunately is dying due to public insensitivity. This indifference is initially the direct result of lack of State patronage. The only source that could promote this art was State run Radio Kashmir that must be said was dominated by people who were averse to the very idea of promoting a tradition that was linked with Islam and Muslim culture. The lyric language used is Persian dialect and the instruments source Persia or the Middle East. With the passage of time the legendaries of yester years from the Valley, performed in a society that was responsive, blend the lyrics with local Kashmiri dialect to make it understandable and acceptable to local population. Kashmir being predominantly muslim enjoyed the music with spiritualism and Sufism being the heart and soul of Sufiana Kalam. The music that is basic to Kashmir, the crucible of many forms of arts and crafts witnessing callousness towards the traditional and folk arts, the cultural invasion from north and central India made all the difference and the younger generation who would be the future of this music were attracted to Indian music that offered glamour, cheap love songs and unfulfilled dreams. Radio Kashmir being directly controlled from Delhi managed to consign Sufiana Kalaam to history.
Sufiana Mousiqee generally known as “Saazandar Geawun”is the classical rendering in which lyric predominates the Maqam (Mode). The Sw’ras (Notes)make their presence felt and there is no clear-cut recurring pattern of sw’ras that could pervade in each song of the Maqam. It is believed that Hayat Joo the great ancester had come from Iran and later settled in Kashmir. He was the great musician of the time. Sultan Joo the student of Hayat Joo would sing in the royal court of Maharaja. The Maharaja would send his special horse Kontal Gur to fetch him to give performance before the Maharaja. It is significant to note that most of Kashmir’s Maharajas, though hindus by faith, were literate as they could read, write and understand Persian.
Music may belong to any nation or place, the fact remains that it is always good to ears. In other words there are no barriers of language or words that limit music lovers to listen and appreciate a good voice or a tune. Music has always been a part and parcel of human culture and tradition and has had a unique status. The sweet tunes thus produced touch the heart and mind and even consoles human souls. No one knows for sure the origin of music but it is believed that the origins of music can be traced to Egypt and from there spread to other nations.
Sufiana Kalaam is primarily vocal, choral music. It is performed by an ensemble of four to seven musicians and all musicians sing in unison except the main singer (leader of the ensemble) who sings the main lines of the song. The poetry associated with sufiana kalaam is in two languages, Persian and Kashmiri. The favourite poems are those of the great Sufi mystics of Persia and kashmir such as Hafiz, Jallauddin Rumi, Jami, Omar Khayam, Amir Khusro, Rasul Mir, Neame Seab and others.
Kashmiris are a singing people; songs and ghazals have always been part of their literary culture. Music was introduced in Kashmir during the rule of Sultan Zainulabidin known as Budshah (1420 – 70) and before this time there is no historical evidence to prove that there was any kind of music around and so possibly were no musicians around. Sultan Shamasuddin Shahmiri is famous for promoting music and encouraged quite a few musicians of that time. To do this he had many Sanskrit books translated and encouraged a good number of musicians to carry on the tradition. It is said that Sultan Zainulabidin was himself attracted to music and encouraged local musicians and even invited musicians form different countries.
Budshah’s brother Sultan Hassan Shah (1472 – 84) introduced an independent Government department to promote music. Sultan Zainulabidin had a special interest in music and he would organize special meetings for musicians to perform. His son heir apparent Sultan Haider Shah was good at playing instruments available. His grandson Sultan Hassan Shah was also good in the art of music. He invited musicians from South India to promote music in Kashmir. An exclusive department of music was created for the first time in his life time. Kashmiri music, it is said, was at its zenith during the time of Sultan Yousuf Shah Chak as he himself practiced music and performed with perfection and his Queen Habba Khatun was also a great musician and RAAST Kashmiri raag is her invention. Sultan Yousuf Shah Chak attached lot of importance to poetry and music and his personal liking made quite a difference to its popularity. Chak kings exit from the dynasty rule deprived Sufiana music of state patronage and protection resulting in its decline. Thereafter it survived getting protection from Sufi Saints and spiritual people (Darvesh) and also the rich elite as this provided musicians and lovers of Sufi music with zeal, enthusiasm, spiritual enhancement and very importantly a source of income.
In the not so distant past Kashmir liked the style of Sufiana music and is considered as the classical music of Kashmir. As most of the poetry used is Persian which has its origin in Iran and central Asia but at the same time the local Kashmiri language blended with Persian gave it a different flavour.
In the recent past State run Radio Kashmir played its role to promote this art but it was limited due to the paucity of resources available. State’s Cultural Academy also played a role but again lack of resources at their disposal hampered the progress. The maestros like Ustad Kamal Bhat, Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Qaleenbaf, Muhammed Abdullah Tibetbaqal and finally Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Saaz Nawaz contributed with the help of Cultural Acadmey to promote this art and in seventies started holding music classes on regular basis to teach and impart Sufiana music to younger generation and during these courses scholarships were also offered as an incentive to these students. This continued approximately for three years and the program had to be abandoned due to scant attention and interest by the local population and among other reasons has been attributed to the cultural invasion from central India. Moreover, the older generation who kept the tradition alive passed away one after another and the new generation lost the touch completely.
There are a few books written by people like “Taranai Sarwar” by Khushdil, “Asli Mousiqui” by Hafiz Ahmaduulah Punjabi and “Ramoz mousiqui” by Shiekh Abdul Aziz and this has been a good effort but again due to lack of interest very few people are aware that such books are even available. “Koshur Sargam” of Shiekh Abdul Aziz recorded Sufiana poetry and this system of notation is perhaps the only one around.
Wadan Sangeet aur Sufiana Mousiqui” by Noor Muhammed Bhat and “Hamari Mousiqui” by Qaiser Qalandar have talked a lot about Kashmiri music.
Source (Shiraza, Muhammed Ahmed Andrabi)
BaCche Nagme`/ Gharayee Lanczh
A colourful group of people, generally from villages, visiting almost every house in Srinagar city playing this nice musical instrument called “Surnai”. This group, generally made an appearance on EID(Muslim festival)and other good occasions, is identified as “Gharayee Lanczh”. The group comprised of two or more people clad in typical rural attire, Pheron, Kameez, Yezaar and white turban.
Each one holding on to his respective musical instrument like “Surnai” (a kind of a flute blown from the top through a very thin and flat nozzle, it makes very loud and piercing sound but it is melodious) a flatter type of a side drum and the forgotten instruments called Wasool and Saaz-e-kashmir. The most significant notable aspect of the group is this “Lanczh” (a Eunuch) dressed in reds, blues and greens. The centre of attraction his two huge earrings (Kane`waje`) studded with colourful imitation stones. This eunuch had to be a six-footer, with a slim body structure and a hoarse voice being a pre-requisite.
Now this BaCche` Nagme` (Male young dancer performing to entertain admirers of this art) is also an inseparable part of Kashmir culture and cannot be ignored. BaCche`, a Cherub in Biblical terms is again a centre of attraction dressed in the typical “inhi logoon ney li na duppatta mera” outfit of a typical dancer busy dancing surrounded by his male partners playing different musical instruments. Kashmiris have tremendously suffered at the hands of foreign invading rulers and all of them made women a special target. That is why people developed a habit of hiding their women and this gave rise to males or eunuchs dressed in women’s clothing to entertain people and this became part of culture. Now these troupes are nowhere to be seen and this art is a thing of the past.
Tibetbaqal was in full employment with State run Radio Kashmir. He was the master of a unique voice full of melody and received appreciation from all the lovers of music having a special relationship with Sufiana Kalaam. He did not belong to the family of musicians but a family of businessmen dealing in world famous Pashmina shawls and fruit like Apricot in particular.
Because of the business connections, his family was influenced by getting in contact with people from Russia, Ladakh, Tibet, and Yarqand. This Mongolian race from the regions of Ladakh, Tibet and Yarqand was referred to as “Buta”. Since the poetry used in Sufiana Kalaam is mainly Persian he had acquired fairly good knowledge of Arabic and Persian which helped him to first understand what he was to sing. Since his childhood, having a good voice, he was allowed to sing prayers in Maktab (School) on regular basis which in turn proved to be helpful for his future achievements. At a later stage because of his good voice and his personal liking and attachment with Sufiana Kalaam he received initial training in this from Ustad Ghani Joo and Ustad Ramzan Joo.
His family vehemently opposed his interest in singing but he remained steadfast and adamant to continue receive the training and stayed associated with the art. In 1948 Radio Kashmir had just been introduced to Kashmirs and Tibetbaqal got this employment as a breakthrough and was soon famous. His attempt to blend the Sufiana Kalaam with local Kashmir dialect was a very good venture and was highly acclaimed.
He continued to sing Naat and Manqabat (spiritual singing) from Radio Kashmir while receiving appreciation from lovers of this art especially his best capabilities to play this wonderful local musical instrument called Santoor. He, at times, played other instruments like Sitar, Harmonium and Tabla. He also worked with the State department Cultural Academy and contributed to promote this art. Though he received invitations to visit different countries but for some reason he declined all these offers and preferred to stay in Kashmir.
He was employed by Radio Kashmir permanent basis from 1949 to 1971. He belongs to the elite group of singers and musicians. He had developed interest with the art since his childhood and would participate in all household gatherings were lovers of music would assemble and listen to Sufiana Kalaam. He is known to be unique in maintaining the flow of music while his singing has always been appreciated. Initially he was trained by one Sula (Sultan) Joo and then later by Khala (Khaliq) Joo both were known to be music masters of their own time. He has contributed a lot to keep this tradition alive and has also worked as a teacher to impart this tradition to boys and girls of Amira Kadal High School, Srinagar. As he acquired good fame he was appointed as teacher at State Cultural Academy to train young generation so that the art would live for future.
He continued to work with Radio Kashmir and Stat Cultural Academy till he breathed his last. His students namely Shiekh Abdul Aziz, Mushtaq Ahmed and Muhammed Yaqub were all recognized musicians.
He was fortunate and one of the first to get a job in Radio Kashmir which gave him a breakthrough and soon his name became a household. He inherited the art from his father and his cousin and playing of Sitar he learned this skill from Ramzan Raether of Yetchgam, Kashmir. He started his career singing at private gatherings, though illiterate, he was gifted with huge memory and would be able to translate Persian poetry with ease. He is known to have mastered raags like druya, yake, dupke, namdur, mukhmas, tchaqeel, neemtchqeel, setaal, chapandaaz and hajr. He also had a special skill to play Sitar,Tabla and Surnai and being best at Sitar, maqam kanra though difficult to sing would make people ecstatic.
His sweet voice full of melody would make Lalle wakhan the poetry of famous poetess Lalla Arifa and the (shurkh) spiritual poetry of Hazrat Shiekh Nooruddin Wali a treat to listen to.
Ustad Kamal Bhat was employed was employed by Radio Kashmir in 1948 on permanent basis and involved himself with programs organised and conducted by State Cultural Academy. Apart from knowing Sufiana kalaam he would take to dancing as well and did all this with perfection. He also organised to hold classes and would teach the youngsters the art of singing and dancing. He has travelled to some parts of India (now in Pakistan) before partition of India in 1947. Notably, two of his students Abdul Gani Bhat and Abdul Gani Namtahali are practicing Sufiana Kalaam are practicing artists.
Ustad Ramzan Joo, belonging to the family of great musicians and being brother of Maestro Sidh Joo, is ranked as a top class artist in Sufiana Kalaam and acquired this art from his ancestors. He would always participate in spiritual gatherings and getting in touch with other highly acclaimed singers and artists benefited him to learn and master the art singing especially Sufiana Kalaam.
His teachers were achievers in this art like Ustad Wazir Joo and Ustad Abdullah Shah. His motivation, as is said, was his love for Sufiana Kalaam and its spirituality and any financial interest has been of no consequence. He was relentless in his effort to carry on with promoting this art which he did with great success and imparted training and whatever he had learnt to younger generation.
He was employed by Radio Kashmir in 1955 and initially received a “B” class status. It goes to his credit that he was best at playing Santoor but was adept in playing Sitar as well. He also performed in the programs organised by State Cultural Academy and received “Robe of Honour” from the same department. His students, notably, include Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Saaz Nawaz, Abdul Ghani Saaz Nawaz and Ghulam Ahmed Saaz Nawaz.
Also known as Khala Saeb belonged to a family of Sufiana Kalaam professionals and hails from the home Mazaar area of Sufi music village Shangaz, Kashmir. He has been associated with the art since his childhood and received basic training from his father elder Setari. He is reported to be a very good sitar and tabla player and it was his own brother Ghulam Muhammed Setari and Sannaullah who taught him these skills. Being so good at playing Sitar he assumed the nickname of Setari and finally this nickname became the family’s surname. After his home village Shangaz, another village Vajebuer also received laurals to achieve a special place in this art of music. Khala Saeb’s expertise for using “Aaho band” (an acknowledgement or a nod for approval of songs continuity.)
He has extensively travelled a facility provided by the department of Cultural Academy and thus visited various places to perform and receive laurels from the public at places like Bhopal, Bombay and quite a few places in central and northern India. The Bhopal Academy awarded him a certificate of appreciation.
In 1960 he got an opportunity to introduce himself on Radio Kashmir and his performance gave him quite a big fame. He had learned Persian language and was very good in interpreting Persian poetry to his fans directly during conversations or through his songs. His command on the language was so good that he was always mistaken to be an Iranian. This was something outstanding as he did not receive any schooling and was totally illiterate. He maintained his good voice and entertained people with his magic voice till he breathed his last. Among his pupils who reeived training notable are Muhammad Abdullah Setari, Abdul Majid, Showkat Khan, Altaf Hussain and Abdul majid Akhoon.
Ghulam Muhammed Saaz Nawaz
S/O Ustad Ramzan Joo
Resident of Dana Mazar, Safa Kadal, Srinagar, Kashmir
Born: July 1940
He was fortunate enough to learn the art from his father when he was very young. Though being part of the group of musicians belonging to his uncle Ustad Sidh Joo, the relationship helped him to attain fame very quickly as his Uncle was already a recognized Sufiana musician. He loves to sing Persian spiritual poetry and his delivery of pronunciation being correct added to the flavour of his singing and people love to hear him sing. He is known to play with perfection the instruments like Santoor, Sitar, Tabla and saaz-e-Kashmir but has an extra edge at playing Santoor.
He was initially employed by Radio Kashmir as a ‘B’ class employee and because of his hard work and perseverance soon became a big name in Sufiana kalaam. He also received a “Sanad” appreciation from Sadiq Memorial Trust. He has also received a few awards from State and Sangeet Academy of India which he received in the year 1999.
Saaz Nawaz received appreciation and acclaim as one of the greatest exponents of Sufiana Music. He also hopes the tradition he inherited from the great masters will be carried on by his sons Mushtaq and Shabir who are learning the art under his guidance and encouraging the youngsters is the only glimmer of hope keeping this tradition alive.
Ustad Sheikh Abdul Aziz is counted as one of the masters from the group of elite musicians and has been trained in the art since his childhood. He would organize gatherings at his own house and invite people from all walks of life having deep interest in Sufiana music and perform. His older brother had also developed an interest in Sufiana Kalaam. This was a unique way to socialise and get to know people which ultimately would become a family affair. His father did not have any interest with all this and expected his son to be more inclined towards education. As he was attracted to this art right from the start he worked very hard to attain perfection in the art of singing and playing instruments like Santoor and Sitar.
To start with he received training from Ustad Ghulam Muhammed Qaleenbaft and then learned under the guidance of Ustad Muhammed Siddique, Muhammed Abdullah Tibetbaqal and Maulana Shamsuddin Hairat Kamili. In short he was fortunate to receive training from the elite group of maestros. He is even the author of very well known book titled “Kashur Sargam” which is an achievement in itself wherein he discussed and explained most of “maqam” notes and the book is in three parts. He was also in charge of “Institute of Music and Fine Arts” nearly for twenty years.
He also contributed to impart training to his young students who are performing though at a slow pace. He was later employed in radio Kashmir and was instrumental in promoting Sufiana kalaam to a large extent. Here he would encourage group performance and his mastery about Sitar became popular, though his favourite instrument being Santoor, he would try his hand on other instruments as well. It was noticed that he had a firm grip on flow and notes (taal) that would enhance his capabilities to perform to deliver and perform with confidence. He is presently working in Doordarshan (Indian TV) and also involves himself with programs organized by State Cultural Academy. He is known to have performed on stage frequently which has received appreciation. He is said to be of the opinion that Dholaki (an Indian musical instrument) is better than Tabla as it coincides with Sufiana mousiqui. He received invitation to visit USA (Maryland) where he performed with tremendous success and quite a few students of music showed interest to learn Kashmiri Sufiana music.
While paying very high tributes and an acknowledgement for the intellectual capabilities of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Jozef M. Pacholczyk in his book ‘The Classical Music of Kashmir goes on to say ” the three volume set of ‘Kashur Sargam’ by Sheikh Abdul Aziz (1963-65) which contains notations of repertory, provided the bulk of the materials used for my analysis.” He further continues to mention “Aziz’s ‘Koshur Sargam’ is by far the most comprehensive anthology of Sufyana. Because of its reliability, it will be used in this research as an important primary source.”
He was employed by State Information Department as an artist. He is best known by his short name Sarangi as he was known to be best this instrument. As a young boy, he received training from Haji Ghulam Nabi Bulbul and he was further trained by Abdul Rahman Bhat and Shiekh Ali Muhammed.
He became popular and famed as he was very good at playing Sarangi, Tumbakhnaer and Santo Sitzter. He got his breakthrough in 1975 when he was first introduced by Radio Kashmir and was employed in’ B ‘grade category and was promoted to ‘A’ grade in 1995. He visited Delhi, Ajmeer, Jaipur, Bombay, Agra and Calcutta through Cultural and “Tamadun” departments of the State where he performed with his group to gain laurels. He has a group of students receiving training in the art and to name the few are: Muhammed Subhan Shah, Ghulam Ahmed Dar, Ghulam Hassan Shiekh and Abdul Raheem Shah. His most famous song will be remembered for a long time:
Thari yawnenni bargey posh
Bali maryey mai rosh
Lala¬wun mey thownum naar
Newnam qarrar vesiyey
One of the first musicians who associated himself with Radio Kashmir and got is first employment as Rabab nawaz but he as was not satisfied with the job he resigned in 1973. He was one of the first proponents of introducing and playing Rabab with perfection and soon after Radio Kashmir was born hen even directed music for the early feature dramas relayed from the radio station. He is famous for rendering music for a popular song sung by Raj begum and became an immediate hit:
Vasiyey gulan amai bahar
Az saale’ antan baalayar
Gulrez another masterpiece of poetry was again sung by Raj Begum and fine tune provided by Ustad Bhat and notable and unique being his mastery over this instrument, Rabab. He extensively travelled to Delhi, Bombay, Lukhnow, and Calcutta, to demonstrate his capabilities.
Gani, though not a professional singer, was a very well known figure in Sufiana Kalaam. He was spotted while at school leading prayers in the Assembly and his Head Master Ghulam Nabi Kalkati encouraged him to sing on regular basis. This little fame allowed him to sing in small private gatherings and was soon introduced to influential people like Mohan Lal Aima, Pushkar Bhan, Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor and Ghulam Mohiuddin Balpuri. This provided him with a opportunity to move around with Sufiana Singers of fame like Ghulam Qadir Bhat, Kamaal Bhat, Muhammed Rathaer and Shiekh Abdul Aziz. He has also been fortunate enough to be in the company of famous Poets Ahad Zargar and Samad Mir and would sing in the gatherings organised by by these famous poets. He was, like others, employed by Radio Kashmir in 1960.
The success of Kashmiri film “Habba Khatun’s” credit goes to Gani for providing his contribution as musician. He travelled to Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Ajmeer and various other places in India to play and perform. These tours were organised by State Cultural Academy and was able to perform on Indian Television Door Darshan.
He is known to be good at playing instruments like Sitar, Tabla and could also play Harmonium and Santoor with confidence. He has worked hard to impart training this art to his two sons, Ghulam Nabi Namtahali and Abdul Rashid Namtahali. He has also taken active part in state politics and was elected to the Legislative Assembly from 1967 to 1972.
Yaqub hails from a family of Ustaads like his maternal grand father Ghulam Muhammed Qaleenbaaf and then received training from famed people like Shiekh Abdul Aziz and Ustaad Kamaal Bhat. He is adept in playing Santoor, Sitar, Tabla, and Saaze Kashmir but was more inclined to play Santoor where he achieved perfection. He learned to play Saaz-e-Kashmir from late Ustad Kamal Bhat. He travelled to Switzerland/Geneva, Paris, Germany, Italy and Algeria to perform and earned laurels.
He currently runs a music school at Kralpura where a good number of students are learning the art. He has also served as music master in Radio Kashmir where he would perform with his associates and students.
Gopi Nath is the first Kashmiri Pandit who took to dancing and became very famous in a very short time. His family tradition would not allow him to lead a path of this nature and had to struggle to continue dancing. His commitment and perseverance made him a well known figure and learned the art of singing as well. His singing includes “Hindu Leela” Naat, Chakri and Roaf. His singing party included Muhammed Ismail Dar, Abdul Aziz, Ghulam Rasool, Muhammed Ramzan and Abdul Samad.
Gopi Nath was famous for playing Harmonium but would play with comfort instruments like Tabla, “Noat” (Kashmiri clay pitcher) and Banjo. He initially sang in marriage parties and in some specially organised private parties and then went on to sing at Radio Kashmir where he was employed on permanent basis. He at times would perform on Indian Television channel “Door Darshan” as well.
Later, he was employed by States Field Publicity Department and trips organised by the department would take him to other places in the state to perform. He made such trips to states rural areas and regions. He would occasionally perform in the programs organised by states Cultural Academy and through them travelled to Delhi, Bombay, Goa and has also visited Africa wherefrom he returned with medals and awards.
It is said he was very handsome and where ever he went to perform, the place used to be very well decorated and furnished expensively. Frequently he would sing and play instruments while Hafiz (dancers) would also perform. He played violin with perfection. Once in a talk show on radio kashmir his son Ghulam Qadir who was the Sufiana music teacher at cultural Academy had all the praise for his father for the qualities inherent in him as a singer especially when he performed with the company of Hafiz dancers and would maintain the line to keep up with the rhythm and musical notes. Qadir Joo is also said to be a master Tabla nawaz and playing sitar would be his specialty. The flawless performance of Tabla beat and the Hafiz dances were noteworthy which would send the lovers of music into ecstasy. The non stop repeat of verses would generally continue for more than half an hour. It is also said that Raja Ram Singh was a lover of Hafiz performers and he would organize these programs even at the official Governors secretariat at Tanki pora. The son of Maestro Sidh Joo would be the introductory musician followed by his fathers expert performance. Apart from the Sufiana music, he would also sing Indian classical Thumri with seriousness and with a slight touch of romantic notes. One of the Hafiza known as Moti Jan was a paragon of beauty and would generally grace such occasions. She was also referred to as the Queen of beauty. Another Hafiza known as Teath seab was charming due to her big eyes and as she was learned, educated and had the knowledge about Astrology commanded respect in all the circles of the society. In order to enhance their beauty they used ornaments like Peshwaza and Tikka an ornament (pendant type) hung around center of forehead. Other notable Hafiza were Noore`Aarmein, Gannz Gul and Waza`Gul. Sidh Joo was best at playing 20 notes in a beat with ease. He received his initial training in this art from his mentor, Guru and father Wazir Joo. And to keep the records straight, Ustad Sidh Joo was brother of famous Maestro Ustad Ramzan Joo.
Ustad Amir Din Zaz started singing at the age of 20 years and being a good learner picked up the art of playing Santoor, Sitar and Harmonium with perfection. He was admired for his good voice and soon became part of the ensemble of the elite group of Sufiana Masters. He had his early training from Ustad Rahman Joo Zaz and learned the skill of making sur and later joined the group of Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal. On certain occasions became part of the group led by Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Qaleenbaaf. Amir Din never chose his singing as a career and his love for the art was highly acclaimed. He was even offered jobs at Radio Kashmir or State run TV channel Doordarshan but he always turned it down. He will be remembered for his famous song maqam subhdam:
zaag sundari bagh babri
naag nendre ma paiyee
Instruments Used with the Traditional Music of Kashmir
In this chapter, I have written about the instruments which are used with the folk music of Kashmir, followed by the description of those instruments which are used with the Sufiana Mousiqui. The history of the instruments, the technique of playing, and the material they are made of and much more has been discussed in the Chapter.
Raj Tarangini mentions specifically about the art of music and musical instruments in this region in distant past. The ancient musical instruments used in Kashmir had been more or less a reflection of the Indian musical instruments in usage during that time.
According to Pandit Kalhana, the folk musical instruments like earthen pots, brass vessels etc. were used by Kashmiri people from very early times. In Kashmir 4th century A.D. tile, found during excavation from Harwan, is showing the impression of a female musician playing on a drum. The other person is shown playing a veena in an artistic pastime. The king Bhiksacara (1120-21) A.D., who himself played these instruments was fond of “Chhakri” (folk choral singing) which continues to be popular in Kashmir valley since Kalhana’s time and even earlier to that.
Raj Tarangini mentions an instrument called “Hadukka” which can be compared to a big pipe.
According to B.C. Deva, the string instruments, Rabat) and Sarangi, came to Kashmir with the influence of Muslims. The whole subcontinent was affected by the culture of the new rulers. In music, we came across new Ragas, new styles and new instruments like Rabab and Sarangi. Rabab traveled with the bards and minstrels of Afghanistan and joined the folk group instruments in Kashmir. Some scholars say that it must have been introduced into Kashmir at the time of Zain-ul-Abidin. The most popular instrument used in folk music is the Rabab, which was borrowed from Persia.
Both the instruments, Rabab and Sarangi, used in folk music ‘Chhakri’ from 14th century onwards opened a new chapter in Kashmir for music and its musical instruments. According to V .N. Bhatkhande, the Muslim rulers had brought with them their own system of music with new melodies, new interpretations, new types of songs and new Talas, which in course of time got fused with Hindu music and gave rise to modern Hindustani music. In a similar way, artists from Central Asia, during Sultanate period brought with them their art, music, musical instruments and culture resulting in wonderful interaction which in course of time gave birth to Kashmiri classical music which is known as Sufiana Mosiqui. It borrowed its style from Persian music. The cultural interaction has resulted in a unique form and an interesting synthesis of the various types of classical music preserved by Kashmir. It was in this period that the Kashmiri music reached the heights of perfection under the patronage of rulers and saints. Many improvements were brought out in the conventional instruments to render them more useful to the art. The instruments like Santoor, Saaz, Setar, Rabab and Sarangi are resultant inventions and innovations and denote the developments, which took place during this period.
The musical instruments have played a key role in the evolution of Kashmiri Sufiana Mosiqui. This mosiqui has deep impression on the listener and it is in the nature of very serious music. The Kalam or the verses are also peculiar and this style of music has been very selective in this respect. Similar is the case of instruments used in this Mousiqui, which have been selected with due thought. The instruments used by the sufiana musicians are quite different from those used in Indian Classical Music, Kashmiri folk music and other styles. The prominent instruments include Santoor, Kashmiri Setar (Sehtar) and Saaz-i-Kashmir, the percussion instrument for providing rhythmic variety is Tabla which replaced/Wasul or a Dolke called Dokra, used previously.
Tumbak has been a musical instrument in the good olden days in Iran and Central Asia, which was being played mostly by the women folk of these places. Many authors believe that such instrument is being used in Iran and Arabia too. May be it has come to Kashmir from these places, for the simple reason that visitors and rulers were coming to Kashmir in the olden days from Iran and middle east, which besides other things made cultural invasion on the art of Kashmir. Co-incidently, this instrument is also being played by the women folk in Kashmir, the only difference is that in Iran or Central Asia, it is now being made of wood, while in Kashmir, it is still being made of baked clay maintaining its originality. This type of instrument is used for keeping rhythm and also time that covers in a performance of music.
Dr. Rahullah-Khaliqui has written in page no. 403 of his book ‘Serguzashti Mousiqui-Iran’ about the style of playing this instrument in Iran. In Iran, this instrument is called Tumbakh or Tunbak. In west, it is tumbal or tumbari and in Kashmir, it is tumbaknaeer. The naer is added because the tail end of this instrument is like a pipe, which in Kashmiri, is called a Nore, which has in course of time, changed to naer, making the instrumental tumbaknaer. It is generally used by women folk at various occasions of merriment like marriages, Yagnopavit etc. It is struck by the fingertips to produce the desired harmonious rhythm.
Thalez: is used at farms especially on weeding of paddy crops, when rice plants are required to be freed of the unnecessary growth of vegetation. At these weeding operations, the farmers and their women folk used to sing collectively to overcome the monotonous work, using Thalej as rhythm maintainer.
2.0 Sarang (Sarangi)
It is a stringed musical instrument played with a bow and it is in vogue in three types:
The first type is smaller in size and is used in Kashmir under the name of Sarang, which as per a belief (local) is the invention of Maharaja Sarang Dev’s time (Sarang Dev was a king of Kashmir).
The second type is slightly bigger in size than the Kashmiri Sarang and is mostly used in Bengal for Bengali music.
The third type is a full size and standard Sarangi used in Indian classical music. Its size is roughly three feet long and about eight inches wide. It has four main strings and about thirty five sympathetic side strings known as Taraba in musical language and most of them are made of steel and brass.
3.0 Kashmiri Sarang
Kashmiri Sarang is very simple in structure. It is made of a block of wood, preferably of mulberry or teakwood. The entire body is hollow from inside with two combined parts. Both the sides of the lower part are punched and the whole is covered with hide. The upper part serves the purpose of a fingerboard. Commonly its length is one and a half feet. It has two strings of gut, one of steel and another of coiled brass (making four mains trings). Besides it has eight or ten sympathetic wires/strings of steel known as ‘terban’.
It is played with a bow, made of a hard round stick of wood, to which hair of the tail of horse are fixed at both the ends, and a small wooden triangular but curved bridge is placed at one end to keep the hair light. The bow is held in the right hand and moved from one end to the other, vertically on the main strings to produce sound. The fingers namely fore, middle, ring and sometimes the little finger are used to produce notes of different pitch at different length of different strings. The fingers however do not press down the strings on the fingerboard, but are simply touched at the starting place with nails of each finger of the left hand, thus the musical notes are produced.
Besides Kashmir, in the hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh, the playing of this Sarang is common. It is also popular among the tribals of Bihar. In northern India, Sarang, besides being played with the bow-shaped stick, is also played with the ‘Kanishtha’ (the little finger) and ‘anamika’ (the finger between the middle and the little finger) of the left hand. The playing on this instrument is known as ‘purva’.
Gagar is a well known word in the Indian languages. Gagar is made of brass. In Kashmiri Hindu society, Gagar has a cultural importance.
In Kashmir also, at the time of Herath Festival, Gagar has an important role to play. Gagar is placed on the bangle shaped circle made of dry paddy straw which is placed on the floor, washed with clay. The Gagar is half filled with dry nuts. Then Lord Shiva and Shakti are worshipped. Thus, it can clearly be understood that Gagar holds valuable place in the religious festivals in Kashmir. It is also used in homes for storing water by Hindus and Muslims both.
The same Gagar is used with the music of Kashmir. The artist put iron rings in his fingers of the left hand and places his hand on Gagar while striking Gagar with the right hand. The sound produced is very high and thus Gagar plays an important role in creating the musical environment in the gatherings.
During festivals and temple kirtan, playing of Gagar is of great importance. Gagar might have its origin in Vedic time.
Nagada is an instrument resembling ‘Dhola’. It has many names, like Nakkara, Nagada, Dugdugi etc. in Indian languages. According to B. Chaitanyadeva, Nagada is a changed form of the ancient Dundubhi. In Himachal Pradesh also, its similar form and structure can be found: its upper side is covered with leather of goat. Nagada is slightly smaller than the ‘Nobat’ instruments. The instrument ‘Nagadi’ is also played with it. This instrument is struck with a piece of wood and the sound is produced, it is in demand in the temples.
In Kashmir, it is used during festivals and marriage ceremonies. Mainly it is used with the ‘bhand jashan and ‘bhand natya’. It is used during paddy harvesting. The farmers consider it as an energy booster during their tiring task of farming.
Dhola has its own history in the musical instruments of India. The first form can be traced in the Mohan Jodaro culture. One of the oldest instruments of India, Dhola is mainly traced in the villages and every state of India.
In Kashmir, it is mainly used in villages and it is mostly played with the folk dance of the bhands.
One of the ancient instruments of India, Shankh, the sushirvadya, is associated with religious functions. In AtharVeda, one finds reference to Shankh, though it existed long, before. In Bhagvad Gita, during the time of war, Shankh had played an important role. One finds that Shankh has been called by different names like Panch Janya Shankh, Devadatt Shankh, Mahashan Ponder Shankh and more. Even in Valmiki’s Ramayna, the mention of a Shankh can be traced.
In Kashmiri Hindu culture, Shankh is an instrument, which is played both in temples and homes.
In the temples, Shankh is played in the mornings and evenings during the prayers. In homes, it is played before the starting of havan, yagnopavit, marriage, etc. in Kashmiri Hindu marriage, Shankh is played by a person to mark the arrival of the groom. After reaching the bride’s place, the groom is made to stand on the ‘rangoli’ and Shankh is played constantly. At times, when the bride’s parents take much time to see her off, then Shankh is played to indicate the late departure, so that they hurry up. Shankh is used as the proclamation and declaration of war, victory and religious ceremonies.
Shankh has a vital role in ‘Leela’ singing. It gives religious touch to the occasions as if gods and the goddesses are summoned in a special way to make an appearance to the devotees worshipping.
Swar-nai, a ‘sushir vadya’, holds an important place in the folk music of Kashmir. This instrument has been mentioned in Nilamata Purana and in Kalhana’s Raj Tarangini. Swarnai holds the same place in Kashmir folk music as the Shahnai in the Indian music. This is the reason, why Swarnai is also called Shahnai in Kashmiri music.
Swar-nai is made of two words-Swar and Nai. The structure of Swarnai is slightly bigger in size as compared to Shahnai. This instrument is made of wood and its makers are the traditional makers of Swarnai. It has nine holes near the round mouth of Swarnai, there is a till type square through which the player blows the air. This is also called, Tulbarabir Tulkarav, in Kashmiri language.
The playing of Swarnai is considered very auspicious. in Kashmiri culture. This musical instrument is deeply related to marriages, festivals, shivratri, navreh, Id and other auspicious occasions of Hindus as well as Muslims. It is also used by bhands while performing in folk drama-’Lok Natya’. Besides this, it is also widely used in ‘bachi naghma’ folk dance. During the harvest, the players of Swarnai go to farms and perform entertaining music to entertain the farmers and collect the crop for themselves.
This way, melodious Swarnai is widely used in the folk music culture of Kashmir.
In Kashmiri folk music, round cup made of bronze is called khos’. Usually khos is used for drinking Kahva (a type of Kashmiri tea) in Kashmiri Hindu families. Beneath the round form of Khos is smaller round portion on which it stands. Khasya is the plural form of Khos. Whenever there is a religious gathering, marriage or yagnopavit, Tumbaknar, Ghat, two Khasya are played with both the hands. The Hindu women are more proficient in playing it. It is a ‘Ghan Vadya’. The sound is produced by striking both the Khasya with each other.
Thaluz is a Kashmiri word. The instrument is called by different names in different regions of north and southJhanjh, Jhalari, Manjir, Thali Kans, Kanjaam, Illatalam, etc.
This instrument can be seen in temples of north and south during religious prayers in the mornings.
ashmiri Thaluz is made of bronze, its round portion is around 13 cms. 30 cms. It is widely used in the folk functions of Kashmir. Thaluz is mentioned in Kalhana’s Raj tarangini and Nilamata Purana. The use of instrument is mainly confined to the temples. On Saturday nights, in temples of Kashmir, usually Jagrans’ are performed and many musical groups do kirtans, the whole night. Thaluz is then played by the performers, to summon the diety in invocation to the place of worship.
The word ‘Rabab’ is pronounced as Rabab in Persian and Rabab in Arabic, which in Arabic is Rab-O-Raba; literary meaning to collect, to make available, to arrange or to manage.
It has been controversial to assert about the origin of Rabab, which was however initially played with a bow but now it is played with a mizrab precisely with a plectrum.
One school of thought suggests that this instrument has been brought to India from the middle East by the foreign intruders perhaps by Sokandar Zulqurmein in the past. Others suggest that Tansen, the celebrated musician invented it, as is mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari. Abu Naserfarabi is of the opinion that this instrument, originally played with a bow, was in fact successfully tried and played with a mizrab later on, in Middle East. One more lover and thinker of music Aullya-Chalbi of Arabia is of the opinion that Rabab was made in Arabia by one Abdullah before the birth of Prophet Mohammad of Islam.
However, in the encyclopedia of music, by A-Lavience, Rabab is said to be an Indian musical instrument, which was existing before 5000 BC during the time of king Ravana and was then known as Ravanastram, the strings of which were made from the guts of deer. Again, one more English author Rawlinson has written in his book ‘ancient Monarchies’ that Rabab was made in Iran. Nothing can be said authentically about its origin but it is one of the oldest stringed musical instruments known in the field o music, though it has undergone many changes in its form structure and manner of playing
The present day Rabab is made of seasoned mulberry wood. It is about three to three and a half feet in length. One end of the body is round and the diameter is about a foot. The round part is covered with parchment. This round part gradually joins the neck by becoming curved and narrow.
A piece of very thin wood is fixed at the top of the open part to cover it that serves the purpose of the fingerboard of the instrument. Four guts of different thickness are used in it as strings, in place of metal strings. The entire body of instrument is hollow from inside. It is played with a plectrum made of coconut shell, bone or of any hard metal.
It is a simple earthenware pot, usually for collection of water in rural India. Now a days it is usually made of brass or copper, but for musical purposes only the earthenware pot is traditionally used in Kashmiri music. It has a big round belly having a small open round mouth at the upper portion. It is the oldest type of drum variety known to the mankind.
In shape, the Noet of Kashmir is not different from the Ghatam of the South or the Matki of Rajasthan. They are used as the instruments in the music in those state which proves the fact that they might have begun their journey from the same cultural background. Their skill and style of playing might have differed in accordance with the traditions prevalent in respective regions.
In Kashmiri language, the original words ‘Kalash’ or ‘Ghat’ might have lost their existence and Noet might have gained popularity due to the fact that it was associate, with ‘uV'(nat). in due course of time the word ‘nat kalash might have lost the word ‘kalash’ and become popular as ‘noet’. Such reference has been made in Nilmata Purana
(i.e. reasted clay pot players-Bhands)
Kalhana in Raj Tarangini frequently refers to this instrument.
(they played on their balded heads exactly as the earthen pot instruments were played).
The tradition is maintained by the natives living in, the distant rural areas of Kashmir, who spend their evenings in practicing this ancient art. The name of Mohan Lal Aima is worth mentioning here, who did a deep and thorough study of Noet playing and thus revived the art and its importance for us.
13.0 Nai (Flute)
In Kashmiri language, the normal meaning of ‘Nai’ is related to flute. In Kashmiri folk music, the prevalence of Nai is older than two thousand years as we get its description in Nilamata Purana.
“Punyahved shabdin vansi venurvenaya sut magadh shabden tatha vandisvanenc”
Nilamata Purana described banshi as well as venu and in the modern era even the Kashmiri artists, especially of Anantnag, are proficient in playing two types of flutes.
1. The first type of flute is empty from inside and there are seven holes for seven swaras. While playing it, fingers of both the hands are used. This type of flute is more prevalent in the folk life.
2. The second type of flute is also called ‘Pi-Pi’ in Kashmiri language. This type of flute is made of walnut’s wood. Even this flute has seven holes but the hole from where the air is blown is absent, but its adjacent hole is put into the mouth and blown. The player sees the seven holes clearly. This instrument is used more conveniently and the player does not get tired soon. This type of flute is more famous in Kashmir
Among the musical instruments, Santoor occupies an important place in Kashmiri music. Soofiana singing is not possible without its accompaniments. These days, it is joining popularity even outside Kashmir. Its sweet tappings create a feeling of romantic mood whereas its soft tunes remind of the transquality of the other world, which suits the mysticial temperament of soofiana music. This instrument emits loud and enchanting sounds. It requires subtle sense of turning on the part of the musicians who play it, with both hand using two sticks of twenty four centimeters called ‘Kalan’. It is debatable whether Santoor is a native instrument of Kashmir or has been brought from abroad. Opinions differ. Some scholars view that it belongs to Iran. Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma claims that he was the first ever Santoor maestro who brought it to classical stage. Santoor is being used for mousiqui in Kashmir since thirteenth century. But, that does not prove the fact that it came from abroad and its origin could not be Kashmir thirteen centuries before Christ. Reference to Shat-tantri veena is available at several places. It might have been the original form of Santoor and in due course, might have changed to the present form. The technique of performance, linguistically analyzing ‘Shat’ word must have traveled to `Sat’ and then to ‘Sant; and ‘tantri to ‘tantar’ to ‘trir’ and finally to ‘toor’. Both together must have become `Santoor’. Had it been from foreign origin, it would have brought the name along.
Santoor is made of mulberry wood. Some scholars believe it to be related to Shakt sect. According to Shakts, triangular is a symbol of desire, knowledge and action.
They have referred to the Shakt instruments, several times, and believed that goddess Mahashakti should be worshipped accompanying these instruments. The base on which Santoor is placed is also the same shape.
Mulberry tree in Kashmir has a religious value. It is related to ‘Bhairav’. In every ‘Bhairav’ temple, mulberry tree is parted with vermilion and people worship it devotedly. In Khirbhavani, the famous Shakt pilgrimage, the goddess is sitting on the mulberry tree. The very pilgrimage is called ‘tulnuri’ meaning ‘root of mulberry’.
The shape of Santoor is trapezoid. Its right side is called ‘burn’ and the left ‘Jil’. Twelve wires on right side are of brass and those on the left are of iron. There are also twelve nobs on the right and twelve on the left side. Four wires are fixed to each nob. The production of the tune depends on the nobs. Twelve brass wires remind us of soft and sweet Shakt emotion and the throbbing tune of iron wires remind us of hard appearance of Shiva himself. The number of wires in total is ninety six. At the tune of yagnopavit, the priest wraps the holy thread ninety six times around his palm. The number is significant in itself. The tops of the nobs are inlaid in the horns of stag. This animal is found in Kashmir alone.
Twentieth century leading player of Santoor has been Tibat Bakal. At present Saz Naivaz, Kaleem, Shekh Abdul Aziz are known for their style of playing. Pandit Bhajan Sopori is making it popular on classical stage and popularizing it all over the world.
Saaz had not originated from Kashmir. Since it has remained in vogue in Kashmir for centuries without any major modification, people preferred to call it Saaz-i-Kashmir or the musical instrument devised in Kashmir. It is played with bow, as such it is easier for the player to get microtones out of it.
According to Rouhulla Khalighi, Saaz in Persia is called Kamancha. It is the same instrument called Saaz in Kashmir and is played by a bow. He again states that the instrument has now been replaced by the violin as it is more complete. There are very few people who can play the Kamancha now-a-days.
Saaz is found all over the Islamic world and it originated from the north Iranian district, Kudristan. This type of instrument (Three stringed fiddle) is mentioned as early as the tenth century AD, by the great theorist Al Farabi. The instrument is found elsewhere in the Middle east also. Since the Kashmir Saaz is more developed and complicated, that is why people have named it as Saazi-Kashmir. The Iranian use this instrument for vocal accompaniment.
Saaz-i-Kashmir has three prominent strings, two made of silk. The silk string is made worthy of producing musical sound by mixing it with the skin of fish. It is tuned to Sa, while the 2nd one is tuned to SA (middle octave). The third one is not made use of, as it is not touched by the bow. On either side of the dand, there are seven strings (right side) made of steel and seven strings (left side) made of brass. Right side resonance strings are tuned respectively from Pa to Ma, whereas that of the left side from Sa to Ni (middle octave).
The invention of Sitar is commonly credited to Amir Khusrau, scholars, generally, refer to him as the originator of Indian Classical Sitar. Some others are of the opinion that musicians adopted Tritantri Veena and improved upon it and created Sitar. The theory which is widely accepted is that Sehtar was the instrument brought by Amir Khusrao from Iran. According to Bimal Mukherjee (The History and Origin of Sitar), by the 11th or 12th century the second Sitar had emerged, an instrument, to accompaniment to vocal music and later also as an independent instrument. A little later there was a series of Muslim invasions on north. The invaders mostly Persians and Turks, were not only brave warriors but also loved finer things of life like music. Some of them had brought along with a small instrument with three strings called Sehtar, meaning three strings. Even Abul Fazal says that another instrument called Been was like Yantra and contained three strings.
Probably the word Sitar is derived from this Sehtar. The Sitar which resembles the Persian Tambura or ud, in shape, and the Indian Veena, in principle, is itself a fusion and an epitome of the Indo-Persian culture and civilization.
Despite this opinion, same authors say that it is a gradual process of development from Tritantri Veena. Others say that the invention of Sitar is attributed to Amir Khusrao and that is probably of Persian origin. Kashmiri Sehtar or Sitar is said to be original model of Indian Sitar. This instrument is now however, comparable to Indian Sitar of these days and retains its originality. The Kashmiri Sehtar is the original instrument accompanying Sufiana Kalaam or Mousiqui which came to Kashmir from Central Asia.
Sitar is a long neck plucked lute, similar to the Persian Sitar. Curt Sach is of the view that the Arabs call it the largest variety. ‘Tanbur Kabir Turki’ or large Turkish lute. The Persian, however, do not use the word Tunbur and they designate the stringed instrument by the word Tar. This is why the people mostly called it Persian Sitar. This type of Sehtar or Sitar was widely used in Kashmir. In villages (especially in Wahthora, where jesters called Bhand live) Sufiana musicians would use Kashmiri Sitar for accompaniment of this Mousiqui. This musical instrument is specially meant for accompaniment purpose for Sufian Mousiqui unlike the Indian Sitar which is used for solo purpose only. Gradually the Sitar had come to acquire five strings by stages and the number has recently increased to seven strings. The Structure of Kashmiri Sitar is as under: it has Dand which in some is 2 wide over which frets made of threads are fixed, a Tumba which is either made of wood or that of gourd. Tumba is about one third to one fourth of the size of Indian Sitar (Tumba).
Wasul or Dokra is the only percussion instrument used in Sufiana Mousiqui. Wasul is a double membrane barrel shaped drum used in Sufiana Kalam, until some seventy years ago. It is played in a manner similar to Tabla and provides the rhythm of Maqamat in Sufiana Mousiqui. About a decade ago, the Research Library Srinagar, published two manuscripts of music (Tarana Saroor and Karamat-i-Mujra) with some old paintings of musicians. One such painting was printed opposite maqam-i-Dhanasri. This painting has pictures of:
1. Two Hafizas dancers wearing Peshwaz (special dress in Kashmir for both male and female dancers).
2. Two musicians with a Sitar and Tabla type Wasul.
3. Two musicians, one carrying Sitar.
This clearly shows that Wasul had been in use as Rhythm instrument earlier to Tabla and had primacy over Tabla.
Originally Tabla had some other shape and was called Mridanga. Mridanga is accompanied with the Carnatic music. Later on, Mridanga was divided into two pieces and after undergoing modification it became the modern Tabla.
Under the later Indian influence Wasul or Dokra was completely substituted and replaced by Indian Tabla. Tabla has been found to be more convenient, easier and a suitable instrument as compared to Wasul. Sufiana Musicians have completely given up Dokra or Wasul and have adopted Tabla. Therefore, there is hardly any person who knows the playing of these instruments, as they have become totally extinct
(By Dr Sunita Dhar)
Tribes of Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir can be authentically stated as the most sublime and out-of-this-world locale amidst the Himalayan splendour. With its incomparable, bounteous and breath-taking beauty, `J&K`, as it is lovingly called by fellow countrymen, holds within itself much more clandestine elements than just wintry places and snow and greenery and birch. Jammu and Kashmir is an abode to quite a number of tribal communities, who have settled down in every nook and corner of this hilly countryside. The tribal people and their places, the tribals and their customs, their cultures, their means of communication, or simply their culinary arts, makes the tribes of J&K stand out from the rest of Indian tribesmen. In order to know more about the lives and culture of these tribes of Jammu and Kashmir Valley, eminent anthropologists of the Indian subcontinent have thronged the region with lots of curiosity and enthusiasm. Indeed, since historical times, it has been acknowledged that Kashmir Valley have been endowed with gifted rulers and sovereigns, who had paid much attention and had patronised their nomadic and communal tribes, who were later to swell up into historical characters themselves.
Abiding by observations from the anthropologists, most of the tribes of Jammu And Kashmir State are believed to have descended from the famous and legendary family of the Aryans. Anthropologists also have cited few lines about the languages. For instance, in order to carry on and conduct a successful conversation amongst each other, some of these Jammu and Kashmir tribesmen converse with each other in the Dogri language. Dogri stands for a blending of other languages like Sanskrit, Punjabi and Persian, which dates back to the `Indo-Aryan group of Sanskrit`.
Tribal life of J&K plays host to the artistic traditions of the various tribes who have settled in this colourful and vibrant area. These different tribes dwelling in different regions of the state pride themselves and earn satisfaction in their own culture and tradition. Their items for everyday usage like utensils, clothes etc., bear a declaration and provides evidence to Kashmiri tribal rich cultural life and prehistoric tradition. The designs carved exquisitely on various handcrafted items bear a powerful imprint and distinctive influence of the age-old tradition. The simply gorgeous and bounteous walnut wood crafts in shape of trays, fruit bowls, ladles, plates and picture frames are a sheer enchantment to call as one`s own. Tribes of Jammu and Kashmir do possess their quintessential and archetypal artistry wonders to display for admirers, which can be viewed in the extensive carving created on wooden boxes and furniture, speaking volumes about the adroit fingers of the local artisans.
Within the state of Jammu and Kashmir, these two cities function quite independently on their own accord. As such, tribesmen of Jammu and Kashmir also at times differ in their approach. The present J&K region is inhabited by three enormous tribes – the robust Dogras populating in the plains, the Pahadis of the hills and the nomadic mountain-dwelling tribes of the Gaddis and Gujjars. These four cardinal tribes of Jammu and Kashmir make up the authentic and characteristic ethnic culture of this primeval state and its tribal culture.
Just like many other Indian tribesmen, most of the tribes of Jammu and Kashmir have accepted rice, wheat, pulses as their staple food. The clothing line of Jammu And Kashmir tribes are quite down to earth and uncomplicated in format. Clothing constitutes of a `short coat` or a hanging shirt with pyjamas, which also goes up to the knees and gradually becomes tight at the ankles. Both the male and female tribes of the state do however believe in wearing remarkable and strikingly beautiful clothes. The usual trend is that the turban of the males on the head is in general balanced by a `kamarband` at his waist. With a shawl or dupatta thrown over the head, these Jammu and Kashmir tribeswomen put on a tight-fitted top or sweaters over Pyjamas, which bear resemblance to the dress of male members of the regular tribal community.
In order to sustain their livelihood, the tribes of Jammu and Kashmir and primarily function as cultivators, maintaining an essential agrarian livelihood; only a few have been acknowledged to become priests. However, the tribal cluster of priests has also made their mark on their line of profession, thereby supremely supervising all the religious rites and customs. Rearing cattle, assembling fruits etc. are just some of the occupations that the tribes of Jammu and Kashmir have taken up. Keeping pace with the remaining tribal communities of the Indian Territory, these Jammu and Kashmir regional tribesmen too have adopted to religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism etc. The societal structuring of these tribes of Jammu and Kashmir too demonstrates no deviation from the usual trend of the countrywide tribal society.
The Balti : A Scheduled Tribe of Jammu and Kashmir
Traditionally, the Balti tribe from Jammu and Kashmir are understood to have been descendants of Celtic communities settled in Scandinavia. When the water level in the Baltic Sea rose and had deluged their cultivable lands, the people were forced to flee the area. Even after the flood had receded, the land looked to be unusable for agriculture, having been heavily impregnated with mineral salts. Quite understandably, migration had begun in several directions. The Baltis of Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir are, on the other hand, related to many other communities in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. The highlands at the approaches of the Karakoram Pass, populated by former Buddhists converted to Shi-ite Islam by Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi around the turn of the 16th century, are however presently receiving immense attention from the news media.
The Dogra Tribe of Jammu and Kashmir
The people of Jammu and Kashmir possess a distinguishing lifestyle, depending upon the region they belong to. This state is classified into three regions on the basis of its topography and all the three provinces possess their motleyed religion, culture and lifestyle. A visit to the Jammu city and will make one comprehend about the majority of inhabitants belonging to the Dogra community possessing umpteen religious sects and castes, but mostly celebrated for their valiancy and chivalry. Historians believe that the Dogra tribe of Jammu and Kashmir are the descendants of the Aryans, who had settled on the southern hilly tracts of Kashmir, stretching up to the Punjab Plains. The Dogra Rajputs among Hindus and Chibals and Sudans, the chief sects of Muslim Rajputs are martial races, whereas the origination of the Khatris and Mahajans of Punjab have been in some dispute, with the only acknowledged factor about their basic occupation of commerce and trade.
The tribal community living on the hills of the Kashmir Valley are referred to as Gujjars and are herdsmen by occupation. These Gujjars are believed to be descendants of Rajputs of Rajasthan, who had converted to Islam and started dwelling atop hills and rearing cattle. Gujjars are essentially nomads, who move from one place to another in search of fresh grass for their cattle and to seek the market place where they earn good returns on selling their cattle. The Gujjar tribe of Jammu and Kashmir are legendary to have served as deft masters to the wild goats, when walking and meandering through the narrow hilly tracts. Most of the people of Kashmir are normally god fearing, warm hearted, hospitable and non aggressive and are mostly involved in the cottage industry. Visiting this part of world one is sure to be amazed to witness the unrivalled craftsmanship and the cultural genius of the native tribes of Kashmir. Locals of the Valley are identified as Kashmiris and have the designation of being the very dexterous businessmen.
As the verdant green forests cover the naked surface of mountains and wild flowers blossoming all around in magnificent colours spread the perfume of tranquillity, the costumes of the residing tribes adds one more character to these dash of colours. In Jammu, the Dogras have very simple dress that incorporates the long kurtas and pajamas with tight fittings at the ankles. Women wear tight bodice or jumpers over pajamas that resemble that of men folk. Turban and Kamarband are the added features of elderly males of the tribesmen of Jammu and Kashmir. In Srinagar, the Khan-dress or Pathani suit is the common dress amongst males and Pheran (a long tunic) and salwar with the traditional Kasaba, a headgear is the most admired dress amongst women. The pheran of females have zari embroidery on the hem line, around pockets and mostly on the collar area. The Pashmina shawl and skull cap made of fur (karakuli) are the symbols of royalty among men. In Ladakh, the tribesmen don the long woollen gowns with the border made up of sheep skin and tied at the waist by blur coloured girdles. During harsh winters, multi coloured caps with ear laps made of velvet are worn, whereas women wear the turquoise studded head gear referred to as Parek with the exquisite multicoloured clothes. The bangles, hair pins, brooches and other ornaments are made up of semi precious stones.
Besides the already described regular tribal life of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiri men hold to their possession, even more historical and ancestral kinds of tribesmen, who are believed to be of both Hindu and Islamic lineage. `Kashmiri kinship and descent` is one of the foremost perceptions of Kashmiri cultural anthropology. Hindu and Muslim Kashmiri tribesmen residing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the world are very similar, which aids much to retrace Kashmiri kinship and descent. A sizeable section of the Kashmiri tribal community forms a `descent group social group`, whose members assert a common ancestral line-up. Both the Jammu and Kashmiri Hindus and Muslim tribal society imagine their descent from the patrilineal side. Specific property and titles may have been inherited through the male line, but certain inheritances may also have been amassed through the matrilineal line-up. After the advent of Islam into Kashmir – traditionally a Buddhist and Hindu region, has led to numerous Kashmiri Muslims asserting themselves as descendants of prehistoric Hindus. The predominance of common Kashmiri Pandit family names amongst contemporary Kashmiri Muslims, is very much suggestive of Hindu lineage.
Some of the common family names among the Jammu and Kashmiri Pandits, also including the tribes, incorporate: Handoo, Aga, Atal, Bandhu, Bhan, Bagati, Bhat/Butt/Bhatt, Budki (Burki), Chowdhury, Dhar (Dar), Dass (Das), Dassi, Dulloo, Ganju (Ganjoo), Kaw, Gurtu, Hak, Haksar, Hangal, Hangoo, Hoon, Jaju, Jalali, Kachru (Kachroo), Kak, Kar, Kappu, Katju, Kaul(Koul), Kaw, Kemmu, Khar, Kasid Kher, Khosa, Kitchlu (Kitchlew), Kunzru, Langoo, Malla, Mantoo, Mattoo, Mukoo,Muthoo, Misri, Natu, Nehru, Ogra, Pandit, Pandita, Parimoo, Qasba, Raina, Rayu, Razdan, Reu, Sadhu, Sapru, Shah, Shivpuri, Shrunglu, Shunglu, Tangnu, Thusoo, Tikoo,Wakhlu, Wanchoo/Wanchu, Wantoo/Wantu, Warikoo, Wattal, Wattoo, Zalpuri, Zaroo and Zutshi.
Many of these names, incidentally, are also shared by Kashmiri Muslims. Some of the Jamnu and Kashmiri Muslim tribes from Hindu Lineage would comprise:
Handoo Bhatt Dhar(Dar) Kitchlew
Bagati Butt Dar (tribe) Qasba
Bhan Burki Sapru
Besides these already stated extraordinary list of the tribes of Jammu and Kashmir, their life, their historical ancestry, their style of livelihood, or just the pattern of their handiwork, some tribals of J&K are still left out perhaps at times, due to not much of publicity, yet possessing an over-the-top concept. The still remaining tribes can be stated as the much distinguishing and exquisite Brokpa tribesmen from Jammu and Kashmir. This section can be identified with their beautiful clothes and savvy language, which are only some of the aspects that have ennobled the culture and ethnicity of Brokpa tribal community. Then Changpa tribe is yet another tribal community from Jammu and Kashmir, who have been enlisted legally as one of the Scheduled Tribes of India. They are however believed to have taken up to several occupations in the metropolitan India, moving a bit far away from their ancient cultural ethnicity.
(Last Updated on : 10/04/2012)