Category Archives: कॉशुर साहित्य

Ancient Folk Tales from Kashmir

S L Sadhu

The Precious Present

THIS story takes the reader to a village on the bank of the Wular, one of the largest fresh water lakes in India. Many years ago the only approach to the village was over mountain tracks or across the lake which though alluring to the eye when placid is impassable when otherwise. Consequently the village was practically cut off and no outsider visited it unless it was absolutely indispensable for him to do so. Nor were the villagers very curious about the rest of the world. God had given them enough land to grow maize, pulses, and a few vegetables and the lake supplied them fish and water-nuts (caltrops), the kernels of which formed their staple diet. There were the old shops exchanging salt and cloth for dried fish, caltrops, maize and ghee, and currency was hardly necessary. Coins were not in circulation in this remote corner, and if ever they were, they were mostly of copper, or other lower denominations. It was an age when even government officials were paid their salaries mostly in kind, in terms of khirwars (ass-loads) of cereals. In short, nobody in the village had ever seen the silver rupee with the effigy of Victoria, Queen of Britain and Empress of India.

It so happened that by some mysterious process a silver rupee of the above description found its way into the village. It caused a great sensation there and everybody was eager to have a sight of it. Before long the matter came to the notice of the nambardar, the headman, and the coin was handed over to him for safe custody till he decided how to deal with this novelty. He pondered over it for a day and a night, a pretty long day and a dark sleepless night, and announced his decision the next morning.

“Brethren,” he said, “this is the first coin of the kind that has ever been seen by any one of us. It is stamped with the figure of our most respected ruler. (At this his hand went involuntarily to his forehead by way of saluting the ruler, listeners following suit.) God grant our ruler prosperity and victory always, and humiliation to our enemies! It is most befitting that we make a present of this respected and honoured token to His Highness in person…. ”

The proposal was no sooner made than accepted. The headman of the village was regarded as the wisest man. He gave them full details as to how such a present should be placed before the ruler for his acceptance. The gift was to be placed in a palanquin carried by six worthy elders of the village whom he nominated. They got a really dainty palanquin and decorated it with whatever choice cloth they could get. Spreading a finely woven blanket inside they covered it with a piece of silk that somebody possessed. The headman then called all the village elders to the palanquin. Young men and little urchins were there already. In the presence of such an august gathering they placed the rupee inside the palanquin and drew the curtains as if it carried a delicate bride on her way to her husband’s home. The capital was to be reached by boat. A doongha stood ready at the quay equipped with all requirements for the journey. The palanquin was lifted to the accompaniment of delightful songs, portending success, sung by village women and deposited gently in the doongha. The boatman pushed off and made for the south where the capital lay, the villagers shouted their good wishes after it and the headman gesticulated au revoir when the boat reached the mouth of the river.

It is a tiresome journey going upstream. The palanquin was given a seat of honour and nobody could sit or stand with his back to it. At night they lit a lamp and kept it alight till the dawn, and took their turns at the watch. Whoever asked them the purpose of their journey south was told that they were carrying a precious present for His Highness. They did not reveal the nature of it at all.

On the morning of the third day when they came to the outskirts of the capital they decided to dispense with the boat and carry the palanquin on their shoulders. Barefoot, with legs wrapped tightly with woollen puttees, and their backs with cotton scarves in the manner of ancient courtiers, four of them lifted the palanquin on their shoulders while one preceded it with a flag. The headman walked humbly behind. They were all merry as befitted a deputation waiting upon the ruler with a precious present and impressed every passerby with their festive appearance. At the octroi-post the tax-collectors wanted to have a look into the palanquin but the headman protested, saying, “Nobody except His Highness will cast a look inside”; and the guards gave in.

The small procession had to pass through the principal streets of the capital before they could reach Shergarhi, the palatial residence of the ruler, built on the left bank of the Jhelum. The news had spread fairly quick throughout the city and many people were curious to know what precious gift it was that had brought these doughty folk over such a long distance. The village folk reached the palace gate and made their purpose known to the guards. The captain of the guards got orders from His Highness to admit them within and to show utmost hospitality. With loud shouts wishing victory and prosperity to His Highness the little procession entered the gate of the palace. They felt amply recompensed when treated as the guests of their ruler.

Within the palace premises they, of course, displayed greater solicitude in according respect and obeisance to the precious but secret gift inside the palanquin. The guards and other palace officials were highly intrigued about the secret but dared not ask them for fear of offending their sense of etiquette. Meanwhile, the villagers fully basked in the lavish sunshine of the ruler’s hospitality and were keenly conscious of the honour which had schuss fallen to their lot. “What reward will His Highness feel too high for us when he receives us in audience and accepts the gift ?” whispered the headman into the ears of the gratified elders.

In the afternoon His Highness got up from his siesta and: desired the elders to be admitted to his presence. The -minister-in-waiting, the prime minister and other dignitaries of the State were in attendance. The headman entered barefoot and made obeisance. He was followed-‘:: by the elders bearing the palanquin. “Sire !” began the headman “this humble servant who has the signal honour of standing before his ruler and father is the nambardark of the village…on the bank of the Wular lake, famous for its fish, caltrops and deadly waves. Along with these men -who are worthy elders of the said village this loyal servant has covered the distance with a happy heart on account of the pleasant and honourable duty before us. We crave your permission, our liege and father, to place this nazar at your Highness’ blessed feet.”

“Our good men,” returned the ruler, “we are touched hype your affection and loyalty which prompted you to come from such a distant place to offer your nazar. We desire that it be placed before us.”

The headman drew the curtain and thrust his hand into the palanquin. He appeared to be somewhat perplexed) and raised all the four curtains. Whispers were exchanged by all the elders who began to fumble in the folds of theft blanket and rummage into the corners of the palanquin) The nazar was not forthcoming. Quite a few minuted passed thus while the villagers completed a thorough search for the coin inside the palanquin. The primp minister said, “Be quick rustics, His Highness has urgent matters of State to attend to.” But the rustics could not help the matter. In their rustic hilarity they had so carried the palanquin as to suffer the precious gift to slip somewhere. It was too late now to mend their folly and the headman made the submission: “Our liege and father, we have unfortunately dropped the nazar somewhere unwittingly.”

The situation thus took a serious turn. The ministers were of one mind in looking upon the incident as an insult to the person and throne of the ruler. Punishment could easily be awarded for such an act. “What astounds me,” declared the prime minister, “is the daring of these uncouth rustics. To come right to the august presence of His Highness and try to cover their crime under the frivolous excuse that they had dropped the nazar somewhere! Your Highness, let them be taken to the prison and dealt with according to law,” he submitted.

The village elders looked like sheep at the gate of the shambles though the headman bore this sorrow with exemplary fortitude. “My head upon your Highness’ feet!” declared the headman turning towards the ruler, “make but a gesture and this humble servant will offer his heart for you to feed upon. Who is there so unworthy of his salt as to harbour anything but esteem, honour and affection for our lord, liege and father! Who can be so daring as to put his head into the mouth of a lion! Our Holy Book says that God Almighty is Karim (merciful). I invoke your mercy, our respected father, and seek permission to explain the whole case.”

The ruler was gifted with a good deal of commonsense. He saw at once that they were simple but good-natured folk who had come from a remote village and meant nothing but loyalty and affection. On the insistence of his councillors he devised a plan to test their intentions. The villagers were placed in a cell and were supplied with all requirements to enable them to cook their food. Instead of being given a burning faggot or live coal they were given a box of safety matches. They did not know what a match stick was and could not cook their meal. They ate part of the rations raw and the rest was kept intact.

When the ruler heard this news through the captain of the guards he was convinced of their innocence. He called the villagers, heard the whole story and had a hearty laugh at their simple faith. He assured the headman that the gift was as good as accepted. In fact he gave them a rupee and received it back as nazar. The villagers felt highly gratified. Further, they were treated as guests once again and dismissed the next morning with suitable gifts. In addition, the land rent in their village was reduced. The villagers departed merrily shouting slogans. Back in the village they narrated the tale about how they had been saved from the very brink of destruction. The tale spread to neighbouring villages and to remote ones till it was imprinted on the minds of men.

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The Devil Outwitted

ONCE there lived a young man in a village. He had no land of his own but worked on the farms of several landlords one after another and thus picked up a living. He was handsome and industrious and entered into matrimony as could be expected. Fortunately his wife was an uncommonly good one. She had attractive features, a strong physique and a sweet disposition – a rare combination. She shared the burdens of her husband and made him happy and somewhat prosperous.

Once, while she was returning from the spring with two pitchers of water – one upon another – on her head in the company of several other women, she and her husband came in for a poignant taunt from her companions. How and why it started is needless to state but in effect they told her that they were landless beggars and had little stake in the village. When she reported the matter to her husband the “earth seemed to slip from under his feet.” He had all along been feeling that the landed class, even those petty peasants who could not pay their rent to the State, did not treat him as an equal because he had no land to call his own. The land gave a subtle but respectable status to a tiller of the soil. Minus a piece of land of his own he was like a woman unable to get a husband. Apart from his own feelings on the subject, he was now upset that his wife had got hurt by the unsophisticated though callous observations of the village women-folk.

The peasant was gifted with youth, health and strength. Said he to his wife, “Is that what is worrying you? I never thought that my wife would be upset by such idle gossip. Anyway, before the year is out, you will also be the owner of a small farm of your own.”

She felt somewhat reassured but could not see how it would be possible for him to implement what he said. “May be,” she thought, “he has some resources unknown to me.” She had grounds for her fears because, as far as she knew, he had had no savings. As a cultivator he was entitled to a share ranging from one half to one third of the produce of the farm he worked on. But prices of agricultural produce were low and did not leave anything by way of surplus. His savings had gone away on the occasion of his marriage when he had to make a settlement on his wife. She also helped her husband in earning their living, but soon came extra mouths to feed in the shape of their offspring and their affairs did not go far on the road to prosperity.

The peasant approached the local patwari with a present and told him everything. The patwari was mighty glad that this latest client would bring him a little money in one form or another.

“I shall make you a peasant-owner” he assured him.

“But I have nothing to purchase it with” rejoined the peasant.

“Don’t worry”, said the patwari. “When I have given you my word, I shall prove true to it.”

The patwari explained to him how he could become a landholder without having to pay the price on the understanding, of course, that the young man would render adequate service to the official. There was a piece of land on the outskirts of the village which was entered as barren in the revenue records. The patwari advised the young man to reclaim it and assured him that he would help him in owning it in course of time.

The young peasant set about his task with might and main. He was helped by his wife and in a few weeks the land was practically fit for cultivation. The peasant was making preparations for sowing seeds. Late one night he was about to return home from this newly-acquired farm when he found a hen with a number of chicks occupying his path. Surprised to see this brood at such a late hour he was about to make his way when a flock of sheep came within his sight, and he was obliged to go from one side to another and suffer much inconvenience on this account. He walked thus for quite a long time, up hill and down dale, getting his clothes rent by brambles, or suffering from a fall now and then, but he nowhere got near his house. It was dark and he could not make out whereabouts he had been led astray. After a while he saw three or four men coming with a lantern from a distance. He came to know through them that he had strayed quite a few miles from his home to which they escorted him. “It is the devil’s doing,” they told him.

The next evening when he was about to start from his [arm he had some more experiences which the devil alone could cause. He planted his pocket-knife into the ground and sat down. Lo ! the devil came forward in the guise of a man with his heels in front and toes pointing backward. The young peasant did not in the least lose his presence of mind.

“What can I do for you, my dear Sir ?” he addressed the visitant.

”You have been tilling my farm,” replied the other.

“Is that so, but the patwari….”

“To hell with the dishonest rogue!”

“Never mind, my dear Sir, I have all my life been cultivating land for people. Could your honour get a better tenant than this humble servant?”

The devil obviously felt flattered with the respectful attitude of the peasant. “I have no special prejudice against you. Only I thought that a tenant would take the permission of the owner,” said he.

“For that transgression I crave the indulgence of your honour’s generosity,” submitted the peasant. “And what rent may this humble servant be commanded to pay?” he asked.

Oblivious of the ironical attitude of the peasant, the devil was taken in and demanded the same rent as other well-known landlords.

“Indeed, Sir, I shall feel it a great honour to render unto your worship one half of the crop, but which half it would please your highness to accept, I pray this humble servant may be commanded, the upper half or the lower half.”

“Of course, the upper half,” said the devil ingenuously.

“By all means, your highness. When the crop is about to be harvested, will it please you to come and have your share?”

The devil was mighty pleased and disappeared. The peasant left for home with a light heart.

He did not tell anything about the visitation to his wife but decided to raise turnips on his land. The seed was sown and in good time the leaves raised their head from the earth. The devil saw it thus and felt pleased that at last through his wisdom he was making a fortune through labour not his own. Then came harvest time. The peasant was up and doing, cutting with his sickle the leaves from turnips. A big heap of leaves he piled for the devil and the turnips his wife carried home. While the devil was deliberating how best to dispose of the produce of his land, the leaves started turning yellow and brown. He carried them to the market but the prospective customers only winked to each other or grinned at the wisdom of the seller. “Is it a conspiracy or what?” said the devil to himself, deliberating over his failure to dispose of the turnip leaves.

He came to know ultimately that he had cut a sorry figure on account of his ignorance of farming. “For once this young peasant has scored over me. But none of this more. I shall teach him a lesson now,” thought he.

The next sowing season came and the peasant once again asked the devil “Which part of the crop will it please your honour to have?” The devil did not like to give the peasant the impression that he had been worsened and that he was smarting under the discomfiture.

He simply told him that he would take the lower portion. “By all means, your worship, and this humble servant shall work with utmost zeal to his entire capacity to win the approbation of your honour,” said the peasant.

The devil was highly pleased with this unctuous verbiage.

This time the peasant sowed barley and in due course the entire farm was full of green waving crop. It pleased the devil to watch this emerald spot, particularly when the wind forced it to bow to him in courtesy. Gradually the virgin stalks were heavy with ears, and the crop turned yellowish and golden. It was a bumper crop that the peasant raised.

Once again he and his wife got busy with harvesting. They plied their sickles deftly and did a good job of it. Sawing the stalks into two the peasant took all the ears and the grain leaving the stubble and the roots for the devil. When the latter came to collect it, the peasant respectfully submitted that the entire share was kept for the rightful owner, untouched. And the devil was so glad! But in the market they laughed at his stupidity and he understood that he had been duped once more.

“I must teach this fellow a lesson” said he to himself and he felt relieved to throw the bundle of stubble into the stream. By experience he had found that it was either the root or the top that mattered. To eliminate all risks he determined to have both as his share and leave the middle of the crop to the peasant. And he communicated it to him.

The peasant agreed unhesitatingly. The devil was sure to trip him up. But the peasant had his own plans. This time he sowed maize. The crop was rich and luscious. The stalks grew tall and full of white milky cobs. In time the grains of maize became brown and strong on the cobs. The devil came and got his due, the roots and the lofty crowns; and the peasant bundled together all the stalks in between with the rich cobs growing on them.

The devil soon realized that even the third time he had been defeated. “He is more than a match for me,” he came to the conclusion. He called the peasant.

“What is your highness’s pleasure?” submitted the latter courteously.

“Pleasure, indeed!” the devil replied. “It is too much for me,” he added, “the land and its problems. From this time forth I have absolutely no claim upon your farm and you can do with it what you like.”

“Your highness, I am much grateful to you!”

There is a French variant in which the peasant sowed pole-beans on the third occasion. Afterwards they hold a contest in wit, the last one of its kind, in which, of course, the devil is defeated.

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Just a Nickname

WHEN all is said and done a nickname is a name, a concrete appellation standing like an unshakable rock in an angry ocean which demolishes and engulfs reputations. Think of such names as William Rufus or Single Speech Hamilton! The nickname enables us not only to pin-point the particular man from among the billions of the dead but also unrolls for our perusal the whole record of his character. What a great boon it, therefore, is for the unknowing!

Nicknames have had a glorious career in Kashmir. They were invented and applied owing to an inherent necessity of spotting out men and women, or families. With the exception of a few cases what are family names today were but nicknames once. These nicknames have gradually come into their own and attained respectability quite at par with the original family surnames. Surnames like Trambhu (meaning pock marked), Braru (a cat), Dand (a bull), Tak (an earthenware plate), Alma (unbaked), Kotru (pigeon), Kantru (a male sparrow), Khar (an ass), are proudly professed by hundreds of families today. The list could be multiplied a thousand fold. Human deformities like Loung (lame), Shanglu (with six fingers), Kana (with a deformed ear) give rise to many family names today, while other bodily characteristics are responsible for many more like Mota (corpulent one), Nika (a slender one) Chhot (a pygmy), Dandan (one with teeth dropped), Khosa (a beardless one), Khor (one with scabies). These families are regarded to be as proud and good as any, and yet nicknames have made many a person miserable.

There was once a peasant in a Kashmir village. He had not much of land and was obliged to spend several months of the year in the city as a domestic servant in one family or another. It was by no means a pleasant experience for him to be at the mercy of his employer and his numerous encumbrances including an aunt, two wives i. and an indistinguishable brood of children. Getting up early in the morning he, to use his own words, would “get . into the harness like the pony dragging a cart.” Sweeping the house, several speedy trips to the market, the usual drudgery in the scullery, tending the children, cleaning utensils, washing clothes, making beds, and quite a good deal more was his usual routine. And all the time he had had no tidings from his wife and children throughout the long winter months.

Is it surprising that he complained of his unenviable lot to many? Among these latter was a shopkeeper from whom this peasant-cum-domestic servant would make purchases for the household of his master. He seemed to be a sympathetic man and offered the other the tube of his bubble bubble at which he would give a few pulls with his ample lungs. “Will you take my advice if I place an inexpensive plan before you of supplementing your meagre income?” said the shopkeeper once. The other jumped at the idea as he was in need of nothing else more earnestly than the means to get rid of the drudgery of domestic service. “All that you need do,” said the shopkeeper, “is to buy a hen. She can be fed with a few crumbs and will lay eggs. I undertake to make the sale of your eggs for a nominal commission.”

The idea of raising poultry was nothing novel for the peasant but he always found it difficult to negotiate a.: price for the produce. The village shopkeeper got eggs almost for nothing from unsophisticated peasants. Therefore, though rearing of poultry did not cost anything, it meant a lot of bother for little gain, and hence the hesitation in the mind of the peasant to undertake it.

As the shopkeeper promised the peasant to arrange the sale of the produce, the biggest stile in the way of this new undertaking was overcome. Though he had no ready cash he managed to borrow some money to purchase a hen. In due course of time the hen laid eggs and brought a little sum to the peasant. The peasant invested the proceeds in the same business and added to his stock of poultry. His business expanded steadily till by the next fall of winter the peasant felt that he could manage to live without having to go to the city in search of service. It was such a blessing to be spared the drudgery of a domestic servant and the shame of it. The peasant was grateful to his stock of poultry and particularly the first hen with which he made a start.

The first hen happened to be whitish in colour. It was not bright dazzling white but rather the faint pale white left after the other colours had been washed out. The peasant regarded this hen as the harbinger of good fortune to him and wherever he went or whomever he talked to, he had something to say about his white hen, how it started crowing early in the morning, how it would sometimes strut or cut a graceful caper…. Never did he miss an occasion to say something about the white hen. In course of time the white hen became the talk of the village and the surrounding ones too.

The next stage was to identify the peasant as the owner of the white hen: “M — has been responsible for such and such an act.”

“Which M — ?”

“The one who owns the white hen.”

Not long after, however, they omitted to mention the ownership entirely and called him by this very name, the “white hen.” This name spread like wild fire in the manner of all nicknames which are always catching. Urchins in the streets and old men near the bank of the stream began to call him by this very name, and this was very irritating. Every time he heard the urchins shouting”white hen” he felt provoked and angry. He was easily put out and wished to crush them to a jelly and retorted with abuse and vituperation. This tickled the urchins and encouraged them to further fire works. Even the grown-ups felt a peculiar pleasure in provoking him.

His susceptibility to excitement on account of the nickname increased tenfold. If he saw two men talking together he suspected that they were plotting to shout “the white hen” behind his back. If he saw people smiling he ran to the conclusion that they were doing so at his expense. This gave people opportunities more and more to fling the nickname at him either in his face or behind his back.

This excitement affected his nerves. “They are bent upon driving me mad,” he would blurt out now and then.

“Look here,” a good friend would tell him, “you are a grown-up man, you should exercise self-restraint and not get upset like a girl of sixteen.”

“Self-restraint! Do you talk of self-restraint? Who can exercise it to a greater degree than I do? But how long can I exercise self-restraint when they are bent upon downright abuse? Didn’t your hear them shouting ‘the white hen’? Rascals. I’ll make an example of them,” and down he would rush with a stone in his hand against an imaginary foe raising the provocative slogan.

A simple matter took thus a grave and tragic turn. Several times in the day he would imagine people shouting the nickname and out of his house he rushed, set upon “teaching the rogues a lesson.” Physicians and sane men came to only one conclusion and that was that a change in the environment alone could save him. He was advised to go out of the village again for some time.

He could have gone to the city to his former employer. But he preferred to go to the plains beyond the mountain walls encircling the valley. He joined one of the gangs of peasants who go out to the plains in the winter to supplement their earning on their lands. He earned a pretty little sum everyday which pleased his heart. But, above all, he was happy because no one in the plains knew the nickname which had almost driven him mad. Those terrible moods of excitement, moments of temporary insanity or depression became a matter of the past and he came almost to believe that life was not so bad.

Several winters passed. In the plains the idea of his former nickname had practically disappeared from his mind, what with the change in the environment and the savings from his wages which had accumulated. The thought of returning home began to stir his heart. This craving became stronger every day till he could no longer resist it. He decided to visit home.

The return journey was quicker and easier, for he could afford to come in a bus. Money was jingling in his pockets. He came to the road crossing whence his village was but a couple of miles distant. He saw several men going to the surrounding villages and they fell a talking.

“Hello! I seem to have seen you and known you but can’t place you,” said one.

“Indeed so do I. But methinks I saw him several years back,” joined another.

“Sure enough, for I am coming from the plains after several years.”

“I used to know a fellow who couldn’t stand a nickname and left the village. Your face very much reminds me of him. …. Are you by any means the same fellow whom they nicknamed ‘The white hen’? He has been missing for many a year now.”

“Lord! they are starting it with a vengeance,” he thought “Good friends,” he told them, “yes, I am the man who could not stand the nickname ‘the white hen’ and slipped out to the plains. The craving for my home brought me back. You have restarted the game right now when I have not even stepped into my village. I will go back to the plains and I wish you joy of your homes. Such a place is not for me.”

He retraced his steps right then and came back to the plains. And the nickname “the white hen” languished and died.

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The Son-in-Law

QADIRA lived in the house of the great Sheikh as did his father. The latter was first employed in the household as a groom. His wife died in the village to which the family belonged and the stable-man brought the little boy to live in the house of the nobleman. Here he assisted his father in the stable and sometimes was entrusted with errands by the ladies of the household. His chief claim to his board and lodge with the illustrious family was his companionship with the young Sheikh, the nobleman’s son. The latter was practically of the same age and grew so fond of the urchin that he would never brook separation from him except when the former was engaged in assisting his father in cleaning the stables or grooming the ponies.

Though Qadira had to remove horse-dung from the stable or to attend to other unpleasant duties he kept himself unusually clean. His father persuaded him to wash his clothes frequently. In winter when it was cold he went to the bath and made free use of the warm water in the boiler after other members of the household went to bed. Those who did not know him could hardly suspect that he was a stable-boy. Those who saw him frequently always quoted the Kashmiri adage that one should wash one’s hands clean before touching him.

Well, Qadira was a groom and errand-boy in the house of the Sheikh and a companion of the nobleman’s son. It was never intended, that Qadira should receive any bookish education. But being exposed to it in the company of the young Sheikh he could not help remembering the same lessons and picking up literacy. His blue blooded companion was a boy of varied interests as befitted the scion of the great house; he could, therefore, pay only scant attention to his studies. Qadira’s mind, on the other hand, seemed to be so constituted that letters, sentences and whole lessons found a fertile soil there. If the money spent over the young master of the house did not yield result commensurate with its magnitude, it at least made up through the education of the rustic urchin.

Qadira grew into a shrewd lad. He could strike a good bargain and gained advantage by his boldness and dash where faint-hearted men older in age failed. Before very long he was promoted to assist the bailiff and keep accounts. This was a signal advance in his position which delighted his father but filled other domestics with pangs of jealousy. He discharged his duties admirably and his master was pleased with him mighty well. He never made any secret of his appreciation of Qadira’s ability.

One day Qadira’s father saw his master in a jovial mood and was assiduous in keeping his exalted spirits aloft. When he perceived that the moment was opportune, he said, “Sire, may I make a humble request?”

“Do so, for I am much indebted to you and your son for your faithful service. What do you want?”

“Father,” said the servant, “I have grown grey eating your salt. It is my great good fortune. My son has bloomed into a young man eating your bread. While it is my ambition to lay down my life in your service, I request you to seek a job in the administration for your slave, my son. I do not quite relish his being here.”

He told his master how other servants in his household felt jealous of father and son, and cursed them behind their backs. “I can stand anything except a curse against my only son.” His words moved the heart of the SheiLh, who himself had only one son. In his own heart he had an additional motive and that was to gain respectability in the eyes of society. Before long the Sheikh, a big feudal lord got Ghulam Qadir, the son of his trusted servant appointed as a clerk in the office of the district collector who was only too pleased to embrace a chance to oblige a big landlord like the influential Sheikh.

Ghulam Qadir was an intelligent clerk and came to have a reputation for efficient work. He disposed of the work allotted to him in no time every day and was also able to assist other clerks in the disposal of their cases. Consequently he got to know the work in all sections of the office which gave him a sort of a key-position. Other clerks sought his advice when baffled with difficulties. Intricate cases could not be attended to without his consultation and apparently insurmountable difficulties were smoothed out by him in no time. The district collector was pleased with him and appointed him as his own Munshi or confidential clerk.

Munshi Ghulam Qadir, or Munshi Ji as he came to be called now, had learnt another precious lesson by instinct kind that was that “more things are wrought by establishing proper public relations than this world dreams of.” Accordingly he went to the residence of the collector now and then with a case of choice luscious apples, fine walnuts or a khirwar of mushkbudji rice. The collector would not accept such a present from his humble clerk, but he had no hesitation when he heard that it came from the great Sheikh. There was, therefore, little doubt that the Munshi would race along the roads to prosperity along which others were panting on leaden feet or merely limping. In a year or so the Munshi found himself transferred to the executive line as a girdawar with a score of patwaris under him.

Ghulam Qadir now found it necessary to come to the notice of the hakim-e-ala or the provincial governor and he sought the good offices of his erstwhile master, the Sheikh. Not long after, the governor went on a tour of the part of the country where the Sheikh had his estate. It was in his own interest for the latter to entertain the governor. At a dinner held in honour of the governor the Sheikh commended his protege to the kind attention of his august guest. Munshi Ji was in need of just this introduction. He won his place nearer and nearer to the heart of the governor by the efficient discharge of his duties. The governor also received occasional presents from the Sheikh and he was intelligent enough to understand that the latter would feel obliged if he pushed up Ghulam Qadir. In a couple of years, therefore, he got him appointed as a naib-tehsildar.

The old groom in the house of the Sheikh was beside himself with joy and urged his son to take steps to settle himself in married life. Ghulam Qadir, however, was not satisfied yet and considered such a development premature. He had a higher ambition and marriage, he felt, would hinder rather than help its realization. He picked up the ins and outs of his new job till he felt confident that he could hold his own against even the veterans amongst his subordinates. He prepared to win the good graces of the mashir-i-mal, the supreme head of the revenue administration of the State. This time he did not trouble the Sheikh himself but played his cards so well that the governor offered his good offices to introduce him to the mashir-i-mal as a relative of the great Sheikh. This done, the mashir-i-mal found the young man very useful. If eminent people came from outside the State as guests of the administrator, Ghulam Qadir saw to it that they were comfortably lodged and looked after; if there was a wedding or a festival in his house, Ghulam Qadir lost no time in making arrangements for the purchase of commodities of the finest quality. Besides, the Sheikh was eminent enough to include the administrator in the circle of his friends and suitable gifts were gratefully accepted by him from the former. It was, of course, Ghulam Qadir through whom such gifts were received and the latter’s name had therefore grown familiar to the mashir-i-mal.

The Sheikh once called on the mashir-i-mal and Ghulam Qadir too figured in the conversation. “I have not been able to do anything for your kinsman,” said the minister The Sheikh spoke courteously meaning that it was never too late to begin. A couple of days later when Ghulam Qadir saw the mashir-i-mal in the course of his official duty the former put him the question: “How are you related to the Sheikh?” After a slight demur he replied “I am his son-in-law, sir.”

“Oh really!” observed the minister. “I am very sorry. I have not been able to do anything for you. Please convey my apologies to your father-in-law. I shall try my utmost to find a way to help you.”

In a week or so Ghulam Qadir became a tehsildar. The minister sent a message to the Sheikh expressing the hope that he would feel somewhat satisfied at the promotion of his relation, adding that he had learnt of their intimacy only a few days earlier.

When Ghulam Qadir met the Sheikh next he asked him how he had described his relationship with himself. Ghulam Qadir was silent. The Sheikh reiterated his question but the other was still hesitant. “You had better kill me sir,” replied Ghulam Qadir. But the Sheikh was eager and promised to forgive him. It was then that Ghulam Qadir revealed the truth.

“Son . . . in . . . law!” His face turned red in anger. But that was not for long, for he added, “You have reached your present position through hard work and intelligence while my own son has come to no good. I really could not get a better son-in-law. You are my son-in-law indeed,” and he determined to entrust his daughter to him.

Thus did the groom’s son marry the daughter of his master It was a proud day for the groom and prouder still for the Sheikh.

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Eh! Oh!

AWAY from the ocean the sailor is never in his element. He falls D prey to the sharp practices of swindlers and city sharks; he becomes the laughing stock of the townsmen. Likewise is the peasant when he is off his land. Clever people exploit his simplicity, his ingenuousness and his capacity to work. He may be made the butt of many a jest, or the victim of a practical joke, and he bears his cross on his ample shoulders patiently.

Owing to the rigour of the climate in Kashmir, the peasant has to pass through a period of unemployment for nearly five months in a year. The well-to-do farmers can afford to enjoy this enforced rest, consuming cooked rice, lentils, turnips and pickled knol-kohl to their hearts’ content. Those who are not so well-off supplement their slender incomes by working on cottage looms arid turning out woollen blankets. Others, standing at the lowest rung of the ladder, hire themselves out as domestic servants in the larger towns, or the metropolis of Srinagar. Aziz Buth belonged to this last class.

Many, many years ago when the corn was abundant to the extent of superfluity, Aziz Buth could not stretch his harvest so far as to cover the needs of the family all the year round. He was the father of two children, and in spite of the labours of the whole family—even the elder child would sometimes contribute his mite—he ran into debt. He was, therefore, compelled to drift towards the city in search of temporary employment as a domestic servant.

Untutored in the ways of the world as he was, he did not think it would be easy for him to find some employment in the city. He spent the first night in a mosque wrapped in a blanket, for he knew of no secular habitation where he could obtain shelter. He feasted on a couple of dry loaves and sincere prayers rose from his heart. The next morning had a pleasant surprise for him, for he met an acquaintance—a rare experience for him. The man belonged to a village in the neighbourhood of his own, and they knew each other moderately well. Aziz Buth considered his night well-spent when his acquaintance promised to get him the sort of employment he was after.

The acquaintance was as good as his word. Aziz Buth was taken to the house of a man who appeared to be very prosperous. There were already a couple of servants in the house and Aziz Buth made the third. Khwaja Saheb, that is how the head of the house was designated, called him to his presence and said, “Many people proudly seek my service for the consideration of free board and lodging. Will that satisfy you?”

Aziz Buth was so overawed by the manner of the Khwaja in his costly shawl and turban that he found words missing from his tongue. With difficulty he seemed to stammer out: “Noble sir, I am a poor man having left little ones in the village.”

Khwaja Saheb was thereupon pleased to fix half-anass load of paddy as his monthly wages besides the privilege of free board and lodging. “But, mind you, if ever one of my servants is not able to complete a task given to him, he is subjected to a fine,” said he, half in jest and half in seriousness. Aziz Buth’s companion only laughed “ha! ha” by way of taking the sting out of these words and he himself grinned bashfully.

The winter was on and Aziz Buth gave his best to the employer Late at night before he went to his bed Aziza had the privilege of being admitted to the bed chamber of his employer. He was asked to massage the legs of the Khwaja with his strong muscular hands, for he found sleep evading him until he was subjected to this process. Early in the morning, sometimes even before the cock crew, the Khwaja would shout “Aziza” and the latter was expected to be ready with the hubble-bubble, refilled with fresh water from the river, with tobacco and live coal to enable his employer to fumigate his interior to his fill. He was the favourite of the harem in so far as he would be entrusted with all tasks requiring personal attention. His colleagues—the fellow servants in the house—encouraged him in this belief, for otherwise such tasks would fall to their own lot. This encouragement lightened their own tasks, for Aziza could easily be got into the right frame of mind so as to volunteer to undertake what all shirked.

The winter turned out to be extra severe. Householders, who could afford to do so, avoided leaving their homes as far as possible. But domestics like Aziza had no choice in matters like these. In fact the comforts available in the home of the Khwaja Saheb depended a great deal upon the exertions of men like Aziza, and the latter was modestly proud of the part he played in this respect.

At the end of a period of about four months Aziza thought of going home. He had not seen his family all the while and soon his farm would claim his attention. He made a request to the great Khwaja, the first of its kind. The latter did not seem to relish it, and with a face beaming with a mischievous smile he said, “Aziza ! I shall certainly pay all your dues. But before I do so, go to the market and get me two things, wy (eh!) and wai (oh!). Your wages will be paid to you only when you get the things.” “Eh and Oh!” ejaculated Aziza in utter amazement, for he had never heard of such things. However, he had not the face to articulate his suspicions lest it be only his ignorance. So he set out.

Long he roamed and far, but never did any shopkeeper seem to deal in these substances. Some laughed outright, others pricked their ears while some came to regard him light in the head. “Should I fail in this last task?” cried he. “All these months I worked to the utter satisfaction of everybody’ arid now this last straw seems to be too much for me And the big man will probably eat up my wages if I fail to satisfy him…. ”

He was walking abstractedly, with these thoughts pressing upon his mind. He went from shop to shop. At the seventh or the seventeenth shop he met with a different response to his inquiry. ‘And what do you require them for, my good man?” asked the shopkeeper, an oldish man with a rich stubble on his face. Aziza told his tale.

“And if you fail to place them before him you won’t get our pay, your hard-earned dues, is that it?”

“Exactly; that is what the man threatens me with.”

The old man soon found out that the Khwaja was trading upon the simplicity of the peasant. He was himself something of a sport and he thought of playing the game for the fun of it.

“I can give it to you provided you hand it over directly to the Khwaja himself without showing it to any one else. Do you agree?”

Aziza agreed.

“It is meant for Khwaja Saheb. Do not spoil it by examining it yourself or fingering it,” the shopkeeper insisted.

“Not at all, sir; and God bless you for coming to my rescue. I went over from shop to shop but nobody seems to stock it,” said Aziza with a feeling of relief.

“Such precious things are not found with every grocer. Even I keep it in a godown. You will wait here for me.”

He returned after half-an-hour and gave Aziza a package covered in an old newspaper bound with a dried weed. He got eight annas for his pains and Aziza was glad that he could now keep his head high in the presence of all the other servants in that he had not failed in his errand.

The Khwaja expected Aziza to return and report failure and crave his mercy, for when God created this universe out of His bounty, he forgot to give a corporeal frame to “eh!” and “oh !”. According to the verbal agreement which, of course, was morally binding upon Aziza the latter’s failure to work up to the satisfaction of the master would result in forfeiting his wages. The Khwaja was thus looking forward to a lot of fun: his verdict that Aziza was no longer entitled to his wages would bring Aziza prostrate before him, but that he would stick to his word till ultimately he would condescend to release part of the amount….

The Khwaja was in a very rosy mood when Aziza appeared before him. The tube of the hubble-bubble passed from one mouth to another. Seeing Aziza he simulated an angry mood. “Where, in the name of God Almighty, have you been all this while,” he shouted. “I sent you on a little errand and you seem to have been lazing at your grandmother’s. How fat you have grown eating my cooked rice here!”

“Respected sir, I have been roaming from street to street in search of it and my legs are aching with the fatigue,” replied Aziza.

“If your legs are so delicate, why did you take the trouble of coming over here for employment? Did you not get the thing?”

“Respected sir, I have got it,” submitted Aziza.

The Khwaja relaxed as he now expected to fill the little assembly with theatrical laughter by declaring what Aziza had got as spurious. “What have you got? Let me see it,” he said in an over-weening tone.

Aziza submitted the little package. The whole gathering was intrigued. The outer chord of dry weed was unfastened and the wrapping removed. Two small earthenware receptacles, no bigger than a medium sized ink pot, were discovered. Each had a wide mouth closed over with a piece of paper pasted with gum. Their inquisitiveness was piqued.

The paper covering of one of the vessels was broken through and the Khwaja peered into it. It appeared to be empty. While he was about to throw it away out came a bee which buzzed along the hand of the Khwaja who could not help crying “oh!” So far so good.

The paper lid of the other vessel was broken through. But before the Khwaja could say anything, from its interior darted a wasp who perched directly on his brow and involuntarily a painful “oh!” escaped from his lips.

The assembly realized that Aziza had after all not failed to get the rare commodity!

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कॉशुर साहित्य A Poet from Kashmir کٲشُر ساہتیہ

kashmir_miniature_painting

Tunn Naar Daez Aarwali
Kyoh Kalee karu Thehraav.
Yaavunn Lolhath loli,
Bei Akki Latti Roi Haav,
Dohay Vuchh Hai Thali Thali ,
Kyoh Kali Karu Thehraav

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Samad Mir 

Samad Mir  (1894-1959), known for his outstanding work Akanandun (The Only Son), continued the Sufi-mystic tradition in Kashmiri poetry in the 20th century. Samad Mir has used the folk tale of Akanandun to give expression to his own mystical ideas and present a synthesis between Tassavuf (sufism) and Trika (Shaivism). He has translated spiritual experience into poerty.

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Kashmiri Literature has a history of at least 2,500 years, dating back to the glory days of Sanskrit.

The use of the Kashmiri language began with the poet Lalleshvari or Lal Ded (14th century), who wrote mystical verses. Another mystic of her time equally revered in Kashmir and popularly known as Nunda Reshi wrote powerful poetry like his senior Lal Ded. Later, came Habba Khatun (16th century) with her lol style. Other major names are Rupa Bhavani (1621-1721), Arnimal (d. 1800), Mahmud Gami (1765-1855), Rasul Mir (d. 1870), Paramananda(1791-1864), Maqbool Shah Kralawari (1820-1976). Also the Sufi poets like Shamas Fakir, Wahab Khar, Soch Kral, Samad Mir, and Ahad Zargar. Among modern poets are Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (1885-1952), Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948), and Zinda Kaul (1884-1965).

During 1950s, a number of well educated youth turned to Kashmiri writing, both poetry and prose, and enriched modern Kashmiri writing by leaps and bounds. Among these writers are Dinanath Nadim (1916-1988), Rahman Rahi, Muzaffar Aazim, Ghulam Nabi Firaq, Amin Kamil (1923-) , Ali Mohd Lone, Akhtar Mohiuddin and Sarvanand Kaul ‘Premi’. Some later day writers are Hari Krishan Kaul, Majrooh Rashid, Rattanlal Shant, Hirdhey Kaul Bharti, Nazir Jahangir, Moti Lal Kemmu.

Traditional events are still popular and as in the other parts of Kashmir, poetry is highly appreciated. The art of storytelling, both entertaining and educational, considered a way for the transmission of moral teachings, is valued and a rich oral literature is still alive today.

The main language of Kashmir is Kashmiri. It is said that it is a mixed language and the greater part of its vocabulary is of Indian origin and it is allied to that of Sanskritic-Indo-Aryan languages of Northern India.

Kashmiri poetry begins with the works of great mystic poetess Lalleshwari of 14th century. These sayings are the gems of Kashmiri poetry and true knowledge of yoga. These are deep and sublime. She held a key to many mystic truths. The following stanza illustrates her deep mystic thought:

“So my lamp of knowledge afar,
Fanned by slow breath from the throat of me.
They, my bright soul to my self revealed.
Winnowed I abroad my inner light.
And with darkness around me sealed,
Did I garner truth and hold Him tight.”
(Translated by Sir Richard Temple)

Lal Ded thinks dissolution of ‘self’ (Aham) essential for Realization. According to her, Sadhaka has to reach that mental attitude where there is no difference between ‘Him’ and ‘self’. She says one who considers his own self and others alike ends the distinction between ‘I’ and ‘you’, who treats days and nights alike, who is above sorrows and pleasures, can only realize God in his own self. According to her, differentiation between the human soul and Divine-self was Zero. Lal Ded is the first woman mystic to preach medieval mysticism in Kashmiri poetry. She used metaphors, riddles and other mediums for her expression.

Like Lal Ded, another mystic poet of Kashmiri language is Nunda Rishi, who is known as Sheikh Nur-ud-Din alias Sahajanand.  He has given much importance to yogic practice- breath control for communion with God. Nunda Rishi favoured good action which is the secret of happiness in the world. He preached a disciplined life like this:

Desire is like the knotted wood of the forest
It cannot be made into planks, beams or into cradles;
He who cut and telled it,
Will burn it into ashes.

He considered rosary as a snake and favoured true worship:

Do not go to Sheikh and Priest and Mullah;
Do not feed the cattle or Arkh or leaves;
Do not shut thyself up in mosques or forests;
Enter thine own body with breath controlled in communion with God.

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samad_mir

Samad Mir



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Samad Mir, a wonderful Sufi mystic poet of our beloved soil Kashmir lived in 20th century bequeathed heavenly verses and new approaches of mystic path and divine love. His verses are poetized in great rhythm, meter, deep connotation and knowledge about human behavior, existence of life and divine love. Samad Mir continued the Sufi mystical tradition in Kashmiri poetry in the 20th century.

Almost every poet of Kashmir has used Arabic and Persian dialect in their poetry, writers of the soil are influenced by Persian and Arabic poets but Samad Mir is the first Sufi mystic poet of Kashmir who utilized Sanskrit and Hindi words in his poetry in marvelous manner, it appears he had deep knowledge, cognition and grip on the both languages. Samad Mir had never went to school and was totally illiterate but his poetry is a clean combination of Islamic Sufism, while going through his poetry even well knowing person of Sanskrit and Hindi language could not spot any kind of error, it is pretty evident that even being an illiterate Samad Mir was a man of towering ability having immense knowledge and wisdom.

Alim Gaw Alim-e-Ludni

Tchalim Shakh Aam Badni

Porum Na Kaseh Nish Toosh

Karis Aarasteh Yaari

Knowledge is, knowledge of Deity

Doubt I left when I saw my Mursheed

I did not bow for the sake of knowledge

But my beloved (Mursheed) blessed me

Sammad Mir was born at Narwara Srinagar in the year 1894 and at the age of 65 he died in the year 1959. His Aastaan-i-Aaliya is situated at Agar, nearby village of Nambalhaar. Samad Mir belonged to a Sufi family, originally they were the residents of Nambalhar (Budgam) his father Khaliq Mir was also a Sufi poet who migrated from village Nambalhar to Narwara Srinagar at young age in search of earnings. He started working in a saw mill and eventually got married; he had three sons namely Samad Mir, Rahim Mir and Muhammad Mir. Till the age of maturity of Samad Mir, the whole family rested at Narwara but at the age of twenties Samad Mir decided to return back to Nambalhar whereas the Rahim Mir stayed at Narwara and unfortunately the third brother Muhammad Mir died very young about his twenties.

Samad Mir had two sons Gh. Rasool Mir and Gull Mohd Mir (also known as Aasi, died 8 September 1980) and one daughter Rehti. In the beginning Samad Mir started working as a labour with carpenters and masons but later join his parental job of timber sawing (Aari Kash).

Samad Mir used to visit various places in connection with work, once he went to Wagur, a village in Budgam where he met Habib Najar. When Samad Mir noticed that Habib Najar is influenced by Sufism, he started conversations with him because Sufism was also running in the blood of Samad Mir. After having discussions Samad Mir was very much impressed by Habib Najar so he decided to follow his directives. This way Samad Mir became the disciple of Habib Najar.

After the death of Habib Najar Samad Mir felt he is in need of more consciousness which could end his thirst, so he started search for another Mursheed and came in contact with Khaliq Najar of Batamaloo Srinagar with whom permission he initiated to write and poetized his first verses.

Veseh Kaar Mushkil Baar Gub Goom

Vet Raw Wun Peyoom

Gulaleh Panas Kaaleh Rang Goom

Vat Raw Wun Peyoom

Oh! My friend burden of work is weighty

But I had to endure

My rosy body turned into dark

But I had to endure

After the death of Khaliq Najar, Mir was shocked and suddenly stopped to write poetry, Mir did not wrote any verse for next 13 years but still was very eager to acquire more knowledge. At last he came under the influence of Faqir Ramzan Dar at Anchidora Anantnag Kashmir who pulled out the fire of his chest and ordered Mir to transform this fire into writing poetry so he started to pen down poetry again after a long time which ended till Mir breathed last.

It is not out of place to mention that Faqir Ramzan Dar is a revered and well known Sufi saint of a historical village Anchidora. From early times Sufi Saints from other places of Kashmir love to live their lives here because it a place where so many great Sufi saints used to meditate in divine love; it is a famous village for having the burial place of numerous Sufi saints. Faqir Ramzan Dar was the resident of village Anchidora and acquired fame because of his Karamaat’s, he has shown so many mystic powers during his life, people from far away villages used to give their presence to have a glimpse of spiritual master Faqir Ramzan Dar. His tomb is housed at Anchidora where hundreds of devotees give their presence. A Karamaat of Faqir Ramzan Dar is very famous throughout area which was also shown by his disciple Samad Mir.

After the demise of Faqir Ramzan Dar and Samad Mir both families remained in close touch and maintained good relation with each other. Samad Mir’s family used to visit the grandson of Faqir Ramzan Dar namely Mohammad Shaban Dar, a well known Sufi figure and poet, who looked after the Aastaan-i-Aaliya and the present structure has been built under his supervision. Mohammad Shaban Dar left this world in 2008. Samad Mir’s son Gull Muhammad Mir also known as Aasi with his disciples used to visit their father’s Mursheed. After his death Samad Mir’s elder son Ghulam Rasool Mir still continued to bestow his presence. Khalifa’s of the order of Samad Mir till date continue to visit the Mazar Sharief and family of their Mursheed Faqir Ramzan Dar.

It is in place to mention here that I belong to the family too and Faqir Ramzan Dar is my grand grandfather, Samad Mir’s family never quitted to offer their presence in our home also. At the time of Urs Pak of Faqir Ramzan Dar thousands of devotees from different walks of life visit in turnstile numbers.

When we go through the writings of different poets of Kashmir, we come to know that most of the poets have similar thoughts but variation in presentation. But Samad Mir being the best of bests has written absolutely different concepts. When we read a complete poem it seems to be poetized on Tasawwuf while other side tells the story of this world and living being. In early years of his poetry he was criticized for writing different style of poetry but time expresses the significance, gradually Samad Mir’s poetry attained everyone’s attention and people started to study him and today everyone knows that Samad Mir is a famous, reputed and eminent poet of Kashmir, who did not practiced the previous forms but defined his own versatile thoughts.

Ya Gasseh Guddeh Keh Panas Sanun

Nateh Bale Banun Apziyoor

Nakhoon Setie Aasmaan Khanun

Toteh Ma whatless Toor

Mir Sund Seer Gasseh Gairun Sanun

Yem Devi Abrah Moor

One should understand his own self first

Or to become a liar who perceived naught speaks more

It is as difficult as to make hole in the sky with nails

Still cannot be accomplished

Mir’s secret shall be empathized by general masses

Who restraint his inner self desires

In these above mentioned lines Samad Mir wants people to know his secrets, his scarifies of material wants in the path of love, one should experience how difficult is to outlive in the path of beloved that is why Mir says, “Mir’s secret shall be empathized by general masses”, so that they become known about the condition of Mir.

He did not penned only about mystical deeds, worldly concern things etc. Samad Mir has written numerous poems on Prophets, Wali’s and Sufi Saints of Islam. A beautiful poem composed about Hazrat Adam (ASWS) in which he delineates how did Allah SWT created this entire universe started from the very creation of Hazrat Adam ASWS. In the grand honor, respect and admiration of Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam he has poetized so many poems magnificently and has revealed the best state of bliss for being in mediation of Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam. These Naat-e-Sharief are the best work done, Samad Mir has brought life to his words written in the nobility of Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam. His art of defining is thoroughly unique and beyond any comparison; he has used words such beautifully that reader’s heart melts within seconds. It seems that Samad Mir has burned his blood till late hours of night while writing these endearing, heart winning and mesmerizing lines.

Kad Choonei Wuchh Meh Bala, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

Had-o-Lahad Arsh-e-Aala, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

Naam-i-Paak Choon Heun Tchu Dushwaar, Nishi Bo Aataar Ga’s-ha

Sad Hazaar Bar Ziev Bo Chal-ha, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

I saw you most eminent, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

You are beyond the bounds of skies and eternity, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

I must go to perfume seller, before reciting you Noble Name,

Thousands of times I shall rinse my tongue, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

Har Saba Durood-o-Salwaat Tchen Ma Kar Aikh Chuh Ti Saath

Paneh Sozaan Haq Talla, Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

In every breath keep reciting Durood and Salaam

Never halt for a fleeting moment

Allah (SWT) with his angels invoke blessings and greetings on You

Ya Muhammad Mustafa (SAW)

These above mentioned lines of Samad Mir get acknowledgment from the Holy Quran also, in Sura Al- Ahzaab Ayat- 56, Allah (SWT) says:

Surely Allah and (all) His angels invoke blessings and greetings on the Holy Prophet [blessings and peace be upon him]. O Believers! You (also) invoke blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation of peace abundantly (and fervently).

Samad Mir’s time was unlike than other Sufi poets who lived before him. Earlier Sufi masters or poets most of the time used to remain in meditation, Mehfil-e-Samma or in debates & discussions with their disciples. But time had altered various kinds of inventions took place and it was the time when radio was introduced in the valley Kashmir.

Once Samad Mir was invited by his disciple Mohd Yousuf Parata (worked at Radio Kashmir Srinagar) to be the part of a multilingual literary function (Mushaira), great philosophers, writers and poets of the time were also present in the function. Everyone was waiting for the start all of a sudden it was shocking for the seated people when they saw a man on the stage wearing Feran (Kashmiri outfit garment) with a villager cap on the head. They were astonished while seeing an illiterate man holding the mike to present the programme. The function was multilingual so Kashmiri as well as Urdu writer and poets were present to recite their best Kalaams.

The function was at its zenith when Samad Mir had turn to recite his Kalaam, Samad Mir made everyone speechless when he presented a new style of writing and recited a newest poem written in both Urdu & Kashmiri language, the poem was greatly honored by the critics of the time as well as by the youngsters present in the function. The poem experienced outstanding fame in the entire valley, till date the immortal lines of the poem are memorized by almost every Kashmiri on tip of the tongue.

Padh Padh Ke Gaya Pather, Likh Likh Ke Gaya Chhur

Jiss Padney Sey Sahib Miley Who Padna Hai Aur

By studying one turns to stone and by writing got crashed

By which Deity came to know, that Knowledge is different

The most popular and accepted image of Samad Mir having mike infront is also captured in the same function of Radio Kashmir Srinagar held at Shalimaar garden Srinagar.

Present time Khalifas of Samad Mir’s chain Gh. Nabi Hundoo of Buhri Kadal, Bashir Ahmad Beigh of Safa Kadal and Gh. Rasool Mir elder son of Samad Mir oftenly visits our home. Once having conversation with Gh. Rasool Mir about his father. He said that when Samad Mir started writing poetry frequently and any thought strikes his mind, being illiterate he used to call me (Gh. Rasool Mir) and asked to write down. According to Gh. Rasool Mir, at that time he was a youngster and was not as capable to write down complete words correctly sometimes he missed words and sometimes entire lines. When his father Samad Mir used to ask him another day to recite the lines he wrote, it was almost impossible for him to read his own written words which were roughly and wrongly written which results most of the Kalaam of Samad Mir was lost in the roughly lines of his son. An inhabitant of Wagur village namely Ali Shah (known as Ali Saab) also used to write Samad Mir’s poetry.

A huge collection of his writing was written and memorized by his disciples who used to recite their Mursheed’s Kalaam in functions or in Mehfil-e-Samma. One more name, his contribution cannot be ignored, one of the best singers of Kashmir, king of Chakri (type of traditional song) Ghulam Ahmad Sofi, he remained bonded with Samad Mir for a pretty long time and has sung so many Kalaams in presence of Samad Mir in various functions.

Sag-e-Ashaaf Kahaff Laag Jaananas

Tag yeye Godeh Kaas Panas Tchai

Rag-e-Nistar Dith Lageh Har Taanas

Tag yeye Godeh Kaas Panas Tchai

Be faithful to your beloved as dog of Ashaaf Kahaff

If you can do, eliminate your shadow first

(Shadow makes you two; alter it in oneness because deity is One)

Prick anywhere in vein causes pain in entire body

If you can do, eliminate your shadow first

John Keats says that poetry gets entire fame which is poetized about ones desires, difficulties and painfulness. From hundreds of years a folk tale known as AKANANDUN (The only Son) is being dramatized as well as poetized by so many writers, artists and poets.  AKANANDUN is a story having anguish, sufferings, distress and wishes which magnetizes everyone’s intention. From decades Akanandun has been remembered and has won people’s heart residing in every corner of the valley Kashmir.

AKANANDUN (The only Son) has been written by many poets in their own style viz. Bahadur Ganie in 15th century, Ramzan Bhat in 19th century, Tara Chand (Bismil Kashmiri) in 20th century , Samad Mir and Abdul Ahad Zargar.

Besides usual poems Samad Mir is well known throughout Kashmir for his stupendous work Akanandun, he has used the folk tale of Akanandun to bestow manifestation to his own mystical thoughts. Samad Mir’s Akanandun has been penned in fourteen parts and all the characters are Hindus.

Saneh Truva Sheth Bay Chu Sheytaji Yeh Saal (1346 Hijri)

Kan Thavith Man Previth Wun Meh Haal

Akanandun Tie Hareh Suna Maal Tchuie Ishar

Jugee Galib Peer Talib Kuorr Ti Maar

This is 1346 Hijri I wrote the folk tale Akanandun

Listen carefully the story I tell is heart touching

Akanandun and his parents are just symbolic characters

Jugee (saint) is dominant, sisters are disciples

Samad Mir says that the characters in the story like AKANANDUN his father King HARNAAM, mother SUNMAAL, JUGGEE, SEVEN SISTERS etc. are just symbolic, actually he wants to express his deep thoughts about the actual relation between Mursheed and his disciple, how a disciple should forget and bury his own self for the love of his guide (Mursheed) which is also an imperative stage in Tasawwuff called FANNA-FI-SHEIKH.

(Exerption by IMRAN YOUSUF)


Zoon of Chandra Hara

Chandrakauns_cover2

The Lady of Love
The Life and Work of Habba Khatoon

HABBA Khatoon was born in 1553,about two centuries after Lal Ded. Shegave to Kashmiri poetry a new art form—the vacan or short lyric which wasprobably influenced by folk songs as wellas by the Persian ghazal. The vacan is ashort poem set to music. Habba also invented the Raast-i-Kashmiri, the raga of Kashmiri classical music.

The songs that are attributed to Habba Khatoon have come down to us either through musical compositions, in whichthey are interspersed, or through the oraltradition. A collection of her lyrics has been published by the Jammu and KashmirAcademy of Languages, Art and Culture,but the authenticity of some of theseverses is disputed.

Overflowing Sorrow
No historical chronicle before the 19thcentury refers to Habba Khatoon. Manylegends about her iire prevalent in Kashmir.From these, and from her poetry, scholarshave tried to reconstruct the details of herlife.
It is generally believed that she wasborn in village Chandahar, in Pamporeregion, south of Srinagar. Lal Ded was alsoborn in this region. In one lyric, Habbarefers tocher parents sending her to adistant place for education and the teacher beating her with a switch.

On the evidence of the lyrics, it is alsobelieved that she was named Zoon (meaning moon) by her parents, and that the name Habba Khatoon (meaning ladyof love) was assumed by her later. It issaid that the saint Khwaja Masood

Bestowed this name on her when she visited him to ask his advice on how tohandle her marital problems.

She explicitly describes her suff-eringsin her in-laws’ house. It is believed that she married a man named Aziz. This belief seems to be based on the fact that some ofher love lyrics are addressed to an unresponsive person called “Aziz.”However, as the word “Aziz” means beloved, and the songs do not state thatthe person addressed is her husband, thisi nterpretation seems far from certain.

According to the legend, her husband disapproved of her composing songs and singing them in public. In one of her most famous and popular lyrics,  Chaara’ KarMyon Maalinyo , she looks to her natal family to help her in a predica-ment common to many women :

All is not well with me at my
husband’s house

Rid me of my troubles, my father’s
clan

I left home to fetch water from the
stream

My tender parents, the waterpot
broke

Either replace the broken pot or
Pay for it, I beseech you

All is not well with me at my
husband’s house

My youthful frame is wasting

Mounting the uplands has become
backbreaking

My feet are blistered, gathering
herbs

Salt is spreading over my wounds

All is not well with me at my
husband’s house

Falling exhausted on the spinning
wheel
I broke the shaft.

My mother-in-law seized me by the
hair
Worse than death was it to me

All is not well with me at my
husband’s house

I am uneasy with the smart of the
loved one

My sorrow overflows the brim

Habba Khatoon has passed on the
hint

Be alerted, father’s clan all-
watchful

All is not well with me at my
husband’s house

It is interesting that other women poetsof Kashmir, such as Lal Ded, the 17th century mystic Rupa Bhawani who retired to the wilder-ness, and the 18th century Arnimal who returned to her parentalhome, all suffered similarly in their in-laws’homes.

The Wounded Heart

Most of Habba’s lyrics express the sufferings of unrequited love. One critic,S. Sadhu, attributes this melancholy to her unfufilled  “dream of wedded life”  but, inthe absence of other evidence, it would seem that it is attributable more to the expresses a longing for an ever elusive? tradition of the romantic lyric which expresses a longing for an ever elusive
emotions expressed in the songs with the events of her life would seem misplaced.

Not a single lyric expresses fulfil mentor happiness in love. All of them are variations on the theme of separation from an unresponsive beloved. One of her most famous songs in this strain is Wolo

MyaaniPoshey Madano :

Having snatched my heart, you have
gone far off

Come, my love, my  flowery  Cupid
Let us go, friend, to gather jasmine
Once dead, none can enjoy life
I crave for your prosperity, love
Come, O come, my flowefy Cupid

Let us go, friend, to gather basil
Wounding my heart with the axe
He disdains even to enquire of me
Come, O come, my flowery Cupid

Let us go, friend, to gather herbs
Heartless people make fun of me
Would that they were in a similar
plight

Come, O come my flowery Cupid
Let us go, friend, to the woods
People poison his ears against me
Naively he gives credence to these
tales

Come, O come my flowery Cupid
Let us go, friend, to fetch water
The world is fast asleep, my love
I yearn for a response from you
Come, O come, my flowery Cupid
Come, give up this loathing of me
I have been longing for none but you
This life is all too short
Come, O come, my flowery Cupid

In voicing the feelings of the female lover addressed to the male ‘beloved,Habba’s lyrics were at variance with the dominant and established Persiantradition of love poetry, where the malelover addresses a male or female beloved.
Her lyrics also depart from the ghazal tradition of extolling the beauty of the beloved, and concentrate solely on her own emotion :

Say, friend, when will fate smile on

me
And my love come to me again, say
when ?
I’ve waited long and patiently
My heart is numb and idle and
empty of hopes.
Sweet is the ritual of love.
I would deck my love with ornaments
And in henna dye his hands.
I would anoint his body with
fragrant kisses
And offer him wine in golden goblets.
The lotus of love blooms in the lake
of my heart.
Say, friend, when will fate smile on
me
Go forth and call him, friend,
I’ve made posies of flowers for him
Over passes high I carried him wine
But he is roaming mid distant glades.
O why is he roaming mid distant
glades?
O where is he drunk with my rice
wine?
In his absence like jasmine I will
fade.

The Wheel Of Fortune

According to the legend, Yusuf ShahChak, heir to the throne of the Sultanate ofKashmir, was riding through Habba’svillage when he heard her singing ChaaraKar My on… while she was picking saffronflowers in a field. He was enchanted byher and proposed that she go and live in his palace. In 1570 AD she is said to have entered the palace.

Scholars differ on the issue of her status in Yusuf’s palace. Some believe thathe got her divorced from her husband andmade her his queen. Oral tradition supports this view. However, many others, includingthe 19th century chroniclers, believe thatshe was a member of his harem.

Habba is believed to have been happy with Yusuf and to have found the atmosphere of the court congenial to her art. Legends are related about their pleasure trips to different parts of Kashmir and their lovers’ tiffs and reconciliations.

In 1579, Yusuf ascended the throne but internal feuds took a turn for the worse
and he was unseated in 1580. He approached the emperor Akbar for help.Akbar gave him asylum and attached himto the Mughal army. For 11 months, Akbar did not provide any armed assistance.When he finally deputed Raja Man Singhas an escort, Yusuf gave him the slip andre-covered the kingdom on his own in 1581after a series of manoeuvres at Sopore.

But the disturbances continued. In1585, the Mughal army marched intoKashmir and brought pressure on Yusuf till he made submission, against the advice of his son Yaqub. He did not return toKashmir again and died in exile in Basok,Bihar, seven years later.

Handful Of Grain

No reliable details are known of the last phase of Habba’s life. According to the dominant tradition, she could not accompany Yusuf because of the hostilityof her stepson Yaqub, so she lived inKashmir for about 20 years more,wandering about without attachments orpossessions. She is said to be buried at Paanta Chhokh, at Srinagar, overlooking the river Jhelum. Others believe that she followed Yusuf to Basok and lies buried there in a grave next to him.

Some critics, like Ghulam Nabi Khayal,have related the despair and melancholy of her lyrics to this separation from Yusuf.Akhtar Mohi-ud-din goes further and says “Her apparent yearning for her be-lovedwas, in effect, the voice of the people for freedom from the yoke of Mughal slavery”—a rather far fetched explanation.

One of her lyrics, said to date from this period of her life, seems to sum up her life experiences :

Let no one lose the opportunities of youth

My parents showered love on me
A bevy of maids stood in waiting

Never did I dream the mansion
would crumble to dust

Let no one lose the opportunities of
youth—

When my parents gave me in
marriage

My friends sang for me in joy

The love songs they chanted never
came true

Let no one lose the opportunities of
youth

Calling me the daughter of fortune,
“Your in-laws are waiting for you”
they said

The bright painted palanquin was
decked with silver

Let no one lose the opportunities of
youth

I am here while you are so far away
Both were so fond of each other

Who dared imagine my world would
come to dust and rubble

Let no one lose the opportunities of
youth

If god withholds and destiny favours
not

Can anyone feed on a handful of
grain ?

Habba Kkatoon drank deep of love

Let no one lose the opportunities of
youth

Her Contribution

In Habba’s time, Persian influence was very strong in the Kashmiri court. In the14th century, hundreds of Syeds fleeing persecution by Timur in the Middle Eastand Central Asia had settled in Kashmir
the development of the Kashmiri language and also on many poets of succeeding generations down to our own day. Several contemporary Kashmiri lyricists have acknowledged the influence of Habba’swork on their own.

She invented a captivating stanza oft hree lines, followed by a refrain. The firstand third lines rhyme while the second line is unrhymed. She also frequently uses a medial rhyme.
Her songs also continue to be sungby village women in Kashmir. She depicts the everyday experiences of rural women,for instance, panting while climbing hillscarrying a headload, meeting each of theron the banks of a stream where they go tofetch water, which she terms “friends’gathering” (yaaraba’Ii kaakni).

In an atmosphere permeated with mystical traditions of various kinds, fromPersian sufi poetry to bhakti poetry from different parts of India, Habba Khatoon remained firmly rooted in a  non mystical tradition. For this reason, critics like S.Shah have called her the first secular and humanist poet in Kashmiri, while nothing that her weaving of references to flowering shrubs and birds into the fabric of her song does convey an impression of all life being one. Habba Khatoon emphasises the importance and meaning of the individual’s emotional experience, of personal relationships, and of love that is human, not divine.

Even when she does dwell on the transitory nature of fame and honour, she does not draw a moral regarding the need to detach oneself from the world. Her songis expressive, never hortatory, and represents an important tradition which celebrates human experience:

1 left home to play and was absorbed
in it
Till the day sank in the west
I came of a noble family which gave
me
Dignity and name
Many a lover was drawn towards me
Till the day sank in the west.
Within the house I stayed hidden
from view
Once outside, my name was on every
tongue,
Hermits, in their urge to see me
gave up their penance in the
woods.
My shop was loaded with stock.
And the world was keen to see it,
My precious wares exposed, (lost)
the prices crashed
As the day, alack, sank in the
west.

Bibliography
S.L. Sadhu, Haba Khatoon, Sahitya Akademi Makers of Indian Literature Series, 1983.

M. A. Kamil, Haba Khatoon J.L.KauI,Studies in Kashmiri, Kapoou Brothers,Srinagar, 1968 M.Y.

Taing, Haba Khatoon,3 & K Academy of Languages, Art and Culture J N Wali, Zoon

Akhtar Mohi-ud-Din, “Social Idealsand Patriotism in Kashmiri Literature”,Indian Literature, May-June

1977 GhulamNabi Khayal, Some Women Poets in Kashmiri” Indian Literature, May-June1982

(We presented an account of the life and work of Kashmiri mystic poet, Lal Ded. This account of another important woman poet of Kashmir has been prepared by Ruth Vanita from material in S.L. Sadhu’s biography and essays by Akhtar Mohi-ud-Din and Ghulam Nabi Khayal.)

white

Habba Khatoon
Philomela of Medieval Kashmir

By Prof. Kashi Nath Dar

THE cultural heritage of Kashmir is as rich as it is varied. This mental child of  ‘Kashyapa’  has been the recipient of fondest love and bountiful benevolence from Nature and has consequently enthralled the whole world by its superb physical charm from times immemorial. To crown all, this physical grandeur has been very usefully groomed by Kashmiris in weaving the rainbow. Coloured texture of mental and spiritual attainments. In many respects they have been pioneers in evolving a cult of philosophy in tune with their environment and called it as ‘Shaivism’. A galaxy of rhetoricians have taken pains in prescribing norms and standards for making the literature in general and poetry in particular more acceptable and representative. To say squarely, not a single branch of literature has been left out by these savants without their impress and alchemic touch.

Not only this, Kashmir has been the testing-ground of three universal religions of the world-Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. The traits of all these religions have fused into the attitude of a Kashmiri like milk and candy; and it is no surprise that though bearing Hindu or Muslim or even Buddhist names, a Kashmiti even to-day in actual practice is a living embodiment of Buddhist compassion, Hindu tolerance and Muslim zest for life. Therefore with such a Catholic background, secularism to a Kashiniri is not a political expedient but an article of faith ingrained in his blood from the hoary times to the present day. ‘Kalhana’ in his monumental History of Kashmir ‘River of Kings’ has not mentioned even one Communal trouble between the Buddhists and the Hindus when a voracious race was in progress between their respective adherents to make theire own tenets popular and thus steal march over other faiths. In contrast to this, Buddhist Kings have donated large sums for the erection of Hindu temples and shrines and vice versa. Religious battles have always been fought here on paper, in a more rational way, or through dialogues which never left bad taste in the mouths. During the Islamic period Sultan Zain-ul-ab-Din Badshah in an admirable way and forsooth like a Kashmiri to his marrow renovated demolished Hindu places of worship and even started ‘Langars’ at Places of pilgrimages for feeding the hungry and the devout. ‘ShriVara’ in his ‘ZainaTarangini’ has mentioned such ‘Satr’ or Langars, one of which was located at the foot of Mahadeva mountain.

In this way, when in the 14th-15th century an alien culture knocked at the mountain-doors of Kashmir for being shown in, the values cherished by Kashmiris all along had already prepared a hospitable ground for its happy welcome. The puritanic prosletyzing tenacity of Islam in the absence of any mentionable reaction on the part of Kashmiris compellingly changed to more logical and rational methods. In this political and religious upheaval, long-cherished secular outlook of the faith of the people would have received a jolt, but at this juncture literature came to our succour.

At the confluence of Hindu and Muslim cultures ‘Laileshwari’ or ‘Lalla- Deda’ stands like a collossus beckoning people to eschew differences of colour, creed or faith and yoke themselves to attain Identity with Him– the All-pervasive Transcendental Force called God as such, Therein all are equal, the worldly appellations drop down like slough from a snake. The pursuit of mundane is an exercise in futility; Therefore the goal should be beyond mundane-materiality; It is no use counting mile-posts of material gains or losses and getting lost in its maze; the eye should be on the destination– the real and permanent.

For reasons obvious, the social fibre of the Kashmiris was also undergoing transformation at that time and the present could not have been in any way palatable to the denizens of Kashmir at large; so like an awake artist ‘Lalla’ dismissed the present as trash and ushered in spirituality in its all shades ‘Being’ was replaced by ‘to be’. By borrowing sweetness from the ‘unknown’ ‘Lalla’ virtually transformed the frustration or people into the hope to live with ever -appetising gusto. ‘Lalla’ could not help striking a happy compromise between Kashmiri shaivism and Islamic sufism. It was in tune with the times. To quote Dr. Sufi ‘Even long before the formal conversion to Islam, Islamic sufism had already entered tho valley.” Cultural conquest is always a pre-requisite to any other kind of conquest. A Kashmiri by nature tolerant and catholic kept his windows open for inhaling the fresh air of sufism. He even assimilated and owned much of it what was good and rejuvenvating.

But, by the time Habba Khatoon’s inebriating imagination began to find words, this climate of spirituality and mental drill had become suffocating and even stale in the context of fast changing economic conditions and human values; emphasis on individnal instead of on the society had become the accepted norm of public relations and thinking. The extrovert attitude yielded place to introspection. So, the poet in these changed environs harnessed his imaginative faculty to interpret his or her own feelings; Hence, Habba at the very outset of her poetic career rebelled against the prevalent standards of poetry-writing. Textbook idealism is not found in the dictionary of her pulsating emotions. She did not also try to bridge the distance between the ideal and the real. Her substantial contribution in this domain is to interpret her life as it was and not what it should be. Total absence of didactic content in her poetry (what ever is available to us) lends support to our belief, that she always believed in translating her feelings without any redundant appendages of ideal, faithfully and with sincerity of purpose. Her poetry consequently is a happy blend of sweetness and pathos. She has preferred to live in the present, past was beyond her reach and future out of her comprehension.

Kashmiri nation at that time was groaning under internal exploitation and external aggression. The last indigenous ruler of Kashmir Yusaf Shah Chak personified in himself levity and depravation in every sense of the word. “His own Subjects being fed up with his way-ward conduct had to invite the mughals to get rid of such an incapable and debauche ruler,” Writes Dr. Sufi in his ‘Kasheer’. His regal writ could not run outside his palace where passion and carnality were reigning supreme. This trait of inviting aliens to redress their troubles is not new to Kashmiri character at all. Kalhana has alluded to this many times when the natives falling foul with their rulers invited the neighboring Kings of Lohara (Lorin) and Parantosa (Poonch) to sit on the throne of Kashmir. The great queen ‘Dida’ herself belonged to Lorin and installed her brother Jayasimha as the king of Kashmir just before her death. So, the Mughals who had vulturous eyes on Kashmir already, but their incursions bad been thwarted by Kashmiri twice before, exploited such a situation to their fill. This was a welcome addition to their diplomatic bag of conquests. Yusuf Shah at last awoke to find his own people arrayed against him. The Mughals arrested him and forced him to live a life of solitary confinement at a remote village in Bihar outside Kashmir, where he ate his heart away in sole distress and breathed his last. It has been contended by some overzealous Kashmiris lately that uprising of Yusuf Shah against the Mughals symbolized the urge of Kashmiris to fight external domination. Unfortunately, the contemporary historical evidence of this period does not, in any way, confirm this view, however laudable it may seem to be.

Moreover, the famine of 1576 A.D. due to the untimely snowfall multiplied the miseries of the people. The devastating effects of this unprecedented famine persisted for full three years and Kashmiris passed their days on starvation level more or less. To this injury insult in the shape of ‘Shia-Sunni’ troubles was added. Sectarianism became pronounced and it let loose all the evils which nurture and sustain it. In such a disappoioting state of affairs, the poet naturally has to close his eyes against all that is happening around and in self-deceit revels in the fanciful panorama of his heart. Habba could not afford to be an exception to this Universal truth. Hence her love-poems do breathe an atmosphere of total self-absorption being blind and deaf to the environmental vissicitudes. These may well be labelled as throbbing vibrations of self-immersion but not self forgetfulness. Her ego is always pronounced in each line of her verse.

Unfortunately for us we are actually at sea about the life of this Nightingale of Kashmir. No authoritative contemporary record has been unearthed so far to test the veracity of the popular tradition which associates Habba with Yusuf Shah Chak. Moreover, we have no hesitation in doubting the credence of the contemporary records as the History writing even to-day is not free from strings of pressures and pulls. During the rule of the English the events of 1857 have been mentioned as Mutiny, and those very events under the Indian rule have been treated as war of Independence; A dispassionate account of historical events devoid of personal projections is rare even to-day when every man proclaims that he is free and has been given every opportunity for independent thinking and expression of opinion thereof. In those hoary days, when history was compiled at the behest of the king, perhaps in proportion to the munificence the ruler lavished on such mercenaries, distortion of historical facts has always come in handy for the rating clique and its sycophants. In the same way, there is a thin line between aggression and liberation; In such a dilemma the verdict of people should have been the guiding principle for us all, but wherefrom it is to be made available?

Moreover, the evidence of the historical data which is still in manuscript form and has not undergone the acid test of public opinion cannot be relied upon. In Kashmir even to-day people who enjoy leisure and have aptitude are given to record their own experiences in which casual references to rulers have also been made in Sanskrit, Persian or Urdu; but for reasons obvious these cannot be termed as histories as such. Perhaps every Kashmiri house-hold having mentionable literary background of any order can boast of such perional record. By no stretch of imagination these can be treated as historical evidence worth quoting. Therefore, the chronicles written to order or as a product of personal caprice have no place in literary or purely historical criticism, Kalhana has not mentioned the great Shaiva philosopher Abhinavagupta even once. Does it follow from it that Abhinavagupta was not a historical personality at all?

In the face of such scanty historical material at our disposal, we have perforee to fall back upon the popular tradition which in unequivocal and unambiguous terms has all long associated Habba with Yusuf Shah. In the reconstruction of histories of literature the tradition has played no mean part. This kind of unbroken evidence casnot be dismissed as cheap and unreliable altogether. The tradition passes from generation to generation by word of mouth. If in literary criticism this had not been taken cognizance of, then the religious lore of entire humanity would pass on as forged; Actually the case is reverse of it. Tradition has all along held the vedas, the Bible and the Koran as the most respected and the most genuine of all the available literature that has come down to us by the word of mouth. Tradition embraces in its ambit the force of public opinion which cannot be disregarded at any cost. Public opinion in its turn breeds sentimental attachment, and this sort of living testimony is far superior to other media of evidence. Perhaps this irresistible public opinion forced the later Persian chroniclers to make a mention of Habba though two centuries or more after her death. The reasons for maintaining Sphinx-like silence regarding ‘Habba’ by the contemporary chronilcers may be attributed to the aversion Sunni scholars bad for the wayward behaviour of a sunni girl in consenting to become a ‘Keep” to Shia Yusuf Shah. The Shias on the contrary did not like to tarnish the image of the shia king Yusuf by making a mention of his licentious disposition towards Habba. The Hindu Historian could not afford to offend these both sects hence sat on the fence. Therefore, instead of adopting an iconoclastic attitude a critic should own a positive outlook and respect the tradition and the sentiments of people from which he cannot alienate himself. Later skt chroniclers i.e JonaRaja or Shrivara have not mentioned ‘Lalla’ at all though being her contemporaries, yet the popular tradition has had her day in as much as ‘Lalla’ lives before our mental eyes even to-day. Historicity in ordinary and unsophisticated parlance connotes systematisation of facts, values, tradition and outlook. Therefore, the role of tradition can in no way be under estimated.

When the dust of such controvercy had settled down, Birbal Kachru and Hassan Khohyami, the first chroniclers in this field, thought it fit to mention her by name. Both these historians have given an account of ‘Habba’ though in a slip-shod manner; but piecing the incidents together we can build her personality without any fear of contradiction or historical irrelevance. According to them “Habba” was the scion of a well-to-do peasant family living at Chandrahara, a village near the famous Saffron fields of Pampur. She had been married to Aziz Lone one of her collaterals. The proverbial animosity between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law dampened the marital relations between Habba and her spouse. She was forced to live with her parents. ‘Habba’ at such a tender and impressionably age could not recover from the rebuff she received at the very threshold of her conjugal life. Her despondency flowed out in the form of poetry pulsating with unartificial fusion of sound and sense. He fame reached the amorous ears of Yusuf Shah, who admitted her to his harem as a ‘Keep’, and did not allow her the status of a queen.

Further, Mohammed Din ‘Fauq’ and Abdul Ahad Azad have provided us with her actual name ‘Zoon’, as faultless as the moon. Mahjoor has also accepted this name without a murmur. ‘Habba Khatoon’ presumably a more respectable mode of address than ‘Zoon’ must have been bestowed upon her when she joined the harem of Yusuf Sbab in keeping with the royal ettiquette. There should be no surprise, or eybrows need not be raised when a Kashmiri lady is supposed to have two names. In olden days, Kashmiri girls after their wedlock earned a new name in their inlaw’s house. This custom has persisted with Kashmiri Pandits even now.

A section of popular belief ascribes her home to Gurez where a contiguous mountain and a spring are named after her.

Internal evidence as culled from her verses confirms the first view:-

“My parental home is situated at the tableland of Chandra Hara.”

Her another name can be inferred from this:-

“I am bemoaning my lot in Plaintive cries, the Moon (Kashmiri Zoon) has been devoured by an eclipse.”

Shri Amin Kamil’s well-edited booklet containing only twenty songs is the only authentic source material available to us for commenting upon Habba- Khatoon’s poetry; however, in addition to these, Kashmiris ascribe many more poems to her and these have been printed. As long as an anthology of all her available songs is not compiled and given the seal of an authoritative edition, we have to confine our comments to these twenty songs only. Interpolations will be there, more essentially so, her extraordinary popularity has been a bane for the original texts composed by her. The more popular a poet, the more danger is there of interpolations creeping into his compositions and after the mischief has been done it seems very dificult to distinguish gold from dross, and often dross passes on for gold.

‘Habba’ is very proud of her lineage:-

“My parents brought me up with fondest possible care; A host of maid- servants was at my beck and call. I could not fore-see that the dreams nourished by me would be shattered to the ground. No body’s youth with childlike innocence should go unrewarded like that of mine.”

‘Habba’ testifies to her being very well-read:-

“My parents sent me to a distant school for receiving tuition. The teacher there beat me with a tender stick mercilessly and ignited a fire within me; No body’s youth with child- like innocence should go unrewarded like that of mine.”

She did not ignore the religious education also:-

“I committed thirty ‘Siparas’ of the Holy Quran to memory in a single sitting, faithfully adhering to the diacritical intonations; yet the valentine punctuated with love could not be read with such facile speed. What will you gain by my passing away.”

She has woven the scene of her marriage in these words:

“My parents blessed me as a fortunate daughter, and beckoned to me that the in law’s were waiting in the compound for taking me away. My silver- studded palanquin had golden ear-rings hangingdown on all sides. Alas ! innocent youth of any body, with child-like innocence should not go unrewarded as that of mine.”

But all this pomp and splendour could not pacify the wrath of her mother-in-law :-

“The mother-in law grabbed me by my hair, which stung me more than the pangs of death. I fell asleep on the supporting plank of the spinning wheel, and in this way, the circular wheel got damaged. I cannot reconcile myself with the atrocities of the inlaws, O! my parents, please come to my rescue.”

Habba unfolds her love for her husband like this:-

“I have been waiting for long with extreme patience for you – O! my love (or Aziz) do not be cross with your moon (zoon)! I have adorned myself lusciously from top to toe; so enjoy my youth as lively and inviting as a pomegranate flower.”

But Aziz did not relent and Habba bad to experience the pangs of forced widowbood:-

“I am on pin-pricks for want of an avid response to my love; my bubbling youth is on its ebb. My awake parents, do read in to the hint I have dropped.”

The stings of separation from her husband in her prime-youth can better be imagined than described. Perhaps her being on the brink of human patience can justify her consenting to give company to Yusuf Shah Chak. She could not wait for legal or other formalities involved in sharing his bed. This might seem not very laudable, yet it is true of every maiden who is a slave to her senses and whose warmth of love has all along remained unrequitted, moreso, it is all the more pronounced in the case of a lady who would like to wreak venegance on tbe callous society not reciprocating her sentiments, no matter if she loses ber identity in this bargain.

For the span of years in which Habba lived, no cogent authority is available. Mohd Din ‘Fauq’ and in his foot- steps Abdul Ahad Azad have given her life span from 1641 to 1552 A.D. on the authority of ‘Tarikh Baharistan Shahi.’ But on close examination Shri Amin Kamil refutes this and says that these dates are nowhere found in this chronicle. However, her association with Yusuf Shah can give us a clue as to the years in which she was still alive. The reign of Yusuf Shah has been determined as 1579-1585 A.D.; so we can safely assume that during these years at least Habba was living. Akbar annexed Kashmir in 1585 A.D. imprisoned Yusuf Shah and externed him to Bihar; so, when her paramour Yusuf tell on bad stars, Habba must have eaten her heart away in disgust and dismay. This was the second rebuff she received at the bands of the Destiny, and this impulsive Lady unresponsive in love, unaccepted by the society still did not own defeat. She created an exuberant world of her own, punctuated it with her emotions resonant with the dirge of what she had got and what she lost. She lived in her thoughts, so to say.

Such a state of mind is a fertile ground for the induction of Romanticism. Habba deliberately ignoring the less pleasant side of her life indulged in dreamy habit of mind. Romanticism is the acme of poet’s independence of feelings; under its spell he refuses to be bound by conventional restraints. A romantic poet has either the nerve to rebel nor the will to compromise with his environment. Unmindful of what is happening around him, he delves deep into the inner most recesses of his heart and without fear or malice pours out his felings as they ooze forth. Such a poet is incapable of clothing his emotions with artificial adorations. Romanticism may thus he called the highest water-mark of poet’s individual thinking.

Habba may be called the harbinger of such kind of poetry in Kashmiri. She is the originator of popular love-lyrics in Kashmiri literature. However, her love is earthly; she could not rise above it; Her passionate love has its source in the enjoyment or senses and not their denial in any case. She does not feel fed-up with sensual pleasures, but at times would like to revert to these with ever-increasing appetite. She cannot reconcile herself with the sour-truth of being a widow who has perforce to abjure sensuality. She would not like to show herself off as a pious lady either, under the cover of so-called piety myriad sins do thrive when a woman is not mentally ready to own a salutary course of life for herself. Her poetry, therefore, is a candid expression of her feelings which has immenseley contributed to her popularity. She does not like to play hide and seek. Her appeal is straight and unsophisticated.

Habba’s forte is love-in-separation. She has not sung even a single verse eulogizing the munificence of Yusuf Shah when she was in her company. In the words of Kalidasa ‘Separation chastenes love,’ Hence, Habba like a born-poet selected ‘separation’ for her treatment of love. Her verses throughout waft an air of restlessness and not contentment; Calm Composure and resignation to be in turmoil to fate are absent in her poetry. She seems sit cross-legged, She believes in winning love by bodily excellence alone:-

“I will apply on my body of spotless silvery sheen, the greasy whiteness of milky creams; I am imnmensely enamoured of thee; I will anoint myself with scented sandal-water. MY love! I will relish to be your slave.”

Even though Habba has repeatedly and even lustily made a call to flesh only, yet her songs reverberate an aroma of lasting flavour; though these songs may sound as sensual to a moralist, yet ‘Habba’ has made no secret of her sensuous attitude to life. She has all along wanted to drink deep at the fountain of life without any saintly pretensions. Therein her moral-courage shines the best. Her voracious hunger in this respect seems unsatiated. To her present holds the mirror to what she lost and what she had gained. Her songs are a lament in every sense of the term. She is firm-footed in her convictions and does not vacillate. This is perhaps the most glaring trait of her poetry. She has no concern for morality or ethics in the sense that she would not elect to be a preacher: She revels in being always loud. She revels in being immersed in her imagination only, yet her ego is always loud. She is not shy of parading her beauty and is rather conscious of it also. Even though she has paid a heavy price for it, still she has no regrets in this behalf.

Habba’s refrain is love wedded to pathos; consequently she has kept the windows of her mind shut and her heart is only wide-awake in emitting and receiving images from her fancied dreams. The pathetic content of her poetery is all the more aggravated by the elusive nature of her ideal which has consequently earned for her the epithet ‘Nightingale’ of Kashmir most squarely. She does not subscribe to the view that “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” In the absence of any appropriate and meaningful response to her simmering emotions, she has opted for self- suffering, telling beads of her tear-drops. Be it Heemal, Arnimaal or Habba Khatoon, it is the Kashmiri woman bemoaning her lot in pathetic plaintives, the common subject with all these, the victims of the conspiracy of circumstances. Habba Khatoon essentially is a typical example of such a woman who cannot make any kind of compromise with life. In this predicament she could have turned a rebel, but, she instead of it, becomes a martyr by consent. This is exactly the most salient feature of Kashmiri womanhood. Towards the closing years of her life, Habba does express her remorse for not compromising with the life as it is, but fashioning it according to her imagination; none the less in the same breath she admits that missed opportunities need not be recalled. She does indicate the ‘Achilles Heel’ of her personality-to rule only and not to get ruled:-

“I, Habba Khatoon, is definitely sorry for not adapting myself submissively to the moonish caprices or my lover. I do recaptulate those missed opportunities, but it is now too late to atone for these; therefore, You, my lover! should not be cross with me.”

A sense of guilt seems to haunt this love-lorn lady, but at the same time her self-willed nature dismisses this weight on her heart by taking refuge under the excuse that race is already run. This subdued expression of penitence does portray her loud thinking in unguarded moments, but like a wakeful artist, she cancels it in the second breath. She does not flop, as the idiom goes.

Habba’s songs are musical in essence and pathetic in spirit. She has also been acclaimed as a melody-queen of Kashmiri poetry. Her popularity is also due to the fact that her songs are not only a replica of Kashmiri sentiments but also a potent vehicle of Kashmiri music. Her originality in this sphere is undisputed. Even though she has appropriated a sizable chunk of Persian words and Persian similes, yet she has refrained from owning Persian code on metres. She has in their place introduced home-spun Kashmiri melodies pertaining to rhyme and rhythm in her quartrains.

Therefore, her songs self-contained in each quartrain can be more profitably compared with the ‘Vaks’ of Lalleshwari or ‘Shruks’ of Nund- Reshi from the style-point of view only. These cannot be classed under ‘Gazal’ or ‘Nazam’ of Persian metries, despite the fact that Habba has a tendency to repeat refrains.

Therefore, it is not without reason that ‘Mahjoor’- the doyen of Kashmiri romantic poets, has dealt a dig at one of his celebrated predecessors- Rasul Mir in this pregnent verse, for not paying well-deserved compliment to Habba Khatoon.

“Rasul Mir of Shahabad has profusely alluded to the moon of Qandhar; Why has he been averse to the moon (Zoon, Kashmiri) of Chandrahar?”

(coutesy of  Prof. K. N. Dhar
Shri Parmanand Research Institute
Srinagar, Kashmir )

Below A  biographical note on Prof. Kashi Nath Dar

Prof. Kashi Nath Dhar (1923-1984)

Prof. Kashi Nath Dhar was born on 24th November, 1923 in the Rahbaba-Sahib locality in Srinagar, to Pt. Sarvanand Dhar and Shrimati Kamlavati Dhar. He did his initial schooling and B.A. from Srinagar, after which he went to Lahore (Pakistan) to pursue higher education. He completed his M.A. (Sanskrit) from D.A.V. College, Lahore alongwith the famous Hindi writer Shri Mohan Rakesh.

After returning from Lahore in 1946, he joined as a Lecturer in the Sanskrit Department at the the Govt. College, Poonch. However Pooch was under siege by the Pakistani forces in 1947 Indo-Pak war, and this was a period of great difficulty for him. After the war ended he resumed his teaching and research as a lecturer at S.P. College, Srinagar. Here he also completed his M.A. (Hindi) privately from Punjab University. After working at the Govt. College, Sopore for a while, he was transferred to Amar Singh College, Srinagar, where he served till his retirement.

Prof. Dhar was actively involved in numerous literary and social organizations from his early years as a student. Late Shri T. N. Kaul, sub-editor of The Times of India and his close friend since childhood revealed that Prof. Dhar wrote short stories in Urdu and published a handwritten magazine called “Torchlight” during his early days. He edited a number of magazines during his college period and was the Chief Editor of “Kashyap”, a magazine published by the Kashmir Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, for which he wrote sharp and insightful editorials during his stint there. He was also in the editorial team of another magazine called “Neelja”, published by the J&K National Language Promotion Organisation. He acted as a director of the Shardapeeth Parmanand Research Centre in Srinagar, and published various research works upon the important historical literary works. His contributions regularly featured on Radio and Doordarshan also.

He had an equal command on Hindi and Sanskrit as on Kashmiri, Urdu and English. His collective literary works in the alluded languages bear testimony to the fact. He had an interest in poetry also and liked to participate in debates. He also served in the editorial board of the Kashmiri-Hindi-English dictionary commissioned by the Central Govt. of India.

His contribution in the research in the cultural heritage of Kashmir alongwith various translations and commentaries on Kashmiri and Sanskrit ancient texts and historical works is exemplary and a constant source of inspiration for all. He left his mortal remains on 11 April, 1984 at the age of 61.

Literary Works

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Shrivar’s Jain Rajtarangini (English)
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Nilmat Puran (Hindi Translation)
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NundRishi-A Rosary of Hundred Beads(English)
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Nund Rishi Influence On Kashmiri Mysticism(English)
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Vasugupt ShivSUtras(English)
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Abhinavgupt’s Parmarth Sar (English Translation)
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Panchstavi (A commentary in English)
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Kashmir- Sanskriti aur Sahitya Ke parivesh Mein (Hindi)
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Sanskrit Chronicals and Sultans Of Kashmir (English)
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Saint Of All Times- Bhagwaan Gopinaath Ji (English)

Publications

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Hinduism In Kashmir
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Mysticism In Kashmiri Poetry
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Rishi Cult Of Kashmir

J&K Academy of Art, Culture  and Languages published many of his works in Kashinath Dhar Rachnavali under the aegis of Prof. Chaman Lal Sapru.

(Courtesy: Sh. Vishakh Bhan)

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