It is a pleasing yet strange coincidence that Lal Ded (14th Century),
Habba Khatoon (16th Century) and after a lapse of two hundred years Arnimal
adorned Kashmiri literature through their poetical geniuses.
Not unlike Habba Khatoon love-songs of Arnimal (1337-78), 'Vachan' in
Kashmiri, are with us as a treasured bequest. Songs as extant in 'Banasaur Katha'
& 'Sukh-Dukh Carit' testify that Kashmir had an entrenched and long-standing
tradition of writing lyrics. In Kashmiri semantics 'Vachan' is the original form
of lyrics embodying the lilting lyricism of folk-songs. As 'Vachan' is deeply
imprinted by folk-songs, it is not quite easy to tell it from the genre of
folk-songs. In fact, the very recognition of 'Vachan' as such is equally
The historians of yore have written next to nothing informative of Kashmiri
language and literature. There are some stray references about Lalla Ded as a
yogic practician and Sheikh Noor-ud-Din alias Nunda Rishi as a devotees of God
and also about Habba Khatoon as the beloved wife of Yusuf Shah Chak.
The lyrics of Habba Khatoon available via oral tradition are sung in
accompaniment with musical instruments like 'tumbaknari' and 'naut' on marriage
festivities in Kashmiri homes. The tradition has lasted for umpteen generations.
Even today a good number of her lyrics are found scribbled in the song-books of
Arnimal lived during the tyrannical and barbaric rule of Afghans (invited to
Kashmir by Kashmiri Muslims). Prem Nath Bazaz has characterised Afghan rule as
'dark age' in the history of has Kashmir. When girls for fear of being lifted
away were married off before the onset of puberty. The social structures of that
period were as iniquitous and discriminatory as the present-day society is. The
status of women was worse than what it was in the Mughul rule. Their life and
living with in-laws was a woeful and ignominious saga. They were treated as
life-less commodities by a male-dominated society and were fraudulently posed as
models of renouncement, patience, piety and love when actually they were
subjected to untold oppression and exploitation and were ruthlessly traumatised
Arnimal Kachru was also married off at a pre-puberty stage - a stage of sheer
innocence. She attained maturity and youth-fulness in the house of her in-laws,
a respectable family of Kachrus living at Rainawari, Srinagar. Her husband,
Bhawani Das Kachru, was a high calibre Persian poet, historian and politician.
He was an achiever in the domain of Persian language and wrote under the
pen-name of 'Neku'. The Afghan governor, Juma Khan (1788-92) was a shade removed
from his tribe and respected scholars and literatuers. It was in this period
that Bhawani Das Kachru scaled heights of success and fame. The Afghans too
valued his innate creative abilities that were multi-pronged and varied. Bhawani
Das Kachru as a poet of poetic symposia that were held in honour of the Iranian,
Afghanian and other literatuers and earned a loud applause for the recital of
his scintillating Persian poems. Neku achieved tremendous reputation for
innovation of a new metre (bahar) in Persian. His celebrated poetical work, 'Bahar-i-Tawil',
written in the same metre became a land mark in the realms of Persian poetry.
The scholarly and talented poet moulded in the feudal ambience of Muslim courts
grew absolutely indifferent to his spouse who was mad in love with him.
Arnimal spared no effort to establish an emotional bond with her beloved
husband. She picked up the tunes of music and tried hard to acquire the graces
behaving Muslim court ambience. But, to her ill-luck, she failed to achieve much
of success. The distance between the duo yawned into a wide chasm. Neku turned
sullen and indifferent .
Burning in the agonising fires of separation Arnimal in all disgust and
melanchoby returned to her partents living at Palhalan, a hamlet (in Baramulla
district). A line from her sufficiently supports it -
O golden Jasmine, you blossomed in jungles, bushes and shrubs
but Palhalan is your parental abode.
Her captivating songs ooze out varied shades of pain and agony. Separation
from her spouse was what tormented her. Rejected love was what agonised her.
Here is a lyric soaked in pain and agony -
Wreaths of flowers I wove for my husband
Would that he were to accept it
Cups of wine I filled for him
Would that he were to come
I yearn to clasp him in my arms.
Stung by intolerable pangs of separation she is deeply pining for her husband
who is distances away from her. In agony she addresses her friend -
O friend, tell him about my agony
I know not what my fault is
Repaired he to my cruel co-wife -
He is hers, since I learnt it
My whole being is set afire I lost my appetite
I am eagerly waiting for him
How I wish he were with me
Despaired and for saken forsaken Arnimal expresses her pathos -
Soaked in tears my hem is
awaiting you my days dragon
Why this futile vanity -
She again sings in melancholy -
When will your solf feet touch our threshold.
I place them on my pate
In agony I came out searching for you
removing veils and barriers all
Pray come to me
The marital life of Arnimal Kachru was seething with pain and anguish. Says
O friend, why my husband separated from me
I bathed clean for him
All adornments went useless, he did not come,
O loveless, I can't bear with your separation any longer
Without you I shall fade away
Now no more can I wait even for a short while
Arnimal has sought ample succour from nature to ventilate her heart-ravaging
pain and anguish. The creepers (hiya), yellow roses (arni-posh) and narcissuses
(nargis) have oft found a mention in her lyrics. Multi-form manifestations of
nature like vast green fields, flowing rivers and murmuring rivulets, awesome
mountains and snow-capped peaks have deftly been delineated in the context of
her gloomy moods and pathos-laden feelings caused by separation from her
For him have I filled brimful cups of wine
O friend, could you go to
On way to meadow, back from peaks
O friend, take my blessings to him.
Rendering me hapless he frisked away like a deer
Call him, platefuls of sweets & candies are awaiting him
Tears are dribbling incessantly from my eyes
How to bear with pain and agony
Call him loud and clear
Again she says -
O friend, why does he kill me by inches?
I left my native abode for him
Why does he not take care of me?
He deserted me in the dense darknight
I am a youthful beauty, abandoned my abode for him whole day passed
His gnawing indifference has rendered me mad
I bear with taunts flung by one and all
Addressing her husband she in all despair busts out -
O, my love,
You were the friend of my youth
Initially I knew not how to value it
Wasted it away, Now I am pining and withering
Show me your countenance, I am dying for a mere glimpse
O, friend of my youth.
There is an exemplary confluence of hope and despair in the love-laden lyrics
of Arnimal. Helplessness, unfathomable perseverance, endless wait and incessant
agony are the emotional states that weave the warp and woof of her lyrical
orchestrations. But the world of her intense emotions is lacking in broad sweep.
Her lyrics limpidly mirror the mind of a deserted woman who is in deep despair,
lonely and yearning for a rendezvous with her spouse distances away from her.
She is in anguish yet she is hopeful and optimistic. She is a broken reed, yet
she yearns for a concourse with her husband who has forsaken her. Malice and
ill-will never come her way. She could have screamed fire and fury at her
husband who has cruelly left her high and dry. But she maintains her calm and
poise. Says she -
Your love impelled me to abandon my abode you knit up your brows and
frowned at me
I wished you long life as that of Lomesh Rishi
Who ill-advised you not to return to me?
Pouring out her heart Arnimal says -
Would that he were to come once
I would sacrifice my life for him
Why he trampled me, a creeper that has fully bloomed
O friend, I have none to confide
I am teased and mocked at
What if he does not talk to me
Let him live long and be happy
Let him be with my co-wife
Arnimal is tormented by pangs of separation and is in hell-fires of despair,
yet she sings of hope and happiness -
O hope of the hopefuls! enliven my heart with hope
Remove dark despair from it
He repaired to Lahasa for benefits
I am eagerly awaiting him
Sow the seeds of warm friendship
And wish no hurt even to enemies
She is under the perpetual grip of blues and greys. She is wretched and
forlorn. Says she -
He never stood by his promises
He bewitched me & went away
O friend, can you manipulated his return?
Everything in this world is fleeting and transitory
Flowers bloom and soon fade away
Memories of her spouse cause her pain and anguish. She weeps and wails for
his quick return. In pain and grief she sings -
When will he return to me, a woman in bubbling youth?
I am shedding tears endlessly
Can I ever forget the deep craving for him?
My whole being is afire like a coniferous twig
My pains know no end, tears in torrents
Go on dripping from my eyes.
Despite her husband's indifference and sullenness Arnimal never ceased to
yearn and long for his close companionship. A lyric of hers opening with the
yellow-hued rose (arin) is highly popular with lovers of Kashmiri poetry and
music. She sings -
Mine is a life brimming with pain and agony
you got my heart perforated by the taunts of others
You got it burnt like a half burnt cloth-piece
Who will convey my wretchedness to him
When will he turn up to show his coantenance to me
Cheating me he stole away
He mocked at me in presence of strangers
When should I expect him back?
This is quite a popular lyric, almost on the tip of every Kashmiri’s tongue
Mehmood Gami impressed so much by the lyric has in one of his lyrics
immortalised the refrain. Arnirung gom shrawn...". In fact, the two
lyrics are of different stamp and are not the same in feel and style. Sh. AK
Rahbar has dilated in detail on the two lyrics in his work 'History of Kashmiri
Literature' and made thorough comparative study. His decisive conclusion is that
the opening lines are that of Arnimal and not that of Mahmood Gani. The lyric of
Arnimal excels that of the latter in its naturalness and lyrical melodiousness.
The following lyric of Arnimal is an exemplary specimen of highly artistic
use of word and meaning in Kashmiri language
When in slumber he pulled at my soft wrist
The ornament adorning my arm hurt me great
He snatched every bit of gold from me
O friend, he left me sad and forlorn
Who should believe whom?
Another famous and quite popular lyric of Arnimal is that of 'spinning wheel'
which became her inseparable companions after separatism from her spouse. The
lyric is bequeathed to us from our mothers and grand-mothers and is typically
Arnimalian in content and style.
O spinning wheel! do not murmur and grumble
Thy straw-rings I shall oil
Raise thy head from under the earth, O! hyacinth
Arnimal is a master craftsman of simple, bewitching and melodious language,
which is not excessively burdened with Persian and Sanskrit vocabulary. Each
word of hers is natural, plain, musical and lilting. Her love-lorn mindscape is
deeply touching and pathetic.
In an appraisal of Arnimal in his work 'Kashmiri Language and Poetry' Abdul
Ahad Azad, a poet critic, writers", Arnimal was masterly in musical arts.
This is why her lyrics are found in various works on music. They have the same
hue and tune of Habba Khatoon and occasionally she even outstrips her".
In his editorial note Mohammad Yusuf Taing puts, "Azad has not
elaborately detailed out the statement that Arnimal outstrips Habba Khatoon. It
appears that his observation underlines naturalness and lyrical potential of her
songs". Taing has no reluctance to admit that Arnimal's lyrics are quite
touching and sensitizing.
Writes Shashi Shekher Toshkhani, "the deftness to weave captivating
images establishes Arnimal as an unrivalled poet of her times. Masterly
communication of heart-felt feelings and experiences is her forte. She is free
from laboured and unwanted ornamentation of word and meaning. This features
makes her language simple and musical with powers to touch our hearts.
The lyrics of Arnimal are suffused with an optimism as she never let go hope
about the return of her husband. As per an oral tradition Bhawani Das Kachru
having been tired of ostentatious court life returned to meet Arnimal. But the
pangs of protracted separation had seared her so much as to cause her death at a
young age of forty-one. The twain could not meet. Tragic as it is!