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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Manto and Mehjoor, the Poet-laureate of Kashmir

By Dr. Brij Premi

Mehjoor wrote poetry in Kashmiri. It was he who gave new direction to Kashmiri poetry and made it rise to the pinnacles of grandeur and glory. He lent new touches to traditions. The poetry of this period brought the reader close to life, and also one comes across the themes of romance. Mehjoor gave language to the needs of his times. He depicted beauty and romance in his poetry and at the same time highlighted the sufferings of his people groaning under feudal tyranny.

With the burning embers of his verses, he sharpened the sensitivity of his people and created an awareness in them about the centuries old exploitation they were subjected to Mehjoor's voice lent strength to. the people's protest. Mehjoor did not believe in slogan mongering. In his protest there is intensity, fire that stirs up the people. He never compromised on the beauty of his art. Instead he created new relevance for his poetry through elegance in style. He used his art to communicate the truth. Through his brilliance Mehjoor was able to reach people and their feelings found voice in his poetry. This made him immortal.

In the third decade of 20th century, Mehjoor sent translations of his two compositions Posh-Motey Janano (you-my prince of flowers) and Greest Koor  (The peasant girl) to great poet Tagore. The colours/hues of the rainbow fauna playing games, the intoxicated gait of the deer, the dark and penetrating shadows of the lakes, the agony of the beloved at the pangs of separation, the ethereal expressions of love-all these impressed Tagore. There two poems reflected the beauty of nature, tranquility of soul and the serenity of beauty. To Tagore all these things were first love. Mehjoor came to earn the sobriquet of 'Wordsworth' of Kashmir. In his early comments, one feels the strength of Mehjoor's poetic gifts and his recognition by the eminent poet. Subsequently, the Kashmiris became aware of Mehjoor's literary genius and this earned fame for Mehjoor.

As years rolled by, Mehjoor's poetry crossed geographical barriers and its beauty and fragrance reached other parts of the sub-continent. In these compositions there was new vision about the dreams of Kashmir. Mehjoor gave voice to the agonies and sufferings of his people. One comes across strong annoyance expressed by the poet on the prevailing situation. His songs reflect the exploitation by the ruling class and the anguish of the sufferers. These moved many people, to whom otherwise poetry never appealed. Sadat Hasan Manto, a Kashmiri himself, was profoundly influenced by this poetry of protest. Manto expressed : I haven't seen Kashmir but Kashmiris have. I regret that I haven't seen Mehjoor.

Kashmir was Manto's great weakness. That he couldn't see Kashmir pained him much. He had been to Batote once, where he had come after having been sent out of AMU as he was declared to be a patient of tuberculosis.

Kashmir interested Manto, because his ancestors hailed from Kashmir. About five generations back his ancestor Khwaja Rahmatullah like many others fled Kashmir during Sikh rule and settled down in Lahore. His grandson Khwaja Jamal-ud-Din came to Amritsar to live. He never forgot being a Manto and took pride in his Kashmiri origin. "In Kashmiri Manut means a weight equal to 1 seer". Manto said : "I am a Kashmiri". "I too am a Kashmiri and love Kashmiris". "I am a Kashmiri-my ancestors were Kashmiris. After migration we came to Punjab". This is the reason Manto always turned emotional at the very mention of Kashmir. This sentiment made him write stories-Bego, Ek Khat, Misri Ki Dali, Lalteen, Teetwal Ka Kuta, Akhri Salute.

It has been mentioned that Manto's ancestors felt prompted, rather forced to leave their birth place due to tyranny of Sikh rule. This always haunted Manto that Mehjoor never thought of leaving his land as he decided to bear with the exploitation. As Mehjoor continued to live there, he was able to raise the voice of protest. Manto appreciates Mehjoor.

"I feel shocked that my ancestors migrated. It is really something to put up with sufferings. Exile has a romance of its own. Mehjoor stood up to it and remained close to the ground. He never thought of migrating. He remained there, he remained a part of the place he belonged to. (Shair-i-Kashmir Mehjoor).

Partition  of the country was a tragedy Manto. He never reconciled to it. It was his strong belief that hearts can never be partitioned on the basis of religion and politics. "What happened later I don't know. Which actually is one's government was never understood by me".

(Ganjey Farishtey)

When relations between India and Pakistan became strained, Manto felt restless. The shocks he experienced found echo in his stories. In this background one can feel the agony of a person who loves humanity.

"I couldn't separate India from Pakistan".

(Ganjey Farishtey)

As relation between the two countries grew more tense, Manto took refuge in remembering Mehjoor. He felt that Mehjoor's songs had the healing touch and could heal the bruised wounds. The spontaneity and sweetness of his songs eschews malice and hatred.

"I wish Mehjoor were alive!"

Had he been living, who would have thought of Dr. Graham. He could admonish Jawahar Lal Nehru and Khwaja Nizam-ud-Din (both Kashmiris). A Kashmiri, be he a Hindu or a Musalman, is a Kashmiri. You are Nehru, he is Nizamuddin. Both are Kashmiris. It is a different thing none of you have lived there. The reality is that you have Kashmiri psyche. You can't afford rice and shalgam to be kept away from your food. Let you swear...that you will live in love with one another.


This essay was written by Manto on 19 Nov. 1952.

There is no similarity between Manto and Mehjoor. To look for it is futile. It is true that they were restless and yearned for freedom of the country. Both raised protest over exploitation of the people. There pens gave forceful expression to this voice. Both subscribe to brotherhood and communal harmony. They were equally opposed to exploitation of religion for political purposes. Kashmir is the land of both. After independence Mehjoor's expression turned somewhat critical. He resorts to satire. Manto misapproves what he sees after landing in Pakistan and in the series 'Chacha Sam Ke Naam' he displays his anguish with all his vigour. His expression and its style are pungent. He scorns the system, which made his country an appendage of Western capitalism. One can hardly find romance  in writings of Manto but one can see depiction of hard realities of life. The 'romance' in Mehjoor's compositions had profound effect on Manto. He writes.

"Migration is an important element in the poetry of both of us. I don't know what we have got out of it. After reading Mehjoor in translation, I can say with authority that the migration in his poetry of romance proved to be source of immense pleasure for me".

Manto had not studied Mehjoor much. The translations, at times faulty, could not provide him a full insight into Mehjoor. Had he got the opportunity to appreciate his poetry in original or through good translations, I am sure Manto would have definitely enjoyed the loftiness and beauty of what Mehjoor wrote. He could even perceive that Mehjoor's pen was mighter than him.

*(Translated from original by Sh. MN Kak)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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