Arjan Dev Majboor

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   Kashmiri Poets

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Arjun Dev Majboor-The Versatile Pioneer

By Mohd. Yusuf Taing

We Kashmiris may still have the pretensions of belonging to the ‘Paradise on Earth’ but the fact remains that we on both the sides of Pantsal are presently living in hell. People on the northern side of the hill, by and large, physically and mentally and on the southern side, spiritually and emotionally.

The Volcano erupted rather abruptly but it had been gathering its embers through a long span of time. What is even worse, our two neighbouring giants contributed to it in ample measure.

Arjun Dev Majboor, to my mind, is one of the most eloquent, authentic and artistic chroniclers of this blazing inferno. I have a few weight arguments to substantiate my assertion. Firstly, he is not a journalist or a historiographer, in the formal sense of these terms. This class can only see and judge the manifest-the apparent occur-rences and their crust, which are otherwise far more complex and twisted. Secondly, he is not swept off his feet by the heat of the moment--so garishly coloured by the linkages of class, creed and convenience. The best and instant genre can be seen in the books published on the two sides of Pantsal in recent times. One's hero, is other's villain and vice-versa. One's holocaust, is other's freedom struggle etc. Thirdly, Majboor has a poet’s sensibility and an artist’s eye. Both ignore the transient and banal; both fall for substantial and enduring. They do not identify killers by their fatigues; they peep into their psyche and minds. They recognise them as instruments of primordial instincts, good and evil, which surface in human frame and chart out his destiny.

The world of literature is with such instances. Vyas's Arjun and Duryodhan, Tulsi Das's Ram and Ravana, Shakespear's Macbeth and Diago, Kalhan Pandit's Avantivarman and Raja Harsh, and Allama Iqbal's Jabril and Iblis; where Iblis taunts  Gabrial in the following words:

Mein Khatakta Hoon

Dil-i-Yazdan Mein Kanti

Too Fakat Allah Hu, Allah Hu,

Allah Hu.

(I am like a thorn in the flesh

of Almighty God,

And You? just repeating his

name again and again)

--Dialogue of Jabril and Iblis

Majboor celebrates the beauty of his motherland; even when he is under strain. He has a very long memory of his historical past and he remembers it through thick and thin. He does lament that whatever he cherishes is crashing and collapsing. But he draws strength from the fact that Kashmir has seen all this in the past and always outlived and outgrown its miseries. It is an amazing response to a situation where there is no visible hope. He does wail and weep but never like at the level of a squabbling, shrieking mobs. He encounters it at a higher plane and like french philosopher Rousseau he exclaims. "Everything coming from the hands of the creator is perfect and everything degenerates in the hands of man". It is a different attitude  than the stock submission of an oriental Sufi; It somehow draws its lessons from the dialectics of human history. Humans tend to take plunge in their quest to forge ahead. They have to cross rivers of blood and fire, but time, at the end of every catastrophe, sees them going a step higher at the ladder. Majboor's journey of pain creates such luminous allusions in his poetic odyssey:

"Dou hay Chokeh Naizan Man


Yih Qoudrath Rouph chi

Sonbrun Dani Daney"

(Wash daily your mind from

the limpid waters filtered from snow,

Nature has to labour for

collecting this silver speckly speck)

Tsu Naras Manzti Poshey

Kuilvavan Cratsh

(Go on planting flower bushes

even in the raging fires)

Vasan Shamas ootuy lout

lout malaik

Vanan Tim Gyan Zari eki

Khasih Lagith.

(In the evenings, angels themselves

bless my land,

They are always clad in the

golden robes of knowledge)

Chi Nagiy Nag Ati Aabukneh


Vudar Risham Te Yimnay

Poshi Bubrai

(Springs flow there at every corner,

Even Silken uplands grow

flowers like bubbles in a torrent)

It may be a device to escape from the agony of the present, but it is also a quest to recharge his batteries of hope and courage. He just cannot allow his dream to be inundated by the raging floods of hate and tyranny. Like his immediate predecessors Mehjoor, Majboor also sings in darkness around and exudes light;

"Khatum Gatsi Changyzkhani


Rozi Qaim Ta Abad

Shiraz Myon"

(The barbaric onslaught of Chengez Khan will come to an end;


And the dreamland of/poetic Vision-The Shiraz-will

flourish till eternity.)

Majboor's other mainstay takes in his wonderful poem -  “Paed Samyik” - It draws strength from the great historical Saga of Kashmir-right from its genesis. The landmass emerging from a drying Satisar, had the inherent make-up of a paradise. He is overtaken by a flowing melody as a rosepetal in the gushing waters of Vitasta. Vitasta which is born in the lap of mother Kashmir and which announces the independent character of its culture and its existence. Vitasta, which leaves Kashmir only after creating the Amrita Reservoir of Wullar. This translated self containment is in Kashmir's journey of faith and pattern of history as well. Mt. Kailasa is transformed into Pradiyman Pitha; Shiv Shankar takes the  shape of Budha, Nagrai a Naga prince becomes the darling of Himal, the princess of ruling Arya clan. These accords and concords emerge like lotus flowers from the oceans of blood. It is a journey of pain, but in William Cowper's words resulting in "pleasure and even ecstasy of fulfilment".

"Vanakh na Jafereo ledris


Chi Kashmir Kyazi Sairi

Dar Azabas,

(You Marigold flower, would you care to ask the the yellow rose;

Why Kashmiris of all hues are in such an agony?)

It is not a demagogue's figure of speech to bluff his listener. Majboor does not discriminate among Kashmiris, they are all his kin and fellow-travellers. He never bothers to know their names, neither cares who is circumcised and who is not. If one does not know him personally and if proper name is not revealed to him, it will be quite difficult for the reader to know whether the poet is a Pandit or a Muslim. Just a small ingredient can hint to  his class-his use of some very apt, eloquent and meaningful allusions in Sanskrit. These are married to the context in such a way that they simply cannot be replaced. Sanskrit has been the lingua franca of Kashmir's most glorious culture. It is not only AnandaVardhana and Kalhana, who epitomise its aesthetics and narrative excellence, even Zainul Abdin's Court historians took its chartered course; Lal Ded and Nund Reshi enjoy its liberating atmosphere and use it for their epoch-making renderings. In Majboor, it has an effortless beauty. He picked it up in the company of that great gypsy-Hermit-Rahul Sankrityan, who died as a convert to Sakhya Muni's world-conquering creed.

Majboor makes his historical journey through different vicissitudes of Kashmir's past - Nagas, Paisachas, Darads, Aryanas Kushans, Huns, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Khalsas, Jamwals etc. He talks of great figures and great spots in the journey. Anandvardhan, Kundalvana, Pravarsen, Lalitaditya, Martand, Nagarjuna, Harwan," Second Lalitaditya, Sultan Shahbuddin, Budshah, Zaindweep (He has partiality to him, because he founded Zanapur also, Majboor's native village), Shamsuddin Iraqi, the great Shah Hamadan, Lal Ded, Sheikhul Alam, Makhdoom Hamza, Akbar the great, Mehjoor etc. And then coming to his own times, he admires that tall person - the harbinger of modern revolution in Kashmir.

Bala vira Asi Manz Wooth

Ditun Naad;

Baniau Suiy Rahnuma

Hukmas Korun Vaad

(And a brave, a tall man, rose

from our own ranks,

He gave a clarion call,

He became the leader and

defied the command)

I consider both these poems extraordinary; quite long by the standards of Kashmiri language, yet just stops short of becoming classical Mahakavyas; although they are written and fashioned in that mould. Both are epoch-making and epical in nature and have only one precedent. Some operas of great and larger than life - Dina Nath Nadim who happened to be an elder contemporary and a guiding spirit of Majboor. Majboor's poems may lack the majesty and grandeur of Nadim's torrential flow, but he compensates by his poise and depth. Nadim had not to encounter the avalanche of blood and mayhem which was Majboor's destiny, therefore Majboor scores greatly. If he was not overwhelmed by the turbulence and came out of it as a proud Kashmiri, it must be ascribed to his innate goodness and to the courage of his convictions. On purely artistic plane, they evoke that tuneful tradition of Kashmir Masnavis - which are immersed in beautiful melodies in the form of Lyrics etc. to lessen the burden of their terrible content. Majboor's poems under reference can fully blossom on the stage and unveil their real potential. I hope that he will find an interpreter in the mould of a Kashmiri Shyam Benegal. The poems are pregnant with terrific situations, tuneful music, sharp-wited dialogue and other components necessary for a fantastic production. Such an opera can be staged, both at Geeta Bhavan in Jammu; Pamposh Colony in Delhi and Islamia College in Down Town Srinagar and receive accolades.

Majboor's versatility knows no bonds. He is a short story writer, a translator, a researcher with penetrating insights, a linguist of many parts and a cultural voyager. His translations of some tarangas of Kalhan Pandit's magnum opus, have already been published by the State Cultural Academy and is much more enjoyable than the lousy English text of Stein, if not as illustrative. He has completed the first ever Kashmiri translation of that semi-veda of Kashmir - The Nilmat Purana. It is the most ancient text of Kashmir's Cultural Anthropology. It is awaiting publication in Cultural Academy and when published, will add more colour and spice to many festivities in Kashmir. It will recreate their linguistic opulence folksy authenticity.

His monograph on Arnimal has established her on the firm pedestal of historic belief. It will no more be possible for sensation-mongers to question her historical presence and her sweet, if somewhat short repertoire of songs.

Many of Majboor's path-breaking research articles are concealed in the files of Kashmiri Shiraza and other journals. They cannot be allowed to hibernate there and must see the light of print medium. These will, in turn, through light upon many a dark alleys of Kashmir's history.

Arjun Dev Majboor has an aura of encyclopaedic dimensions about his work. As far as I know, contemporary Kashmir Literary scene can hardly boast of any other person of his versatility. But what is more noteworthy is that inspite of his accomplishments of pen, he is second to none in the mundane field of struggle of Kashmiri, its rights and dignity. He has been in the vanguard of this struggle since 1948. He is among the few pioneers who ushered in the renaissance in our language and literature. He took the torch to villages of Kashmir and also tried to build an ambience so important for literary exposition.

He has been active in almost every movement of substance which worked for Kashmiri.

He is now an octogenarian, and not in the best of health, but his passion to labour and deliver has not receded; hence his very fresh dalliance with the preparation and release of Kashmiri music albums at the highest level available in this field.

What I consider icing on the cake (and so apt in these Christmas days) is his inborn humility and unbelievable gentlemanliness. I have yet to meet a person who speaks ill of him.

Everybody cannot become everybody's friend, that is not the way we humans are made but his Chemistry with his contemporaries as well as the younger generation is just remarkable. He could never compromise his ideals, but still managed to smile. Even in this era of hate and bad blood, his sincerity seems transparent and transcends the barriers of mighty Pantsal. He is aging but still making friends, still writing, still working, still contributing and still inspiring. We have not had the grace to bestow a very deserving Sahitya Award on him but that does not detract anything from his glorious accomplishment, it only casts a shadow on the genuineness of that otherwise coveted award itself. Our all-time great Nadim would receive it only when he had started for his last journey and Urdu's Krishan Chander could never make it to the panel even.

Majboor Sahib is a living movement of the best Kashmiri Cultural synthesis can offer....Well, it is a melancholy thought that, given the present state of milieu, we may not see the like of him anymore. History, contrary to the cliche sometimes, refuses to repeat itself and takes vicarious pleasure in denial.

*(The author has remained Secretary, J&K Cultural Academy (1973-1993), Director Information, Director General Cultural and Cultural Advisor to Chief Minister. He has also served as a member of State Public Service Commission and Member Legislative Council (1999-2005). Mr MY Taing writes both in Kashmiri and Urdu. A well-known Critic and Researcher, he has eight books to his credit. He won Sahitya Academy award for his book “Mehjoor Shinasi”.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel




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