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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

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Shrivara

by Professor K. N. Dhar

Without beating about the bush, Shrivara straightway adduces two reasons for taking up the thread of chronicle-writing from Jona Raja. Firstly, be writes "I have taken this assignment simply to complete the unfinished History of Kings written by Jona Raja, whose disciple I am". At the same time he, in all humility, confesses his diffidence, to reach up to his guru's heights. Secondly, he acknowledges the fillial affection which Sultan Zain-ul-abdin nourished for him and to repay his debt towards him elected to write history, so that posterity does not forget him altogether. He pays back what he owed to the Sultan, not in terms of gold which is perishable, but in words throbbing with his gratitude for him, imperishable of cours. No better deal than this could be imagined. He made his name immortal while his treasures and regal splendour lie buried in the womb of past. Shrivara makes the Sultan live in the present even though belonging to the days of yore.

As has been indicated earlier Jona Raja could not write the account of penultimate eleven years of Budshah's reign. He was snatched away by the icy hands of death. So in all sincerity Shrivara records that Jona Raja mounted the funeral pyre in the 35th year of the local calendar which works at 1457 A.D. So, the commencement of his treatise can be taken safely from this year, and he also could complete the account of Kashmir Sultans upto the year 1486 A.D. only, much against his wishes. Therefore, Shrivara records the events of more or less 29 years as an eye witness. Even though he has veneration for his Guru Jona Raja, yet he has arranged his chronicle on the pattern used by Kalhana; he alone seems to be his ideal in this field. Jona Raja has given verses serially without breaking these into sections or subsections. Shrivara has revived the "Taranga" form of dividing history into cantos. He has also indicated the subjects he has treated in a particular canto at the end of each. With this astute wakefulness on his part, he got rid of the interpolations whatsoever. Beginning the History of Kashmiri Sultans with the last eleven years of Budshah he has ended it with the Sultan Fatehshah's accession to the throne. In between these he has treated profusely Haider Shah, Hassan Shah and Mohammad Shah - a span of Kashmir History covering nearly 29 years. In the colophon of his last canto he only says that "This canto has ended", but does not indicate that Zaina Tarangini, as a whole, has come to an end. This clearly establishes that he was also not destined to complete whole of the project. His untimely death must have intervened to leave it incomplete like his guru Jona Raja. He has captioned his "River of Kings" as Zaina Tarangini directly as well as at end of each canto, which proves beyond any doubt that his forte was to describe the reign of Budshah only in the first instance. Budshah's successors have been described only to preserve the continuity of the Sultan. At that time many compositions were named after the Sultan -N oth Soma composed "Zainacharita", Yodha Bhatta : "Zaina Prakash" and Bhatta Avtar : "Zaina Vilasa". Shrivara also took after the fashion of the time; hence instead of christening his chronicle as Raja Tarangini, he gave it the title "Zaina Tarangini". Shrivara while unfolding the events of reign of the Sultan clearly mentioned that he would describe the rule of the king along with his son - presumably Haji. Perhaps this insertion proves that towards the closing year of his reign Zainul-ab-Din had become ineffective and tbe power was auctually concentrated in the hands of his sons; so this historian could not afford to ignore the authority of the son while describing the reign of his father. Furthermore, Shrivara spares us the trouble of making unnecessary conjectures in this behalf by recording that the Sultan was so much scared of his other sons that he kept Haji always with himself, perhaps as a veritable shield for any surprise attack on him. His tactics were to play one brother against the other, so that he would himself remain unscathed and steer safe between the two. Shrivara has described the reign of Badshah in a more detailed manner than his predecessor Jona Raja. While Jona Raja has dispensed with the first 39 years of the rule of the Sultan in 267 verses, Shrivara has treated a far less span of years in 786 verses.

Two unforeseen natural calamities befell Kashmiris in those years. The first was the unprecedented rains in Chet i. e. March and April. Shrivara even says that dust did pour down from the sky which obstructed the prospects of rice-sowing with tbe result that food shortage loomed large before the denizens of this land of plenty. Perhaps to accentuate the conditions of famine snow fall was unexpectedly witnessed in the month of Maghar i.e. October. The crops already hit by unprecedented rains earlier, were engulfed by early snow. Whatever food could be salvaged from the fields was turned to dust before ripening. The cycle of famine was thus complete. Shrivara gives a vivid, yet pathetic, description of people tormented by hunger. The thieves breaking into houses at night 1eft gold, silver and money untouched, but ransacked every utensil for laying hands on food. The people were forced to eat vegetables, roots and fruits. When these got exhaugted tho people did not spare the leaves of the trees, more especially the "Bandhujiva" (sustainer of the kind literally, actually the name of the sun-flower plant). One 'khari' of paddy which used to sell at three hundred dinars was now available at fifteen hundred dinars and that also with much difficulty.

The Sultan rose upto this misfortune without losing his nerve. He devised many means to ameliorate the sufferings of his people. He purchased paddy at a very high cost, even imported it and gave it to people at subsidised rates. The black marketeer were brought to book and artificial scarcity created by these was reduced to a large extent. He also opened free 'langars' for the most poor section of his people. To crown all, he opened avenues of work for people, so that they could earn wages and thus keep wolf out of the door. Earth-work camps were installed; edible oil was got extracted from the walnuts and other kinds of greases from the pines and otthr forest trees. Above all he enforced moratorium on debts - the agencies of lending and borrowing were abolished.

Zainul-ab-Din had also to contend with the runaway habits of his son Adam Khan who even tried to snatch the throne from the Sultan. Contequently the King had to bring him to bay at Pallashila, near Shopian where a fierce fight took place between the father and the son. Adam Khan was repentent, hence his life was spared by the orders of the Sultan. Conspiracies and counter-conspiracies in his court were as much responsible for this rebellious character of Adam Khan. The Sultan returned to his capital and erected a pyramid of the skulls of Adam Khan's soldiers, put to sword in his war. This was the reason why the Sultan annoinated Haji Khan as the heir-apparent. Adam Khan went into self-exile. On the heels of the earlier flood and consequent famine in the thirty sixth year of the reign of the Sultan, i.e. in 1460 A.D., orily after two years, this scourage repeated itself. Another bolt from tbe blue made the conditions in Kashmir far more worse. All the rivers, namely Vitasta, Ladri, Veshav, Sindh and Kuta Kol were in spate due to torrential rains and vied witheach other in recording the highest water-level. The king, in order to see for himself the ravage wrought by this flood, toured the districts submerged under water in a boat. He felt grieved to see the paddy under water, foreboding shortage of cereals. At last the swaying waves found respite at Sonawari. Persian historians have not described this second flood at all. Since Shrivara's evidence is of contemporary importance, hence his testimony to this effect cannot be discredited.

Fireworks were also introduced in Kashmir in the reign of Budshah. Shrivara has profusely described the different varieties of these made by Kashmiri artisans, e. g. the arrows, the discs, the sheets, the tubes tied with string and waved in the air, the petal-shedding flowers, the wavy-serpents etc. The mastermind behind all these inventions was one "Habib". Salt-petre and sulphur were also harnessed into making guns and cannons. For the first time in the history of Kashmir such missiles were invented and used. Shrivara even gives the date of this marvellous invention, which is 1465 A. D. He further says that it was called "Top" in Muslim language and "Kanda" in popular dialect. The Sultan had also maintained a river-army, more or less a navy in miniature. This wing of the arm was provided boats for the mobility of soldiers, on water ways where the floats would take place, Shrivara has penned down that one "Deva" by name was the chief of this force.

The Sultan was also very receptive to fine arts. He was not only a gifted singer (vocalist as well as instrumentalist) himself, but also showered limitless bounties on talented singers. The musical instrument "Rabab" is actually indigenous. Out of ignorance some Persian historians have asserted that it was imported here from Iran. Shrivara's contemporary evidence in this behalf cannot be contradicted. He says "The invention of this musical instrument Rabab Behlol and other Vocalists were munificently rewarded by the King."

The Sultan was torn with grief towards the cloging years of his life. The sole cause for his dismay, which eventually broke his health was the fued between his sons. His eldest son Adam Khan did not refrain from waging war against his father. The King died with a broken heart on Friday, the twelfth of Jeth, in the year 1527 Bikrimi (1470 A. D.), having ruled for fifty-two years. In the words of Shrivara - "On that day the houses were devoid of smoke, as no cooking was done in the city. The people became life-less and speechless with grief on being bereaved of their master."

He was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard (Mazari-Salatin) near the grave of his father Sikandar. A gravestone glittering like transparent crystal was erected there with an epitaph inscribed on it. However this stone is missing at present in the Mazari-Salatin. If it were discovered, the exact date of the Sultan's demise could be found out without any brain-racking whatsoever.

In view of the strife amongst his sons, his advisers had suggested to the Sultan that he should name his heir - apparent in his life time. Adam Khan had already revolted against his father and was living at Jammu with his maternal uncle. The youngest Behram was not also looked upon kindly by his father, the Sultan. Even though he (the Sultan) had a soft corner for Haji Khan, the second son, yet he refrained from nominating him as his successor. He simply said, "I will not confer my kingdom on any one of my sons during my life-time. He, who is strongst amongst them all, will definitely get the throne after I am no more."

So, when Budshah breathed his last, Haji Khan his second son ascended the throne on the first day of dark fortnight of Jetha in 1470 A.D., but was destined to reign only for one year and ten months. Adam Khan the eldest was in self-exile and the youngest Behram Khan was paid the price of 'Nagam-jager' for renouncing his claim to the throne. Moreover, the Kuchhais, a local clan were in fovour of Haji Khan. All these causes contributed to his coming to power. He assumed the name of Haider Shah as sultan and issued his royal-seal under this very name. He was annointed as the king, by the Royal Treasurer, Hassan Kuchbai with due religious formalities. Herein it may be said without any fear of contradiction that Sultan Haider Shah ordered the performance of age-old Hindu rites of "Raja-Tilak" along with the Muslim ceremonies pertinent to the assumption of kingship. On that auspicious day whole of "Sikandar - puri" (present Nowshehra), near Srinagar was profusely illuminated.

His first act as the Sultan was to confer the Jagir of Nagam "of fertile soil" upon his younger brother Behram Khan. He also gave away Ikshika (Pachhagom near Damodar udar) and Kamraz to his son Hassan and proclaimed him as his heir-apparent. The rulers of Rajori and Indus (Sindhu) who had come to take part in his coronation were honoured by the Sultan.

An extraordinary event during his reign has besmeared the reputation of tolerance built brick by brick by his father Budshah. The Sultan was actually a nincompoop and given to licentious addiction to wine and women. One barber, a neo-convert "Purna" by name earned his confidence and also acted as his pimp and tout. This barber lost his head by thc unbelievable protection he received from the Sultan, for reasons obvious, and began to unleash a reign of terror on the people, especilly the Hindus. The limbs of offenders were got amputated on a light excuse. Being suffocated by such tyranny the Hindus gave expression to their pent-up feelings by damaging the "Khanqah" of the Sayid. The Muslim subjects of the Sultan being exasperated by this sacrilege prompted him to teach a lesson to tho Hindu subjects by inflicting most inhuman atrocities on them. In this context Shrivara has recorded: "The Sultan, torn to the quicks by this, got the hands and noses of many Hindus amputated. He even ordered the demolition of the idol at the Bahu-Khatkeshwara, the presiding Bhairva of the City."

Intensity of such atrocities compelled many Hindus to foresake their own faith and dress, and declare that they were not Bhattas. In this connection it may be safely asserted that 'Nabatu', the colloquial phrase in Kashmiri even current today, denoting total annihilation of Bhattas has its origin in 'Na Bhatta Aham' (I am not a Bhatta). This is the second 'Nabatu" in the series on records, the first being in the reign of Sikandar. Adam Khan, the eldest son of Budshah and virtually having an undisputed title to the throne, thought this time most propitious to invade Kashmir and snatch away kingship from his brother Haider Khan. He was not far from wrong in choosing this time for his attack. The king was oblivious to his duties and a sizable portion of his subjects was disgruntled. About the law and order situation prevailing at that time in Kashmir, Shrivara has remarked- "The thieves, the jackals, the cruel, the adulterors, the crimnals and the deceitful roamed about during the day even." Adam Khan wanted to invade Kashmir through Poonch. In the meanwhile the Sultan smelling the perfidy and colloboration of Hassan Kuchhi (who had anointed him as the Sultan) with Adam Khan, got him assasinated. On hearing this Adam Khan retreated to Jammu. But he was not destined to live long. While fighting on the side of Manikya Deva of Jammu, his maternal uncle, against the Moguls, Adam Khan was killed. Haider Khan got his dead body to Srinagar and he was buried beside his mother at Suhyar, on the bank of Jhelum between Ali Kadal and Nawa Kadal.

The Sultan had become so week-minded and suspicious that he did not accord befitting reception even to his son Hassan returning from his victorious military expedition outside Kashmir. His Nero-like disposition has been graphically delineated by Shrivara when the Lakshimpur, a town founded by Shahabud Din (at the foot of Hari Parbat), was in flames and the five annexes of his own residence ( as the prince ) were burning the Sultan ascended the roof of his palace and felt so much jubiliant (on seeing the ravages of fire) that he began to indulge in drinking there and then." While attending a drinking party in his lotus-palace, his foot slipped on the marble floor. He fell down and his nose began to bleed profusely. He swooned into a coma from which he never recovered afterwards. He breathed his last in the month of Baisakh on Basant Panchmi in 1472 A.D. At that time the Royal power was swinging between his uncle Behram Khan and the prince Hassan, like a person of suspicious disposition not knowing on whom to depend."

Shrivara has clearly indicated that a knotty problem of succession to Haidar Shah confronted the courtiers when the Sultan died. One Ahmed Yatu (whom Shrivara calls as "Ayukta" or the Commissar), after having consultations with the nobles offered the crown to Behram Khan, the youngest son of Budshah on one condition that he would declare Prince Hassan as his heir-apparent. He did not agree to this. Ahmed Yatu, with the consent of the ministers, thought it more expedient to confer sultanate on inexperienced Hassan than on turbulent and haughty Behram. The learned historians of this period, Dr. Parmu, Dr. Mohibul Hassan. Dr. Kapur have applied the axe there and have erroneonsly inferred that Prince Hassan got the throne without any murmur from Behram Khan. The actual facts are that Behram Khan did collect the forces loyal to him when the negotiations with Ahmed Yatu broke down. Skirmishes did take place, but the roval guards under the command of Abhimanyu thwarted the plans of Behram Khan. Moreover, Shrivara has recorded unambiguously that when Prince Hassan was informed that the city was cleared off of the enemies and he himself was safe and secure, he ordered the coffin of his father to be taken to the ancestral grave-yard. About Hassan's contender for power (Behram Khan) Shrivara goes on to say, "On hearing about the exploits of his nephew (Prince Hassan) and the very low morale of his own forces, Behram Khan left Kashmir along with his son." The chronicler has implicitly narrated that Behram Khan wanted to usurp the throne through force, but Prince Hassan with his bravery over - whelmed his (Behram's) army which ultimately got depressed. No other course was lelt to Behram but to flee the country of his birth like his eldest brother Adam. He took his son with, so that he would escape the usual reprisal. If we care to read between the lines about the mention of burial of Haider Khan by Shrivara, the natural inference would be that the burial was delayed because of the uncertain conditions in the city. There must have been street fights between the adherents of Behram and admirers of Hassan. That is also the reason that the Prince had to postpone his coronation by sixteen days. The culmination of this internecine fued we find later, at the very outset of Hassan Shah's rule. Only when calm was restored in the city and it was declared safe for the royal cortege to move to the ancestral burial-ground, Prince Hassan accompanied the coffin of his father to the grave-yard and laid to rest his father Haider Shah towards the feet of his parent Budshah at Mazari Salatin. Everybody present at the funeral threw a handful of earth over his grave. When it got filled up with earth a grave stone higher in the middle was raised on it with the epitaph that "the Sultan was relentless in war." With all his defects, as enumerated earlier, Haider Shah was a great lover of music and fine arts. He composed poetry in Persian and also in the "Language of Hindustan" i.e. (doubtlessly) Hindi. He was also very adept in flute - playing and was considered a past- master in this art. The rabab - players like Bahlol and others were generously rewarded by him. The disciple of Khwaja Abdul Qadir Mulla Daud taught him to play on Veena.

Before concluding we may refer to some points on general information as narrated by Shrivara. Due to excessive use of liquor here in Kashmir, or the decline in the growth of grapes, wine was extracted from suger-beet for the first time here. This "Fairy land of Grapes", so dear to Kalhana and Bilhana, had now declared its bankrupcy in producing this sweet luscious fruit any more.

Shrivara also for the first time gives the synonym of Vitasta as Jhelum. Till his time we nowhere find this notice of Jhelum in Sanskrit chronicles.

The Sultan though a chronic addict would sometimes pass off nights in vigil listening to the Puranas and other scriptures (of Hindus) laying down the guidelines for salvation. He felt very much impressed by these. Perhaps this was the sole reason which prompted the Sultan to entrust his son, Prince Hassan to Shrivara for his all round upbringing. Shrivara would narrate the tales from Brhat Katha to him. Shrivara has for the first time made mention of the Dal Lake, which name persists even today. Prior to him this lake was known by the name of "Sureshwari Sara." He also refers to the floating gardens on its surface and the twin 'lankas' (islands) of 'Ropa' and 'Sona' there. He writes "spread over twelve miles this Dal Lake has for its constant companion the Hari Parvat which in the hope of reaping virtuous reward always drenches itself with its holy water - (is reflected in its water always). According to Shrivara the bank of Dal Lake was a hub of cultural and social life of Kashmiris at that time. There, on its bank, were the places of pilgrimage, monastries, palaces, hostels for students and the pennance-groves so more sanctified than Varanasi." Likewise he has used the epithet "Ullol" for "Mahapadmasar" - the name of the Wular Lake then. One glaring fact comes to surface while going through the reigns of Budshah and his son Haider Shah: that is the ascendancy of Sayeds. In a sense this clan, which got power firstly through the magnetic personalities of Syed Ali Hamdani and his son Syed Mohammed and also through matrimonial alliances with the reigning kings, can be safely called non-Kashmiri. They are supposed to be the direct descendants of Prophet Mohammed. Budshah offered his daughter to Syed Nissar and made him the governor of one of the provinces, probably Beerwah, as it is known now. Budshah had even himself married Bodha Khatoon, a Sayed. He also got a Sayed spouse for his son Prince Haibat. Sultan Haider Shah married his son Hassan to a Sayed girl, daughter of Miyan Hassan. In this way, the three Sultans - Budshah, Haidershah and Hassan Shah, the grandfather the father and the son, had Sayed queens. Therefore, the Sayeds had ample opportunities to come to power over and above the heads of the local factions of Maliks, Magreys, Kuchhais and Yatus. The 'History of Sultans' heretofore is actually a continuous strife between these clans to capture power. At times the helpless Sultan had to surrender to the chief of the victorious faction and appoint him as his Prime Minister.

The Sayeds, commanding respect in the 'harem' got intoxicated by the power they enjoyed with the Sultans and did not behave well and had to be exiled from Kashmir many a time.

Source: Glimpses of Kashmiri Culture 

 

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