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Arjan Dev Majboor

by Trilokinath Raina 
Excerpts from: Waves

Arjan Dev Majboor (real name Arjan Nath Koul) of Zainapura in Pulwama District (b.1924) saw many vicissitudes in his early life. His calm exterior, which Moti Lal Saqi has called deceptive, belies the turmoil his heart has passed through. He has had a chequered career. Orphaned very early, his life was a courageous and determined struggle against want. Having to keep the kitchen fire alive when he matriculated, he worked for some time in a co-operative bank, then got a job in the court but the experience wasn't very encouraging. In desperation he left for Lahore, where he gained in two ways; he started learning Sanskrit, and meetings with Rahul Sankritayan gave him a knowledge of Marxism, and both these stood him in good stead. He appeared on the literary scene in a turbulent time when a new age was being born, an age which all the writers hailed as the promised millennium. The consequent change it fathered was visible in poetry not only in the mental attitude but also in form and techniques. The ghazal was being dropped and some western forms were ushered in. In fact it looked like Kashmiri literature was casting off the slough of old, ossified decadent traditions of thought and technique and acquiring a resurgence of life it had never known before. Not that great poets and writers never existed in the happy valley. In fact the history of our literature starts with a poet who has always remained and will perhaps ever remain unmatched for all time, i.e., Lal Ded. What I mean is that never before did the whole community of writers and all artists, collectively, have a rejuvenating bath at a new helicon, a new fountain of the muses. It is this atmosphere that Majboor found himself in and was led most powerfully into the vortex. True, from Rahul Sankritayan he had acquired a knowledge of how matter shapes mind, but a knowledge of dialectical materialism is not enough to make you a poet. In the new environment he found himself very powerfully influenced by the creators of the new age-Mahjoor, Nadim and the other writers of the new community of progressive writers, and he also plunged in. On his return from Lahore he worked in Prem Nath Bazaz's standard till it closed down and unemployment greeted him again till he equipped himself with a teaching degree and was absorbed in the Education Department.

But despite joining the Progressive movement in fact he also worked as an assistant editor of its journal Kwong Posh for some time-he never actually belonged to the movement as a committed progressive writer like Nadim, Roshan, Zutshi, etc. but was like most followers of the movement, drawn in but always outside the ring of political commitments, though his firm belief was that literature cannot be divorced from society. His involvement with the problem of the workers and the peasants was unquestionable and always remained, but not in the sloganeering manner. The sighs of the poor and the beauty of nature-forests, rivers, meadows, mountain peaks - are blended in his poems.

His poems, short stories and critical essays have been published in the various journals in Kashmir and outside. He has translated Kalidasa's Meghadootam into Kashmiri (Obra Shechh), published monographs on Krishna Razdan and Rahul Sankiritayan (Sahitya Akademi), to mention only the most notable of his compositions. He is not only a poet but also a seasoned scholar and writer who has a number of published material- books and critical articles- to his credit.

"The publication of Waves bears testimony to Majboor's serious concern as a scholarly poet for the projection of Kashmir' literary works across the globe. The present volume is a laudable effort specially to serve the objective of reaching a wider readership across the country and abroad. This gives an access to the cultural content of the original poems.” (A.N. Dhar). This is what any poet writing in a language with limited readership would invariably desire. But before focussing on the poems presented in this selection, it would be appropriate to have a look at all his poems from the day he wrote his first anthologized poem Shongaan Yeli Raat to the present day and how he has evolved as an artist during the last half century.

He has experimented with various forms, and emerged as an essentially nazam writer. And he is most certainly a nature poet. His deep rooted love for the sights and sounds of this Paradise on Earth (which bewitched Jahangir once and continues to leave lesser mortals too spellbound) is easily understood. I find it necessary to mention it right in the beginning to emphasise the fact that it forms the basic theme of whatever he wrote. It remains the backdrop even when he is talking about something else.

His first collection of poems Kalaam-e-Majboor was published in 1955. This was followed by Dashahaar in 1983, Dazavuny Kosam in 1987, Pady Samayik in 1993 and Tyol in 1995. His creative talent did not confine itself to the field of poetry alone but ranged form short stories to literary criticism, his most notable set of essays being Tehqeeq. However, at present we are concentrating on his evolution as a poet. It was a long journey from Kalam-e-Majboor (1955) to Dashahaar (1983), in which we find Majboor having matured as an artist and having developed a liking for the short poem, which the great poets like Nadim and Rahi had already inaugurated in Kashmir. You find in this collection, simplicity of ideas combined with technical dexterity. One of the significant poems in this series is Tamaashaa (presented as A Juggler's Trick in English translation in Waves). The juggler comes with the usual tabor and entertains the spectators with what is essentially an illusion. The poet wants to convey that life itself is an illusion, a grand show compeered by a master juggler.

The poems [in Waves] translated by Arvind Gigoo bear 'eye-catching and appropriate titles' and have been selected from the various publications of Majboor. Prof. A.N. Dhar says that "the translations capture both the essence and broad details of the original pieces. Happily the author of the poems and the translator complement each other. As a final fine product, Waves not only reflects the rich content of the originals, but also reproduces the free verse form of most Kashmiri lyrics."

Arjun Dev Majboor 

by M. K. Raina

Arjun Dev Majboor does not need any introduction in the world of literature. A writer of great repute, Majboor has a very good command over three languages Kashmiri, Sanskrit and Persian, and has also done research work in Dogri and some other languages of Jammu & Kashmir. As a senior poet, he commands instant respect from the litterateurs in these languages.

Arjun Dev Majboor was born in Zainapora village in Pulwama District in Kashmir in the year 1924. Having orphaned in the early stage of his life, he worked in a co-operative bank after passing his Matriculation. In due course of time, he got a job in the court which he did not continue for a long. He went to Lahore, where he started learning Sanskrit. On his return from Lahore, he worked with Prem Nath Bazaz for some time. He was subsequently employed in Education Department after he got a Degree in Teaching.

Arjun Dev Majboor was very much influenced by Kalidas, Galib and Nadim. He translated Kalidas’s Meghadootam into Kashmiri verse. His first collection of poems Kalaam-e-Majboor was published in the year 1955, followed by Dashahaar in 1983, Dazavuni Kosam in 1987, Padi Samyik in 1993 and Tyol in 1995. He also authored his most notable set of essays Tehqeeq. He has written a good number of short stories in Kashmiri, which have over the years been translated into various other Indian languages. Majboor has translated Nilamata Purana into Urdu, which is expected to be published by the J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages soon. He has also worked and written a lot on the Pre-historic Period of Kashmir and Kashmiri Culture, parts of which have already been published and more yet to be published.

Arjun Dev Majboor has authored research papers on Lala Lakshman, a well known Kashmiri humorist-poet (1892-1962 AD) and compiled a book on his works titled ‘Kuliyat-e-Lala Lakhman’, published by J&K Academy in 1982. Majboor has also to his credit, a research article on Arinimal. He has published monograph on Krishen Razdan.

‘WAVES’, A collection of Arjun Dev Majboor’s 30 poems, selected and translated into English by Prof. Arvind Gigoo, has opened a wide window on his works, thus taking him right across the country. This book won him an award from Poets Foundation, Calcutta, presented to him personally by Chief Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen of Calcutta High Court on 20 December 1999. According to Dr. B.K.Moza, this book brings out his deep rooted love for the beautiful valley of Kashmir, the land of his birth, where he sees his cultural roots. Dr. R.L.Bhat, a well known reviewer and columnist says, “Had WAVES not appeared, non-Kashmiri people in Tagore’s land might never have tasted the rich flavors, Majboor has been brewing.” Majboor won the All India Radio Award in National Songs Competition, and also the Best Book Award from the J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages in 1993 for his book ‘Padi Samyik’. 

Arjun Dev Majboor was conferred with the Rashtra Bhasha Samaan by Rashtra Bhasha Samiti, Jammu in the year 2005 for his contribution to Hindi language. He has been honoured with the Saraswati Award by the J&K Vichar Manch in 2005 for his contribution to Kashmiri literature, and also with the Vitasta Award by Naagraad, Jammu. 

What kind of a love Majboor has for the place of his birth, is evident from his writings. Dr Manzoor Fazili has this to say, “The political upsurge and violence in the Valley forced him to leave Kashmir in 1990. Since then he feels alienated. He is conscious of separation from his native village and native place .….. The soul of the poet tumults in such a manner that he turns majboor (helpless) and is sandwiched between the love of his native land and its separation. He aches, has agonies and woes that his personality is shattered.” An Album depicting Majboor’s outpouring on the ethos of Kashmir is shortly being released in Kashmir.

It is very difficult to sum up the character of Majboor as a writer, especially as a poet. But Maharaj Krishan Santoshi’s brief assessment tells a lot about the poet: “Arjun Dev Majboor is a restless soul, who always wants to come out with something. Although he is septuagenarian, yet old age has not touched his spirits. He is as such, the most diligent poet of Kashmiri”. Shri T.N.Koul adds, “Arjun Dev Majboor’s poetry is marked by deftness of _expression, deep introspection, progressive outlook and mature treatment. His works constitute a muffled outcry of his bruised heart against the disappearance of old values and the disequilibrium of modern life”.

Arjun Dev Majboor is presently in exile, having been hounded out of Kashmir along with his brethren because of militancy, craving to return to his native land, once adored as the Land of Rishis.

Arjun Dev Majboor
C/o Desh Rattan
IPO, District Industries Centre,
Exhibition Grounds,
Tawi Bridge, 
Jammu 180 001.

Books by Arjan Dev Majboor

  • Kalaam-e-Majboor

  • Aman Ta Zindagi

  • Obra Shechh (Kashmiri translation of Kalidas' Meghdootam)

  • Leaves of Chinar (English translation of Kashmir poems by R.K.Bharti)

  • Kulyat Lala Lakhman

  • Dushahaar

  • Dazavuny Kosam

  • Krishna Razdan

  • Rahul Sankrityayan

  • Paey Samayik

  • Urdu Kashmiri Reader

  • Kath Te Vath

  • Tyol

  • Tehqeeq

Kashmiri Poets










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