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The Role of Lucknow Kashmiri Pandits

by Dr. RK Tamiri

Title: Lucknow Ke Kashmiri Pandit.

Author: Dr. B.N. Sharga

Published by: Dr. Vasudev Sharan Agarwal, Sanskriti Sansthan, 13 Shivaji Marg, Lucknow.

Price: Rs. 50/-

Book CoverDiversity of a region is its beauty. It enriches the cultural tapestry of the place and fosters toleration. Lucknow, a historic city, has been home to many communities which came from afar and made it their permanent abode. Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit families, gifted with mastery over Persian and excellence in soldiery, settled here during the past two and a half centuries. No wonder, Lucknow emerged as the biggest diaspora of Kashmiri Pandits. The immense contribution made by these people in all walks of life, be it administration, judiciary, education, literature, culture etc., makes history of Lucknow incomplete without them.

Prof. Shailendra Nath Kapur, who teaches Ancient History at Lucknow University, has embarked on an ambitious project to sensitise Lucknow people to their pluralistic heritage. Through a series of publications on the different facets of the city, Dr. Kapur has introduced a new genre in popular historiography. The first publication deliberated on the contribution of 'Banga (Bengali) Samaj of Lucknow'. The second one dealt with the 'Lucknow mohallas and their glory," Dr. BN Shargas 'Lucknow Ke Kashmiri Pandit', the publication under review, is the third in the series. Its beautifully laid cover carries the picture of Bada Shivala, the oldest shrine of Lucknow Kashmiri Pandits. This shrine, built by Pt. Zind Ram Tankha in 1780, is located at Rani Katra, Lucknow.

Dr. BN Sharga is a distinguished scion of one of those Pandit families who made Lucknow their home. Though age has taken toll of his health, yet he remains agile to pursue the forbidden terrain - digging out the buried past of the Pandit families, from their roots in Kashmir to the places of their new settlement. Dr. Sharga's task has not been easy. Despite the ethnic pride which many of these old Pandit families display they are reluctant to get recorded the history of their clan. They do not come forward with clan details, the rare photographs and the documents which they have preserved over decades. Dr. Sharga has no institutional support to carry on such an arduous endeavour. At times, he feels bitter over the stark indifference of his fellow Kashmiris. Yet it does not dampen his enthusiasm. As a social historian Dr. Sharga may at times be short in methodology but his unique quality i.e. passion for history makes him an outstanding researcher. Not many Kashmiri Pandits can rival his immense contribution to Pandits' social history.

A monograph puts many limitations on the author. Dr. Sharga has done his job well to provide an excellent resume of history of Lucknow Kashmiri Pandits. It would be enough stimulus for more ambitious researchers to bring out a comprehensive volume on this subject.

Kashmiri Pandits started entering Avadh at a time when this province of Mughal empire had its capital at Bangla, which subsequently attained fame as Faizabad. During Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula's time Lucknow had remained his capital for some time. This brought some of the Kashmiri Pandits serving in Royal Army to Lucknow. They included Daya Ram Mattoo, Atma Ram Kitchlu, Chaturbuj Ganju, Daya Ram etc. Since the Royal Cavalry used to be stationed near Rani Katra, these Kashmiri Pandits started living at Rani Katra mohalla.

In 1775, the 4th Nawab-Asaf-ul-Daula shifted capital to Lucknow from Faizibad. Majority of Kashmiri Pandit families came to Lucknow during his reign. Since they formed a sizeable group and settled at a place, living together there as a community, the place came to be called Kashmiri Mohalla. Many of the havelis, built around 1775-1780, still stand, and bear distinct influence of Mughal/Iranian architecture. In those times Purdah system was in vogue among Pandit ladies. This too influenced the architecture. All these havelis were interconnected with one another to allow free movement of Pandit ladies through blind alleys, without the need to step outside their havelis. To keep alive the Kashmiri ambience in course of time these Pandits brought their family Purohits and cooks as well. Dr Sharga has served useful information on them.

Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula was a munificent patron. This attracted many Pandits to come directly from Kashmir to Lucknow. Pt. Bishan Nath Taimni (Kaul), a rich shawl trader from Sopore, came to Lucknow during his rule. He built a big haveli to run his flourishing trade. It came to be known as Reshamwali Kothi, and was located at Chauptiyon. Distinguished members of Taimni clan include Gulab Rai, Ganga Ram, Shri Ram, Kedar Nath, Kuldeep Prakash, Iqbal Nath, Jagdish Prakash. Shri Jagdeep Narain has not only excelled in soldiery Taimni from where he retired as Major General but is also an excellent scholar. He has one of the finest libraries and takes deep pride in his ethnic identity. The Taimni clan has produced as many as 11 IAS officers.

Nawab Asaf-ud-Dila appointed Kashmiri Pandits to high posts. Pt. Gauri Shankar Kochak was put incharge of Royal mint at Chauptiyon. Security and management of Jagir of Royal Queen Shamsul Nisa was entrusted to Shargas - Laxmi Narain Kaul and Niranjan Nath Kaul. These Sharga members served in Royal Cavalry and distinguished themselves in military skill, Chivarly and courage. Pt. Dila Ram Madan was a senior official in Asaf-ud-Daula's army. His son Pt. Dina Nath Madan later served as Finance Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Bhaskar Ram Tickoo was a wealthy shawl merchant in Lucknow. His nephew Dewan Nand Ram Tikoo subsequently became ruler of Kabul. Pt. Bhola Nath Kao was a high official in the reign of Asaf-ud-Daula. Such was his prestige that Nawab would himself visit Kao's Kashmiri mohalla residence to meet him. Bhola Nath's descendant Pt. Rameshwar Nath Kao became a legendary figure in national security in independent India.

Dr. BN Sharga has meticulously documented the story of Kashmiri Pandits who reached good positions in administration during the Nawabi rule. He claims that prestige enjoyed by Kashmiri Pandits was due to their fair complexion and resemblance in physique to members of Iranian nobility. A rough estimate puts the number of emigre Kashmiri Pandit families around this period of one thousand. They lived in various mohallas - Kashmiri Mohalla, Katra Bijan Beg, Toph Darwaza, Chaupatian, Rani Katra, Javai Tola etc.

A Pandit family - 'Gogai' came to settle in Lucknow from Gwalior. Pt. Shamboo Nath Pandit, the first Indian to be appointed as Judge hailed from this Gogai clan. Pt. Tika Ram Dar had his own printing press during the times of Nawabi rule. In Wajid Ali Shah's time royal proclamations and other books used to be printed here. Tika Ram remained loyal to Wajid Ali Shah, even when Britishers put the Nawab under house-arrest in Calcutta. He ran an underground campaign against the British, but had to migrate to Benaras subsequently.

The Nawabi era (1775-1856) was a period when Persian and Urdu culture reached its Zenith. There was hardly any Kashmiri Pandit family which did not have one or two poets. Since many wrote compositions anonymously, their names have not come down to us. Prominent among the poets of this period were Pt. Daya Shankar Kaul 'Naseem'. He was trained by  the greatest poet of the time - Kh. Haider Ali 'Atish'. During Asaf-ud-Daula's reign Firangi Mahal emerged as a centre of Islamic and Persian-Arabic learning. Pt. Beni Ram Mubai, a scholar of repute in Persian and Arabic, taught languages in this centre.

As a true researcher Dr. Sharga does not feel shy in projecting the dark side of his community members. Some Kashmiri Pandit officials had not only imbibed good nawabi culture but also fell on bad ways. They began frequenting Kothas. Two of them eloped with women from the Royal harem. Mehtab Rai Gurtu ran away to Calcutta, while Chaturbuj fled to Kabul.

British Rule:

In 1857 Avadh became part of British India. Kashmiri Pandits were among the first to take to study of English language and modern education. This opened up vast opportunities for them in the new administration. Any student who came out of the portals of canning college would get appointed as Deputy Collector, Munsif or sub-judge. The first Land settlement of Lucknow was carried out by the British soon after they took over Lucknow. Pt. Daya Nidhan Ganjoo was appointed as first Tehsildar. Kashmiri Pandits were quite upright. Pt. Har Sahay Bahadur was sub-judge in Farukhabad in 1878. One morning he had gone to see his superior judge, Saunders at his residence. The latter rebuked him for coming so early. Bahadur returned the compliment by giving him 3-4 slaps on his face. The sub-judge was dismissed by Lt. Governor. Bahadur filed a case against the government and went to Kashmir where Maharaja Pratap Singh made him a judge. Bahadur took the case to London Privy Council and won it. He also claimed damages. Pt. Jagat Narain Mulla resigned from council of ministers IN protest against Jallian Walla Bagh massacre.

Many Kashmiri Pandits joined the national movement against the British. Dr. Atal was a member of Kotnis Medical Mission to China. Prithvi Nath Chakbast was a disciple of Gandhi, while Triloki Nath Chakbast was closer to Subash Bose.

In the field of culture Pt. Shiv Narain Bahar took lead by establishing the first club 'Jalsa-e-Tehzeeb'. He also launched 'Mursala-e-Kashmir' journal. Lucknow Kashmiri Pandits produced outstanding poets/men of literature - Ratan Nath Sarshar, Daya Shankar Kaul Naseem, Brij Narain Chakbast, Tribhuvan Nath Hijr. They attained global fame. Brij Krishan Kaul Bekhabar brought out two volume anthology on Kashmiri Pandit poets in Persian-Bahar-i-Gulshan Kashmir, which was published by Jagmohan Nath Raina Shauk and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. Rajnath Ragu, Ramchandra Narain, Yashodra Katju and Asha Tiku excelled in film world.

In medicine Dr. Shyam Nath Chak, who graduated from King George Medical College, Lucknow, broke records of all time. He was first cardiologist of India. The other well known medical practitioners from among Pandit community were - Dr. Tej Narain Bahadur and Dr. Hari Har Nath Hakku. Dr. Kishen Lal Nehru was Medical Supdt. of Lucknow Medical College.

Dr. Sharga has profiled the contribution of Lucknow Pandits after 1947.  This makes 'Lucknow Ke Kashmiri Pandit' a basic source material for any serious study of history of Kashmiri Pandits.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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