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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Suraj Tiku-Evolution of an Artist

By Dr. R.K. Tamiri

Suraj Narain Tiku  was a master painter-artist, a creative set-designer and a talented actor. This outstanding talent and his great personal qualities made him a legend in his life time. Suraj lived in different times when commercialism in art and theatre was still a taboo. He abhorred cheap publicity. To him art was more important than its creator. Tiku did not have godfathers either. Had an opportunity come his way he would have emerged as an artist of national fame in all genres he pursued.

Suraj Tiku with Trilok Koul

Suraj Tiku with Trilok Koul

Suraj Tiku was born on 14th June, 1929 to Pt. Govind Ram and Mrs. Imberzali. He had humble origins and an unfortunate childhood. He was still a toddler when his father died. The prevailing joint family ethos and the affectionate care of his uncles helped Suraj to grow up to adolescence without being burdened by feelings of insecurity. However, the economic hardship the family faced did not allow Suraj the luxury of pursuing higher education.

Tikus originally lived in Drabiyar locality of Habbakadal in Srinagar city. According to family sources, it was Pt. Govind Ram who took the decision to shift to Sheelteng, Babapora on the other side of Habbakadal bridge. Suraj's grandfather, Pt. Kailash Ram Tiku had three sons--Govind Ram, Shridhar Joo (b.1914), Madhav Lal (b.1916). Of the three brothers Govind Ram was the eldest. Pt. Kailash Ram's daughter Bonamal was married to Nanak Chand Gurtu. Pt. Govind Ram's only daughter Arundati is married to Pt. Radhakrishan Raina of Dalhasanyar locality, near Drabiyar.

Pt. Govind Ram had his own business. He ran a paddy-shelling mill. The other two brothers were employed in the State government. Pt. Shridhar Joo was an Instructor in crafts. After passing 8th standard he had gone for diploma in crafts at Amar Singh Technical Institute. A man of great taste Pt. Shridhar Joo was quite affectionate to the children of his extended family. He loved to take them on study and entertainment tours to Mughal Gardens, Museum or when some high dignitary visited Srinagar.

Suraj Tiku in his studio making a portrait of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Suraj Tiku in his studio making a portrait of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

Pt. Madhav Lal had read upto F.A. (12th Class) and served in State Cooperatives Department. Even as a student of SP College Madhav had excelled in theatre activities. Later, when he joined regular theatre Madhav was to emerge as one of the best actors produced by Kashmir in 20th Century. He was a good adaptor and had dubbed and directed Shanta Ram's Jahez in Kashmiri very well. Madhav, a good Director was also gifted with a wonderful voice as was required in Parsi theatre. Older generations who were witness to Madhav Lal's sterling performances in Samaj Sudhar Samiti plays recall his great role as Vishwamitr in a mythological play.


Suraj had his primary schooling from the local Babapora Govt. School, the alma mater of many eminent personalities. He later joined MP High School, Dilawar Khan, passing Matriculation in 1945. Tiku enrolled subsequently at the local prestigious Amar Singh Technical Institute to obtain Diploma in Arts. His teachers at the Institute were his uncle Pt. Shridhar Joo, Pt. Shivji Raina, Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan, the legendary set-designer and a pioneer in the field of theatre direction in Kashmir. Pt. Shivji Raina was a great artist in the field of painting. His students say that Raina was an artist even in his dealings with the students and other people. His two sons Mohan and Jawahar emerged as good artists, while his third son Omkar excelled in music.

Hoshiarpur Years

After successful completion of Diploma unemployment haunted Suraj. He left for Hoshiarpur to try his luck as a Drawing teacher. It was here he struck good friendship with another Kashmiri, Pt. Shyam Nath Pandita of Khoja Bagh, Baramulla. Pandita, a successful teacher in his later years, was serving in Kamahi Devi High School at Hoshiarpur. At the request of the Principal of this school, Sh. Ram Lal Suraj made a life-size portrait of him. This portrait adorns the school even today. A few years later Suraj returned to Kashmir and was appointed as a government teacher. Soon after returning from Hoshiarpur Suraj's marriage was solemnised with Uma Kaw D/o Maheshwar Nath Kaw of Zaindar Mohalla. They have two sons, Santosh and Ravi, both associated with theatre. The former has also excelled in set-designing, painting, calligraphy and as a poet. Their daughter Sushma has done a Diploma in Painting.

Song & Drama Division

Suraj Tiku's first posting as Government Teacher was in Govt. High School, Pattan, where Mr. Saifuddin was Headmaster. The school had been upgraded recently from Middle to High School. Suraj was appointed as Drawing teacher. He continued to pursue painting and theatre work with full passion. In 1966 Suraj Tiku was selected for set-designing by Song and Drama Division of Ministry for Information and Broadcasting. Three other Kashmiris, Messers Krishan Langoo, Omkar Nath Khazanchi and Omkar Nath Raina were selected for acting. They were given rigorous professional training at Delhi for two years. Return of these artists in 1968 introduced a new professional approach in theatre and set-designing in Kashmir.

Artists of Song and Drama Division had to do lot of travelling with the roving theatre. Fed up with hectic travelling Suraj Tiku got an opportunity to join School of Designs. He came closer to Pt. Trilok Kaul, who was the Director of the Institute. Suraj Tiku retired from the Institute on 30th June, 1984.


In 1990 when violence broke out in Valley, Suraj Tiku, who loved Kashmir emotionally was quite reluctant to leave for safety to Jammu. In June, 1990 the family decided to leave after Suraj's son Santosh was tipped off by a colleague to leave Srinagar immediately and save his life. It was a painful moment for Tikus. Retrieving his father's works was the first priority for Santosh Tiku, a sensitive person with strong sense of history. Suraj told him, "Paintings are no priority. I will redraw these. Safety should be our foremost concern".

Exile Paintings

After staying in Udhampur for 2 months Tikus moved to Jyotipuram, where presently Santosh runs a School. Suraj's lungs had become weary due to long standing asthma and heavy smoking. He could never reconcile to 'exile'. Santosh Tiku  recalls, "Displacement was great shock to father. This affected his health. Kashmir would haunt him all the time. He gave vent to it by painting Kashmir. Whenever he remembered Kashmir he would start painting, at times not even on proper paper. Some of his paintings of this period are on the back side of invitation cards. One of his paintings shows clouds, depicting gloomy ambience. He would love this painting. He could never resist painting Kashmir'.

Suraj passed away on 26th January 1997, leaving behind many admirers and friends.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel


In the write-up Suraj Tiku-Evolution of an Artist, Published in May 2008 issue of Kashmir Sentinel the name of other daughter of Late Suraj Tiku was inadvertently omitted. Mrs. Renu Tiku is second daughter of Sh. Suraj Tiku. She has her masters in Hindi and teaches at Jawahar Navodaya Vidalaya, Juganu. She had also passion for painting during her student years.




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