Vol. II, No. 5 & 6
NSKRI unfolds its plan for Kashmiri
Pandit cultural heritage exhibition
Intellectuals pledge support to make it a
After a gestation of barely three months,
NSKRI unfolded its plan for holding the first ever exhibiton on Kashmiri Pandit
cultural heritage at a meeting with community intellectuals on March 21, 1998.
The meeting, presided over by well-known film and TV personality, Shri Arun Kaul,
was held at the Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.
It was on December 21, 1997 that NSKRI had
presented before them its agenda for preserving and protecting Kashmiri Pandit
"This exhibition will project the
real cultural face of Kashmir before the world", said Dr.S. S. Toshkhani,
speaking on behalf of the Institute. "A cultural face that has been long
hidden from view or else maliciously distorted." Partly blaming his own
community for this, Dr. Toshkhani said that cataclysmic though it was, it was
the exodus that had waken up the Pandits to the threat to their identity.
"It is not an identity fabricated in the 14th century," he said,
"it is an identity that has been shaped by 5000 years of our culture, it
being the 5074th year of our calendar today. When we speak we speak with an
authenticity given to our voice by these thousands of years of our existence as
the original people of Kashmir -- the people of the Nilamat Purana."
Dr. Toshkhani asserted that if there
was a cultural mainstream in Kashmir, it was represented by the Pandits despite
their small numbers. "If there is only a single person speaking a
particular language, linguistically that person and that language are important
and, therefore, must be protected," he observed.
Disclosing that the exhibition was
scheduled to held from 12th April to 14th April, 1998, Dr. S. S. Toshkhani said
that it would be broadly divided into three sections comprising miniature
paintings of the Kashmiri School, a saga of Kashmiri Pandit scholarship for the
past century or so as well as Sharada and Persian manuscripts and the Kashmiri
Pandit way of life depicted through costumes, artefacts, objects of daily and
ritualistic use, folk art patterns and old photographs.
"Our collection of miniatures is
finest and most rare", he said, "revealing how vibrant the tradition
must once have been".
"Equally appalling is our ignorance
of the achievements of a whole galaxy of our scholars to whose erudition
European Indologists have paid highest tributes. NSKRI has been named after one
such outstanding scholars, Prof. Nityanand Shastri, whose guidance Western
academicians constantly sought through correspondence or in perscin. Some of
this correspondence shall also be put on view", Dr. Toshkhani said.
Manuscripts in Sharada, Kashmir's
indegeneous script which hardly a handful of people know today, shall be yet
another major feature of the show, he revealed. "How sad it is", he
said, "that when the question of adopting an official scripts for Kashmiri
came up, no one except poet Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor espoused the claim of Sharada."
Official bodies like the J & K Cultural Academy and the Centre for Central
Asian Studies, or the State Research and Publication Department, did nothing to
preserve the heritage these manuscripts embodied. At present these manuscripts
are lying at the Centre in a very bad shape. Dr. K. N. Pandita made an effort to
salvage them by having them copied, but to no avail, Dr. Toshkhani disclosed.
"Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan sanctioned an amount of Rs 3 lakhs for getting a
descriptive catalogue of these manuscripts prepared, but instead of preparing
such a catalogue more than half the grant was spent on buying steel almirahs",
he said. "For obvious reasons", he quipped. The NSKRI is now thinking
of pursuing the case from where it had been left, he revealed. After Buhler, it
will be NSKRI scholars who will set out in search of Sharada manuscripts from
wherever these could be found, he added.
Another section of the show shall depict
the Kashmiri Pandit way of life: costumes, folk art patterns, artefacts, objects
of daily and ritualistic use and the like, Dr. Toshkhani said, adding that there
was much scope for research in these fields. "It is the Hindus who
preserved folk art forms in Kashmir. Even some of the commercial arts like
shawl-weaving or wood-carving are of Hindu origin, not to talk of the exquisite
Kashmiri bronzes, he observed. Calling upon Kashmiri intellectuals, writers and
cultural activists to join the NSKRI in its task to preserve and project
Kashmiri Pandit culture, he said that the Institute did not believe in any
"you" and "we" divide. NSKRI is not just an organisation, it
is a movement -- everybody's movement in the community.
Shri P.N. Kachru of the NSKRI core group
explained how the exhibition had been conceived and how it was to be executed.
"It is not just an exhibition of culture", he said, "it is an
exhibition of lost culture." "You have been receiving 'Unmesh' ",
he added. "It is serving a specific objective -- that of presenting
different aspects of the history and culture of the Kashmiri Pandits. Its
contents are of lasting value. Soon we are going to bring out our quarterly
research journal, 'Spanda'. Our immediate attention is, however, concentrated on
the heritage exhibition. The way we have been able to gather a very good
collection of exhibits points to the cooperation we have received. We have a
two-fold purpose in mounting the display. Firstly, to revive interest in our
present generation, and in the generations to come, in aspects of our culture
which we have almost forgotten. Secondly, to encourage scholars, researchers and
art historians to study it", Shri Kachru said.
Giving details about the three sections of
the exhibition, Shri Kachru said that when murals in Kashmir were demolished,
people took to preserving art through miniatures and book illuminations. All
sections, he said, would be accompanied by write-ups giving the background of
each item displayed. The portraits of scholars would have small biographical
notes to indicate their achievements. Books and manuscripts would be displayed
to facilitate research. "Then there will be folk paterns which will be
drawn in the manner an old lady in a Kashmiri Pandit house-hold would draw them
-- the 'Vyug' and the 'Haramandul' and the 'Krul'. "The 'Krul', he pointed
out, "was not executed by a brush, but by knuckles dipped in dye, which
would create what is called the 'almond' or the 'mango' motif. It had a thousand
variations which could be connected by a stalk."
Shri S. N. Pandita urged the participants
to help the NSKRI in putting up the show. "If the perspectives we have
presented before you merit appreciation," he said,"then I beg you to
help us, but if you think it is better to throw them in the dustbin, please
don't hesitate. On our part we will keep our commitment, but please come forward
and cooperate in every possible manner. It is not as though 'we' are doing it,
it is all of 'us' doing it together. If we fail to do it now, then history will
record that these were the hands from which it slipped into the oblivion. If we
are able to keep it together, then history will remember these hands for
protecting our heritage. "
Shri Virendra Bangroo offered to conserve
free of cost items received on loan for the display, especially documents and
paintings. He referred to the history of Kashmir art, recounting how Kashmiri
artists were employed to paint murals at Alchi in Ladakh and some monastries in
Tibet. Taking the audience round the proposed three sections of the exhibition
mentally, Shri Bangroo said that he designed to have a 'zoona dab' (bay window)
constructed in the Kashmiri architectural style displaying typical Kashmiri
Responding to the appeal for cooperation,
different speakers pledged their support to NSKRI efforts for preservation of
Kashmiri Pandit cultural heritage. These included Dr. B. N. Kalla, Shri Triloki
Nath Kundan, Shri R. N. Kaul, Shri Mohan Nirash, Ms Kishori Kaul, Ms Kshama Kaul,
Shri Rajendra Premi, Shri Shambhu Nath Bhat Haleem, Dr. Utpal Kaul, Shri
Shantiveer Kaul, Ms Nancy Kaul and Shri C. V. Gopinath.
Prof. Subhash Razdan rose to thank the
participants for their active interest in the NSKRI programme for the
exhibition. He expressed his happiness over the meeting ending on a positive
note. "Kashmiri miniatures are the nerve cell of Kashmiri culture",
Prof. Razdan said; "these paintings could help us to know about our
Shri Arun Kaul, said in his presidential
remarks that an exhibition on a rather small scale would make a good beginning.
He was of the view that displaying miniatures at the exhibition was a good idea.
"Kashmiri miniatures are essentially 'Bhatta' (Kashmiri Pandit)
miniatures", he said. "May be the Mughal miniatures brought in
different colours, a different style and luminosity, but we had our own colour
sense", he observed, referring to a Swachhanda Nath painting lying with
Shri Utpal Kaul, as an example. "The blue colour in this painting is just
fantastic. I haven't seen such blue in Indian miniatures."
Shri Kaul said it would be worthwhile even
if only ten paintings which people would remember were displayed at the
"I agree with those who say that work
on Kashmiri culture or art has not been done by Kashmiris -- not by many
Kashmiris anyhow", Shri Kaul said. "We have Pratapaditya Pal who has
come out with two major volumes on Kashmir ivory pieces. Again, it is gratifying
to note that the centre of Indian philosophy has been named after Abhinavagupta,
but not in Kashmir, nor in Delhi, but in Lucknow. The Centre for Sanskrit and
Indian philosophy in Lucknow University has been named after Abhinavagupta."
Shri Utpal Kaul was of the view that
culture was a way of life and not just limited to academic exercises. "We
may not know, but more than 350 scholars in different universities all over the
world have studied Kashmir's cultural past, obtaining their doctoral degrees on
subjects related to it", he disclosed. On Anandavardhana and his suggestion
(dhvani) theory alone as many as fifty scholars are engaged in research at
present, he said.
"Culture is the mainstay of our life,
and Kashmir is the fountainhead of Indian culture," he said amidst
Shri Mohan Nirash, well known Hindi poet,
cautioned that while it was good to take steps for preservation of past
heritage, we should not let the present slip out of our hands as our today's
achievements are going to be tomorrow's heritage. He pleaded for recording
interviews with such talented persons of the community as are past fifty, taking
them down the memory lane and asking them about their life and experiences.
Shri Shambhu Nath Bhat 'Haleem' made a
forceful plea for keeping the Kashmiri language alive as a language of everyday
parlance. "It will be impossible for us to preserve our culture if we are
not able to preserve our language, because language is the foundation on which
the edifice of culture stands. If this foundation is weak, we shall be only
building castles in the air", he said.
Speaking in Sanskrit, Dr.B.N. Kalla said
that the NSKRI should pick up the threads from where Prof. Nityanand Shastri had
left them. There can be no Sanskriti without Sanskrit, he said, urging the
Institute to go back to the Sanskritic roots of Kashmiri culture.
Pandit Jagan Nath Siboo honoured
Pandit Jagan Nath Siboo has been given the
'Samma-Ditthi Award' by the Foundation of Indology and Culture, Ajmer, for his
scholarly work in Hindi, 'Kashmir Shakta Vimarsh'.
The award which was announced recently by
the Patron-cum-Chairman of the Foundation, Shri B. S. Sahwal, consists of a
'Certificate of Honour', a memento bearing Shri Chakra, a citation and a cash
prize of Rs. 1,501/- as a token of respect. Dr. Abhinav Kamal Raina received the
award on his behalf as Shri Siboo could not receive it in person due to bad
The book, a scholarly exposition of the
Shakta tradition of Kashmir, is a valuable contribution to Indology, according
to the Foundation Chairman, Shri Sahwal. It may be recalled that the book has
already been awarded by the HRD Ministry.
Kashmir has been a great centre of the
tantric cult of Shakti worship for centuries, a faith that links it spiritually
with Kerala and Bengal. Almost every Kashmiri Pandit family is devoted to one
manifestation of the Mother Godess or other, with Bala, Sharika, Maharajna,
Jwala, Bheda, Mahakali, Tripur Sundari, being their traditional tutelary
deities. However, the Kashmir Shaktas consider Shiva and Shakti, symbolized by
the bindu and the trikona, as one and inseparable.
It goes to the credit of Shri Siboo that
he has fathomed the depths of the Shakta doctrine and, through his lucid
comments and explanations, brought its profound truths within the grasp of the
ordinary readers. Yet the 'Kashmir Shakta Vimarsh' is a brief work and while
congratulating Shri Siboo for the honour he has received for his pioneering
work, NSKRI expects the profound scholar to throw more light on a philosophy
that forms the bedrock of faith for most Kashmiri Pandits. The book, 'Kashmir
Shakta Vimarsh' also needs to be translated into English -- a work for which
NSKRI looks to the eminent scholar, Dr. C. L. Raina.
Faces of Glory
Pandit Sahaz Bhat
The scholar with a healing touch
Pandit Sahaz Bhat
[That the legendary Unani hakim of
Kashmir, Pandit Sahaz Bhat, was a profound scholar also, is a fact not known
even to his grandson, Dr. R. N. Bhat, till NSKRI discovered it and brought out
this unlikely dimension of his personality in a recent issue of 'Unmesh'.
And while his miracle cures remain
etched on public memory and have given to Kashmiri parlance a proverb commonly
used even now, we profile here the other Sahaz Bhat with the help of inputs from
his grandson, Dr. R.N. Bhat and great grandson, Dr. Ayushyaman Bhat. To the
latter we are thankful for the photograph of Pandit Sahaz Bhat.
Born in 1862, Sahaz Kak Bhat, or Sahaz
Bhat (S.B.), as he was popularly known, was the last of the six children of his
parents. He must have been barely four when he lost his father and was brought
up by his elder brother, Pandit Sat Kak, who held the important position of
Royal Physician to the Maharaja of J & K State. For his formal schooling,
S.B. was sent to the CMS School at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar where English was
taught as an essential subject. S.B. was, however, not prepered to learn a
language in which 'no' comes before 'yes' and soon told his elder brother that
he would rather learn Persian, Arabic and of course, Sanskrit. He started taking
Sanskrit and Persian lessons at home from his family guru, but discontinued
these when the teacher treated him harshly.
Now on he learned by the self education
method, and taught himself not only these languages but also Unani medicine that
he eventually adopted as a profession to become a physician like elder brother
Sat Kak. His pronunciation of both Arabic and Sanskrit was so flawless that it
was difficult to make out in which of these languages he was better versed. If
he became the greatest Unani hakim of his time in Kashmir, it was clearly due to
his self effort.
A deeply religious person, S.B. was,
however, catholic and liberal in his outlook, refusing to distinguish between
man and man on the basis of caste, creed or colour. He was always immaculately
dressed wearing a saffron and sandalwood paste tilak on his forehead. While
treating his patients, the religiously inclined physician would not depend on
his pharmacopeia alone, he would even take recourse to reciting prayers in
Sanskrit or Arabic if only for a psychological effect on the patient. Nobility,
generosity and philanthropy were his basic character traits that he displayed at
the professional level often. He would treat the poor generally free of cost,
through he would not hesitate from accepting large sums from his affluent
patients as he needed money to run his charitable clinic.
"Pandit Sahaz Bhat was tall and
handsome with a longish face and magnetic grace. His gait was majestic, his
demeanour kingly, his disposition scholarly. By temperament he was magnanimous
and benevolent and his generosity was proverbial. In conversation he was
scholarly and inspiring. He had a musical voice and a handwriting that was
calligraphic, so beautiful that his patients would often preserve his
prescriptions in velvet bags to use them as amulets." This pen- potrait
drawn by Dr. R.N. Bhat of his grandfather shows the kind of person that this
physician among scholars and scholar among physicians was.
As for S.B. the scholar, it was his
phenomenal knowledge of Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic that prompted the then
Maharaja of J & K State to draft him into his Translation Department in 1890
as its head where he also looked after the publication of Sanskrit texts on
philosophy, medicine, law etc.
With his mastery over Sanskrit, S.B.
worked with Sir Aurel Stein and Pandit Govind Kaul in compiling a descriptive
catalogue of 6000 Sanskrit manuscripts for Maharaja Ranbir Singh's Raghunath
Temple Library at Jammu. Considered a feat in scholarship, the catalogue was
printed in Bombay in 1894. S.B. painstakingly prepared extracts from each
manuscript for the catalogue. Wrote Stein of S.B.'s labours: "For the most
conscientious and scholarly manner in which Sahaz Bhat discharged it, I feel all
the more obliged as I can well realize how irksome a great portion of the work
e.g. the careful reproduction of innumerable classical errors and apashabdas of
the manuscripts must have been to his Pandit instinct. His learning and thorough
acquaintance with the methods of Indian scholarship especially in the shastras
traditionally cultivated in Kashmir have on many occasions most usefully
supplemented my printed source of references".
Another work in which S.B. collaborated
with Stein and Govind Kaul was Hindi translation of the Sanskrit chronicles of
Kashmir, but it could not be completed due to Govind Kaul's sudden death in
In 1935, S.B. passed away after a
fullfilling life of a scholar and physicican always sought after by fame. Aurel
Stein's regard for his scholarship can be summed up in the following excerpt
from a nostalgic letter he wrote to Alden, one of his friends in Vienna, in
"I gathered my old entourage. It was
pleasure to talk the language of gods and though my interests have now moved far
northward, I shall try to keep my old friend Pandit Sahaz Bhat by me when I
occupy winter quarters at Gupkar where he had been with me and Govind Kaul in
the old days."
Dr. R.N. Bhat
Dr. Ayushyaman Bhat
S. N. Pandita
Three hundred fifty foreign scholars
have obtained doctorate
on ancient Kashmir
-- Utpal Kaul
"There is hardly any corner of the
world where people are not working on ancient Kashmir, its culture, its
contribution", said Shri Utpal Kaul, speaking at the intellectuals' meet at
Constitution Club, New Delhi. He revealed that there are 350 scholars who have
obtained their doctorates from different universities in the world for their
research on Kashmir. "Only the other day", he said, "I received a
letter from a lady in Pizza, Italy, who is working on Kshemendra. Sometime back
a researcher from Tokyo University came to me asking me for a copy of the
Logaksha Griha Sutra. Till then I had not heard its name even. It took me 15
days to trace the work with the help of some local people, but I managed to
obtain it. It was lying in an old sack in which Sanskrit manuscripts preserved
by Maharaja Pratap Singh were lying. These were dumped into the sack in 1947 and
are in a very bad condition. The book had been published in 1898 and I made four
sets of it, giving two to the Japanese research scholar. He told me that they
were five scholars working on the five-year project. The fact is that there is
hardly any university in the world where work is not being done on one or
another aspect of Kashmir's ancient culture and literature."
Shri Kaul further said: "There is a
big art gallery in London, -- the Oriental Gallery. I haven't been there but one
of my friends who has told me that in the Indian Section only three things about
Kashmir have been highlighted -- the Martand Sun temple as an exquisite example
of Kashmir's temple architecture; the Vaishnava art temples of Kashmir and
Kashmir's contributon to Buddhism. That is all. No Sufism, no Islamic culture,
no Sheikh Abdullah!
"Of the 52 Tirtha Mahatamyas only 23
or so are available in Jammu and Kashmir, but there are full records of each of
them in the Leipzig University, Germany. As many as 50 students in the
university are doing their research on Anandavardhana. We may not be knowing,
but work on Kashmir's ancient art, culture and literature is being done by
foreign scholars. Sadly, we are doing little.