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October, 1997
Vol. I, No. 2

N.S.K.R.I. Scholars To Set Out In Search Of Sharada Manuscripts

Scholars at NSKRI are contemplating to go on an extensive tour in search of Sharda manuscripts, wherever these may be found, in the country or even elsewhere. The project is likely to be launched soon after the proposed Kashmiri Pandit cultural heritage exhibition is over, or could be even earlier. It is believed that there is a good haul of Sharada manuscripts in several places in the country like Nalanda, Hoshiarpur, Madurai, Chennai and Mysore, and in Nepal. Nothing has been done so far to trace and explore this rich treasure. George Buhler, it may be recalled had collected Sanskrit manuscripts from "Kashmir, Rajputana and Central India", and published his report in 1877. Not many followed his lead afterwards.

The Maharaja's government set up a Research Department in Srinagar which did some significant work way back in the twenties and published a whole series of Kashmir Shaiva texts under the able stewardship of Mahamohopadhyaya Madhusudan Kaul Shastri and Mahamahopadhyaya Mukund Ram Shastri. Soon after independence the tempo slowed down and came alomost to a grinding halt after sometime.

The nomenclature of the Research Department was changed to Research and Publications Department and then to Research, Libraries and Museums, but nothing significant came out of this exercise as very little was done to study and publish the collection of Sharada manuscripts lying with it. This despite the fact that a scholar of the stature of Prof. P.N.Pushp headed the department for quite some time. Perhaps it was government policy at that time not to encourage any work in Sanskrit or non-Islamic studies.

The Department was later tagged on to the Kashmir University, but the policy of the state administration remaining what it was, the situation did not show much improvement due to extra academic considerations. The cultural policy of the J&K Cultural Academy too did not prove to be any different. While anything pertaining to pre-Islamic cultural past was mostly an anathema to it, the Academy electrified itself into action to put up a grand statewide year-long show depicting Islamic contribution to Kashmir's culture as part of the official programme to celebrate completion of 1400 years of the advent of Islam.

Nor can the Kashmiri Pandits themselves be absolved for the cultural predicament they have landed into, leading to the neglect of the Sharada script. The fact is that an overall cultural drift could be witnessed in the community, particularly after independence, taking them far away from their moorings and placing them in situations that could eventually wipe out their identity as a distinct social and cultural entity. Yet nobody seemed to care less. One may hardly like to believe it, but the fact is that policies for their cultural extinction were being deliberately conceived and put into execution at various levels without as much as a whimper of protest from them. Even today, after the trauma of exodus, not much thought is being given by leaders of the community to adopt a cultural agenda. The result is obvious: cultural traditions are disappearing. It is a sad commentary on the present predicament of Kashmiri Pandits that despite their eagerness to crow over others for their intellectual superiority, there are hardly half a dozen persons in the community who are well acquainted with the Sharada script, and of them not many are competent scholars.

NSKRI's decision to revive interest in the Sharada script and discover the literary wealth hidden in Sharda manuscripts must be viewed in this context . It also arises from a genuine desire to promote research and scholarship in the field. NSKRI hopes that its labours will be rewarding and its scholars will be able to make some really significant and interesting discoveries when they set out on their mission.

Portrait Gallery of Kashmin Pandit Scholars

NSKRI has commissioned a young and upcoming artist, Sunil Handu to paint portraits of eminent Kashmiri Pandit scholars and men of letters of the present and the preceding century. The idea is to revive and perpetuate the memory of those who have brought honour to the community through their outstanding contributions in the field of learning and letters.

Born in Srinagar in 1965, Sunil Handu was initiated into the world of art in early childhood. Sketches from the Jataka tales inspired him to take to painting under the guidance of his Guru Shri Bhaskar Nath. So did the illustrations of Puranic and other mythological tales. During his formative years, young Sunil Handu was deeply impressed by the art of Peter Paul Rubens. Soon he attracted attention towards his paintings by winning several state level awards. He also got interestecl in drawing cartoons and made his mark by winning the 3rd position in the national cartoon contest held in 1995.

The young talented artist, who has been living in Delhi since the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1990, has already started working on the portraits, expecting to complete them in about two months time. Among those whose portraits he has been asked to paint in the first phase are Nityananda Shastri, Govinda Kaul, Anand Kaul, Sahaz Bhatt, Krishna Joo Razdan, Keshav Bhatt Shastri, Prof. Jagaddhar Zadoo, Prof. S. K. Toshkhani and Swami Lakshman Joo. On being completed, the portraits will adore the NSKRI office in Delhi for members of the community to see and feel proud of.

The case of Damodar's missing Rajatarangini:
A question of history

Kalhana started the tradition of histriography in India with his monumental work, the Rajatarangini in 1148-50 A.D. Taking a vast historical canvas into his sweep, he showed a keen understanding of human affairs and a sharp critical eye in depieting the soeio-political life of Kashmir. The tradition set up by him was followed by Jonaraja in his 'Jaina Rajtaringini', about three centuries later, in quite an admirable manner, covering the period of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin and his predecessors. Shrivara, his disciple, picked up the thread of the narrative after his sudden death in 1459 A.D. and went on to cover the period upto Hassan Shah's regime. Shrivara's Rajatarangini (1459- 77 A.D.) is almost as sublime as that of Kalhana, though its range is much narrower. Pragyabhatta and his pupil Shuka updated the historical narrative in their sequels to Rajatarangini and brought it down to Akbar's conquest of Kashmir in 1586 A.D.. Thereafter the tradition of writing historical chronicles in Sanskrit is said to have stopped. Or did it really?

Ishwara Kaul's 'Durbhikshatarodayasta' call also be classified as a historical narrative, describing as it does the severe famine of 1878. Yet another historical work in Sanskrit that is worth mentioning is the Rajatarangini sequels attempted by Prof. Govind Razdan which were serialized in a Sanskrit magazine "Shri" brought out from Srinagar.

Recently, however, a significant bit of evidenee fell into the hands of Shri S.N.Pandita of NSKRI core group, which points to the existence of yet another sequel to Rajatarangini written by Pandit Damodara, one of the most gifted Sanskrit scholar of his times. Damodara died in 1892 in an epidemic even as Stein's translation of Kalhana's Rajatarangini was under preparation. According to Sh. Pandita, records show that Pandit Damodara, a friend of Stein, had set himself to the task of writing yet another sequel to Rajatarangini, carrying the narration forward from Akbar's reign to his own times. Stein, who had seen some parts of this work, wrote: " Had Pandit Damodara been spared to complete it, his work would have shown that Kalhana could have found generations past no worthier successor." Writing about his scholastic endowments. George Buhler had observed earlier that "he would shake Sanskrit prose or verse alike from the sleeve of his garment."

With such talent, Pandit Damodara could have really produced a very impressive work, giving an authentic account of historical events down to his own time. A quite pertinent question that needs to be asked is what happened to this important record of Kashmir's history of a very critical period? Is it still existing or has it been destroyed for obvious reasons? Why has nobody cared to make any mention of it so far? Nothing is known about the fate of Ishawara Kaul's 'Durbhikshatarodayasta' and Prof. Govind Razdan's sequel to Rajatarangini either.

These questions assume great significance in the context of Kashmiri Pandit exodus from Kashmir today. Is there any one who can provide the answers?

PERSONALITY
Pandit Govind Kaul
"Another Kalhana"

Pandit Govind Kaul
Pandit Govind Kaul

[ A profound Kashmiri scholar of the late 19th century. Pandit Govind Kaul, who rendered most valuable assistance to Aurel Stein in translating Rajatarangini, is today almost a forgotten man. There are hardly a handful of Kashmiri Pandits who may be aware of his great erudition and the range of his scholarly pursuits. Here is a brief sketch of the life and works of the man whom Stein offered fulsome tributes and hailed as " another Kalhana". ]

Born in 1846 in Srinagar as the eldest son of Pandit Balbhadra Kaul, a universally respected scholar of his times (1819-96), Govind Kaul (G.K) had scholarship running in the family. His grandfather, Pandit Taba Kaul, too was a reputed scholar, having family ties with the famous Pandit Birbal Dhar who persuaded Ranjit Singh to free Kashmir from the tyranny of Afghan rule. G.K. and Birbal Dhar's grandson Ramjoo Dhar, maintained the ties as friends. G.K. not only studied Persian and Sanskrit in keeping with the family tradition, he also acquired a good knowledge of English as well as western ways of life. To keep the record of history straight, it must be stated that G.K. and Ramjoo Dhar learnt English much before Pandit Anand Kaul and Pandit Shiv Ram Bhan. G.K. came to know a good deal about world affairs also through Ramjoo Dhar who held an important administrative position . Soon G.K. acquired fame for his erudition, particularly as a scholar of Alamkara Shastra (poetics), Vyakarna (grammar), Nyaya (logic), and Shiva Sutras. He was equally well versed in the knowledge of the epics and the Puranas.

By the time he was 28, G.K. was already regarded as a scholar of considerable stature. In 1874, he was appointed incharge Translation Department set up by Maharaja Ranbir singh. It was around that time that he undertook, jointly with Pandit Sahaz Bhatt, to translate the Sanskrit chronicles of Kashmir into Hindi- a project which he, unfortunately, was not able to complete.

With the winding up of the Translation Department in 1884, it was a trying time for G.K. He lost his job and could not find any alternative avenue to pursue his scholastic goals. Eventually, he had to settle for a teacher's job at the state run Sanskrit Pathshala in Srinagar. But that too did not last and he was again without a regular job.

In the meanwhile, however, George Buhler, that doyen of European Indologists, had spotted the Pandit for his great learning and eruditon. It was Buhler's commendatory reference that attracted Sir Aurel Stein's attention towards G.K. and he solicited his assistance in translating Kalhan's Rajatarangini-a job that G . K along with Pandit Sahaz Bhatt did with utmost competence from 1888 to 1896, and to stein's great satisfaction.

G.K. went into another collaboration with Stein and fellow scholar Sahaz Bhatt when they classified and catalogued more than six thousand Sanskrit manuscripts for Maharaja Ranbir Singh's library at Raghunath Temple, Jammu.

Yet another contribution G.K. made was to compile Kashmiri folk tales with Stein, which the latter formally edited with George Grierson and publishcd in 1917 as " Hatim's Tales". The tales, supposedly told by one Hatim Tilawony, were interpreted by G.K. G.K. also rendered assistance to Grierson in the compilation of his Kashmiri dictionary, but did not live to see the work completed. Grierson went on to reeord later that G.K's assistance to him was "one of the many debts he ever owed to Stein".

On G.K's death in June 1899, a shocked Stein lamented that G.K., ''like another Kalhana departed as my best Indian friend beyond all hope of reunion in this Janma". Paying fulsome tributes to him, Stein wrote: "Whenever Govind Kaul was by my side, whether in the dusty exile of Lahore or alpine coolness of Mohand Marg in Kashmir, I was in continuity with the past as the historical student of India. His personality embodied all that change of ages indicated and showed as the mind and psyche of India."

Keshav Bhatt Shastri's Legacy bequeathed to NSKRI

When Panclit Keshav Bhatt Shastri decided to set up a printing press in Srinagar in the early decades of the present century, his was not exactly a commercial proposition. What he was mainly interested in was to publish books on Kashmiri Pandit heritage, both religions and cultural, for the benefit of the younger generation in particular. The publication programme could be sustained by undertaking assorted printing jobs from clients which could generate income. And his plans did indeed take a practical shape with a whole series of low-priced, affordable editions of Sanskrit texts pertaining to Kashmiri Pandit religious traditions rolled out from the press for those interested.

With the passing away of the learned Pandit, and passage of time, the initial enthusiasm waned and the books began to go out of print. Then came the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, which created a situation in which it was not possible any more to continue the programme or to bring out fresh editions of the already printed books.

It was in such circumstances that Sh.M.L. Pandit, of eore group ol NSKRI, met Sh. S.N. Jotshi, Pandit Keshav Bhatt Shastri's grandson and the present proprietor of the press in Jammu, during his recent visit. Impressed, perhaps, by the agenda of NSKRI, as explained to him by Sh. Pandit, Sh. S.N. Jotshi offered the rights of publishiIlg their entire range of such books to NSKRI. Overwhelmed by this gesture, Sh. Pandit readily accepted the offer on behalf of the Institute. NSKRI will be publishing some of the books from this series. Infact the process has already begun with the collection of some of the immediately available copies of these out- of-print- books. These were offered by Pandit Kashi Nath Handu who also has appreciated the work being done NSKRI.

These valuable texts, which include Tirtha Mahatyamas and works relating to Kashmiri Pandit religious customs, rituals and traditions, are at present being examined by the reputed Kashmiri scholar, Dr. C. L. Raina on request by NSKRI, to assess as to which of them could be reprinted or used in any other manner deemed proper.

Book Review
Roopa Bhavani Rahasyopadesha: Reflections on the True Self

Roopa Bhavani, or Alakh Ishwari as some prefer to call her, is revered next only to Lalleshwari as a great woman saint and mystic of Kashmir. Quite a number of people, particularly those belonging to the Dhar families of Kashmiri Pandits, regard her as an incarnation of goddess Sharika, and worship her as such. To them her 'Rahasyopadesha' is a sacred text - a work of great spiritual significance providing guidance and inspiration through the ups and downs of life.

As a poetess, Roopa Bhavani, who lived in the 17th century, composed verses much in the manner of Lalleshwari, whom she has referred to in most reverential terms. Echoes of Lalleshwari's Vakhs can be heard clearly in many of her verses even as she talks of the essential oneness of individual and cosmic consciousness. Experencing the ecastasies of this union, as a goal of human life, forms the dominant strain of her poetic expressions. Roopa Bhavani's spiritual quest, as reflected in the Rahasyopdesha leads one through her mystical experiences to revelations about the true nature of self.

However, the archaic touch that she has preferred to give to her language, perhaps to lend it an authentic aura, sometimes appears to obscure the meaning at least for those who are not familiar with her philosophy. True, her sayings passed on from generation to generation through oral tradition for quite some time before they were written down in the Sharada script, but this esotric element kept their appeal confined to a few initiates. For the masses at large, to understand her message obscurity could well be a barrier.

The problem was partially solved by Dr. Shiv Nath Sharma who edited the 'Rashasyopadesha' verses and brought them out in the Devanagari script in 1941. While this helped to spread Alakhishwari's message to a wider audience, the need for its lucid interpretration and translation into English continued to be intensely felt. Dr. C.L.Raina, eminent Kashmiri scholar and an authority on Shakta philosophy, has now fulfilled that need in his brilliant translation -cum- commentary on the "Rahasyopadesha" under the title "Mystic Revelation of Shri Roopa Bhavani." Showing amazing competence, Dr. Raina has decoded the mystic symbology encapsuled in Roopa Bhavani's aphorisms and aphorisms they are despite Dr. Raina's assertion that they are " lucid analytical poetry"- making it possible for the ordinary reader to capture Roopa Bhavani's spiritual insights into man's relationship with Nature and God.

In the book " Mystic Revelation ol Shri Roopa Bhavani", Dr. Raina has not attempted just literal or word for word translation, but tried to explore the whole world of meanings behind the word, making his way through a maze of concepts, allusions, symbols, motifs and patterns of thought, sifting a pan- Indian stock of philosophical terms before presenting his interpretation. The Rahasyopadasha comprises four different works of Roopa Bhavani: the 'Nirvana- Dash-Shloki-Stava'. 'Vakya Manjari'. 'Svanubhava-ullasa-Dashkam' and 'Antar Drishti' all of which have been analysed and explained in the light of yoga. Vedanta and Shaiva-Shakta streams of thought. According to Dr. Raina, his interpretations of Roopa Bhavani are based on what he calls his " integrated approach". He has splendidly succeeded in his efforts to guide the reader through the text to the great mystic's dazzling vision of "final beatitude".

Well known Punjabi poet and writer Amrita Pritam's brief but beautiful forward is indeed interesting. It would have further enhanced the value of the book if some information had been given about the painting on the cover page and the ones on the inner pages.

To conclude, one cannot but be inclined to pray with Dr. C.L. Raina, asking Alakh Ishwari to "bless us to visit Her shrines again which are the Shakti Pithas of Kashmir."

Shri Roopa Bhavani Rahasyopdesha:
Mystic Revelations of Shri Ropa Bhavani" by Dr. C. L. Raina
Shri Alakh Sahiba Trust, Jammu
pp:134 Price: not given.

Proverbial Scholar

The memory of Pandit Ratanakanth Razdan in its colloquial form "Ratha Razdan" lived in Kashmir until as late as 1900. This great scholar and a very fast writer is today an unknown name, inspite of the fact that as a youth he would write whole text in one day what his teacher expounded in a fortnight. He is credited with having been able to habitually write six hundred Sanskrit S'lokas a day and as amazing fast writer wrote complete Bhagavadgita while his fellow companion busied himself to a meal. It will be welcome if any living Razdan can trace his or her ancestry to this proverbial scholar.

Scholar 'Kamal' passes away

With the sudden and tragic death of Prof. Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal" in a road accident in Jammu on 15th October 1997, Kashmir has lost yet another Sanskrit scholar and writer of eminence. The Kashmiri Pandit community was stunned by the sad news, finding it difficult to believe that the acclaimed translator and commentator of 'Panchastavi' and 'Bhavani Sahasranama' is no more . It was only in June this year that the entire community felt proud on his being honoured by the President of India for his outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.

Janaki Nath Kaul Kamal
Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal"

A loving and unassuming person. Prof. Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal" displayed none of the outward trappings of a profound scholar that he was. Born in 1914 in Srinagar, he earned early fame as a Hindi poet and writer. Starting his professional career as an educationist, he remained associated with the D.A.V. Institute throughout his life and retired from it as the Professor and Head of Department of Sanskrit. His English translation of the 'Panchastavi', as also of 'Bhavani Sahasranama', pointed to the range and depth of his scholarship. His translation and commentary on Shankra's 'Vedanta Dimdimah' were greatly applauded by scholars. The erudite Prof. Kamal was a winner of several awards and honours at state and national level. In 1990, he won the Sanskrit Research Scholarship of J&K Dharmartha Trust. In 1992, the U.P. government honoured him with the Sharda Samman for his extraordinary service to Hindi as a non-Hindi speaking writer. He was honoured at the global Kashmiri Pandit Summit held in Jammu in June 1997 for his attainments as an erudite scholar. During his last days, Prof. "Kamal" was engaged among other things in research on Lalleshwari's verses, a subject that was dear to his heart throghout.

NSKRI deeply mourns the loss of the departed scholar, feeling that it has created a void that is difficult to fill.

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