Vol. I, No. 1
NSKRI Plans First Ever Exhibition on
Kashmiri Pandit Culture
Aspects of Kashmiri Pandit culture and
heritage form the theme of an exhibition that NSKRI has conceived and plans to
hold in New Delhi in January 1998.
The idea is to focus attention on the
society and culture of a people whose intellectual and creative attainments have
brought glory to Kashmir and whose sense of values and ideals has contributed
immensely in the evolution of Kashmiri ethos, yet who have been hounded out of
their home and are facing the gravest ever threat to their existence and
identity today. In a way, it will not be an ordinary exhibition, but an attempt
to profile a culture in exile -- a uniquely rich culture that is in great danger
The exhibition will be divided into
various sections or segments covering the Kashmiri Pandit way of life,
traditions, customs and dimensions of creativity. On display will be Sharada
manuscripts, books, miniature paintings of the Kashmir school, folk art,
architecture, costumes, ornaments, artifacts and articles of household and
ritual use besides other items of cultural and civilizational significance. Old
photographs depicting social and religious life of the Pandits during the first
decades of the present century will be yet another interesting feature. The
exhibits will be accompanied by explanatory write-ups.
With much of the community's heritage
lying scattered in a state of neglect, or even damaged and lost, particularly
after its recent diaspora, the organisers of the exhibition have appealed to
community members, and others interested in Kashmiri Pandit culture, for help in
collecting the various items required for mounting the display.
The exhibition will be held in New Delhi
initially, but is likely to tour other Indian cities or even be taken to some
foreign countries if it finds sponsors.
Album of Kashmiri Miniatures Under
As a top priority item on the agenda of
NSKRI, an album of paintings of the Kashmir School, is being compiled for the
first time and is expected to be published shortly. The work has been entrusted
to Sh. P. N. Kachru eminent Kashmiri artist and a member of the core group of
NSKRI. Compilation of the album assumes a special importance in view of the fact
that no such attempt has been made so far and no effort has been made to
systematically study extant works of this important but totally neglected school
Although no survey has been conducted, it
is generally known that the number of Kashmiri miniature paintings available
today is very small, and none of these belongs to a period earlier than the
first quarter of the twentieth century or last decades of the 19th. Most of the
paintings have been lost mainly because their owners were totally ignorant of
their worth and sold them away at throw away prices to foreigners. Some of the
paintings found their way into the hands of some private collectors in the
country also. In this manner a priceless treasure has been thrown away. The
Jammu and Kashmir State Cultural Academy is no less guilty of total indifference
to this wealth, its collection and preservation having never been on their
During the princely rule in the state,
some Kashmiri miniatures were no doubt displayed in the Maharaja Pratap Singh
Museum, Srinagar, but their number was very small. In any case, no art historian
or critic came forward to record chronological development of the Kashmir school
of which the earliest extant evidence can be seen in the Gilgit manuscripts
paintings, and of which the last great master was Pandit Narayanjoo Murtgar.
It may be recalled that the Kashmiri style
survived in the wall paintings of Buddhist monastries in Ladakh, Western Tibet
and Spiti. Some of its masters, who migrated to Himachal princedoms due to lack
of patronage or fear of religious persecution during the Islamic rule in
Kashmir, spread it to this region and it revived and flourished as the Pahari-
Sh. PN. Kachru, with his deep interest in,
and long study of, the Kashmiri art movement, is going to dwell on these and
several other facts in the introduction part of the album while bringing out the
salient features of the miniatures. The task before him, however, has been made
extremely difficult by the recent exodus of the Pandits from Kashmir. Hardly any
of the fleeing Pandits who possessed any Kashmiri miniature painting thought of
carrying their family heirlooms with them. Fortunately, however young Kashmir
art lovers like Sh. Virendra Bangroo are enthusiastic about privately collecting
Kashmiri minatures on their own initiative. Sh. Bangroo has provided access to
his personal collection to Sh Kachru who already has paintings of the NSKRI
collection available to make use of.
HAKIM SAHAZ BHAT:
Physician or Scholar?
Pandit Sahaz Bhat, the legendary Kashmiri
Hakim who lived in the late 19th century, was a great man of medicine. Stories
about his medical miracles are legion and have become a part of Kashmiri
folklore. What is not known, however is the fact that he was also a reputed
Sanskrit scholar of his times. Dr. Raj Nath Bhat, the great Hakim's grandson, is
not aware of it. The surprising revelation came after a recent bit of research
by Mr. S. N. Pandita, a member of the NSKRI promoters council.
Pandit Sahaz Bhat had already established
his credentials as a scholar of Sanskrit when the well known orientalist Dr.
Aurel Stein came to Kashmir for working on his translation of Kalhana's 'Rajataringini'
Stein became interested in the reference
to Sanskrit manuscripts of Kashmir by his mentor George Buhler in his famous
"Report" of 1877 and came to know about a vast and huge collection of
manuscripts lying in the personal library of Maharaja Ranbir Singh at Raghunath
Temple. Dr. Stein pressed the Maharaja's administration for systematically
cataloguing the Sanskrit manuscripts for the benefit of scholars. The Royal
Council of Kashmir accepted his recommendations and entrusted the job to him.
Stein readily agreed and solicited the
assistance of two Kashmiri Pandit scholars of the day, one of whom was Pandit
Sahaz Bhat and the other Pandit Govind Kaul.
Sahaz Bhat acted as the literary assistant
to Stein in preparing a classified list of the manuscripts, while Govind Kaul
helped in preparing the extracts and indices. Collaboration of the three
scholars resulted in the publication of the colossal "Catalogue of Sanskrit
Manuscripts in the Raghunath Temple Library of Maharaja of Jammu and
Kashmir" in the year 1894. Cataloguing six thousand Sanskrit manuscripts
was no small accomplishment and Pandit Sahaz Bhat's part in it was indeed of a
very high standard.
"NSKRI Has Undertaken a Commendable
- P.N.K. Bamzai
Eminent writer and historian, Sh.P.N.K.
Bamzai, who is regarded as an authority on Kashmir history, has commended the
NSKRI's objective of protecting and exploring Kashmiri Pandit cultural heritage.
Talking to members of the core group of
NSKRI who visited him recently, for guidance and advice, Sh. Bamzai said
"that an all out effort to protect Kashmir's centuries old heritage had
become imperative in the present circumstances and in undertaking to work for it
the NSKRI was doing a commendable job. "Only those who have real interest
and concern for Kashmir at heart will venture to take urgent steps to save the
immensely rich and fascinating culture and traditions of the Kashmiri Pandits
from being obliterated", he said, hoping that NSKRI would be successful in
Sh. Bamzai, whose books on Kashmir history
and culture have won him worldwide acclaim, disclosed that he was currently
engaged in working on the subject "Kashmiri Pandits or Saraswat
Brahmins", tracing the ethnic origins of the Pandits of Kashmir. He had
undertaken the project two years ago and it may take some time before he would
as Scholar and Man
Pandit Nityanand Shastri
[ Recently (NSKRI) had the privilege of
interviewing Sh J.N. Pandita, second son of Pandit Nityanand Shastri, the great
Kashmiri scholar after whom the institute is named. The octogenarian Sh. Pandita,
who had come to Delhi for medical treatment, spoke on various aspects of his
scholar father's life and personality, revealing many interesting facts. Some of
these are given below. ]
According to Sh J.N. Pandita NS was born
in 1874 and the time of his matriculation, there were but two matriculates in
the whole of Jammu and Kashmir State - Agha Syed Hussain and Ved Lal Zutshi. NS
had his preliminary education as a private student as there were no regular
schools in the state those days.
Having a firm grounding in Sanskrit, a
family tradition, NS wanted to study English also, but his father, for whom
learning English was as good as becoming a Christian, was dead set against it.
NS however, studied the language secretly, learning it from one Srikanth
Khazanchi, and soon mastered it.
His knowledge of English came handy to him
when he met the famous orientalist Sir Aurel Stein at Lahore. NS had gone there
to sit for his Pragya and Stein was then Registrar of the Punjab University (of
prepartition days) which conducted the Sanskrit examination. The meeting of the
two great scholars was a great event leading to their life long friendship and
commitment to Sanskrit. The two collaborated and cooperated in producing several
important Sanskriti works of Kashmir, NS's vast knowledge guiding Stein many a
crucial point. Others who benefitted from his scholarship included Grierson,
Vogel, Winternitz and Vreese. NS started his career at a young age of 16,
teaching Sanskrit at a government school in Srinagar. Later, he obtained the
degree of Shastri, the highest in Sanskrit those days, and afterwards became
Professor of Sanskrit at Sri Pratap College, Srinagar in the year 1916. NS
distinguished himself by going to college always wearing the traditional
Kashmiri attire. He never wore a western outfit.
NS was among the leading Kashmiri Pandits
who met Swami Vivekananda when the latter visited Kashmir in 1897. There is a
group photograph commemorating the event. He also met Lord Curzon, then the
Viceroy of India, and presented to him a welcome address in Sanskrit verse
during his visit to Kashmir in 1906.
Among his peers and contemporaries were
prominent figures of the times, both Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri and they were not
limited to the literary or academic circles. These included Pt. Daulat Ram,
Prof. Gyani Ram, Dr. Kulbhushan, Dr. Balwant Singh, Pt. Parmanand and Pandit
Narayan Dass. Notable among his students were Shri T.N. Kaul, former diplomat,
Shri P.N.K. Bamzai, noted historian and Smt Pupul Jaykar, cultural zarina. When
NS retired as Professor in 1930, it was Shri T.N. Kaul who read his farewell
Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya was a great
admirer of the outstanding Kashmiri scholar. Struck by his vast knowledge and
erudition when he met him at the Rawalpindi session of All Hindu Mahadhama Sabha
Sammelan in 1929, Malviya Ji invited him to join the Sanskrit faculty at the
Benaras Hindu University. When NS expressed his inability to do so due to family
obligations, Malviya Ji exclaimed, "The portals of Benaras Hindu University
will always remain open for you. You can join whenever it is convenient to
you". Sir Aurel Stein too offered him a faculty assignment at Oxford, but
NS had to decline, again for the same reasons. NS's fame as a scholar of
encyclopaedic range spread far and wide, in the country and abroad, but due to
family circumstances he had to stay for the most part of the year in Srinagar.
But during the winter months, when his college would close for vacations, he
would find time to visit various centres of Sanskrit learning in the country.
These included Benaras, Allahabad Prayag, Lahore and Gaya, where he found
pleasure in interacting with other Sanskrit scholars.
NS was, however, not only just an
academician, he was equally active in the social and cultural fields. While
being the president of Sanskrit Sahitya Parishad, a Sanskrit literary
organisation he founded in 1930, he also established a charitable trust named
Vanita Ashram to help widows and destitutes. As a philanthrop, he had few peers.
Throughout is life, every month NS secretly donated one tenth of his income in
"Don Quixote" in Kashmiri
Cervantes' "Don Quixote" has
been one of the most popular of world classics and has been translated into many
languages. The 15th century Spanish classic was translated into the Kashmiri
language too, and as far back as 1936 a time when Kashmiri had hardly any prose.
It was translated jointly by Professors Nityanand Shastri and Jagaddhar Zadoo
into Kashmiri and Sanskrit. Although it was the first translation of any
European literary work in Kashmiri, literary historians of the language have
made no mention of it. The reason perhaps is that the Kashmiri version of
"Don Quixote" never saw the light of the day, unlike the first
Kashmiri novel "Lila" written by Prof. S. K. Toshkhani which was
serialized in "Bahar-e-Kashmir", a magazine published from Lahore. It
was Sir Aurel Stein who had commissioned the two Kashmiri scholars, Prof.
Nityanand and Prof. Zadoo, for the translation on behalf of his Harvard
university friend, Carl T. Keller as part of a project to obtain translations of
"Don Quixote" in all major languages of the world. The Kashmiri and
Sanskrit translations were sent to Harvard University, Boston, where they
presumably still exist. Prof. Jagadhar Zadoo later passed on his copy of the
translation to a "loved friend" of his, obviously for publication, but
nothing followed. Fortunately, NSKRI is in possession of a fragmentary copy of
the Kashmiri translation of "Don Quixote", which it intends to publish
in the near future. On publication, the work is bound to enrich Kashmiri prose.