IN THE SERVICE OF URDU
Excerpts: 'KASHMIRI PANDITS: A CULTURAL
HERITAGE' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt
can jusifiably be proud of their great contribution to the development and
enrichment of Persian in India from the fourteenth century of the Christian era
onwards. Earlier they had already carved out a special place for themselves in
the realms, among others, of Sanskrit language and literature.
The Persian poetical works of some of them had been
adjudged, in their times, to be as good as those of the best poets of Iran
itself. Habib Ullah Ghanai, 'Hubbi' (1556-1617), Mulla Muhammad Tahir, 'Ghani'
(d. 1669), Mirza Darab Beg, 'Juya' (d.1707) and Mirza Beg Akmal, 'Kamil'
(1645-1719) of the Mughal period are in the opinion of Dr. G. L. Tikku of the
University of Illinois (U.S.A.) only four poets who are, so as to say,
landmarks of Persian poetry in Kashmir. Their name and fame travelled as far as
Iran in their day.
During almost a century of Afghan and Sikh rule from
about the middle of 1700 A.D. to about the middle of 1800 A.D., Mulla Ashraf,
'Bulbul', Abdul Vahab, 'Shaiq', Daya Ram Kachru, 'Khushdil', Mulla Hamid Ullah,
'Hamid', Birbal Kachru, 'Varasta' were equally outstanding and far-famed. One
could with apologies to chronlogy, add the distinguished name of Bhawani Dass
Kachru 'Neku', Raja Kaul Arzabegi, Chandra Bhan 'Brahmin', Lachi Ram 'Saroor',
Narain Dass 'Zamir' and a host of others.
Some of these distinguished men of letters rose of
sublime heights of accomplishment which won them deserved acclaim. To those
friends who would like to know a little more on the subject I would recommend a
study of "Persian Poetry in Kashmir" by Dr. G. L. Tikku. He has
called it only "an Introduction". But it is much more than that, and
provides educative and excellent reading. Dr. Tikku has rendered a signal
service to his old, home-land and to all lovers of Persian by bringing out this
Persian, however, slowly ceased to be the language of
the court and of the elite with the eclipse of the Moghuls. Urdu took its place
steadily and step by step. The part that Kashmiris played in its development and
enrichment has again been historic and all-important. In point of that fact
Kashmiris, whether Hindu or Muslim, who migrated to various parts of India from
the middle of the seveteenth century onwards and settled down in Punjab, Delhi,
Rajasthan,Central India, U.P. and even Eastern India, slowly forgot their mother
tongue, Kashmiri and used Urdu as such. They ultimately, came to regard Urdu as
their mother- tongue. In Kashmir itself, Urdu was the court language and
therefore in full bloom.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the very
foundations of the Urdu novel and of its fiction were laid by that great but
tragic genius, Rattn Nath Dhar 'Sarshar'. His classic "Fasanai Azad"
was universally acclaimed as a great work of art and charted new paths in virgin
soil. He was followed by others. These included in recent days Prem Nath Sadhu 'Pardesi',
and my dear old class mate, Prem Nath 'Dhar' who wrote "Kagaz-Ka-Vasudeva"
In the field of Urdu prose stalwarts like Tribhuwan
Nath 'Hajar', Shiv Narain 'Shamim', Si Tej Bahadur Sapru to name only a few,
rendered yeomen's service. In Urdu drama Agha Hashar Kashmiri was the path
finder and pioneer. His "Yahudi-Ki-Beti" has not lost any of
its lustre even yet. I will not talk of later day men of letters in these
Again in the development of Urdu journalisr Kashmiris
have played a significant role. In th Kashmir State itself the legendary Har
Gopal Kaul 'Khasta', was almost the father of Urdu journalism. In Lahore, others
apart, the name of Gopinath Gurtu of "Akhbar-i-am" fame was one
to conjure with to be followed, with passage of time, by Dina Nath Chikan 'Mast's'
"Subeh-i-Kashmir". "Kashmir Darpan" of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru,
"Morasala-i-Kashmir" and "Subeh-i-Umed" of
Brij Narain 'Chakbast' and "Bahar-i-Kashmir" could again well
be mentioned in this connection as specimens from U.P. and Lahore.
Urdu poetry owes a significant debt to Kashmiri genius,
Sir Mohammad Iqbal, a migrant Kashmiri whose family had left Kashmir and settled
in Sialkot. The "Masnavi" of Daya Shankar Tikku, 'Nasim', holds
its own even today. Brij Narain Chakbast - a great poet who died young touched
the very heights of poetic genius. His "Khak-i-Hind" anti poems
of the same genre should be read with Iqbal's "Mera Wattan Wohi Hai"
and "Naya Shawab" written very much later. His mastery of
Urdu prose was equally superb. The diction, repart and thrust of "Maarika-i-Chakbast-o-Sharar"
are a delight, Pandit Brij Mohan Dattatriy, 'Kaifi', was till recently - he died
full of years and honours - a venerable name in Urdu literary and cultural
circles all over India. My old and revered teacher in S. P. Colleges Sirinagar,
Pandit Nand Lal Kaul "Talib" and his friend and contemporary, Pandit
Dina Nath Chikan, "Mast", my earlier and very revered teacher at
School, Pandit Nand Lal Din 'Begaraz' - again to name only a few-also made their
valuable contributions to both prose and poetry in Urdu and Persian. My old
collegemate, that great shining star ot Kashmir poetic, literary and cultural
firmament, Mali Dina Nath 'Nadim', initially wrote his poetry in Urdu. Some at
least of these, which he sweetly recited decades ago, seemed to me then to
nearly touch the stars. Again the great Kashmiri seer and Savant 'Masterji'.
Pandit Zinda Kaul, also started as an Urdu poet. Some of his Urdu poems won the
applause of old masters. That great nightingale of Kashmir, Ghulam Ahmed 'Mahjur'
also started with Urdu and made a brilliant success of it. Among living Urdu
poets today Pandit Anand Narain Mulla is still acknowledged as the unchallenged
Many Kashmiris had invaluable treasures of Persian and
Urdu manuscripts with them. They were loath to part with these and unable to
preserve them either tragic consequence. I remember - and this is a child-hood
memory - that my grand-father, Pandit Nanak Chand, he had a lovely hand, had
copied two rare and lengthy Persian manuscripts on fine Kashmir paper with
illuminated margins which were kept in a small wooden box. He died in the prime
of life and these could subsequently never be traced.
Most Kashmiris were aware of this continued and wanton
loss of a valuable heritage but seemed either helpless or indifferent. Sir Tej
Bahadur Sapru and some other distinguished Kashmiris of Allahabad, however,
decided to cry a halt, to the extent possible to further ravages of this nature.
They, therefore, organized with a rare missionary zeal, a collection drive in
the fields of Persian and Urdu poetry by Kashmiris in Northern India. This was
indeed a Herculean task.
The dedication and self-less enthusiasm of this small
band of lovers of Urdu poetry and of Kashmiris, headed in the field by Pandit
Jagmohan Nath Raina, "Shauk", resulted in the publication finally by
1932 of two excellently brought out volumes of a classic in Urdu, "Bahar-i-Gulshan-i-Kashmir".
It is a monumental work and received a most enthusiastic reception. It earned
for Kashmiris not only numberless bouquets, but also warm admiration for their
great literary contributions to both Persian and Urdu poetry in a most
outstanding manner. Extracts from the "Kalam" of over three
hundred twenty-five Kashmiri poets in Persian and Urdu figured in these two
volumes. Peer Pandit Padshah and Rup Bhawani are included amongst a host of
others. There are also photographs of the Poets/Poetesses in plenty - a great
labour of love. Prose, drama and fiction could not be covered. The canvass would
have been too vast. Nearly half a century has elapsed since many Kashmiri
flowers have bloomed in the interval in the enchanting gardens of Urdu
literature in prose, poetry and drama. But most of us are unaware of this
scattered treasure of beauty and this cultural legacy. A fresh band of
re-incarnated Jagmohan Nath Rainas has to be born to take up the thread and
bring out another volume to span the uncovered interregnum. This is a labour of
love which could again be resumed at Allahabad or at Delhi before it is too
late. Lovers of Kashmir, of Kashmiri culture, and of Urdu ought surely to spare
some thought for this and put their heads together to evolve an effective plan
of action. Surely what some of us could do and achieve in this direction more
than fifty years ago can be attempted by some more of us again with equal
success given the spirit and the dedication.