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Kashmiri Literature

Prof. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee

Kashmiri is one of the Aryan languages of the Union of India, and it is an interesting and important language in many ways, although the number of people speaking it is not very large near about 11/2 millions only. In the first instance, Kashmiri has a fine literature, particularly rich in little lyrics of life and nature, besides compositions in the mystic vein both Brahmanical (Sivite) and Islamic (Sufi). It has got a large number of long poems, both of Sanskrit and of Persian inspiration, and there is in present-day Kashmiri quite a note -worthy literary upsurge.

As a language, Kashmiri, at least in its basic stratum, belongs to the Dardic Section of Aryan or Indo-Iranian. Possibly one section of the Aryans who came to India before 1000 B.C. and who spoke dialects very much like the language of the Rig-Veda but with certain special characteristics (which later gave rise to the Dardic branch of Aryan) became established in the valley of Kashmir, and in the surrounding mountainous tracts; and very early, possibly from after the Vedic Age, Brahmanical Aryans with their Indo-Aryan 'spoken' Sanskrit (and subsequently with the Prakrits) came and settled in Kashmir and other Himalayan areas. Following the Brahmans, the Buddhists also came to Kashmir, and Kashmir formed a part of the Maurya Empire of Asoka; and beyond Kashmir, speakers of the Indo-Aryan dialect from North-Western India settled round about what is now Khotan (Kustana in Sanskrit). In this way, Kashmir, inspite of a Dardic substratum in its people and in its speech, became a part of the Sanskritic culture world of India. The Indo-Aryan Prakrits and Apabhramsa from the Midland and from Northern Panjab profoundly modified the Dardic bases of Kashmiri, so that one might say that the Kashmiri language is a result of a very large over-laying of a Dardic base with Indo-Aryan elements.

Throughout the entire part of the first thousand years after Christ, Kashmir was within the orbit of Sanskrit, and Kashmiri scholars, particularly during the second half of these thousand years, made their important contributions to Sanskrit literature; and the names of Damodara, Abhinavagupta, Kalhana, Bilhana and others are pre-eminent in the history of Sanskrit literature. Kashmir also developed its Trika System of Saiva Tantric philosophy, which had points of contact with th Saiva Siddhanta of the Tamil land, far away in the South.

It is presumed that, before the development of the Kashmiri language proper (which, as in the case of the other Aryan Languages of India, took place after 1000 A.D.), there were a Prakrit and an Apabhramsa stage of Kashmiri. But there are no specimens of what may be called a Kashmiri Prakrit and a Kashmiri Apabhramsa. Only half a line in three words of what may be described as Kashmiri Apabhramsa has been found in Kalhana's Sanskrit History of Kashmir, the Rajatarangini, and this half a line goes back to the first half of the 10th century A.D. It runs thus : Rangassa Helu dinna (or dinnu), "the village of helu has been given to Ranga", and this in modern Kashmiri would be Rangas Hyulu dyunu.

The early history of Kashmiri as a language, together with a study of its literature, has not yet been fully taken up. In this connexion we have to mention specially the pioneer work of Sir George Abraham Grierson; and one or two Kashmiri scholars of eminence, like Professor Prithwinath Pushp (Posh), are now collecting materials and initiating a proper study. The history of Kashmiri literature, as of the language, may be divided into the following three periods, paralleling what we have in most other languages of India, both Aryan and Dravidian :

(1) Old Kashmiri, from 1200 to 1500 A.D.

(2) Middle Kashmiri, from 1500 to 1800 A.D.

(3) New or Modern Kashmiri, after 1800 A.D.

Old Kashmiri presented a language with a very full phonetic character, but from Middle Kashmiri times there were some very extensive vowel-changes, through Umlaut and other sound-laws being operative, which changed the nature of Old Kashmiri and made it almost a different language.

Prior to the Old Kashmiri period, we have evidence of Indo-Aryan Prakrit and Apabhramsa both being used for literary compositions by Kashmiri scholars, side by side with Sanskrit. Thus there is a work in Sanskrit by the great Sanskrit scholar, Abhinava-gupta (c. 950 to 1025 A.D.), the Tantra-sara, in which at the end of each verse section (Ahnika), there are two verses in some kind of Apabhramsa we have 76 verses in all in this language, but it does not show any specific Kashmiri character. Then, again, there is another work known as the Mahartha-manjari by Goraksa-natha alias Maheswarananda, which consits of 71 distichs in Prakrit (it is not the language of Kashmir but is Maharastr Prakrit), and this work has been found in two recensions both of which have been published, one from Srinagar in Kashmir and the other from Trivandrum in Kerala. This work in all likelihood belongs to a period before 1200 A.D. and may be immediately after Abhinava-gupta. Works like these show the presence of a strong tradition of composing in Indo-Aryan Prakrit and Apabhramsa in Kashmir of a thousand or 800 years ago.

(1) Old Kashmiri : 1200-1500 A.D.

The earliest compositions so far available in Kashmiri would appear to be the 94 four-line stanzas found in a Sanskrit work called the Mahanaya-praka'sa ('Illumination of the Highest Attainment or Discipline') by Sitikantha Acarya.

Grierson, following a Kashmiri scholar, thought that this work belonged to the fourth quarter of the 15th century; but a closer study of the subject-matter as well as the language, with some internal evidence from the name and the title of the author, will go to show that the work is much older. The subject-matter of these verses is highly abstruse, dealing with the Saiva Tantric philosophy as current in Kashmir as its most popular faith, and it belongs to the period of religion and thought of the times of Abhinava-gupta and his followers. Without a commentary it will not be possible to understand the inner meaning of the verses. Grierson made a linguistic study of these 94 stanzas, but still much remains to be done. It is easy to see that the language here is something very archaic when compared with Modern Kashmiri it is like Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) beside Modern English. It is even more ancient than the language of the poems of Lalla Didi of the 14th century as preserved in old manuscripts. The position of these verses in the history of the Kashmiri language is analogous to that of the Carya-padas in Old Bengali. Prof. Pushp, who agrees that the work may go back to the 13th century, or even earlier, has discovered another work of unknown date, the Chumma-Sampradaya, giving 74 verses, which in their language and in their subject-matter also belong to the age of the Mahanaya prakasa.

These two works give us the oldest specimens of Kashmiri, and they in all likelihood belong to a period before 1300. Next we are on slightly surer ground with regard to the author. In the 14th century, we have in Kashmir a great Sivite woman-saint, Lalla Didi or Lal Ded, whose compositions, in a modern Kashmiri form, are in the mouths of all Kashmiris, both Hindus and Muslims, and they represent the oldest specimens of Kashmiri which still have been continued down to our times by oral tradition. Lalla Didi was born in 1335 A.D. during the rule of the last Hindu King of Kashmir, Udayana-deva, and she passed away sometime between 1383 and 1386. She had a very unhappy married life, neglected by her hasband and ill-treated by her mother-in-law, and she became a Sannyasini, moving about the country, and singing her little poems of mystic perception of Siva, the Supreme. It is said that she met Shah Hamdani who was the first great Sufi saint and preacher of Islam in Kashmir, and they were both mutually appreciative of each other's mystic qualities. The Kashmir Muslims consider her to have been converted to Islam by this contact with Shah Hamdani, and she is described as lal 'Arifa, and the Hindus called her Lalla Yogisvari. Some 110 poems of this type by Lalla have been edited and translated by Sir George Abraham Grierson (Royal Asiatic Society of London, 1923), and some more have been collected by others.

During the second period of Old Kashmiri, from after Lalla's time to 1500 A.D., we have another great mystic poet in Kashmir, a Muslim saint named Shah Nuruddin, or as he is called by the Hindus, Nand Ryosh or Nanda Rishi. He was born in 1377 and passed away in 1440. Nuruddin is held in great respect by both Hindus and Muslims, and he became a sort of a patron-saint for Kashmiri Muslims. His verses and sayings known as Sruks give statement to his profound faith in and love for God, and his catholicity of outlook; and they are also, besides, didactic in their nature. These verses have been collected in the form of a book called the Rishi-namah or Nur-namah. A good proportion of this collection is perhaps spurious.

During the greater part of 15th century, Kashmir was fortunate in having one of the most enlightened men of his age as her ruler. He was Zainul Abidin, who was born in 1401, and ruled Kashmir from 1420 to 1470. He was of native Kashmiri origin, and he was a great administrator and patron of arts and letters as well as a man of singularly progressive and benevolent ideas, to whom Kashmir owed a great deal of her prosperity during mediareview times. He himself knew both Sanskrit and Persian, and encouraged the Hindu religion in its philosophy and its rituals, and repaired Hindu shrines. The artistic crafts of Kashmir were fully developed by him, and their fame spread outside Kashmir. He gathered round him a number of poets and writers in both Persian and Sanskrit as well as in Kashmiri. We can make mention of the following Kashmiri poets who adorned his court: Uttha-soma, who composed a series of lyrics in Kashmiri, besides a biography of Zainul Abidin, and a treatise on music called the Manaka; an unknown poet who wrote the Banasura-vadha, the first narrative poem so far known in Kashmiri; Yodha-bhatta, who wrote a biography of his patron, the Jaina-prakasa; and there was also Bhatta-avatara who was a distinguished Persian scholar and who composed another work on this royal patron of letters, in Kashmiri, the Jaina-vilasa. These biographical and panegyrical works in Kashmiri now appear to have been lost. Zainul Abidin anticipated Emperor Akbar in many ways. The Rajatarangini of Kalhana, which gives the history of Kashmir upto 1150 A.D., was continued by two Sanskrit scholars under the inspiration of King Zainul Abidin. The Sanskrit Mahabharata was adapted into Persian for the first time by Mulla Ahmad, who also translated the Raja-tarangini of Kalhana into Persian; and Pandit Srivara similarly adapted the Persian poet Jami's romantic poem Yusuf-Zulaikha into Sanskrit.

The 15th century in this way saw the transformation of the Kashmiri people, in an atmosphere of Sufi-istic Islam which was not at all iconoclastic but was appreciative of the current Brahmanical Saiva mysticism of Kashmir, into a predominantly Muslim people. The language, as it can be expected, began to undergo very great changes during this first period of Kashmiri literature, and was moving towards Modern Kashmiri.

(2) Middle Kashmiri Period : 1500 to 1800 A.D.

This period roughly falls into three stages. We have the period of Kashmiri Sultans upto 1586 A.D., when Kashmir came under the Moguls, being conquered by Akbar. During the first half of the 16th century Kashmir was ruled by the kings of Zainul Abidin's family; and from 1555, four Muslim Sultans of Chak dynasty ruled over Kashmir, upto 1586. From 1586 to 1748, we have the Mogul period in the mediareview history of Kashmir. Finally, from 1748, when Kashmir was conquered by the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Abdali, we have the Afghan period of Kashmir, which came down to about 1820. By that time the modern period started in Kashmir.

During the Middle Kashmiri period, we have the continued development of the Kashmiri language and its literature, and it came very largely under the umbrage of Persian. Persian replaced for the masses of the Kashmiri people the Sanskrit language, and the Muslim religion also became fully established, but the tendency to bring about a harmony of Hindu thought and Sufism continued, both among the upper classes and among the masses.

In the 16th century a very remarkable poetess came into the field of Kashmiri literature. She was Hubb Khatun, or as she is popularly known among the present-day Kashmiris, Habba Khotun. She was a village girl of great beauty and poetic sensibility, whose original name was Zun ("Moon-Light" Prakrit Jonha, Sanskrit Jyotsna). Married to an ordinary villager, uneducated and uncultured, who did not appreciate her talent, her life was very unhappy, and she had also a mother-in-law who constantly bullied her. But she had some education in Persian, and she was a talented singer with a beautiful voice; besides, she could compose popular lyrics in Kashmiri known as Lol ("Songs of Yearning"). King Yusuf Shah Chak of Kashmir (1579 to 1586) saw her in her native place and was captivated by her, and the King married Habba Khotun after getting her divorced from her husband. Her new name in Arabic, Hubb, meant "Love". She had only a few years of happy married life with her royal husband. But, after the conquest of Kashmir by Akbar, King Yusuf Shah was taken away from Kashmir and was never allowed to return. Habba Khotun had to pass the rest of her life in separation from her beloved husband, for 20 years, living virtually like a hermitess. She died about the age of 55. Habba Khotun is one of the most popular poetesses of Kashmiri, and her place as a writer of exquisite lyrics of love and life is in the forefront of Kashmiri literature. In Kashmiri literature, these are three eminent poetesses who are the glory not only of Kashmiri literature but of Indian literature as well : they are Lal Ded of the 14th century, Habba Khotun of the 16th century, and finally Arani-mal of the second half of the 18th century.

Among the more important writers of Kashmiri during the Mogul andAfghan periods, mention may be made of the following :

Khawajah Habibullah Naushahri, who died in 1617, wrote a series of beautiful lyric poems in Kashmiri.

The Hindu poet Sahib Kaul, who lived during the time of Jahangir, wrote the Krsna-avatara and the Janam-Carita, both on Hindu Puranic themes;

The poetess Rupa-bhavani (1624-1720) wrote a number of religious poems : her language, as that of a Hindu religious writer, was highly Sanskritized;

Mulla Fakhir, who died about the close of the 18th century, composed songs and odes.

We have to mention specially the third great Kashmiri writer of love-lyrics, Arani-mal (the name means 'a Garland of yellow Roses'). She lived during the second half of the 18th century. She was the wife of a Kashmiri Brahman named Munshi Bhavanidas Kachru who was a distinguished Persian scholar and author. Arani-mal's married life was unhappy, as in the case of Lal Ded and Habba Khotun. She was deserted by her husband because of his love for other women. The unhappy wife poured forth her heart in a series of most poignant and at the same time most exquisite poems of love in Kashmiri which are among the most popular and most universal compositions in the language. Arani-mal spent her life of frustration in composing her beautiful poems on love and on the beauty of nature. Her little lyrics, whith their abandon and profound yearning for her husband, and charming imagery and lovely language redolent with the beauty and the fragrance of flowers, conform with similar lyrics of Habba Khotun (and with a few others from other poets of Kashmiri), and form some of the most exquisite flowers in the garden of Indian poetry which are comparable with the finest lovepoems in any language.

In the 18th century, there was another great Hindu poet in Kashmiri, Prakasa-rama (also known as Divakara-Prakasa Bhatta) who was a contemporary with Raja Sukh-jiwan Mall, a Hindu Nazir or Governor of Kashmir under the Afghans about 1760. Prakasa-rama wrote the Ramayana in Kashmiri, known as the Ramavatara-carita, with a sequel Lava-Kusa-Yuddha Carita. (This work has been edited in Roman transliteration with an English summary by Sir George Abraham Grierson, and published from the Asiatic Society of Calcutta in 1930; and it was first published from Srinagar in Persian characters in 1910). It consists of 1786 stanzas, some in the two-line Persian Hazaj metre and the rest in the native four-line accented metre of Kashmiri.

Mir Abdullah Baihaqi (died 1807) composed a volume of poems known as Koshir-'Aqa'id (a narrative masnavi), besides a religious poem, the Mukhtasar-Waqayah.

Another Hindu poet of this period, who wrote during the early years of 19th century, was Ganga-Prasad, who composed a religious work in Kashmiri verse the Samsara-maya-mohajala-sukha-duhkha-carita (or "the Account of the Joys and Sorrows of this World of Illusion and Net of Infatuation.")

During the 18th century and the earlier part of the 19th century, a number of Kashmiri poets wrote in imitation of Persian narrative poems, and also adapted many of the Persian classics into Kashmiri. In this way, the Arabic and Persian love stories, like those of Yusuf-Zulaikha, Khusrau-Shirin and Laila Majnun became completely accepted and naturalized in the literature of Kashmir. Some popular romantic stories from the Panjab also became the common property of the masses in Kashmir.

(3) Modern Kashmiri Literature : after 1800 A.D.

In 1819 the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh of Lahore conquered Kashmir from the Afghans and ended Afghan rule which had begun from 1748. This whole period of Afghan domination was one of nightmare for the Kashmiri people, as the Afghan governors from Kabul came only to plunder and ill-treat the unfortunate people. The intervention of the Sikhs from the Panjab who had grown into a strong power was sought by many people in Kashmir, particularly the Hindus, and Kashmir became a part of the Sikh State, being administered by governors from Lahore upto the year 1848.

This linking up of Srinagar with Lahore brought in immediately a reorientation of Kashmir towards India, like what existed in the pre-Muslim periods and also under the Moguls. The Persian language continued its influence as before on Kashmiri, as Persian was also the official language with the Sikhs. In 1848 Jammu and Kashmir became one State under the rule of the Dogra Rajput dynasty from Jammu, and in many respects the Hindus of Kashmir now came to be in a better situation than before.

Through the strong influence of Persian during all these centuries from the 1500 onwards, Kashmiri had developed a quantitative meter in the Persian style, side by side with the native Kashmiri meter of strong stresses which still characterizes popular poetry. In vocabulary, in the common epithets and in phrases and imageries, the Kashmiri language, like Urdu in India, came entirely under the spell of Persian; but Kashmiri nevertheless preserved a good deal of its native character.

The modern period for Kashmiri begins from the beginning of the 19th century, with the establishment of the Sikh rule. Gradually influences of Urdu and then English came to have their play in the evolution of Kashmiri literature, and new ideas and new styles in thought and letters became slowly established.

The Modern Period of Kashmiri literature has been divided into three sub-periods or stages (by Professor Jialal Kaul) as follows :

(a) The First Stage roughly from 1800 to 1880 (or, rather from 1819 to 1879). This was dominated by the Muslim poet Mahmud Gami who died in 1855, and by the Hindu poet Paramanand who died in 1879. This may be described as something like a "Classic Age" for Modern Kashmiri, and a number of fine works under Persian as well as Sanskrit inspiration and influence were composed by poets, both Hindu and Muslim, who are held in general esteem as masters of modern Kashmiri literature during the 19th century.

(b) The Second Stage, from 1880 to 1913, ended with the death of one of the great poets of Modern Kashmiri, Wahhab Pare. This Stage was comparatively barren in literature, but the influence of English and Urdu came in. European scholars like Karl Friedrich Burkhard and Sir George Abraham Grierson began an intensive study of the Kashmiri language, in both describing it fully and treating it historically. Both these scholars published a number of important Kashmiri texts Grierson published four classics of Kashmiri by Hindu writers, and Burkhard brought out an edition of Mahmud Gami's romantic poem of Yusuf-Zulaikha. Then through modern education, the Kashmiri intelligentsia (particularly among the Kashmiri Brahmans) became once more alive to the beauties of their mother-tongue. But Kashmiri was suffering (and is still suffering) from a great handicap, in not possessing a suitable alphabet it is now generally written in the Perso-Arabic script which is very unsuitable for the genius of the language, and the old Sarada alphabet, which is confined to the Kashmiri Brahmans, represents an archaic tradition in its orthography, which could not be adapted to modern times inspite of the scientific endeavours of modern scholars like I'swar Kaul and Sir George Abraham Grierson. But nevertheless, many Kashmiris finally discovered the beauty and importance of their language and its literature both in its learned compositions and in the popular songs. The main languages of the State of Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiri, Dogri with Hindi, and Tibetan in Ladakh, but the official languages are English and Urdu, and Kashmiri in its own home is still in the background.

(c) We have the Recent Stage in the Modern Period of Kashmiri literature, from 1913 onwards.

During the First Stage of the Modern Period, Mahmud Gami was a prolific writer in Kashmiri, and wrote his fine metrical romances from the Persian like Yusuf-wa-Zulaikha, Laila-Majnun and Khusrau-Shirin. He was a poet endowed with a fine descriptive and narrative quality, and he was also famous as the writer of a large number of ghazals and other poems.

Maqbul Shah composed his Gulrez, a narrative poem on a love-theme borrowed from the Persian. Maqbul Shah also wrote a satirical account of Kashmir peasant-life known as the Gurist-namah.

Pandit Nanda-rama alias Paramananda (1719-1879) is regarded as one of the greatest poest of Kashmir. He was born in the village of Matan where he spent all his life and served as a Patwari or petty revenue officer. He was influenced by both Lalla and Nuruddin or Nand Rishi. Taking note of the devotional and mystic aspect of his poetic genius, the Muslim writers of Kashmir have described Paramanand as the "Sana'i of Kashmir," comparing him with the great Persian poet of that name. Under the pen-name of Gharib, he composed also some Persian ghazals, but most of his narrative poems are on themes of the Sanskrit Purana. His language was rather Sanskritized, treating as his poems were of the Lila or "Sports", that is the holy acts of divinities like Krishna and Siva. His bigger works are Radha-svayamvara, Sudama-carita, and the Siva-lagan. In this line of religious narratives, he was followed by other Hindu poets.

Paramananda's friend was Lakshman Ju. He contributed some episodes in Paramananda's big work Radha-svayamvara. He was also the author of Nala-Damayanti, which is an extensive and rather pedestrian work on the story from the Mahabharata. Besides, he composed quite a large number of ghazals and short poems in Kashmiri.

Krishna Razdan (or Rajanaka) was another distinguished Hindu poet of this period. A disciple of Paramananda, he wrote in beautiful Kashmiri, and he is pre-eminent both in his descriptions of Nature and in the musical quality of his verse. His most important work is Siva-parinaya (or 'the Wedding of Siva') in 1915 four-line stanzas (edited and published from Calcutta by Sir George Abraham Grierson in 1924, in the reformed Nagar script devised for Kashmiri, with a Sanskrit chaya by Mm. Pandit Mukundarama Sastri).

There is another Hindu classic of Kashmiri, the Krsnavatara Lila (published in 1928 by Grierson from Calcutta in the Roman character with an English translation). In the work itself, the name of the author has been given as Dina-natha. But he has not been identified the author appears to have composed this poem during the first half of the 19th century.

It is in 1178 four-line stanzas, and the Bhagavata-Purana stories about Krishna have been beautifully treated in this poem.

Waliullah Mattu wrote a lyric romance called Himal-ta-Nagray ('Jasmine-Garland and Snake-Prince'), based on a popular Kashmiri folk- or fairy-tale, and Mattu's poem was composed probably in the late 19th century. The narrative portions are by Waliullah, and there are lyrics composed by another poet named Saifuddin Zarif. The songs and the narrative fit in very well with each other, and the work is very popular.

Abdul Wahhab Pare was another great Kashmiri writer of the Modern Period. He was born in 1845 and died in 1913. He made an adaptation from the Persian into Kashmiri of theShah-namah of Firdausi, and he translated the Akbar-namah which is a historical work in Persian relating to the wars in Afghanistan. He also wrote a number of short stories, didactic as well as relating to love, and he composed large number of smaller poems on various subjects as well.

With Wahhab Pare's death, the older period of Kashmiri literature may be said to have ended. There were, however, poets in the older tradition, of whom the following names could be mentioned :

Rasul Mir, the author of a number of beautiful songs and ghazals; Azizullah Haqqani, a poet; and besides a number of Sufi mystic poets like Qalandar Shah, Abdul Ahad Nazim, Mohiuddin Miskin, Khwajah Akram Rahman Dar, and Maulavi Siddiqullah (died 1930) who translated the Sikandar-namah of the great Persian poet of the 12th century, Nizami.

There was also Ramazan Bath, who wrote the most popular version of the story of Akh-nandan or 'the only Son'. It is an old Hindu religious tale about the loving parents of an only son being compelled by a religious vow to put him to death and even cook his flesh as an offering to a religious mendicant (Yogi) who demanded this sacrifice. But afterwards the the son was restored to life after the parents' devotion was tested in this way. Several poets composed on this theme from the end of the 19th century. Ramazan Bath lived half a century ago, and composed near about the year 1900 this very beautiful and touching poem in simple and racy Kashmiri which has been highly praised by a well-known scholar and literary man like Sri Nanda-lal Ambaradar. We have poems on the same theme also by Ahad Zargar, Samad Mir and Ali Wani. But Ramazan Bath's work remains the best.

Rahman Dar is the author of a very popular poem called the Mauch-Tuluir or 'Honey-Bee'. The old line of mystic tradition in poetry passed on to a number of modern mystic poets like Aziz Darvesh, Wahhab Khar and Mirza Kak.

The most recent period of Kashmiri literature was inaugurated by the poet period of Kashmiri literature was inaugurated by the poet Pirzadah Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (born 1885), who became famous as a poet of Nationalism and National Reconstruction even before 1938 when there started a great Nationalist Movement in Kashmir. The desire for the uplift of the people now became very noticeable, in addition to the continuance of the old tradition of both mystic poetry and passionate love poetry. Mahjur has been in the forefront of Kashmir literature and language, and he can be very properly described as the inaugurator of the new trends in Kashmiri literature. His poems are lyrical and patriotic as well as on political subjects. The educated classes, along with the masses, all sing songs composed by him. The impress of the beautiful Nature of Kashmir is found in his writings. Another great contemporary Kashmiri poet and writer, Zinda Kaul, known as "Masterji", has said about majhur : "Besides being very musical and correct in the matter of the meter and rhyme, Mahjur is perhaps the first to introduce into Kashmiri the ideas of patriotism, human freedom, love of men and women, unity of Hindu and Muslim, dignity of work and respect for manual labour, and Nature, scenery, flowers, etc." His poems have been sold in a hundred thousand copies. Some of his poems describing the simple charm of the women and maidens of Kashmir are beautiful in themselves.

With Mahjur we are to mention the Hindu poet Zinda Kaul (born 1884). He is a social reformer, and is also a mystic, and he writes in popular language. One of his verse compositions, the Samran ("Remembrance") has been awarded a Sahitya Academy Prize from New Delhi in 1956. He has brought in new rime schemes and rhythm patterns in Kashmiri; and among his poems, "Ferry-man lead Thou me across" is a popular patriotic prayer.

Among other innovators in Kashmiri literature during this Stage, we may mention specially Nandalal Kaul, poet and dramatist, who wrote a number of dramas, adapting or translating from Hindi and Urdu. Satach Kahwath (or 'the Touch Stone of Truth'), Ramun Raj (or 'the Golden Age of Rama'), Dayalal and Prahlad Bhagat are among recent note-worthy dramas by Nandalal in Kashmiri. Mana-Ju Attar has made a Kashmiri verse translation of the Bhagavata-Purana. Pandit Dayaram Ganju has didactic and other poems in Kashmiri, and his little book of advice to the young people Ghar Vyez-mal is very popular.

Pandit Narayan Khar of Matan is another poet who has rendered into beautiful Kashmiri the Bhagavad-Gita. The treatment of social life and social reform is also coming into vogue in Kashmiri literature. We have also other poets like Muhammad Ghulam Hasan Begh Arif who is a man of science, a zoologist. He is a believer in the greatness of the Destiny of Man, and one of his popular poems is Namaz-e-Janaza or 'the Prayer for the Dead'.

The most note-worthy poets of present-day Kashmiri are, among others, the following :

Abdul Ahmad Azad; Dina-nath Nadim; Rahman Rahi, born 1925, who has been awarded the Delhi Sahitya Academy Prize in 1962 for his book of poems the Nauroz-i-saba, "with a wide range of form and technique", which is "remarkable for its bold experimentation in poetic technique and freshness of imagery"; Mir Kamil; Gulam Rasul Nazki; Abdul Haqq Barq; and Nur Muhammad Roshan; besides "Premi", "Majbur" and "Almast".

Western literary forms are being introduced into Kashmiri : for example, the sonnet by Dina-nath Nadim, and free verse by Kamil and several other poets. Dina-nath Nadim is a revolutionary in literature, with a sympathy for the suffering masses forcefully expressed in his writings. In a song-drama, Bambur Yambarzal, Nadim has treated an old folk-tale of Kashmir in a modern way dealing with modern problems. Several song-dramas or operas were written by Nur Muhammad Roshan, who, like Dina-nath Nadim and Kamil, has employed the free verse.

"Premi" has essayed the various types of Kashmiri folk-poetry in a modern style, giving a sympathetic view of the life of the people and praising the dignity of labour. Kamil is a great inspirer of the modern spirit through his various compositions.

The essay and other prose is also being developed by present-day Kashmiri writers, and some of them are also writing in English, Urdu and Hindi, in addition to Kashmiri, like Professor Jialal Kaul, Nanda-lal Ambardar and Professor Prthwinath Pushp.

Kashmiri has a very note-worthy literature of popular poetry, and the Kashmiris are a singing people. Their songs are redolent with the beauty and freshness and fragrance of the Kashmir landscape. Some of these have been published by enthusiasts of folk-lore, and here and there in travel-books and other works on Kashmir, we have specimens of these popular poems. Kashmir folk-tales have been collected and translated by foreign scholars like J. Hinto Knowles and Sir Aurel Stein. Some of the folk-tales as mentioned before are being treated in song-dramas by modern Kashmiri poets. The Kashmiri also has a sense of humour, and there are popular satirical ballads like the Lari-shah, which is about contemporary life, and full of humour.

The intelligentsia among the Kashmiris are now alive to the fine qualities of their language and its literature : and it can only be hoped that with the establishment of better conditions, with a truly secular democracy in Kashmir, further development of Kashmiri literature will be a matter of course.

[Reproduced from, Languages and Literature of Modern India, 1963. pgs - 256-270]

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Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

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