Kashmiri Language and Our Cultural
P. L. Zutshi
Outside the field of ordinary communication, that
of a child with its mother, a language in the due course of development takes on
the obligation of becoming the custodian of a peoples' thought and aesthetic
content. However, with progress, it picks up complex metaphor and multiple
meanings of words. Four types of such meanings to written word are described by
Abhinavagupta i.e., conventional, secondary, intentional and suggestive.
At this stage of added complexity the development of a language will ordinarily
tend to create a cleavage between the commoners and intelligentsia. It also
registers then a change in realms or usage; when the language becomes more and
more academic it finally looses its ground as a tool of statement for ordinary
population. The process cannot be arrested unless the intelligentsia in its
conscious effort provides for an antidote. Once isolated, languages loose to
qualify for sustained use and purpose. It could be true of Kashmiri language
with us now!
Movement of Kashmiri Language
Experts happen to deliberately and intentionally work on the roots of a
language. The importance given to this exercise is to feel its flow and
differenciate between its original and imported strains.
The language used by Kashmir's Brahmin population has the distinction of
having served this reflective community since beginning at their 'original
vihara' at Sharada. These people may have stayed there, practising the
art of introspection and penance for a long time before the emergence of the
phonetics of the 'Sharda' language.
Potential languages, to be more potential, reflect also the quality of inner
mind communication. The control and command of a language would be tested in its
means to provide for even an intricate statement in order to avoid strident
facets, during its progress and growth of a population with strict common faith.
'Shardians' have the distinction of having been the original people to link the
relationship between the Exuberance of Nature and human being. These
people have captured the depths and beauty of Nature in all its intricate depth
and fantasy. Large parts of the timeless Rigvedic verse have been attributed to
scholars belonging to this population (Rita Dhar, 1989, Kashmir; Media Transasia
Sharada alphabets, syllables and notations are more in number than its sister
language Sanskrit, qualifying it in merit of its potency. As with us today, its
direct authorship and time is unknown. This is equally true of other scriptures
also like the Vedas, Upanishads and even the Manu Smriti. Sharda tickles
imagination in a similar vein, as does the Upanishadic Sanskrit.
Whatever be its time and place of origin, which certainly is very remote from
us, we are here concerned with the argument on inheritance and purposefulness of
the language. An statement in language, qualitatively rich and exuberant in the
fields of prose, poetry, science, art and technology, is what we may ultimately
seek from it. In a limited manner the stress is on a mother tongue, where the
users are in a position where they happpen to develop the nuance of language and
live with it in due satisfaction of absorbtion of nativity. People, who
therefore happen to make free use of a common language, develop bondage,
effective feelings and affinity.
The retention of gains of nativity and natural affinity leads on to
interaction and finally on to better understanding of life, its field of aims
and objectives. Loss of nativity can be the worst of the curses ever inflicted
by nature on humanity. Nature may sometimes be accused of a wanton use of the
rod and punishment. In such a situation, what is normally achieved, learnt and
mastered through centuries of togetherness is suddenly lost and or washed off.
Such an effected people have to give a show of essentially tough resilience to
pull up in their new environment and conditions of living. These are more often
not friendly. Many of us may therefore, seek the authority of wisdom on the
effectiveness of a native language in a state of scatter, dilution of interest
and altered purpose. Even amongst this community itself, issues between
the non-speaking and those who speak the native tongue emerge with most ugly
arguments. Skirmishes across the board have sometimes been used unfortunately
though to lable ourselves as 'Punjabi Kashmiris.' One may have the logic of
authority to tolerate such non-recommendatory sentiments. Once raising the issue
of prestige, purpose and progress of a native language serves as warning.
Affinitywise a common language is a pleasant tag. It is irony, however, that we
experience simultaneous love and hate of our language and give room to
There is an observation, which registers parent's wanton choice to resort to
inapplication and non-use of native dialect even in speech of their children. We
then stand seriously defeated and accused, despite the quantum and the nature of
arguments. Speech and mother tongue have no reason to stay apart, even if
parents enjoy children standing as distinguished in social circles with
non-native speech. Cost is heavy to be paid subsequently in the loss of 'mother
Unimaginatively, however, these parents are grossly unaware and stay
accommodated weighing out losses and gains in their favour perhaps unwittingly
in disregard of the native language.
Status of Language
People, who enjoy being referred as wise and intelligent, have a virtual
responsibility to locate the seat of the reservoir of wisdom. It requires a
deliberate effort to find ways and means to reach this reservoir. It is
difficult, if not impossible, in our present day isolation in the dispersed
state of living. We need a spurt of unrestrained and hindrance free effort to
locate the reservoir. Wisdom may not be taken for granted. It may wane off and
turn dry. This intelligence and wisom happens to have sourced from the
unrestrained introspectivism of an ancestry, who also happen to have lent
meaning to, every human action, human commitments, their endeavours and actions.
These things are having a place in totality of cosmos and creation. Intense and
essentially a mental activity of our ancestors stayed uninterrupted through few
millennia sufficient enough to have done its bit of genetics and fixation that
built our long-lasting body frame, constitution and psyche. To keep it
preserved, if we love ourselves and get conscious on the subject, makes us
distinctly and uncompromisingly responsible. Our language in this respect has a
very important role without any disdain. Love of language and love of culture
become imperative needs. Language and culture are intertwined in an invisible
bond. Any casualness or negligence particularly through the exercise of ego
would be damn detrimental to the concept and retention of wisdom that, we often
listen to and talk about. Nobody may be and can be a direct witness to genetics
in human system, but that a progressive change does take shape in the genetic
frame through a persistent and sustained thought process, is a scientific truth.
Variely thus, through correct 'vichar' alone, does wisdom become excellent and
more excellent. Here, it may be stressed that language of the community and
thought process does not stay apart.
Today our language is neither spoken nor written. It is unlikely then to find
it being used with some bearing in process of thinking. It has in such case all
the traits of getting obscure, lost and dead. Prospect of schooling ourselves in
another best of language close to Sharda or Sanskrit, is also remote.
To save ourselves thus, and stay in a state of distinct ethnicity, we may
have little option, however, but to keep the nativity and the use of native
language alive to the best of our efforts and ability.
At the moment, it appears to be in the shambles, except for the efforts of
community from Jammu and Delhi, where it appears in journals as an obligatory
appendage. By way of a readership survey, it is observed that journals are
catered to the English knowing readership mainly. These classes of readership,
including this writer, fall in two categories. Those who associate themselves
with false show of dignity and those who are helpless having had no schooling or
exposure to written material in the language. The author classifies himself with
the latter. It is a tragedy both ways. It would require us to pick up the
strains of language from these journals alone, where the young folks mainly the
girls, who have command on spoken Kashmiri and stay within the culutral fold
have better chance. She is the only hope and redeemer.
The literary status of the language is not very rich at the moment.
Beginnning with 'Lal Ded', then 'Arnimal', there is a gap landing
on then at the feet of Nund Baba (Nund Rishi), then on to Parmanand,
Master Zind Kaul and among the latest masters, Nadim, M.L. Saqi, Mohan
Rakesh and few other very intelligent younger and contemporary writers. The
literary classics perhaps end with Swami Laxmanji, who happen to have picked up
threads from Shiva philosophers of the yore.
That is perhaps not sufficient. The reader to writer ratio in terms of
percentage population of Kashmiri Pandits has to increase in measured steps, if
not in a great spurt, which may be a big and a selfish demand. The journals,
fewer in number do contribute to language development, however, in a smaller
Outside the small literary circles, the language down in the Valley happened
to have got linking to words in English, Hindi and Urdu sometimes talking
grammatically in an awful form. Except in its usage as a domestic working
language, the vein fluid of language, which is grammar, was never attempted to
be taught formally or informally. In the absence of schooling, language remains
and continues so in its rudimentary frame. The impact of import in language and
culture has all along been only negative. It has managed to inflict a great
dilution even in the thought process. Those who left valley for reasons and
stayed apart for a much longer period, these breaks translated the effect mainly
in two ways i.e., detachment from root process and a total embarrassing impact
on communication. The latter of the effects is being seen through the last half
a century in more visible form. The isolation distinguished the community into, Proficient
speakers, Adulterated speakers and Non speakers. Each of these
sub-classes responds as strangers and sometimes outsiders in the common fold.
The status of language cut off from its literary content has already set in
the dangers, isolation and disuse.
To pick up afresh, the threads and turn a new leaf, is going to be an uphill
task often illusionary and with lack of general encouragement. Impulsive and
compulsive writers with demonstrative skills, who bring out the sweet, useful
and compulsive goodness of the language, have to be invited or have to come
forward to null the effect.
Those of us who are at pain and feel the pain of loosing mother tongue, may
have to devise ways and means, such that the successive generations who stay
within the fold of the community find little alibi to blame somebody, somewhere
amongst us for having neglected to take care.
A Major General of Kashmiri origin born at Indore now retired since a couple
of years answers to a querry; 'O' great'. The querry was as to how about being
called a Kashmiri (?). This gentleman recollects no connectivity to Kashmir
having also been married to a Parsi lady. He did not confirm if he ever visited
Kashmir. Nostalgically, he replies that throughout his life he had always
introduced himself as Kashmiri Pandit. The story is true with many others
whose families migrated from valley few centuries earlier and with no direct
connection left within the valley or its people. Identity seems to be important
and happens to catch imagination of individuals once they get conscious of their
own and the family origin.
As recently as of today it is observed that the Kashmiri population that
moved out from the valley have organised themselves everywhere in small social
groups. The reason being identity.
Indentity is essential and is needed to keep preserved the gains of history.
In our case history may extend to pre-historic times. It is the 'Shardian'
population, who stands there at the head of our civilization and march within
the confines of the valley. The 'Sharada Civilization' has given us the
identity. They developed not only a potential language but developed also the
science of universe with 'Naad', the primodial sound, which emerges from the
Cosmos. Modern science calls it 'Big Bang.' These Brahmins of Sharda kept
engraved the Shree Chakra the triangles of life. The Shree Chakra
explains the meaning and purpose, understanding and knowledge of each and every
aspect of life, its cause and content. It explains in explicit terms the Jeevatma
These people are known to have composed the first verses of Rigveda
describing nature in relation with life in all the intricate detail. Nobody may
refute the introduction of Omkar and Rudra as well. Language alone
stands a link to this rich experience of our great old seers. It gives us a
semblance and pride of personality.
The current euphoria and sympathy within ourselves serves as indicators of
identity need. Language alone shall therefore link us to ourselves. An emergent
language has the power to keep a society vibrant and responsive. In our present
case the sad story is that the current generation never inherited the 'vibrations'
of language that could build the necessary seriousness. Though difficult, it may
not be impossible to manage it at the level of our inheritance along with the
dents. The condition being that we have to create a sentimental love for the
subject of discussion. It will need a deliberate effort to assemble the talkable
good things afresh. In the modern exhibitionist attitude, the need is to locate
the sub-modern, serious and composite attitude towards life process. Otherwise
we float as individuals randomly wandering with a hangover and on occasion
randomly bouncing into each other by one's and two's. One of the good things
being that the heights have already been scaled in the realms of human
psychological, spiritual and physical needs in their balanced form. We are close
to these peaks looking sadly at these with indebtedness.
Kashmiri Brahmin community has been conducting a people bound for scaling the
unknown peaks of wisdom. Another good thing though an ordinary one, is their
undiluted distinguishing power between wrong and right, between waste and useful
and between pure and impure. A language is needed, which will make things
communicative and allow the resilience to iron over the fold of mis-knowledge
and ignorance, if any. We happen to be closer to the finest catch that humans
can aspire. To expound the same there is need to examine existing literature,
existing psychology and to link these to existing needs. Caution being that we
love, respect and regard ourselves despite being surrounded by the world of
right and wrong wealth. The wealth of beauty and wealth of nature have to be
synthesized to develop a meaningful track, which has to be straight and without
confusion or contradiction. Every generation, not ourselves alone have been in a
state of transition. The emergence of life and universe and its reflective
submergence, are the well-known terminals. This sight has to be prevented from
getting into permanent eclipse. The reminders that are delivered from time to
time, while in transit, serve the wise amongst us with a potential feed. And
wise we are by the grace of knowledge served by the great seers. It is
taboo with us to never think of injury to others in the process of locating our
own fields of ecstasy in attire, taste, touch and association. Should that
concept stay, language of identity and language of affinity, is bound to
flourish serving its hosts with lasting love and affection.
It is an emperical knowledge that during the state of transition, down to
modern times, individuals and groups in pursuing safety and well being as their
first obligation, lost sight of both the ends, significantly. This happened. And
may be even seen now in the process of pursuing a transitory joy of life. This
has to be registered as a tremendous loss, both in knowledge and personality.
Loss of language constitutes just a part of this great continuum of loss.
There is need to succeed to effect a substantial decline in this erosive
process. We shall then save the content of language and the loving and yearning
Utility and Purpose
Language happens to build a thought process. At its nascent stage, it absorbs
both the elements the thinking and the thought. The interative
exercise goes on for a period at the end of which an aspirant receives a potent
tool of statement. The time required in the process falls in undermined units as
that with development of civilizations.
Our language has made a successful journey at the close of which it offered
the rich 'Sharada script'. It is the script, which makes use of a .....
of phonetics. Sharada may have lent lot to Sanskrit and also got enriched by
it.' The two are complimentary sister languages. The other close language being
Panini, presented the grammar of language first of its kind (c. 1500 BC)1
when the Saraswat Brahmins had already migrated to the Valley.2
Sanskrit and local Sharda were managed as single language. This state continued
for centuries down the history. When Buddhist culture and Pali language reached
the valley it continued to use the power of its script to scribe down the
manuscripts with absorbing influence of Sanskrit and Pali. We are told that 'Bhojpatra'
manuscripts were turned out by thousands. Later tonnes of these were burnt and
destroyed by the iconoclasts.
Abhinavagupta, Anandwardhan, Mammata and the other contemporary scholars of
(5th 6th) century onwards have tuned out Sanskrit
masterpieces of aesthetics and theology, Shaivism, art and beauty. They
also wrote volumes of critical appreciation of masterpieces of literature from
other centres in the country.
Kashmiri language registers a strong and obliterating influence of Arabic and
Persian brought in by invaders and invading travellers. What stays now is a best
admixture including that of the English language.
Sharda almost died, Sanskrit went into disuse and oblivion resulting in fewer
or no scholarly works from Kashmir. Shall future have the benefits of the sole
stirring original contribution from the values reservoired in Kashmiri
thought and content. We then need a power packed language!
Kashmiris have made use of languages for economic purpose particularly after
the advent of Islam and rule of Afghans. They did reasonably well in Persian, so
much so that they turned out literature in this language. At one time, they were
rated only next to Persians themselves. Being rulers' language, it got then
access to jobs in government. Since around (14th 15th)
century onwards the learning of language of ruling class was taken up with ease
and will, but little did the native language receive necessary care and content.
This kind of mental frame of the community continues unabated. Now also, the
situation is same. It follows that language has importance in economic sphere.
Where then does our native language get fit in terms of its money value? We face
then a serious handicap particularly after having done away with every kind of
local ritual, except its need in the disposal of the dead. We don't see
the use of this Kashmiri language in socio-economic field. Most of us, rather
all of us persue in an exclusive manner the field of economic prospects alone
and for this use the other essential languages only. That therefore leaves no
attraction for use of native dialect. This is no way a heartening situation in
the evaluation of Kashmiri language, even in its speech form.
Handicaps and negative aspects in the persuasion of building up the prospects
of language have multiplied and compounded for worst after 1989 episode and mass
dispersal of population.
Strengh of the Language
The strength of language is measured in terms of Rasa. It develops
into an emotive feeling, which seeks no motives. Then it is always reasonable to
persue it. An existing reservoir of emotion, which is both instinctive and
objective, should constitute an ocean of strength where from the community can
draw freely, fearlessly and frequently.
Objective good will amongst the body system of the community should
constitute a major source of strength. Both these factors, Rasa of
language and the objective good will for the language appear to be present in
abundance and that could be taken as a proof of its illustrious and gallant
survival, if treated with care and vision.
It is an experience that 'Lalwakh' is always absorbed with meaning and a
gratitude for the poet. An aspirant or the one who has nothing to do with our
culture and language can not resist temptation to know once the meanings are
explained cogently. That can be seen as the real strength of language and its
beauty. Anandwardhan stresses on the propriety to evoke Rasa and a
"language (that) transcends its prosaic limits and at the same time gathers
into itself all the grace of sound and sense ..." If and when our language
reaches spontaneity and sheds artificiality, one should stop to worry about its
Future of Kashmiri
The future of Kashmiri language as with all others, lies in the development
of scholarship. It has to be wide and varied, uninhibitive and non-artificial,
original and speculative. The virtues of language will then require no props.
Our anxiety has to be converted into action, sooner it is the better. The
first of these is to prompt scholarship not by incentive but more by arousing
emotive feelings. There is a gold mine down in the reach; the scholars have only
to feel it. Let us not talk of fashion and puraskar. Let us talk
of love of ourselves voyaging in a single boat towards the glorious horizons of
realization and excitement.
There is a need to begin somewhere earnestly with Kashmiri translation of
classical works. Identify willing scholars and entrust the project. Their work
has to justify the power of language. Meanwhile it is imperative to develop a
powerful phonetics better perhaps through Sharada script in the belief that it
served as the original script of Kashmiri Brahmins.
There are other scripts also available; one is the usual Devanagiri and the
other developed by Wakhloo's3 in Roman form. At the moment, since
Devanagiri is already in use, scholars should examine the details of limitation
There is a caution that culture precedes language and statement. No amount of
hard labour can be enough in development of language, disregard of cultural
passion. Culture has precedence over all other sentiments. Our children, young
and old, have to be helped with picking up of speech, with love and without
inhibitive feeling. Study of culture, if required, can be made best only through
language. Culture being our exposed feelings of life and Universe relationship
in all its diversity.
1 Kamala Ratna (1990)
2 Radhakrishna (1999)
3 Wakhloo, Bharat 1996
[The author is President of Kashmir Sabha Dehra Dun.]
[Mailing address : "Vidhata", 1 Premkala Vihar, Panditwari,