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Kashmiri Language and Our Cultural Health

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 Ltd., Thailand).

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 contentious arguments.

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 tongue.'

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 way.

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.

On Identity

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 and Parmatma.

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 ethnicity.

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 Prakrit.

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.

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 and requirements.

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.

References :

1 Kamala Ratna (1990)

2 Radhakrishna (1999)

3 Wakhloo, Bharat 1996

 Wakhloo, Omkar

[The author is President of Kashmir Sabha Dehra Dun.]

[Mailing address : "Vidhata", 1 Premkala Vihar, Panditwari, Dehra Dun-248007]
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