Project ZAAN
hú kús bû kús     télí van tsû kús

(A Programme to disseminate Information to our younger generation about our place of origin)
  Project Zaan Home  |  Kashmiri Overseas Association Page

Information Digest
Volume 1
Reprint Edition March 2001

Download PDF document

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Lalla-Ded Educational Trust
Project Zaan
Information Digest - Vol. 1


Literature & Language

Kashmir, a seat of learning from ancient times, has produced thinkers,  philosophers, scholars and poets in all ages. Some of the celebrated names who  contributed in different languages are:

1. Sanskrit. It was the ancient language of religion, philosophy etc. It  continued to be the language of the courts and the administration even during the  first 100 years (approx:) of Muslim rule (till the times of Zain-Ul-Abidin).

i) Abhinavagupta (933-1015 AD) ~ A poet, critic, saint, philosopher. Wrote more  than 40 books, notably some on Shaivism.

ii) Kalhana ~ Historian, poet, author of Rajatarangini in 8000 verses of high  poetic merit.

iii) Kshemendra ~ His contribution to Sanskrit literature is unique. He  authored Samayamatrika.

iv) Jonaraja, Srivara, Sukha ~ carried the work of Kalhana in Sanskrit.

v) Hieun Tsang and Ou-Kong travelled from China to learn Sanskrit in order to  read Buddhist thought already written in Sanskrit.

2. Persian

With the advent of Muslim rule and introduction of Persian as court language,  Kashmiri Pandits adopted Persian as the language for literary work. Pandit  Narayan Koul, Pandit Chandra Bhan, Pandit Bhawanidas Kachroo, Gani Kashmiri, Pandit  Raj Koul Arzbegi, Dewan Kripa Ram (in the reign of Gulab Singh) are prominent  names.

3. Kashmiri

The Language: Kashmiri is the language spoken by the people living in Kashmir  Valley and with some variance on its border like Kishtwar, Banihal etc. Although  no specific account is available of its origin, its evolution from Sanskrit  (rather its older version - the Vedic Sanskrit) is evident from its texture and  vocabulary. The theory of Sir George Grierson that it is a part of Central Asian  Dardic group of languages, has since been discredited. It appears that the  mother tongue of the Indo Aryan, who settled in Kashmir, must have been Sanskrit  (or the Vedic Sanskrit). In course of time, it changed into Prakrat and then to  Kashmiri.

The earliest written material available is Mahanaya Prakash of Siti Kantha. It  is about a hundred years after Kalhana and is in old Kashmiri. But from  Kalhana’s writing, it appears that the language had already made inroads before his  time (12th century AD). The earliest writings in modern Kashmiri are only from  Lalla-Ded (14th century AD). The language has absorbed words from Persian, Arabic  and dialects spoken on the Valley’s fringes.

The language has a large number of vowel sounds. A slight stress on a  particular sound can change a word into another one of entirely different meaning.  Kashmiri verb assumes many shapes according to number, gender, person and tense. All  this has given it a rich vocabulary. It has a rich collection of Proverbs, an  own stock of Riddles (Pratsa), and, a very well developed poetics.

The Script: The earliest available Kashmiri manuscripts are written in the  Sharada script.  This script was widely used by scholars, rulers, common people of  all religious denominations alike. Among Hindus, it was used for transcribing  Sanskrit texts as well as compositions in Kashmiri. The Sharada script was much  in use not only in Kashmir, but also in North Western India (Gilgit etc.),  Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and even in Central Asia. This script enjoys a foremost  position among all the ancient Indian scripts. It was evolved from the Western  branch of Brahmi nearly 1200 years ago. Almost all the ancient Sanskrit  literature is written in this script. The earliest Sharada inscription discovered on a  stone slab at the village Hund at Attock, Pakistan, date back to 774 AD.  According to Pt. Anand Koul Bamzai, Sharada alphabets were used in stone inscriptions  even up to 18th century. This is corroborated by his discovery of a Sharada  inscription dated Vikram 1846 (1789 AD). This script is said to have reached  perfection by the 15th or 16th century. The epigraphists Kielhorn and Hoernle hold  the view that Sharada alphabet is a very conservative alphabet as it changed  very little across the centuries.

Sharada script was replaced by Persian /Urdu scripts when Kashmir came under  Mughal and Afghan rule. The Kashmiri Pandits, nevertheless mastered Persian  language and script and used it widely in official and private communications. This  relegated Sharada to the background, being limited to religious & devotional  texts & writing and calculating astrological and ritual f.mp3ulations.

The history of the adoption and modification of the Devanagari script for  Kashmiri has not been documented authentically. But the very fact that the script  was used freely by eminent western linguists like Grierson and Temple in their  profound works and treatises on Kashmiri language and literature is ample proof  of its having been standardised over the decades in the 19th century. This  universally acceptable writing system came handy to the intelligent and discerning  community of Kashmiri Pandits for whom the Indian connection has always been  primary. Benefitting from the experience of this enlightened community, the  Western research scholars like Grierson, Buhlar, Temple, Stein etc. associated  renowned scholars of their times like Mukund Ram Shastri and Ishwar Koul with their  work and modified the Devanagari of Kashmir as against the Persian script. The  qualities of better phonetic representation inherent in Devanagari seems to have  weighed more with these discerning scholars.

Writers and Scholars:

There has been considerable contribution to Kashmiri language from the Poets. A  number of them belong to the Mystic genre.  Mystic poetry , according to Late  Moti Lal Saqi is “reflection of spiritual way of life. It has esoteric content  which sows the seeds of metaphysics and rhythm of life. It is receptacle which  overflows with peace and intrinsic love for the entire humanity without  boundaries of caste & creed”. Kashmir, which is often called ‘Resh Waer’ has been the  cradle genre of many a mystic poets. Some of the more known and popular mystic  poets of Kashmir are Lalla-Ded, Nunda Resh, Swachha Kral, Neyma Saab, Shamas  Faqir, Wahab Khar, P.mp3anand, Rupa Bhawani, Maqbool Shah Kralwari, Ahad Zargar,  Samad Meer and hosts of  other lesser known mystic poets, who have treaded the Vale of Kashmir between  14th & 19th centuries.

Prominent Poets:

Lalla-Ded (Lalleshwari) was perhaps the first Kashmiri poetess. She is regarded  as the founder of modern Kashmiri language as well as literature. Her Vaakhs  preach tolerance and h.mp3ony. She was born in the 14th century (year disputed).  All legends, fables or folklore of those times agree that Lalla-Ded came from a  well-to-do family and was married into a household, where her mother-in-law and  even her husband, it is said, were not kindly disposed towards her.  Disappointment in love and domestic life turned the born mystic into an ascetic, wandering  from village to village. She came under the influence of guru Siddha Sri Kantha  or Siddha Mol - a great scholar, who eventually became her spiritual perceptor.  It was this man who initiated her into Shaivite cult. Her internal spiritual  lotus bloomed and she became a devout follower of ‘Trik’ philosophy and turned  increasingly towards mysticism. There is hardly any Kashmiri house where her  ‘Vaakhs’ do not reverberate and fill the air with the celestial aroma, even today.

Lalla was mystic to the core and a born saint, who laid stress on the inner  quest and sincere pursuit of spiritual perfection. To uplift people out of the  Bog, she draws the attention of the aspirants to the foot prints she left behind.

Swachha Kral: Nothing is more reliably known about Swachha Kral who is believed  to have been born in 1774 AD. His date of death inscribed on the Tomb-stone  (which is of recent origin) is as 29th of November 1854. It is said that he was  born in a family of potters in a remote village of Yender near Pulwama. His  poetry, most of which has remained untraced, indicated that he was academically  illiterate but spiritually, highly evolved. He was an ardent believer of One-God  concept (monoism). He believed that life on the earth was a transitory abode for  man and his eternal abode was in the God’s land. So, Swachha Kral, in his  numerous poems has exhorted that one should not give in to the temptation of this  world, but should crave for the eternal bliss through one’s righteous deeds in  this world. Here are some introductory lines from his few poem which peep into  his profound mystic mind:

Click here for the song sung by Vijay Malla

P.mp3anand (real name Nand Ram) was born in 1790 in a village near Mattan. Well  versed in Persian on the one hand and the Vaishnava lore on the other, and  knowing some Sanskrit, P.mp3anand took recourse to poetry for coveying his  philisophy. Fed up with his work at the revenue department, he resigned his post as Patwari after 15 years of service. The profound sayings of Lalla-Ded  and the study of Bhagvata Gita and the Upanishads buoyed him up untill the  realisation came to him that true spirituality lay in rising above the illusion -  maya  and not merely being other-worldly. He effected the synthesis of Sufism with  the Vedanta. He penned Radha Svayamvara, Sudama Charitra, Shivalagan etc.  He  died in 1878.

Zinda Kaul - Masterji was one of the most notable poets of his times. He is the  first Kashmiri poet who won the Indian Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956. He showed  great proficiency in learning Persian from a very early age and wrote poetry in  that language under the pen name of Sabit.  Masterji started writing in  Kashmiri in early forties when he was fifty eight years of age. He wrote mysticism in  simple metaphor. His collection of thirty five Kashmiri poems Sumran won him  the most prestigious award. Kashmiri Shaivism, Vedanta and Upanishads are  portrayed most eloquently in Sumran. Masterji remains one of the foremost poets of the  twentieth century.  He left his mortal frame on 4th April 1966.

Arnimal. Born in the 18th century, Arnimal fashioned the Lol lyric into  plaintive wails, poignant and melancholic. Like Lalla-Ded and Habba Khatun, Arnimal’s  family life was unhappy, which contributed to the poignant pathos and the  recurring note of resignation to fate in her poems. She was married to Bhawanidas  Kachroo, a Persian poet (and a minister) who deserted her and she lived mostly in  her father’s home. The romantic poems of Arnimal constitute a watershed in the  development of Kashmiri poetry.

Habba Khatun. Born in village Chandahar, Zooni (Habba Khatun’s maiden name) was  a precocious child and learnt the Quran and Persian classics. Her songs,  remarkable for melody and spontaneity, expressed the deep craving of the heart and  the soul. She and her successor, Arnimal, were the precursors of the romantic  movement in Kashmiri poetry. Scared of her fame, her father had her married off to  an illiterate peasant, who did not appreciate her songs. While singing, she  caught the eye of prince Yusuf Shah Chak, who fell in love with her. He arranged  for her divorce and married her. She and her royal consort founded Gulmarg. She  has been called the Nur Jahan of Kashmir.

Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor. Born on 3 September, 1885 in Mitragam village, about 37  Kms. from Srinagar, Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor received poetic inspiration from his  father who was a Persian scholar. Det.mp3ined to write in his own mother tongue,  Mahjoor used the simple diction of the folk. With his emergence, Kashmiri  literature entered a period of creative poetic revival. His poem  Baghe Nishat Ke  Gulo became popular throughout the Valley. When recognised by Rabindranath Tagore,  the Kashmiri bard’s fame spread beyond the Vale of Kashmir. His poetry  increasingly epitomised the struggle of Kashmiris for self government. Among the poets  of the ‘New Kashmir’ period, Mahjoor ranked as the greatest in the love of his  motherland. Mahjoor showed his keen awareness of the changing times in poems  like  Wolo ho baagvano and Gulshan vatan chhu sonuy. Kashmir lost this greatest  poet of the century on 9 April 1952.

Previous ArticlePrevious Section

Let us reinforce our identity through our mother tongue
Your Mother tongue, the passport to your Motherland
Milchar Lalla-Ded Educational & Welfare Trust


Facebook Account Follow us and get Koshur Updates Video clips Image Gallery
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.

 | Home | Culture & Heritage | Copyrights Policy | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Credits | Contact Us |

Any content available on this site should NOT be copied or reproduced

in any form or context without the written permission of KOA.