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Information Digest
Volume 4
April 2003

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Lalla-Ded Educational Trust
Project Zaan
Information Digest - Vol. 4

Har-van

Prominent Personalities

Pandit Govind Kaul - Another Kalhana

[A profound Kashmiri scholar of the late 19th century. Pandit Govind Kaul, who rendered most valuable assistance to Aurel Stein in translating Rajatarangini, is today almost a forgotten man. There are hardly a handful of Kashmiri Pandits who may be aware of his great erudition and the range of his scholarly pursuits. Here is a brief sketch of the life and works of the man whom Stein offered fulsome tributes and hailed as “ another Kalhana”.]

Pandit Govind Kaul
Pandit Govind Kaul

Born in 1846 in Srinagar as the eldest son of Pandit Balbhadra Kaul, a universally respected scholar of his times (1819-96), Govind Kaul had scholarship running in the family. His grandfather, Pandit Taba Kaul, too was a reputed scholar, having family ties with the famous Pandit Birbal Dhar who persuaded Ranjit Singh to free Kashmir from the tyranny of Afghan rule. Govind Kaul and Birbal Dhar’s grandson Ramjoo Dhar, maintained the ties as friends. Govind Kaul not only studied Persian and Sanskrit in keeping with the family tradition, he also acquired a good knowledge of English as well as western ways of life. To keep the record of history straight, it must be stated that Govind Kaul and Ramjoo Dhar learnt English much before Pandit Anand Kaul and Pandit Shiv Ram Bhan. Govind Kaul came to know a good deal about world affairs also, through Ramjoo Dhar who held an important administrative position . Soon Govind Kaul acquired fame for his erudition, particularly as a scholar of Alamkara Shastra (poetics), Vyakarna (grammar), Nyaya (logic), and Shiva Sutras. He was equally well versed in the knowledge of the epics and the Puranas. By the time he was 28, Govind Kaul was already regarded as a scholar of considerable stature. In 1874, he was appointed incharge Translation Department set up by Maharaja Ranbir singh. It was around that time that he undertook, jointly with Pandit Sahaz Bhatt, to translate the Sanskrit chronicles of Kashmir into Hindi - a project which he, unfortunately, was not able to complete. With the winding up of the Translation Department in 1884, it was a trying time for Govind Kaul. He lost his job and could not find any alternative avenue to pursue his scholastic goals. Eventually, he had to settle for a teacher’s job at the state run Sanskrit Pathshala in Srinagar. But that too did not last and he was again without a regular job. In the meanwhile, however, George Buhler, that doyen of European Indologists, had spotted the Pandit for his great learning and eruditon. It was Buhler’s commendatory reference that attracted Sir Aurel Stein’s attention towards Govind Kaul and he solicited his assistance in translating Kalhan’s Rajatarangini - a job that Govind Kaul along with Pandit Sahaz Bhatt did with utmost competence from 1888 to 1896, and to stein’s great satisfaction. Govind Kaul went into another collaboration with Stein and fellow scholar Sahaz Bhatt when they classified and catalogued more than six thousand Sanskrit manuscripts for Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s library at Raghunath Temple, Jammu.

 Yet another contribution Govind Kaul made, was to compile Kashmiri folk tales with Stein, which the latter f.mp3ally edited with George Grierson and publishcd in 1917 as “ Hatim’s Tales”. The tales, supposedly told by one Hatim Tilawony, were interpreted by Govind Kaul. He also rendered assistance to Grierson in the compilation of his Kashmiri dictionary, but did not live to see the work completed.

 Grierson went on to record later that Govind Kaul’s assistance to him was “one of the many debts he ever owed to Stein”. On Govind Kaul’s death in June 1899, a shocked Stein lamented that Govind Kaul, “like another Kalhana departed as my best Indian friend beyond all hope of reunion in this Janma”. Paying fulsome tributes to him, Stein wrote: “Whenever Govind Kaul was by my side, whether in the dusty exile of Lahore or alpine coolness of Mohand Marg in Kashmir, I was in continuity with the past as the historical student of India. His personality embodied all that change of ages indicated and showed as the mind and psyche of India.”

Pandit Ishwar Kaul - Panini of Kashmir

[Pandit Ishwar Kaul assured for himself an esteemed place in the galaxy of Kashmiri scholars by giving Kashmiri its first grammar - the ‘Kashmir Shabdamrita’. Written in Sanskrit after the manner of the great Sanskrit grammarian Panini, Ishwar Kaul’s treatise on Kashmiri grammatical f.mp3s bears testimony to his profound study of the language. He also pioneered lexico- graphical work on Kashmiri, though death prevented him from completing his ‘Kashmiri and Sanskrit Kosha’.]

The 19th century saw the Kashmiri Pandit community throw up giants in the field of learning and letters. Contacts with the West set into motion, processes that led to an intellectual f.mp3ent in Kashmir, inspiring the Pandits to rediscover and reinterpret their past and undertake new and challenging scholastic ventures mostly in collaboration with Western scholars, but also independently. Among the titans of the age who chartered an independent course for themselves was Pandit Ishwar Kaul (IK) of Srinagar.

 Born on 4th July, 1833 in a family deeply steeped in Sanskrit lore, Ishwar Kaul lost his father, Pandit Ganesh Kaul, when he was just three years old. He first studied under Pandit Tikkaram Razdan, who was one of the most renowned Sanskrit Pandits of that time. Later Ishwar Kaul learned from Pandit Daya Krishna Jyotishi of Benares who had come to Jammu in the service of Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Jammu and Kashmir. Equally proficient in Sanskrit and Persian, Ishwar Kaul was also fairly conversant with Arabic. These credentials were enough for the Maharaja to offer him the assignment in 1861 of translating Persian and Arabic works in his library into Sanskrit and ‘Bhasha’ (Hindi). Ten years later, in 1871, Ishwar Kaul was appointed the Head Teacher at the Sanskrit Pathshala opened by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in Srinagar. 

 Kashmiri Pandits are known to have have a penchant for producing works of grammar, as is proved by the several grammatical treatise they authored on Sanskrit. The earliest grammar of Tibetan was composed by a Kashmiri Pandit, and so was the first Gujrati grammar. Ishwar Kaul continued the tradition by writing the first grammar of the Kashmiri language, a brilliant work about which George Grierson wrote: “It is an excellent work and might have been composed by the Hemachandra himself.” Modelled on the great Panini’s ‘Ashtadhyayi’ and written in Sanskrit, Ishwar Kaul’s ‘Kashmir Shabdamrita’ reveals his perfect knowledge of the linguistic structure of Kashmiri. Edited by Grierson with “additions and notes”, the work was published by the Asiatic Society in 1897. Ishwar Kaul, however, is said to have composed it in 1875, or, perhaps in 1874, as his son Anand Kaul believed, and revised and improved in 1879. Ishwar Kaul was also a pioneer lexicographer in Kashmiri, even though his Kashmiri-Sanskrit Kosha remained half-complete due to his death. Grierson compiled his four volume dictionary of the Kashmiri language from the materials from Ishwar Kaul’s fragmentary Kosha, compiling it with the assistance of Pandit Mukundram Shastri and Prof. Nityanand Shastri and publishing it in 1932. Ishwar Kaul “never lived to complete, much less revise, his Kosha”, writes Grierson in the preface to his dictionary. It goes to the credit of Ishwar Kaul that he was the first to use the Devanagri script for transcribing Kashmiri words both in his grammar and his dictionary. He expressed typical Kashmiri vowel sounds by using diacritic marks, mainly the horizontal bar and the ‘halanta’. Grierson, and later Master Zinda Kaul and Prof. S. K. Toshkhani used the Devanagari characters for Kashmiri with a more elaborate system of diacritical notation. In the year 1881, Ishwar Kaul was made Director of Translation Department of the Jammu and Kashmir state. The department, set by Ranbir Singh, was wound up in 1884 after the Maharaja died. His successor, Maharaja Pratap Singh appointed Ishwar Kaul as Head Jyotishi or Chief Astrologer at his court, a post that he held until his death on 28th August, 1893. Ishwar Kaul’s genius was best summed up by Sir Aurel Stein when he described him as the “Panini of Kashmir”.
 
 

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