Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jammu, house, home

Back at Jammu, my grandmother is worried. She is worried because there is a talk in that town:
All the trouble in city, all this violence over Amarnath issue, has its origin in Pandits of Kashmir. These Pandits carried their scourge with them to Jammu.


Somewhere hidden along with that brass Khos, pandit sneaked in the scourge.

My grandmother is worried that we would be thrown out of Jammu.

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Unrelated post:
Back to Kashmir, Pandit

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Other posts on Kashmir

Finally decided to move my posts on Kashmir from my other blog to this new blog about Kashmir.

However, I decided not to move some of the older posts related to Kashmir.

Here are the links to them from my other other:

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gardens, paradise, Kashmir

Word 'paradise' was introduced to English language from ancient Persian words pairi (around) and daeza (a wall). Western world got to know of this word when Xenophon, a contemporary of Socrates, used the word paradeisoi to describe the great garden at Sardis built by the Persian Emperor Cyrus. From Greek the word passed into Latin as paradisum ; and then into Middle English as paradis.

Francois Bernier, the french physician who came to Delhi in 1658, during during his visit to Kashmir in 1664–65 as part of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s entourage, was the first westerner to call Kashmir a paradise. Paradise - his response to the abundant natural beauty of Kashmir was in fact colored by opinion of Mughals who thought of Kashmir as 'Jannat' or 'Paradise'. Bernier wrote a number of letters during his travels in India. These letter, originally written in French were later translated and printed by various publishers in a book format. The first one was published in 1670 and , naturally, Kashmir was covered under the title Journey to Kachemire, The Paradise of the Indies.

After Emperor Akbar's conquest in 1585, Kashmir was slowly developed into a retreat for Mughals. Naseem Bagh ( Garden of Pleasant Breeze) was built during Akbar's reign in around 1586. However, it was his son Jahangir's infatuation with Kashmir that lead to the creation of great gardens in Kashmir. And it was the Persian influence of Jahangir's Irani wife and her family that decided how these gardens were actually going to turn up.

At Veri-nag, the place of spring considered to be the origin of Jehlum river, Jahangir constructed a beautiful Persian styled Garden enclosing a blue watered spring. This spot, around 78 km south-east of Srinagar, is said to have been the favorite garden of his Iranian wife Empress Noor Jahan.

But, the real testimony to the Mughal fascination with Kashmir are the Iranian influenced royal Gardens: Shalimar, Chashma Shahi and Nishat Bagh.


Shalimar Bagh Srinagar Kashmir Photograph of Shalimar Garden taken by me in June 2008

Jahangir, for his beloved wife Noor Jahan, built the fabulous Shalimar Garden* in around 1619. It was originally named Bagh-i- Farah Bakhsh (meaning delightful). During the time of Shah Jahan, in around 1630 Zafar Khan, the Mughal governer of Kashmir extended the original garden, the new portion was named Bagh-i-Faiz Bakhsh ( meaning bountiful).

Shah Jahan, son of Jahangir, built the Chashma Shahi ( Spring Royal) Garden in around 1632.

Ali Mardan Khan, the Iranian man put in change of Kashmir by Shah Jahan, is believed to be the person who actually built this garden.



Chashma Shahi Photograph of Chashma Shahi, June 2008

Asaf Khan, brother of Noor Jahan, father of Mumtaz Mahal, father-in-law and wazir of Emperor Shah Jahan, built the beautiful Nishat Bagh (Pleasure Garden) overlooking Dal lake. This garden is believed to be the better planned and better located among all the three Mughal gardens of Kashmir.



Nishat Bagh, Srinagar, KashmirPhotograph of Nishat Bagh, April 2006

According to a local tale: During Shah Jahan's visit to Kashmir in around 1633, the Emperor got completely enamored by the beauty of Nishat Bagh and subtly asked his father-in-law wazir Asaf Khan to consider handing over the garden to him. Asaf Khan was too much in love with his Pleasure Garden and choose to remain oblivious to this subtle royal suggestion. Snubbed, Emperor Shah Jahan ordered that the water supply to Nishat Bagh be cut. Nishat began to wither and would soon have been in complete ruin had a servant loyal to Asaf Khan not dared to go against the royal decree and defiantly restored the water supply to the garden. In face of such defiance, instead of being angry, in a benovalent mood, Shah Jahan passed a sanad - a royal Mughal grant that allowed the owner of Nishat Bagh to draw water from the royal stream.

The water to Shalimar and Nishat Garden was (and still is) fed by a reservoir situated at Harwan, a seat of ancient Buddhist monastery. Ages ago, famous Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna was supposed to have dwelt at this place. Located at this place is another garden of Mughal built.

Near Chashma Shahi, at the foothills of Zabarwan mountains, Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan's eldest son, the sufi one, converted an ancient Buddhist monastery into a school of astrology and dedicated it to his master Mulla Shah. Pari Mahal or the Palace of fairies, was a place steeped in magical stories. Walter Rooper Lawrence, who visited Kashmir in 1889 as the Land settlement officer, wrote in his book The Valley of Kashmir (1895):

Strange tales are told of the Pari Mahal, of the wicked magician who spirited away kings' daughters in their sleep, how an Indian princess by the order of her father brought away a chenar leaf to indicate the abode of her seducer, and how all the outraged kings of India seized the magician.
Pari+MahalPhotograph of Pari Mahal, June 2008

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Gar firdaus bar rue zameen ast / hameen asto, hameen asto, hameen ast'


If ever there is Paradise on Earth / It is here! It is here! It is here!
- A farsi couplet of Amir Khusrau believed to have been uttered by Jahagir for paradise Kashmir.

Jahagir's memoirs tilted Tuzk-i-Jehangiri records:

"If one were to praise Kashmir, whole books would have to be written. According a mere summary will be recorded."

"Kashmir is a garden of eternal spring, or an iron fort to a palace of kings -- a delightful flower-bed, and heart-expanding heritage for dervishes. Its pleasant meads and enchanting cascades are beyond count. Wherever the eye reaches, thre are verdure and running water. the red rose, the violet, and the narcissus grow of themselves; in the fiels, there are all kings of flowers and all sorts of sweetscented herbs more than can be calculated. In the soul enchanting spring the hills and plains are filled with blossoms; the gates, the walls, the courts, the roofs are lighted up by the torches of banquet adoring tulips.What shall we say of these things or of the wide meadows and the fragrant trefoils?"

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June, 2008

Pari Mahal, now, has fewer security personal, although the empty bunkers inside the ancient buildings have not been dismantled yet. You never know when they would be back in business. Pari Mahal, with all its blazing lights, still looks great at night. From its highest terrace, you can see more valley and less lake, for a still better view - get on top of the dome at Shankaracharya. Ignore this. On a wall near stairs that lead to the main sanctum scrotum of the temple somebody has scribbled a word - Fakbar.

Vegi Nag has fallen victim to a ghastly attempt at restoration by the government bodies. Never too popular, fewer people would want to visit it now.

Harwan is said to be in shambles and people don't frequent it often. It still remains the source of water for Nishat and Shalimar.

Nishat, Chashma Shahi and Shalimar continue to be popular among the locals, as well as the tourists. But few tourists stroll to the higher terraces of Nishat, you find more Kashmiris there - sitting, laying out on greens or walking contently in a garden. Snake sightings are still common at Nishat. There is still some water rivarly between Nishat and Shalimar. Fountains and canals at Nishat do sometimes run dry.

People bottle ice cold waters of Chashma Shahi in pet bottle. These bottles are later even sold. Walls of the central building at Shalimar Garden, once a venue of royal love games - a  love pad - This Mughal summer house, the stones of which - locals had told Bernier - came from an ancient Hindu temples, is now a scratch pad for teenage lovers.

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*

Various meaning of word Shalimar:

Shalimar, in Sanskrit (?) is believed to mean " Abode of love", "House of Joy" and similar.

According to some it means 'Abode of Lilies'.

According to some it means "the House of Kama Deva"

Maharaja Ranjit Singh believed Shala meant God and Mar meant Curse. He wanted to change the name of the garden. His courtiers told him that Shala was a Turki word meaning pleasure and mar means 'place'.

According to another version Shalimar means "paddy growing area"

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There is a Shalimar Bagh in Lahore also. This one was built by Shah Jahan in 1641.

Then there is a Shalimar Bagh about five miles north of Delhi built by Shah JaHan. Also known as Aizzabad-Bagh ( after Shah Jahan's wife named Aizzu'n-Nisa Begum), this was the place where coronation of Aurangzeb took place in 1658.

Both are an imitation of the Shalimar Bagh of Kashmir.

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And finally, there is Shalimar The Clown.

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Etymology of word 'Paradise': From William Dalrymple's City of Djinns: A Year In Delhi

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Recommended read: Relating Paradise to Kashmir's Historical Gardens at KashmirForum.org

download Books on Kashmir for free

Here is a list of must have books on history of Kashmir. Most of these books are travelogues written by early visitors to Kashmir. These books used to be out of reach of common readers and could only be found in labyrinth of some great library. Or, due to antiquity of these books, were priced out of reach of curious readers. Now, thanks to initiatives by Google , many online libraries and Project Gutenberg, these books in .pdf and .text format are available to all for free.

Here are the links:

Francois Bernier (1625 – 1688), French physician and traveler, visited Kashmir in 1664–65 as part of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s entourage. He is regarded as the first westerner to have described Kashmir.


Travels in the Mogul Empire By François Bernier
Translated by Irving Brock
Published 1826
Format: pdf
Size: 10.5 mb
Link, Google books
Another edition of this wonderful book:


Travels in the Mogul Empire,
edited by Archibald Constable,
(1891)
Format: text and pdf
Link, Columbia University Libraries
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Kashmir is also mentioned travels of Marco polo (1254 – 1324), famous trader and explorer from Venice who was one of the first western travelers to walk the Silk route to China.
His two volume travelogue can be downloaded here


The Travels of Marco Polo, Volume 1, 3rd edition (1903)
Format: text
Download Link, project Gutenberg

The Travels of Marco Polo, Volume 2
Format: text
Download Link, project Gutenberg
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George Forster, an English traveler in the service of East India Company, arrived in Kashmir in April 1783.


Letters on a Journey from Bengal to England, through the Northern Part of India, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia, by the Caspian Sea
By George Forster
Published 1808
Volume 2: This one covers his travels in Kashmir
Format: pdf
Size:13.6 mb
Link, Google books
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In 1822, William Moorcroft, a British East India Company veterinarian and his assistant, George Trebeck traveled through Kashmir while attempting to reach Central Asia.

Travels in Ladakh and Kashmir
By William Moorcroft and George Trebeck
Volume 2
Published 1841
Format: pdf
Size: 7.8 mb
Link, Google books
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Victor Jacquemont (1801 - 1832), french botanist visited Kashmir in around 1831.


Letter from India: Describing a Journey in the British Dominion of India
By Victor Jacquemont
Published 1835
format: pdf
size: 8 mb
Link, Google books
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Godfrey Thomas Vigne, an English travelers visited Kashmir in 1835.


Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo, the Countries Adjoining the Mountain-Course of the Indus, and the Himalaya, north of the Panjab with Map.
By G.T. Vigne
Published 1844
format: pdf
size: 10.9 mb
Link, Google books
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Some more books by travelers:

A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil
By T. R. Swinburne
(1907)
Format: text
Download Link, project Gutenberg

Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet
By William Henry Knight
(1863)
Format: text
Download Link, project Gutenberg



Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir
By Mrs. Percy Brown
(1921)
Format: text
Link, archive.org
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Perhaps the most important book in its field, a book by Reverend J. H. Knowles, The founder of modern missionary schools in Kashmir.


A Dictionary Of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings
(1885)
J. H. Knowles
Link, archive.org
The book ( in pdf and text) there is not complete. It list proverbs only up till K.

Updated with a link pointing to the complete book.
For some more proverbs, you can check out the previews of same book at Google books

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Walter Rooper Lawrence visited Kashmir in 1889 as the Land settlement officer and wrote an exceptionally informative book on Kashmir.

Valley of Kashmir
by Walter Rooper Lawrence
[Link, archive.org (may slow down your browser, wait for couple of minutes for the book to load)]

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update 1/2/09

Travels in India and Kashmir.
by The Baron Erich von Schonberg.
1853.
London: Hurst & Blackett
Volume 1, Last few chapters of the book deal with his travel to Kashmir
[Link, archive.org,.txt ]

Volume 2, deals more extensively with his travels in Kashmir  
[Link, archive.org, .txt]
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update 9/2/2009

Kashmir 
Described by Sir Francis Younghusband
Painted by
Major E. Molyneux
1911
London, Adam and Charles Black
[Link, archive.org, .txt]

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Update 17/2/2009

This particular travelogue heavily quotes from the works of earlier visitors to Kashmir, making it quite interesting.

Letters from India and Kashmir

By Duguid, J
written 1870;
Illustrated and annotated 1873.
London: George bell and Sons(1874)
[Link, archive.org, .txt]

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 Update 14/3/2009

Travels in Kashmir And The Panjab,
from German of Baron Charles Hugel with notes by Major T.B. Jervis, F.R.S
By Karl Alexander A. Hügel
Translated by Thomas Best Jervis

Published 1845 (In German published in 1841 )
[Google Link]

Karl Alexander A. Hügel, was a contemporary of G.T. Vigne, and visited Kashmir in around 1835. The two foreign travelers even met each other in Kashmir.

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Update 14/4/2009

These books were meant a a guide for the early travelers to Kashmir

The Happy Valley: Sketches of Kashmir and the Kashmiris
By W. Wakefield (1879)
[Link, archive.org, .txt]

A Guide for Visitors to Kashmir.
By John Collett (1884)
[Link, archive.org, .txt]

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Update: July 31, 2009

"Beyond The Pir Panjal: Life and Missionary Enterprise in Kashmir" (1912 )
By Ernest  F. Neve.
[Link, archive.org]

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The list here keeps growing as and when I find more. Do leave the link in comment if you know of some more.

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Update: 25/5/2013
For reference to more books on Kashmir:

The definitive index to Kashmir Images through the ages 

pandit woman in Traditional Kashmiri Dress

traditional dress of kashmiri pandit women

old lady in traditional Kashmiri pandit dress: Tarang, pheran,

kashmiri old lady in pheran and tarang28/10/2007

Jammu



I had gone to attend a dear cousin brother's wedding. On the night of his yajnopavit (sacred thread) ceremony someone mentioned that in a nearby hall, hosting guests of some other wedding, there is an old lady dressed in traditional Kashmiri pandit costume.



I went to that hall along with a cousin sister and took these photographs using her camera. It felt odd as I went there uninvited. People, mostly woman, were sitting in the hall forming their own mini groups. The old lady was sitting in a corner all dressed. I walked up to her, said 'namaskar' and gave her a hug - touching the feet of elders is not the protocol among pandits, at least not yet. I asked her if I could take some photos of her. For her age, the lady was surprisingly shape minded and cheerful. She was kind enough to let me take her photographs. No, in fact she was delighted.



I went back and showed the photographs around. Everyone was delighted. In the 90s this 'sighting' would have been nothing special, but in this millennium, it was almost a miracle. It got people taking about old days. I remember many times being told stories of grand old pandit ladies who, during kabali raid of 1947, asked their families to leave them behind on road as they didn't want to slow down their families while they were fleeing from murdering horde of Muslim tribal people and Pakistani soldiers.



In 90s, people remembered old ladies who had never been out of kashmir and then suddenly 'post-migration' found themselves in Jummu. Many of them, traveling in local buses - 'meta'dors' or 'muk'bus', would often ask the conductor to drop them off to their home, but on being asked, would give their address as some place in kashmir. The conductor, invariably some dugur boy, dugur kot not yet out of his teens, would yell, "Mata'yee," his voice getting drowned in film music blarring from a pair of speakers kept under the seat next to the door, "aa yammu hai!" Amused and laughing, to the rest of the passengers and to the rest of the world in general, he would ask, "Ku'dru aa gaye yara ay kashmiri!"



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Panditani by Fred Bremner

The picture on left titled 'A Panditani [Hindu] Kashmir' was taken in 1900 by famous photographer Fred Bremner. Just like the lady in the photographs above, the woman in left photograph is wearing tarang (head dress), pheran (traditional kashmiri gown) and athoor/dejhoor(in the ears).



Read more about traditional Kashmir pandit dress at ikashmir



For more old photographs of Kashmir check this

Eighty-Three Days: The Story of a Frozen River

Summer of last year, I found my grandfather reading a book titled Eighty - Three Days: The Story of a Frozen River by Dr. S.N. Dhar. Curious, I decided to take up this book.

The author, in twenty three stories, writes about being held captive by Kashmiri militants for eighty three days and surviving to tell his tale. The book provided an insightful look into the early days of militant movement in Kashmir. His kidnapping took place in the early days of militancy in Kashmir when most of the pandit families had already left Kashmir. Being a doctor, believing himself to " a popular civilian", the author had decided to stay on in the valley. On March 31, 1992, he was kidnapped from hospital premises by men of Al Umar group of terrorists. He was held as a hostage by them for eighty three days and this books is as much an account of his captors as it is of his captive days.

He writes, "The first casualty of a violent situation is truth, [...]."

A casual reading of the book, and you may conclude that he was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. He portrays his captors as emotional human beings even though he is aware of their taste for violence. Some may even conclude that he is clenching tight the last remnants of an invented idea known as Kashmiriyat and at the same time is looking for the remains of this ideal in his captors also, hoping that Kashmiriyat lurks beneath the violent extremities of their minds and actions. The author never forgets that his captors are Kashmiri, maybe a crucial reason behind his safe release. In the years to come, as the violence in Kashmir grew beyond comprehension, Kashmiris died and a new breed of mujahid arrived. Maybe, the author realizes that he could have never survived among the new breed of extremists.

Dr. S.N. Dhar was finally released on June 22,1992, liberated from his eighty-three day ordeal. He continued to live in the valley.

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Found names of some old teacher of Tyndale Biscoe School in the author's acknowledgment to this book. He writes:
In school I had the privilage of being taught by remarkable teachers like Shambhunath Kachru, Shivji Kaul, Nand Lal Bakaya, Arjan Nath Sapru and Peer Salamuddin. They nourished my intellectual self and tried to prepare me for upholding the school motto, 'In all things be men."
Will add these names to wiki page of Tyndale Biscoe School

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For those interested in buying the book:
Buy Eighty-three days- The story of a frozen River from Flipkart.com

Off to Kashmir, Vinayak

Naturally, a pilgrimage.

It has been (let me fetch a calculator) eighteen years since I left the place.

I am going to the adobe of Khir Bhawani, situated at village Tula Mulla. According to a famous local religious belief, the Goddess used to drink blood in Lanka of Ravana, but in Kashmir, she developed a sweet tooth, hence the Khir in the name. A writer once linked the revival of Khir Bhawani cult in the late 19th century to the rise of Queen Victoria led British influence in the region. But, this is not the post about that.

This is about the trip.

I am going with fourteen of my family members and relatives. My parents are surprised and delighted that I am going to a temple.

I have been to Tula Mulla earlier, I must have been seven, but I still have some vivid memories of that trip and some not so vivid memories of that place.

The reason:
When I returned home after that trip, the same day, I managed to baldy burn the index finger of my right hand.

The cause: I draped a polythene bag around a twig taken from a broom, and lit it up for the pure joy of watching little droplets of fire. I picked up this trick from some kids after having watched them do it at Tula Mulla. Or may be I got the idea from watching all the aartis and all the diyas.

The happening:
A little droplet of fire fell on my finger. Hot molten plastic melted onto my figure, glued onto its skin, burning it all the while. Afraid. I removed the plastic.Pain. Running water, tap, put toothpaste on it, Colgate, and still it burned. A few days later as the wound started ballooning up, Burnol was applied. In a few days the wound punctuated as burn wounds often do. Watery for days. And then the wound started to heal itself. It stopped being a bother. In a few months, the wound completely healed leaving an oval smooth skinned small scare on my index finger.

The affect: The scare is still there. There are days when I check up on it to make sure that it is still there.
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I am happy.

Santosh in Kashmir


7 June, 08.

A Kashmiri, was lying on the ground in obvious pain.
A Punjabi had hit him.
He now sat and spit out tinges of blood.

In the background someone can be heard exclaiming:

Ha yemis’ha Tchu, yaara, khoon ye’vaan!


The Kashmiri was a forward and the Punjabi a defender.
Or maybe it was the way round.
Anyway, the game resumed.

Last night, I was watching on TV a Santosh Trophy quarterfinal league match between J&K and defending champions Punjab, and it turned out to be shocker. Santosh Trophy, India’s premier football tournament whose history goes back to the year 1941, is this year being held in Kashmir and is being sponsored by J&K Bank – possibly the richest institution in the J&K state since all the state coffers are with them. Football isn’t new to Kashmir, in fact, Kashmiris had their first “impure” brush with a football in around 1905 thanks to the head of a Christian Missionary School. Kashmiris are perhaps among the first in India to have learnt the game from the British; and yet, the rest of the story is only of neglect and general apathy.

The stands looked entry but the sounds of the TV suggested there was a healthy crowd in the Stadium. Srinagar field looked a bit green, if not too green. The TV coverage was sloppy as usual: at the moment of a corner kick, the camera looked more interested in making one read a banner hung in the crowd, and as usual there were no ‘action-replay’.

Scoreboard reading nil-nil after sixty minutes of play may not seem like telling of an exciting match, but those who know Indian soccer can certainly call it a hard fought match. I wanted my home team J&K to win. Although the goalie looked a little sloop,
I thought the team was playing fine. But then in the 68th minute, Punjab scored and all hell broke loose. Horror. It was Kashmir all over again on TV.

The camera was now panning on a section of the crowd that you thought didn’t exist, and there was much screaming and yelling. The camera zoomed onto a boy in the stand laughing and yelling, raising a fist in the air. Some other faces looked worried and sad faces. I thought I heard a cry peculiar to Kashmir. The game stopped. A few men in Khaki were looking towards stand, a few of them looking aggressive waving a laathi. The camera zoomed in on to a stone lying on the football field, stayed put for a few seconds. The cameramen, who had earlier trouble covering corner kicks, were now in their elements; it seems they were covering a more familiar subject.

This wasn’t the end of it.

The crowd started to surge forward. They broke the fences. The players started running. The Punjab players started running, the J&K player were walking back calmly and almost looking sad. Or may be it was a sad scene. A J&K player in white jersey ran in the direction of the fleeing Punjab players in yellow jerseys. The crowd running amok had by now captured the field, perhaps wondering what now.

Zee Sports breaks into an Ad:

How is the situation in Kashmir?
Tense.
Bengal has the corner.

And then they start telecasting some motor racing event where the graphics are in French.
My thoughts went to the “Kapil Dev incident in Srinagar” that my father often recounts. Indian Cricket Team was playing West Indies in Srinagar, and the crowd gave a feeling to Kapil Dev that he was in Pakistan. Finally, my thoughts went back to a scene from the football match: hands of that sleepy looking Sikh goolie of Kashmir team, missing the ball in a comic fashion and a defender kicking the ball out of danger area, saving what would have been a shameful goal.

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According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), a clash between the media persons and the organizers for alleged misbehavior by the latter distracted the crowd who started pelting stones towards the area of commotion. Quoting an official it says "The match will resume for the remaining 22 minutes at 0800 hrs tomorrow at the same venue"

Hope they won.

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Kashmir eventually lost the game.
During my trip to Kashmir, the subject of this particular football match did crop up in an entertaining conversation with the Kashmiri driver of my rented vehicle. The fellow turned out to be an avid football fan and according to him: the real cause of the trouble was the fact that Punjab scored the goal from the half line. The outrageous goal shocked the local crowd who believed that the ball was in the non-offensive half of the field at the time of the play – hence it should have been a ‘no goal’.
Hence the trouble.
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You may also like to read about:
The Argentinean football coach who got bashed up in Kashmir (May 30, 2007)
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A photograph from National Geographic Magazine, Vol 40, 1921

The Shalimar Bagh by Muriel A.E. Brown

THE SHALIMAR BAGH

(A Mughal Garden on the Dal Lake)
Shalimar! Shalimar!

A rythmic sound in thy name rings
A dreamy cadence from afar

Within those syllables which sings

To us of love and joyous days
Of Lalla Rukh! of pleasure feast!
Of fountains clear whose glitt'ring sprays
Drawn from the snows have never ceased

To cast their spell on all who gaze

Upon this handiwork of love
Eeared in Jehangir's proudest days

Homage for Nur Mahal to prove.

For his fair Queen he built these courts
With porphyry pillars smooth and black

Whose grandeur still expresses thoughts
For her that should no beauty lack.

The roses show 'ring o'er these walls
Still fondly whisper love lurks here

And still he beckoning to us calls
By yon Dai's shores in fair Kashmir.
~ Muriel A.E. Brown
Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir (1921)
Mrs. Percy Brown
Published by Longmans,Green and Co (London) in 1921.

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Shalimar Bagh Srinagar Kashmir Photograph taken by me in June 2008


Muriel Agnes Eleanora Talbot Brown dedicated the collection of verses to the memory of her father, the late Lt.-Col. Sir Adelbert Cecil Talbot ( b. 3 June 1845, d. 28 December 1920) who was the Resident of Kashmir from 1896 to 1900. Earlier he had also been the Chief political resident of the Arabian (Persian) Gulf (for Bahrain, Bushire, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the Trucial States) from 1891 to 1893.
Muriel Agnes Eleanora Talbot was married to Percy Brown, art historian famous for his work on History of Indian architecture ( Buddhist and Hindu, 1942 ). Percy Brown was at one time the Principal of Mayo School of Art, Lahore and curator of the Lahore Museum.He also served the post of principal of Government School of Art and Craft, Calcutta and Curator of the Government Art Gallery Calcutta. In his later years, he settled in Kashmir and was instrumental in guiding some local Kashmiri painters, musician and other artists. He died on 22 March 1955 in Srinagar, Kashmir, India.

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Read this for history of Mughal Gardens of Kashmir

Get the complete set of poems from Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir at Archive.org

Patrick French, Rage Boy and Kashmir

I did not want to go back to Kashmir, did not want to destroy a fragile memory with sights of guns and roadblocks.
Writes Patrick French in Younghusband: The last great imperial adventurer, a book that was first published in 1994. For writing the wonderful book, the author even trailed some of the footsteps of Francis Younghusband, hiking right up to Rohtang Pass and taking up a challenging journey through Gobi Desert. Younghusband represented British government in Kashmir for a period of three-year starting1906 and ending in 1909 with him leaving India forever.
This would have been an important stop for Patrick French but he couldn’t trail Younghusband's footsteps into Kashmir. In the Chapter titled Fame in disgrace and diversion in Kashmir, he writes:
The State of Jammu and Kashmir was exploding in anger, Kashmiri separatists detonating bombs and Indian paramilitaries responding violently.
This was the fiercest period of insurgency in Kashmir and he couldn’t go to Kashmir, a place which he had visited earlier (in the 80s) when the place was still a “pastoral idyll”. Still at that time, there were “dark mutterings against Indian rule” and the conflict was only “simmering”. The book does not offer much on Kashmir conflict, the roots of which Patrick French discusses rather in detail for the chapter Midnight’s Parents for his book Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division (1997).

Then last year, Patrick French wrote an article in Daily Mail, a paper notorious for its conservative voice ( and for this reason often reffered as Daily Hail), introducing the readers to The surprising truth about Rage Boy, . Patrick French traveled to Kashmir, a trip he acknowledges to be the first in the last 20 years, he had been last there as a teenage backpacker who spent his days enjoying the “pastoral idyll”. This time, he was taken by a local reporter to 'the Gaza Strip of Kashmir' to meet the ‘Rage boy’ and French ended up meeting Shakeel Bhat, a rather eccentric Kashmiri boy who became America's hated poster-boy of Islamic radicalism. The article starts with him quoting various dissuasive voices from the web, and in turn the comments that his article got, is ironic.

Read the full article by Partick French here.
(Don’t be put off or turned on by the images that you are going to see to the right of the page)

Also, read this report to read about the toll that the ongoing conflict is taking on psychological health of Kashmiris caught in the conflict zone.

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According to
The Hindu :
Having finished writing Naipaul's biography The World is What it is, Patrick French is now working on a sequel to his 1997 book
Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division
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Back to Kashmir, Pandit


Back to Kashmir, Pandit
A Scene from David Lean's film A Passage to India
based on E.M. Forster's novel of the same name
“I extend a formal invitation to all our brethren migrant Kashmiri Pandits to return Valley. However, they should prefer to live like rest of the Kashmiris than living in security zones,”[…] “We would in no way like to keep our brethren Pandits away from us. So they need not live under security of India army”
On Feb 22, so said Syed Ali Shah Geelani , chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), where G stands for ‘going on and on’ as the conflict has gone on long enough to require the freedom party to branch out, mutate and specialize.

In the same media briefing he said:
[…] it was intolerable that any outsider, whether a laborer or any other person, should stay in the state permanently. “For this will have a negative impact on our demography”
Now where have we heard this before?

These could well have been words of the aging Lord of Maratha Manus, Bal Thackray or of any of his male blood relative, and with their common shared pool of cronies lending in a shrilling chorus of “Jai Maharastra”. “Jai Kashmir” anyone! Who wants to get shot?

In an uncanny providence, Maharashtra, the only rashtra inside Indian Rashtra, under the rule of Bal Thackray was first to open the door of its Universities and colleges to Kashmiri Pandits like me and giving an entrée to gaining decent technical degrees at very low subsidized rates. In some universities the rate still is as par with that applicable to the Dalit subjects of the state. Later many other States later lined up to take in the desolate Pandits, these included States like Gujarat, a state having saurashtra or 100 nations in its womb) and Madhya Pradesh, the Middle State, of course it must have been worried that its ‘middle’ status would be in jeopardy if Kashmir goes the other way.

What if these people come across the ancient Persian saying dug up by Mr. Richard Burton in his Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night:
If folk be scarce as food in dearth ne'er let three lots come near ye:
First Sindi, second Jat, and third a rascally Kashmeeree.
How many more years will it take these gentle folks of the plains to realize that Pandits are essentially Kashmiris and that Kashmiris are essentially rascally. Just let the food get scarce and like the 'Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari' editorials, we too would have our Saamna with these lines.

It certainly won’t take long. Kashmiris would have to return to Kashmir. But, Where would the Pandit go? Certainly not to Jammu - in early 90s, they certainly didn’t welcome the Pandits with open arms, the folks there know the Kashmiri nature even better.

Haath may kangri,
Mu may cholay,
Kaha say aaye Kashmiri lolay
Kangri in hand
and a mouthful of Cholay
Where from came - Kashmiri lolay

In 90s, these lines welcomed pandits in Jammu. An ingenious poetic slur that managed to rhyme the native words for Kashmiri firepot, Curried Chickpeas - a dish popular mostly in Northern India and the pejorative term created just for Kashmiri Pandits: ‘lola’. The Dogras never understood how and why pandits left the valley without giving Muslims a fight.

Fight What?

On 1 March, another delegation of All Parties Hurriyet Conference (i.e. APH C this time) made an appeal while interacting with Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu, the place of great retreat of pandits. It appealed

[…] to all the Kashmiri migrants, particularly Pandits, who have left the held valley since 1947, to return to occupied Kashmir.
Don’t be alarmed by the word “occupied”. That’s how it was quoted in a secessionist Media agency in Service of Kashmir. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that such a secessionist media agency exists, everyone can use a bit of media service, be content that it has a message for Pandits:
return to occupied Kashmir”.

Don’t be disappointed by the word “migrants”, that’s who we are. According to The Oxford Pocket Thesaurus of Current English, we are: nomadic, itinerant, peripatetic, vagrant, gypsy, transient, unsettled, on the move.

The standard response of Kashmiri Pandits to the appeal of Hurray Independence Party:
“We are indigenous Kashmiris. Kashmir belongs to us and we do not need any invitation from anybody,’ [...]’
Nineteen years is certainly a long time. Some years ago there was a split in Panun Kashmir and we got : Panun Kashmir (A) and Panun Kashmir (C)
In (A) corner we had Dr Ajay Chrungoo and in (C) corner we had Dr Agnishekhar
It was a fight between two bright ‘Dr’. Now, I have no idea what (PKM) actually stands for, if it’s a movement – where are they moving. I wonder if they have sorted out the issue which according to me they should be pondering, no not the intricacies of creating a defacto mini Gaza Strip in Kashmir but rather the question - Who in our Panun Kashmir would:

Cut meat for him, for pandit is no puj. But, he does eat meat.
Cut his hair, for no Pandit is na’evidh. But, he does need a hair cut.
Sweep roads of his country, for no Pandit is a va’tul. But, roads of do need cleaning up.

Is it going to be a Nation, nay a State, nay a Union territory devoid of butchers, barbers and sweepers? Forgive me for my insolence for I do not know how nations are born and I know that these thoughts need to least worry the minds already worrying about a five thousand year old culture dying. We need to be positive deliriously optimistic.

Look at the Jews and look what they have achieved!

Aah Jews! The object of perennial fascination for Pandits.

The most bizarre thing I have heard recently is even graying Kashmiri pandits talk of Jewish origin of Kashmiris: “ The name of your ancestor Krishan Joo actually meant Krishan Jew

It is like one big skit with different props - Islamic Fundamentalism, Human rights, Freedom fight, Death, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, State Terrorism, Cross Border Terrorism, Line of Control, Government, Puppet government - thrown in between different narratives. But then, ‘skit’ is not the right word. ‘Allegory’ is more appropriate. In Kashmir, the allegory keeps interweaving with real life. On certain days, the events surrounding1989 exile of Pandits, can remind one of Alfred Hitchcock's apocalyptic movie The Birds. The Crows start attacking triggering the great retreat.

And the World Remained Silent about Auschwitz in Kashmir.

A Kashmiri Pandit filmmaker makes a twenty-minute documentary about Kashmiri Pandits and gives it the name of an eight hundred page Yiddish book And the World Remained Silent written by a Jewish gent Elie Wiesel.
The same filmmaker makes a commercial film, Sheen ( Snow) at a cost of Rs 4 crore, a film based on a script that (it’s claimed) took three years to complete, a film about suffering of Kashmiri Pandits . For all the efforts, saying that the film was pathetic would be the least generous thing that a person can say about it.

According to one account, as of 2007:
In addition to basic dry rations, Kashmiri Pandits have been given Rupees 1,000/- per head per month (subject to a maximum of Rs 4,000/- per family per month) in both the Jammu and Delhi relief camps.
These figures may seem measly to some and to some these may seem lavish.

The same report says:
[…] in Tripura, a diplaced Bru (one of the 21 Scheduled Tribes of Tripura state) adult is given Rs 87 per month and a minor Rs 43.5 per month. In addition a Bru adult is given 450 grams of rice a day. The allowance drops to 225 grams of rice for a minor.

Certainly, spending 4 Crore on a film in hope of getting International attention ( the protagonist of the film gets invited to Geneva for a Human Rights Meet ) is almost criminally rich.

A website, having rather graphic images, chronicling death of Pandits in Kashmir calls the deaths ‘Auschwitz in Kashmir’. Ironically, the real Auschwitz of Kashmir, lies within the very walls of newly built houses of Pandits living outside Kashmir.
In the living rooms, where conversation thrives in every other language except Kashmiri; the kitchen, where every other aroma is present except the sharp aroma Kashmiri dishes; that little corner, housing cheerful little ceramic gods where puja now needs to be over in exact two minutes, and the big pooza on holier days is presided over by ‘FWD-PLY- what did it say BWD’ Audio players. The countless hours spent traveling around to meet relatives and families, all the while in that railway compartment or the air plane cabin, cursing the Muslims for all they did, sweating it out in dilli and cussing Koshur Musalmans in Punjabi.
These are the gas chambers and the mass burial grounds of Kashmiri Pandit. An ideology that drove out the pandits may be beaten, but nothing can rally against modernity. This is the real Auschwitz of Kashmir.

This January, on a short visit to Jammu, my dear grandmother finally said to me something that no one else from the family would say, even though they must have realized it. She said that I spend too much time talking to other people, strangers and distant relatives, and yet don’t talk much to my own folks at home. I just laughed and gave her a big hug. I wanted to tell her these lines of Aharon Appelfeld that I had only recently read in Philip Roth’s Shop Talk:

It took me years to draw close to the Jew within me. I had to get rid of many prejudices within me and to meet many Jews in order to find myself in them. Anti-Semitism directed at oneself was an original Jewish creation. I don’t know of any other nation so flooded with self-criticism. Even after the Holocaust, Jews did not seem blameless in their own eyes. On the contrary, harsh comments were made by prominent Jews against victims, for not protecting themselves and fighting back. The ability of Jews to internalize any critical and condemnatory remark and castigate themselves is one of the marvels of human nature.
The feeling of guilt has settled and taken refuge among all the Jews who want to reform the world, the various kinds of socialists, anarchists, but mainly among Jewish artists. Day and night the flame of that feeling produces dread, sensitivity, self-criticism, and sometimes self-destruction. In short, it isn’t a particularly glorious feeling. Only one thing may be said in its favor: it harms no one except those afflicted with it.
Aharon Appelfeld, a Hebrew-language author, who did not learn the language until he was a teenager. Yes, I wanted to quote lines of a Jewish writer. Curse the Jews.

Then on 5th March 2008, the date on which year’s Heyrath fell, I read the news of 31 Kashmiri Pandit families moving into flats built by State government at Sheikh Pora village.
I remembered the Kashmiri saying:

Keshi’rih Kahai garah
Only eleven houses in Kashmir

The saying that finds in the origin in a folklore according to which there was a time in Kashmir, when due the fanatical rule of one of its Muslim ruler, the pandits were killed off, converted, driven into Indian plains till only eleven families of Kashmiri Pandits remained.
I wonder now if the new saying is going to be:

Keshi’rih ak’therih garah
Only thirty-one houses in Kashmir

But, I know this is not true. These families had already moved back to Kashmir, and were living in rented accommodation around the place, anticipating the completion of the construction work of the flats. And I know that these are not the only Kashmiri Pandits living in Kashmir, there are more who never moved out in the first place and they are seldom talked about.

I know about a young Pandit in Kashmir who is spreading message of peace in kashmir through some good'ol rock music. Personally, I know one guy, a childhood friend of an elder cousin bother of mine, who never felt Kashmir. During his visit to Delhi a few years ago, he told me always vists pallika bazaar to buy mp3s. He is still in Kashmir working as an insurance agent; I keep thinking that he is Kashmir listening to Pink Floyd at full volume – something for which, my cousin told me once, he was notorious in the entire mohalla. I asked my cousin why was the guy still in Kashmir. And, my cousin’s reply can be summed up in these lines: “He is not a Pandit anymore! He had to parrot the same words which the rest of the valley was singing, Azaadi. How else do you think they survived?

I remember the old Kashmiri tale of eras gone by, tales of Kashmiri pandits being subjected to persecution and their retreats from valley, of misfortune left behind and journeying to distant and difficult lands looking seeking new fortunes, journeys that took them even to the extreme southern tips of the subcontinent, and they journeyed never to return to Kashmir. But, some always went back to Kashmir and some never left it. This moving back and forth all the while created a strange social division among kashmiri pandits: Malmas and Banamas, respective term terms for those who remained in Kashmir and those who felt and later returned.

But, why do I digress?
In the meanwhile, the government has allotted 276 newly constructed flats at Muthi ( Jammu ) here to Kashmiri Pandit migrant families who have moved in a few days back and were celebrating Shivratri today in new accommodation
This report did not surprise me. When, I read that news about 31 Kashmir Pandits families in Kashmir, I was surprised. But, I should have been more surprised when at the beginning of this year when an Uncle of mine asked me to read an article written by him for Aalav, a magazine published by Kashmiri Pandits of Karnataka, a state having about 450 Pandit families, 400 of whom live in Bangalore. During Migration my Uncle had to move to Tumkur, a town not far from Bengaluru, he lived there for about ten years and having moved back to Jammu some 7-8 years ago, he still retains some ties to the pandits community there to have written the artice for them. The article was a first hand reportage of the progress of efforts going into building the flats in Jammu for Kashmiri migrants. According, to the report, a young (in this case meaning middle ages) Kashmiri Pandit KAS (Kashmir Administrative Service) officer who comes from a reputed Pandit family (with his father also being an ex-KAS officer), was looking after the whole project.

I didn’t know what to make of the news of 31 families of Pandits in Kashmir but I certainly wasn’t feeling surprised. I felt something else. I tried to understand what was it that I was feeling about the issue, but I just could not decipher it. I again left pangs of hunger, I looked around and saw my mother talking on the phone in a gleeful tone. It was a call from Jammu and this meant that the Vatak pooja on the night of Heyrath was complete and like always the rest of the family in Jammu had called in to inform this. This meant we could have the special dinner now.
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Oldest records of Kashmiri folk song

Browsing around for Kashmiri music, I came across two tracks that are possibly the oldest records of Kashmiri folk music. At least they must be the oldest recordings that are still available. Both the songs were first recorded/released by Folkways Records in 1950s.

First more about Folkways Records.
According to wiki:
The Folkways Records & Service Co. was founded by Moses Asch and Marian Distler in 1948 in New York City. Asch sought to record and document sound from the entire world. From 1948 until Asch's death in 1986, Folkways Records released 2,168 albums. The albums are very diverse in content including traditional and contemporary music from around the world; spoken word, poetry, and muli-lingual instructional recordings; and field recordings of communities, individuals, and natural sounds. It was also an early proponent of the singers and songwriters, such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Leadbelly, who formed the center of the American folk music revival.
(Among them, we would know Pete Seeger as the man behind popular songs like "We Shall Overcome"and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" These songs were later popularized by Joan Baez. Another of his song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was made famous by The Byrds)

Now More about the two Kashmiri songs:

The name of the artists is unlisted for both the track and name of the tracks also is also arbitrary.

Track titled, Kashmir: Folk Dance, appears in the album
Music of the World's Peoples: Vol. 2
Original Release Date: January 1, 1952
Label: Folkways Records
Song Length: 3:37 minutes

Other track titled, Geet (Kashmir) appears in the album
Music from South Asia
Original Release Date: January 1, 1957
Label: Folkways Records
Song Length: 3:46 minutes

You can sample these songs and buy them here

Listen Now


In addition, in 1962 they came out with an album titled Folk Music of Kashmir that had instrumental as well as wonderful vocal music. The album was recorded and produced by E. Bhavani. However, the liner notes to the album (.pdf file, with excellent short notes on Kashmiri music and some old photographs) mentions the name as E. Bhavnain)

Here is a list of songs from the album:

Side I
1 - Santur, Instrumental, Duration: 3:27
2 - Title Music, Vocal solo with chorus and other instruments, Duration: 3:54
3 - Title Music, Instrumental with flute, Duration: 2:47
4 - Love and the Beauty of Nature, Instrumental, Duration: 3:54
5 - Instrumental, Duration: 3:11
6 - Song of the Boatmen, Boatmen singing, Duration: 4:15
7 - Love Duet, Duet, Duration: 3:51
Side II
1 - Song of the Nightingale, Instrumental Duration: 5:14
2 - Instrumental, Duration: 2:23
3 - Romantic Music, Instrumental, Duration: 2:20
4 - Song of the Silkworms, Vocal with chorus, Duration: 9:29
5 - Beautiful Kashmir, Chorus, Duration: 4:00
6 - Song of Spring, A man singing, Duration: 2:39

This is truly a unique album that has captures the true spirit of Kashmiri folk music.
Songs about Spring, songs of boatman, Silkworm and Natutal beauty are unique recordings ( read my earlier post about traditions of Kashmiri folk music )

The songs from this album that require special mention and some added information about them that is not given along with them:

  • Track 5 from Side 2 titled Beautiful Kashmir, a song in praise of beauty of Kashmir. The song has some robust chorus singing peculiar to joyous Kashmiri songs.
  • Track 3 from Side 1 titled Title Music , fast and up beat, is actually a wonderful recording of a Chakri type of Kashmiri music that is peculiar to Kashmiri wedding celebrations.
  • Track 2 from Side 1 titled Title Music , is of course the famous Kashmiri Song Bumbro Bumbro. This is possibly, the oldest recoding recording of this beloved song of Kashmiris.

You can sample these songs and buy the songs or the entire album at the site Smithsonian Global Sound

Folk music of Kashmir recorded by Verna Gillis in 1972



Kashmir, 1972
Verna Gillis writes in a blurb to this video at her Soundscape You tube Channel:

In 1972, travelling in India with Brad Graves, it was 115 degrees - the rains were late and we were sweltering in the heat. We flew to Kashmir, lived on a house boat for two weeks, and recorded music which was released on Lyrichord Discs now available as a CD - LAS 7260

Verna Gillis as a producer came at a time when few had heard the term ‘world music’ and she, according to many, was the one who kick started this genre of music.

According to Robert Palmer, one time chief pop critic of The New York Times and one of her earliest supporter:
''She [Verna Gillis] came along at a time when all this music from around the world was becoming relevant to jazz and pop and new classical music. There wasn't anyone else who could move between ethnomusicology and presenting. She was open to all sorts of music. She was a synthesist. She created a larger dialogue.''
From 1972 and right up till 1978, Gillis recorded traditional music in places as varied as Afghanistan, Iran, Kashmir, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Peru, Surinam, and Ghana. In 1979, she opened Soundscape (that closed in 1984), a multi-cultural performance space in New York City, which she directed for the next five years. In year 2000, she was nominated for a Grammy in the Producer category.

The fact that Kashmir was one of the first destinations for her musical journey and that Kashmiri music found space in world music might surprise many.

Recorded on a houseboat on waters of famous Dal Lake, Eli Mohammad Shera and others sing Sufi songs of love and devotion. In addition, there are several instrumental solos and duets bringing fore the melody of traditional folk instruments of Kashmir. The chatter of artists going on in the various tracks of this album only adds charm to it and bears testimony to the unassuming origin of the album.

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You can check out sampling of songs from the album and even buy it below.
(Do check out the third track Rebab solo for its seemingly Irish sound)

Listen now


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Video courtesy of Soundscape, do check out the website of Soundscape for more info. on Verna Gillis

Authentic Kashmiri folk music

Browsing Youtube came across an excellent series titled Folk instruments of Kashmir, made under the banner of anteeye Films by Kashmiri artist Sajad Hamdani.

A list of Folk instruments of Kashmir covered under the series:
(click to go to the video)
Also, listen to the wondrous sound of this video on Sufiyana Music of Kashmir.



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More about Sajad Hamdani:
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You might also like to read my earlier post about
type of Kashmiri folk songs.

Types of Kashmiri folk Songs

[...] but a folk song is born differently from a formal poem.Poets create in order to express themselves, to say what it is that makes them unique. In the folk song, one does not stand out from others but joins with them. [...] It was passed from generation to generation, and everyone who sang it added something new to it. Every song had many creators, and all of them modestly disappeared behind their creation. No folk song existed purely for its own sake. It had a function. [...] all (songs) were part of a collective rite in which song had its established place.
- lines from Milan Kunder's The Joke

This is true of folk songs everywhere in the world. These songs had specific functions, significance and meaning for folks who sang them. Yet, Folk songs remain essential to Kashmiri way of life. The way in which these songs are being sung has changed. Folk songs still exist but you can now hear them on VCD/DVD produced especially for mass consumption. Naturally, purist sneer and they wonder: what happened to the genuine kashmiri folk songs? But, most people are happy knowing that these songs still exist and are sung, and hope that maybe the 'scene' is better in rural areas.

Here is a list detailing most of the types of Kashmiri folk Songs:

  • Love songs or Lol-gevun : Lyrics( known in Kashmiri as lol , the word for 'love') written by the beloved last queen of Kashmir, Habba Khatoon are famous in this category
  • Dance or Ruf songs: groups of girls or women stand in rows, facing each other, women in each row interlink their arms around each other’s waist, moving forward and backward, they sing these songs.
  • Pastoral songs: there are two type of such song, one sung by Kashmiris and the other by Gujjars (a separate ethnic group ) in their own dialect.
  • Spring songs or sont gevun: Songs celebrating the coming of spring season.
  • Wedding songs Wanwun: Common to both Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits, but Muslim songs have more Persian words while Pandit songs have Sanskrit vocabulary and some Vedic chants. Some of the best songs are sung on the night of the henna known as Maenzraath. Among others there are songs from the folktale about the legendary lovers, Himal and Nagiray.
  • Opera songs or Baand Jashan: songs performed by the traveling band of folk theater (Bhand pather) artists known as Bhand. Salman Rushdie gave them a new literally life in his novel Shalimar The Clown.
  • Dancer’s songs (Bach nagma Jashan): Usually meant for occasions like marriage or other big festivity. A particular band of musician performs these songs accompanied by a lithesome (at times, effeminate) boy/man who dances comically attired like a woman. To listen to a real beautiful dancing girl hafiz-nagama would have to be arranged.
  • Ballads (called bath or Kath, meaning 'stories' and literally in kashmiri meaning 'talk'): A particular variety of satarical ballads is popularly known as laddi shah. A man stirs the iron rings strung on an iron rod and makes witty comments on the social issues. A common refrain from the songs started with line: Laddi Shah, Laddi Shah draar’kin pyow,  pya'waane pya'waane ha'patan khyow( Laddi Shah, Laddi Shah! fell off the window! And a Grizzly bit him just as he fell!)
  • Sacred Thread ceremony songs (Yagnopavit gevun) for Kashmiri Pandits again have more vedic chantings. In an almost equivalent ceremony for Kashmiri Muslims, there are separate songs for the circumcision ceremony.
  • There are also Cradle songs, lullaby (lala’vun) and ditties for children( most popular Kashmiri ditty: Bishte Bishte Braryo, khot’kho wan). An interesting thing to note is that with the passage of time the mystical poem hukus bukus telli wann che kus (Who’s he? Who are you? Now, tell me who am I?) by Lal Ded, the great poet-saint of Kashmir, morphed into a popular nonsensical childrens' ditty Akus Bakus Telivan Chakus.
  • Dirge or Van: recited in chorus by women of the family after the death of an old persons.
  • Then there are folk songs that depend on the occupation of the person singing them. There are songs of seed-sowers, harvesters and laborers doing their daily hard work. There are songs for workers involved in creating delicate embroidery weavers and makers of exquisite Kashmiri Ka'leens, creators of papier-mache. There are songs sung by saffron reapers (usually women), shepherds, village belles fetching water (some of Habba Khatoon’s lol songs are popular in this category). In Kashmir farm work like grinding, spinning yarn and stacking paddy are performed by women, unlike many other places in the India subcontinent, they also do sowing and harvesting, and they sing different song while doing these physically daunting tasks. Some of these are songs about the waters of Jhelum, songs of saffron fields of Pampore and song about Chinar.
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My other post on Kashmiri Music:
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The list is based on the excellent work titled Folklore of Kashmir (1945) by Somnath Dhar.
It can be found in the Encyclopaedia of Kashmir by Suresh K Sharma, Shiri Ram Bakshi.

Do read: An article on Bhand Pather by M K. Raina, one of India's best-known theater actors and directors)

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The Most popular Kashmiri Song: ya tuli khanjar

ya tuli khanjar remains the most popular Kashmiri song and it has remained so for more than 25 years. No Kashmiri Mehndi raat or as it is called in Kashmiri: Maenzraath, is complete without a performance of this song. Maenzraath, of course is the best and for some the only occasion when one gets to enjoy a performance of Kashmiri Music.
Check out the video of:
ya tuli khanjar teh maaray, nata saani shabba rozay




This one is sung by singer Abdur Rasheed Hafiz, the best living proponent of Chhakri and Rof style of Kashmiri Music. At the beginning of the song, names of Hasan and Hussain are invoked; but, when the song is sung by pundits or even among a gathering og Pandits, this stanza is omitted.
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I couldn’t resist making an mp3 out of it. Download the song ya tuli khanjar (3 mb)

Enjoy.

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And now to quote the clichéd term music knows no boundaries .
She has made millions stay glued to music, and made them stay back with Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Naa Karo.
Pakistani Ghazal singer Farida Khanum often referred as "Malika-e-Ghazal" (Queen of Ghazal) too has a Kashmiri origin. Her mother was a Kashmiri, and Gulgam village in Kupwara is claimed to be her ancestral village.

Read more at dailyexcelsior

Looking around, I found one more connection. Her elder sister Mukhtar Begum (1911 – 1982), a great singer in her own right, was married to renowned Urdu drama writer, Agha Hashar Kashmiri of Yahudi Ki Ladki fame. Agha Mohammad Shah Banarsi was born in Banaras in 1879 to a family of Kashmiri Shawl sellers. Conscious of his Kashmiri ancestry, he opted for the name Agha Hashar Kashmiri and started writing dramas at a young age of 17. He shifted to Bombay and joined a theatre company. He was to script many films like Pooran Bhagat, Chandidas, Aurat Ka Pyar.

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Update(23/4/11):

Lyrics to the song

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You might also like to read these posts on Kashmiri music:

Kashmiri Songs by ‘Other’ Artists

Recently, I came across two Kashmiri songs sung by Indian Melody queen Asha Bhosle.

The songs are:
  • Lalas wantai chhu sawaal
  • Ha ashkI tchhooro, rashkI kerthas
The diction is almost flawless, one can hardly fathom that the song is being song by a non-Kashmiri and her voice sounds just as melodious in Kashmiri language.

You can listen to the songs here [Song Link]
(Audio quality isn’t the best. Still, it is worth listening)

After hearing these two songs, I decided to look around for other Kashmiri song (and songs with some Kashmiri Lyrics) sung by non-Kashmiri artists.

Here, is what I found:

The first one was the easiest as it is a song by one of my favorite Indian Bands – Indian Ocean, the sound of contemporary India. Amit Kilam, percussionist of the Band is a Kashmiri Pandit.

The particular song is Kaun from their best-selling album Kandisa. The wording are not altogether in Kashmiri, instead the song has a Kashmiri refrain to it. The song has sufi flavor and the rhythm (not particularly Kashmiri) to match it. Indira Kilam, mother of Amit Kilam wrote the Kashmiri lyrics for Kaun.
The song starts with the Kashmiri words:

Kein dhafna, gil mashrao, dayotsi dayotsi, meli bahaar

And ends with the words:

Lol'uk chaavi bahar vasiye, Lol'uk fol'ye gulzar
Dil'an hind taar, Ach'av ki'nn sar, Tel'ee meli bahaar


Samplings of the songs by the Band are available at their site. Although Kaun isn’t available at the site, looking up the album at a local music store would be a great idea as their music is magically ethereal.

The next song is by Bangladeshi Melody queen Runa Laila. Runa Laila was a big name in the Indian Subcontinent for much of the 70s the 80s. That she had sung a Kashmiri song came as a surprise to me.

The song is Kati chukh nundbanay and the lyrics are by Mahjoor, the dearest of Kashmiri poets. Recorded in the mid-70s, the song proved to huge hit in Kashmir and probably one of the reasons why my grandmother is a big fan of Runa laila.

You can listen to the song here

Besides these artists, I have also heard Ila Arun singing in Kashmiri. Ila Arun, a folk-pop artist who was quite popular in the 80s and the early 90s although in the 90s she was known more for her bawdy movie songs with folkish touch of hoarseness. DD Kashir, launched in the year 2000 with much fanfare in Srinagar. As part of its launch celebration many artists from India like singer Lucky Ali (son of yesterday star comedian Mehmood) and Ila Arun were invited for a stage performance to be telecasted live on the newly launch Channel. Lucky Ali sang his song Maut (later used in the film Kaante) - it sounded too eerie for the simple reason that it was being telecasted from Kashmir. However, it was Ila Arun, who surprised the audience by singing a Kashmiri song.

For the next song, I looked at the obvious place to look for – Bollywood. For all it’s fascination with Kashmir, there aren’t many Kashmiri songs to be found in Bollywood.

There is a song Urzu Urzu Durkut from Yahaan (2005). Urzu Durkut is a Kashmiri blessing meaning ‘good health (ur zu) and strong knees (dur kut) ’. Although, the film won critical acclaim for its portrayal of Kashmir problem, I still had problems appreciating this seemingly sincere attempt.

The next movie is the most famous of all, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir (2000). It was the upbeat music by musical trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, that introduced Kashmiri lyrics to rest of the Indians.

The songs were:
  • Bumbro Bumbro
  • Rind Posh Maal
Both these songs were based on two of the most popular Kashmiri compositions.
The original Rind Posh Maal was a love poem by a late 18th century Kashmiri poet, Rasul Mir. The popularity of the poem is obvious from the fact that the Kashmiri are still singing it. The original poem had the memorable lines.

Raza hen-zi-ya-ni naaz kyah anzni gardan
Ya illa-hi chesma bad-a nishi rachh-tan
Ga-tsi kam kyah cha-ni baar-ga-hi lo-lo
Rinda poshamal gindi-ney dra-yi lo-lo



How graceful the swan neck of henziyani looks,
Guard her from evil eyes, O Lord,
Thy bounty, she won’t lessen,
Lo, the dearest is going on an outing of fun and frolic

Henzi: an archaic Kashmiri word for woman.

The original composition Bumbro Bumbro is from the first Kashmiri Opera ever written, Bombur ta Yemberzal (Bumblebee and Narcissus). The original song still reverberates in the valley.

Bombur ta Yemberzal: The first Kashmiri Opera

The popular Kashmiri song Bumbro Bumbro, a song so popular that grandmothers often sing it to the delight of their grand children, is from the first Kashmiri Opera ever performed and written, Bombur ta Yemberzal (Bumblebee and Narcissus).

Kashmiri poet Nadim, having seen a performance of White Haired Girl (Bai Mao Nu) in China, was inspired to write one along a similar style in Kashmiri language. White Haired Girl, first performed in 1945, told the story of trials and tribulations in life of a young peasant girl living in an exploitative society. White Haired Girl with its communist revolutionary theme was one of the eight plays permitted during the Cultural Revolution in China that lasted 1966 to 1976. Marshal Bulganin and Khrushchev, during the 1955 visit to Kashmir, saw the second production of Bombur ta Yambarzal. In 1971, the Soviet government conferred Nadim with the Soviet Land Nehru Award, an award given by Soviet Union to selected Indian artist in recognition of their outstanding work.

The cultural movement in Kashmir during that era starting 1930s and ending mid 1970s, like many other places in the world, was lead by many left leaning artists. Bombur ta Yemberzal first produced and performed in 1953, just as its Chinese inspiration, told the story a peasant girl and her tribulations. Based on a folk saying according to which although Bumblebee and Narcissus aspire to be together, they can never be together in their lives. First performed at famed Nedous Hotel and SP College Hall, both places of deep significance in the cultural scene of Kashmir, the play was a great success. The play had characters with names like Bombur, Yambarzal, Gullala, Maswal, Gilatoor, Agarwal, Tekabatani, Irkyoam, Wav and Harud. All these names had symbolic meaning with some of them like Bombur, Yambarzal, Wav and Harud being Kashmiri words for Bumblebee, flower Narcissus, Strong winds and Autumn respectively. Written at a time when Kashmir was going through a tumultuous phase that saw among many other events: 1953 arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and formation of Bakshi Government,* the Opera hoped for a better future as can be fathomed from its optimistic ending and was in someways a play on these events, Yambarzal and Bombur do get to meet at last.

The success of Bombur ta Yemberzal owned as much to Mohan Lal Aima, director and composer of music for the Opera. He took the tunes of already existing popular Kashmiri songs and by varying their rhythm, managed to create an original musical experience. For the song Bombro Bombro, its traditional Chakri tune was tweaked with a faster tempo to create a memorable song, a song that generation of Kashmiris were to sing.

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Recommended read:

One of the best articles, a first hand account written by Moti Lal Kemmu, about the Opera can be read at Kashmir Herald

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Footnote:

Another Kashmiri who has been awared Soviet Land Nehru Award:
Prof. Saif-ud-Din Soz ( ex- Union Minister of Water Resources, ex- Union Minister of environment & Forests ) for his translation of Mikhail Il'in's 1,00,000 Whys - a Trip Round the Room (1929) from Russian to Kashmiri.

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*Bachha Nagma gained currency during the time of Bakshi Government as it was extensively used for sending out political messages.
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