Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar

Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar
National Book Trust, India
Second Edition, 1982
Pages 200
Price Rs. 17 (bought for Rs. 200 at ebay from a Jaipur based seller of )

“Tell me what land can boast such treasures?
 Is aught so fair, is aught so sweet?
Hail! Paradise of endless pleasure!
Hail! Beautiful and beloved Kashmir!”
~ Iranian Poet "Toghra” of “Ispahan”

When I first started writing about Kashmir I came across a lot of writing by Kashmiri people. Most of it repeating the same old stories. But it was writings of  Somnath Dhar that I found really interesting and engageable.  Interesting  - because he had cataloged folk songs and folk tales. Engageable - because when he writes that Abdul Ahad Azad mentions a series of articles entitled "Mahmud Gami's Yusuf Zulekhan" that appeared in a German magazine in 1895, you search online and find that the articles and partial translations were done by Karl Friedrich Burkhard. When he quotes an Iranian poet on Kashmir, you find that the lines may have been part of Ta'rif-e Kashmir-e Toghra. His writings offer a process of learning. [He was one of the teachers of  T.N. Madan] His writings, which till recently I had only accessed online, were certainly an inspiration for me. Often while looking for a piece of information, I ended up coming across something written by him [like for the post on 'Origin of Kashmiri Houseboat']. Finally, I have managed to get my hands on one of his many works on Kashmir.

Somnath Dhar's Jammu and Kashmir (first published in 1977, re-published in 1982, 1992 and 1999) is supposed to be a beginner's guide to Kashmir but somehow in just around 200 pages Somnath Dhar manages to offer a lot more than a brief snapshot of the state. he manages to cover almost everything. The content from this book is still used, re-used ad-lib.

In fourteen chapters Somnath Dhar covers People, Language, History, Heritage, Music, Songs, Folklore, Literature, Poems, Drama and Monuments. In addition it even offers details on government developmental plans, and numbers stuff like this population breakdown of the state:


                      1961               1971
Muslims        24,32,067      30,40,129
Hindus         10,13,193       14,04,292
Sikhs            63,069            1,05,873
Buddhists     48,360            57,956
Christians     2,848              7,182
Jains             1,427               1,150
Other religions 3                  8
Religion not stated 9            42


Jains? Probably from Jammu. Religion not stated? Probably too poor to care or probably too educated to care. That's why I like reading stuff like this. There are also subtle lessons on how various historical narratives are used in a grand 'conflict' to make seemingly innocuous but potent comments in favour of a political position. It's a practice that Kashmiri are still finding too addictive and hard to resist. That too interests me. The myth-making.

The best part of the book is perhaps the songs from Leh and Dogra Land and of course, Kashmir.

From Leh we hear Ladakhis singing the song of Zorawar Singh's wife:

I do not wish to eat bread received from the sinful northerners
I do not wish to drink water received from the sinful northerners
Amidst the inhabitants of this land I have no friends and relations...
When arriving at the Zoji-la-Pass, my fatherland can be seen...
Although I can see my fatherland, I shall not arrive there...

In Jammu a woman sings:

Tera miga ladga i manda, O gadda,
tera miga lagda i manda,
Eh Patwari migi khat rehyum liki dinda,
sau sau karnian Chanda.
Kehsi banai Rama
Jange di Chakri

I am sick of separation, my love,
I am sick of separation,
I entreat the Patwari again and again,
To write a letter for me, but he refuses,
So you leave the army and return home.
Why, O God Rama, have you created a permanent institution like the Army?


In Kashmir girls dance while singing:

O you must tell me
Where my boy has gone.
Is he a fountain in life's garden,
Or, a well of nectar, sweet and delicious?

Another thing of my interest, description of Kashmir by the early western visitors. People who pronounced the name of this place as "Cassimere, Chismeer or Ouexmir".

 In addition the book offers there views of Kashmir:

The tea Kashmiris brew in the Samovar is called Kahva. they love to sip it in the orchards when fruits are in blossom. (Courtesy S.P. Sahni)
Kashmiris open a bottle of cold-drink at Chasmeshahi. 2008.

That fold in the lower portion of pheran, I still find interesting.

Women of Ladakh wear colorful clothes. Their special headgear called Perak, is made of red cloth
and tapers down to the waist over the plaited hair.

The silverwate of Kashmir compares favorably with any turned out by sophisticated establishments elsewhere

Jama Masjid, Srinagar, is the most 'architectural' structures in the wooden style of Kashmir.

A view of the Ganderbal hydro-electric project

Avantipur

Shankaracharya Temple

The interior decor of Santoor (Ranjit Hotel, new Delhi)-  creation of architect Shiban Ganju

Raghunath Temple

Nishat
Nishat.2008.

The Map

-0-


You can buy a recent edition of the book here for around Rs.75:
Buy Jammu and Kashmir by Somnath Dhar from Flipkart.com

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