Saturday, May 26, 2012

Daughters Of The Vitasta by Prem Nath Bazaz, 1959

This monumental book from 1959 by Prem Nath Bazaz is among the first few books written in exile by a modern Kashmiri. In fact, a bunch of these first books were written by Bazaz while living in Delhi after his political estrangement with Sheikh Abdullah. Most of these books had a lot of Kalhana and little droplets from the great river of Kashmiri history, much like the present exilee writing by Pandits. But there is a difference. Prem Nath Bazaz wrote about history while consciously avoiding revivalist temptations.

In Preface to this book, Bazaz writes:
"Lest reading of the early part of the book gives rise to revivalist tendencies, I would like to say that it is none of my desires to create a mythical golden age in which Kashmiri women achieved unsurpassable glory. I am fully aware of the limitations under which they lived during the best epochs of history to advocate revival of ancient ideals and beliefs. Despite the imperfections of modern social life, there is no gainsaying that today we live in a better world where both men and women find vaster opportunities and greater freedom for the unfoldment of their potentialities. Revivalism is by no means a healthy doctrine nor can its adoption contribute to prosperity of a people. My endeavour in narrating the  heroic and noble deeds of Kashmiri women is not to idolise the past but to rekindle the spirit of adventure which characterized them before was bound down in servitude."

Beside telling story of interesting women from ancient history of Kashmir. and from not so distant past (like the fascinating story of Begam Samru, a Kashmiri Muslim nautch girl who ruled a princely state neat Meerat called Sardana and died a Christian), this book provides insight into a period when 'naya Kashmir' was being built and when women affairs in the state underwent a paradigm shift. Bazaz recall the early unsung pioneers who challenged the society, predominantly the Pandit community (Did you know the first film ever banned in Kashmir was due to Pandit protests?), to re-think its stand on core issues like women's rights and education.

Prem Nath Bazaz wrote all this while living in Delhi.



Here is  'Daughters Of The Vitasta: A History of Kashmiri women from early times to the present day' by Prem Nath Bazaz.





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