Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Faces. Again.

'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture by D.N. Saraf' (1987)

Some photographs from the book 'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture by D.N. Saraf' (1987).

working on a namda

A carpet weaver

a craftsman's family

old master and  young apprentice

for the love of kangri

Rouff Dancers.  Based on the snake headdress, probably a production of Heemal Nagrai

soofiyana kalam gathering

for the lover of pheran

a kashmiri girl

Ladakhi/Bott women
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Photo-Portrait of Kashmiri Pandits, 2007

Deepak Razdan shares some pages from the photo-book 'Enduring images frozen in time: a Photo-Portrait of Kashmiri Pandits by S N Pandita and Ramesh Manvati' (2007). This book has more than 200 images of Kashmiri Pandits spread over a century. From what I read, the only problem with the book was the it gave very little or no information about the actual subjects in these photographs, doesn't tell you who they were, where was the photograph taken, general stuff like that would have made this book more personal. Still, a great effort. As I have written quite a bit about vintage photographs from Kashmir, I am adding some additional notes to some of the photographs shared here. [Those interested in buying the book can do so here ]



The photograph is by Francis Frith.  I have written in detail about it, more about the image here

The youngest in the group wearing a Ladakhi Gomcha. Others in collared Pherans. (change visible in dress code)
 Deepak Razdan's grandfather's brother JN Kaul with Indira Gandhi
First Kashmiri Photographer. Pandit Vishi Nath Kampassi in his studio (1893 A.D.)
A few of his works survive in the book 'Kashmir in Sunlight & Shade: a Description of the Beauties of the Country, the Life, Habits and Humour of its Inhabitants, and an Account of the Gradual but Steady Rebuilding of a Once Down-trodden People' (1922) by Cecil Earle Tyndale-Biscoe. You can see it here, here and


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snake Dancer

Another one of my little cousin sister got married. This one chose a man from Agra. Meinzraat proved to quite an experience. The all Kashmiri troupe sang folk songs interjected with some balle balle at the right moment, and there was much dancing by all the guests. Highlight proved to be the snake dance. This is the first time I actually saw it or rather even came to know about its prevalence in Kashmir.




Gulzar Ahmed from Budgam
The act has him put a ring into a glass and then placing that glass over his forehead, all using only his two feet. Then he dances to the infamous 'naag dhun' while balancing this glass on his forehead and asking all those in attendance to drop money in it.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Play Harishchandra in Kashmir, 1903


"Satich Kahvit (Kashmiri) is a play (1929) by Nandlal Kaul [Nana] (1870-1940). It marks the beginning of the modern age of the history of Kashmiri drama. We are told some plays were written in Kashmiri prior to Satich kahvit and Zaina vilas (The play of Zaina) is often quoted as an instance. This was written when Zainaul Abidin (1420-1470) ruled Kashmir, but the original manuscript of the play has not been located so far. This means that Satich kahvit revived the tradition of drama in Kashmiri after a lapse of almost six hundred years.

The play is based on the famous story of Harishchandra and Taramati. Harishchandra was the 28th king of the Solar line and the son of the famous king Trishanku. The story of Harishchandra is included in Aitrya Brahmana, Mahabharata, Markandeya purana.

This drama, though based on an old story, enjoyed great popularity and was staged again and again at Rughnath temple (Srinagar) and at Sheetalnath (Srinagar). The play was seen through the press in 1935 after it had been staged at various places between 1929 and 1932.

As far as the technique of the play is concerned, the author has to a large extent followed the tradition of both Sanskrit drama and Hindustani drama of the twenties of this century. At certain places the play comes very close to the Parsi theatre. Besides the sutradhara, we find the character of vidushaka in the play. The language is a mixture of Sanskrit and Kashmiri, and for this reason perhaps its appeal is restrictive. Besides the theme, its diction is nowhere close to the present day Kashmiri. However, the author has made good use of mythology and Hindu tradition and has delineated well the characters of Harishchandra, Taramati, Rohit and Vishvamitra. The story of Harishchandra was made the basis of yet another drama, Satich vath (Path of truth) written by Tarachand Bismil in 1936 and published in 1939.

Satich kahvit represents the third phase of prose writing in Kashmiri. Its dialogues are in rhythmic prose, but its influence was short-lived as it attracted the attention of only a few writers, and came to an end with Tarachand Bismil (1948).

The author has to his credit three other plays, entitled Ramun raj (The period of Rama's reign), Paz pativrata (A fathful wife) and Dayilol (Devotion of God)."

~ Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot By Mohan Lal. Based on works of: B.B. Kachru, Kashmiri Literature (Wiesbaden, 1981); J.L. Kaul, Studies in Kashmiri (Srinagar, 1968); S.K. Raina, Kashmiri bhasha aur sahitya ka itihas (Delhi, 1968)

Recently, I had an interesting discussion with a culture vulture writer friend from down south Bangalore. In the second hand-book market of Bangalore he had picked an old book by J.L. Kaul (front page missing, most probably 'Studies in Kashmiri') and was now researching for a paper on drama history between 1900 - 1950. He wanted to know what was the story in Kashmir. He wanted to know about the pre-IPTA days of Kashmiri Drama and if women were involved with it and if yes, who were they. I told him about a couple of books, sent some links, told him about Bhands, Bacchhas, Hafeezas, told him I don't think any women were involved in any of this. I wasn't much help but managed to learn about things like: Krod Thirath Sabha Dramatic club in Baramula that staged a play in 1938 called grisy sund gari ('A Peasant's House') by Mohi-ud-Din Hajani (1917-93) (also published in Pratap magazine that year).

I wondered what it must have been like to be in audience of one of these plays. Then a couple of days ago, I came across this passage by one Edmund Russell (a follower of Madame Blavatsky) in 'Everybody's Magazine, v.8, 1903, Jan-Jun:

"Connected with the temple the Maharajah keeps a company of players, as has been the custom of his ancestors. In that weird courtyard, by the light of torches, a Sanskrit drama was given for me. The performance was preceded by a procession of priests bearing flowers and gifts. My choice was the heart-rendering "Harischandra," and given with the simplest surroundings, it was played with an intensity and spirit we could not excel. The audience itself was a thing of wonder as I, the only European present, looked on those upturned, tear-swept faces lit by the torches' glare. A sea of emotion swept of all conventionality. It told what the old-world spectacles must have been."

This was in around 1903, a couple of decades before what is believed to be the antiquity of Nandlal Kaul's play on Harishchandra and beginning of modern play in Kashmir.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Arts and Crafts Map of Jammu & Kashmir & Ladakh


A map listing important places of arts and craft from the book 'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture' (1987) by D.N. Saraf.
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Travelling Kashmiri Shawl Sellers



Kashmiri Shawl merchant in Simla.

From Volume 4 of 'The people of India : a series of photographic illustrations, with descriptive letterpress, of the races and tribes of Hindustan' (1868) 

A shawl seller at Qazigund bus stand, Kashmir. 2008.
Travelling Kashmiri Shawl sellers in Gurgaon. 2012.
Still a regular winter phenomena in North India.
In fact, I have come across them down as far as Nagpur too. 

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mystery ancient brick inside a Mughal Sarai, Rajouri

Shared by Rafiq Pirzada who came across it inside a Mughal Sarai along the Mughal Route in Rajouri called Darhali More, an old monument in shambles, reduced to dilapidated outer walls and a ruined outer gate. On one of the inner walls he saw this strange image. He wrote in to ask if anyone has any clues about it.

I wasn't able to find any reference to it but to me it looks like remnant of some other structure. It looks like a battle scene, possibly a victor king slaying an enemy king. The scene seems like a dedication to the winning king. What stands out is the elaborate headgear on the entities, a  symbol of royalty perhaps. I am tempted to think that it may be Greco-Buddhist because Rajouri did fall under that belt but then there aren't many battle scene depicted in Greco-Buddhist art found in Kashmir.


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from the bakery

T'cho'tchi.
Kashmiri Roti

Kandur Roth
Baker's Kashmir bread

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Jammu Chocolate

From Prem sweets 'Kud walle'. Since 1925.
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Previously: Do Kashmiris have a sweet tooth?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

lyrics, madano pardeh royas tul


From Shameem Azad Collection, 1978

Someone asked for a translation of the song. Here are the lyrics and an attempt at translation (corrections are welcome).


madano pardeh royas tul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
t'che mo'laag bewafa bilkul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul

Beloved lift that veil off your face
love ached
I want to offer you a flower
You don't play
a compete unfaithful
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face

walo maya'ne kaal bomburoo
at'chan hind gash ta'ey nooro
sula yamberzal my'oz'tul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
t'che mo'laag bewafa bilkul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul

Come my black bumblebee
light of my eyes and my sight
A narcissus I picked, earlier
love-ached
I want to offer you a flower
You don't play
a compete unfaithful
love-ached
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face

walo maya'ne lockcharo ve
zolvin nov bahaaro ve
dama chu maar vyun'chay sul
be lagay'e dard'hetay gul
madano pardeh royas tul


Come my Childhood
swarming new spring
a sip of wine remains
come
there is still some time
love-ached
I want to offer you a flower
Beloved lift that veil off your face


~ Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948)


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Although Abdul Ahad Azad is now mostly remembered for his revolutionary songs tinged with socialism, but as the above composition proves, his hold on romanticism rooted in Kashmiri idioms was just as fine. He should also be remembered for his contribution to documenting the oral poetic works of Kashmir. A translation of Kashmiri Zaban Aur Sairi, his three volume history of Kashmiri literature, is long overdue.

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Manmadin/Madan/Madano
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ganga Yamuna in Kashmir

Ganga Bank, Rishikesh. 2009

Yamuna Bank. Delhi.2012.

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Below some pages from 'Vaishava Art and Iconography of Kashmir' (1996) by Bansi Lal Malla
Ganga in niche on left, Avantisvamin temple, quadrangle porch, outer chamber, northern wall, Avantipur (Pulwama), Mid 9th cent. A.D., Bluish grey limestone.

 Yamuna in niche on right, Avantisvamin temple, quadrangle porch, outer chamber, southern wall, Avantipur (Pulwama), Mid 9th cent. A.D., Bluish grey limestone.

 Yamuna, Baramulla, 8th cent. A.D., Grey schist. S.P.S. Museum, Srinagar.

Ganga on left, antarala, main shrine, Martanda (Anantnag). First half of 8th cent. A.D., Sun temple, Martanda.

Yamuna, Dhumatbhal (Anantnag). 11th cent. A.D., Present location (?)

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Vitasta at Zero Bridge. 2010.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Rhamon a boy of Kashmir, 1939

From 'Our summer in the vale of Kashmir' (1915) by Frederick Ward Denys. Below you can see the impact that these images from Kashmir had in shaping the western imagining of this land.

A page from a children's book set in Kashmir and written around 1939.
 'Rhamon  a boy of Kashmir by Heluiz Washburne,  pictured by Roger Duvoisin' (1939).

The book tells the story of a little Kashmiri boat boy who is deputed by the King to visit the city on a special mission. There is houseboats, floating gardens, a mela, a trip to the big city alone, adventure, all the ingredients that would trigger the imagination of a young child. Most of the illustrations in the book are based on some old photograph of Kashmir, and in some cases (like the case of stealing of floating gardens) based on an old travelogue.

This is from a time when you could tell children wonderful stories about Kashmir - a far-off exotic land of simple, beautiful people, with a nice king - without you having to worry that they would one day grow-up and probably think that the world is actually a very messy place to be.

















Yes, definitely it is a book meant for children





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Update: Below is an alternative view of the first image of "Living Human Welcome" published in National Geographic, Vol 40, 1921. We can see here that unlike the first image the word "welcome" is not mirrored, it actually spells right. Also, if one goes by the caption, the event was held to welcome the British viceroy (should be Minto and his wife) into Kashmir and not the Maharaja as claimed in the book 'Our summer in the vale of Kashmir' (1915) by Frederick Ward Denys.


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