Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First Kashmiri Bible and the translation affairs, 1821


The first meeting of Kashmiri language and English language happened through a translation of Bible, in Bengal. In 1821, missionary William Carey of Serampore, who spent a most of his life producing translations of Bible into various Indian languages, brought out the Kashmeere Holy Bible. Carey is known to have used native experts for most of his translations, but the names of his Kashmiri helpers isn't known. What is known is that the script used for this book was Sharda.

A snippet of Kashmiri Bible in Sharda Script
[An Introduction to the Critical Study of the Holy Scriptures, Volume 2.
By Thomas Hartwell Horn. 1836]
Update [Transcription of the lines by Mrinal Kaul: "yima lookh anigati andar bihith a'yes timav............dochas (?) hiy kaayaayi andar behan vaalyen emad sapa (?)."
Which I believe would probably mean Matthew 4:16: The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.]

Kashmiri was a new language for English people. Mistakes were bound to happen. And the genuineness of the translation was yet to be tested. A mistake had in fact been made. They were soon to realize that perhaps Sharda was the wrong script for reaching out to Kashmiri people. 

An entry dated July 2nd, 1938, in journals of Rev.John Newton of Lodiana (Foreign Missionary Chronicle, 1838), we find following curious entry:

"Two parties of Kashmrii brahmans who live in Amritsar, (120 miles from Lodiana) came this morning for books. I was gratified to find they were able to read and understand Dr. Carey's Kashmiri Testament. Ever since we came to Lodiana, we have been looking for some one who could read this work, and give us some opinion of its merits; but such a one has not hitherto been found. The fact seems to be that four sixth of the Kashmiris , or more are Mohammedans; these are accustomed to no written character but the Persian or Arabic. Those who have adhered to the ancient faith of the nation, retain likewise the old written character, which is based on the Sanscrit. There are very few of them in Lodiana, and comparatively few, I suppose at any place. Since they are so small fraction of the nation, the Kashmiri Testament can be used by a much smaller number of people, than if it had been come out in a Persian dress. The merits of the translation I could not learn from the men who were here this morning, though for the most part they made out the true meaning of what they read."

Kashmiri language was to befuddle the missionaries for quite sometime. The confusion it caused can be gauged from the fact that a grammar for Panjabi published around the time was confused by most for a Kashmiri grammar. They obviously needed vocabularies, glossaries and dictionaries of authentic Kashmiri. 

Strangely enough, the first of these grammars and vocabularies were brought out not using the help of Kashmiri living in Kashmir, but the immigrant Kashmiris of Punjab. 

*The first grammar and vocabulary was brought out by Mr. M.P. Edgeworth of the Bengal Civil Service, and it was based on the dialect of shawl-weavers of Ludhiana, through the assistance of one Meer Saf-u-deen, 'a respectable Syud of that place'.  The second help for understanding Kashmiri language was just a grammar by one Major R.Leech, C.B.. This one too was brought out with the help of Kashmiri weavers of Ludhiana. 


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* Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1867). 

Vocabularies, Glossaries and Dictionaries of Kashmiri Language


M.P. Edgeworth (1841), [ref]



Major R.Leech (1844) [link]

H.S. Godwin Austin (1866) [collected]

L.B. Bowring (1866) []

William J. Elmsie (1872)
[Link]

A Grammar of the Kashmīrī Language: As Spoken in the Valley of Kashmīr, North India 
by Thomas Russell Wade (1888)
[Link]

[Also to his credit goes: The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration, &c .... (in the Cashmírí language). Published by the Punjab Christian Knowledge Society. First edition. Amritsar; Printed at the Safir-i-Hind Press, . . . 1884.]

Kashmiri Persian Dictionary (Sonti Pandit, 1893)

Kashmiri-Sanskrit Dictionary by Ishwara Kaula. Incomplete.

A Dictionary of Kashmiri Language (1916-1932, 4 parts) by G.A. Grierson based on material by Ishwara Kaul. [Online Word Search Engine, Part 1]

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