Saturday, April 20, 2013

Folktale: Gagarbai ti Gagur


"My favourite tale was about the tragedy of a mouse. She was asked by her husband to make khichree, she made it so well, morsel by morsel, she ate it all up. Home came the mouse, mouth salivating, to find his little wife resting. He looked everywhere in the kitchen she asked him to look – in the cooking pot, the frying pan, the mortar and even under the small pestle used for pounding spices – but found nothing. In anger, he threw the pestle at her and her ear lobe fell off. Bleeding, the detached piece of flesh in hand, she went crying to the tailor and asked him to stitch her ear whole.
The tailor asked her to get him some thread from the threadmaker woman, who sent her to the cotton-carder man. And thus she went from one artisan to another, and even to the cotton tree that would yield the cotton and the bullock that would plough the field  for the tree to flower. Finally, she reached a mound asking it for some earth, which she would take to the potter, who would make her a charcoal brazier and, step by step, back to the blacksmith who would provide her with a sickle with which she would cut some grass from a ridge to feed the bullock, and thus onward. With thread in her hand she would go to the tailor who would repair her ear. Then she would wear her gold earrings and leave her cruel husband to go back to her parental home. Alas, that was not to be. Giving of itself to her, the earth mound fell over her and crushed her to death. The story, told in a sing-song style, ended with a song of lamentation by the bereaved mouse. It made me sad but I wanted to hear it again and again, knowing all along that it was just a tale."

From the essay ‘Growing up in a Kashmiri Hindu Household’ by T.N. Madan (The T.N.Madan Omnibus)

Between me and T.N. Madan, our childhood memories are separated by a gap of at least seven decades and yet we share a common favorite in 'tales our grandmothers told'. After reading the description of story in this essay, I knew he was talking about 'Gagri-Gagri'. But in my story the wife was hit by mortar not pestle (Kajwot and not Wokhul). I asked my grandmother if she remembers the story and if she would sing it again. She had no idea what I was talking about. She couldn't remember it. But after nagging her for a couple of days, I was able to get her to recount some of the bits. But not the main song. My Chachi too threw in bits from her childhood memories - an alternative ending in which the wife is reunited with her repentant husband. Yet the main bit eluded me. The favorite part. The tune. It was frustrating. I even came to doubt if the story was ever told to me by my grandmother, maternal, paternal or if was sung to me by some grandaunt, maternal, paternal. How can I forget?  It's the part where the wife asks the husband to look for Khichree all over the kitchen. And then he hit her out of tune.What was that tune?

In the Kashmiri section by Ali Mohammad Lone presented in 'Children's literature in Indian languages' (1982), I found reference to this story. Indeed, in 'The Mouse's Ear' the wife was hit by mortar. That was about it. No further leads. No actual Kashmiri version of the story.

Then, about a year later while listening to my grandmother sing a Kashmiri ditty for an ancient spring ceremony. I remembered it. The two share almost the same sing-song tune. I remembered not the entire story but just my favorite part. I believe it went something like this:



He Mouse: Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er 
She Mouse: Bohganas tal.
He Mouse: Yet'che na keh

Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er
Wokhulas tal
Yet'che na keh


Gagri, Gagri! Kyet chey Khetch'er
Kajwatas tal

Narrator: Tyem tul Kaajwot ti la'go'unas Kanas.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Shashrang

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Original painting by Mortimer M. Menpes
Found the lines and translation in Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot edited by Mohan Lal, from a section by Shafi Shauq on the poet.
A rendition of the lyrics,  @Youtube

Every man thinks his own country Kashmir




Har ek admi apne mulk ko Kashmir samajhta hai
Every man thinks his own country Kashmir.

~ A line from a translation exercise in 'Domestic Hindustani, a simplified and abridged grammar of simple colloquial Hindustani' by D C Phillott; William George Grey (1907).


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Previously:
Garmiyon may Kashmir jannat hai, 1886

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Zorawar's War Horses

A monument dedicated to
 General Zorawar Singh in Jammu

Zorawar kay ghoday dhoday
Kuch log ujhday
Kuch desh bhasay

My Great-Great-Great Grandfather was a man named Kamal Joo Razdan/Raina, a cashier in Zorawar's Army, posted at times in Gilgit. The family lore has it he even had a sword, a royal gift.

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Fragment from a painted scroll: Zorawar Singh's army marching through the mountains

A Buddhist Shrine: detail from a painted scroll. [In the bottom left corner can be seen Zorawar's Army, looking on]
From Kashmiri Painting by Karuna Goswamy, 1998.




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In Leh, we hear Ladakhi women 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 wife of a soldier 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?


lines found in book, 'Jammu and Kashmir' by Somnath Dhar (1982) [link]

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Map of Kingdom of Kashmir from David McCormick's 'An artist in the Himalayas' (1895).

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Indrajal on Kashmir



It was around 1989 in Kashmir that I first discovered the world of comics. I came across a treasure chest belonging to an elder cousin. I remember staying up all night, my first all nighter, to go through his entire collection comprising mostly of Phantom of Indrajal comics. I remember witnessing my first break of dawn from a window of my Massi's place in Chanpore. I was seven, I couldn't actually read those comics. Comprehending words was a challenge. Bubbles in the panels, a puzzle.  But it was the colorful images in those panels that spoke to me. They spoke of some other magical worlds. A world were guns went 'RaTaRaTa', punches went 'WHAAM' and men went 'UUg'.

Recently, after having helped in a minor way in the creation of a new generation of comic in India on Kashmir and that too with a high dose of History, I couldn't help but wonder what Kashmir, the place, its people, looked like in earlier Indian comics.

The most obvious place to start was Amar Chitra Katha.


If it's Amar Chitra Katha, it has to be history. Amar Chitra Katha has a bunch of issues based on stories from Kalhana's Rajatarangini. Here the action is based in Kashmir (and please note Dharmendra or Amitabh was not the first hero to battle a wild cat, Jaydpeeda of Kashmir was). Some issues carry stories from Somadeva's Katha Sarit Sagara (in which we have more of Ujjain), and there are are some ancient 'travelogue' issues in which we see a panel of Kashmir (like in case of comic on Hiuen Tsang). That's about it.

Next, we pick Indrajal. In its 'War-Series' comics, in one on China war of 1962, we see a glimpse of peaceful Ladakh.


That's about it. But then in late 1980s, just as Kashmir began to simmer like never before, and just as Indrajal's readership was dwindling, Kashmir became a central prop for one of the 'newest' action hero's created indigenously at Indrajal.

Dara, urf  Rana Vikram Bir Singh, urf Raja Saheb, an flamboyant ex-prince of Kashmir who secretly works for  Indian Intelligence Wing run by one Mr.Rao. In all there were about 8 issues published after which not only the series but Indrajal too shut shop. Of these 8 issues at least two stories are based in Kashmir - 'The Savage Mercenary' (with some of the action taking place on snow capped mountains) and  'Sparks of Treason'. Of these two, 'Sparks of Treason' is the most interesting specimen of 'Kashmir issue in Indian Comics'.


The title and the cover sets the tone. Dara the super spy is called in by Mr.Rao to save Kashmir from a gang of Agent provocateurs who are tying to spark treason.

The way that story unfold reminds one of the gratuitous Hindi films on Kashmir made in 1990s. And this comic came out in 1989.

Some interesting panels.










The way the situation is sorted out in the comic reminds one of a recent statement by Union minister Jairam Ramesh, "Spy agencies dictate Kashmir policy."


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Comic Story of Kashmir continues


With expert inputs from yours truly...first part of the last concluding part of Sumit Kumar's 'Kashmir Ki Kahani' is out. Read and become an instant expert on Masala-e-Kashmir. Check it out at newslaundry.com

Expert comments like: "But...but... Ornub, back then times-n-climes were different... we forget Maqbool Butt was handed over to the police by a Kashmiri Mob who didn't know or care who he was...I am only talking about the social narratives that have been undermined by the mainstream media...." are welcome. As are comments like: "Indian Trith"

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Previously: Comic Story of Kashmir

Monday, April 8, 2013

bits from Chakbast


Village Tulamula, 2008.

"Zara Zara hai mere Kashmir ka mihman-nawaz
Rah men pathar ke tukrun se mila pani mujhe"

I first came across these lines (typically, unattributed ) in the book 'Kashmiri Pandits' by Pandit Anand Koul (1924). Recently, picked up that the lines are by an Urdu poet of Kashmiri origins, Brij Narayan Chakbast (1882–1926).

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A page in Sharda


A page from 17th century poet Sahib Kaul's Devi Naam Vilas (archive.org)

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October, 2016
Update: The book was scanned and uploaded by eGangotri, an initiative based in Delhi that provides free scanning of ancient manuscripts and old books.

Colors from Bhavani Sahasra Naama

Two Kashmiri paintings from Bhavani Sahasra Naama (updated, archive.org)


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Map of Kashmir, 1836


 'Kashmir and Northern Part of Panjab' from 'Notice of a Visit to the Himmáleh Mountains and the Valley of Kashmir, in 1835 ( by Charles von Hügel, January 1, 1836)
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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Shikargah Pather

 A play revived after 30 years from the reportaire of Bhand Pather. One of the few that makes extensive use of masks. M.K. Raina mentioned that the art of making these masks was already lost, till one of the troupe artist, a basket weaver by profession, volunteered to make the masks for the show.






Friday, April 5, 2013

Gosain Pather












Last of the great Surnai Players. M.K. Raina mentioned that there are now no Surnai makers left in the valley.



Bhand Pather performed at IGNCA on 5/4/2013.

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