Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Autumn

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Previously
Winter
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Farmers Of Jammu, Kashmir And Ladakh (1959)


Free give away rare book this month for SearchKashmir Free Book ProjectThis is the twelfth and final book released this year. 


Kashmir specific photographs from the M.S. Randhawa's 'Farmers of India' series were previously shared in July by Man Mohan Munshi Ji [here]. The photographer was Hari Krishna Gorkha.

I am now sharing the entire Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh section from M.S. Randhawa's 'Farmers of India' series. Volume 1 (1959).

Interesting bits:

Kashmiri name of things.


Apples: Abru or Ambri. Mohi Amri. Khuddu Sari. Nabadi Trel. Sill Trel. Khatoni Trel. Dud Ambri. Wild Apples: Tet shakr. Malmu.


Pears: Nak Satarwati. Nak Gulabi. Gosh Bug (Bub). Tang.

Walnuts: Kaghazi. Burzal. Wantu.


Local name of the type of soil: grutu, bahil, sekil and dazanlad.


Most of the archaic information in the write up comes from Walter Roper Lawrence's 'The Valley of Kashmir' (1895), which in turn relied on expertise of Kashmiri historian Ghulam Hasan Shah (1832-1898). That should some idea about the lack of documentation on such matter since then. Also, the importance of this colonial work for the new bureaucracy of independent India. 


The books does offer tabled details on the area under cultivation and the approximate output.

Read and download here:
http://goo.gl/lmAhYH

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Complete Guide to Sugandhesa Temple, Pattan



Kalhana tells us that King Avantivarman (AD 855 – 883 AD), the first king of the Utpala dynasty had a foul mouthed son who didn't have taste for high poetry. He tells us S'amkaravarman (Shankaravarman, A.D. 883-902), son and successor of Avantivarman founded a new town called S'ankarapurapattana and built two temples at the place dedicated to Shiva. The new king named one of the temples after his wife Sugandha as Sugandhesa. After early death of her two boy kings, Sugandha too got to rule Kashmir from 904 to 906 A.D. 

Kalhana mentions that just like a bad poet steals material from other poets, a bad King, plunders other cities. S'amkaravarman plundered the nearby Buddhist site of Parihaspora to build his new town. The stone of the temple came after the ruin of Parihaspora, that happened just around 150 years after it was founded by Lalitaditya (697-734 A.D). According to Pandit Kalhana, it was the evil deeds of the King that lead people to forget the real name of this town and instead have them call it simply as Pattan [Stein, 'the town'. Cunningham, pandits wrote it as 'Paathan', 'the path' as it falls on the important route to Varahmula]. Kalhana mentions that the fame of the town rested not on the temples but "what gave fame to that town was only what is still to be found at Pattana, — manufacture of woollen cloths, trade in cattle, and the like."

In 1847, the two temples at Pattan were identified by Alexander Cunningham (1814-93) as the ones mentioned in Rajatarangini. Based on the fact that one of the temples was smaller and less decorate that the other, he marked it as Sugandhesa temple.

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16th November, 2014

At a distance of about 25 kilomoters from Srinagar, this is the first major historical monument that one runs into while on way to Baramulla on national highway NH1-A. 



Sugandhesa Temple, 1868.
Photograph by John Burke for Henry Hardy Cole's Archaeological Survey of India report, 'Illustrations of Ancient Buildings in Kashmir' (1869).
Ram Chandra Kak in his 'Ancient Monuments of Kashmir' (1933) provides the basic description of the structure:

The shrine is 12' 7" square and has, as usual, a portico in front. It is open on one side only, and has trefoiled niches externally on the other sides. These niches contained images. The temple stands on a double base, but it seems probable from the flank walls of the lower stair and the frieze of the lower base, in which the panels intended for sculpture decoration have been merely blocked out, but not carved, that the temple was never completed.
The entrance to the courtyard is in the middle of the eastern wall of the peristyle, and consists, as usual, of two chambers with a partition wall and a doorway in the middle.
Among the architectural fragments lying loose on the site, the most noteworthy are (a) two fragments of fluted columns with their capitals, (b) two bracket capitals with voluted ends and carved figures of atlantes supporting the frieze above, (c) a huge stone belonging to the cornice of the temple, bearing rows of kirtimukhas (grinning lions' heads) and rosettes, and (d) a stone probably belonging to the partition wall of the entrance, having (1) two small trefoiled niches in which stand female figures wearing long garlands and (2) below them two rectangular niches, in one of which is an atlant seated between two lions facing the spectator, and in the other are two human-headed birds.
The cornice of the base of the peristyle is similar to that of the Avantisvami temple. The cells were preceded by a row of fluted columns, bases of some of which are in situ while those of others are scattered about in the courtyard.
The attention of the visitor is called to the slots in the lower stones of the jambs of the cells. These are mortices for iron clamps which held pairs of stones together. Pieces of much-corroded iron are still extant in some of the mortices.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why is Madin Sahib locked?


On way to the place I was narrated the old tale. Somewhere in 1980s, news spread in Srinagar that a miracle had been witnessed at the shrine of Madeen Sahib. People were saying a lot of things. It was heard that the mausoleum's outer wall was dripping blood. Shias as well as Sunnis started gathering at the place. They did see something. Some said, the spot on the wall seemed liked someone had focused the beam from a laser pointer, a device which were in vogue back then as a source of amusement and harassment. Soon the rioting and violence started. When the violence was over, the mausoleum had been shut for public access.

Near But Kadal in Zadibal, Srinagar, is a 15th century monument known as 'Madin Sahib' named after the tomb and mosque of Sayyid Muhammad Madani who came to India with Timur in 1398 and moved to Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (1389–1413 CE). The monument comprises of a Mosque and a Tomb, with the mosque dating back to around 1444 which first came up during the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin, incorporating elements, pillar and base, from an older Hindu monument.

In 1905, archaeological surveyor W. H. Nicholls (1865-1949), during his pioneering study of Muslim architecture in Kashmir, was the first to notice the uniqueness of the art of this building among all the Muslim monuments in India. The mosque had glazed tiles of a kind unlike any other building in India and some tiles was painted a mystical beast not seen anywhere on any other mosque in India. [Read: Beast at Madin Sahib]


Madin Sahib 1905. From the report by Nicholls for 'Archaeological Survey of India Report 1906-7'

Although the architecture and its beauty was documented only in 1905, the place Zadibal is in fact mentioned in one of the earliest western travelogues. Godfrey Thomas Vigne who visited Kashmir in 1835, mentioned in his book 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo, the Countries Adjoining the Mountain-Course of the Indus, and the Himalaya, north of the Panjab with Map' (1844), that Zadibal witnessed rioting in the year 1830 when the place was inhabited by Persian traders. The trigger was Muharram procession (something still now allowed in Srinagar. And the note by Englishman Vigne places the blame on Shias. A piece of writing that still can be used to incite violence). In the aftermath of the rioting, the Persians who were mainly into Shawl trade and numbered about 200-300, left Kashmir for Iran.

The place again witnessed rioting in 1872. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war between France and Germany lead to the decline in Shawl business. The Shia of Srinagar were primarily into paper mache and shawl business. In fact, one of the richest man in the city back then was a Shia named Mirza Muhammad Ali.  The Shias in Kashmir follow either of the two influential families, Moulvi or Aga. Most also falling into two contrasting income brackets: rich and poor. It in not hard to follow that in this part of the world, economic disturbances eventually lead to sectarian and religious violence . All it needs is a trigger. Shia at the time were about 6000 in the city and for every 1 Shia there were 10 Sunnis. On 19th September 1872, on the Urs (death anniversary) of Madin Sahib, Sunnis gathered at the place, and so did Shias. Claims over the right to own the place were exchanged. Soon, a wave of violence was unleashed that lasted about three days. In the madness, the ancient monument was damaged in fire that raged all over Zadibal.  In fact much of Srinagar was in flames. 

The violence of 1872 is recorded in report published in a Munich based paper, where it is titled 'The Grauel in Kajhmir' (The horror in Kashmir). In an interesting observation, the report also mentions that Shia women and children were given refuge in Pandit households.  [Read: Allgemeine Zeitung Munich]

Madin Shib in around 1979. Before renovation that started in 1983.
Raghubir Singh.

More than hundred years later, in 1983, just when the work on renovation of the shrine had started, the place again suffered rioting. June 1983 was going to be the year for state assembly election.  It in not hard to follow that in this part of the world, political rivalries eventually lead to sectarian and religious violence. Zadibal, the Shia majority area was considered a stronghold of Congress I, the party headed by Pandit Indira Gandhi. The violence started around June 14th, and after raging for around three days, left around 700 injured and many shops and houses, and a mosque - burnt. [News Report]

Madin Sahib in 1983 when the renovation started.
 Prataap Patrose, Aga Khan Visual Archive, MIT

source

A more lasting impact of the riot was that the Astaan of Madin Sahib went behind locks, out of bound of common man who might be just interested in art and architecture. And it has been like that ever since.

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The light was falling fast. Bilal climbed atop the high iron railing that now forms an ugly fence around the monument and asked me to follow him.  Across the monument, sitting on the window was an old man enjoying the last hours of the day. There was hardly anyone of the street. We could have climbed in. If I didn't know the history of the place, I would have climbed on and broken into the monument. Knowledge of history and not just history, creates our sense of boundaries. I told him I can't climb over the wall. In addition, there was one more major concern, I didn't want to impale my precious organ just trying to get into an ancient forgotten monument.

Just then a young guy walking along stopped and asked what were we doing. Bilal explained. The guy said there was no need to climb, there were men inside the shrine on guard duty. To get in, all we had to do was knock on the iron padlocks. Bilal asked the man why the placed was locked. The man didn't know. Bilal asked him where was he from. He was a local of the area. In Kashmir such questions aren't asked directly. If you are Sunni, you don't ask the other person directly if he is Shia.

We banged on the railing. But there was no response. The guards were probably watching television somewhere inside. Finally, after about half an hour of knocking, two men appeared sleep walking from behind the shrine. As they approached, Bilal in an insidious tone asked me to keep my mouth shut and just follow his lead. Bilal had a stratagem up his sleeves for getting me in. The conversation that followed is one of the weirdest and most comic I have had in Kashmir.

The men asked Bilal about nature of the visit. Bilal's explanation, 'This here with me is a Sahib who has come from very far to see the monument.'

One of the men asked, 'Where has he come from?'

'He has come all the way from Germany.'

A hysterical laugh almost escaped from my throat, a smile that on reaching my lips converted into an awkward smile.

The man stared at me.

'Germany?'

'Yes, from Germany. To write a book. Like the angreez do.'

I tried to look as German as I could and hide what I thought my obvious Kashmiriness. My smile disappeared and I looked glum and serious, like a man ashamed of past. That should have done it. But the next query from the man foiled Bilal's plot and had me stumped.

'Is he a Christian or a Jew?'

I burst out laughing when I heard the question. I exclaimed, 'But, I was a local'.

The man looking terribly confused and turing to Bilal asked, 'You said he is foreign.'

In a last-ditch attempt, Bilal tried to explain it away, 'He is foreign. But living here. Like lot of angreez do. Please let us in. Just for five minutes.'

Stratagem fell apart.

'You need to get written permission from the trust that runs this place.'

The plot was obviously flawed from the beginning. Even Bilal with his copper hair had a higher chance for passing off as a German.  But apparently, this is the most obvious method that tourists try at this place to get inside. I was told you had a higher chance of getting in if you are not a Kashmiri. You may get in if you are foreigner, or even if you are from some other part of India, but not if you are from Kashmir.

I looked at the iron railings more carefully. Some of them had their lower ends bent to create sort of a holes in the wall. The holes had obviously been made by random tourists so one could stick a camera lens in and get a clear shot of the shrine. Walls that history creates is often accompanied by holes that people create to subvert the walls

I too took my camera, stuck it into one of the holes and let it see Madin Sahib as it is.


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15th November, 2014



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beast at Madin Sahib


Near But Kadal in Zadibal, Srinagar, is a 15th century monument known as 'Madin Sahib' named after the tomb and mosque of Sayyid Muhammad Madani who came to India with Timur in 1398 and moved to Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (1389–1413 CE). The monument comprises of a Mosque and a Tomb, with the mosque dating back to around 1444 which first came up during the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin, incorporating elements from an older Hindu monument.

In 1905, archaeological surveyor W. H. Nicholls (1865-1949), during his pioneering study of Muslim architecture in Kashmir, was the first to notice the uniqueness of the art of this building among all the Muslim monuments in India. The mosque had glazed tiles of a kind unlike any other building in India and some tiles was painted a mystical beast not seen anywhere on any other mosque in India. The beast could be seen in the tile work on left spandrel of arch at entrance. 

Nicholls wrote in a report:

"a beast with the body of a leopard, changing at the beck into the truck of a human being, shooting apparently with a bow and arrow at its own tail, while a fox is quietly looking on among flowers and cloud-forms. These peculiar cloud-forms are common in Chinese and Persian art, and were frequently used by Mughals - by Akbar in the Turkish Sultana's house at Fathepur-Sikri, Jahangir at Sikandarah, and Shah Jahan in the Diwan-i-Khass at Delhi, to mention only a few instances. The principal beast in the picture is about four feet long, and is striking quite an heraldic attitude. The chest, shoulders, and head of the human being are unfortunately missing. The tail ends in a kind of dragon's head. As for the colour, the background is blue, the trunk of the man is read, the leopard's body is yellow with light green spots, the dragon's head and the fox are reddish brown, and the flowers are of various colours. It is most probable that if this beast can be run to earth, and similar pictures found in the art of other countries, some light will be thrown upon the influences bearing upon the architecture of Kashmir during a period about which little is at present known."

Nicholls supposed the figure like the main building too came up in 1444, which would make it pre-Mugal. However, John Hubert Marshall (1876-1958), superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India, in his introduction to Nicholl's report mentions that a Persian text at the site indicted that the present entrance was added during Shah Jahan's time (1626 to 1658), that would make it from 17th century and not 15th century. [More recently inscriptions have been found from the time of Dara Shikoh too]

Beast as drawn by W. H. Nicholls in his
Muhammadan architecture in Kashmir by Mr. W. H. Nicholls
for 'Archaeological Survey of India Report 1906-7' [uploaded here]
 Digitally distorted copy as made available by Digital Library of India 
Although the figure was unique and the description by Nicholls was repeated verbatim often when talking about architecture of Kashmir. The mystery beast wasn't explained till recent times in obscure journals. And even then there is much confusion. 

Using Google Image search, it took me just five minutes to figure out that the image stands for the Islamic astrological figure representation of eclipse happening in Sagittarius or centaur (ai-qaws), the bow man represents the planet Jupiter, while the dragon is al-jawzahar, the devouring pseudo planet. The concept of 8th planet coming after the 7 planets (the sun, the moon, saturn, jupiter, mars, venus and Mercury), is supposed to reached Sasanian Empire from Indian Astrological concept of Rahu (head) - Ketu (Tail), the two (but 1) pseudo planet(s), a giant dragon that occasionally devours planets, a concept that made its way into all major schools of eastern astrology.


In case of Sagittarius, the eclipse is a weak, hence the Bowman is shown defiantly shooting into the mouth of the dragon (Rahu).  

Such figures could be (and can still can be found) from the time of Abbasid Dynasty in region as wide as Iraq to Iran. Abbasid calip Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (r. 754-75) is said to have built his capital at Baghdad under the astrological sign of Sagittarius. In Iran, it is very common in Isfahan, a place whose symbol is Sagittarius, having something to do with the year the city came up in 16th century around 1591 with defeat of Uzbeks. Sagittarius represented meant realm of Persia around this time.  The building with Sagittarius in Iran came up mostly came up in 16th century. However al-jawzahar showing up on a building in Indian sub-continent is unique. It is interesting that the monument falls in the Shia locality and is claimed by them. There was colony of Persian traders at the place till 1830, when religious riots forced them to move back to Iran.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Magic Mountain (1945) by Eve Orme


Free give away rare book this month for
 SearchKashmir Free Book ProjectThis is the eleventh book released this year. Remember, these are mostly books that were not previously publicly available online.


In 1926, a British woman, Eve Orme, accompanied her husband on a shikar trip to Ladakh. It was unusual back then for a 'memsahib' to accompany a sahib on a hunting trip to Ladakh. Usually the men would go hunting to Ladakh while their women would lounge in Srinagar. Something that Orme considered ordinary holiday of ordinary woman. She wanted something more. An escape from ordinary.


In around 1945, while Britain was still a war zone, writing this 'Magic Mountain' from here personal diaries proved to be an escape from the harsh realities of World War two.

"I am at home in London with its dusty look of war-weariness; its battered, razed buildings, and its steadfast calm.
A woman passes me in Bond Street, leaving a whiff behind her of what is perhaps her last drain of expensive French scent, minty and aromatic. How strange that after eighteen years, in the heart of this island fortress, an evanescent trail of perfume should still take me back so swiftly to Ladakh. That it should remind me of the cheerful, grinning faces of our ponymen, of Rahim, who wrote though a "munshi" some years after our arrival in England, "My body is in the East, but my eyes and heart, Memsahib, turn always to the West." The ache to be on the road is in my heart again as I think of the mountain, peace, and that almighty silence."

Interesting bits:

Ladakhis staging a skit in about the sahibs visiting their land. They make fun of the fact that Kashmiris are not great mountaineers.


In Ladakh, Eve Orme met novelist Martin L Gompertz, famous as 'Ganpat'. Ganpat went to write about his experience of the trip in 'Magic Ladakh' (1928).


Eve Orme also met a French woman named Mlle La Fougie who was travelling alone in the region looking for Ladakhi paintings.

A taxidermist named Mohammed Baba in Srinagar. The same name crops up in travelogue of Walter Del Mar published in 1906, 'The romantic East: Burma, Assam, & Kashmir'

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Archive.org Link



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Saturday, November 29, 2014

How High was the Water


About sixty days after the flood
A city still damp
daubed in two shades




Camps near Dal
 
Camp dwellers.
Most of the government camps look empty. People mostly stay with relative with a nominal person staying in the camp the mark his presence, expecting relief. People on radio sound angry about the way damage is being assessed and relief being handed out.

My Address, was


While clearing his bag of old papers to be thrown away, my father found this old envelope. Before I could stop him, he tore it into two. It carried our old Srinagar address. I kept it 

Last month my father packed his bags from Delhi NCR and moved back to Jammu. Fourteen years ago, I wasn't there when he moved in, and I wasn't there when he moved out. While moving in, none of my stuff had to be moved in but while moving out, he had to pack seven cartons of books collected over my seven year stay in the city.

Once the news of unpacking was passed on, my mind was caught in a strange mathematics. My grandfather spent a major portion of his life at that Srinagar address, about 65 years. At no other place did he live for a longer duration. So did my father, about 35 years. And weirdly enough, so did I, about 8 years. I haven't stayed at a single place for more that 8 years. Right now, Chattabal is still the place were I have spent a major portion of my life. 

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My Address

Today I effaced my house number
the name of the street at the outset.
I wiped away the directions of every road.
And still if you must search me out
just knock at the door
in each street of each city of each country
it's a curse, a benediction both
and wherever you find a free soul
          - that's my home!

Amrita Pritam, translated from Punjabi by the poet.

From - 'India: An Anthology of Contemporary Writings' (1983), Ed. by David Ray and Amritjit Singh.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aabi Guzar Toll


Previously, Aabi Guzar Gone, 22nd September:

"Over the years, I started coming across photographs of the place in old travelogues. Having never been to the place, the sight of the place in an old book became a thing of little joy for me. Earlier this year when I visited Srinagar, the thought of finally visiting the place did occur to me, but it was winter, the water levels were low, it would not have been a pretty sight, I told myself, 'Next time when the water levels are higher.'

This old building is now gone, destroyed in the flood of September 2014."


A page from 'This is Kashmir' (1954) by Pearce Gervis.



Aabi Guzar
Water Way Octroi
Francis Brunel, 1977
summer, 2010. 
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Finally visited the place on November 18th.



innards
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

aan but-e-kashmir

Image: 'Kashmiri belle' by Gladstone Solomon, 1922.
Gladstone Solomon was the principal of Bombay school of art from 1919 to 1936.


Payaam daadam nazdiike aan but-e-kashmir
Ke zeere halqaye zulfat dilam charaast asiir
Juwab dad, kin deewanuh shood dili too zi ushuq,

Buruh nuyarud deewanuhra mugar zunjeer

I sent a message to that Cashmerian idol, Why is my heart held
captive under the curl of your ringlets? She answered, Because
your heart is distracted with love; and the madman is not suffered
to appear abroad without a chain.

~ unnamed Persian poet. 

Came across the lines in 'Dissertations on the Rhetoric, Prosody, and Rhyme of the Persians (1801), Part 1 by Francis Gladwin. It is provided as an example of 'Sawal-Jawab' style of Persian poetry. Gladwin gave the verses in persian script and the translation but didn't provide the name of the author or the verses in roman script. 

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Payaam: message
aan but-e-kashmir: like a Kashmiri idol
mugar: unless

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Panditani by Fred Bremner. Circa 1900

Panditani by Fred Bremner. Circa 1900. I first came across this iconic image in 2008, it turned out to one of the rarest postcards in Kashmir series. It took a lot of waiting and searching and now I finally have it.

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The photograph of the same woman that was captioned as that on a boatwoman by National Geographic Magazine in 1921.


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The same woman that went on to be on cover of cover of 'Made in Austria' safety matchbox.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

first Persian verse composed by a Kashmiri


Ay bigird-i sham-i ruyat alami parvana'i
vaz lab-i shirin tu shurist dar har khana'i
Man bi chandi ashna'i mikhuram khun-i jigar
ashna ra hal inast vay bar bigana-i

O candle-faced one, the whole world flutters round thee like a moth;
thy sweet lips have caused commotion (or bitterness) in every home.
Such being the state of affliction of thy friend,
how woeful must be the plight of a stranger!

~ first Persian verse composed by a Kashmiri. Attributed by some chronicles to Sultan Qutub ud-Din [1373-1389] and by some others to Zayn al-Abidin [1420-1470].

From 'Persian Poetry in Kashmir, 1339— 1846: An Introduction' (1971) by Girdhari L. Tikku

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based on a painting of Kashmiri woman by B. Prabha.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Tabrizi Song


A persian song 'What Plan, O Musulmans' based on 'Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi' of Rumi. This version was collected by Ananda Coomaraswamy from a Kashmiri minstrel named Abdullah Dar in around 1913 and presented in 'Thirty Songs from the Panjab and Kashmir'

The same thought in more popular, still, in sub-continent in words of Bulleh Shah from Panjab. 

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Monster of Kausar Nag

Gamera of Japanese Kaiju series
"One of our friends went to bathe in the spring and with little knowledge of swimming he went inside. Suddenly his two feet stopped swimming. We took his turban and tied a stone to it, and threw it over (the water). So he reached the bank by pulling it along with it. Then we saw that an animal had swallowed his feet in his mouth. However, much we tried to injure it with stone, stick and hatchet, it did not have any effect on it, until it swallowed the body of our friend to the knees. So we put wood on its head and lighted it. As it got burnt by the fire a sound like gun-fire was heard from the stomach of the monster. It jumped once into the air and flung itself into the spring. It was destined to die of its own food. The animal resembled a shield ('Alq). Its length was two cubits and its width at the lower side was one cubit, and towards the head 8 girahs. Its skin was hard and granulated and that is why striking with the hatchet did not have any effect on it."

~ An account of visit to Kausar Nag narrated by Moulvi Ghulam Hasan Shah (1832-1898) in his 'Tarikh-i- Hasan'.

I came across it in 'Historical Geography of Kashmir: Based on Arabic and Persian Sources from A.D. 800 to 1900' by S. Maqbul Ahmad, Raja Bano (1984) where the writer suggest Hasan must have come across an alligator. However, given that gangetic turtles are found in some other lakes in the Himalayan region, it is more likely Hasan saw a type of a turtle, probably a Snapping Turtle, a creature that is known to survive in icy lakes.

Interestingly, while most Kashmiris now would be able to write tomes about Kausar Nag, its religious significance, its environmental significance and its history, why the war over it is necessary, yet, none can tell if there is (or was) a species of turtle found in the lake, its breeding cycle and diet. We are still busy chasing monsters.
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Complete Anand Koul Collection


Between 1910s, 20s and 30s, Anand Koul remained one of the most prolific writers from Kashmir. He wrote books and shot off letters to various journals. Most of these writings are now often cited in writings about language, folklore and history of Kashmir.

Last couple of years, I have been tracing, reading, uploading and sharing these works.


Works of Pandit Anand Koul complied/uploaded/scanned till now.

1. A biography of Kashmiri historian Hasan Shah and History of Kashmir by Pandit Anand Koul for Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal vol 9 (1913)
History of Kashmir by Pandit Anand Koul for Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal vol 6 (1910)

Blog Link (2014)

2. Kashmiri Pandits by Pandit Anand Koul, 1924

Blog Link (2013)

3. Geography Of The Jammu And Kashmir State (1925) by Anand Koul

Book Link (2014)

4. "Birth-Place of Kalidasa By Pandit Anand Koul. Published in Journal of Indian History VII (1928).

Blog Link (2012)

5. Note on the Relation between Kashmir and Kerala (By Pandit S. Anand Koul.
Kerala Society Papers -1928. T. K. Joseph (Ed.) )

Blog Link (2013), this one was an accidental find while I was going through history of Kerala after moving to the place. 

6. A Life of Nand Rishi by Pandit Anand Koul (1929)
+
'Life Sketch of Laleshwari - A Great Hermitess of Kashmir'
+
(The Wise Saying of Lal Ded)
The Indian Antiquary
June, 1930

Blog Link (2014)

7. Kashmiri Riddles By Pandit Anand Koul (1933)

Link (2014)

8. Two volumes of 'Archaeological Remains In Kashmir' by Pandit Anand Koul, 1935

Blog Link (2012)

9. Kashmiri Proverbs Pandit Anand Koul (1933)


10. Wise Sayings of Nand Rishi by Anand Koul for 'The Indian Antiquary' (1933)


11. 'Life of Rishi Pir Pandit Padshah' by Pandit Anand Koul for 'The Indian Antiquary' (1931). There is a lengthy detour in the piece that touches upon story of Sarmad's killing by Aurangzeb.

Link

12.  'Life of Rupa Bhawani' by Pandit Anand Koul and presented in 'The Indian Antiquary' (1932). Both this and the precious piece about Rishi Pir throw light upon the influence of Persian language among Kashmiri Pandits in around 1600s.

Link

13. Lalla-Vakyani, some additional sayings of Lal Ded collected by Pandit Anand Koul and presented in 'The Indian Antiquary' (1931-32-33). (one missing page, 2 sayings)

Link

14. A Visit to Kapal Mouchan by Anand Koul, 1909

Link

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Only Kashmiri on Mars, 1898


In 1897-98 when H.G. Wells came out with his 'The War of the World' it took the western world by storm. The plot set in London had aliens from Mars who almost succeed at exterminating humans on this planet only to be stopped accidentally by microbial infection. Inspired by the success of plot and world's fascination with Mars, a slew of derivative unofficial spinoffs by other science fiction writers followed. In one of the best know unofficial sequels to 'The War of the World', a Kashmiri, the only human living on planet Mars, puts end to the Martian scourge and saves earth for human race.

In 'Edison's Conquest of Mars' written by American astronomer Garrett P. Serviss in 1898, actions begins where 'The War of the World' ends. Martians have been defeated, but humans know they will be back to finish the job. To stop them, a group of brave men lead by American inventor Thomas Alva Edison decide to take the fight to the Martians. In a they leave for Mars using the 'anti-gravity' device built by Edison. And on reaching Mars what do they find besides the giant Martians? Surprise! Surprise! A beautiful Kashmiri girl, the last one remaining of the race of humans that nine thousand years had been abducted from Kashmir and taken to Mars as slaves, the one who now sings songs to the aliens and keeps them entertained. The girl offers them the solution to the Martian problem, she tells them how to flood the canals of Mars and end the Martian civilisation.

I am not making this up. An extract from the book:



One of the first bits of information which the Professor had given out was the name of the girl. 
We Learn Her Name. 
It was Aina (pronounced Ah-ee-na).This news was flashed throughout the squadron, and the name of our beautiful captive was on the lips of all.
After that came her story. It was a marvellous narrative. Translated into our tongue it ran as follows:
"The traditions of my fathers, handed down for generations so many that no one can number them, declare that the planet of Mars was not the place of our origin."
"Ages and ages ago our forefathers dwelt on another and distant world that was nearer to the sun than this one is, and enjoyed brighter daylight than we have here."
"They dwelt—as I have often heard the story from my father, who had learned it by heart from his father, and he from his—in a beautiful valley that was surrounded by enormous mountains towering into the clouds and white about their tops with snow that never melted. In the valley were lakes, around which clustered the dwellings of our race."
"It was, the traditions say, a land wonderful for its fertility, filled with all things that the heart could desire, splendid with flowers and rich with luscious fruits."
"It was a land of music, and the people who dwelt in it were very happy."
While the girl was telling this part of her story the Heidelberg Professor became visibly more and more excited. Presently he could keep quiet no longer, and suddenly exclaimed, turning to us who were listening, as the words of the girl were interpreted for us by one of the other linguists:
"Gentlemen, it is the Vale of Cashmere! Has not my great countryman, Adelung, so declared? Has he not said that the Valley of Cashmere was the cradle of the human race already?"
"From the Valley of Cashmere to the planet Mars—what a romance!" exclaimed one of the bystanders.
Colonel Smith appeared to be particularly moved, and I heard him humming under his breath, greatly to my astonishment, for this rough soldier was not much given to poetry or music:
"Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere,
  With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave;
Its temples, its grottoes, its fountains as clear,
  As the love-lighted eyes that hang over the wave."
Mr. Sidney Phillips, standing by, and also catching the murmur of Colonel Smith's words, showed in his handsome countenance some indications of distress, as if he wished he had thought of those lines himself.
Aina Tells Her Story.
The girl resumed her narrative:"Suddenly there dropped down out of the sky strange gigantic enemies, armed with mysterious weapons, and began to slay and burn and make desolate. Our forefathers could not withstand them. They seemed like demons, who had been sent from the abodes of evil to destroy our race."
"Some of the wise men said that this thing had come upon our people because they had been very wicked, and the gods in Heaven were angry. Some said they came from the moon, and some from the far-away stars. But of these things my forefathers knew nothing for a certainty."
"The destroyers showed no mercy to the inhabitants of the beautiful valley. Not content with making it a desert, they swept over other parts of the earth."
"The tradition says that they carried off from the valley, which was our native land, a large number of our people, taking them first into a strange country, where there were oceans of sand, but where a great river, flowing through the midst of the sands, created a narrow land of fertility. Here, after having slain and driven out the native inhabitants, they remained for many years, keeping our people, whom they had carried into captivity, as slaves."

The plot twist devised by Garrett P. Serviss mashed up some of the more popular obsessions of the western world around that time: 'Canals of Mars', 'Eden on Earth'. The idea of Kashmir as Eden comes from 1806 writings of German philologist Johann Christoph Adelung who attempting to explain the common origin of all languages, postulated Kashmir as cradle of entire human civilisation. Add to that the romantic image of Kashmir in western mind as created by Thomas Moore's famous lines from Lalla Rookh (1817) - 'Who hasn’t heard of the Valley of Kashmir?', an exotic science fiction brew, (or Kehwa as we Kashmiris would prefer) is ready.

So, Who hasn't heard of the Valley of Kashmir? Apparently, even Martians have!

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Read:
Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) here at gutenberg.org


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Portrait of a Raider


One of few works which gives a name and a face to the anonymous horde of 'Kabailis' that descended upon Kashmir in 1947-48. 


Gulmar, though his big hawk-like nose rather marred his good looks, had the attraction of youth, and was divertingly Mahsud. He asked direct, practical questions on everything. Like Rahim he had admirable manners - Pathans may prove the best servants in the world.; but he was restless, a piece of quicksilver, you could never ignore him. Possessor evidently of a strong character, you felt that, if you didn't look out, he would soon have complete control of your affairs.
He did not seem physically very tough. Within days he fell a victim to Karachi belly, and I was doctoring him with liver pills; he also blistered his feet accompanying me on walks, not yet vigorous ones because of my recent operation. Admittedly he had a new pair of chaplis - the heavy, sandal-like shoes worn by Pathans; they had been bought in honour of his fresh employment, and eventually of course would be paid for by me. But, like Rahim, he plainly thought physical exercise crazy. If you had no need to walk you didn't do it; you sat around and got fat.
During these strolls he soon became a keen and adept helper in my photographic efforts. It was a new form of shikar or sport. From just behind me he would crack jokes ingeniously with the victims, diverting their attention from the lens, keeping their faces alive until the moment of the shot - and then, the deed done, would laugh delightedly at their surprise.
When we were out shooting in this fashion one day, he spoke of his own shooting in Kashmir; real shooting.
"Shooting at what?"
"Men, of course, Sahib."
I looked at him astonished. "But you only seem about seventeen"
"Yes, Sahib."
"But you can't have been fighting the Indians when thirteen?"
"Yes, Sahib" - and enquiry left no doubt that he had, and thought it not at all remarkable. He gave details of where he had gone and they made geographical sense. He had been bombed and rocketed by Indian planes, machine-gunned by Indian infantry. He had been half smothered by the blood and entrails of a mule, blown up a few yards away. He spoke of having spent a night on a snowy hillside - without socks or coat - to snipe Indian troops at dawn.

"Carrying a man's rifle was rather tiring for me sometimes", he grudgingly admitted. Remembrance of my facile thoughts on his stamina made me ashamed.

~ Ian Melville Stephens, 'Horned moon: An account of a journey through Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan' (1953). Back then, Ian Stephens, former editor of 'The Statesman', was one of the first person allowed to cross into India from Pakistan by walking across LOC. Back then, he was also one of the few person's sympathetic to Pakistan (even quit his job possibly because he thought Pakistan was getting a raw deal), someone who believed that the country had a shot at been a progressive nation. Stephens would meet these simple natives, men capable of abominable deeds in bouts of mass madness, and yet he found them admirable as that is how things were region between Delhi and Karachi, a region he lovingly re-christened 'Delkaria'.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

thousand widows 51



"Section of the thousand widows of our Kashmir Jawans -each of whom received Rs. 51/- for the loss of her husband. Rs. 51, 000/- collected from the public were distributed to these widows. Sardar Baldev Singh and General Criappa, of course made speeches. When the rupees are spent, the widows can still live on the words."

~ August 1949, Filmindia Magazine. The magazine over the years kept sliding to right of political spectrum. And was about a decade later banned in Kashmir.

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Defending Kashmir (1949)

Free give away rare book this month for SearchKashmir Free Book Project. This is the tenth book released this year.

Defending Kashmir (1949)

Gives account of fighting in all the major sectors in Jammu and Kashmir in year 1947-48. Appendix for the books gives timeline of events starting from September 1947 leading to war. Also, the conditions and the terms of various ceasefires before the end of war, alongwith the first UN documents, letters and resolutions on India and Pakistan dealing with 'Kashmir Questions'.

Two Tempests on a reconnaissance flight over the Kashmir valley


Read/Download:
http://goo.gl/HYLnXu
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alman Khasun



Alman Khasun: In Kashmir, climbing on top of things, roof, shelves, poles, windows, gates, walls, trees, anything, in a state of frenzy.

Clip: 1. Bollywood frenzy from a song in Mr. Natwarlal (1979) shot in Kashmir. 2. A shot from frenzy that was 1990.

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Walk in School, 1961



Extract from a Czech travel documentary by M. Zikmund and J.Hanzelka who visited Kashmir in 1961.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Flowers Throughout the Year

Photo: Brian Brake. 1957.

Flowers Throughout the Year

January 
(Sternbergia fischeriana)

When warming suns begin to melt the snow,
But yet the bitter winds if winter blow,
In sheltered nooks sternbergia's golden blooms,
Bear witness to the throbbing life below.

February
(Anemone biflora)

As more and more we see of earths's warm floor,
These small perennials eyes to beauty draw,
There whiteness of the snow is tinged with rose,
Or blue may be, from spring's vast colour store.

March
(Hyacinthus orientalis)

Now Spring is here. The hyacinth's perfume
Recalls the bear from its long winter tomb
And sends it forth to rein case in fat
A mighty carcase with an air of gloom

April
(Tulipa lanata)
[Gul-i-Lala, used to grow on roofs. One of the biggest of the specie]

It's tulip time, and where lanatas glow,
Great scarlet giants, other tulips know
That they, dwarfed, must bloom and unseen fade,
Unless some gentle hand to them stoop low.

May
(Iris Kashmiriana)
[Latar]

From rhizomes planted in the autumn time,
This cream white flower adores the summer clime,
Bearded and fragrant, armfuls gaily go
To market, where they fetch perhaps a dime.

June 
(Trollius acaulis)

Golden blooms for the golden monthd
When the visitors are here,
To fill the coffers of many a man
In the vale of fair Kashmir.

July
(Lilium polyphyllum)

Of lilies among the rarest,
Its fragrant trumpets don't sound,
But flare as they nod, 30 inches
Or more from the ground

August
(Morina Coulteriana)

Beware! For if these spikes of gold you choose
To bring into the house, they may refuse,
Their guardian prickles putting up a blitz
To draw your blood and make your tongue abuse.


September
(Aconilun violaceum)

In Autumn draws the mountain monk
His hood about his ears to warm 'em,
And this blue monkshood shows their hue
Should he allow the cold to storm 'em.

October
(Gentiana Moorcroftiana)
[named after explorer William Moorcroft who visited Kashmir around 1822]

As slender as the time that's left
E'er snow is here again,
These sky blue flowers seem to say
"For winter sports remain."

November
(Crocus Kashmiriana)
[Kongposh]

Not wild, but on so many acres grown,
This blossom violent-blue is widely known.
For from its roots commercial saffron comes
And o'er the hills its sweet perfume is blown.

December
(Viburnum Nervosum)
[Kulim]

With pink-white, clustering blooms it greets the morn,
Although of leaves by winter's hand it's shorn,
And when its scarlet berries purplish turn
Man eats them, saving thus his store of corn.

~ Verses by "Snilloc", published in the Illustrated Weekly of India.

From the book 'Kashmir, "the playground of Asia": a handbook for visitors to the happy valley' (1943) by Sachchidananda Sinha, who later in 1946 went on to be the first President of Constituent Assembly of India.

I have added some notes in []

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 Frontpiece of 'Beautiful Valleys of Kashmir' (1942), Samsar Chand Koul

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Previously:

Song of Trees

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lal Ded on Stones



Lal Ded once entered a temple in which her spiritual guru, Sidh, was worshipping the idols. She wanted to show to him that God was present everywhere and was not limited to the temple. Sidh asked her what she had come for and she told him that she wanted to answer the call of nature, and being naked she came into the temple for privacy. He hastily led her out telling her that it was a place where idols were worshipped and it would be sacrilegious to do in it what she intended to. She asked him to show her a place where there were no idols. He led her to a place and there Lal Ded removed some earth under which idols were found. The he led her to another place and there too she removed the earth and idols were found. The Lal Ded addressed to him:-

Diva wata diver wata
Heri bun chhuh ikawat
Puz kas karak huta bhatta
Kar manas pavanas sangat

Soi shela chhai patas tah pithas
Soi shela chhai utam desh
Soi shela chhai pheravanis gratas
Shiv chhui kruth tai tsen upadesh

Idol is of stone, temple is of stone;
Above (temple) and below (idol) are one;
Which of them wilt thou worship, O foolish Pandit?
Cause thou the union of mind and soul.

The same stone is in the road and in the pedestal:
The same stone is the sacred place:
The same stone is the turning mill;

Shiva is difficult to be attained, take a hint for guidance (from thy guru)

'Life Sketch of Laleshwari - A Great Hermitess of Kashmir' 
by Pandit Anand Koul
The Indian Antiquary
November, 1921
[Link]

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I now have the answer to the all important question, 'If whole of Kashmir is holy, where does one pee?'

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Friday, October 10, 2014

kasheer dur ast


In Indian Ocean, on an island,
the Persian built a stone home.
They called it Zanzibar.

Ace of Spade is the highest card in a deck of cards.

In Zanzibar, they call Ace of Spade:
Kashmir

How far is Zanzibar from Kashmir?

In winters, there's a little bird that flies all the way from Kashmir,
over Kerala, to Sri Lanka.
At both the places, they say, it steals cotton.
In Kashmir they call it:
Fhambaseer

When the British first arrived in Hindustaan,
and started collecting the tongues
for their grammars and dictionaries,
they would travel far and wide
and ask questions of simple kind

In a village in Bengal, they would ask, 

'How far is Kashmir from here?'

When King Milinda asked Nāgasena:

'How far is Kashmir from here?

Nāgasena replied, 

'Never too far. 
Kashmir in my mind is just a thought away.'


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Sunday, October 5, 2014

footnotes to Haider


Jo Aazdi tumhe tumhare cliches say Aazaad nahi kare, us Aazadi ka tum kya Karoge.

Hero singing out the details of a conspiracy, how a killing was planned and how it was carried out. Hero dances on stage in front of the villain and sings out his the plans of a long overdue revenge. Hero is not Rishi Kapoor in Karz (1980), it is Shahid Kapoor in Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider (2014). Prince Hamlet sings Ek Tha Gul Aur Ek Thi Bulbul to Claudius to get his confession of guilt.

In words of Sheikh Walli Mohammed Peer, 'Bollywood, Bollywood, Bollywood.'

I will not write about the film. There is not much to say about it. Maqbool still is the best Shakespeare adaptation by Vishal Bhardwaj. My Kashmiri pride say's Kashmir deserves a Akira Kurosawa, not this meek surrender of senses. (Kasheer's Gass'ya AtumBum pyon and then we would get Akira). But then decades of conflict seems to have only produced generations of experts on the 'Kashmir Issue' and not the arts. So much bloodshed and yet we are devoid of art, a language, a medium in which original metaphors of this conflict could be produced. Instead, we have imitation of art. We look for inspiration in art produced by other conflicts. Coping bits and pieces. Putting together a kind of magic mirror that only Bollywood can produce. Perhaps it is fitting for a conflict whose narrative was and is always dying to follow the narrative curves of other conflicts. If it wasn't sad it would be funny. I said I will not write about the film (yes, I have reached a point where it seems pointless), so I will write about some random stuff that you would see (and hear) in this film and things you wouldn't see, hear or read in context of the film. We will try to see if there indeed is a method to this maddening conflict. But, first just to clear some doubts. The purpose of movies.

'All Quiet on the Western Front' (1930) couldn't stop 'Triumph of the Will' (1935) couldn't stop 'The Great Dictator' (1940) couldn't stop Vietnam War couldn't stop 'Full Metal Jacket' (1987) couldn't stop Afghan war and so on.

Movies they come and they go, the conflicts they move on. They were and they will.

But, it is always a nice idea to watch a movie about a conflict. There's a rare chance, you might learn a few things. Be entertained. Move on.

Moving on.

The Men with Mottos

In 'Haider', in a particular scene, Haider looking for his missing father moves from military camp to military camp. In a particular camp on the wall can be seen a motto,'Get them by balls, minds and hearts will follow.' This was an actual motto of the renegade army comprising of former militants trained and armed by Indian Army as a solution to Islamic terrorists. It is mentioned in a bunch of books about Kashmir issue (first in 'The Meadow' (2012) by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark about most famous case of kidnapping of the foreign tourists in Kashmir). It is an embarrassing kind of motto, the violence in it is kind of indefensible. What is probably even more embarrassing is the fact (seldom mentioned by experts) that the motto was not an original Indian invention. It was an American invention. It is said to have been uttered by their President Lyndon Johnson. It came to represent the American Military's approach to Vietnam war. We all know how that ended for them. So the question is why did some unknown, powerful, spook-infested, dim-witted man in uniform chose those lines as motto for this band of state sponsored killers? Hadn't he seen 'All the President's Men' (1976)? What lack of imagination!

The factories

PAPA2 becomes MAMA2. Simple. MAMA 2 would have made sense if the film was about a girl looking for the story of her mother. The mother could then be heard singing in the torture cell at nights. The only voice of defiance in the dark cells of this death factories in which monsters are moulded. No, wait a minute that film has already been made. Denis Villeneuve's brutal film 'Incendies' (2010). To imagine a defiant Kashmiri inside a PAPA2, one had to borrow a metaphor from an Oscar nominated film set in Middle-East conflict. What lack of imagination!

The Kids who love to sing

In a flashback scene, a teenage 'Haider' can be heard singing a Jihadi song that originated from Pakistan side of Punjab after fall of Russia in Afghanistan, 'Jago Jaho Subha Hui, Khoon Shaheeda Rang Laya' [link] made without any stringed intrument. The Jihadi song was based on a harmless fun PTV song meant for children [link] to get them to wake up early in the morning. Apparently, the Jihadi version was quite popular among kids in Kashmir in early 90s. It was their 'Eye of The Tiger'. The kind of song on which one could dream of happily blowing up. The song is available on a Youtube channel named, 'ugerWadi'. On the same channel having a whole range of Jihadi songs you can find a song called 'Apni Jang Rahay Gee'. The response of Bollywood to such songs: 'Mera Mulk Mera Desh' from Diljale (1996) based on Israeli National anthem.

Our War Remains

The original 'Apni Jang Rahay Gee' [link] was sung by Mehdi Hassan ( who gave us 'Gulon Mein Rang Bhare' ) in a Pakistani film called 'Yeh Aman' (1971) and written by lefty Habib Jalib (who spend a later part of his life having Jung with Zia). The propaganda film was made after the failure of Operation Gibraltar of 1965, the song had a refrain that relied on a Kashmiri saint, 'Ya Peer Dastgeer Madat Kar'. The Jihadi version of the song, reflecting and triggering the changing vocabulary of the Kashmir, had instead the refrain 'Ya Rabbul Alamin Madat Kar'. (In Haider, in one of the torture scenes, you can hear a Kashmiri swear on Dastgeer Saheb).

What has all this got to do with Haider?

 'Yeh Aman' (1971) had Tabu's father Jamal Hashmi playing a Kashmiri. It is one of the few films on Kashmir in which Pandits (comically) are part of the story. More on that film, some other day. It is interesting that Shahid's father Pankaj Kapoor played the first famous Kashmir terrorist in Roja (1992), a film that couldn't even be shot in Kashmir.


These Bhands

In the scene in 'Haider' where 'Bhands' are introduced, we are also introduced to the other sort of actors: the new Politicians of Kashmir out to 'sell'. 'Bhand' has been used as a derogatory term in India for a long time, but the term in Kashmir is employed even more potently. In Kashmir, these traditional performers have had to deal with the label of 'traitors'. It is recalled that they right from the time of Nehru have been performing in the State capital. They have been deemed collaborators. Some unknown masked-men remember their Pandit origins and their love for fiddle, so these artists have faced bullets. Their art dying a slow death. In fact, the art of using masks in Bhand performances (the mask the are parts of  'Haider') was revived only in 2012-2013. It is extensively used in a performance known as 'Shikargah Pather'.

These Actors

The other variety of collaborator is also some sort of actors. The Mimicks. The Bhands. The Jesters. The Salman loving two Salmans. We could say it is Bollywood making fun of themselves. But, here too they chose the easiest target they could find and shoot. So, the only characters in the film within the influence sphere of Bollywood too have been shown as collaborators. In Kashmir of that decade, a film loving Kashmiri may or may not have been a collaborator but he certainly was a suspect. Under that glare of scrutiny, allegiance to Bollywood moved from public to private sphere. They don't watch films in public in halls but in safety of their homes. The film tries to imply that it is because Cinema Halls became torture cells. The film doesn't tell the entire story. Some of these halls were burnt down by Jihadists. Like in case of 'Palladium' where in 1947-1948 massive pro-India rallies were organised. It was here that Sheikh Abdullah welcomed Nehru with the lines of Amir Khusro:

Mun tu shudam tu mun shudi,mun tun shudam tu jaan shudi
Taakas na guyad baad azeen, mun deegaram tu deegari


I have become you, and you me,
I am the body, you soul;
So that no one can say hereafter,
That you are are someone, and me someone else.

The cinema hall were a mini-theatre of war and protest even back then. In around 1965, the playing of Indian National anthem in cinema halls of Kashmir was stopped. Palladium was the stronghold of Bakshi brothers in 60s, to the Islamist puritans, the house of corruptor.  No wonder it had to be brought down in the 90s. The ideology of the unknown masked-men remembered and attacked the symbols and what they stood for.  The body and soul, separated. Salman and Salman crushed to death. Death to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

The Stage

Beside the Cinema Hall, the only other stage presented in film is the ruins of Martand. It's odd to note that Martand was an place were Kashmiri at least up till 1950s used to gather to dance and sing. Few remember it now. This stage too is now gone. Instead, we have idiotic manufactured controversies over 'Ahansa, he showed Shaitan in our Mandar. Down with the film.' From the way the scene is set, the temple, is used to represent Kashmir in which a dual faced devil (or Roman Janus, the god associated with among other things, Sun and changing time) watches all and devours some.

When Haider does Dhamali, he not just mimics dance steps from Gangnam style, he is riding the horses of the sun god.

The Shadow Men

'Haider' tells us a middle-class well educated Kashmiri Muslim even when close to death, would ask another person, if he is a Shia or a Sunni. A convenient contortion of creative zeal in a Bollywood film penned by a Kashmiri. A contortion that deforms an otherwise brilliantly throughout idea by Basharat Peer: The ghost of King Hamlet. 

The answer of the Ghost is:

Dariya b main, Darakht b main
Jhelum b main, chinar b main
Daer hu, haramm b hu,
Shia b hu, sunni b hu
Main hu Pandit;

Main tha, mein hu aur mein he rahuga

The lines are a mashup Lal Ded's:

Aassi aiys ta asi aasav
Aassi dur kur patu-vath
Shivas sari na zyon ta marun
Ravus sori na atu-gath!


We did live in the past and we will be in future also:
From ancient times to the present, we have activated
this world.
Just as the sun rises and sets, as a matter of routine,
The immanent Shiva will never be relieved of birth and
death!


And Heraclitus' "war is the father of all things and the king over all"

The ghost of Hamlet becomes Roohdaar, the father of war, the vengeful soul of Haider's father, the body of an ISI agent.

The body of Ghost who walks

In Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Mission Kashmir, the invincible ghost has his head slit and yet he survives. In Bhardwaja's Haider, he is shot and drowned and yet he survives. Make a few more Bollywood movies, throw in poisoning, and it would definitely seem like we are trying to kill Rasputin.

The ghost claims immortality. The only thing immortal in all this is war. It seems both sides, the pro and the anti, have conceded that the war is immortal. So, our war remains.

The physical appearance of Roohdaar, the dark glasses on snow burnt eyes reminded me of a character from Kashmir known as Nabgagal.

The Violence

Violence is an act in which ideas are not attacked but the head from which ideas originate is attacked. Trotsky must get Snowballed. Haider intentionally and unintentionally cracks every skull that he deems source of his suffering.

The Gravediggers

In 1990, NSD theatre artist Bhawani Bashir Yasir was among the people who crossed over to Muzaffarabad. He took a new name Dr. Haider Mizazi and in Muzaffarabad took over the work of propaganda for Amanullah fraction of JKLF. Bhawani returned to Srinagar in 2000, took up his old name and again returned to theatre. In the irony that is Kashmir, Bhawani plays one of the three gravediggers in 'Haider' and sings 'Aao na'.

So Jao. A century ago, the only Kashmiris who would dig their own graves while alive, were called Rishis and Peers. They were worshipped even back then.

The Missing

The case of missing Pandits is brought out in the film by a real Pandit, Lalit Parimoo, who plays a cop collaborating with the state. In the scene, he seems to be forced to break character to bring up the argument. It is abrupt and out of place. Missing Pandits is an argument made by many people when Kashmir is discussed, particularly by Pandits, but seldom by a Muslim man of the establishment to counter another Kashmiri Muslims's claim over victimhood.


The missing witness

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the only real friend Prince Hamlet has is Horatio. He is supposed to bear witness to almost all the major events. He is the only one left alive to tell the tale of Hamlet to the world. In 'Haider', the friendly witness is missing. The friend is played by a girl. And she too dies. Did Haider's of Kashmir have no real friends? The audience  can't be the witness because even though they see all, not all the people watching are friends of Prince Hamlet. They can't help laughing, spilling pop-corn and soda, when a Kashmiri (cameo by Basharat Peer) won't enter his own house without going through frisking. So, who first bore witness to the story of Kashmiri Hamlet? It seems like Haider himself. After having left Claudius alive, feeling great about not being revengeful anymore, he went on to write his experiences and the wisdom it brought to him. Or maybe even Claudius, after being left alive, feeling remorseful, vengefully went on to write about his loss of humanity. Or perhaps the writer of Haider.

Even though Kashmir is still in a 'to be or not to be' state, Haider the film doesn't end on that note. It is forced into a 'to be' state. What death of dreams. What march of Tamasha.

P.S. What's with the Moby beat from Bourne Identity (2002) and the end sequence. The gun behind the chain-toilet is a nod to Godfather (1972). In 'Yeh Aman' (1971), 'Mission Kashmir' (2000) and in Haider (2014) the loss of Kashmir, peace, is symbolised by things blowing up by a projectile. In Haider it is the house while in both Yeh Aman' and 'Mission Kashmir', a Shikara is blown up in first one minute of the movie.

The story of missing doctor in Jhelum comes from Jalil Andrabi murder case of 1996. The young boy found alive in a truck of dead bodies, and then dancing. That tale comes from Gawkadal Massacre of 1990.

PAPA2 was shut down in around 1996. Later, the colonial building became residence of PDP's Mufti Sayeed in around 2005. In 1947, a priest of the Hari Singh had declared the building inauspicious as it was built over a spot dedicated to a goddess.


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Anyone read 'Shalimar the Clown' (2005) by Salman Rushdie? The one which mashes up Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' with 'Hamlet'. The revenge story which actually ends on 'to be or not to be' note. The story in which a woman named India/Kashmira, born of Ghazala and Khurram, must choose what to do with King Hamlet, Shalimar the Clown who has turned killer.
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