Friday, January 31, 2014

Tree Bridge: Bijbehara Bridge, 1870


Came across this image over at ebay. It was getting sold without much detail besides a date. Took sometime to identify the place. But in the end , its distinctive look, trees growing on the bridge, made it easy.


Bijbehara bridge,
1870
Photographer: Unknown. (Probably Bourne)
[Update: Photographer: Francis Frith. An album dating around 1850s to 1870s. via: Victoria and Albert Museum.]
About the Bijbihara Bridge, Pandit Anand Koul in his book 'Geography of The Jammu and Kashmir State' (1925)' given the date of erection of the bridge as 1631 and name of builder as Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh. In additional remarks he states that the bridge was originally a little higher up.



Biscoe Assemblage, 1934

"Principal Biscoe and his family with senior staff of the school, 1934. Biscoe is seated in the front row, second from left."
From P. N. Dhar's autobiographical book, "Indira Gandhi, the "Emergency", and Indian Democracy. (2009)
Image shared by Rudresh Kaul.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kashmir by Modern Painters

Kashmir by B. Prabha (1933 - 2001) 
via: bonhams
Kashmiri Woman by B. Prabha.
via: bonhams


 From 'Kashmir Series' by B. Prabha.
via:
Sotheby's
Kashmir by N.S. Bendre (1910-1992)
source: saffronart.com
'Kashmiri Woodcutter' by Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897–1975)
via: 
bonhams


Srinagar by Biren De (1926-2011)
Source: techsoftlabs.com
Previously: Srinagar Post Card by Biren De 
'In the snows of Kashmir' by G.R. Santosh (1929-1997).
Source: sothebys.com

Kashmir Valley by Syed Haider Raza (India, b.1922)  FOOTNOTES Provenance- Private UK-based collection. Acquired directly from the artist in Bombay in 1951. 
via: bonhams.


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Blind Musician, 1983



 Blind Musician, Kashmir, 1983. By Linda Connor. via: Colorado Photographic Arts Center
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mud, stone, brick and timber house, 1989



Traditional mud, stone, brick and timber houses in Srinagar, Kashmir, 1989.
photo © Randolph Langenbach.

Via: 

T H E     J O U R N A L     O F     T H E  
A S S O C I A T I O N   F O R   
P R E S E R V A T I O N     T E C H N O L O G Y
© APTI, 1989
Bricks, Mortar, and Earthquakes,
by
Randolph Langenbach 

Portraits of Kashmir, 1969


Duck vendor Bus stand market, Anantnag District, Kashmir. July 9-11, 1969. 

Pajama string seller End of First Bridge Bazaar, Srinagar, Kashmir. June 30-July 1, 1969. By Richard Neil Lerner.


Photographs of Kashmir in 1969 by anthropologist Richard Neil Lerner. Via: Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, check for more.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mission Hospital, Srinagar

The Mission Hospital, Srinagar. From 'Thirty years in Kashmir' (1913) by Arthur Neve.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jhelum by Mary Georgina Filmer

Jhelum Bank by Lady Mary Georgiana Caroline Cecil Filmer, an early proponent of the art of photographic collage. 
Via: Harvard Art Museums
Possibly date: between 1862-1888.
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

'Lotus, Women' in Kashmir Tableau, 1958

"Kashmir Tableau in the Republic Day Procession"
A postcard from 1958. Produced by Mercury Travels.

Frozen Jhelum

Kashmir in Winter
[view of Sher Garhi Palace]
Early 20th century
via by Michael Thomas of Pipal Press
More postcards from the collection here


"The river Jhelum was frozen over in the winters of 1658, 1764, 1759, 1780, 1816, 1835, 9th December, 1879 and 1st February, 1895. The winter of 1759 A.D. got so much prolonged that the Jhelum was frozen over on as late as 31st March..."
'Geography of The Jammu and Kashmir State' (1925) by Pandit Anand Koul. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Royal Dancers, 1926


 Pratap Singh died on 25th September, 1925 and the throne passed on to his nephew Hari Singh. The coronation ceremony, the 'Raj Tilak' was held in February 1926. It was a long elaborate affair. Starting on February 14 and ending on 24th. After the main function was held in Jammu, the processions moved to the Akhnoor where the final ceremony of power transfer was performed.

The world media was obviously interested in the obscenely lavish pageantry held in honor of "Mr. A".



"Jammu, Kashmir, India - New and rare photographs of the religious ceremonies within the palace gates and the dancing girls who took part in the coronation of the Maharaja of Kashmir have just been recieved. Reigning prices from all parts of the empire were present at the coronation of Sir Hari Singh, better known as the "Mr. A" of the sensational Robinson Case, in ceremonies which rivalled in splendor those of the Arabian Night. The celebration lasted over a week, preceded by mystic religious rites by the Hindu priests. The Prince's favourite dancing girls also took part in the coronation, dancing for the new Maharaja before and after the religious ceremonies. Gifts amounting to two million pounds sterling were received by the new Indian potentate." Dated: 19th April 1926.

 Here are two rare photographs from the ceremony. A closer look at the dancing girls.

The child dancer.
The Dancer and the Wailer.
Here the woman in the foreground is the dancing girl while in the background can be seen the woman hired for wailing. The coronation ceremony was essentially a mix of both a happy and a sad occasion. Traditionally the death of the previous king was to be mourned and the new king celebrated. This photograph captures it perfectly.  
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The other side of Chinar Bagh


By 1920s, Kashmir in Summers was buzzing with tourists, year after year. And with the coming of tourists and therefore money into an impoverished region. And with that came a new set of issues. The travelogues on Kashmir written during this time often allude to this problem but when coming close to it, clearly avoid going into the details. The dubious happening in the 'Bachelor' side of Chinar Bagh were only whispered with a disapproving nod. The Kashmiris on their part were to permanently cast doubt on the character of Haez bai, the women of boat people, by insulations and that too without ever directly going into the details.

Following is the only graphic description I could about the nature of the issue:

Two Kashmiri Women with their Dog on a houseboat
[late 19th century, probably by Bourne]
Leached from ebay

The rain had stopped by the time we got back, and the night sky was like a cloth of blue velvet on which had been spilled a stupendous collection of fire-filled gems. A scent of flowers filled the rain-washed air, and over the tops of the gossiping chenar-trees the full moon was rising, a huge globe of soft orange light.

For one brief moment I wondered why the boat was lighted up. My bearer had asked for leave until the next morning . . "to see my uncle, sahib."

"Garm pani lao! Khana lao!" ("A hot bath! Food!")

Entering the living-room, I might have blundered into a tale from the Arabian Nights. Sitting cross- legged under the biggest of the Chinese lanterns, on a chintz cushion set in the middle of the floor, was a young Kashmiri girl in a trousered costume of green.

Despite the wide gravity of a pair of brown eyes darkened with antimony, she was evidently little more than a child.

We stared at each other. She was trembling. Apparently moveless, the silver bracelets on her arms were chinking faintly, and a little metal 'bugle' suspended between her eyes was tremulous.

"Who are you?" I am ashamed to say the question was not politely put.

"I am called Ameena. This is my mother's sister.' With a sideways movement she indicated a sheeted crone whose wrinkled and sunken lips were ceaselessly moving. I had not noticed her.

The sheeted lady salaamed several times in rapid succession, and muttered something unintelligible. Senile decay! It would be useless to talk to her.

Again I addressed the girl. "Why have you come?" (I heard her whisper under her breath the word "Allah!")

"My father sent me. The manji said that the Presence wanted me. . . ."

The truth that rang in her voice and shone in her eyes roused a savage fury against the manji.

"I did not send him for you! I know nothing about it!" Mistaking the cause of my anger, before I could prevent her she had thrown herself at my feet.

"Do not beat me, Lord-sahib! Be pleased to let me stay! If I go before sunrise he will beat me!" The hands clasped about my ankles shook.

"Who will beat you?" ('To beat/ 'to abuse'how common those verbs are in India!)

"Your manji, sahib! . . . Shall I dance for you, sahib?"

Phaeton in the swaying chariot of the sun never wrestled more fiercely with his maddened steeds than I with runaway thoughts at that moment. ... I had heard of these things, of course.

Something had got to be done! But what? . . .
("What would the sahib like to do?" . . . "I will do anything!" ... So that was it!)

I fetched a box of chocolate-almonds from the sideboard.

Her story was pitiable enough, but I knew that every word of it was true. Her father embroidered small articles with iridescent beetles' wings. He had eye-sickness. Her mother was dead. They had no food. They owed a hundred rupees to a Marwari money- lender who had threatened to turn them out of their 'house/ So the father had agreed to sell his daughter temporarily. ("What else could he do, sahib?")

The beldame, when appealed to, moved forward on her hams, Indian-fashion, and, stroking the vic- tim's hair, expatiated on her gentleness and general desirability. I could have slapped her.

Yes, it was true. He had fetched the girl, thinking to please me. Other sahibs did such things. He hitched contemptuously the dirty padded quilt about his shoulders she was a virgin, and for three hundred rupees -

Huge as he was, I would have thrashed him not so much for the way he spoke, but because of that profit of 200 rupees. But she was staying at Kashmir and I was returning to India. Also, I might easily be asked to send in my resignation as the result of a fracas in a native state.


~ Indian Mosaic (1936) by Mark Channing, an officer of Indian Army who wrote this book about his search for a real 'Spiritual Pilgrimage' in India. The book ends with Kashmir and the section begin with a chapter titled 'The Girl I Bought'. And of course, he finds a 'Guru' in Kashmir, a man whose one of the duties is to read the dreams of Maharaja.


Although by 1936, George Orwell was already a published author but that year he didn't even have money to pay his rent. In that year, he started writing reviews of plays, films and books for various publication. His first work for The Listener magazine was an unsigned review of the book 'Indian Mosaic' (1936) by Mark Channing, for which he was paid one pound. But even back then, he writing was sharp, astute and to the point. About this book and its author he wrote:

"Mr. Channing is, or was, an officer of the Indian Army. Probably it was fortunate for him that he was in the Supply and Transport Corps and not in an ordinary regiment, for it allowed him to travel widely and to get away from the atmosphere of the barracks and the European clubs. It is interesting to watch his development from a thoughtless youngster contemptuous of 'natives' and chiefly interested in shooting, into a humble student of Persian literature and Hindu philosophy.
And then he makes an observation that shouldn't be hard to notice for a present day reader too but is seldom pointed out:
One of the paradoxes of India is that the Englishman usually get on better with the Moslem than the Hindu and yet never entirely escapes the appeal of Hinduism as a creed. But as a rule his response to it is unconscious - a mere pantheistic tinge in his thought - whereas Mr. Channing has studied Yoga at the feet of a guru and believes that we have far more to learn from India than she from us. He does not, however, believe India to be capable of self-government, and his book ends with a queerly naive mixture of mystical reverence and Kiplingesque imperialism. " [quoted from 'Orwell and Politics', Penguin Classics]

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kankali

Kashmiri Nautch Girl
A postcard from 1920s

A lovely little girl, she became a thief quite soon:
Honored by the townsfolk during the changes of the moon,
She was invited to their homes where the little dear
Made all their sacred vessels completely disappear.
When she was only seven, her voice already bold,
Her mother started teaching her how she could be sold;
Out of greed mom tutored her to play the harlot's game,
And at the market gate, Deathtrap soon became her name.
She wore a pair of falsies and shells upon a string;
Hugs and kisses pleased her lovers - she'd do most anything.
One day a merchant's son, Master Fullofit Esquire,
Shopping for some saffron, just happened to pass by her;
He was young and handsome - he wore fourteen carat gold.
Later in a gambling joint, where drinks were also sold,
She winked her eye, raised her brow, did all that she could do
To rouse his eagerness for a nighttime rendezvous.
While clinging to his neck that night as he lay fast asleep,
(since he had had a lot t drink his snooze was very deep),
She stole his golden earrings - he still did not awaken -
And the rings from off his fingers quietly were taken.
"Help! Help!" the girl then shouted, "Oh! Oh! I have been robbed!"
As if to stop a thief, "Help! Help!" she loudly sobbed.
Robbed and awakened, to avoid a family disgrace,
The salesman ran away, using his clothes to hide his face.
All decked out in dazzling duds, looking young and pretty,
She changed her name and moved along to another city.

~  'Samayamatrika' of Kshemendra written during the reign of King Ananta, around A.D. 1050. Starting with a hymn in praise of Goddess Kali, it narrates the comic exploits of a harlot named Kankali (Skeleton) as her narration travels around Kashmir, from childhood to old age,  from one heroine to another, from one adventure to another. The (improvised) translation given above is from Lee Siegel in his book 'Laughing Matters: Comic Tradition in India' (1987 ). These particular lines are about a girl named Arghagharghatika (Gurgling Little Pot).

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Pampore, 1948.

'Saffron Market'. Pampore, 1948.
By Volkmar Wentzel. For National Geographic.
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Radhakrishan's Trial



This window of a memory is held by four hinges.

Hinge 1: Victim

In accordance with the law of those time, the death sentence was announced to Radhakrishan in a whisper. Somewhere between January and February 1990, one morning, Radhakrishan was picked up from his home and taken to the ghat, the river bank, for a quick trial. It wasn't long before the entire neighbourhood heard about it. Maybe it was the wails of his wife and children. Foreboding a judgement, people shut themselves in.

Hinge 2: Judge, Jury and Executioner

The men who knocked on Radhakrishan's home and dragged him to the river bank remain unknown, unidentified.

Hinge 3: Litigator

Mohd. Yusuf had bought a state of the art VCR from his trip to Dubai. Around this he built a small business. He started a Video and TV rental service. Given the love of Kashmiris for moving images, it wasn't long before his venture became a success. Soon he started a TV repair counter too. A technician came all the way from Punjab to work the counter in summers. The video shop of Mohd. Yusuf was right next to our house. The cassette for the first ever English movie I ever saw came from his shop. The film was a 'B-grade Sci-Fi Action-Opera meets Cowboys-on-bikes' flick called Megaforce. The only reason this film probably reached that corner of the world was because it starred Persis Khambatta. But what stuck with me was the starkness of its deserts and the crassness of the people who inhabited it. I liked it. From this shop came the cassettes for Dracula, the 1977 TV series version produced by BBC keeping the original written work in mind. It's ending gave me my first nightmare. Guns and horses.

Hinge 4: Witness

All trivial details in which the true meaning is lost. All junk and pulp. These useless but strong hinges that support meaningless memories. Until a few years ago, that's all I knew about Mohd. Yusuf - the video seller. And I hadn't even heard about Radhakrishan's trial. I heard the story over a phone, thousands of miles away from the scene of crime.

Towards the end of 2012,  one afternoon, my niece came home with a school friend of hers. A girl just her age. Both of them were born in 1996 in Jammu, safe and far removed from the event of 1990. My grandmother got talking to the girl. The usual questions. She asked the girl about her family. Where she lived? The girls lived nearby. Where was her family based in Kashmir, originally? Chattabal. From the further answers she got, my grandmother realized that this girl was grand-daughter of her friend Nirmala who used to live near our place in Kashmir.

In 1990 Nirmala's husband Radhakrishan was picked up by those unknown men. He was taken to the ghat near Bharav Temple. His throat slit. It was Mohd. Yusuf who ran to the ghat, reaching it just in time. Radhakrishan was still alive. They were playing with him. Mohd. Yusuf pleaded with those blighted men. He vouched for the innocence of the man who lay on ground slithering in pain. Radhakrishan was saved that day by Mohd. Yusuf. A judgement averted.

Unhinged:

In a farce trial, a simple mind only asks,  'But what was the crime?' There's a jury and executioners, a litigator and a witness, an accused, an innocent and a hero. Surely, there must be a crime. The structure and constructs only allows us questions.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Papier-mâché, Battle Scene

Papier-mâché. Papier-mache. Knights fights with Lance, Bows, and Arrows. 1958. Brian Brake for National Geographic.

"Kashmiris adopted papier-mâché making from the Persians and made it a high art. Artists create durable trays, boxes, candlesticks, and bowls, coating them with varnish. This painted cartoon on a box copies a motif of the Moguls, 16th-century Mongol conquerors of India and Afghanistan.  Spearmen and archers duel to the death, littering the ground with sabers, shields, quivers, and severed arms and heads."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another account of Cow Bridge Killings

Gow Kadal. 1950s.


Based on an account I heard in 2013 from a cousin of my father. The family lost a member in the violence that erupted in 1990 and is now what would be considered right wing in political outlook. And yet, this is the account I got...

January 21st

The house was on Nai Sadak. From the main window of the house you could see the bridge that connected the locality to Maisuma Bazaar, the place that was going to be the epicenter of violence in 1990, the bastion of JKLF. This is the bridge known as Gaw Kadal or the Cow Bridge. The line of sight from the house was such that if someone was standing on the center of bridge, you could see him completely, but further down, the other side only partially visible.

That day inmates of the house were glued to the window as they tried to fathom the sounds. They could see a large sloganeering crowd on the other side of the bridge, approaching their side. On this side, they could see a picket of about twelve CRPF men blocking their way. The city was under a curfew. These men were issuing orders warning the people disperse and move back to their houses. The people were protesting exactly against such orders. The inmates of the house thought maybe the security men were worried about their security. There were a couple of Pandit households in this vulnerable area. The men watching the procession from the window were a bit anxious. But this was Kashmir, even this was normal. They had seen may such processions in their lives. The people in the crowd had probably taken part in too many processions in their life. It was just another average Kashmiri day. The neighbourhood mosque which was under JKLF control was time and again advising the crowd over the loudspeaker to not touch the Pandits and their houses, to maintain peace and to march forward. The crowd continued to move forward.

Suddenly, without a rhyme, shots rang out. At first a tickle of loud bursts. From the window you could see a figure taking position, a quick thinking uniformed sikh man who hinged his semi-automatic gun to the railing of the bridge, and squeezed his finger to unleash death. In the later news reports, this action came to be described as 'indiscriminate firing'. The inmates of the house, with reflex of a cornered animal, ducked and lay flat on the floor. The wooden walls of the house it seemed had been blown away, it was as if the fire was directed at them. And the firing just wouldn't stop. It was like rain, like a thunder storm, even maybe like a cloud burst. Ashok Ji, a neighbour, another watcher in the house next door, was a bit slow in deciphering the scene. A bullet flew past him and glazed his ear. The reports were to say that the firing on the crowd was carried out from both ends of the bridge. People were caught in the middle. Initial official reports said about thirty people were killed. Over the years, as the stories grew, the number grew to about two hundred. Out of blood came accounts of people jumping into river and drowning, injured executed at point plank range, people chased and shot dead. The man blamed for ordering fire was given a name: Allah Bakhsh, SSP of J&K Police, with family ties to all the high and mighty of Kashmir state bureaucracy.

When it was over, the entire neighbourhood was drowned in sound of wailing. Up until now, a Pandit was still expected to join his neighbours in grief. And most of them did join. But not after that day. Bloodletting of that day, changed the core of the people. When an inmate of the house showed up at a neighbour's house to offer condolence, he was chased away.  'Battov, ye korov telephone', 'Pandits, you telephoned them!', was intermixed with the wailing sound. People swore revenge. The Pandits were suspects. The rumor blamed the pandits for calling the security men and somehow ordering the massacre. Over the next few days a new phenomena was observed in the city, people climbed up the telephone poles and pulled apart the wires. City was now plunged into a blackout of another kind. Every family was marooned, on its own and drifting in an unending nightmare in which monsters of all kind took life. Monsters that were to haunt Kashmir for a long time to come.

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Das Gerücht, "The Rumor," (1953) by German artist A. Paul Weber.
Perhaps the person best to understand nature of propaganda, having produced quite a bit.
An ambiguous figure who produced anti-Semitic and war mongering illustrations in his love for Germany and
was imprisoned for opposing Nazis and Hitler.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Assassination of Alexander Burnes


From 'Cassell's Illustrated History of India' (1880) by James Grant.

Here too a 'rascally' Kashmiri was blamed.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Kashmir Postcard from Germany by H.A. Mirza & Sons


From my personal collection: A postcard from Germany. Probably 1920s. The image was from the studio of H.A. Mirza & Sons, based in Chandni Chowk, Shahjahanabad (Delhi).


Corne of the ghelam from the 1st bridge, Kashmere

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Postcards from Kashmir


A photo presentation on vintage postcards of Kashmir shared generously by Michael Thomas of Pipal Press from his personal collection. These were collected by his wife Jean Thomas.




Music courtesy of RaviMech Studio

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Although I have added captions to the video, here's the listing details of 36 images provided by Michael Thomas.

1
00:00:05,000 --> 00:00:09,000
Srinagar, Kashmir - writing on side. 1903.
2
00:00:10,000 --> 04:06:40,000
Shepherdess, Kashmir. [Also, known as 'the shepherd's daughter", from the book 'The Charm of Kashmir' (1920)]
3
00:00:29,400 --> 00:00:40,000
Mur Canal. Nalla-e-Mar.
4
00:00:46,000 --> 00:00:50,000
Nautch Girl
5
00:00:58,000 --> 00:01:04,000
A Kashmir Boat Girl
6
00:01:07,000 --> 00:01:20,000
A Boatman
7
00:01:22,000 --> 00:01:26,000
Kashmir Dungas
8
00:01:28,000 --> 00:01:34,000
Kashmir Woman Spinning
9
00:01:35,000 --> 00:01:45,000
A Peasant Girl, Kashmir
10
00:01:50,000 --> 00:01:54,000
Srinagar Above 7th Bridge, Kashmir
11
00:01:55,000 --> 00:01:59,000
Srinagar, River View from bridge
12
00:02:00,000 --> 00:02:11,000
Mar Canal
13
00:02:12,000 --> 00:02:16,000
Srinagar and bridge of Shops
14
00:02:18,000 --> 00:02:24,000
City and the third Bridge
15
00:02:26,000 --> 00:02:34,000
Shalamar Gardens
16
00:02:36,000 --> 00:02:42,000
Nishat Bagh
17
00:02:45,000 --> 00:02:47,000
Bara Mola (Baramulla/Varmul)
18
00:02:48,000 --> 00:02:53,000
A houseboat at Baramulla
19
00:02:55,000 --> 00:03:00,000
Town of Baramulla (Wrong caption, actually view of Srinagar)
20
00:03:03,000 --> 00:03:12,000
Dal Lake
21
00:03:16,000 --> 00:03:21,000
Crossing Woolar Lake
22
00:03:23,000 --> 00:03:30,000
Kashmir in Winter
23
00:03:34,000 --> 00:03:40,000
Srinagar, The Palace
24
00:03:43,000 --> 00:03:48,000
A Dungar or Kashmir Boat
25
00:03:50,000 --> 00:03:53,000
Lotus Lilies, Dhal Lake
26
00:03:56,000 --> 00:03:58,000
Photograph of Dal Lake. 1946.
27
00:04:01,000 --> 00:04:06,000
Boatman, Dall Lake
28
00:04:09,000 --> 00:04:14,000
Kashmir, Moonshee, Bach, Commissioner's Boat
29
00:04:17,000 --> 00:04:23,000
Dall Lake. 1930
30
00:04:27,000 --> 00:04:31,000
The Presidency, Srinagar
31
00:04:33,000 --> 00:04:40,000
Srinagar, Another Bridge [Probably, Baramulla Bridge ]
32
00:04:43,000 --> 00:04:50,000
Gulmarg
33
00:04:54,000 --> 00:04:58,000
Pastoral View, Sind Valley
34
00:05:00,000 --> 00:05:03,000
Ladakhis and Yaks, Sind Valley

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Maybe, sometime soon I will make another presentation on the postcards in my collection.

On a side note, I wish more Kashmiris would start using captions for their video, especially on music video. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

View-Master Kashmir, 1952

An interesting addition to the archive.
A View-Master Reel of Kashmir from 1952. There are seven images (14 for 3d effect) shot on full color Kodachrome film.

Right now, I don't have the viewer for it so spent the day hacking up a basic viewer out of a card box.

The result....an experiment in color and sound.


Update: 16th Jan 2014 Finally got a viewer.
 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flute Player, 1922


Kashmiri Pundit Playing the Flute
Every Note in Kashmiri Music is overlaid with Grave Notes, to give brilliance to the performance
Photograph by Pandit Vishinath Kampassi
"The melodies belonging to the lakes and rivers are of course unlike those of the mountains. Never shall I forget the charm of being paddled in our shikara, one beautiful moonlight night on the Dal Lake in Kashmir, with our crew singing softly a well-known boatman's song punctuated by the rhythemic stroke of the paddles. An equally idyllic memory springs to my mind of the fine forests on the mountainous sides of the Lolab valley, and, seated beneath the shade of a lofty pine, a slender stripling playing plaintively upon his simple wooden flageolet. This mournful melody was called "The Parrot" and its theme was a tale of a lady taken captive to Kashmir, who released her favourite parrot to carry a chenar leaf in its beak as a message to her lover. "
"Shikara" on the Dal Lake with Kashmiri Fluting
A Shikara Ride on the Dal Lake, on a Beautiful Moonlight Night, with the Crew Singling Softly a Boatman's
Song Punctuated by the Rhythmic Stroke of the Paddles, Leaves an Idyllic Memory
Photograph by Pandit Vishinath Kampassi

From 'Asia : journal of the American Asiatic Association (Volume v.22, November 1922)', 'Echoes of Himalayan Flutes' by Muriel Percy Brown (1874-1943), daughter of Sir Adelbert Talbot, Resident of Kashmir from 1896 to 1900, and wife of art historian Percy Brown. She is more famous for  here book, 'Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir' (1921)
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kashmir by Edna Bellefontaine


Shared generously by David Zrihen from his personal collection. He bought it a couple of years ago at an auction in Toronto. 


Edna Bellefontaine
'Beached Boats By Town'
Oil on masonite
Dated '64
18.8"x17"
Sold @ Waddingtons (Toronto) Feb. 6 2008
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Previously:
'Mata Hari of Kashmir': Miss Edna Bellefontaine


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Child's Play: Child Marriages


Kings, Queens, Poets, Muses and Commons. They all were married as a child. 

"The Boy on the horse is a Bridegroom off for his wedding to a girl nine years old.
He looked scared to death as we passed."
Photograph: 'Random Ramblings in India' (1928) by William H. Danforth.

Kashmiri Pandit Child marriage
(probably) 1920s
Photograph: 'Fifty years against the stream: The story of a school in Kashmir, 1880-1930' by E.D. Tyndale-Biscoe

"The young Kashmir girl in her best clothes, standing besides her grandfather, was being prepared for her betrothal. They wait in one of Srinagar's narrow alleys"
Photograph: 'Of Sea and Land' (1945) by Tom Lakeman

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My grandmother was well on way to becoming an exception. Kashmir was changing. She was studying in fifth standard. Her father was a teacher. But she too was married at the age of around fourteen to a man recently out of his teens. The tribal attack of 1947 made people anxious and girls were married off in a hurry. Her education was complete.

She taught me how to spell 'धन्यवाद'.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A strange wedding song, 1877

Kashmiri Dancing Girl
by V. C. Prinsep

An extract from Imperial India; an artist's journals' (1879) by V. C. Prinsep, who visited Kashmir around 1877.
One evening I went to a wedding. I was not allowed to join in the ceremony, but viewed the proceedings from an upper window. Seven days the tomasha had lasted, and day and night were women howling congratulatory verses to the bridegroom who sat feasting with his intimates the while. On a certain day rings are put into the bride's ears and nose; on another her hands are marked with henna, and so on. She lived in a house hard by, where the happy man was allowed to see her for a short time each day, being conducted to and fro with mush ceremony and many torches stinking and reeking, as I found to my cost. I have taken down many of the distiches sung on the occasion, and am trying to get them translated, when, if they are worth it, I will add them to my diary. The continued howling of the women becomes very irksome after a time, and although the sight was curious, I was glad to get away after a couple of hours. The bride was nine years old.
The following is a translation of the songs sung at a Kashmirree wedding [by Major Henderson, C.S.I., the political officer in Kashmir]: -
Mother of the Bridegroom to the Bridegroom.
Urge on thy steed in every direction.
I will prepare thy seat in the garden pavilion:
On thy right the Koran, on thy left the necklace.
Thou art worthy to be called Lalla Gopal!


The Lalla Gopal in the verse needed some explanation. A note in the book adds, 'Lalla Gopal, one of the names of Krishna, who was supposed to have been the type of loveliness. Curious, this, when sung by a Mohammedan!'

Prinsep further explains:
The song is a good picture of the manners of the country, and the way that the Moslem and hindoo customs have acted on each other. Whilst at Sreenugger I have painted two or three nautch girls, and it was through them that I got to this wedding, as they were amongst the singers. now these girls, like most nautch girls in India, were all Moslemehs, yet had they all the caste feeling of Hindoo. Of moral sentiment they were entirely innocent, but they would never permit any one to drink out of their cup or smoke from their hookah, and they always went about these two utensils, for smoke and tea are the two things necessary to a Kashmiree. So in this song a Kashmiree Moslem is made to say "beautiful as Krishna."

There is another interesting line given in that song:
Singing women to the Bride and Bridegroom.
The parrot of Lahore and the Mainah of Kashmir!
How did you both become mutually acquainted?



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Monday, January 6, 2014

On the steps of a temple, 1914

On the steps of a temple

Photograph from article 'Behind the shutters of a Kashmir Zenana' by Marion Whiting for Harper's Magazine, Volume 129, 1914.

Village Martand (Mattan) figures mostly in this travelogue and as suggested by the title of the writing, focuses on women.

Among other things, she gives us description of Muslim New year being celebrated by the villagers at ruins of Martand temple:

That evening the new moon rose as advertised, and the New-Year celebrations began. But we were not prepared for what was to follow. Dinner was over, and we were lazily sitting in our comfortable camp-chairs warming ourselves in front of a huge bonfire. Presently the sound of singing came up from the village below, and soon it grew louder and louder. Then, emerging from the darkness into the light of our camp-fire, appeared what proved to be the entire population of Martand. First came a crowd of men and boys, and directly behind them women, singing, as they walked, a low, monotonous sort of chant. Close to the ruins of the temple they stopped, just near enough for us to make out in the firelight the outlines of their long, white scarfs and loose-hanging smocks. The singer arranged themselves into rows facing each other, each woman placing her hands on the shoulders of the woman next to her. Meanwhile the men had squatted on the ground in a circle around the performers, their knees up under their chins, their shawls wrapped tightly around them in a fashion peculiar to the Kashmiri. All the while the women were singing the same chant, over and over again, swaying back and forth in rhythm with the music. First one row would take the air, and then the other would respond in a sort of cadence, with always the same theme repeated again and again. The scene, so unexpected, was wonderful, the firelight illuminating the figures, the tall columns of the old temple rising behind, and the black night enveloping everything beyond. Our Kashmiri factotum was called upon to explain what it all meant.
"They come to the old temple to sing to Mohammed. they tell the story of his life. They tell his wanderings and his preachings, and then they tell long stories of what the Koran say must do. How the women must obey their husbands, how fathers must teach their sons, and how they all must worship the great God Allah!"
"Do they often come to the temple to sing?" we asked.
"Only at the New-Year,"he answered.
"And do the men never join in the ceremony?"
"no. Only the women; they do the singing."
"But this was originally a Hindu temple," we persisted. "Why do Mohammedans come here?"
"It is the custom," he answered, vaguely, shrugging his shoulders.

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An interesting photograph by Howard Sochurek in from 1951 for Life Magazine. We can see a group of people dancing in front of Martand Temple.


Pandit in his temple, 1881




'Voyage d'une parisienne dans l'himalaya occidental- Ouvrage illustré de 64 gravures sur bois' (1887) by Marie de Ujfalvy-Bourdon, one of the first European woman adventurers to visit Kashmir and western Himalayas in around 1881.
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[Also, the book has reference to 'Ramjoo's temple' built by a powerful minister of Dogra Raja]


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Naulora in Autumn, 1983


'Chillies Drying in Autumn'
Naulora Village
From Raghubir Singh's 'Kashmir: Garden of the Himalayas' (1983).
I couldn't find a single instance of that village name on internet. May be the village is still like that...

A reader provided the details: "Naulora is a village in Pattan area, it is 3-4 km from Singhpora village on Srinagar -Baramullah highway."

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Praying at the River, 1920s


Praying at the river.
The pandit morning ritual.
A postcard by Lambert from 1920s.
Location (provided by a reader): Dabiyaar Ghat near mission school Fateh Kadal
The back side had a letter from an English lady talking about meeting Nehru and Gandhi.
The beauty of Shalimar and smelting summer of Delhi.
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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Akhun Mulla Shah's Mosque, 1983


Akhun Mulla Shah's mosque. 
Raghubir Singh. 'Kashmir: Garden of the Himalayas' (1983).

Praying at Boniyar Temple, 1920s



Praying at Bhaniyar Temple [Bunair/Boniar/Boniyar [now, in Bandi Brahamana, Baramulla[Lat 34° 8'. Long. 74° 13']]].
A postcard from 1920s.
Temple is by the Jhelum river on the road between Uri and Naushera.
At one time it was said to be the best surviving specimen of Kashmiri architecture.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Kadal, 1946


Fateh Kadal
1946
From a private album probably belonging to a British Soldier

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Also from the same set: Golf Caddies, Gulmarg, 1946

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Alan Moore's nuclear Sikh on Kashmir


In Alan Moore's world, Captain Nemo's great-grand son is a nuclear Sikh terrorist threatening to nuke Pakistan over Kashmir.


From 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (Vol III) Century #3. ()
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