Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earthquakes, Gods, Bulls and Mosquito Buzz

Kashmir Earthquake 1900 by Captain Benson
In one hand she held a steel glass and with the other,praying in whispers to gods, she was sprinkling the cemented ground with water. With the spring of childhood in my feets, I didn't realize it was earthquake. It was my first earthquake and I had witnessed my aunty perform an old ritual. She was pacifying the angry gods. This was the day that I believed I had seen a UFO but now I believe it must have been just a CEMA tubelight fitted lamppost.

An early western visitor to Kashmir wrote a strange scene he witnessed in a village somewhere in Kashmir. There had been an earthquake that had turned one of the nearby village springs into a hot spring. When this news reached the village, the visitor noticed that the pandits of the village left for the spring with their batte deechas, big metallic pot with rice gains and placing them in the hot water proceeded to prepare race. Rice was going to absorb the furious energy of the gods. And bellies were going to have a fill.

As I retold the incident, I was informed that Kashmiri Muslims believed that the earthquakes were caused when the celestial bull that holds the earth on its horns is irritated by a (must be) celestial mosquito.

Following this lead I came an interesting belief from Judaic world.

Verrier Elwin, an early authority on Indian tribal people, in his book Myths of Middle (1949) wrote:

The traditional Hindu view of earthquakes is that Varaha, the board incarnation of Vishnu who supports the earth, is shifting the burden of the world from one tusk to another.

In Sylhet [now in Bangladesh] the Hindus say that below the earth is a tortoise; upon this a serpent and upon this an elephant. Should anyone of them move, there is an earthquake. The ordinary Mussalman of the same area is said to believe that the earth rests on the horns of the bull which has a mosquito at its side.

This Muslim belief finds its origins in Judaism.

Howard Schwartz tells the story in his book Tree of souls: the mythology of Judaism (2007)
Once, when Aaron the Priest, brother of Moses, was offering sacrifices on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], the bull sprang up from beneath his hands and covered a cow. When that calf was born, it was stronger than any other. Before a year was out, the calf had grown bigger than the whole world. God then took the world and stuck it on one horn of that bull. And the bull holds up the worlds on his horn, for this is God's wish. But when people sin, their sins make the world heavier, and the burden of the bull grows that much greater. Then the bull grows tired of its burden, and tosses the world from one horn to the other. That is when earthquake take place, and everything is uncertain until the world stands secure on a single horn.

May be the mosquito buzz part was the Indian touch.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chichir Ver

Chichir Ver - Kashmiri Rice Podridge (Ver) with Chichir (Goat's intestine).
From the engagement party of a cousin. For recipe check out The Mad Tea Party.

Durga Nag Temple

Temple complex  at the foot of Shankarcharya Hill.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Byel Tamul

Grains used for sowing rice

Raw grains leave a sweet smoky taste
/Byel Tamul/chrim tumul


Update July 1, 2018

Around 200 years ago there were about 94 varieties of rice grown in Kashmir.

Here's are names of some given in Gulzar-i-Kashmir by Dewan Kripa Ram of Jammu (1870s):

Basmat (famous fine basmati)
Kunji-Danyi (one of the finer variety)
Chogul (said to be very soft and sweet, very popular)
Shahguzu Guru tanzi
Lal Krahna
Kenu Puthau
Karhana Shesher
Chata braz
Tachitachee Mukhtabraz
Neka beyol
Bud Braz
Chata newar
Babeer Mohiwan
Kawa Krishna
Nekanzun Lenahzag
Zazid Zekahtatar


Reads on Facebook provided some additional info and some more names:

Suneel Jailkhani Mushkabudgi is being grown again with the support of the j&k govt. Recently I found it being sold in srinagar in sealed packets of two kgs. About Rs 160 per kg.

Vikar Malik Mushkbudji n kamad is used in marriage ceremonies







Satish Munshi Gulu zug,nounu byoul,pireu,khoutch not in the list

Madan Lal Thakur Hokhal,zag ,lagud

Karam Vir "Gulzag" 
Not in the list...grown in upper reaches of beerrwah

Pradiman Koul And then........... China... 1039 ,k... 39 the agricultural land has been lost due to constructions and turning this land into orchards and poppy production

Mithan Lal Hanjura Mazeth kathwor gulzag tilzah and mushkbadij was sown during our times also but the production was less

Sheikh Gulzar Some r ougman Bahar 

Char bahar
Naz bahar
Barkat bahar

Farooq Nazki
 Gazur. Kadir Khan

Sanjay Koul One of d varieties my father tells me was kaedir ganie.

Bimal Misri Even Rajtrangini has listed about fifty varieties of rice. An aromatic variety called " Noon build" is still cultivated in some niches of Budgam district and we had about a Quintal of it in our home when in Kashmir. When you cook it the entire neighborhood knows.

Ishfaq Hydar bide china, cxadie china,k41,k45, safaid china

Maryam Jan i know Eetal n cheena beoul we hd this in our paddy feilds n many more i will try to remember if possib


Wangan Hachi, Al Hachi

Brinjals hung for drying on a window.
September 2010. Jammu.

That's fresh bottle gourd hung for drying in the back-garden of a Kashmri Muslim family.
July 2010. Srinagar.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

47 Wall paintings from Jammu & Kashmir

Something interesting that I came across during a recent visit to Jammu. Culture of the state in wonderfully painted murals (near Asia Hotel). I was't expecting it but my street art appreciation session did wind-up on a rather familiar note.

Cross posted at my other blog.

Old Photographs of Kashmir, 1903

Following images are from the book Irene Petrie : Missionary to Kashmir (1903). Includes some rare photographs by Geoffroy Millias.
Srinagar: The Fourth bridge, Hari Parbat, and in the distance Kotwal and Haramuk

Dal Lake at Gagribal

Maharaja passing the C.M.S. School on his state entry into Srinagar

Pandit Oarsmen

Holton Cottage

St. Luke's Chruch (built in around 1896 ) and the C.M.S hospital. 

High Street, Leh

Gopal Kaul Presents

Cross posted to my other Blog.
Late 1960s, Gopal Kaul was one of the earliest and famous faces of Doordarshan. According to one of the most intriguing and famous stories from the early days of Doordarshan, Gopal Kaul, in a somewhat comic way, was the reason why Salma Sultan became a newsreader. The story goes that Gopal Kaul, who was already a known face on Doordarshan, didn't want to be a newsreader, he wanted to be a producer and was always was often at loggerheads with the DD people. One day to put an end to his newsreading tussle, in a unique way of protest, Gopal Kaul reported to job with his head completely shaved off. An emergency replacement was found nearby in Salma Sultan.

In my post about 'Famous old faces of Doordarshan' Gopal Kaul was one big and obvious missing name as I couldn't find a single image of him online. But then recently, Gopal Kaul's son Ashutosh Kaul wrote to me and generously offered to share his personal collection with this blog. He also informed me that among many other things Gopal Kaul also used to read President's speech in Hindi.

Thanks to Ashutosh Kaul here are some rare and wonderful images of Gopal Kaul at work:
Gopal Kaul in a play (with turban on right corner) along with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and  Babu Rajendra Prasad.
Gopal Kaul with Raj Kapoor.

Gopal Kaul with Manna Dey

Gopal Kaul after retirement.
Ashutosh Kaul informs that Gopal Kaul finally retired from Lucknow Doordarshan and  settled down in that city.
He passed away in year 1999. And he did became a Producer in Doordarshan.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Reenactment - II

Left:1988. My mother does tamul satun tcharun- cleaning rice.
The image is one of the last photographs of the house.
Right: 2010. She has a habit of eating rice while she does it, two sweeps of hand over the heap and in the next move she pops two grains into her mouth, and she does it with the deftness of a bird. For that she got the name Munne'Haer - Munna the Myna.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sketches from Kashmiri Ramayan in Persian Script, 1940s

Guest post by Man Mohan Munshi Ji. Notice the headgear of Ravan (Is that Ravan?). With a note at the end from me about various versions of Kashmiri Ramayan.

Sketches drawn by R.C.Wantoo a forgotten Kashmiri Pandit artist for a Kashmiri Ramayan in Persian script published in early 1940s by Ali Mohmad Tajar Kutab (Bookseller), Habba Kadal, Srinagar. Unfortunately the front page of the said Ramayan is missing and as such I cannot give the name of its author.


Note on Kashmiri Ramayan.

Persian was the official language of Kashmir right from 1372 to 1889.

Yet the fact remains that during the Mugal period, the Persian Ramayana came to Kashmir also. Of these Mulla Masithi’s masterpiece written during the time of Jahangir appears to have been widely read, as is borne out not only by the extensive dispersal of the manuscripts of the work in Kashmir, but also by the parallels and affinities found in the Masthi Ramayana and the Kashmiri Ramayana, particularly the Prakas-Ramayana .The Persian Ramayana, however, is not the main source of the Kashmiri Ramayana written in the forties of the ninteenth century and after, the latest one written as late as 1940 AD 
The first kashmiri Ramayana entitled Shankara Ramayana was transcribed from Sharada into Devanagari in 1843 AD by Shankar Kanth (Nath) in the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh.Prakash Ramayan by Prakash Ram Kurygami came in 1846 A.D was most widely copied out and is the only Kashmiri Ramayana that has been printed in all the three scripts, Roman, Devnagri and Persian.The third Kashmiri Ramayana, the Visnu Pratapa Ramayana, was finished by Vishu Kaul in 1913. This was followed by the Sarma Ramayana by Nilakantha Sharma (1919-1926 A.D.) modeled on Tulsidasa’s masterpiece.The fifth was written by Tarachand in 1927 AD and the sixth by Amar Nath in 1940 AD.[ Seventh one was by Anand Ram. And the one used by George A. Grierson was Sriramuvataracarit by Divakar Prakasha Bhatta]
- The Ramayana tradition in Asia: papers presented at the International Seminar on the Ramayana Tradition in Asia, New Delhi, December 1975, Venkatarama Raghavan.

There as many as six versions of the Ramayana available in Kashmiri, but only one version has been published so far. The published version is Ramavatarcharit (1910) by Prakash Ram. […] Other versions of Ramayana are by Shankar Nath, Anand Ram, Visnu Koul, Amar Nath and Nilakanth Sharma. With Nilakanth Sharma, the tradition of epics based on Indian or national themes came to an end.
- The Encyclopaedia Of Indian Literature (Volume Two) (Devraj To Jyoti), Volume 2 by Amaresh Datta

One of the interesting things about Kashmiri Ramayan is that like the Jain and some other tellings, say the Thai version, Sita is presented as the daughter of Ravan's wife Mandodari who after the birth of her daughter gives her up to the sea.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yashodhara Katju - First Kashmiri Actress

In 1941 when Pandit Nehru's young niece decided to join the film industry not only did Yashodhara Katju become the first Kashmiri heroine of silver screen but perhaps one of the first woman from a good family to set foot in the not so good film industry - an event that was certainly newsworthy.
Film India, August 1941.
From FilmIndia Magazine collection generously shared with me by Indian film enthusiast Memsaab who runs one of the best blogs on Indian Cinema.

Text from the news-piece:

Well-known Society Girl Joins Indian Films

Miss Katju, niece of Pandit Nehru Comes to National Studios

Fourteen year-old Yashodhara Katju comes from a famous family of Kashmir Brahmins who have settled in the United Provinces for generations.

Well connected by ties of blood and friendship with some of the leading families of U.P. Yashodhara is at present studying in the Senior Cambridge class and in addition happens to be an accomplished dancer, having taken an extensive training under some of the best dancers in the country. She is reported to be a fine exponent of the Manipuri and Kathakali schools of dancing.

Her first screen role is likely to be in “Roti” a social picture directed by Mr. Mehboob for the National Studio.
Yashodhara Katju. Film India, August 1943
Interestingly, right next to that news-piece was an ad for Afghan Snow cream. One of the biggest name in beauty creams in India right until the 1970s.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Water-ways on the Dal Lake

Dal. July.2010.


Alone I love to dream along

The Dal lake's willowy water-ways

And tune my heart to hear her song,
A song which varies with the days.

My boat pursues reflections clear
And 'twixt a tracery of leaves

Mountains of amethyst appear
Through filmy veils the 'Soft air weaves.

All nature glows and throbs delight!

I lie entranced: the atmosphere
Bathed in this shining, radiant light

Is steeped in colour soft yet clear.

When suddenly with flashing flight
A brilliant streak of purest gold

Darts swift across my waking sight,
A glimpse of living joy untold !

The golden oriole, its note

Of mellow music I can hear,
As 'neath the willow boughs I float

To catch its cadence low and clear.

Still onward ever yet we glide

Through tangled brakes of whisp'ring reed
Which their shy secrets thus confide

If only we will harkening heed.

And now my mangies* moor the boat
To this green islet's peaceful shore

An island made of weeds to float,
On which is grown a plenteous store

Of golden melons which I see
A Kashmir beldame pluck and throw

In her shikara** floating free,
Then seat herself and paddling go.

With this her trophy piled on high,
In picturesque confusion bright

Of sun-kissed, glowing fruits which lie
Reflected in the ripples light.

These little isles which like a dream
Float baseless on the Dal lake's breast

How like our human lives they seem
Mere dreams which here but fleeting rest.

I must return: the setting sun
Extends the purple shadows deep

Soft drifts of smoke, the day now done
From many homesteads circling creep.

Our paddle's splash the only sound
As stealing 'neath the shade we cling

To Takht-i-Suliman's dark mound
While silent birds swift nest-ward wing.

* Mangies=:Kashmiri boatmen,
** Shikara=Kashmiri country boat.

 ~ Muriel A.E. Brown
Chenar Leaves: Poems of Kashmir (1921)

Map of Dal Lake

Found it in an interesting paper (PDF LINK):

by SHASHI KANT* and P. KAOHROO, Department of Botany,
University of Kashmir, Srinagar 6
(Communicated by M. S. Randhawa, F.N.A.)
(Received 20 July, 1970; after revision 3 September 1970

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mahjoor's Kutubkhana Collection

Mahjoor was also a historian and took deep interest in numismatics. He collected 500 rare coins mostly belonging to the period of Queen Deda of the Varma dynastry which rules Kashmir several centuries before the advent of Islam in the state. He gathered a number of documents and manuscripts in both Persian and Sanskrit languages. One of the manuscripts, Shar-e-Tul Islam, which deals with Islamic  years old. He also acquired barch paper treatises on grammer written by Abhinavagupta and Mammatacharya.
This collection, fondly named “Kutubkhana” by Mahjoor himself, was offered by his descendants to the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, to be lodged in a national monument where it could be preserved safely. But due to what the grandsons of the poet term as “shortsightedness” of the authorities in the state, this was not to be. The academy undervalued the treasure (it offered only Rs. 38,000) and Mahjoor’s grandsons later sold it to the National Archives for Rs. 71,000. Six years ago this “Kutubkhana” thus found a niche in the premises of the National Archives, New Delhi, under the title of “Mahjoor Collection”.
From life-sketch of Mahjoor by T.N. Kaul in his book Poems of Mahjoor (Sahitya Akademi, first published 1988)

Friday, September 3, 2010


Luchi makers at Khir Bhawani.
Apparently Bengalis also have something called Luchi. I don't know if the fact that it is popular at Khir Bhawani has something to do with the relation of this shrine with Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Mission.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ladisha Ladisha

by Ravimech Studios
Artist: Gulzar Ahmed


Ballads (called bath or Kath, meaning 'stories' and literally in kashmiri meaning 'talk'): A particular variety of satarical ballads is popularly known as laddi shah. A man stirs the iron rings strung on an iron rod and makes witty comments on the social issues. A common refrain from the songs started with line: Laddi Shah, Laddi Shah draar’kin pyow,  pya'waane pya'waane ha'patan khyow( Laddi Shah, Laddi Shah! fell off the window! And a Grizzly bit him just as he fell!)

From: Types of Kashmiri Folk Songs

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