Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beautiful Kashmiris on the Wall

On walls of Kashmir corner at Chor bizarre, Noida. Photographers: unknown. Years: unknown.
Here with captions from my mother.
[Update the photographer (of most of these is) famous Ram Chand Mehta]

Gujjar Woman and Child
'gabbi raech'
[Note from Man Mohan Munshi Ji: [This is a photograph ] of a Kashmiri Pahal woman Her head dress and silver ear rings are unmistakably kashmiri/ Dress of Gujar women is totally different . More ever Gujars mostly tend buffaloes and not sheep. Herds of Bakarwals or Gaddis consist of sheep as well as goats. Only herds of Kasmiri Pohals are entirely of sheep]

Kashmiri Milkman

Kashmiri Muslim Woman

Kashmiri Pandit Woman. 1939.
with targa, pootz, lou'ing and wankh

Pandit Man drinking tea in kenz khos.1945.
[Previously on art of holding the tea cup ]

Woman making Wagu

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Do Kashmiris have a sweet tooth?

'What the hell were they selling in that shop? Did Kashmiris too have a sweet tooth?

I asked myself after I came across this photograph of a Kashmiri Sweet Shop in Margaret Cotter Morison's A lonely summer in Kashmir (1904).


"In Kashmir they make a sweetmeat of every thing, not of every kind of fruit, but of the buj or sweet reed which grows abundantly in its ditches; it is used as a preserve, and also as a tonic medicine."

~ Godfrey Thomas Vigne in 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo, the Countries Adjoining the Mountain-Course of the Indus, and the Himalaya, north of the Panjab with Map' (1844).


dam'da: a kind of sweetmeat, ginger-candy

dal-masala: a certain sweetmeat made of beans flavoured with the shoots and pollen of the pers

dal-nabad: lake-candy, a kind of sweetmeat made of the pollen of the pets or reed-mace.

batas (lit. filled with wind), a cetain sweetmeat of a spongy texture and hollow within; a kind o cheap brown sugar which comes from the Panjab

batas-wor: a special variety of this sweetmeat

baraph, baraf, barfi: a kind of sweetmeat made of sugar and milk and having the appearance of ice

~ George  Grierson's 'A dictionary of the Kashmiri language . Compiled partly from materials left by the late Pandita Isvara Kaula. Assisted by Mahamahopadhyaya Mukundarama Sastri.' (1916)


Apricots (Tcher) served in sugar syrup.

Phirni. @ Chor Bizarre, Noida


Now. I have a bad case of toothache.


Shakti Sweets


Precious, my Jooti!

river of chappals. Noida.
Noor Jahan built a Masjid in Srinagar near Zaina Kadal opposite Shah Hamdan mosque.. Unlike other Majids in Kashmir the time, this Masjid was made of stone or Pathar, and hence came to be known as Pathar Masjid. The story goes that on completion of the Mosque, a Mulla asked her how much did it cost her. It is said that in her response the Shia Empress of India pointed to her shoe or Jooti. Mulla in response is said to have decreed the Masjiid unfit for praying.  So goes the story of a building that in Sikh era was used as a granary.

Now, here is another story of  a Jooti response from another place, another time, another precious and same context. From history of Koh-i-noor told by Erich von Schonberg in 'Travels in India and Kashmir' (1853):

After a long chapter of accidents, the koh-i-noor was brought to Lahore in 1812, by Schah Schujah, when he sought the protection of Runjeet Singh. Runjeet had heard a great deal of the stone, and though he was no judge of jewels, he earnestly desired the possession of this one, and was determined to leave no means untried to gratify his wishes.
Wuffa Begum, the wife of Schah Schujah, lived at Schadirah. Runjeet sent to demand the jewel of her, but she declared that she had it not.
This answer did not satisfy the Sikh ; he ordered that all her jewels should be seized, and brought to Lahore. Many of these were of such great beauty, that Runjeet believed that the koh-i-noor must be amongst them ; but having afterwards discovered his error, he ordered the begum to be closely watched. Nobody was allowed to go in or out of her palace without being searched ; and Runjeet let her know that nothing would satisfy him but the possession of the koh-i-noor.
The begum sent him a beautiful ruby. This stone exceeded in splendour anything the maha-rajah had ever seen, and he now believed that he really beheld the koh-i-noor. But as he was himself unable to estimate the value of jewels, he sent for a man who was conversant in such things, and who besides had seen the great "mountain of hght." The Sikh displayed befere the connoisseur a great number of jewels, and asked which of these was the koh-i-noor? The man replied that the koh-i-noor was not amongst these stones, and that all he saw there were insignificant, compared with that great gem.
'Shoes including Kashmiri shoes of green leather'
from Provincial geographies of India (1913)
Runjeet's anxiety to possess this treasure was now greater than ever. He tried what starvation could do, but the begum endured the trial unmoved. He then changed his mode, and tried persuasion and arguments. The begum promised to give the koh-i-noor, if her husband, who was then imprisoned at Lahore, should be set free. This was done, but some other conditions of the agreement were left unfulfilled. Runjeet demanded the jewel; the begum said that it had been pledged to a merchant in Kandahar. This was an evasion. Starvation was again tried, but in vain. New severities were about to be exercised, when the Schah promised that on a certain day, the koh-i-noor should be delivered to Runjeet Singh.
The day appointed for this important transfer was the 1st of June, 1813. The maha-rajah came to the place of meeting, accompanied by some trusty friends, nor did he forget to bring connoisseurs, to whose inspection the jewel should be submitted. When the Sikhs entered the hall where the schah and his friends were assembled, mutual greetings were exchanged,after which a death-like stillness prevailed. An hour passed in this manner, when Runjeet, who was impatient, made a sign to one of his friends, intimating a desire that he should remind the schah of the object of his visit. The schah made a signal to a slave, who retired, and returned in a few minutes with a little packet which he laid on the carpet, at an equal distance from the maha-rajah and the schah. Having done this, he returned to his place, and all were again silent. There is no saying how long the company might have remained mute, if Runjeet had not made a sign to one of his adherents, who, rising, lifted the packet, unfolded the wrappings, and revealed the koh-i-noor.The precious gem was recognised by those who had come for that purpose, and the maha-rajah was satisfied. Delighted at the sight of this splendid prize, he turned to the schah, and inquired what the stone was worth. The answer was, "Djuty."

Selling 'Gola Boots' at Lal Chowk, Srinagar
This word djuty has many significations. It means shoes, and is used in India to express the infliction of a disgraceful and deserved punishment. "I will give thee shoes," " I will beat thee with shoes," is a threat that implies the utmost contempt. Besides this, djuty, or dhjuty, has other meanings, which may be expressed by a slight difference in the pronunciation. In one sense, it implies lies, deceit, disgrace, treachery, insult, mockery, jesting. In another sense the word signifies war, battles, &c."

A description of the mosque is provided by Godfrey Thomas Vigne, an English traveller who visited Kashmir in 1835. 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), he writes:

"Nur Jehan Begum (the light of the world), the Nur Muhul (the light of the palace) of Lallah Rookh, is the most renowned name in the valley, that of her august consort, Jehan Gir, not excepted. In spite of the more authentic story of her birth which is to be found in Ferishta, the Kashmirians would have us believe that she was a native of the valley: a daughter of the Malek of Chodra, a large ruined village in the centre of the centre of the southern side of the valley, and situated on the Dud Gunga (milk river). The only fact that that I heard that I heard of, that could be any possibility be brought forward in support of this assertion is, that near Chodra there are some ruins, said to be those of a house that once belonged to her; but in which there is nothing in any way remarkable. I have already oticed the palaced at Vernag and Shahbad, which were built by here or her husband. The Musjid, or new mosque, in the city, was built by her, and is, in fact, the only edifice of the kind that can vie in general aspect and finish with the splendour of the Moti Musjid, or the pearl mosque, at Agra. A handsome flight of stone steps leads from river to the door of the courtyard, which surrounds it. The interior of the building is about sixty-four yards in length, and of a proportionate width, the roof being supported by two rows of massive square piers, running through the entire length of the building, the circular compartments between them being handsomely ribbed and vaulted. When I was in Kashmir it was used as a granary or storehouse for rice."


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kashmiri Boatmen on Tawi

The 'biblical' imagining of Kashmiri Boatmen. 
If on a Jammu bound train you have run into people who ask you if it is going to be cooler once the train reaches Jammu, if they are going to see snow, the mountains, the lakes, the rivers, if your answer has always been a mad laugh, read this blunder of a passage from 'India, pictorial and descriptive' (1888) by William Henry Davenport (1828-1891):

"The capital of Kashmir is situated on the Towi, a tributary of the Chenab. It is a place of considerable trade, communication with the riverine district being maintained by water. The Kashmir boatmen are a strong and hardy race, and manage their clumsy craft with much dexterity."


On scribbled walls of Shankracharya

 'Indian pages and pictures: Rajputana, Sikkim, the Punjab, and Kashmir' (1912)
by Michael Myers Shoemaker (1853-1924)

If you have been atop the hill, if you have seen the temple, and if you have wondered about those names scribbled on its periphery wall, if you have wondered about '-Akbar-Ramesh-Suresh-' craved on its walls, read this passage by Augusta E. King from 'The diary of a civilian's wife in India, 1877-1882 (1884), Volume 2' describing her visit to the temple:

"I had thought that the practice of writing one's name on walls was confined to English and Americans, or the European nations. But here in this Hindu temple were  thousands of Hindu autographs, and it is evidently the proper thing for any pious Hindu, who can write his name, to do so on these walls."

Here's another chapter On scribbled walls of Shankracharya:

"Some people commit an unpardonable offence by scratching in with knives their names or other idle scrawls in with knives their names or other idle scrawls on the walls of ancient buildings, and visitors are misled by them. Even an antiquarian like Dr.Fergusson was misled by one of such scratchings on the staircase of this temple,"A.H. 1069", and he, therefore, concluded that the temple was commenced "by a nameless Hindu in honor of Shiva during the tolerant reign of Jahangir"! There were also scratchings of the same nature inside the temple upon the pillar to its south-west, stating that "the idol was made by Haji Hushti, a Sahukar, in the year 54 of the Samvat era", while at the foot of the same pillar there was another scratching stating that "he who raised this temple was Khwaja Rukn, son of Mir Jan in the year___." Islam was unknown in that remote period when this temple was built, so there could not have been a Khwaya or a Mire then. Nor would have a Muhammadan built a temple as his own nor would he have used Sambat era for its erection."

~ Pandit Anand Koul from his book 'Archaeological Remains In Kashmir' (1935)

Example of Fergusson's finding getting quoted by a western traveler:

~Rough notes of journeys made in ... 1868,'69,'70,'71, '72 &'73 in Syria, down the Tigris, India, Kashmir, Ceylon, Japan [&c.].

Daughters Of The Vitasta by Prem Nath Bazaz, 1959

This monumental book from 1959 by Prem Nath Bazaz is among the first few books written in exile by a modern Kashmiri. In fact, a bunch of these first books were written by Bazaz while living in Delhi after his political estrangement with Sheikh Abdullah. Most of these books had a lot of Kalhana and little droplets from the great river of Kashmiri history, much like the present exilee writing by Pandits. But there is a difference. Prem Nath Bazaz wrote about history while consciously avoiding revivalist temptations.

In Preface to this book, Bazaz writes:
"Lest reading of the early part of the book gives rise to revivalist tendencies, I would like to say that it is none of my desires to create a mythical golden age in which Kashmiri women achieved unsurpassable glory. I am fully aware of the limitations under which they lived during the best epochs of history to advocate revival of ancient ideals and beliefs. Despite the imperfections of modern social life, there is no gainsaying that today we live in a better world where both men and women find vaster opportunities and greater freedom for the unfoldment of their potentialities. Revivalism is by no means a healthy doctrine nor can its adoption contribute to prosperity of a people. My endeavour in narrating the  heroic and noble deeds of Kashmiri women is not to idolise the past but to rekindle the spirit of adventure which characterized them before was bound down in servitude."

Beside telling story of interesting women from ancient history of Kashmir. and from not so distant past (like the fascinating story of Begam Samru, a Kashmiri Muslim nautch girl who ruled a princely state neat Meerat called Sardana and died a Christian), this book provides insight into a period when 'naya Kashmir' was being built and when women affairs in the state underwent a paradigm shift. Bazaz recall the early unsung pioneers who challenged the society, predominantly the Pandit community (Did you know the first film ever banned in Kashmir was due to Pandit protests?), to re-think its stand on core issues like women's rights and education.

Prem Nath Bazaz wrote all this while living in Delhi.

Here is  'Daughters Of The Vitasta: A History of Kashmiri women from early times to the present day' by Prem Nath Bazaz.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pages and a translation from Persianised Kashmiri Ramayan, 1940s

Man Mohan Munshi Ji shares some pages from a rare Kashmiri Ramayan in his possession written with Persian influence (author unknown, publisher, Ali Mohamad Tajir Kutab, Habbakadal). He writes:

The Chapter deals with meeting of Ramchanderji and Lakshmanji with Hanuman and Sugrev and death of Vali and coronation of Sugrev at the hands of Ramchandar Ji. Here are some verses of the chapter in Roman Kashmiri with English translation.

Karet gai Chak daman khak bar sar

With torn aprons and dust covered heads

Vuchik koh’s akis peth ases wandar

They saw wandars sitting on a mountain

Temov yeli vuch tuluk ye nala fariad

After seeing they started discussing

Dopuk yem deov cha kina adam zad

Are they some demons or human beings ?

Kamanah hiath nakhas peth hait che laran?

They are rushing with bows on their shoulders

Yemen khah rowmut yem kiah che tsadaan?

What have they lost and what are they searching

Yemen khah rowmut yem kiah che tsadaan?

What have they lost and what are they searching

Che Sahaib Zada jora lokh masoom

They are two well bread youths in distress

Ba Chus zanan che yem baran bala vir

I know they are very valiant brave hearts

Zaminas seeth suvan Akash as tir

They can stich the earth with sky by an arrow,

Zaminas seeth suvan Akash as tir

They can stich the earth with sky by an arrow,

Even bronth yus dushman tas che galan

Any enemy coming in their way gets destroyed


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Srinagar, 1950s

Photographs of Srinagar city by Douglas Waugh (for what seems to have been a series on 'modes of transportation' and covering almost all of India).  Came across these at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries - AGSL Digital Photo Archive. The photographs are dated 'not after 1964/63' but I believe these are from late 1950s. I have added (with help from family) location to some of the photographs. Take a peek. Rewind.

You may see all the photographs from the series at the archive here.

Gucci/Kani'ghitch, the famous Kashmiri mushroom

Finally managed to get my hands on the famous Kashmiri mushroom, known in Kashmir as 'kani'ghitch' and in rest of the world as 'Gucci', the one that is believed to be found only on high mountain tops but only by one who is white of heart and/or dark of skin. The morel mushrooms sell at a rate almost at par with Gold. Eating it is almost like eating gold. I tell my father this must be the first time even he has held them. He gives me a 'You crazy! your magaz dalmit!' look and says,'You have had them before. When you were a kid, I bought them once from Handwara.'

These he bought from someone in Kistawar. The rate there is relatively less.

A Kilogram of these go for around Rs. 26000 in Jammu

kani ghitch
Smaller in size. These go for around Rs. 15000 a Kilogram in Jammu.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kashmir Lithographs, 1840

From 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo ' (1840), G.T. Vigne's book about his travels in Kashmir in 1835.

Char Chinari

Costume of a Kashmirian Lady

Masjid of Deodar, at the entrance of the Valley by Shopian Road

Inside Mattan Sun Temple

Great Hindu Tempe of Martund

View of the Jhelum in the interior of the city of Kashmir

Distant view of Srinagar or the City of Kashmir, lying between the Fort and the Tukh-i-Suliman with the Land and the Isle of Chunars and the mountain of Harmukh in the distance.

Wonderful note about the above image by Man Mohan Munshi Ji via email:
 This a very interesting Sketch of Srinagar, Kashmir and nearby mountains as
 viewed from Trasr (Charar.) The spur on the extreme right in the foreground
is  the Pandrethan /Badami Bagh ridge and darker isolated hill in it's
immediate vicinity is the Gopadri - Shankracharya Hill and the gap between
the two is the two is Gupkar the site of Karan Palace. A smaller lighter
coloured hill on the left side is the Hariparbat.The white patch between
the two hills is the Dal lake. The mountain in the background  on the right
is the Zabarwan- Sureshwati ridge. The one on its left is the Saraba Hill
 extending from Mahadeo towards Ganderbal. In between the Zabarwan and
Sarabal ridge is the Dachigam valley /Sanctuary. The Hill on the extreme
left  in the background is the North Kashmir Range with Haramukh peak not
clearly visible


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Map of Chenab and Jhelam Valleys, 1913

from 'Provincial Geographies of India' (1913)


Map of the Kingdom of Kashmir, 1895

Harihar Kalyan - Shiv Lagun by Krishna Razdan,1938

Man Mohan Munshi Ji shares these pages from 'Harihar Kalyan - Shiv Lagun' by Krishna Razdan (c 1850-1925, village Vanpoh) published in 1995 Bikarmi (1938). At the end I am adding the interesting entry for this book given in Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (1988).

Title cover of the book 
Ganesh Leela 'Omkara roop chuk Sarva'
Shiv Leela'Sat Chat annanda amrit chavtum'
Krishan Leela
Patmeeshwar Purno '
Vishnu Leela
'Madha Kant marvaney  Vesh Darvaney'
Ashta Dasbazi Devi leela'Sumran Chaney sari Paaph hari Hari Parbatch Hari Yay'

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gyan Prakash, Kashmiri Leelas, 1949

Man Mohan Munshi Ji shares some more from his treasures. These are pages from a collection of Kashmiri Leelas published under the title  'Gyan Prakash'. This was the third edition of the book published in 2006 Bikarmi (1949).

Title Cover

First Leela

A Hindi Leela

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kashmiri Shreemad Bhagvad Geeta by Pandit Krishan Joo Dhar, 1932

 Man Mohan Munshi Ji shares pages from Kashmiri Shreemad Bhagvad Geeta written in 1989 Bikarmi (1932) by Krishan Joo Dhar (D. 1974).


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In winters
a woman
arrives in city
She walks house to house
door to door
Claiming to be a Hindu
a Pandit
Out she asks for money
For Poor Children.
To Feed.

On some days
some they pay
But not before they hear
a sad story or two

Then on some days
she runs into
some other Kashmiris
In their offices, apartments and bungalows
'But how can that be!'
They exclaim.
They think.
'It happened wayback in 90s.'

And so they ask her
for a proof

Now, if you be a pandit
sing us a leela
in Kashmiri, if you can
any shall do.

The woman
taking a deep breath
holds it for a minute or two
and then bursts croaking
Shiva Shiva Shiva
Shiva Shiva Shiva
Shiva Shiva Shiva

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pencil sketches of Kashmir, 1895

Pencil sketches of Kashmir by David McCormick from his book 'An artist in the Himalayas' (1895)


boats at Chinar Bagh

Evening in Chinar Bagh

Dal Lake

On the Jhelum



Towing up the Jhelam


Women Pounding Grain



Coolies at Burzil

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