Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maps, 1891

From 'The Earth and Its Inhabitants, Asia, Volume 3' (1891) by Elisée Reclus. [The universal geography : earth and its inhabitants ([1876-94]) V8]

Map of Srinagar. Names of some of the place are hard to identify with present Srinagar. Suggestion and corrections are welcome.[Update: some input from Yaseen Tuman on Facebook page of the blog:
road from Saidakadal bridge to Ashaibagh is no where
Amdakadal is exactly where Sadrebal is today
Sodarbal has to be corrected with Naushahar
Map of Jammu

Some other

Zoji La Pass [Based on a photograph by Samuel Bourne, 1864]

Srinagar Bridge

Map of Kashmir


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rozbal, Khanyar, 1946

Probably 1930s.

Found it in 'The tomb of Jesus' by Mutiur Rahman Bengalee (1946). Bengalee was the guy who took the Ahmediya movement to North America in the 1930s.


Updatex the old post with the image: Origin of Fantastical tales about Yus Asaf of Rozbal also known as Jesus of Kashmir

First Rambo in Kashmir, 1947

Life Magazine. 16 Feb, 1948.

An american construction company employed a 25 year old ex-G.I. from Brooklyn named Russell K. Haight Jr. who during World War 2 had been a non-combatant in France fighting for Canadian Army. After a fall from a cliff, he decided to head back home.But a chance encounter with officials operating the war in Kashmir took him to the Poonch front in southwestern Kashmir where he took part in fighting for two months. At that time all he knew was that Kashmir had a Dogra king and he didn't like that.

With his american no-fuss attitude he was soon promoted to brigradier general in the tribal army, a rank he later claimed was given to him as a joke by British army officers. On the front he learnt to handle the maundering and looting tribals by playing upon their vanities and tribal rivalries.

But his big american dream of action-adventure did not last long. He got into a fight with Pathans over some machine guns recovered from a downed Indian Air Force place. He killed the guys and became a fugitive. After arriving back in America via Karachi, in an interview with  Robert Turnball for New York Times*,
he created a few ripples by claiming that the fighting in Kashmir was managed by Pakistan Army, that the land proclaimed as Azad Kashmir was managed by a puppet of Pakistan. That there had been assasination attempts on his life for criticizing the way the war was being handled. And yet he remained sympathetic to the "cause".

After the news spread, a communist paper in India claimed him to be an american spy and proof of American meddling in internal affairs of other countries.Around the same time an american author from New York named Nicol Smith (Golden doorway to Tibet, 1949) claimed there was some pro-Russia activity happening in Leh, that the Yarkhandi traders in Leh may be Russian agents. He claimed that there was a chance that the king of Leh may seek help from Russia and seek a separate way out. The old great game just kept going on with old and new players.

In 1967, Russell K. Haight retired from U.S. army as a sergeant-major after a long career of fighting in Korea, Germany, Bolivia and Vietnam.

After he passed away in 2006, there was small news item in an Indian paper on the american man who fought for the other side.


*The Limits of influence: America's Role in Kashmir by Howard B. Schaffer (2009)

Monday, October 29, 2012

[...] the system of the colonial rule that indulges in inhuman exploitation by imposing an artificial peace in the society:

Ghoom rahi sabhyata danavi, shanti-shanti karti bhootal mein,
Poochhey koi, bhigo rahi wah kyon apne vishdant garal mein.
Tank rahi hon sooyi charm, par shant rahen ham, tanik na dolen;
Yehi shanti, gardan katthi hon, par hum apni jeebh na kholen.
Bolein kuchh mat kshudhit, rotiyan shwan chin khayen yadi kar se,
Yehi shanti, jab we aayen, hum nikal jaayen chupke nij ghar se
Choos rahe hon danuj rakth, par hon mat dalit prabudh kumari!
Ho na kahin pratikaar paap ka, shanti ya ki yeh yudhh kumari.

(The monster civilization moves, urging peace on the earth,
Let's ask, why does it soak its teeth in poison.
You sew up our skin, but desire peace and no resistance from us
This is the peace, where necks are severed, but expects us to be tongue-tied.
The hungry should remain voiceless, even if the falcon snatches food from their hands
This is the peace, where when they invade, we should quietly leave our homes
The monsters may be sucking their blood, but don't want the oppressed to be conscious
They do not want injustice to be resisted; for you, O maiden, either this peace or war.)

~ from 'Ramdhari Singh Dinkar: Makers of Indian Literature', Sahitya Akademi.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

anomalous dreams of paradise

Elliot Jacoby & His Orchestra - Kashmiri Moon (1928)


'Chinna Chinna Kannile' from Tamil film 'Then Nilavu' (1961)


'Tu Navtaruni Kashmiri' from Marathi film Madhuchandra (1967)

'Chakkani chukkala' from Telgu film Pasivadi Pranam (1987)


Friday, October 26, 2012

Laksmi Narayana on Garuda, Zeithyar

Damaged image of Laksmi-Narayana, seated on Garuda, 9th cent. A.D., Zeithyar (Srinagar)
From 'Vaishava Art and Iconography of Kashmir' (1996) by Bansi Lal Malla

Below: Something I randomly clicked back in 2008 at Zeethyar because I found the setting interesting.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Akus Bakus Ad

video link

Imagine walking into a bank about your existing account and the guy behind the counter asking you questions like: Tell me who that guy in the corner is? Do you know who I am? Now, tell me who are you?

A kashmiri would probably run out of the bank saying, 'ye bank hasa gov dheg'he dyun layak.'

Akus Bakus/Okus Bakus is a non-sensical childrens' ditty that most Kashmiri Pandit children of a certain era grew up on, and probably still do, playing a certain little game in group with their fingers. Most words don't mean anything. But these words evolved from hukus bukus telli wann che kus (Who’s he? Who am I? Now, tell me who are you?) by Lal Ded, the great poet-saint of 14th century Kashmir, who can rightly be credited for giving birth to modern Kashmiri language.


I don't know the number in the state but I think the big shots waking up to the emerging tier-2 market at the borders. Kashmir is suddenly the in thing. Some ads from recent years certainly point to this.

I think the first one was the Tata Nano Ad from 2010 that had definitive Kashmiri music with Rabaab and all. video link

Then there was Visa Ad from earlier this year with the definitive Kashmiri talking in Hindi Ad. The accent was made mainstream (or maybe parallel stream) decades ago by M.K. Raina and K.K. Raina.


And now some native ads

Saturday, October 20, 2012

First Football Game in Kashmir, 1891

A photograph from National Geographic Magazine, Vol 40, 1921

It was in the autumn of 1891 , when I returned from Bombay with Mrs Tyndale-Biscoe, that amongst our luggage we brought a football, the first that our school-boys had seen. I remember well the pleasure with which I brought that first football to the school, and the vision that I had of the boys' eagerness to learn this new game from the West. Well, I arrived at the school, and at a fitting time held up this ball to their view, but alas ! it aroused no such interest or pleasure as I had expected.
" What is this ? " said they. 
" A football," said I. 
" What is the use of it ? " 
"For playing with. It is an excellent game, and will help to make you strong." 
" Shall we gain any rupees by playing it ? " 
" No." 
" Then we do not wish to play the game. What is it made of?" 
" Leather." 
" Then we cannot play ; we cannot touch it. Take it away, for it is unholy to our touch." 
You will see that matters had not turned out as my optimism had led me to expect. 

" All right," said I. " Rupees or no rupees, holy or unholy, you are going to play football this afternoon at three-thirty, so you had better learn the rules at once." And immediately, with the help of the blackboard, I was able to instruct them as to their places on the field, and the chief points and rules of the game. 

Before the end of school I perceived that there would be trouble, so I called the teachers together and explained to them my plans for the afternoon. They were to arm themselves with single-sticks, picket the streets leading from the school to the playground, and prevent any of the boys escaping en route. Everything was ready, so at three o'clock the porter had orders to open the school gate. The boys poured forth, and I brought up the rear with a hunting-crop. Then came the trouble ; for once outside the school compound they thought they were going to escape; but they were mistaken. We shooed them down the streets like sheep on their way to the butcher's. Such a dirty, smelling, cowardly crew you never saw. All were clothed in the long nightgown sort of garment I have described before, each boy carrying a fire-pot under his garment and so next to his body.' This heating apparatus has from time immemorial taken the place of healthy exercise.

We dared not drive them too fast for fear of their tripping up (as several of them were wearing clogs) and falling with their fire-pots, which would have prevented their playing football for many days to come. 

At length we are safely through the city with a goodly crowd following and arrive at the playground. Sides are made up, the ground is cleared and ready, the ball is in the centre, and all that remains is for the whistle to start the game. 

The whistle is blown, but the ball does not move. 

Thinking that the boys had not understood my order, I tell them again to kick off the ball immediately after hearing the whistle. I blow again, but with no result. I notice that the boys are looking at one another and at the crowd of spectators with unmistakable signs of fear and bewilderment on their faces. 

On my asking them the cause, they say : " We cannot kick this ball, for it is an unholy ball and we are holy Brahmans." I answer them by taking out my watch and giving them five minutes to think over the situation : at the expiration of the time, I tell them, something will happen if the ball does not move. We all wait in silence, an ominous silence. The masters armed with their single-sticks are at their places behind the goals. 

Time is just up, and I call out : " Five seconds left — four — three — two — one. Kick ! " The ball remains stationary ! My last card had now to be played, and I shout towards the right and left goals : " Sticks ! " 

Sticks won the day, for as soon as the boys see the sticks coming the ball bounds in the air, the spell is broken, and all is confusion. Puggarees are seen streaming yards behind the players, entangling their legs; their shoes and clogs leave their feet as they vainly try to kick the ball, and turn round and round in the air like Catherine wheels descending on any and everybody's head. The onlookers who have followed us from the city are wildly excited, for they have never in their lives before seen anything like it — holy Kashmiri Brahman boys (in dirty nightgowns) tumbling over one another, using hands and legs freely to get a kick at a leather ball. 

Well, as I said before, all was noise and excitement, when all of a sudden the storm is succeeded by a dead calm: the game ceases, the Brahmans, both players and  onlookers, are all sucking their fingers for all they are worth (a Kashmiri way of showing amazement), and all eyes are turned towards one of the players who is a picture of misery. And no wonder, for this unholy piece of leather had bounded straight into this holy one's face, had actually kissed his lips. He had never before in his life felt the smack of a football, and certainly never dreamed of such a catastrophe. He thought all his front teeth were knocked out and that his nose was gone for ever. He would touch his mangled (?) features, but he dared not. Once or twice he essayed to do so, but his heart failed him. His face was defiled, so that he could not do what he would, and would not do what he could. He did the next best thing, which was to lift up his voice and weep, and this he did manfully. This moment was a terrible one for all concerned, and especially for me, for now all eyes were directed to the primary cause of all this misery. 

What was I to do? I was not prepared for such a turn of events. I could " shoo " an unwilling school to the playground, I could make unwilling feet kick, but how could I make an unholy face holy ? Fortunately the idea of water came into my distracted mind, and I said : " Take the fool down to the canal at once and wash him." Immediately the thoughts and the eyes of the victim's sympathisers were diverted to the cleansing waters and their magical effect on the outraged features of the body. On their return I placed the ball again in the centre, blew my whistle and the ball was kicked off. All was excitement once more, and the game was played with enthusiasm until I called "Time!" 

Everyone left the field and scattered to various parts of the city, to tell their parents and neighbours of the great "tamasha" they had witnessed or in which they had taken part. The remarks made about me and the school in their homes over their curry and rice that night were, I expect, not all favourable. 

I have been told more than twice that I behaved in an un-Christian like manner, and that I had no business to force football or any other game upon boys. against their will. 

Well, we cannot all see alike, and it is just as well that we cannot, otherwise Rome would never have been built and there would not be much progress on this terrestrial sphere. That game introduced the leather ball to Srinagar and to the holy Brahman who lives therein, and although for the first year my presence was a necessity at every game, football came to stay. 

Now all the various schools in the city have their football teams, and in all parts of the city you see boys playing this game with a make-shift for a football. 

This year I watched an inter-class match, most keenly contested, the referee being not a teacher but a schoolboy. His decision was not once disputed, nor was there any altercation between any of the players ; it was a truly sporting game. 

~ Kashmir in sunlight &shade; a description of the beauties of the country, the life, habits, and humour of its inhabitants and an account of the gradual but steady rebuilding of a once down-trodden people (1922) by C. E. Tyndale Biscoe


This was a time when football was first introduced by emissaries of Raj to far off places like Afghanistan and Tibet too. What is interesting in the description of the event provided by Biscoe is the powerful consciousness on part of the missionary that he was irreversibly changing the social mores of the natives. And according to him, for the better and forever. He was building Rome. Rome or no Rome, he did add a new chapter to how Pandits assimilated some new things from Missionaries too. But the path, as often is the case of evolution of a society or a community, wasn't as smooth as one would like to believe now.

While C. E. Tyndale Biscoe would have one believe that after initial reluctance Kashmiris wholeheartedly gave up their Pherans and Pugrees and started playing football, in a photograph published in National Geographic Magazine (top) just around that time, we can see kids playing football with their Pugrees and some even in the beloved pheran. The truth is that the acceptance of strict missionary ways wasn't accepted by purist Pandits without giving a tough fight. Pandits employed all kind of tactics as a way to block the path of missionaries. It was almost modern warfare that included media blitz, calling for support from mainstream Hindu Nationalist leaders and employing age old Kashmiri technique of giving nasty nicknames to people who were siding with the Missionaries. The National Geographic Magazine tells us that these Pandits were nicknamed Rice Christians, or 'Batte Christain', one who converted to Christianity for rice. Much late, when communism arrived in Kashmir, the term was modified and became 'Batte Communist' or 'Rice Communist', for one who claimed to be a communist for discount in Rice rations (this was probably around 1950s of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad). Also, around this time moniker Kari was coined for people who were suspected to have changed religion to Christianity.

The above photograph from 'Character Building in Kashmir' (1920)' has Biscoe boys dragging a "dead dog". The story:

Around that time often leading the social attacks on Biscoe school were Brahmins and the supporters of other "more normal" schools including ones that had the backing of Mrs. Annie Besant, of theosophical fame, who opened Hindu School, on the other bank just opposite the CMS school near the third bridge of Srinagar. Often local Newspapers were filled with News snippets targeting the school and its way of functioning. In one such news story, the paper claimed that Mr. Biscoe made Brahmin boys drag dead dogs through the city. Strange as the news may seem, Mr. Biscoe's response was equally typical. He writes in his book 'Character Building in Kashmir' (1920):

Many of the native papers had done us the honour of telling their readers what they thought of us, and gave accounts of what had not, as well as of what had, happened chiefly the former. For many of the Indian papers greedily swallow the lies made red hot in Srinagar. One of the yarns that appeared is worth quoting :
" Mr. Biscoe, principal of the Church mission school in Srinagar, makes his Brahman boys drag dead dogs through the city."
This " spicy " bit of news took our fancy, and we thought it a pity that one of these yarns at least should not be founded upon something tangible, so we decided to help the editor of the paper in this matter.
We possessed an obedient dog, a spaniel, who was in the habit of "dying" for his friends when required to do so. The rest of the cast was quite easy a party of boys, a rope, and a photographer. The obedient spaniel died, and remained dead while we tied a rope to his hind leg, and placed the boys in position on the rope for the photographer to snap.
So henceforward if ever we find a citizen disbelieving Srinagar yarns, especially those spun against the schools, we can produce this photograph to show that one at least of their stories is true. Papers may err, but cameras never (?).

In one of the still more strange case, Pandits even sought help from Vivekananda on the matter when he arrived in Kashmir in around 1897. Although not naming him directly, Biscoe in 'Kashmir in sunlight &shade' writes about Pandits asking a certain Sadhu to intervene in their favor. This man he describes as, "A certain yellow-robed and much-travelled Sadhu" who "visited Kashmir with his cheelas." and "had travelled in Europe and America, and was highly educated." Based on the description and chronology of the events this man has to be Vivekananda. What followed was that initially this Sadhu favoured the Pandits but later after talking to Biscoe and seeing his school and work, he did a u-turn and advised pandits to send their children to Biscoe.

And yet the Pandit hatred for Biscoe, this man who was challenging their way of life, didn't subside. They didn't understand all this strange business of swimming, rowing, mountaineering, cricket, cleaning street and rivers. They expected the school to just to teach their children maths and essential skills that will help them get a government jobs. But they saw that Biscoe was in-effect changing their children into little Europeans. And he was doing it with a certain brashness. If children drowned while rowing in Wular, Biscoe believed that other children would readily filled their place. He believed in football and its power to change a society. But the ripples that his little experiment was causing in the Kashmiri society can be gauged from writings of Biscoe's son  E. D. Tyndale-Biscoe. In his book  'Fifty years against the stream. The story of a school in Kashmir' (1930)* he writes that the children in order to avoid football would often puncture the ball and their parents would shoot off angry letter's to CMS headquaters in London. One of the letter read like this:

"We, the inhabitants - Hindus and Muhamadans of Kashmir - want this, that if Mr. Biscoe is allowed to remain in Kashmir as a Principal of the school, not a single boy will attend it, and the Society will have to close it for good. Therefore, please sir, transfer Mr. Biscoe for his is exceedingly a bad man, illiterate, deceitful, ill-mannered, uncultured, cunning, and a man too fond of cricket."

And yet Biscoe stayed on, building his little roman empire in Kashmir, little by little, with diligent social work and an unshakable faith in his unconventional methods.

* Mentioned in 'Confronting the Body: The Politics of Physicality in Colonial and Post, edited by James H Mills, Satadru Sen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Music and Images, rare

Update: I had shared the entire album 'Kashmir: Traditional Songs And Dances. Vol II, 1974' on Mediafire, but they seem to have recently removed it from their server ( possibly due to copyright thingy). Now my problem is: I had the album on my computer, but then I lost my all data last month thanks to a hard disk crash. I had it on my phone but I lost my phone too a couple of months back. But I really want it back. Last I checked at least 100 people had downloaded it. I would be thankful if someone would be kind enough share it back with me.

video link
A bunch of rare vintage Kashmir photographs, most of them already posted at this blog. The music is an instrumental piece from David Lewiston's 'Kashmir: Traditional Songs And Dances. Vol II' recorded in Srinagar in 1976. I had been searching for this album for a longtime and finally found in the archives of Tonal Bride. Mohanlal Aima was one of the consultants for this incredible album which among others had performances by legendary artists like Muhammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal and Zoon Begum.

The only Mohanlal Aima track in this album is a wedding song. Download the album here [mediafire link]. His more famous work 'Bumbro Bumbro' can be found on Kashmir: Traditional Songs And Dances. Vol I recorded by David Lewiston in 1974. This album one is still not available.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trash for Icicle God, 1921

"Inside the sacred cave of Amernath
In this rocky recess the devout pilgrims strip off their cloths and throw themselves naked on the blocks of ice which here form lingams, phallic emblems symbolic of Siva, the re-creator. The ice mound to the right is covered with the clothing of the pilgrims."

From National Geographic Magazine, Vol 40, 1921.

People have been trashing the place historically for a long time. Trashing is like some kind of tantric ritual there. So, people be allowed to do so in future too. Case dismissed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jump, the angreez bai are here!


A funny little tale from Biscoe about what happened when girls first started attending English schools in Kashmir:

"It was somewhere in the nineties that one of the mission ladies started a girl school in the city; it was of course by no means popular, as it shocked the prejudices of all proper thinking folk in Srinagar. The girls who were brave enough to attend were very timid, and their parents were somewhat on the shake, as public opinion was very much against them. The school continued until the first prize day. The Superintendent had invited some of the European ladies of the station to come to the function, thinking it would be an encouragement to the girls and their parents. All the girls were assembled in the school when, on the appearance of the English lady visitors, some one in the street shouted out that the Europeans had come to kidnap the girls. Others took up the cry, and ran to the school windows and told the girls to escape by jumping from the windows, the man below catching them as they fell. Before the visitors could enter the school the scholars had literally flown; the girls of course lost their heads on account of the shouting from the street. It was terrible moment for the Superintendent as she saw her girls disappear out of the windows, for she feared that they would be damaged by the fall. It is said that one of the lady visitors was wearing rather a wonderful hat which upset the equilibrium of the citizens who were standing outside the school"

~ C.E. Tyndale Biscoe, Kashmir in Sunlight & Shade (1925)

Summer, 2008


Sunday, October 14, 2012

kuja boodi, kahan tha, kati osukh

Kashmiri Bakery, 2008

Kuja boodi, kahan tha, kati osukh?
Dere tha, khana boodam, gari osus.
Chi khordi,kya khyot, kya khaya?
Du nano, do rotian, tsochi jorah.

Where were you?
At home.
What did you eat.
Couple of loaves.

One of the tri-lingual ditties developed by Kashmiri pandits in old days to learn Persian. I think I have often heard parts of it from my grandfather, but always employed in humorous situations, he would say, Kuja boodi Tau Tau (Kuja boodi Blah Blah).  

Found the complete ditty in 'Kashmiri Pandit Community: A Profile' by Triloki Nath Dhar.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tagore's Balaka

Habba Kadal, 2008
"I was in Kashmir. One evening, I sat by the River Jhelum. There was stillness all around. I felt I was sitting besides the Padma. Of course, when I lived on the Padma I was a young man, now I am old. Yet that difference seemed to have been wiped out by some link transcending time. A flock of geese flew over my head across Jhelum...I seemed to hear some ineffable call, and be led by its impulse to some far journey." (Kshitimohan Sen, Balaka-Kabya-Parikrama,p.55)

A Flight of Swans

The curving stream of the Jhelum glimmering in the glow of evening
merged into the dark like a bend sword in a sheath;
at the day's ebb the night-tide
appeared with the star-flowers floating on the dark waters;
at the foot of the dark mountains were rows of deodar trees;
as if Creation, unable to speak clearly, sought to reveal its message in dream,
only heaps of inarticulate sounds rose groaning in the dark.
Suddenly I heard at that moment in the evening sky
the flash of sound rushing instantly far and farther in the plain of emptiness.
O flying swans
Storm-intoxicated are your wings
the loud laughter of immeasurable joy awakened wonder
which continued to dance in the sky.
The sounds of those wings,
the sounding heavenly nymphs
vanished after breaking the quiet of meditation.
The mountains, engulfed in darkness, shuddered,
shuddered the forest of deodar.
As if the message of those wings
brought for a moment the urge for movement
in the heart of ecstatic stillness.
The mountains desired to be roaming clouds of April,
the rows of trees spreading their wings,
desirous of severing the fetters of earth, were lost in a trice,
while in search of the end of the sky following that trail of sound.
The dream of this evening is shattered.
The waves of agony rise.
There is longing for the far,
O roaming wings.
In the heart of the universe is heard the agonized cry,
'Not here, not here, but somewhere else!'
O flying swans,
tonight you have opened to me the covers of stillness.
under this quiet I hear
in air, water and land
those sounds of the undaunted and restless wings.
The heaps of grass are flapping their wings in the sky of the earth;
in some dark obscure corner of the earth
millions of sprouting swans of seeds are flapping their wings.
Today I see these mountains, these forests fly freely
from one island to another, from the unknown to the more unknown.
In the beating of the wings of the stars
the darkness starts crying for the light.
I hear the myriad voices of men flying in different groups to
unknown regions
from the shadowy past to the hazy and distant new age.
In my heart I heard the flight of the nest-free bird with innumerable
through day and night, through light and darkness
from one unknown shore to some other unknown shore.
The wings of the empty universe resound with this song -
'Not here, but somewhere, somewhere, somewhere beyond!'

Translated by Bhupendranath Seal (Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology, Volume 3)

 "It is becoming easier for me to feel that it is I who bloom in flowers, spread in the grass, flow in the water, scintillate in the stars, live in the lives of men of all ages.
When I sit in the morning outside on the deck of my boat,before the majestic purple of the mountains, crowned with the morning light. I know that I am eternal, that I am anado-rupam, My true form is not that of flesh or blood, but of joy. In the world where we habitually live, the self is so predominant that everything in it is of our own making and we starve because we have to feed ourselves. To know truth is to become true, there is no other way. When we live in the self, it is not possible for us to realize truth.
[...] My coming to Kashmir has helped me to know clearly what I want. It is likely that it will become obscured again when I go back to my usual routine; but these occasional detachments of life from the usual round of customary thoughts and occupations lead to the final freedom - the Santan, Sivam, Advaitam."
 ~ extracts from a letter written by Rabindranath Tagore in Srinagar, Kashmir on October 12th, 1915. [A Miscellany by Rabindranath Tagore]

searching for Ptolemy's Kasperia in old hellenic maps

Another failed attempt to find Ptolemy's Kasperia in old hellenic maps.
Asian cut from 'A Map of the Entire World According to the Traditional Method of Ptolemy and Corrected with Other Lands of Amerigo Vespucci' by Martin Waldseemüller's 1507. [available here]. This was the first map that depicted a world separated by Pacific ocean.
Note to self: do not try it again for sometime. It can drive one mad.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guru Nanak Roff

A painting of Guru Nanak and his followers done in Kashmiri style.
Early 19th century. [Kashmiri Painting by Karuna Goswamy, 1998]

A couple of months back I found my Bua singing these lines to herself. We were preparing for my sister's wedding, it was late at night, we were having a group singing session, like Kashmiris do, striking a spoon on metal platse and  kids beating an odd tumbakhnaer out of beat, everyone singing a song of their choice, often all at the same time. Hindi songs. Kashmiri songs. General fun. In this happy melee, I found my Bua singing some very odd lines. It was obvious she didn't know the entire song as she kept repeating the same line over and over.

The lines went like this:

Guru Nanak yelli pyau thannay 

Zool kari'tyav
Heri'tay Bon'yay

A Kashmiri song referring to birth celebration of Guru Nanak. Roughly translated the lines mean:

The day Guru Nanak
was born
We light up our
from top
to bottom

Intrigued, much later I asked her more about the song. She said she danced to it when she was in Matric. Back in 1976 a bunch of girls of Katleshwar School danced Roff, traditional Kashmiri dance, to these lines.


Monday, October 8, 2012

road to Shalimar, 1952

From 'The road to Shalimar' by Carveth Wells, 1952.

H.M.S. Pinafore.
This one too is still around 
Sher Garhi palace. Built by Afghan governor Ameer Jawan Sher Qizilbash.
Later became palace of Dogras. 

Destroyed in fire, I believe, in late 1970s.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hafiz Nagma

video link
Directed by Hamid Bala. A re-enactment of Hafiz Nagma set to love lyrics popular among Pandits as a Bhajan 'Harmokh Bartal' and believed to be dedicated to Shiva for reference to Harmukh mountain. A similar attempt at re-enactment was made in early 1980s.


In 1920s, Hafiz Nagma was banned in Kashmir by the ruling Dogra Maharaja. The Ruler felt that this dance form was losing its sufi touch and was becoming too sensual, debased and hence judged by him as amoral for the society.  It's place was taken up by Bach'a Nagma, or the boy dancer, much like Bacha bazi of Afghanistan, although Kashmiri would claim minus the nasty exploitation bits.  

A page from a government of India publication on Kashmir, 1955


Dancing girl of Kashmir by Mortimer Menpes, 1902-3

Houseboating in Kashmir,1934

Photographs from 'Houseboating in Kashmir' (1934) by Alberta Johnston Denis.

Nagbal, Anantnag
(Thanks to a reader on facebook)

Yarkhand Serai near Safa Kadal

Long Mulford (houseboat no 278) is still around in Srinagar. Owner of the boat at the time was Mohammed Khan Kashi.

~ Maqbool Shah (d. 1877)
American Soldier, Vaden Carney and British Censorship officer, Pam Rumboldr on Shankracharya. 1943. Photographer: William Vandivert. From Life Magazine.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rama, Rama recited Shekh Sana

Rama Rama paryav Shekh Sanahantay
henzimokha lob tami yar
but polun Koran zoluntay
vantay lo hay lo

~ Poet, Blacksmith Wahab Khar, (b. 1842).

J.L. Kaul in his book 'Kashmiri Lyrics' (1945), translates the lines as:

Shekh Sana recited the name of Rama,
And in an Indian girl he found his Love,
He worshipped an idol and burnt the Koran.
Sing hey ho for joy!
Who was this Shekh Sana? Why is the translation peppered with geography? The book offers no details. Well,  that's not enough for me.

First, this is how I read it:

Rama, Rama
recited Shekh Sana
in face of a girl
he found love
He raised an idol
and burnt Koran
O, sing this song!

One would read these lines now and think reference to Koran burning, by a Muslim, is what stands out about these line. But actually what is happening in these lines is really beautiful.

Shekh Sana of these lines is (also) the hero of an Azerbaijanian qissa of Sheikh Sanan,* the man who fell fatally in love with a Georgian-Christian girl, Khumar. In this love story, Khumar's father agrees to give his daughter to Sanan if he agrees to raise pigs and burn Koran. Sanan agrees, and yet the lovers die, pointing out the fallacy of all religions. Now, the beauty. Later, when this tragedy is transported by Wahab Khar to Kashmir, the poet has the hero recite name of Hindu god Rama and raise idols. Still later, when the same Kashmiri lines are later translated in English by a Pandit, the heroine becomes an Indian. Still much later, when I read those Kashmiri lines and translations, I have to spend hours just to get the context.

There is a alternative Kashmiri version in Shekh Sana of Mahmud Gami (1750-1855). In this version Shekh has a reawakening of  faith after an intervention by his friends and followers. In the end, the woman breaks her idols and accepts Islam.

The dame in clear submission
Gave up her pride and low passion.
The Sheikh then taught her the lessons of his creed,
And made her the "Kalima" of unity read.

[Tr. by Gulshan Majid, Medieval Indian literature: An Anthology Volume 2, Edited by K. Ayyappa Paniker]

It seems such creative interventions in folklores were not a exception around that time but a trend. In an alternative version of popular Kashmiri folktale of Heemaal Naagiraay put to Kashmiri masanavi form by Wali Ullah Motoo (d 1858), a contemporary of Mahmood Gami, Naagiraay is presented as a Muslim disguised as a Kafir, a Hindu. In this version after Heemaal and Naagiraay burn to ashes, a fakir from Madina restores the two bodies from ashes and then the bodies are buried according to Muslim ritual.


In his biographical piece on life and work of Mahmud Gami, Muzaffar Aazim mentions that Gami's Shekh Sana was based on a plot from a Persian work by Sheikh Attar (145-1146 - c. 1221) titled Manteq-ut-Tair [The conference of the bird, a Sufi allegory in which a pack of birds go looking for the mystical Simurgh]. This is the original source of the love story of Shekh Sana and Khumar. In this work the woman was a sun-worshiper and in Gami's Kashmiri version the girl is a Hindu with a tilak on her face when Shekh Sana first sees her and falls in love.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lost in Space

"Moving east, high over the "roof of the world" - the Himalayas - Conrad remembers saying to himself,
"Why must men fight each other instead of enjoying the bounty and beauty of the world?" these are the
snow capped peaks - including K2 (28, 250 feet), world's second highest mountain - in the extreme
north section of Indian Kashmir on the ill-defined India-China border. China invaded India in 1962
in a dispute over border claims in the area; now India and Pakistan are fighting 150 miles to the south."
Kashmir from Space.
Life. 24 Sept, 1965.

One might look at this and wonder: which one is Dal Lake? Which one is Wular? Is that Jhelum?

Here's the fun part. None of them are there. Even K2 (mentioned in the article) isn't there. It isn't even capturing Kashmir as we know it.  These photographs were taken by Gemini 5 in 1965. Although the accompanying  article doesn't mention the details. Here are the details (thanks to Google Earth): These photographs were shot while they were over Tibet ('the roof of the world') and the region known as Aksai Chin (where the fighting was and where famously "not a blade of a grass grows"). The lakes seen here (from bottom to top) are:
1. Bangongcuo Lake, Tibet
2. Ze Cuo lake at the foot of Zangqung Kangri , Tibet
3. Surigh-yilganing-Kol Lake, Lingzi Thang plains in Aksai-Chin


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