Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Marc Aurel Stein: Illustrated Rājataraṅgiṇī

Stein's edition of the Sanskrit text of Rājataraṅgiṇī appeared in 1892 and his two volume annotated translations in 1900. It was his monumental contribution to study of Kashmir, a place which meant much to him.

Over the next few decades, many more people added their own findings to the study of Rājataraṅgiṇī.

In 1920s, in light of new findings, the idea of publishing an updated and corrected new edition of Rājataraṅgiṇī took root in Steins mind. But this was going to be an even more ambitious undertaking. Over the next two decades, Stein planned and worked on his 'Illustrated Rājataraṅgiṇī'.

In his various letters, he talked about this work:

"The desire here expressed for providing by graphic reproduction an important aid for the student of the Chronicle has been a special inducement to me for undertaking this re-issue of my work. The illustrations of ancient sites, ruined structures, etc., which figure in Kalhana's narrative, have with a few exceptions been reproduced from photographs I was able to take myself on a tour from October-November 1940. Apart from the pleasure it afforded me of revisiting familiar scenes in surroundings and climatic conditions exceptionally favoured by nature, it offered the welcome opportunity of testing the accuracy of impressions and surveys dating back in many places to close on half a century."

But then in 1943, Stein died and the fate of this mammoth work of human diligence was unknown and uncertain. It was believed to be unfinished and lost.

Then in  2011, while going through the Stein archives kept in western Manuscripts Collection of Bodleian Library at Oxford, Luther Obrock, came across the almost final draft of 'Illustrated Rājataraṅgiṇī'. Among other things, the document provided an incomplete handwritten list of photographs to be included in the final book. Obrock was able to trace the photographs in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest and the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

'Marc Aurel Stein: Illustrated Rājataraṅgiṇī' was now possible.

In foreword to the work, Obrock writes:

"This book reproduced those photographs with the title mentioned in the dated list. I was able to trace the vast majority of the photographs mentioned, however it must be noted that Stein's photograph list contained in the Western Manuscripts collection of the Bodleian is incomplete. Stein merely listed some place names as "take" or left the space next to a page number blank. Perhaps another more complete list of the photograph exists, but I have been unable to locate it in either Budapest or Oxford. I have listed the untraced and unspecified photographs or sites in an appendix. I have further decided to include only those photographs Stein positively identified with references in order to give an approximation of his vision of an Illustrated Rājataraṅgiṇī. "

In the book, the photographs occur in the sequence in which the various places are mentioned in Kalhana's work. Not only places, in most of the photographs you can see how people (unknown, unidentified) were interacting with the places too. Stein's work had had an impact on Kashmiris too, a lot of these places were getting reclaimed.

Some photographs from the book:

First five are from Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the last one is from British Academy and the Bodleian Library, The University of Oxford.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Golf Caddies, Gulmarg, 1946

Golf Caddies, Gulmarg,
August 1946
From a private album probably belonging to a British Soldier

"On this same afternoon a few boys were posted on the greens to prevent leaves from obscuring golf balls. They swept with a tiny broom made of a few twigs lashed together.
Ghulam, who has been working at this club since 1929, played in Indian tournaments in the 1930's.
"In my time I played very good golf," he says, noting that he now has a 3 handicap. Before World War II he met "the top class of golfers" from the British Commonwealth, but now he cannot remember their names.
The 70-year-old Kashmir Golf Club caters to some of the world's wealthiest tourists, but by American standards the club is impoverished.
The locker room is shabby and smell. The furniture is crude and ancient. Light bulbs are no more than 40 watts in brightness. The 19th hole is a collection of a few rickety table and rattan chairs. The bar is stocked with only a trifling quality of liquor, and all the bottled are dusty."

Extract from "Playing Golf in Kashmir: Greens Fee is 81 cents and sheep trim fairways" by John S. Radosta for The New York Times, December 7, 1969


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pir Panchal in Autumn by Dina Nath Walli

From my personal collection. Something that hangs on my wall now...

Pir Panchal in Autumn
Dina Nath Walli (1908-2006)
Badiyar Bala, Srinagar
Date of Creation: 1950-1969

Friday, December 27, 2013

Didda Rani Coin (979-1005 AD)

From personal collection

Queen Didda (979-1005 AD), wife of Raja Kshemgupta  and ruler of Kashmir, grand-daughter of Bhimadeva,  Shahi ruler of Kabul.

Copper coin of Didda around 950-8 A.D.
[Although I suspect it may be of Kalsa (1063-89)]

Because the queen was the ruler, because the coins carried her name too, the King was known with moniker, Didda-ksema. A lame queen who tortured her own grandson to retain the throne [update. 2018. No, Didda did not kill here Grandsons]. Gave away money and land to Brahmins to check dissent.

Around 1891, when Aurel Stein arrived in Kashmir in he found he found these coins "so common in the Bazars that they might be supposed never to have quite gone out of circulation."*

* Notes On Monetary System Of Ancient Kashmir (1899), at Archive.org

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kalashnikov Night

Father came back inside and said they wanted everyone out in the yard. Everyone, including women, children and old. So on that dark, cold night along with everyone else , I too lined up against the wall and faced Kalashnikov. I was eight. It happened somewhere between January and February of year 1990.

Despite every obvious reason, the incident wasn't a significant memory for me. It attained a meaning much later in my adulthood when I realised the absurdity of it all. I also realized, it had a different meaning for my family. They had rationalised it. For them it was all normal.

The incident: The blackouts were the beginning. I still don't understand them. If the city is over run by masked gunmen, why should everyone turn off their lights? Everyone should have been asked to sleep with lights on. Take a torch to bed. Kashmiri nights are in any case always darks and disquieting. Yet, the city was under spell of blackouts. That night too, we were supposed to maintain a blackout. Now, blackout didn't entirely mean lights out. It was winter, as was the norm, our windows were already sealed with newspapers and plastic sheets for insulation against cold. The windows were already tightly shut. Inside, we would light candles at night and wait for morning. We went back to living in primal caves. We tried to be invisible. But, men would be men. It was during these days, with nothing else to do, my father and his brothers started having marathon sessions of Paplu. The games would begin in morning and end in evening. In the afternoon, between curfew breaks, some of their friends would also join in. Scores, winnings and losses, would be maintained on inside leaf of Cavenders and Wills Navy Cut cigarette packets. Women would make Kehwa all day, and make grudging runs to the top room with trays of tea cups. The room on the top most floor of the house was converted into game room. It started to smell like a mix of tobacco, sugar and almonds. This room belonged to my family. Grandfather had purchased it from a kin member for eight hundred rupees after they had moved to a bigger house at Nishat. Our family now had four sections in the house. There was Naya Kambra, the new room, just near the main gate, the room I called my own. Across the courtyard, in the hundred year old wooden house, there was the Thokur Kuth, of the main hall with the main kitchen where everyone would sit down to eat. This became our primal cave during blackouts. There was my father's room on the first floor. The room on the top floor would have gone to my uncle after his marriage. Other rooms in the building belonged to two other families of kin members. They had in addition, each a newly constructed 'two room with kitchen' set in two blocks that lined right side of the courtyard. In all there were twenty two people living in the house: Six children, five old and eleven Adults. Of these, five adults were now Paplu addicts. The play would usually stop at sunset, certainly before dinner and continue the next day; but that fateful night they all decided to have a night session. They lit candles in the room and continued playing. The windows were still shut, blackout was still respected, yet voices occasionally rose with excitement of the game. They forgot about the world outside. They forgot the war that was waging outside. They were in their house, the house that their ancestors built and re-built over may summers, and in it they were safe and invisible. Or so they thought. There was a chink in their cave.

The bunker had cropped up outside our house somewhere in January. It grew just next to little cart shop of small things run by Mad Karim. The first day, the men from bunker just walked across to our house, knocked and asked if they could use our lavatory. My father made some joke about their need for Jangal Pani, and welcomed them. After that, they always welcomed themselves to our lavatory. Family thought it was maybe a good development. Mad Karim was the first to die, he died in what was called crossfire. His sister Posha was to tell me years later that some men from the bunker came to buy cigarette, they bought some and went back. A moment later there was firing and he died on spot. The size of bunker grew, more men arrived, always new men.

That night someone among these men noticed a single beam of light coming out from the top floor of the house opposite their bunker. The beam it seemed was talking. It was talking in a cryptic manner. It flickered like a morse code of ominous light. One moment there was light coming out and the other it was off. The watcher looked more closely. He could now see the dark shadows getting formed on the warmly lit canvas of window panes covered in sun stained, brownish newspapers. It looked like a bunch of men in the room were moving rhythmically, in some kind of a religious ritual: men squatting, their backs upright, moving back and forth at regular interval, bellowing. The watchers senses grew even more keen in the darkness. Now, he could hear the occasional frantic sound formed in an indecipherable ugly language. Something evil was stirring in the room. Something that was contemporaneously acknowledging the blackout with light. Unseen to him, inside the room, the men were picking and dropping cards at their turns. Shouting in ecstasy on picking the right card. Unknown to them, there was a small hole in tone of the old wooden windows. The hole had always been there, I remember watching a 'Azadi' procession secretly one afternoon from the hole when my mother wouldn't allow me to open the window. Now, the light escaping out from this hole was causing an entirely different play outside. 

Outside, the man watching this dance of light grew nervous. He decided to call it in. He rang his superior officer, after all these were serious times. Anything could mean something. So something like this could not be taken lightly. A raid party of eight was formed. The superior called in the local police station. These were times were the local administration was still included in the process. The local SHO was ordered to join the raid party and help in establishing communication. 

The raid party stood in the courtyard. They probably jumped the walls, even though the main gate was just locked from inside by a small wooden latch that only needed a small push to open. It was the heavy knocking that shook everyone out. Gamblers had come running down on the sound of the first knock itself. My father and uncles went out to talk. They were ordered to gather everyone outside.

We stood with our backs to the wall, forming a single line, facing the men with guns. The men were either BSF or ITBP. All of them were in their winter gear, green overcoats, big black leather boats, all neatly tied, their hands kept war by a gun and an Everyread torch. By the time I lined up, conversation had already taken a sad, ironic turn. Gamblers were trying hard to explain what they were doing in the room. The leader of the raid party was not buying any of it. This was a man much older than the men in his party. His fur lined overcoat probably befitted his superior post, even his voice, he sounded like Jamvant from Ramayan. The kind of man you might run into in a North Indian highway dhaba, a man who might ask you in all seriousness,  'You want butter Nan or plain Nan.' This man was now pointing his big gun at my father and asking him in all seriousness if he knew which gun it was. 

The gun he was holding was a Kalashnikov. I could never forget that. He answered the question himself and went on to tell exactly how many rounds it is capable of spraying per second. Ten rounds per second. There were about 20 twenty of us. It would all have been over in two seconds

'But we are Hindus.' That was my father's response. He asked the man to go inside the house and see the photographs of various gods on our walls. 'I did NCC in school,' an uncle chipped in helpfully, as if asking a favor. Someone volunteered to sing a Bhajan.

In reply, the man put the nuzzle to my father's nect. My father remembers it was cold like shishargae'nt, an icicle. A shiver ran down his body.

None of it mattered. The man with the gun was going to teach us a lesson. Or they were now just having fun? Or was it their 'area domination' technique at play? The unarmed men kept trying to reason with the armed men. That seldom goes right. The fact these men were arguing back was getting on the nerves of the men with guns.

Finally, the SHO, who had till now had been a silent spectator, intervened. He told my father, 'Pandit ji, Yem gaye hooyn...masa kariv vaad-vaad. These men are dogs, no point talking. Just apologise.'  

A few days after the incident, the rationalisation began. 'It wasn't so bad. In fact, it was good for us in a way. At least no one will now suspect us of collaborating with the security forces.'

A few days before the incident, Teng Sahib from across the the street had come in with some bad news. Teng Sahib knew a thing or two about such matters given that some of his students were the men who had taken up arms. That day he told us that he had heard whispers that our family was helping the security forces. Everyone in the family was alarmed as a rumor like that was exactly what could get a person killed in Kashmir. He had heard that we were offering food and water to the men in bunker. He couldn't tell much details just that someone in the family had been seen talking to them frequently and he asked everyone to be careful about such matters. After he left, everyone knew who the culprit was. But the culprit plainly refuted all charges. 

It was only this year, after 23 years, when under extreme provocation I repeated the story of Kalashnikov night, my grandmother accepted that she may have a couple of times talked to the men in bunker and asked them if they needed water.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Memoir On Maps Illustrating Ancient Geography Of Kashmir (1899)

Aurel Stein's 'Memoir On Maps Illustrating Ancient Geography Of Kashmir' (1899) from 'Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. LXVIII, Part I., Extra-Number 2. - 1899.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


KaSir in Kashmiri
KasHmir in Persian
KASmir in Hindi
Kasmira in Sanskrit of Panini and Patanjali
Kashmiras of Mahabharata and Puranas
Kasmira or Kasmiraja.
from may be Saffron or root of kustha
In whimsical etymologies of early Persian Tarikhs - 
Kashap (Kasyapa) + mar (matha)

Kasvira in Prakrit
Kasmir of Kalhana

Maybe Ki-pin of Chinese
Shie-mi of To Yeng and Sung Yun
Hiuen Tsiang's Kia-shi-mi-lo
Ptolemy's Kaspeiria
Maybe Kaspatyros of Herodotos
Kaspeiroi in Dionysiaca of Nonnos
Maybe Wilson's Kasyapapura
This Cashmir 
of early Angrez and their Casyapapur
Their Cassimere, Chismeer, Ouexmir
Our KasHmir, KASmir, KaSir


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chilla-Kalan, 1897

'Kashmir Snow'. 1897.

"Here in Kashmir we call the winter the time of Three Sisters - Forty Days' Death, and Twenty, and then Ten."

 ~ Kingfishers Catch Fire (1953) by Rumer Godden.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ever-New Kashmir. Prof. Devendra Satyarthi. 1935

Punjabi folklorist Devendra Satyarthi was the first to introduce Mehjoor's work to India. In the following article published in The Modern Review, February, 1935, Devendra Satyarthi explores the folk scene in Kashmir.

The article offers some interesting observations about Kashmiri way of living back then.

Habits in Precious Metal and still more precious Money

"The Panditanis, the Brahman women, never like to wear silver ornaments, but they may prefer brass to pass it as gold."

Ever New Kashmir by Prof. Devendra Satyarthi (for The Modern Review, February, 1935) [Entire article here]

I read a rather interesting thing in Pandit Anand Koul's 'Kashmiri Pandits' (1929). At the end of the book, there is section of 'gifts' due in a daughter's marriage. Apparently, there was some kind of a official scale set for it. And among other things, and an elaborate 'gifting' system, we read that on the higher end a first class bride was expected to bring in 150 tolas of Gold while on the lower end a grade seven would bring in 5 tolas. 

Prior to 1898, Indian currency was tied to silver, later tied by British to Gold. In 1929: Gold was trading at around $20 per gram. And Rupee was at .3620 (1 Dollar = 22.53 Rupees). So, 1.749571875 Kgs (150 Tolas) back then meant about 34990 Dollars or about 788324.7 Indian Rupees [ lower end, 5 tolas comes to about 26278.56]. Today, based on gold, thats like 4194038 Lakh Rupees on higher end and 139801 on lower end. [Pretty much the same scale today!]

Now, just for the fun of it, I had a little 'tolas of Gold' talk with some of my uncles. Of course they laughed. Even now 150 tolas sounds quite big. They imagined stuff. What it all meant. Then they recalled. In memories, no one came across as rich. Some maybe better then other. Yet, I teased some more. 

In was obvious what had happened. Among Pandit families, thanks to the gifting system, Gold was getting divided over and over. With no new value getting added, it was used as the backup, a reserve. And women were something that consumed this precious gold reserve. And son was the one who increased it. 

Then, one of them remembered an interesting practice among Pandits for 'marriage gold'. 'Pah Son': borrowing (pah: borrowed) gold for daughter-in-law by the husband's side. So, if in normal scenario some amount of gold was going to come back to the girl, in this case, she was left with none.

Another one pointed out that often brass was used as pretend gold. He said brass was so common that in 1947, during Kabali attack, the tribals actually looted a lot of brassware thinking it was gold.

Same old stories...


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How geography was taught in Kashmir, 1920s

Came across it in rarest of Biscoe books, '50 years against the Stream', 1930.
[Among other things can be seen the famous flood lights that were donated by Maharaja of Mysore in around 1918. A major milestone for electrification of Kashmir]


Apple eating competition, 1957

I now have the November 1958 issue of National Geographic Magazine in Brian Brake's Kashmir photographs appeared. [for those coming late, read this detailed previous post]

And actually found some more unseen photographs even though most of his work is now available online.

Apple eating competition'. Brian Brake. 1957. In the background can be seen (and ignored) G.M. Bakshi. The photograph is from one of his 'jash-e-kashmir' festivals. I don't know about now, but even in late 1980s, 'apple eating competition' was a popular school game event...at least at Biscoe. I remember losing it once.


Saffron Market. Pampore, 1948

I now finally have all the old issues of National Geographic Magazine in which Kashmir was majorly featured.

Here's a sample from year 1948:

'Saffron Market'. Pampore, 1948. By Volkmar Wentzel. For National Geographic.
[Created by combining a two page spread]
Caption read: "At Autumn Harvest, Farmers, Pickers, and Buyers Swarm in Pampur's Saffron Market. Homer sang of the "saffron morn," Solomon of "spikenard and saffron." Greeks perfumed theaters with saffron, a royal color; Romans tossed it in Nero's path. England once cultivated the plant at Saffron Walden."

Clear Dal Postcard

Another recent addition to my collection....a post card of Dal Lake from Mahattas. 
Undated. But probably from 1920s.

My friend Yaseen Tuman adds: Small hillock in photo is Shankaracharya Hill. Exact corner where Nehru Park Shikara Ghat Stands today and Hotels from this point to Dalgate.


Kashmir Market Boats, 1920s

 A recent addition to my collection...

This postcard came with very little information. It was published by 'Bombay Phototype Company', which was in business around 1910-20. The place...I don't know...that building in the background should be a good clue. I was hoping someone will be able to identify it.


Wood and Sand

Wood Movers
Sand Movers.
March 2013

From my father's camera.

Bumzu cave temple, 1902

Bumzu cave Temple, Bhawan  Kashmir 1902
Bumzu cave Temple, Bhawan
"The following day was spent in exploring the Bawan caves and the massive temple ruins of Martand.

The first cave I entered with much inward trepidation lest our touchwood torches should go out or loose stones be showered on us from the roof. We were shown the recess where a devotee of old lived his strange life and left his bones. A few yards beyond this further progress, except by crawling, was stopped by a recent fall of stones, and so we sought the entrance and made our way to the last and largest cave, which contains what is, perhaps, the very earliest Kashmiri temple. The porch has been cut out of the solid rock, and thence a gloomy passage leads to a flight of steps ascending to the little temple itself. A climb up the hill bought us to the plateau where the grand ruins of Martand stand sentinel, as they have done through countless ages. "

~ Photograph and text: 'A walking tour in Kashmir by Miss. A.V. Stewart. Nursing sister in the Indian Army.' For 'World Wide Magazine. Volume 10. 1902.

Bhawan, 1877

Bhawan [Mattan] by V. C. Prinsep. 1877.
From 'Imperial India; an artist's journals' (1879)
"The modern Martand, or Bawan, is over the edge of the plateau at another source of the Jhelum, which, having escaped the eye of the garden-making Jehanghire, has been turned by the pious Hindoo through two sacred tanks, and is now a holy shrine. The tanks are full of fish, a kind of tench, I should think, which it is the duty of the pilgrim to keep well fed with baked Indian corn. It is delightful to see the shoals of these dark green fish in the brilliant azure of the water. I made a sketch of the place from one corner, where squats each day an aged and very holy man, before whom the pilgrims come in flocks to prostrate themselves till their foreheads touch the ground. Unlike most holy men, this one is clean, and is moreover a very superior person, for seeing me surrounded and inconvenienced by fakirs, he sent his own servant to clear them away. I painted him into my sketch as an acknowledgement, and when I had finished made my lowest salaam. The old gentleman, being probably absorbed in a contemplation of the Deity, did not respond; or are piety and good manners incompatible?"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kashmiri bepiri

Old Hindustani Proverb: Bangali jangli, Kashmiri bepiri, i.e. 'The Bengalee is ever an entangler, the Cashmere without religion.'

Hobson Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive (1903), by Henry Yule and Arthur C. Burnell and first published in 1886.

Source, a note in : Seir Mutaqherin: or a View of Modern Times, being a History of India from the year 1118 to 1195 of the Hedjirah. From the Persian of Gholam Hussain Khan, V1-4. 1789. A history pf Muslim nobel families of Bengal. Translated by Nota Manus alias Raymond alias Haji Mustapha, a French-born Muslim convert.

Note from Volume 2, page 181:

"The Cashmirians, as well as Bengallees, bear a strange character all over Hindostan, for faithlessness, roguery, and impudence. The proverb says : Cashmiri, bi Piri; Bengallee, Djendjali. The Cashmirian acts as an Atheist ; but the Bengallee is always one from whom there is no disentangling one's self. However, there is a still more formidable adage against Cashmirian women : an adage, which seems to set at nought those engaging countenances, those elegant shapes, those charming features, and that ingenious fertility in love contrivances, which nature has so largely bestowed on them ; and it is this : Cashmiri, bi Piri ; ne Lezzet, ne shiri. The faithless Cashmirian affords neither taste nor flavour."


Another addition to the list of Rascally Kashmiri

Kashmiri Papermaking Photos, 1917

During Mughal time Kashmir was considered the place that produced the finest paper in India. Bud Shah is attributed for brining the art of paper making and book binding into Kashmir from Samarqand. The art survived during Afghan time. But by 20th century it was already in a state of decline. In 1917, Mr. William Raitt, f.s.c, Consulting Cellulose Expert attached to the Forest Research Institute, Dhera Dun, U. P., came in Srinagar at the request of the Kashmir Durbar, to give advice in regard to the improvement of the paper industry. He took about 26 photograph during his visit detailing the entire process of paper making. He later published them in 1939 under the title 'Kashmiri Papermaking Photos'.

Kashmiri 'Rag' Paper Maker
"The pulp is mixed with water and placed on a framed porous screen. The water drains away leaving the paper which is then pressed and dried. This method of paper-making was also used in Europe until the end of the 18th century, when machines for making continuous rolls of paper were introduced. Wood pulp and cellulose have largely been used in paper manufacture since the 19th century, but plant fibres and rags are also still used, as well as recycled paper."
Paper Factory
Make Paper

Check entire set of photographs of the process at: scienceandsociety.co.uk]


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Letters to Dead Poets

To Kshemendra,

You were funny. How come no one tried to kill you for it?

To Kalhana,

You will be surprised to know how often Kashmiris were bought with money. And did you ever talk to common folks on the street? You should have read Marx first.

To Lal Ded,

Winters must have been tough for you. But then, you do sound like a warm person.

To Rupa Bhawani,

You know they say something similar happened to Kabir's body. And a few others. What's with the flower act?

To Arinimaal,

Sad Kashmiri wives with stupid husbands always made good poets. Much before you, there was one Vikatanitamba too (Bad Mandal in Kashmiri for you. Hideous Butt). But unlike you she wrote really naughty poems. You know they say you never existed. Just a figment of imagination. If it is a consolation, no one has even heard about your husband's highbrow persian poetry.

To Habba Khatoon,

This is a personal question. Now, I read Chaks were Shias. I know you loved him and everyone loves you...but did anyone ever question your religious beliefs. And let me tell you where he was while you were wandering around singing songs about him. He was in Bihar holding the Mughal flag. It's sad. Write a poem about that.

P.S. Did you know about Kshemendra's wandering heroine Kankali? She was quite a heartbreaker.

To Ghani, 

You should have locked the doors. Even after death they stole from you. Even Ghalib took a line

To Parmanand, 

Have you seen tractors ploughing the fields? Try to write about that.

To Mahjoor,

I appreciate the sentiment but you do know what happens to sugar when you add it to milk. It dissolves and disappears. It seems they took it too literally. I am out of the great solvation equation.

To Abul Ahad Azad,

I know poets, especially Kashmiri poets always had a thing for seven veil dance with words, but you could have been a bit more clear about your views on religion. With all this polarization, it's tough to fit you in. And not a lot of people now take your name. Only 'Azad' with an 'i'. Mahjoor with his birds and the bees is more comforting.

To Nadim,

Lo! Another revolution. Stop singing.

To Master ji,

In the last days, from your window, did you see Tawi or Jhelum? What are your views about antidepressant pills?

To Mahav,

Did people give you wet ones on your dirty mouth?


Women Sitar Players. 1962

Kashmiri women sitar players. 1962.
Photograph by M.Zikmund - J.Hanzelka.

Lyrics: Rum Gayam Sheeshus

Continuation from previous post related to Kashmiri songs by Chicago based band Lamajamal. This particular song stood out from the album.

The authentic Kashmiri version by Raaj Begum and Naseem Akhtar can be heard here at Funkar.org.

The poet is Mirza Ghulam Hassan Beg Aarif, a scientist who wrote poetry.  The ghazal was particularly popular on Radio Kashmir in 60s and 70s.

Lyrics shared by Abid Mohmood Shafiee (Thanks to Pickee Kaul for getting him to share it over at the Facebook page of this blog)
Window Watcher.

Rum gayem sheehshass
begour govaa baane meoun
Sakiyaa, waiyieth rateyaa jaanaan meoun
Aaminee khaasen, thaevoemas mas barieth
Maetch be tas path, ye Aamni mastaani meoun
Sakiyaa, waiyeth rateyaa jaanaan meoun
Zev kaleyem , az kautin kadenum shaahas
Maetch be tas path, tasspatii mastaan meoun
Sakiyaa, waiyeeth rateyaa jaanaan meoun,
Ulfattche tal waahi kadneum, yaari aaem
Chaesmanan manz kusii wanies afsaane meoun
Sakiyaa, waiyeeth rateyaa jaanaan meoun,
Rum gayem sheehshass
Begour govaa baane meoun
Sakiyaa, waiyieth rateyaa jaanaan meon


An old recording of the song:


Young Kashmiri Pandits singing it in Delhi!

video link

St. John's Bible in Kashmiri, 1940s

Man Mohan Munshi Ji shares Kashmiri Bible from his collection. He say's, ' I studied this particular Bible,  'Yuhanna sinz injil' in then C.M.S Headow Memorial High School in late 1940s'


Group Photographs, Early 20th century

Guest post from Man Mohan Munshi Ji. Some old group photographs he recently came across at his home. He shares...

Photograph taken in front of the Assembly Hall at Jammu.
 I can't identify anybody nor can surmise any date

Group photograph taken on a farewell function or retirement of an official of Jammu & Kashmir Government probably round about 1908. Please note two Europeans in the chairs.
I can identify only one person in the last row on the extreme left - Munshi Amarchand, who retired from service in 1926. 
A picture taken in 1920s
From L to R. in chairs B.N.Munshi, Prof Sarwanand Thussu and standing in the center unidentified.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Saazuk Safar by Lamajamal

Kashmiri folk songs by Chicago based band Lamajamal (arabic word for 'beauty') [Youtube]. The album 'Saazuk Safar' (2012) was commissioned by funkar.org. It's like debut of Kashmiri music on modern world music scene. Listen to traditional sound in a new way...I particularly liked the tracks 'Rum Gayam Sheeshus' (sung by Asal Monfared) and instrumental 'Hay Vayas'


Original version of 'Rum ghyam sheeshas byegur gav bane myon' by Raaj Begum and Naseem Akhtar at Funkaar


Note: Repercussion of Kashmiri habit of not having any formal credit system for artistic works and too much dependence on oral culture, as no one introduces the poet before reciting his/her work: Four decades ago, the name of the poet who composed it and the song was on lips of every Kashmiri. Now, it took me hours to find the name of the poet who composed this ghazal. I finally found it in a book by S.L. Sadhu on Kashmiri literature published in 1974. The poet is Mirza Ghulam Hassan Beg Aarif.


An alternate version:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ghalib's letters to his Kashmiri friends

Extracts from 'Urdu Letters of Mirza Asadu'llah Khan Ghalib' (1987) by Daud Rahbar

Be it known to you, dear young friend Munshi Shiv Narain, that I had no idea that you were who you truly are. Now that I discover that you are the grandson of Nazir Bansi Dhar, I recognise you as my beloved son. Thus, from now on, if I address you in my letters as "Benevolent and Honored Friend," it will be a sin. You are undoublty unaware of the close ties between your family and mine. Listen. In the days of Najaf Khan and Hamadani, the father of your paternal grandfather was a constant companion of my maternal grandfather, the late Khwaja Ghhulam Husain Khan. When my maternal grandfather retired, your great-grandfather too unbuckled his belt, quit service, and never accepted employment again. All of this happened before I had reached the age of reason. When I became an adult, I encountered Munshi Bansi Dhar in the constant company of Khan Sahib. The latter initiateed a lawsuit against claimants to his estate of perpetual title, the village of Kaitham, and Munshi Bansi Dhar acted as his attorney in the case. Munshi Sahib and I were about the same age - he may have been a year or so older or younger. We played chess together and became fast and loving friends. It was not unusual for us to be together until midnight. Since his house was not far, I went there whenever I liked. Between their hues and ours, the only intervening buildings were the home of Machhya Randi and two blocks of rented homes owned by my family. Our larger mason is the one which is now owned by Lakhi Chand Seth. The baradari of stone which is joined to the main entrance of this mansion was my sitting-room and lounge. Then there was the mansion known as Ghatya-vali haveli and near Salim Shah's hovel, another mansion and another adjoining the Kala Mahal, and beyond that there was another block of rented houses called the Gadaryon-vala Katra and then another similar block called the Kashmiran vala Katra. On the roof of one of the houses in his last block, I used to fly kites and we used to have kite matches with Raja Balvan Singh. There was a veteran soldier named Vasil Khan in your family's employ who used to collect the rents from the tenants of the block of rented houses which belonged to your grandfather.
Keep listening, for I have more to tell. Your grandfather became very wealthy. He purchased extensive farmlands and established himself as a zamindar. He paid between ten and twelve thousand rupees as revenue to the government annually. Did his holdings come into your possession? Write to me in detail telling me what happened to those estates.

Tuesday, October 19, 1858

~ Ghalib's letter to Munshi Shiv Nara'in Aram

Ghalib's association with Aram began in 1858 when Ghalib negotiated with him to publish the Dastanbu (Bouquet of Flowers), Ghalib's account of his experiences during the uprising of 1857 (covering happening between May 11, 1857 and July 31, 1858), after which the two enjoyed a warm correspondence for the next five years. As we learn in this letter, Ghalib had enjoyed the friendship of Aram's grandfather, Munshi Bansi Dhar, though neither Aram nor Ghalib had apparently thought to make this connection before entering into their own relationship.


"Exalted Sir,
    Today is Monday, the third of January, 1859. Clouds enveloped the atmosphere near the end of the first quarter of the day. Now it is drizzling and a cold wind is blowing. And I have nothing to drink. Disinterestedly, I have eaten a meal.

December clouds
Flood the horizon;
Yet my clay cup
Has not a drop of wine.

Sad and sorrowful was I sitting when the postman brought your letter. I recognised your personal handwriting on the envelope. This gladdened me. I read the letter. It contained no mention of obtaining my objective. This saddened me.

Tyranny has drive us abroad.
No news from home is happy.

In those low-sprites moments, I said, "Let's have a chat with His Eminence," and I began to write even though the letter needed no reply.


~ Ghalib in a letter to his close friend Khwaja Ghulam Ghaus Bekhabar.

Khwaja Ghulam Ghaus Bekhabar (1824-1904). is said to have been descended from Sultan Zainu'l-Abidin Bad Shah, one of the kings of Kashmir. Born in Nepal, Bekhabar was raised and educated in Benaras, finding employment at the age of seventeen under his maternal uncle, Sayyid Muhammad Khan, Mir Munshi to the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of North and West, making his home in Agra, the capitol city of that Province. In 1843, during the regime of Lord Ellenborough, Bekhabar was transferred for a brief period to the Vernacular Secretary's office at the Governor General's headquarters. He eventually succeeded his uncle as Mire Munshi on the latter's retirement in 1885, at which time he moved to Ilahabad where he spent the remaining years of the life.
Bekhabar kept a hospitable table and was a most sociable and entertaining conversationalist.  His home was daily gathering place for many lovers of literature, including his close friend, the poet Miraza Hatim Ali Beg Mihr. Himself a poet and writer of prose in both Persian and urdu, Bekhabar played a major role in the publication of Ghalib's 'Ud-i-Hindi', a selection of the poet's Urdu prose [ 1868, his letters mostly, something that Aram also wanted to publish around a decade ago. ].


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chotta and Maker

Kaajwot Chotta and Wokhul
Jammu. November 2013
Maker. Qazigund.
April. 2013.
Sent in by my father.

kangri distich

Ai kangri! ai kangri!
Kurban tu Hour wu Peri!
Chun dur bughul mi girimut
Durd az dil mi buree.

Oh, kangri! oh, kangri!
You are the gift of Houris and Fairies;
When I take you under my arm
You drive fear from my heart.

~ A persian distich from Kashmir about Kangri collected by G.T. Vigne in around 1835. 

A closer transliteration (odd though that the lines have been quoted in a bunch of books, no one pointed out the obvious):

O Kangri, with you by my side, I don't need Houris or Fairies, you are my heart's only consolation.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dress Codes

Kashmiri Boat Girl
By Pandit Vishu Nath, 1890s

"Inquiring of a boatman why he did not make his wife, a really pretty woman, and his children engaging little things, wash every day and wear clean clothes, his explanation was, that if he kept his wife cleaner than those of other boatmen the Baboo would report to the Vakeel that he was earning more, and he would be more heavily taxed.


'Topee and turban, or, Here and there in India'  (1921)
 H. A. Newell, 
The photograph by R.E. Shorter. 
The Hindoos, with the same cast of Jewish features, are fairer than the Muhammedans, and their women are seldom seen; but returning from Ganderbul to Srinuggur, early one morning at Shadipore, we surprised a great Hindoo festival. Shadipore is situate at the confluence of the Scinde river with the Jhelum, where the waters are peculiarly sacred, and on this occasion, six in the morning, a concourse of both sexes were bathing almost in puris naturalibus. As soon, however, as they saw boats approaching, the women rushed to the bank, and were soon, cowering and peeping from under their embroidered shawls. Not to disturb their devotions, we passed quickly to a camping ground in a grove of chenars a mile farther down, and later in the day went to the festival, preceded by the sepoy, clad in white, with a scarlet puggery, wearing the breast band of his order, and armed with a scimitar, which he is not allowed to draw except in self-defence. Sepoy attendants are sent by the Baboo at Sriiiuggur to accompany travellers ignorant of the country and its customs during their stay in Kashmir, and are useful in procuring coolies and provisions at the established rates, and in keeping off beggars, loafers, and loos wallers (thieves).

The mela, or fair, a very large one, was attended by many of the' wives and daughters of the chief Hindoos. Their hair, instead of being separated in plaited braids over the back as is the fashion among young Muhammedans, is gathered round a pad on the crown of the head, and forms a not ungraceful pyramid. Over it a silk shawl, scarlet embroidered with orange, is thrown, which falls to the brow in front and to the ground behind. Across the forehead they wear a fillet of gold or silver ornaments. A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold. Ears, thumbs, fingers, and toes are covered with rings ; and bracelets, armlets, anklets, and necklaces, with pendants of bright-coloured stones, coral, and turquoise, complete their list of jewellery. On their thumbs they carry a ring holding a little mirror an inch in diameter, which they consult frequently. They have much to look to, the gradations of collyrium round their eyes sparkling eyes in youth, brilliant from belladonna when their natural lustre has begun to fade ; the arch of their thick black brows ; the arrangement of their hair and rings ; and the devices and adornments by which, in attempts to heighten, they lessen their charms. For withal, and spite of all, some, not all, are beautiful. Soft, oval faces, large almond-shaped eyes fringed with abundant lashes, noses finely cut though of the Jewish type, classic lips, invariably pearl-white teeth, rounded arms, slender fingers bright with hernia, and forms tall and well proportioned, are often seen. They wear a boddice and loose trousers of scarlet or blue silk, fitting tight at the ankles, which are covered with silver anklets. Some of these clank like prisoners' chains ; others send forth a tinkling from the many little silver bells that hang from them.

" Rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes
To tell her dear husband the way that she goes."

But all is not couleur de rose even among " the brightest that earth ever gave " in the vale of Kashmir. To see them eating is not attractive. A dish 'full of rice, ghi and curry, unctuous and flavoured with onions and garlic, when placed in the centre of a group of women and children, is soon disposed of in the most natural, if not most graceful, style. Each grasps a handful, great or small as appetite dictates, and dexterously throws it into her widely-opened mouth. Me'las or fairs are mere assemblages of multitudes without amusements beyond those of eating, drinking, tom-toming, offering rice, flowers, and ghi to idols, and bathing a practice which they seem to reserve for these occasions. On the plains they rig up large roundabouts and turnovers, and then it is a truly absurd spectacle to see middle-aged men, and even patriarchs, grinning with delight at being whirled or tumbled about, a sport which in other countries would amuse none but a child.

~ "Letters from India and Kashmir: written 1870" by J. Duguid


Didn't know about

"A ring hangs from the left nostril, and is attached to the ear by a chain of gold."


Which reminds me of the photograph in which it is hard to tell if the women are Pandit or Muslim....


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Map of Mughal Kashmir, 1770

A map of the Mughal province of Cachemir (Kashmir), 1770.
Compiled for Colonel Jean Baptiste Gentil, agent for the French Government to the Court of Shuja-ud-daula at Faizabad.
Source: British Library

Monday, November 25, 2013

A local Kashmiri Ad from 1969

A Kashmiri Ad from 1969.
Came across it in the book 'Holidaying and Trekking in Kashmir' (1969) by N. L. Bakaya.
The book actually has a bunch of such ads.
  [The watermark is not a mistake, it is the term most Kashmiris use while googling this blog.]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bhands of Kashmir

April 2013. Delhi.

"I have seen the best companies in Kashmir, though perhaps the best —the Bhaggats of Syebug— died off in the famine of 1877, and men now sigh : ' Alas ! poor Yorick,' and speak of their excellent acting. The Bhaggats portray village life in a most vivid manner. Their dresses and make-up are excellent, and they represent most faithfully the internal working of a village community. It is said that Maharaja Gulab Singh acquired a very intimate knowledge of village administration from the Bhaggats' performances, and I have picked up some hints from them as to the methods of the patwari, the village accountant. The plot is very much the same. The Raja rides by, burning to redress injustice, and his Wazir seizes on the patwari and the lambardar and calls for the village accounts. The unfortunate villager who has brought his grievance to the Raja's notice is at first very loud and noisy in his complaints, but as he sees the Wazir and the patwari laying their heads together he becomes silent and sits as one fascinated. The denouement is that the Wazir finds that the patwari is innocent, and the complainant receives a severe flogging. Other scenes of village life are depicted, and one of the most favourite representations with the country-people is the sowing, plucking and spinning of cotton. I shall have some more to say about these interesting Bhaggats later on. They relieve the sadness of village life in Kashmir.
The minstrels of Kashmir [Bhaggat or Band) can be recognized by their long black hair and stroller mien, and although they are practically a peculiar people so far as marriage goes, they sometimes recruit their companies by enlisting a villager. They combine the profession of singing and acting with that of begging, and are great wanderers, travelling down to the Panjab where they perform to Kashmiri audiences. With the curious exception of the Akangam company, which is formed of Pandits, the Bhaggats are all Musalmans. They are much in request at marriage feasts, and at harvest time they move about the country, and in a year of good harvest will make a fair living on the presents of the villagers. Their orchestra usually consists of four fiddles with a drum in the centre, or of clarionets and drums, but the company often contains twenty members or more. Their wardrobe is frequently of great value, and several companies which I have met are said to have dresses and properties worth more than Rs. 2,000. Their acting is excellent and their songs are often very pretty. They are clever at improvisation and are fearless as to its results. They have songs in Kashmiri, Persian and Panjabi, but the Kashmiri songs are the only ones which I have heard. The story of the Akangam Bhaggats is peculiar. Brahmans considered acting to be degrading, and even now the Brahmans of Kashmir regard the Akangam players with contempt. But the Brahman players say that they took to the stage by the express order of the goddess Devi. The legend relates that many years ago Devi appeared to the ancestor of the Akangam Pandits, and, placing a fiddle in his hands, said, ' Play upon this fiddle.' He protested his inability, but on the goddess persisting, he took up the bow and played unearthly music. He was bidden by Devi to sit under the deodars of Akangam [Akingam, Anantnag (the story now)] and play in her honour. For some years he and his sons obeyed the goddess' behest, but unable to withstand the prejudices of his caste, he finally declined to play any more. On this he was stricken with blindness and wandered away to the Liddar valley. In a dream Devi appeared to the Magistrate of the Liddar, and told him to take the old Pandit back to Akangam. On reaching Akangam the Pandit recovered his sight, and since that day he and his descendants fiddle away without further protest. These Pandits never send their children to school, as they believe that Devi would resent it and would kill the children. The Bhaggats are very pleasant people and their mirth and good humour form a cheerful contrast to the gloom of the Kashmiri peasant. They acknowledge two leaders or Sardars who arrange that the circuits shall not clash. They have a peculiar argot (phirkat) which they employ in stage directions."

~ Walter Rooper Lawrence's 'Valley of Kashmir' (1895).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flying to Kashmir

It's not so far
There's just a mountain
And at night
we can always fly

Music: Claudio Arrau playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata",The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor. Video: Flying from Jammu to Srinagar

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