Monday, October 28, 2013

View from The Window, 1916

A postcard from 1920s based on a photograph from 1916.

View from the famous workshop of Habib Joo (State jeweller and wood carver), Subhana (jeweller and silversmith), Ahmed Joo (coppersmith and wood carver) and Jubbar Khan (papier maché maker and wood carver).


and in 1849 the first students at Mission School Lahore were of course...

"The Punjab was annexed April 2nd, 1849. The boy King, Rajah Dhulip Singh, was deposed and given an annual al- lowance of 50,000 pounds. He retired as a gentleman to Norfolk, England.

During these months of turmoil and anxiety, the missionary work continued as usual. Soon after the annexation of the Punjab, a letter was received by the missionaries at Lodiana, sent by Dr. Baddely, a Christian surgeon at Lahore, urging them to move on to the capital without delay, assuring them that every encouragement might be expected from the Lawrences and Mr. Montgomery and others. Accordingly the Rev. John Newton and the Rev. Charles W. Forman were appointed by the mission to take up the work of establishing the mission in Lahore. Accompanied by Mrs. Newton, they arrived in Lahore on the 21st of November, 1849.

As the Christian community had urged the establishment of the mission, an appeal was made for financial aid, with the approval of the Board of Administration and the Governor General. In response thereto, the sum of Rs. 4,238 were contributed. A suitable house was secured in the city as a temporary residence. In this house an English school was begun on the 19th of December. It began with three pupils, all being Hindu Kashmiris, two of them having been formerly students in the mission school at Lodiana. The number gradually increased until it became necessary to find more capacious quarters. Happily a soldiers' chapel built by an English gentleman at his own expense had been placed at the disposal of the mission, and being well adapted to the uses of a school the classes were transferred to it. The number of pupils rapidly increased until, at the end of the year, the attendance amounted to eighty. Of these fifty-five were Hindus and twenty-two Muslims, and three Sikhs. Racially the eighty ranked as Punjabis thirty-eight, Kashmiris three, Bengalis seven, Hindustanis twenty-eight, Afghans three and one Baluch."

~ 'Our Missions In India: 1834-1824' (1926) by E. M. Wherry.


Govind Joo went Karr'e

Govind Joo's house. 2008.
The family moved away in 1970s.

You don't know the story. Khabr'e Chaey Ne. He didn't convert.'

'Umm....Khabr'e Chaey Ne. You don't know the story. He did convert.'

I was supposed to take my Brahminical rites the next morning, and here I was, late at night, in a Pandit Community Hall in Jammu, listening to my Father and Uncles having an amusing discussion about an odd bit of family history. Did their Grand-Uncle Govind Joo Razdan or Goo'ndh Joo, as they called him, turn Christian or not?

An aunt who was married into the family in late 1970s chipped in. 'Well, it might be true. When the Razdan's of Chattabal sent marriage proposal for me, one of my old relatives did ask if it's not the same Karr'e family.' Karr'e being the pejorative term in Kashmiri for converts to Christianity.

The complete story I came across recently in 'Tyndale-Biscoe of Kashmir: An Autobiography' (1951):

"We were at our holiday hut at Nil Nag, in the month of August 1939, when two of our teachers, Govind Joo Razdan, a widower, Sham Lal and his wife, an old boy, Kashi Nath and his wife, asked me to baptize them. They had for years been vey keen on all kinds of social service, so I knew by their lives, as well by their words, that they were truly fit persons to be received into the Christain Church. On Sunday morning I took them to the lake and baptized them.
We, and they, of course were well aware that when they returned to Srinagar, they would have to suffer persecution from the Brahmins, and they did.
Not many days passed before we heard that the teachers whom I had baptize, were in danger from their fellow Brahmans.
Govind Razdan was the first to be attacked by hooligans while crossing one of the city bridges. Fortunately for him, one of the policemen near by was an old boy of our school and he rescued him from the angry crowd. A few days later Sham Lal was going from my house to his home in the city, after dark, when he was attacked and so badly hurt that he had to be taken to hospital. The man who was the cause of this attack was a Brahmin policeman. Then came Kashi Nath's turn. He was employed by a motor omnibus company and was taking a bus full of Brahmans to one of the most holy places in Kashmir named Tula Mula, where goddess is supposed to live in a tank. After landing his party at the holy spot, he was attacked by the worshippers, but fortunately there were Mohammedans at hand who came to his rescue and saved him."



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Women Militia, 1948

Kashmiri Militia Women.

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 1948. 

via: magnumphotos.


Kashmir by Koechlin, 1858

Une Vue intericure de Srinagor, capital du Kachmyr - Dessin de M. Alfred Koechlin Schwartz
From French illustrated magazine 'Le Magasin Pittoresque', October, 1858. 

Mr. Koechlin here is an ancestor of actress Kalki Koechlin.


Mr. Kennard's Houseboat, 1918

Besides Younghusband's writing in 1906 mentioning Mr. Kennard's role in development of Kashmiri Houseboats, following is the only description available of actual Mr. Kennard's houseboat. 

"No European is allowed to build or own a house in Kashmir and the result is that the numerous visitors to the happy valley live for a great portion of their time in house boats. These boats are very large and comfortable. They are hired for the season with furniture, a staff of servants and a kitchen boat attached, and the occupants move about from place to place along the numerous waterways of Kashmir and lead an idyllic river life amid beautiful scenery, anchoring where they please and spending their time in fishing, shooting and reading and other amusements. We visited one house boat at Srinagar belonging yo a Mr. Kennard, which was a regular villa built in two stories. The interior was panelled with carved wood and the furnishing and upholstering were  all the most perfect taste. Mr. Kennard was at home and very kindly showed us over his beautiful floating residence."

~ 'A narrative of His Highness the Maharaja's trip to Kashmir in 1918' by R. H. Campbell (1919) about the visit of Maharaja of Mysore to Kashmir. (The direct impact of this visit was that Mysore got Mysore Boy Scouts, and a copy of Shalimar Garden in the form of Brindavan Gardens. Also, in Srinagar, the temple on Shankaracharya got an electric bulb, a gift from the Maharaja of Mysore, forever changing the night view of the hill.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Samuel Bakkal, the Kashmiri in World War I

Samuel Bakkal in Palestine in World War I.
From: 'Tyndale-Biscoe of Kashmir: An Autobiography' (1951)
When the boy who was born after prayers at the shrine of Nakashbandi went Christian in his youth, all hell broke loose, he was told to mend his ways, imprisoned in his house, married off to an older woman, he was mobbed, beaten-up, but finally rescued by his English benefactors and smuggled out of Kashmir. When Mama went Christian, he took on a new name - Samuel Bakkal. 

In years to come, with road to Kashmir still blocked, Samuel Bakkal during World War I joined Y.M.C.A as Secretary and went fighting to France,  Palestine and Mesopotamia. Later he even went for the Afghan war. It was only after the end of war that he returned to Kashmir and to his alma mater, Biscoe School. On an invitation by Maharaja of Mysore, he went to that state to start something like Biscoe School there. He went on to be the founder of Myscore Boy Scouts [around 1917]. He then returned to Kashmir as Executive Officer in charge of state granaries, at a fine when Kashmir was almost reeling a man-made famine caused by black-marketing. He did his job honestly. He got married to one Victoria Thornaby and had two girls and a daughter. When he died pneumonia at a young age, nearly two thousand people followed his funeral procession. 

Samuel Bakkal. Died 1927. Aged 33 years. He was 16 when he became a Christian at the school. He returned to Kashmir after 12 years and is buried in Srinagar.

Supplementary List of Inscriptions on Tombs Or Monuments in the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, Sind, Afghanistan and Baluchistan: Together with War Memorials

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Franciscans of Baramulla, 1920s

New additions to archive. Two rare postcards of 'The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary on the Missions' of Baramulla.

First one is from 1926 and in French. Shows a dispensary run by the nuns.
The second one is from London, not dated but probably again 1920s. Shows children praying.


Raids in Ladakh, 1948

It is rather strange that when most narratives talk about the 1947-48 war, Poonch, Uri, Jammu Baramulla, Srinagar, all are remembered but seldom is Ladakh mentioned. It is almost as if people have forgotten the scale of the war.

Kashmir Lama Murdered
Raiders killed the Lama of Ganskar Padam Monastery, one of the biggest in the Ladakh valley in Kashmir after carrying him off to their headquarters at Kargil, according to a report from Leh.
The Ladakh district lies in South Eastern Kashmir. Leh, chief city of the valley, stands near the upper waters of the Indus, some seventy-five miles west of the Tibetan border.
According to Kashmir Government estimates, raiders have put to the sword about 100 Buddhists in the Ladakh valley, desecrated and sacked Ringdon Gompha, the second biggest monastery in the district, and looted and destroyed several other monasteries. 

The Press and Journal
August 23, 1948

Came across it while scavenging though British Newspaper Archives.

She of Gilgit

In summers, our small garden would come alive with colors of red amarnath, yellow marigold, purple salvia, white alyssum and roses of all colors. At that time of the year, an old woman from Delhi would come visit us in Kashmir. She would stay with us for weeks and then return. I remember it used to take her forever to cross the courtyard, walk past that garden and get to the house. Even with her sleek brown walking stick with a cursive handle, it would take her ages. My grandfather and his brothers would walk patiently behind her, watching her steps anxiously, one of them always holding her hand. At the door everyone would dutifully lineup to greet her. Calls of warm 'Wariays', would ring out. Once inside, happening of the year would be passed on to her.

I learnt her story only a couple of years ago.

Ben'Jighar was my grandfather's elder sister. She was the only sister of four brother. Since, my grandfather's father died at a young age, my grandfather and his brothers were raised by his mother and the elder sister. After the death of their mother, Ben'Jighar, even though already married, was the titular head of our family. She was loved and respected by the brothers for all she had done for them. Since my grandfather was the youngest, he was especially fond of her. She look out for him. And in his own way my grandfather looked out for her.

In 1947, when war broke out between India and Pakistan, Ben'Jighar was in Gilgit along with her husband who was a minor government employee, a teacher in Bunji. As the news of war reached Srinagar, people started counted their losses, all those caught on the other side were considered as lost.

The general narrative of the conflict in that region tells us this story:

There was uprising against the Maharaja in Poonch, and much bloodshed. Masood tribemen were preparing for Srinagar. The Maharaja was still fiddling with his options. The news of partition violence from Punjab was to add further fuel to this combustive situation. Meanwhile, Gilgit, remote from these happening, but not untouched, was starting to rumble. Gansara Singh, the Wazir of Gilgit, a cousin of the Maharaja, acknowledging his vulnerable position tried negotiating with locals. The local feared an attack from Maharaja's garrison at Bunji in Astor. In October 1947, when Maharaja finally went with India, the people of Gilgit decided to act fast. On 1st November, after taking their two young British officers in confidence, the Gilgit Scout staged a coup. Telephone lines were cut, the Governor was put under house arrest and the Hindus interned. Soon, India, probably thinking less about regaining the region and probably more thinking about cut-off the support Gilgit Scout were providing to raiders in Ladakh region, was air dropping 500 Lb bombs on Gilgit. Gilgit's transfer to Pakistan was simple affair compared to other war zones in the region. People representing Pakistan arrived two weeks later to take charge of the treasury on 16th. After almost a year of fighting and a UN intervened ceasefire, a political prisoner exchange program was carried out. As part of this deal, Gansara Singh finally reach India in 1949. On reach back, much to the embarrassment of India, he refused to state that he was ill-treated by the enemy side.

In all these official narratives, I try hard to imagine Ben'Jighar in Gilgit. Did she hear the bombs drop?

After a certain time, a conflict becomes a summation of moments in lives of the lead actors of the war theater. The common people and their woes, apparently the good basic cause over which a conflict usually starts, in the end just become a dead mass of props on the grand stage, a number, of dead, wounded, killed, missing, looted, stabbed, burnt, raped; a date, of wins, defeats and ceasefire.

Even we don't remember. This all history becomes just another vague family anecdote told in passing.

Her brothers had given up hope of finding Ben'Jighar alive. These were desperate times. But after months of fighting refugees from the other side started tickling into Srinagar. This was taken as a sign of hope in distressing times. Return of someone from the other side was treated as a second coming. 'Duba're Yun', as they say in Kashmiri.

Ben'Jighar and her husband reached Srinagar almost after eight months. How? What did they experience? Nothing is told, or remembered. What is remembered is the state in which they arrived and how they were welcomed. The first thing my grandfather did was to hire a tailor and have them measured. They were to be given new clothes. They arrived destitute. A Shamiyana was set, cooks hired, relatives invited, a feast was organised. It was like organising a marriage. This part was important to get them back into the family and the society. Similar procedures were followed by other pandits housing refugee relatives. Kashyap Bandhu set up a group of volunteer in Srinagar to look after the refugees. Given the strict caste rules of Pandits, it was important to show publicly that they were welcome. That the refugees were ready for a new life.

Then it was all forgotten like a bad dream. 


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Shikaris

From the book 'East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon' (1926) by Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt, story of Shikari duo from Kashmir who travelled far and wide for the kills.

Rahim Lone and Khalil Lone of Bandipore. After returning from expedition
 to the Pamirs, East Turkestan and other remote central Asian destinations.

"Ted and I hired six arabas, and shortly after mid- night on the 14th of July we piled ourselves and our belongings in them and set out with all the speed feasible for Aksu. We loaded the carts lightly, and hoped to make long marches. Besides Rahima Loon and Khalil, we took with us the second cook, Rooslia with Loosa and Sultana. Sultana had received sad news at Yarkand. In a letter to Rahima from Bandi- par he heard of the death of one of his children, a boy of fourteen. The ravages of cholera had been frightful-more than 700 of the villagers had died. Our Kashmiris reminded me of the crew on a New Bedford whaler in the old days, when almost every member was related by marriage or blood. This of course made it sadder still for the Kashmiris, as each one had a relative or close friend to mourn. We had become much attached to our followers. Aimed Shah, who was to take charge of Cherrie's caravan, had proved himself most efficient on the trail across the passes. Feroze was an excellent little fellow; he had a keen sense of humor, and was a merry companion."

"Our Kashmiris were a patriarchal group, well led by Rahima Loon. To his many other qualities, he superadded that of diplomacy. A born diplomat, he managed to be ever smoothing our way, and yet getting us along with amazing speed, for which he fully realized the necessity. He watched over the finances with an eagle eye, and time and again saved us many rupees. Not only did he cut down the larger expenditures, but he also kept well under control the small daily sums that have such a tendency to mount."

                           Rahim Lone at Ayalik, Turkestan

Jemal Shah, the cook. In Ladakh.

At Tian Shan

"It would have both interested and amused Father [The American President ] to find our native American name bestowed upon the wapiti's Asiatic cousin. Our Kashmiri shikaries, getting the name from British sportsmen, referred to the big deer as wapiti. The general native name was boogha, a slight variation, if any, of the name for Yarkand stag. Our Kashmiris called ibex "ibuckus,'' and it was as that we usually referred to them. Their native name in the Tian Shan is "tikka." Siberian roe is known as "illik," and when Rahima first talked of it we believed that he was Kashmirizing elk and was speaking about the wapiti."

The next adventure of Roosevelt brothers had another duo of Kashmiti hunters, this time out hunting a Beishung  in Ningyan,  China. This was the first time any white man had seen a Giant Panda, or shot it.

Photograph from 'The search for the Giant Panda' by Kermit Roosevelt (Natural History, Vol. 30, 1930). The Kashmiri crew included Shikaris Mokhta Lone and Ghaffar Sheikh.

"The beishung does not hibernate. We found fresh signs in regions where the brown and black bears were hibernating, and the one we shot was living in a locality where the black bears had not yet awaked from their winter's nap. We came upon his tracks one morning in the newly fallen snow. They were partly obliterated, for four or five hours had passed since he went by. Three hours' trailing through dense jungle brought us to the spot which he had selected for his siesta. We caught sight of him emerging from the hollow bole of a giant fir tree, and fired simultaneously.

The giant panda, from all we could learn, is not a savage animal. After the shooting, our Kashmir shikarries remarked that he was a sahib, a gentleman, for when hit he had remained silent, and had not called out as does a bear."


Saturday, October 19, 2013

When I say "I read Kashmir", I mean...


List of Children's Books on Kashmir

River boy of Kashmir, 1946

Some illustrations by Margaret Ayer for Jean Bothwell's 'River boy of Kashmir' (1946)

It is interesting to note that a lot of the illustrations in such books were based on the imagery created by photographs of Kashmir that were reaching Kashmir.

The above illustration is based on a photograph by Randolph B. Holmes in around 1915

from Tyndale Biscoe's book 'Character Building in Kashmir' (1920)

Something aside: This is took me sometime to remember where I have seen that face...

Doug Wildey's Hadji Singh of Calcutta from the cartoon series Jonny Quest


Search for a Magic Carpet in Kashmir, 1981

'Search for a Magic Carpet in Kashmir' (1981) by Frances Hawker and Bruce Campbell was probably the last of its kind - a children's book meant to introduce young ones in west to the exotic east, to Kashmir, all using some beautiful images and a simple story.

This one is weaved around photographs of two little girls Shukila and Hanifa, and send them on a quest for a Magic carpet of their grandfather's stories.

The camera follows them as they walk around the city asking everyone about it. So, along the way we get glimpses of the city. But, the magical flying carpet remains untraced, or so it seems till...

"Hanifa drifted into deep sleep. She felt herself floating upwards. Suddenly the mountains and lakes of Kashmir seemed far below her. Was this a dream, or had she really found the magic carpet?"


Friday, October 18, 2013

Aabi Guzar, 1950s

Previously: Old House on Jhelum, Aabi Guzar (2010/08)

"Further on is building much like a young castle right before The Bund and with stone steps leading up from the water to the inside of the building. It is a quaint house, no one seems to know the purpose for which it was originally built, the most popular belief being a school. "

~ 'This is Kashmir' (1954) by Pearce Gervis.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aboard "Melisande", 1929

"There is magic in names. Who of us has not felt the lure hidden in such words as Samarkand, Peshawar, Khartoum, Peking - the far-flung places of the earth, which call us in our hours of dreams? So I felt about Kashmir, that beautiful vale which lies in the lower Himalaya, north of the Indian Punjab"

~ 'House-Boat Days in the Vale of Kashmir' by Florence H. Morden (photographs by Herford Tynes Cowling), for National Geographic Magazine, October 1929.

Afternoon Tea on the Upper Deck of the "Melisande'
Usually some English friends, on leave from lower India, would drop in to chat with the Americans. Old Golry flies because it happened to be Decoration Day [Memorial day/first Monday of May]. Though the Kashmiri is a skillful boat builder, he did not invent the house boat. It was introduced into the country some 40 years ago.

Vintage Kashmir in National Geographic Magazine

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Monkey business on the Hill

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was Kashmir. This was beginning with God and the duty of every faithful monk would be to repeat every day with chanting humility the one never-changing event whose incontrovertible truth can be asserted. But we see now through a glass darkly, and the truth, before it is revealed to all, face to face, we see in fragments (alas, how illegible) in the error of the world, so we must spell out its faithful signals even when they seem obscure to us and as if amalgamated with a will wholly bent on evil.

Hari Parbat is in Faridabad. Koh-e-Maran is in Balochistan and in Kashmir. Takht-e-Suleman is in Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Balochistan and now officially in Kashmir.  And Adi Shankaracharya broke and re-built a temple in Srinagar of Gharwal, where they tell stories of a demon who died of head injury after getting hit by a divine rock.

To call everything by its true name and the trouble to be reminded that everything is a double.

Shankracharya and Takhht-e-Suleimani have both been used for a long time. But both names are essentially just names which people have given to it relatively recently. Name Shankracharya became a currency during Sikh/Dogra time. A name which Pandits, having recently regained ground, happily adopted. Thanks to work of Sir Stein, all kind of ancient places were getting reclaimed during this era. Takhht-e-Suleimani became a currency during Mughal/Afghan time. During Dogra time a inscription declaring the temple as 'Takhht-e-Suleimani' was destroyed by the soldiers. The inscription had come up during Mughal times probably when Noorjahan got the ancient stone stair case leading to the temple destroyed and had the stone used for her Pathar Masjid (which in turn provided stones for building Sher-Grahi palace by Afghans). By the time British arrived, re-naming war was already on, for the hill, both name were in currency. Based on which religious group you asked, a convenient name was provided.  That's how the dual name system gained currency. What about the one true name? The temple it is believed was originally known as Jyeshteswara and was first built by Jaloka, son of Asoka around 220 B.C. One of the old name of the hill was Sandhimana-paravata named after Sandhimana, minister of Jayendra (ruling from A.D. 341 to 360). In between, it is believed, Gopaditya (A.D. 238 to 253) repaired the old temple on the hill…giving the name 'Gopadri' to hill. Then there is a theory ( by James Ferguson countering the previous theory of A. Cunningham) that the temple we see now was commenced by a nameless Hindu during Jahangir's time but remained incomplete when Aurangzeb arrived on the scene. This unfinished state gave it the ancient and misleading look. This assumption came from some Persian inscription on its staircase. But then there were other writing on the staircase too which read, other claims likes "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 scribble stating that "he who raised this temple was Khwaja Rukn, son of Mir Jan in the year___."

Then there is theory that the spot was actually Buddhists and is still revered by them and called as 'Pas-Pahar'. So it goes on...


Friday, October 11, 2013

Houseboat Life in Kashmir, 1891

Houseboat Life in Kashmir
on way to Sumbul on the Thelum River
Drawn by W. Small
The Graphic
August 8, 1891
Came across this while digging The British Newspaper Archive


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kashmiris by Alexandre Jacovleff, 1931

In 1931-1932 as Georges-Marie Haardt's Trans-Asiatic Expedition made its way from Beirut to Beijing on, tagging along was as an 'Artistic Advisor' was a brilliant Russian artist named Alexandre Yevgenievich Jacovleff (1887-1938). Jacovleff kept a log of the journey, etching his experiences and impressions in a diary and later painting over them to create one of the most fascinating ethnographic collection based on the lives of people living in the remotest of Central Asian Regions. 

Some of the paintings were published by National Geographic (Vol. 50, 1931) which had sponsored the Expedition. Some more were published by Jacovleff in 1934 in a work titled 'Dessins et Peintures d'Asie exécutés au cours de l'expédition Citroën Centre-Asie. Troisième mission G.-M. Haardt, L. Audouin-Dubreuil. Éditée sous la direction de Lucien Vogel' And some works made it to private collections.

Kashmir was an important pitstop in the journey that took them through Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China.

Collected from various sources here are Kashmiris by Alexandre Jacovleff, to which I am adding some notes.

Painting: Danseaurs cachemiri, Schrinagar
Kashmiri Dancers, Srinagar 

Original Etching in 'Dessins et Peintures d'Asie exécutés au cours de l'expédition Citroën Centre-Asie'

Chanteur cachemire. Schrinagar
Kashmiri Singer, Srinagar
Caption in book reads: Danseaur cachemiri, Schrinagar
Kashmiri Dancer, Srinagar.
But the note on the painting reads Kashmiri Dancer, Astor.

A page from a government of India publication on Kashmir, 1955
The dance for is known as 'Bach'e Nagma' or 'Kid Dance' in Kashmir. And still remains popular.
Portrait of Kashmiri dancer/Bacha Gulzar Ahmed from Budgam. In Noida, Delhi.
Top Right: Kashmiri at Bandipore
Below it: Baba ...Das...(Udhasi). Pandit at Sopore
Portrait D'Homme Du Cashmere
Portrait of a man of Kashmir
Pandit Shreedhar Raina
Officer in charge
Government Telegraph Office
Aside note
Notice the headgear on the Khirgiz woman drawn by Jacovleff
A Kashmiri woman drawn by drawn by H.R. Pirie in around 1908
Screenshot from the first Kashmiri feature length film 'Mainz Raat', 1964.
Set on life in rural Kashmir.


Friday, October 4, 2013

A rug factory that was in Amritsar

William Sloane arrived in America as an emigrant from a Scottish town famous for weaving carpets and rugs. In 1843, William Sloane along with his younger brother John W. Sloane went on to form a company called W.& J. Sloane, importing rugs and carpets into America and changing the way the rich and famous decorated their homes in that country.

In 1876 at Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, William Sloane noticed that the most popular attractions was the Oriental rugs. He bought the entire collection for a millions dollars and then displayed them at his New York store where it is said they sold 'like lollipop'. The average price was $10,000 with one Persian masterpiece even selling for $75,000. This was the first time in America that a retail house was selling Oriental Rugs. Looking at this success, soon others jumped into the market but Sloane was still at the top of the game.

In 1882, to maintain his lead, Sloane's got in touch with a rug manufacturer in Amritsar offering to buy their entire output. The deal was done and Sloane's was the  become only American retail store with its own Oriental rug manufacturer. 

The manufacturer was Khan Bahadur Shaikh Gulam Hussun & Company. Shaikh Gulam Hussun's Great-grandfather was a Kashmiri migrant shawl weaver, who probably arrived in Punjab at a time when Shawls were in much demand in Europe. But that business died with the end of Franco-Prussian war. Now, the American's it seemed had arrived just in time. Shaikh Gulam Hussun & Company had left the shawl business and moved to carpets in around 1880. While weaving was done in Amritsar, they got material from Kashmir where they maintained another workshop.

It was a mutually beneficial agreement for both the parties. Sloane's could now give their designs and requirements for rugs tailored for American taste and yet retain Oriental touch as was manufactured in India.

But this design and requirement transferring was easier said than done. The method employed was ingenious but laborious. A design once approved was traced on a huge sheet of graph paper, each square representing a knot in wool. The minute specifications and texture design were appended to the sheet and sent off to Amritsar. In Amritsar, the master weaver, the only one who could read the instructions duly translated in Urdu and intone them to the other workers. It was a painful process, considering that an average rug was 12 x 15 foot and had 3,500,000 hand tied knots, a process that took three to four years. 

This business partnership lasted right until 1948. Then India became Independent, Pakistan arrived and like many other threads, this thread too got severed. Violence engulfed the areas around the newly created borders. Shaikh Gulam Hussun found himself in middle of it all.

On April 8, 1947, Shaikh cabled Sloane's:
"Thank god we and Swadeshi (a subsidiary wool spinning plant) escaped damage. If no further trouble hope dispatching from Amritsar fifty per cent more yardage than last year."

The people caught in conflict were yet to grasp the scope of this violence. They were yet to understand how deep the cuts are going to be and how long will the bleeding go on.

Violence soon caught up with Shaikh's optimism. 

In October Shaikh reported pillaging of Amritsar, the burning and looting of his home and factory. The machinery that survived was requisitioned by the East Punjab Government.

Then in 1948, India and Pakistan had their first war over Kashmir. Shaikh's luck was finally out, but still he clung to a hope. 

"Owning to various difficulties," wrote Shaikh with amazing stolidity in January, 1948, "we do not think we will be able to resume out business as quickly as anticipated for now we are cut off from Kashmere. The rumour was that our factory has been confiscated over there."

That was the end of the story for Khan Bahadur Shaikh Gulam Hussun & Company. Sloane, on the other hand now started sourcing their material directly from Kashmir.

In 'The story of Sloane's' published by W.& J. Sloane Firm in 1950, we read:

"Thus was this friendly personal and commercial tie finally broken. Some day, it is hoped, Shaikh may re-establish his enterprises in Amritsar; but this is doubtful as all the Mohammedans, who were the weavers, have fled. the remaining Hindus do not weave. Sloane's is now receiving its hand-woven rugs from Syrinagar, in Kashmere."

Young hands at Shaikh Gulam Hussun's factory, Amritsar. 1915.
Photograph: 'The Bombay Presidency, the United Provinces, the Punabb, Kashmir, Sind, Rajputana and Central India: Their History, People, Commerce and Natural Resources' (1920) by Somerset Playne

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First Kashmiri Bible and the translation affairs, 1821

The first meeting of Kashmiri language and English language happened through a translation of Bible, in Bengal. In 1821, missionary William Carey of Serampore, who spent a most of his life producing translations of Bible into various Indian languages, brought out the Kashmeere Holy Bible. Carey is known to have used native experts for most of his translations, but the names of his Kashmiri helpers isn't known. What is known is that the script used for this book was Sharda.

A snippet of Kashmiri Bible in Sharda Script
[An Introduction to the Critical Study of the Holy Scriptures, Volume 2.
By Thomas Hartwell Horn. 1836]
Update [Transcription of the lines by Mrinal Kaul: "yima lookh anigati andar bihith a'yes timav............dochas (?) hiy kaayaayi andar behan vaalyen emad sapa (?)."
Which I believe would probably mean Matthew 4:16: The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.]

Kashmiri was a new language for English people. Mistakes were bound to happen. And the genuineness of the translation was yet to be tested. A mistake had in fact been made. They were soon to realize that perhaps Sharda was the wrong script for reaching out to Kashmiri people. 

An entry dated July 2nd, 1938, in journals of Rev.John Newton of Lodiana (Foreign Missionary Chronicle, 1838), we find following curious entry:

"Two parties of Kashmrii brahmans who live in Amritsar, (120 miles from Lodiana) came this morning for books. I was gratified to find they were able to read and understand Dr. Carey's Kashmiri Testament. Ever since we came to Lodiana, we have been looking for some one who could read this work, and give us some opinion of its merits; but such a one has not hitherto been found. The fact seems to be that four sixth of the Kashmiris , or more are Mohammedans; these are accustomed to no written character but the Persian or Arabic. Those who have adhered to the ancient faith of the nation, retain likewise the old written character, which is based on the Sanscrit. There are very few of them in Lodiana, and comparatively few, I suppose at any place. Since they are so small fraction of the nation, the Kashmiri Testament can be used by a much smaller number of people, than if it had been come out in a Persian dress. The merits of the translation I could not learn from the men who were here this morning, though for the most part they made out the true meaning of what they read."

Kashmiri language was to befuddle the missionaries for quite sometime. The confusion it caused can be gauged from the fact that a grammar for Panjabi published around the time was confused by most for a Kashmiri grammar. They obviously needed vocabularies, glossaries and dictionaries of authentic Kashmiri. 

Strangely enough, the first of these grammars and vocabularies were brought out not using the help of Kashmiri living in Kashmir, but the immigrant Kashmiris of Punjab. 

*The first grammar and vocabulary was brought out by Mr. M.P. Edgeworth of the Bengal Civil Service, and it was based on the dialect of shawl-weavers of Ludhiana, through the assistance of one Meer Saf-u-deen, 'a respectable Syud of that place'.  The second help for understanding Kashmiri language was just a grammar by one Major R.Leech, C.B.. This one too was brought out with the help of Kashmiri weavers of Ludhiana. 

* Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1867). 

Vocabularies, Glossaries and Dictionaries of Kashmiri Language

M.P. Edgeworth (1841), [ref]

Major R.Leech (1844) [link]

H.S. Godwin Austin (1866) [collected]

L.B. Bowring (1866) []

William J. Elmsie (1872)

A Grammar of the Kashmīrī Language: As Spoken in the Valley of Kashmīr, North India 
by Thomas Russell Wade (1888)

[Also to his credit goes: The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration, &c .... (in the Cashmírí language). Published by the Punjab Christian Knowledge Society. First edition. Amritsar; Printed at the Safir-i-Hind Press, . . . 1884.]

Kashmiri Persian Dictionary (Sonti Pandit, 1893)

Kashmiri-Sanskrit Dictionary by Ishwara Kaula. Incomplete.

A Dictionary of Kashmiri Language (1916-1932, 4 parts) by G.A. Grierson based on material by Ishwara Kaul. [Online Word Search Engine, Part 1]


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Strange Case of Beauty, 1907

At the beginning of 20th century, it seems, there were so many Kashmiris living in Punjab that if a random photographer went out to shoot a random Punjabi woman there was a good chance he would come back with a random shot of Kashmiri woman.

The following postcard dated 1907 (Bombay) and captioned 'A model of Panjab Beauty' is probably the strangest curio in my collection.

But, it obviously needed some fixing...

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