IN THE SERVICE OF URDU
Excerpts: 'KASHMIRI PANDITS: A CULTURAL
HERITAGE' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt
early forties, at an all-India gathering of Urdu scholars, the delegates were
asked to draw a panel of names of people, who wrote correct idiomatic Urdu.
Surprisingly, the panel which consisted of four names, included three Kashmiri
Pandits. The panel consisted of Maulvi Abdul Huq, of the Anjuman-i-Tarqi-i-Urdu,
Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Raja Narendra Nath and Pandit Brij Mohan Datatriya 'Kaifi'.
That was the measure of proficiency achieved by the Kashmiri Brahmins in Urdu
When Islam was introduced in Kashmir in early
fourteenth century, Persian became the court language. The Kashmiri Brahmin,
with a remarkable flair for adjusting himself to the changed scenario, switched
over from Sanskrit to Persian. The speed with which Kashmiris mastered this
foreign language was extraordinary. Overnight, the court circulars, the firmans
and the judicial pronouncements were written in chaste Persian by Kashmiri
Brahmins with the same ease with which they wrote Sanskrit.
But Kashmiris not only mastered the art of the official
language, they also tried their hand at literary forms, notably poetry. Scores
of local poets sprang overnight, but their literary output never won any
recognition outside the valley. The only exception was Ghani, whose fame
transcended India and reached Iran. Even today Ghani is regarded as a greater
Persian poet in Iran than Iqbal. Kashmiri Brahmins, continuing the tradition of
Kalhana, wrote history of Kashmir in Persian. They are Anand Kaul Ajaz and
Birbal Kachroo, whose Persian chronicles are a valuable source of Kashmir
When the Mughul empire decayed, Urdu was born in the
ovilight of the decadent Mughul culture. It was in Urdu that the literary genius
of Kashmiris flowered and attained heights never before achieved in Persian.
Kashmiris, who migrated to India in the wake of Pathan
repression, made Urdu their mother-tongue and soon forgot Kashmiri. Sir Tej
Bahadur Sapru once proudly declared: "Urdu is my mother-tongue and I am
proud of it". Almost every town in India had minor Kashmiri poets,
especially in Indian States where they enjoyed royal patronage.
The four Kashmiris who have earned for themselves a
niche in the history of Urdu literature are Mohammad Iqbal, Ratan Nath Dhar 'Sarshar'
Daya Shankar Kaul 'Nasim', and Brij Narain 'Chakbast'.
There can be no two opinions that Iqbal is one of the
greatest Urdu poets of all time. His forefather came from Kulgam from the family
of Saprus. Iqbal was proud of being a Kashmiri.
The first and foremost Kashmiri to win recognition as a
literary giant in Urdu was Pandit Daya Shankar Kaul 'Nasim' of Lucknow. He was
born in Lucknow in 1811 and died in 1845 at the young age of 34. He was a
disciple of the great Urdu poet, 'Atish Nasim's 'Gul Bakawali', a versified
version of the famed love story, made him immortal. His fame caused envy to many
Urdu novelists. Sharar came out with a fantastic story that Nasim was not the
real author of the book, but Atish, but Chakbast wrote a spirited defence of
Nasim and silenced Sharar and his supporters. This controversy, which has now
been settled once for all, was an event of great literary battle in the early
part of this century.
Ratan Nath Dhar was the celebrated author Fasana
Azad, which is regarded as the forerunner of the Urdu novel. He died in
Hyderabad in 1904 under mysterious circumstances. The story of his coming to
literary prominence is as fascinating as his works. He was a school teacher and
wrote a piece for the famous Urdu paper Oudh Punch. The editor at
once realized the potential of the writer and invited him to write regularly for
his paper. Ratan Nath, with prosperity coming to him, became an alcoholic.
According to tradition he was paid not in cash but in bottles of whisky for each
piece. The messenger of Oudh Punch used to come to him with a bottle of
whisky and Ratan Nath Dhar used to write while sipping pegs. He wrote four
volumes of Fasana Azad, and the amount of alcohol he must have consumed
is anybody's guess. His mastery of the Urdu idiom and dialogues of butlers,
begums and courtiers is remarkable for its authenticity. His humour anti wit is
there for all to see. His characters are as well drawn as of Dickens and Fasana
Azad is akin to Pickwick Papers.
The last great Kashmiri poet was Brij Narain Chakbast,
who died at the young age of 44, in 1926. His poetry is full of patriotic
fervour, and is devoid of love and romance. Chakbast was an ascetic and a
liberal in politics like Sir Tej. But Chakbast was master of diction, idioms and
the classical Luknavi Urdu.
Our Own Time
In our own day Pandit Anand Narain Mulla, a former
judge of the Allahabad High Court and an M.P., is a poet of standing.
Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru's services to the cause of Urdu
literature are too well known. Raja Sir Kishen Prasad Kaul, of the erstwhile
State of Hyderabad, was a great patron of the Urdu poets. Among the lesser known
poets one can mention Amar Nath Madan 'Sahir' and Tribhuvan Nath 'Hijar'.
In the valley itself, Kashmiris have served the cause
of Urdu literature well. Nand Lal Kaul Talib, Dina Nath Mast and Nand Lal 'Begarz'
are well known names, among many.