D. K. Kachru

Excerpts: 'KASHMIRI PANDITS: A CULTURAL HERITAGE' Edited by Prof. S. Bhatt

Kashmiris can jusifiably be proud of their great contribution to the development and enrichment of Persian in India from the fourteenth century of the Christian era onwards. Earlier they had already carved out a special place for themselves in the realms, among others, of Sanskrit language and literature.

The Persian poetical works of some of them had been adjudged, in their times, to be as good as those of the best poets of Iran itself. Habib Ullah Ghanai, 'Hubbi' (1556-1617), Mulla Muhammad Tahir, 'Ghani' (d. 1669), Mirza Darab Beg, 'Juya' (d.1707) and Mirza Beg Akmal, 'Kamil' (1645-1719) of the Mughal period are in the opinion of Dr. G. L. Tikku of the University of Illinois (U.S.A.) only four poets who are, so as to say, landmarks of Persian poetry in Kashmir. Their name and fame travelled as far as Iran in their day.

During almost a century of Afghan and Sikh rule from about the middle of 1700 A.D. to about the middle of 1800 A.D., Mulla Ashraf, 'Bulbul', Abdul Vahab, 'Shaiq', Daya Ram Kachru, 'Khushdil', Mulla Hamid Ullah, 'Hamid', Birbal Kachru, 'Varasta' were equally outstanding and far-famed. One could with apologies to chronlogy, add the distinguished name of Bhawani Dass Kachru 'Neku', Raja Kaul Arzabegi, Chandra Bhan 'Brahmin', Lachi Ram 'Saroor', Narain Dass 'Zamir' and a host of others.

Some of these distinguished men of letters rose of sublime heights of accomplishment which won them deserved acclaim. To those friends who would like to know a little more on the subject I would recommend a study of "Persian Poetry in Kashmir" by Dr. G. L. Tikku. He has called it only "an Introduction". But it is much more than that, and provides educative and excellent reading. Dr. Tikku has rendered a signal service to his old, home-land and to all lovers of Persian by bringing out this excellent "introduction".

Persian, however, slowly ceased to be the language of the court and of the elite with the eclipse of the Moghuls. Urdu took its place steadily and step by step. The part that Kashmiris played in its development and enrichment has again been historic and all-important. In point of that fact Kashmiris, whether Hindu or Muslim, who migrated to various parts of India from the middle of the seveteenth century onwards and settled down in Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan,Central India, U.P. and even Eastern India, slowly forgot their mother tongue, Kashmiri and used Urdu as such. They ultimately, came to regard Urdu as their mother- tongue. In Kashmir itself, Urdu was the court language and therefore in full bloom.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the very foundations of the Urdu novel and of its fiction were laid by that great but tragic genius, Rattn Nath Dhar 'Sarshar'. His classic "Fasanai Azad" was universally acclaimed as a great work of art and charted new paths in virgin soil. He was followed by others. These included in recent days Prem Nath Sadhu 'Pardesi', and my dear old class mate, Prem Nath 'Dhar' who wrote "Kagaz-Ka-Vasudeva" among others.

In the field of Urdu prose stalwarts like Tribhuwan Nath 'Hajar', Shiv Narain 'Shamim', Si Tej Bahadur Sapru to name only a few, rendered yeomen's service. In Urdu drama Agha Hashar Kashmiri was the path finder and pioneer. His "Yahudi-Ki-Beti" has not lost any of its lustre even yet. I will not talk of later day men of letters in these fields.

Again in the development of Urdu journalisr Kashmiris have played a significant role. In th Kashmir State itself the legendary Har Gopal Kaul 'Khasta', was almost the father of Urdu journalism. In Lahore, others apart, the name of Gopinath Gurtu of "Akhbar-i-am" fame was one to conjure with to be followed, with passage of time, by Dina Nath Chikan 'Mast's' "Subeh-i-Kashmir". "Kashmir Darpan" of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, "Morasala-i-Kashmir" and "Subeh-i-Umed" of Brij Narain 'Chakbast' and "Bahar-i-Kashmir" could again well be mentioned in this connection as specimens from U.P. and Lahore.

Urdu poetry owes a significant debt to Kashmiri genius, Sir Mohammad Iqbal, a migrant Kashmiri whose family had left Kashmir and settled in Sialkot. The "Masnavi" of Daya Shankar Tikku, 'Nasim', holds its own even today. Brij Narain Chakbast - a great poet who died young touched the very heights of poetic genius. His "Khak-i-Hind" anti poems of the same genre should be read with Iqbal's "Mera Wattan Wohi Hai" and "Naya Shawab" written very much later. His mastery of Urdu prose was equally superb. The diction, repart and thrust of "Maarika-i-Chakbast-o-Sharar" are a delight, Pandit Brij Mohan Dattatriy, 'Kaifi', was till recently - he died full of years and honours - a venerable name in Urdu literary and cultural circles all over India. My old and revered teacher in S. P. Colleges Sirinagar, Pandit Nand Lal Kaul "Talib" and his friend and contemporary, Pandit Dina Nath Chikan, "Mast", my earlier and very revered teacher at School, Pandit Nand Lal Din 'Begaraz' - again to name only a few-also made their valuable contributions to both prose and poetry in Urdu and Persian. My old collegemate, that great shining star ot Kashmir poetic, literary and cultural firmament, Mali Dina Nath 'Nadim', initially wrote his poetry in Urdu. Some at least of these, which he sweetly recited decades ago, seemed to me then to nearly touch the stars. Again the great Kashmiri seer and Savant 'Masterji'. Pandit Zinda Kaul, also started as an Urdu poet. Some of his Urdu poems won the applause of old masters. That great nightingale of Kashmir, Ghulam Ahmed 'Mahjur' also started with Urdu and made a brilliant success of it. Among living Urdu poets today Pandit Anand Narain Mulla is still acknowledged as the unchallenged high-priest.

Many Kashmiris had invaluable treasures of Persian and Urdu manuscripts with them. They were loath to part with these and unable to preserve them either tragic consequence. I remember - and this is a child-hood memory - that my grand-father, Pandit Nanak Chand, he had a lovely hand, had copied two rare and lengthy Persian manuscripts on fine Kashmir paper with illuminated margins which were kept in a small wooden box. He died in the prime of life and these could subsequently never be traced.

Most Kashmiris were aware of this continued and wanton loss of a valuable heritage but seemed either helpless or indifferent. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and some other distinguished Kashmiris of Allahabad, however, decided to cry a halt, to the extent possible to further ravages of this nature. They, therefore, organized with a rare missionary zeal, a collection drive in the fields of Persian and Urdu poetry by Kashmiris in Northern India. This was indeed a Herculean task.

The dedication and self-less enthusiasm of this small band of lovers of Urdu poetry and of Kashmiris, headed in the field by Pandit Jagmohan Nath Raina, "Shauk", resulted in the publication finally by 1932 of two excellently brought out volumes of a classic in Urdu, "Bahar-i-Gulshan-i-Kashmir". It is a monumental work and received a most enthusiastic reception. It earned for Kashmiris not only numberless bouquets, but also warm admiration for their great literary contributions to both Persian and Urdu poetry in a most outstanding manner. Extracts from the "Kalam" of over three hundred twenty-five Kashmiri poets in Persian and Urdu figured in these two volumes. Peer Pandit Padshah and Rup Bhawani are included amongst a host of others. There are also photographs of the Poets/Poetesses in plenty - a great labour of love. Prose, drama and fiction could not be covered. The canvass would have been too vast. Nearly half a century has elapsed since many Kashmiri flowers have bloomed in the interval in the enchanting gardens of Urdu literature in prose, poetry and drama. But most of us are unaware of this scattered treasure of beauty and this cultural legacy. A fresh band of re-incarnated Jagmohan Nath Rainas has to be born to take up the thread and bring out another volume to span the uncovered interregnum. This is a labour of love which could again be resumed at Allahabad or at Delhi before it is too late. Lovers of Kashmir, of Kashmiri culture, and of Urdu ought surely to spare some thought for this and put their heads together to evolve an effective plan of action. Surely what some of us could do and achieve in this direction more than fifty years ago can be attempted by some more of us again with equal success given the spirit and the dedication.

Kashmiri Overseas Association