Contribution of Kashmir to Farsi literature

K.N. Pandita

Introduction

Kashmir’s contribution to Farsi literature has to be taken as part of India’s contribution to Farsi literature. The beginning and popularizing of Farsi language and literature in India is connected with the establishment of Muslim rule first in the western and then in other parts of India;

Before we proceed we should explain why we say Farsi literature instead of Persian literature. Persia is derived from Persis, a Greek divinity rising in the east. European and especially the colonial historians borrowed the word from Herodotus but used it as Persia meaning the land of Persis. The Iranian historians used the word Pars for the lands of Persis while the Arabs used Fars. The language which the people of Pars spoke came to be called Parsi. The Arab historians, whose works had become popular after the fall of Sasanian Empire –- the last Aryan indigenous empire of Iran — in 652 A.D., Persian as the spoken language was popularized by the British colonial power. It was Reza Shah Pahlavi (15 March 1878 – 26 July 1944), the founder of the Pahlavi ruling house who ordered the replacement of Persia with Iran and Iranian language as Farsi.

The first among the Muslim invaders was a warlord from Ghazna, a small town in present-day Afghanistan. Between A.D 997 and 1030, Mahmud of Ghazna descending from a Turko-Mongoloid line conducted no fewer than seventeen incursions into India. His mission was loot, plunder and destruction of Hindu temples. Mahmud’s historian al-Utbi has called him a patron of learning in his work Tarikh-i-Yamini (A.D. 1020) but my teacher at the University of Teheran, Dr Safa, the most outstanding scholar of contemporary Iran, has categorically stated in his 5-volume celebrated work Tarikh-i- Adabi – Iran (Literary History of Iran) that Mahmud was a rapacious looter and had nothing to do with learning.

From the rise of Mahmud of Ghazna to the assassination of Mahmud Ghori, there are about 170 years. No attempt was made by any warlord to enforce studying of Farsi language by the people of the Indian lands that had come under their sway. Even it is not clear what language or dialect these two invaders and their soldiers spoke because their fighting forces were an assorted group of ethnic Turks, Uighurs, Mongols, Tajiks, Awaghans, Tukharas and others.

The foundation of Delhi Sultanate was laid in A.D. 1206 by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, a Turkic army slave (Mamluk) of Muhammad Ghori. Five Muslim dynasties, all originating from Central Asian Turko-Mongoloid stock, and speaking various dialects of Turkistani language, ruled over India from A.D. 1206 to 1526. They were all engaged in expanding the boundaries of the Sultanate, attacking Indian rulers one after the other, destroying temples and Hindu civilizational symbols and distributing large jagirs among their generals and top bureaucrats. Though in their official correspondence they used Farsi language as the medium of expression they hardly spoke in that language. Therefore we can say that although the introduction of Farsi language in India began sporadically during the reign of the Sultans yet it did not achieve such a prominent position as to make any significant contribution.

Of course, the Sayyids of Baihaq in Khurasan who ruled over India for a short period of seventy-five years (A.D. 1451 – 1526) did make Farsi the official language, conducted state affairs in that language and also encouraged the courtiers and those associated with the court to familiarize themselves with Farsi. The simple reason was that they came from Baihaq in Khurasan, which was known for Shia religious learning and theology. We will see that the Baihaqi Sayyids extended their influence in Kashmir also and even managed to be its rulers for some time.

The real period in which Farsi attained great importance as the official language and in which entire administrative and revenue business was conducted and a whole host of great poets, prose writers, historians, theologians, Sufi thinkers, biographers, diarists (roznamcheh navisan) and epistolatory, was of the Mughals. This narrative is outside the scope of this study, and therefore, we ignore it but go straight to Kashmir.

Kashmir: Civilizational transformation

Farsi came to Kashmir with the advent of the Muslims from the Central Asian region and Iran. In A.D. 1339, one Khashya chieftain in the Panchghavara region (present Rajouri-Budhil) in the southern foothills of Pir Panchal range, was engaged in a feud with his political rivals. He left his native place along with a band of his highland kinsmen and settled down in Baramulla, the gateway to Kashmir.

.In these chaotic times when Kashmir was devastated by invaders from the north, Kota Rani inducted this Shahmir along with his band of khashya highlanders into her service. Shahmir was an intrepid fighter and won the final victory over the warring local warlords. He murdered Bhikshana, the foster brother and commander of the troops of Kota Rani, the Queen. Then marching at the head of his troops he came to the fortress at Andrkot , besieged the queen, took her prisoner and then announced himself the ruler of Kashmir in A.D. 1339. Thus the five-thousand-year-old Hindu Kashmir kingdom passed into the hands of the Muslims and the foundation of Kashmir Sultanate was laid by Shahmir now assuming the name Sultan Shamsu’d Din Shahmir.

With the inception of Muslim rule in Kashmir, the floodgates for the arrival of Islamic missionaries, religious scholars (ulema), theologians, (muhaddis), jurisconsults (Qadis), and Islamic preachers (waiz) from Central Asia and Iran were opened. They received royal patronage more than what they expected and the proselytized Kashmiris vied with one another in showing extraordinary reverence to them labelling them as harbingers of a new faith, a new culture and a new lifestyle.

Sultan Qutbu’d-Din was the sixth ruler in line after Shahmir and that fills a gap of about thirty-seven years. Obviously, during this period Sanskrit in Sharada script continued to be the working language of Kashmir. However, since Islamists had cast their shadow on Kashmir right from the times of Bulbul Shah (d. A.D. 1327) Farsi was going to replace it in all probability very soon. Some of the tombstones of those days that have survived till date carry the epitaph in both Sanskrit (in Sharada script) and Farsi. Such tombstones were still to be seen there as late as the 1980s at Bahau’d-Din sahib complex in Nowhatta, Srinagar.

The reign of Sultan Qutbu’d-Din (A.D. 1373- 1389) is the first milestone in the history of Persian language making inroads into Kashmir. Kashmir historians tell us that Qutbu’d –Din could versify in Farsi. Three couplets cited by almost all leading historians, and attributed to the Sultan, begin follows:

Ay begird-e sham-e ruyat alami parvaneh-i
Waz lab-e shirin-i tu shurist dar har khneh-i

(The entire world has become a moth, swarming round the candle of your face
In every household there is heated talk about you sweet lips).

These verses show that the composer is well-versed in the linguistic nicety and has made a remarkably apt selection of words and phrases and at the same time happens to be well conversant with the rules of prosody so important in Farsi versification. Unfortunately, his poetical or other works have not survived the vagaries of time.

The significance of Sultan Qutb’d-Din’s reign is that it was during his times and in A.D 1381 the most prominent Iranian scholar-Sufi Amir Sayyid Ali of Hamadan in western Iran paid his first (?) visit to Kashmir via Kulab in Tajikistan. He is the first and the most outstanding missionary to come to Kashmir where he undertook the mission of Islamization of this land. Kashmiri historians call him Shah-i-Hamdan and show the greatest respect to him. In a short Farsi poem Allama Iqbal says that “He brought “knowledge, art, culture and religion to the region (of Kashmir):

Khitteh ra an shah-i darya asteen/ dad ilm-o san’at o tahzib o deen

More recent researches have shown that Sayyid Ali was not a Sufi in the strict sense of the term because we have no knowledge of from whom he received the formal training in Sufi practices and to which hospice or peer (teacher) he was attached as a student. In all probability, he was learned in theology and Islamic practices. After arriving in Kashmir he found that there was a vast scope of undertaking a messianic mission of propagating Islamic faith in this land and converting the Hindus to his faith. Therefore it is safer to call him an Islamic propagator/missionary rather than a Sufi of Kubraviyya or any other order.

Sayyid Ali set up a platform on one corner of the expansive compound of the Kali temple complex in Fateh Kadal, Srinagar, wherefrom he began delivering sermons to the newly proselytized community. By this time, a large number of scholars and learned men in Islamic religion began arriving in Kashmir from Central Asian and Iranian regions. The Muslim State of Kashmir offered them support and requisite facilities. It has to be noted that the sermons of Mir Sayyid were delivered in Farsi, his mother tongue, and in all probability, some of the converted people had picked up the elements of Farsi language and grammar and were able to convey to the audience the substance of the preaching of the Sayyid in their language (Sanskrit/Kashmiri).

The author of Tohfatul Ahbab tells us that Mir Sayyid was a follower of Shia faction whereas his son Mir Muhammad, who arrived in Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Sikandar, the Iconoclast, differed with him as he was a staunch Sunni. Dedamari gives the names of at least one dozen prominent religious scholars from Central Asian regions that came to Kashmir during the reign of Sikandar.

The real work of contributing to various genres of Farsi literature and branches of knowledge in Kashmir began in the reign of Sultan Zainal Abidin, (d. A.D. 1473) popularly known among Kashmiris as Bud Shah meaning the Great King. He is the first among the Sultans of Kashmir who evinced keen interest in promoting Farsi learning. Men of learning gathered at his court and he held discussions with them.

By the time Sultan Zainu’l Aidin ascended the throne in A.D. 1421, most of the Hindus including the learned and scholarly among them had converted to Islam. At the same time, since they would continue to function at key posts under the new dispensation, they quickly learned Farsi language and its niceties. From Jonaraja we learn that most of the leading scholars associated with the royal court at this point of time were bi-lingual meaning Sanskrit and Farsi. In a very short time and also owing to the patronage of the court, Farsi began to be taught in special schools and the converted community intellectuals thronged those schools to pick up the new language.

Two important social aspects need to be noted. The first is that the foreign missionaries eager to propagate Islamic Sufism in Kashmir at this point of time found to their surprise that the Kashmiri Hindus had much more elaborate mystical system with roots in Shaivism with a cosmopolitan view. It propagated universalism. In comparison, the Sufism which they brought was by and large confined to the propagation of Islamic faith and practices. In Kashmir, Rishism was the format of local mysticism and people were ardently following it. Therefore, the Islamic missionaries in Kashmir decided not to confront the proselytized community on this count but help forge a synthesis that would place the Shaivite thinkers at par with the Sufi mystics and in this way synthesis of philosophical streams came into being during the early days of Islam in Kashmir. Laleshwari and other Rishis prominently mentioned by Farsi historians were the product of this synthesis. That is the reason why their idiom is a mix of Sanskrit, Kashmiri and Farsi phraseology. The Rishis, meaning the converted Shaivite ascetics maintained the essential philosophy of Advaita and also adapted the wahda hu la shareek line of Islamic mysticism.

The second notable thing is that outstanding scholars of Sanskrit and Hindu learning generally called acharya got the title of Mulla after conversion. Generally, people think that Mulla stands for a cleric or a Muslim clergy who conducts Islamic rituals. It may be a later interpretation but the truth is that the prefix Mulla always meant a professor, acharya and a learned man for those writers in the early Islamic period.

Literature

When did Muslims in Kashmir begin to write history? This question cannot be answered precisely because of the loss of at least three early Farsi histories mentioned in later historical record. We are told that one Mulla Ahmad Naderi, living at the court of Sultan Zainu’l-‘Abidin (A.D. 1450), was a court historian and had written the history of his patron. This work is no more extant. Likewise, the Farsi translation of Rajatarangini made during the reign of Zainu’l-‘Abidin, too, is lost to us.

The more significant branch of literature in which Kashmiri writers evinced much interest is of historiography. We have at least two dozen histories of Kashmir written in Farsi during the later medieval times most of which have been preserved to us. Historians writing on Kashmir in the English language have mostly drawn material from the Farsi histories. However, except three or four of these annals, the rest remain in Farsi and have not been translated into English. Some of the more prominent Farsi histories written in Kashmir, or other words, the prominent contribution of Kashmir to Farsi language and literature is essential to be traced in the rich fund of historiography preserved to us even through turbulent days. We shall make a mention of only some of these by way of specimen because dealing with all available Farsi histories is beyond the scope of this paper.

Of more known histories of mediaeval Kashmir written in Farsi, we may list Tarikh-i-Kashmir by Sayyid Ali (A.D. 1579), Tarikh-i-Kashmir, Mulla Husain Naderi (A.D. 1580), Tadhakiratu’l-‘Arifin, Mulla Ali Raina (A.D. 1587), Tabaqat-i-Akbari, Nizamu’d-Din (A.D. 1592), Tarikh-i- Narayan Kaul Ajiz, (A.D. 1710), Tohfatul Ahbab, Muhammad Ali Kashmiri (c. A.D. 1560), Tarikh-i-Rashidi, Mirza Haider Dughlat (A.D. 1592) and Baharistani-Shahi, by Muhammad Ali (A.D. Among histories of later period we may include Tarikh-i-Kabir of Miskeen (A.D. 1892), Waqa’at-e-Kashmir by Dedamari (A.D 1747) and Tarikh-i-Kashmir by Pir Ghulam Hasan Khuihami (A.D. 1890), Majm’a-ut-Taarikh by Birbal Kachroo (A.D. 1835) and Gulab Nama by Kripa Ram (A.D. 1857 -1885)

We have already said that some valuable Farsi histories of Kashmir of the early Islamic period are lost to us. In particular, mention has been made of the history of one Mulla Naderi, which is said to be the Farsi rendering of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, and brought up by the author to his times viz. fifty-two years of the reign of Sultan Zain’l-‘Abidin (d. A.H. 878/A.D.1473). Abul Fadl, whose Ain-i-Akbari contains a very valuable and comparatively unbiased record of Kashmir history, is said to have found access to Mulla Naderi’s history. During my researches in mediaeval Kashmir history, I have often wondered whether the loss of some important Farsi histories of early Islamic period of Kashmir (and for that matter even some Sanskrit histories of early Islamic period also) is attributable only to the vagary of time and not to the vagaries of human nature.

A critique

Farsi historians of mediaeval Kashmir hardly give any indication of the noticeable impact of the art of historiography of pre-Islamic Kashmir on their works. The reason was that the Sanskrit language, occasionally if not invariably, written in Sharada script — the script evolved during later Hindu period, — dwindled fast as Arabic and Farsi languages flourished first through strenuous efforts of Muslim missionaries from Iran, Trans-Oxiana and Arab lands (Arabistan), and secondly, owing to frugal patronage of the Sultans and their non-Kashmiri ministers and advisers. The number of indigenous bilingual (Sanskrit/Sharada and Farsi) historians dwindled sharply with the rise of Baihaqi Sayyids to positions of power and influence at the royal court. Kashmir historians have made no secret of the apathy rather disregard of Baihaqi Sayyids (circa A.D. 1554) towards an indigenous culture of Kashmiris: they considered them of lower cultural level.

By and large, scholars who tried to make good use of their bilingual skill up to the end of Sultan Zainu’l-Abidin’s times (d. A.D. 1470) are known by the appellation Mulla prefixed to their names. We come across many of them during the first one and a half-century of Muslim rule over Kashmir. The word Mulla is widely used in Trans-Oxiana region from early times. It means a man of learning and not necessarily rites-performing clergy, as is generally understood. In all probability, this was the indigenous title given to the Zoroastrian mobids in Iran and Khurasan after their conversion to Islam. In the case of Kashmir, this is the precise Farsi translation of Sanskrit word Pandit and Acharya. The inference is that a well-versed Sanskrit scholar of good standing in Hindu period assumed the title of Mulla when converted to Islam, and continued his intellectual pursuits in the new social construct. One may assume that those bearing the prefix Mulla to their Muslim names during the period in question were the learned Hindu scholars (Pandits) or scholarly priests (Purohit) who, after conversion to Islam, endeavoured to continue their scholarly pursuits, albeit in a different set of circumstances in which the emphasis shifted from general or secular to exclusively religious and sectarian studies.

In a gloss to the statement of the author of Baharistan-i-Shahi, in which he speaks of Sultan Zainu’l-‘Abidin retrieving many important works of the Hindu scholars from the throes of destruction, the translator and annotator of the text writes: “ Copies of the Vedas and Shastras were procured from India and got translated into Farsi. Many Arabic and Farsi books were got translated into Sanskrit. Particular mention can be made of Mulla Ahmad’s translation of Rajatarangini and Mahabharata. The Sultan also made Pandit Jonaraja write an epilogue to Kalhana’ s chronicle, which is the chronicle of events from the times of Jayasimha to his days.”

A couple of Farsi histories, like the Waqa’at-e-Kashmir (Tarikh-i-Uzma) of Muhammad Azam Dedamari (A.H. 1158/A.D 1745), Tarikh-i-Kashmir by Pandit Birbal Kachroo (A.D. 1835), and Tarikh-i-Kashmir by Ghulam Hasan Khuihami (A.D. 1892) begin their account by making a mention of the Hindu kings of Kashmir. But most of them generally dismiss the four thousand years of Hindu rule summarily in a page or two. From their point of view, the meaningful history of Kashmir begins only with the advent of Muslim missionaries and the faith they brought. It is disappointing to note that even Haider Malik of Chadora, who claims to have descended from the superior Suraj Bansi clan of Hindu Rajputs, has dismissed the Hindu period and the story of his illustrious forebears almost perfunctorily.

After these remarks, let us focus on some prominent characteristics of mediaeval Kashmir historiography. It has to be noted that mediaeval Kashmiri historians or even the historians of later periods writing in Farsi, are, one and all, writing under conditions of partial guilt. Willy-nilly, they are obliged to eschew recounting the history of three millennia of Hindu period, firstly owing to a lack of linguistic skill to accede Sanskrit source material, and secondly because of the compulsion of adhering to the non-secular format of the historiography of Muslim period.

Thus almost all Farsi mediaeval histories of Kashmir are stoically silent or non-committal on the phenomenon of the civilizational transformation of Kashmirian society in the 14th and 15th centuries. This vacuum is likely to remain unfilled, and the yawning gap in the continuity of historical record has given way to many controversies, misunderstandings and wild speculations. To some extent, this has led to understating and topically distorting many facts of Kashmir history. Only genuine secular scholarship with adequate linguistic skills and professional honesty can deliver the goods.

Of course, a feeble attempt has been made by a couple of historians to remove this discrepancy. Three works, in particular, namely Tohfatu’l-Ahbab (circa A.H. 1052/A.D. 1642), Baharistan-i-Shahi (A.H 1023/A.D. 1614), and Tarikh-i-Hasan (A.D. 1892) have tried to give a peep into the phenomenon of civilizational transformation.

Poetry

We have a rich fund of Farsi poetry produced in Kashmir onwards of the 15th century. Several books have been produced by scholars enumerating outstanding Farsi poets of Kashmir. The works of great Iranian poets-philosophers remained the model for the Kashmiri Farsi poets in terms of format, thought process and linguistic preferences. Most outstanding among the models are Saadi, Hafiz, Maulana Rum, Urfi, Naziri and also Ferdowsi, the author of the great epic of Shahnameh.

People have often asked the question of how come Farsi poetry became so much popular among Kashmiris that hundreds of phrases and idioms found entry into the Kashmiri language. It is an interesting question. Firstly, we should understand that Farsi has its origin in Avestic and Sanskrit meaning the Aryan language. But unlike Sanskrit, it has perhaps the simplest grammar in any major language of the world. Secondly, thematically speaking, Iranian poetry especially the classical poetry is pure humanism and full of the human element. It is the poetry of peace, love, care and fraternal relationship among human beings. This is precisely what endeared it to the Kashmirian minds. It was perfect for the Kashmiri intellectuals of those days to sing of human values and relationship. Farsi poetry produced in Kashmir is a fine example of secular literature and one wonders how come Farsi poetry could be marvellously secular but the prose writings in the form of histories or biographies or diaries were mostly one track. Before we try to make an overall evaluation of the Farsi poetic works produced in Kashmir in the later medieval period, especially when the Mughals ruled over Kashmir (A. D. 1586 – 1717), let me make a mention of some of the most outstanding Farsi poets who have made a reasonable contribution towards enriching Farsi poetry in Kashmir.

The most outstanding Farsi poet of Kashmir is Mulla Tahir Ghani Kashmiri better known by his pen-name, Ghani. He was born in A.D. 1630 in a respectable Kashmiri Muslim family and is said to be the student of Mulla Mohsin Fani. Ghani has left behind a diwan (collection) of his Farsi ghazals. Almost all tazkira (memoirs) writers of Kashmir have praised his poetic skills and depth of his thought. Ghani greatly loved contentment and is said to have declined the invitation from the royal court of Emperor Aurangzeb to visit him. Dr Safa, the great contemporary Iranian scholar has devoted one full page of his celebrated 5-volume Tarik-i-Adabi-i-Iran to Ghani Kashmiri.

Mulla Mohsin Fani, (d. circa A.D. 1671), an eminent Farsi poet remained associated with the court of Prince Dara Shikoh. Apart from being a poet, he has written an interesting work titled Dabistanu’l Mazahib (School of Religions) in which he enumerates various religious sects that existed in Kashmir during his times. These include Jews and Zoroastrians also besides others. This is considered a very valuable document on the social life of Kashmir in the 17th century. Here is a sample verse from one of his Farsi ghazals:

Sarv eestadeh beh chu tu raftar mikuni/ tuti khamosh beh chu tu guftar mikuni

(tr: The cypress would be better to stand still when you (beloved) are on the move
The singing bird would be better to remain tongue-tied when you (beloved) begin to speak).

Muhammad Amin Mustaghni, a contemporary of Emperor Akbar, had come close to the court of Kashmirian king Yusuf Shah Chak. He is said to have spent a good part of his life in Lahore and died in A.D. 1624. Maulana Nami, another outstanding Farsi poet was a contemporary of Hasan Shah Chak. He was not only a poet but also a grammarian and has left behind a diwan of his poems. He was somewhat of Epicurean propensity, and this is the sample of his verses:

Hargiz dilam be ghair-e tu ma’il nami shavad/ waz deedeh naqsh-e ru-e tu zail namishavad
Az dooriyat chih baak kih az bo’d-e zahiri/ aslant miyan-e man o tu hail namishavad

(tr: My heart isn’t attracted to anybody other than you/ You visage is not diluted from my eyes
Why be deterred by distance because apparent distance/ can never intervene between you and me).

Mulla Mazhari, contemporaneous with Emperor Akbar has left a diwan of about one thousand verses. He lived in Iran for about seven years and was held in esteem. He died in A.D 1616 and is buried in Bulbul Lankar vicinity in Srinagar. Mulla Awji Kashmir, a contemporary of Emperor Akbar has left behind Farsi Saqi Nameh or the poem of the cup-bearer. He has also a diwan of Farsi ghazals to his credit. He died in A.D. 1622. He says:

Awji charagh-e umr be afsaneh sukhtem / kari na kardehem o dameedan girift sobh

(tr. Oh Awji, I have burnt the life’s candle in gossip / I did nothing and the dawn began to set in).

Mulla Muhammad Saleh Nadeemi lived in Kashmir during the reign of Emperor Shahjahan and had adopted Nadeem as his pen name in ghazals. He has a diwan of ghazals to his credit and had also composed a panegyric for Emperor Shahjahan in which he vividly traced the abject condition of Kashmiris under the rule of that king. We cite only one verse here:

Zeer-i dast azari-i zahir kih dar Kashmir shud / ney be Nishapur o Balkh an shud na dar Merv Farah

(tr: The kind of oppression let loose in Kashmir/ has no parallel in Nishapur or Balkh or Merv or Farah).

Fasihi, Fahmi, Ashna, Juya, Darab, and many more poets have been listed under the period of Akbar and Homayun. Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi (A.D 1521-1595), a Sufi poet-philosopher had attained popularity not only in Kashmir but also among the courtiers of Emperor Akbar. Other of the well-known and influential Persian-language poets of Kashmir would include Habibullah Ghanai (1556-1617), Mirza Darab Beig Juya (d. 1707), Mirza Akmal Kamil (1645-1719), Muhammad Aslam Salim (d. 1718), Mulla Muhammad Taufiq (1765), Muhammad Azam Dedamari (d. 1765), Mulla Muhammad Hamid (1848), and Birbal Kachru Varastah (d. 1865).

Of course, Kashmiri Pandits have also richly contributed to secular Farsi poetry. Apart from Birbal Kachru, another literary celebrity of that community in Farsi is Pandit Taba Ram Turki (1776–1847) (Beetab) who has a diwan of ghazaliyat to his credit besides an epic poem titled Jangnama. Taba Ram Turki was a personal friend of another famous Kashmiri Farsi poet, Mulla Muhammad Tawfeeq. Pandit Taba Ram was a personal friend of Mulla Muhammad Taufeeq (author of Shahnama- e Kashmir in Persian). Taufeeq resided in the vicinity of Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. He was a pupil of Mulla Sati and became a well-known poet of his time. Taufeeq is regarded by some as next only to Ghani. We have come across an anecdote about the two poets which may be recorded here.

“On one occasion someone recited Mulla Tawfeeq’s following verse, .which was applauded by all. Raj Kak Dhar (Minister) threw a challenge to the audience saying, can anyone compose a better verse in same meter etc. Taba Ram Turki Betab took the challenge and produced a master piece. Raj Kak had had put a condition that he will be suitably rewarded. Rajkak ordered his men to deliver 100 kharwars of paddy at Betab’s residence.

Tawfeeq’s verse:

shikasteh rangiy-e man ba tabeeb dar jung ast
ilaj-e dard-e saram husn-e sandali rang ast

(tr: my faded colour of face conflicts with the physician/the cure for my malaise is the beauty of sandalwood colour).

Taba Ram Turki Betab quipped;

siyah bakhtam o az bakht-e khesh khursandam
chara kih bakhte man o zulfe yaar hum rang ast

(How ill-fated I am, yet I am happy with my dark luck
Because my luck and the tresses of my beloved are of same colour).

Betab also composed Ranjit Nama and Akbar Nama. The latter relates to Wazir Akbar Khan or Amir Akbar Khan (A.D 1816-1845 ) a Pashto speaking Afghan prince. In 1861, 14 years after his death, the diwan of poems of Pandit Taba Ram Turki was published.

This is only a brief notice of the Farsi poets of Kashmir. It will be noted that a bulk of Farsi literature whether poetry, history, biography or memoirs was produced mostly during the onset of Mughal rule in Kashmir in A.D 1586 and continued till the later part of the 19th century. The main reason of production of prolific literature is that firstly Farsi language had been established as the official language of Kashmir by the Mughals, and secondly, there was frugal patronage by the Mughal governors and even the royalty for promotion of Farsi literature. During the reign of Shahjahan, a large number of very eminent poets from Iran visited Kashmir and sang in praise of this land. Among them, Kaleem of Kashan, Saib of Isfahan, Naziri of Nishapur, and Toghra of Meshad are very famous. Urfi, the court poet of Jehangir wrote a panegyric (Qasida) in praise of Kashmir which is a masterpiece recognized by all scholars and critics. It begins with the stunning verse:

Har sukhteh jani kih be Kashmir darayad / gar murgh-e kebabast kih ba baal o par ayad

(tr: any sunburn figure that comes to Kashmir/ if it is a roasted chicken, it will get wings and feathers afresh).

Although lot more can be written about Kashmir’s contribution to Farsi literature but let me remain content with whatever little I have said. As in the case of historiography, it is also advisable that we make some brief and relevant comments on the nature of Farsi poetic compositions produced in Kashmir over a couple of centuries under the Mughal rule.

Snobs in Iran have never given sympathetic recognition to the Farsi writers and poets of India including Kashmir, which is a sad reflection on their lack of cosmopolitan outlook of literary pursuits. Distributing the entire gamut of Farsi literature into styles called sabk in Farsi, Iranian critics of myopic vision have created a separate category of style for entire fund of Farsi literature especially the poetry produced in India and gave it the name of sabak-i Hindi, the Indian style. This categorization is based on pointing out negative aspects of the Farsi poetry produced in India, Kashmir included. For example, they assert that Indian poetry is too complicated, it is twisted, it is ambiguous, it is phraseology only and it is more confusing than clarifying etc. None of this type of criticism is tenable because each people and each community has its temperament and style of conversing with the broader masses.

This obsession persisted with most of the Iranian literary critics. But then there appeared a new generation of Iranian critics who looked at the quantity and quality of Farsi fund produced in India and to their surprise, they found it was bulkier than all the Farsi literature produced in Iran. The pioneer of this new thinking and a new approach was Prof. Zabihullah Safa, who categorically rejected the sabk-i-Hindi theory and strongly advocated that India has the tradition of deep introspection and philosophical mindset and Iranians need to appreciate it.

Farsi has not been the mother tongue of Kashmiris. Yet in a short period of a century, most of the Kashmir intellectuals not only picked up Farsi but mastered the idiom brilliantly. They studied the great masters of Iranian literature, they appreciated them and they emulated them. This is what we could call globalization into a contemporary idiom.

Finally, owing to the paucity of space I have not been able to deal with other genres of literature like Memoirs (tazkirah), medicine (tibb), astronomy (najoom), calligraphy (khattati), translations (tarjuma), Quranic exegesis (tafseer), and biography (siyar). Kashmir has commendable contribution in these fields also and research students should divert their attention to uncovering this rich fund.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

The End

Comments are closed.