Kashmiri literature with poetry as its chief mode of expression, can be said to have begun with Lal Ded. "that most manly of women seekers after God" and the other outstanding mystic, Sheikh-ul-alam. 14th century mysticism was followed by the age of vatsun. With chang, rabaab and santoor full of the affirmation of life, with Habba Khaatoon. That incomparable votary of passion, riding the waves. The 19th century was the age of masnavis, whose heavy Persian influence dominated the theme, form, diction and metre of poetry. Their theme were mostly local tales of love and war. Side by Side,bhakti and sufi poets flourished. The dawn of the modern age brought new movements, revolutionary in character, like the progressive movement, shifting the wirter's worldview altogether. This was followed by disillusion and despair. The glory of the kashmiri writer lies in his/her braving the storm. One unique thing about kashmiri letters is the total absence of prose till 1940 (apart from the language of speech). During the last six decades it has, however, branched out into various genres like essay, critism, history, drama and fiction and kashmiri literature now has a pride of place in Indian Letters.
T.N. Raina (b.1922) retired as professor of English from the National Defence Academy. He has brought out two books of translations: An Anthology of Modern Kashmiri Verse (1972) and the Best of Mahjoor (1989). He also has Cradle for Leadership, a history of the National Defence Academy of India and a monograph on Dina Nath Nadim published
by SAhitya Akademi, to his credit.
I am grateful to the Sahitya Akademi for assigning me the project of writing a history of Kashmiri literature. In completing this task I am highly indebted to all Western and Indian scholars who have written on Kashmiri language and literature. I would like to mention in particular Sir George A Grierson for his Kashmiri Dictionary, Jayalal Kaul for his erudite essays (Studies in Kashmir), Braj B Kachru for his Kashmiri Literature which is scholarly, concise and comprehensive, Shafi Shauq and Naji Munawar for their Kaashiri Adbuk Tawareekh and Autar Krishen Rahbar for his Kaashiri Adbuk Tawareekh (Vol I). I am deeply grateful to them as also to Arjan Dev Majboor for his assistance and to all the learned scholars mentioned in the Select Bibliography. I may also mention that I have drawn from my own three books in compiling the present volume.
During the last 800 years of its span of existence, the significant periods in Kashmiri literature have been 1300-1438 (Saint poets), 1550-1600 (Habba Khaatoon), 1700-1800 ( Rupa Bhawaani, Arnimaal) and 1800-1885 (masnavis and bhakti poems) but no prose was in evidence till the year 1940. Similarly literary drama, short stories, novels and discursive prose of all kinds are also only half a century old. Thus this book is mainly a history of Kashmiri poetry, with the last chapter on the birth and development of prose.
My thanks to Mr R.K. Unnithan for having typed the manuscript. I know how difficult it must have been for him to type the Kashmiri transcripts in the Roman script, not being familiar with the language. Thanks also to Mr Ibrahim Beig for his valued assistance.
Lastly, I would like to mention that the book would not have been completed but for the help I received from my son, Pramathesh. It is his invaluable suggestions and his dedicated involvement in revising and editing the manuscript that alone could bring it to a presentable shape. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
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