Kashmiri Lyrics

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Item Code: NAR064
Author: J.L.Kaul and Neerja Mattoo
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788126026364
Pages: 169
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 220 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Kashmiri Lyrics : This collection of Kashmiri lyrics with their translations into English, is the only book of its kind. It is a record of Kashmiri lyrical verse from the fourteenth to the middle of the twentieth century: from Lal Ded and Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani (Nandrishi) to Mahjur and Zinda Kaul. Gathered from written and oral sources by a dedicated lover of Kashmiri song, it is something impossible to replicate. The detailed introduction traces the journey of the genre over the times and notes the changes in its form and content under different influences. The original verse is in the Roman script, which makes it accessible to Kashmiri readers unfamiliar with the Nastaliq or Devnagri scripts, in which the language is written now.

About the Author

J.L.Kaul (1900-1986) imbibed a love for Kashmiri literature and philosophy from his father, a scholar of Saivite learning and practice. Though he went on to get a master's degree in English from Allahabad University and taught it in College through his long and distinguished career, the love for his own mother tongue remained and he did pioneering work in collecting its literature and translating significant parts of it into English. He wrote several books, including Lal Ded published by the Sahitya Akademi. Neerja Mattoo (1937) writes in English and translates from Kashmiri into English. She was Professor and Head of Department of English, Government College for Women, Srinagar. Awarded, a senior Fellowship in Literature by Ministry of Human Resource Development, and British Council Visitorship to the Universities of Oxford and London. She has number of published works to her credit, including Contemporary Kashmiri Short Stories by the Sahitya Akademi.

Preface to the New Edition

The monumental, pioneering work done by the late Professor Jai Lal Kaul in his book, "Kashmiri Lyrics", more than seven decades ago, has been out of print for all these years. For me personally, the news that the Sahitya Akademi planned to bring it out after securing permission from Professor Kaul's heirs, and that I was to be associated with this task, was great news. I have had the good fortune of knowing Professor Kaul as a father figure: the friendship between him and my father was so close that the two families were actually just one big family, living in adjacent houses, the two a mirror image of each other. I remember him working at his desk, regularly, when no one could disturb him, not even his wife to whom he was devoted. Sometimes she would get irritated if he did not answer her and then she would comment, "Obviously he can't hear me, lie is searching for the 'word' that he has lost." At that time I did not quite understand what she meant, but later, when I too grew up in the midst of 'words', I could see how demanding, even frustrating, the quest for the right word could be, particularly for a translator.

This 'golden treasury' is the only book of its kind, a collection of the lyrical works of Kashmiri writers from the 14th century onwards, translated into English. Apart from being a record of Kashmiri lyrical poetry over seven centuries with its variations of form and content through time, a valuable part of the book is Professor Kaul's Introduction. In it he traces the history of the Kashmiri lyric, analyses its features and enumerates the particular strengths that enabled this literary form to survive.

While reading the manuscript before its re-publication by the Akademi, I noticed certain archaisms in the translation that would make this classic less accessible to today's reader, for whom primarily, its revival is meant. For instance, words like 'thou', 'thee', and 'thine', I have removed, substituting a more modern word, wherever necessary. I am sure Professor Kaul would have approved!

Today one can only marvel at the patience and tenacity with which Professor Kaul pursued the task. It was not an ordinary research project, it was a resurrecting of songs from the memories of the Kashmiris in village and town, chasing leads, finding old manuscripts, printed verses and even searching through the folk-singers' roughly noted down words. He was driven not only by a rigorous training in scholarship, but love for the Kashmiri language and its wealth of lyrical poetry and a desire to let the English speaking world of India and abroad know of its existence. Till then it was only foreign linguists and researchers who had worked in this area, but they too had touched only 'Mystic' fringes of this realm, leaving the terrain of the romantic lyric, of which we Kashmiris are justly proud, unexplored. It was only proper that a Kashmiri, who knew the soul of Kashmir, loved it and understood the nuances of each word and its connotations and had the same facility with a foreign language, should do this. How well he accomplished this task is a model for the present generation of Kashmiris to try and emulate---with competence, honesty and freedom from bias.

Preface for Original Book

Preface to the Original Book In 1930-31, I went again to the University of Allahabad for a sort of a voluntary refresher course. Professes S.G. Dunn (now retired) was still the Head of the English Department and Professors Amaranatha Jha and S.C. Deb were there too. I selected a subject for my thesis in Ph. D. viz., Bourgeois Element in British Drama; and with the help and guidance I received from these eminent teachers I could, from the outset, proceed on the right track, without any loss of time inevitable, otherwise, in a large library on a subject of English Literature. Soon, however, I came to realize that there was not sufficient material to work at the thesis; and the libraries of the Universities of Lucknow and Benares and the Imperial Library of Calcutta could afford little help. After the spurt of hard work I had put in with the gusto of young ambition I felt disappointed.

It was at this moment that Professors Dunn- and Jha suggested to me that, even in preference to a Ph. D. thesis, I might do a bit of useful work on .a subject connected with my own native province and discover something of value. Sometime after Professor Devendra Satyarthi came to Kashmir on his folk-lore hunt and said to me, "Why don't you take up this work here?" This casual remark confirmed me in the choice of the subject. I am grateful to Dr. Amaranatha Jha, D. Lit., Vice-Chancellor of the University of Allahabad, for writing the foreword; and I am happy that I have received this recognition from the Vice-Chancellor of my Alma Mater for having, in a very humble measure, tried to give back something for what I received from her years ago.

Thanks and acknowledgements are also due to the following: To Dr. Siddeshwar Varma, D. Lit., our eminent linguist and phonetician, who approved the diacritical marks used in the Roman transliteration of the original Kashmiri; to Mr. N. L Kitroo, Mr. P.N. Pushp, Mr. S. L. Dar, Mr. G. Mohy-id-Din, who made valuable suggestions; to Pandit Sat Lal Kaul, who introduced me to several of these poems; to Mr. G. A. Mahjur, Mr. A. A. Azad, Mirza G. H. Beg, Mr. N. L. Ambardar, Pandit Daya Ram Gonju, Pandit Zinda Kaul, and Messrs Ali Mohd. and Sons, Publishers and Booksellers, for permission to print their poems.


More than thirty years ago my teacher and my predecessor in the professorial chair at the Allahabad University, Professor Dunn, wrote a paper which made a deep impression on me. He described a tour in the Sind Valley and referred to the bearded coolies, tall muscular men, with dark eyes and close-set eyebrows, prominent cheek bones and broad foreheads, divided from the rest of the world by a circle of snow mountains, preserving, untouched by modernity, the traditions and the sympathies of their Dard ancestors. He wrote:

"On this occasion, the labours we had shared together, or to put the case more materially, the distribution of some tea and cigarettes, opened their hearts, and soon we had them singing, the old songs of their secluded valley, the songs of the long winter when no work can be done, and the songs of the march which make the load seem lighter. There is a peculiar fascination in all such singing; we seem to come nearer, as we listen, to the simple things of earth; the artificial needs and desires, which modern life presses upon us, lose their hold upon our minds, and the rugged voices underneath the stars awaken in us echoes of our primitive home, and touch us with the sense of fellowship throughout the ages.....I kept them singing far into the cold night, till the fire had died down and the wind from the glaciers sent us to the shelter of tent and bed. I wish I could reproduce the strange cadence of their voices, as one after another took up the refrain; I wish I could recreate the mood in which one listened; but since these things are impossible, I will try to give, imperfectly as it must be, the substance and the spirit of some of their songs".

He then went on to render into English four songs, entitled: "The Song of the Coolies", "The Song of the Bulbul", "The Dreamer", and "The Lover". Each of them has a distinctive flavour and each tells not merely of familiar matter of today, but of eternal verities glimpsed through rugged experience of life. Each enshrines the heart's longing both for things of this earthly abode and of the life hereafter. This is "The Song of the Coolies":

O you coolie folk! it is time to be stirring.

Come, let us sing as we go, for the birds are singing too. They also have their time for travel. When we have made our stage we will light a fire of sticks, and than we shall have joy of our food. Our journeying will be over for the day. Oh! that will be pleasant! But, men and birds-we must all be moving.

O you coolie folk! it is time to be stirring.

We cannot stay anywhere for long. Even Rajahs are just like us, coming and going. We have a long march to make, and now we most be off. It is no good staying at home. A man's home is his heart, but he who goeth out of his own heart, may, perchance, find God upon his journey.

0 you coolie folk! it is time to be stirring.

These songs, even in translation, made a great impression. Anonymous singers singing poems composed by anonymous poets, melody soaring to the eternal moonlit snow and flooding the wooded valley; and one wished to have a larger collection of these old and antique strains which knit mankind into one.


I call these short poems lyrics because they are lyrics, literally. They are sung to the accompaniment of

"sitar, sarangi, and drum"

and "saz," "santar" and "tumbakhnar"- musical instruments which we in Kashmir have made peculiarly our own. It is as songs sung by musicians and lovers of music that most of them, of unknown authorship, have been recorded, interspersed among Persian songs and gazals, in the old manuscripts of "mausiciis" or books of music, with appropriate directions of "rag" and "tal" and "mucom."

In oral transmission these songs have assumed different versions from locality to locality and texts have become corrupt. Manuscripts have fared no better. What happens is something as follows: A is a lover of song and music and hires the services of a calligraphist to make a copy for him in Persian script which, without additional diacritical marks is very incomplete and misleading for a language abounding in vowel sounds. Sometime after, B wants a copy and engages a copyist who, while transcribing from A's copy, drops many dots and lines and does not cam to understand the text. Copying is copying, no more. Then sometime after, C gets the copy of B and many more mistakes of text are made, and so on from C to D and D to E, mistakes increasing with every copy, till one comes by a very corrupt text which is the tenth or perhaps the twentieth copy of the orginal. Then one has to trace backwards, a hundred or two hundred years; but the earliest copies are extinct or disfigured by time. Patience and curiosity, however, can help; and I have had my moments of joy when in 'vacant moods' I have hit upon, as in a flash, what the original word or phrase must have been. This is adopted after being put to all the relevant tests of rhyme and metre, sound and sense, and the general sweep and impression of the manuscript calligraphy. Such a word or phrase has not unoften illumined a whole song. Number 98, for instance, where the manuscripts and oral tradition agreed on a somewhat meaningless phrase in the second line (within quotation marks here) .

Yas gay masvali "geinde have."

which is corrected as

Yas gay masvali "gondur havay."

This has been a labour of love for several years; and I can claim to have so tuned myself to these songs, their music, mood and meaning, that I can exercise the right and responsibility of an anthologist. For it cannot be quite a "dilettante business" for the first anthologist of a language which has a living tradition of song from the fourteenth century to the present day. I cannot, however, say that I have omitted nothing of value, that no 'gems' may be discovered which are not here. For a first anthologist this would be a tall claim. What I claim is this: here is a collection, a golden treasury (if you will) of Kashmiri lyrics which may not be found to include anything that has not a poetic feeling, sentiment or mood or beauty of word and phrase.

Out of the various readings or versions I have selected the more poetical, not the more popular one; but where the claims of a variant have been impressive, I have given it in the footnotes. I have also exercised the anthologist's right of excision, for some of the poems improve by excision of weak verses and superfluous stanzas.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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