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Kashmiri poetry and its interpretation

12:00 AM May 23, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
kashmiri poetry and its interpretation

Dr. Shad Ramzan’s book, Shaar ta Sharrah,  is an original piece of writing, in the annals of Kashmiri literature. More specifically, the work is in a line of rare critical texts on Kashmiri language and literature. Previous to this text, the I had the privilege of reading­-and translating- Abdul Ahad Azad’s Kashmiri Zabaan oar Shairi, and extracts of Rehman Rahi’s Kahwat and Amin Kamil’s essays on Kashmiri sufi poetry, in addition to a few other critical texts and essays, whose names cannot be enumerated for paucity of space and time. Shad Ramzan’s text I rank in the line of Abdul Ahad Azad, for its direct and unique lens on the world of Kashmiri life and letters.


Azad’s three volume critical text is the foundational material on the Kashmiri critical texts, and the texts that followed him, are mostly borrowed from him or from other sources. For example, historical texts on Kashmiri language, like Kaeshir zabaan ta tawareekh, is mostly historical in character, but wherever critical interventions are made, it is clear that a lot of importation has occurred.


Rehman Rahi’s Kahwat adopted and sometimes adapted the material from British canonical literary texts. That does not deny these writers the credibility, or retreat from the acknowledgment of their contribution to the corpus of Kashmiri literature, however, credit to originality is to be given where it is due. That is where Shad Ramzan’s text invites our attention.


Shaar ta Sharrah is a collection of interesting, insightful, and mostly original essays on different aspects of Kashmiri literatures. It captures an entire spectrum. It ranges from his observation on Kashmiri gazal, to intricacies of sufi poetry to the powerful impact of Sheshrang and poets like Samad Mir, Shamas Faqeer, Waza Mehmuud, Mehmuud Gaami and a host of others.


He has carefully selected couplets from the corpus of Kashmiri poetry to endorse any general point that he makes during the course of his critical essays. And most of these observations and the couplets culled from different poets fit so well, that one is amazed at the breadth of vision and grasp on Kashmiri literature in general and Kashmiri poetry in poetry in particular that the author possesses.


After deliberating on the genesis and evolution of gazal form in one of the initial essays in the book, the author mentions the contributions of Kashmiri gazal writers. There are flashes of brilliant insights which perhaps only an open and flexible thinker can glean from Kashmiri poetry.


His special focus is on the diction, rhythm and metaphors and similes that these gazals possess, and then insightfully connects this poetic texture with some larger philosophical point, to which a lay reader perhaps may not have paid attention to.


Facts and philosophy merge so well in these essays. For example, the author says that heart in Kashmiri poetry is an abode of the God in Kashmiri mystical poetry. To illustrate this vital observation, he draws from multiple sources across ages and personalities, and strikes the reader with the wide of expanse of his gaze on body of Kashmiri poetry.

Previous writers had almost ignored the gem Sheshrang. Abdul Ahad Azad only mentions it in passing, highlighting it poetic depth. Amin Kamil has also not given much thought to this important piece of literary composition. Shad Ramzan has devoted an entire chapter to this poem, exploring both its technique as well as the profound content. According to the author, Sheshrang matches any great poetical composition of the world, both in the east as well as the west.

In a queer but really original comparison, the author has taken up Sheikh ul Alam and Kabir for a comparative study. Traditionally, both have been predominantly read and analyzed through the prisms of religion, piety and Sufi/bhakti notions. However, Shad Ramzan believes that there is a strong note of rebellion in their poetry that needs to be properly studied and understood.

The marked rebellion in the case of these two poets is both local and universal, and is quite relevant in our time as well, when certain ideas and notions seem to be cast in stone and often remain unquestioned. The two thinkers, while drawing people toward the fear of God, also invited attention of the people toward removing the plaque of rigidity from social systems.

The essence of the Sufi poetry of Kashmir is the deep urge to meet with the Ultimate. Rather fusing, and becoming one with the ultimate. Removing the poetic paraphernalia, what becomes apparent from the poetic utterances of the mystical poets of Kashmir is their expression of the longing for fusion, an irreversible fusion with the ultimate sources of creation. Even the longing for the feminine principle is actually a manifestation of the desire to reunite with the final arbiter of all creation.

At many places, the author cites the scripture to defend his point of view of the sufistic idea of creation and the mutual attraction of creation. The creation principle is intimately connected with the ultimate reality, and the ultimate reality is manifest in the world of signs and sounds around us. “Allahu Nuurus samawaati wal ard” returns one to the same idea of the creator and creation being very closely connected to each other. The idea of the creator or God is here blended with the idea of creation.

While talking about Samad Mir and Ahad Zargar, the author mentions how the poets of Kashmir, especially the mystical poets used day to days objects as media to express their philosophical thoughts. So, in their time, the spinning wheel was commonly used as a means of livelihood. Men and women actively participated in the manufacture of products wool from sheep. The activities in this context were divided.

The motions of the spinning, the action of the hands are used to give expression to the inner longings of the poet, and the humanity in general. This usage of the day-to-day objects by the poets enabled them to be spiritual representatives of the masses in general, and simultaneously, fulfill their own longings. On top of that, the linguistic felicity provided charm to their ideas, made the lines catchy, and eventually, easy to memorise, which were later sung by people while performing various activities, giving solace to their souls bruised by the torments of existence.

The essential content of the mystical poetry of Kashmir is the cry of soul in separation from the ‘essence’ and the longing for fusion. In this process, life and non-life become metaphors and symbols to expression the anguish of separation from the essence of existence. The author believes that this is the spirit of all great poetry of all times across the world.

A point worth nothing here, from the standpoint of the author, is that of interpretation. Interpretations of mystical poetry of Kashmir are subject to time and space. Each individual can draw his interpretations depending on his peculiar circumstances. And each age can interpret the poetic lines in its own way, and the flexibility of mystic poetry allows such interpretations, because the subject of such poetry is universal, without limitations of time and space.

By Dr. Javaid Iqbal Bhat, faculty Department of English South Campus, KU