For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Translating an old text | A review commentary on Dr. Basher Bashir’s Kashmiri translation of Kalhana's Rajatarangini

12:00 AM Jun 06, 2024 IST | Farooq Ahmed Peer
translating an old text   a review commentary on dr  basher bashir’s kashmiri translation of kalhana s rajatarangini

The deep interest of scholars in the Rajatarangini continues without any break and even in modern times people are interested in its translation. Everybody is aware of the fact that Kashmiri literature has been enriched purely due to the efforts of the Kashmiri scholars and writers.


The galaxy of writers we have in Kashmir has contributed a lot to the Kashmiri literature and it is due to them that we have came to know about the political, social history of Kashmir. Dr. Basher Bashir is one such Kashmiri writer who has done a great service to Kashmiri literature.


His translation of the 8th part (Taranga) of the Rajatarangini is an effort which even the common man can appreciate. (It is important to mention that he has done the translation of the first two parts of Kalhana’s book before the present translation of the 8th part of the chronicle).


Dr. Basher Bashir has translated the book into Kashmiri from the English translation of R. S. Pandits Rajatarangini. The translator does not know the Sanskrit language in which the book has been written by Kalhana, a fact which he confesses himself in the preface.


The book of Kalhana tells us the history of Kashmir up to 1150 A.D. In his translation, Dr. Basher Bashir shows that large portions of history of Kashmir deal with the events that took place in Kalhana’s own time. Kalhana describes what he himself experienced and witnessed on the political and social front of Kashmir. His information about the geography of Kashmir has become a source of information for Kashmiris who now know much about their valley.


The translation shows that Kalhana was a knowledgeable man and his ideas about the people and their manners show his own personality. The translation informs that Kashmir was a place of kings and rulers, hence the intrigues and strifes were the part of the game. The translation of the chronicle makes it explicitly clear that Kalhana did not hold any office under any of the rulers he saw or witnessed.


On the contrary, his father Canpaka enjoyed high position in Harsha’s rule. The chronicle does not have any clue wherein it could be found that Kalhana was patronized by any ruler as a poet or historian and there are no references which can show that he wrote his compositions on the instructions of Jayasimha in whose rule he completed his book. He, however, describes the defects and follies of certain rulers and praises other rulers for their qualities.


The translator in his translation of the chronicle depicts Kashmiris in their real colour and at times one comes to know that Kashmiris lacked physical and moral courage, the fact which the other historians have also highlighted in their compositions.

The translation shows that Kalhana informs that besides merchants, traders and agriculturists, the Kashmiri society was full of teachers, astrologers, physicians, labourers, artisans, soldiers and carters, workers of water wheels and hand mills. The translation shows that there were divisions and sub-divisions among those classes of people according to their professions.

The translation of Rajatarangini gives an impression that Kashmiri women received a liberal atmosphere and education in their parent’s house. They could speak Sanskrit and Prakrit languages fluently. Kalhana’s chronicle proves that there was no seclusion of women, nor were they segregated or veiled in any way.

They were queens also and took active part in the affairs of the government. Even women of lower status took an active part in the affairs of the state and more importantly, were not discriminated on the basis of gender. The chronicle also states that there were instances of immorality prevailing among some classes of women.

The custom of dedicating girls (devadasies) to temples for singing and dancing was prevalent in Kashmir also. The translation also shows that the Kashmiris were highly superstitious like Indians. They believed in black magic, and sorcery affecting the lives of human beings. There was also wide spread practice of witchcraft in ancient Kashmir.

Dr. Basher Bashir through his translation shows that the Rajatarangini is an important historical record of Kashmiris, which gives a detailed account about the kings, masses and olden times of Kashmir. The translation of the book is a valuable contribution to the history of Kashmir as well as to the literature of Kashmir. It makes amply clear that Kalhana was not only a historian but also a poet par-excellence and his Rajatarangini is more than an account of the rulers of the Kings of Kashmir.

The translator through his translation shows that the chronicle serves moral lessons also which show that Kalhana was of the belief that the glories of the world were transitory and there must be a moral code of conduct in everything. In the 8th canto or part itself, he says, “Shadow is itself unrestrained in its path while sunshine, as an incident of its own nature, is pursued a hundredfold by nuance. Thus is sorrow from happiness a thing apart; the scope of happiness, however, is hampered by the aches and hurts of endless sorrow”.

The translation brings to our notice that the chronicle suffers from many drawbacks. There are no accurate dates of the rulers and one can not believe that the names of the rulers can be also authentic. The translation of the eighth part, consisting of 3,449 verses, shows a record of contemporary events but is full of obscurities and ambiguities in terms of the narrative and construction of certain ideas.

The obscurity and ambiguity in the narrative of the translation reflects ambiguity in Kalhana’s book itself. The narrative is such as if Kalhana was writing for the readers who were well acquainted with the Kashmir of his day. However, with regard to the topography of Kashmir, local references seem to be exact and clear.

In spite of the shortcomings, the translation of the Rajatarangini is an important historical commentary with regard to the past of Kashmir. It shows that Kalhana has given a wonderful picture of out native land with rise and fall of empires, the conflict of different races, cultures and civilizations. The translator deserves appreciation for his commendable effort and his services need to be utilized in a proper way at a proper place.