Tajrane Kutub: Carrying forward legacy of 133 years at Maharaj Gunj
Srinagar: “This shop is history in itself. It is here where my grandfather and father preserved prized literature of Kashmir,” says Muhammad Iqbal Kitab who runs 133-year old shop ‘Ghulam Muhammad Noor Muhammad Tajrane Kutub’ at historic Maharaj Gunj in Shaher-e-Khaas here.
Iqbal, who now sells stationery and books at the shop, points towards photographs of his grandfather Ghulam Muhammad and father Noor Muhammad.
“I am running this shop just to keep their name alive. Their contribution in preserving Kashmir’s rich literature is immense,” he says pointing towards piles of books published by them.
The shop located adjacent to Budshah Tomb was established by Ghulam Muhammad Kitab in 1890. Iqbal says his grandfather Ghulam Muhammad was a noted Pashmina dealer and used to go to Ladakh to get yarn and sell it in Srinagar. “One day a dealer from Punjab visited my grandfather and offered to sell a sack of religious and literature books. On seeing the literature in the form of books, my grandfather was inspired to preserve Kashmir’s rich literature which was available only in written form nearly a century ago,” he says.
“This started tryst of my family with publishing and got the surname Kitab which means book.” Later Ghulam Muhammad’s son, Noor Muhammad Kitab, extended helping hand to his father. Noor was educated and knew many languages including English, Urdu, Persian and Kashmiri.
“My father had an emotional bond with Kashmiri literature. He travelled from village to village across Kashmir to collect literature and poetry which was haphazardly written on paper by poets and religious scholars. There was no printing facility in Kashmir at that time. Before 1947, he used to travel all the way to Lahore to get these works published in the form of books. After partition, the books were published in Lucknow and Delhi,” he says.
From 1922, Noor Muhammad published Masnavis of Mehmood Gami, Amir Shah Kreeri, Sanaullah Kreeri, Maqbool Shah Kralwari, Muzaffar Shah Krerri, Aziz ullah Haqani, Ghulam Mohammad Hanfi, Abdul Ahad Nazim, Wahab Hajni, Waliullah Mattu, and Kalam of Sheikh Noordin Wali (RA), Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, Sheikh Yakoob Surfi (R.A) Rasul Mir, Shamis Faqir, Rahim Shaib, Ahmad Batwari, Ahad Zargar, Nema Sahib, Sucha Kral, Wahab Khar and other Sufi poets.
“Despite odds, my father collected literature from poets and got it printed from Lahore to Lucknow,” he says. He also published some rare books like Tareek-I-Hassan, Waqat-e-Kashmir by Azim Dedmari Dastoorus Salikeen by Baba Dawoodi Khaki (RA). “He was the first publisher who published Holy Quran in Kashmiri language by Molvi Ahmad Shad Jami,” he says.
After partition, Noor faced difficulty in publishing books from Lahore which was the hub of printing those days. Later Noor Muhammad started his own press ‘Noor Muhamadi Press’ and ‘Kohinoor Press’ in 1955 at Koker Bazar. “Noor Muhammad was first publisher who had his own press which focused purely preserving Islamic and Kashmiri literature by publishing these in book form,” Iqbal says.
“My father had good relations with local writers, poets, and intellectuals such as Rehman Rahi, Amin Kamil, Ahad Zargar, Ghulam Nabi Firaq,, Dina Nath Naadim, Mehjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, Fazil Kashmiri, Pitambar Nath Dhar Faani, Ghulam Rasool Nazki.”
Noor also published quality books on works of various Kashmiri poets and writers.” “He was also a prolific writer, and authored two books—Taran-e- Muslim in 1930 and Tareek-e-Kashmir ki Rozana diary” in 1951.”
Noted poet Zarief Ahmad Zarief said Noor Muhammad played an important role in preserving Kashmir’s literature. “Whatever literature we have of the past is only due to Noor Muhammad and his father. Noor Muhammad struggled a lot to collects literature and got it printed from Lahore as there was hardly any printing press here before partition,” Zarief said.
“As students, we used to visit Noor Muhammad’s shop at Maharaj Gunj. He used to give us gifts like pen or sweets if we could read Kashmiri or Persian from his collection of books. In a way he inculcated habit of reading among students. He has been instrumental in preserving Kashmir’s rich literature. The shop was like a library for all. We as a nation owe a lot to Kitab family,” Zarief added.
Noor Muhammad’s contribution towards preserving Kashmiri literature was acknowledged by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages by publishing special issue ‘Goshe Noor Muhammad of its annual publication Sheeraza last year.
Iqbal says many historians have also mentioned his name in their books. Some of them include Muhammad Din Fouq (Tareek-i-akwami Kashmir), Abdul Hamid Yazdani (Waqt-e-Kashmier) G.M.D Sofi (History of Kashir), Abdul Ahad Azad (Kashir Sharie) respectively.
Noted poets Mehjoor, Nadim and Fazil Kashmir used to spend hours with him at his shop. Besides publishing 250 books in Kashmir, Noor Muhammad has also authored two books Taranai Muslim and Tareekh-e-Kashmir.
“He is popularly known as Nawal Kishore of Kashmir, after the popular Indian litterateur who preserved literature in the India,” Iqbal says. He passed away on March 5, 1965.
“After his death, it has been a long struggle for us. But I and my brothers have tried to carry on his tradition. My brothers Ghulam Murtaza and Ghulam Hamza still run printing press and publish books. We plan to construct a library to display works of my grandfather and father so that our younger generation will know about our rich literature,” Iqbal says.