Recently a Hindi poetry collection titled, ’Khoye Hue Prisshth’ of Dr. Satish Vimal the famous poet, critic and broadcaster of Kashmir was translated into Persian and titled as ’Barg-haa-e-gum-shudeh’. Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim Wani a reputed Persian authority has wonderfully translated it, and was released in an impressive function held at a Persian cultural centre in the Iranian embassy at New Delhi. It was perhaps the first time when any Kashmiri pandit’s literary work was so valued and appreciated by Iranians.
Since I was not present in the function but the way Indian and Iranian media carried stories of this event were impressive and interesting. Indeed it created the first link of this era between the Kashmiri Hindi literature and Persian literature.
And at the same time it reminded us about the ancient literary links of Kashmiri pandits which they had with the Persian world. I had already read about it in my history classes. In fact I have also seen those Persian works of Kashmiri pandits in several archival repositories and manuscript collections. The today’s translation of any Kashmiri pandit’s literary composition into Persian word shall be seen through the lens of our Persian literary history, where we find the wonderful contribution of Kashmiri pandits in promotion of Persian literature.
Kashmir, in terms of its Sanskrit and Persian literary heritage, has been preserving wonderful literary treasures in its official and non official archival repositories and libraries. These two languages have been the oldest, official as we as literary languages, of this land and most of the history and literature is carried in these two major languages.
In fact when we define Persian in simple terms we can say that it is an Iranian dialect which is still prevalent there. But for Persian scholars and historians, its significance in context of Kashmiri culture and history is very much important. Since the decline of Sanskrit, it was Persian which filled the official and literary gap of this land. Thousands of books were written in this language which covered almost all the fields of education and literature.
Historically speaking, Persian evolved here in late 14th century AD when Shahmiri Sultans founded Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir. The Shahmiri sultans provided first space to Persian word, but it were Chak sultans who made it their official language and inscribed their respective names, titles and mint name and date in decorative Persian characters on their respective coinages. The Mughal and Durrani governors added a new flavor to this language and added more decorative Persian legends on their respective coinages. The Sikh and Dogra period Governors didn’t remain for behind; they also promoted its official status and placed Persian legends as well on most of their coinages. The Durrani and Sikh governors wrote a variety of compositions in Persian couplets on their respective coinages.
Since its introduction in the 14th Century to the period of 20th Century, Persian word found a strong base in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. It served as the official language and language of its elite class, besides it was also taught in local Pathshalas and Madaaris. It was in the period of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah that a new education policy was formulated and Persian was introduced as one of the languages for school education.
The past of this language has been very bright, patronized by Muslim, Hindu and Sikh rulers, it has been cultivated by Hindu pandit scholars as well. In fact more interesting factor of this word is that it was also promoted by Kashmiri pandits. Since they had also learned this language and their contribution to its promotion has been extra ordinary. Pandits set up Sharda and Sanskrit patshalas, where in they had been teaching Sharda and Sanskrit. when Persian made its entry into Kashmir they also introduced it in their patshalas.
Of its religious significance, it was necessary for Muslim preachers to learn this word as most of religious scripts for Muslims where available in this script. It was also language of Muslim missionaries who introduced it in Kashmiri Khanqahs and Madaaris, and just like Arabic, it was important for a Muslim teacher to learn this language. In this context the contribution of Muslim teachers towards the promotion of this Iranian dialect is well understood, as they required it to learn and to understand their religious teachings. What was more significant and surprising, obviously, was the role which Pandits played in development of this language and its literature.
Among the Kashmiri Pandits, the name of Munshi Bhawanidas Kachru stands pre-eminently one among Persian writers and poets. The original style of his Bahri-tavil ( Persian composition) is held in high esteem in international Persian literature.
The term bahri taveel is Persian term which comprises two wards Bahr and Taveel. Bahr means a verse and Taveel means long, as such Bahri Taveel signifies a long lyric comprising of thousands of verses. The other most famous Pandit Persian poets whose compositions are known included Pandit Taba Ram Turki, Satram Baqaya, Daya Kachru, Aftab Bhan, Gobind Koul and Kailash Dhar. Besides there are number of other Persian knowing Pundits’ who contributed towards the development of Persian word and literature. Their Persian compositions are also well mentioned in several historical accounts of this land. There were several such other pandit Persian teachers who are not mentioned anywhere, but they have been teaching this alphabet to kashmeri students.
Those were the glorious periods for Persian language and literature. However, things changed, Persian could not stand by the new cultural and literary expansions. A time reached when this script became outdated one. Consequently, it was dropped from the school curriculum. The Urdu and English languages filled the official language vacuum. Notwithstanding the fact that Persian is still taught in few government universities and colleges, but it has also been dropped from local Pathshallas, madaris and Darasgahas.
Despite its religious and literary significance and background, Persian should never have got such an unfavorable treatment at least from the Muslim Madaaris and Darasgahs.
To promote Persian as a language is not my point, my concern is about its neglected heritage. Like Sanskrit manuscripts, the Persian manuscripts are scattered in a number of collections, which are still to be translated in the modern languages. Its translating aspect has not been taken up so seriously. At most of these places, the manuscripts are neither documented nor catalogued. Although we know that we cannot revive and restore back its pristine glory, still we could have made an effort to accord it a better treatment.
We need to bring its scattered manuscripts and documents under one umbrella and preserve those for future generations. To understand the philosophy, history, culture and moral values hidden in these Persian manuscripts, we could have encouraged its systematic translation into new and prevalent languages of this land.
Since most of history, cultural, religious, chemical, physical, astronomical, mystic, philosophic, and local traditions and rituals are preserved in the Sanskrit and Persian works, which requires to be explored by translating its varied treasures.
Let us not wait for another Stein to come to undertake the translation of such works. The Persian and Sanskrit departments of Jammu and Kashmir universities, Archives department, libraries and research and cultural academy like official institutions could have jointly initiated any such translation unit for Persian and Sanskrit literary treasures. The local Darasghas and Madaris should also re-introduce the Persian religious works produced by Sufi saints of this land. Besides, the contributions made by Kashmiri Pandits shall also be explored and brought before the literature lovers of this land.
Indeed the recent translation of one of the famous compositions of Dr Satish Vimal into Persian is really a great tribute to entire Kashmir literary community, for their contributions which their ancestors have made in promotion of Persian literature here in Kashmir.
Iqbal Ahmad is a local archaeologist, and an author.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.