Kashmir's sense of humour and love for music

There are a variety of books that ancient Kashmiri masters have written about the subject
"The Cartoons of Bashir Ahmed Bashir (BAB) in the Srinagar Times were awaited by one and all on daily basis. The dramas and serials of the Machama fame produced by Pushkar Bhan on the then Radio Kashmir were a great contribution to the art of sarcasm." [File]
"The Cartoons of Bashir Ahmed Bashir (BAB) in the Srinagar Times were awaited by one and all on daily basis. The dramas and serials of the Machama fame produced by Pushkar Bhan on the then Radio Kashmir were a great contribution to the art of sarcasm." [File]Aman Farooq/ GK

Ever since Kashmir fell victim to violence, mayhem, death and destruction over the last four decades, several aspects of life in Kashmir were severely hit. The situations tested the DNA of Kashmir society, whether living in Kashmir or outside the valley in a very subtle manner.

The society that has an urge to live and exist has necessarily to maintain a balance of things in its most difficult times. In this context, two aspects of the traditional life of Kashmir were also on target of annihilation.

In the earlier stages, both these aspects felt chocked due to prevailing circumstances, however, later on both of them struggled successfully to emerge again. These two well-established and conventional aspects of life in Kashmir valley are the sense of humour and love for music.

Kashmir traditionally has been a big centre of various arts and sciences from ancient times. Our ten thousand years of civilization, art, architecture, history, philosophy, culture and tradition are a testimony to this fact.

There are great classics of Kashmir dedicated to various aspects of life including both music and critical thinking. Music and musical instruments find mention in the earliest texts like Nilmatapurana and Rajtarangini. The very fact that it was a Kashmiri, Abhinavgupta (the Shaivite great philosopher and teacher), who wrote a commentary, Abhinavbharti, on Bharata's Natyashastra, shows how much importance was given to the art of music and dance in the ancient times in the valley of Kashmir.

A favourite traditional musical instrument of Kashmir is the Santoor. It was originally called Shat-tantri-veena, a hundred string percussion instrument. It is believed that it is played by the goddess Sharda (the goddess of learning in ancient Kashmir, also called Sarswati). Sharangdev and Anandverman, the two famous benefactors, also contributed to various facets of the art called Natyashastra in ancient Kashmir.

Satire, humour, critical analysis, caricature and sarcasm have been the mainstay of many classics of Kashmir which also endorse their importance in the routine life of the people of Kashmir.

The philosophical contribution in these areas by greats like Kshemendra and his likes during the period of eleventh century is a world classic. His writings give a detail of sarcasm encompassing more than fifty books written by him out of which twenty are available in the present day world as well.

There are a variety of books that the ancient Kashmiri masters have written about the subject and there is hardly any section of society that they have left untouched in their commentary on issues.

From kings to merchants, beautiful women to young men, government servants to thieves, students to homemakers they have commented upon everyone and given an account of the prevailing situation of the then society. Theirs is indeed a great contribution in this regard and their writings are recognised world over.

Regardless of the medieval times that saw Kashmir through a tumultuous period of many socio-political vicissitudes, these two philosophical features of life survived in Kashmir valley. In fact both of them gained some new characteristics also.

They nourished in their own way the sentiment of willingness to exist in the society. Sense of humour and love for music couldn't be put under any sort of blanket ban by the despotic rulers for a long time though intermittently some restrictions were applied.

Both these aspects developed their new formats with the passage of time. These formats took them to new levels and heights.

The indigenous names, surnames and nicknames of Kashmir are also reflective of the blend of criticism, sarcasm, sense of humour and critical thinking in Kashmir. Every name and surname has a history and provides one a story as to how a particular name or a surname was created and evolved.

These carry a serious and subtle message about the historicity of Kashmir. However, some have a very typical, slangily and humourous connotations while some are brazenly awkward ones to refer too. Moreover, all these typical names and nicknames are the creations of the local mind and intellect.

The last two centuries in particular gave birth to a number of art forms carrying forward the tradition of love for music and dance, and sense of humour, in Kashmir valley.

They even joined together to evolve newer formats of art, like, 'Band-Paither' decades ago. It further developed its nine formats to cover nine sections of the society to carry the serious massage forward through its performance via music, dance and sarcasm together, ie. Raza-Paither, Waza-Paither, Gosain-Paither, Wattal-Paither, Darz Pather, Shikargah, Bakerwal Paither, Angrez Paither, Armen Paither etc. These are the indigenous art forms of Kashmir valley duly recognised.

When means of public communication and information were taken over by the print media, Radio, Television and theatres in Kashmir, a large talent emerged in the valley to carry forward the traditional love for music and sense of humour through these channels.

The Cartoons of Bashir Ahmed Bashir (BAB) in the Srinagar Times were awaited by one and all on daily basis. The dramas and serials of the Machama fame produced by Pushkar Bhan on the then Radio Kashmir were a great contribution to the art of sarcasm.

Zoon-Dub was one more daily critical programme listened in all homes in the valley. Simultaneously, Sufiana Kalam, Chakri, Bhajans, Naats and Leelas on the radio were attractions in every home.

Kashmir produced a galaxy of music and theatre masters in the 20th century. Some of them achieved great heights at a national level while some were accalimed internationally.

However, during the sixtees and seventees of the last century, a band of theatre artists and musicians, classical Hindustani music performers and authors of satire, critical analysis and humour emerged on the scene in the valley with a fresh and modern zeal.

They filled the decade of last eighties with great contributions. It was the decade of Kashmiri music in which top artists came forward and contributed enormously to the Kashmiri music in the modern context. Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Kailash Mehra, Shamima Dev, Vijay Malla and Aarti Tikoo took the whole scenario by storm.

Likewise, theatre artists also kept alive the sense of humour through their art forms. In this connection, the famous satirical programme "Chaer-Pather" produced by Bashir Budgami that was telecast on the DD Kashmir as a serial was a huge success.

It was bitterly critical, full of humour, sarcasm and satire. People even now remember the name of its main character, Ahead Raza (originally Nazir Josh) and his Chaer-Pather.

His Juma-Jermin was also a great success. Shadilal Kaul was a big contributor to this art of humour and satire. He also earned his place in every Kashmiri home, and was watched even during the period of exile.

Almost three to four decades of those times, when we now see and watch Kashmiri music, dance forms, stair, full of criticism and humourous performances on the social media in particular, we are assured that the love of music and sense of humour haven't breathed their last among the Kashmiri society.

The displaced Kashmiri Pandits have also contributed to both these aspects of life despite their pain of exile. In fact, they have become more keen to provide them a life. The people in Kashmir have also kept alive their urge for these two aspects of life inspite of the circumstances they live in. Some young performers have emerged to take up the cause that is inherent in the DNA of Kashmir.

A new and young entity, Rayees Mohiuddin, is being witnessed nowadays on the social media in this connection performing very well. Hope he takes his art impossible ahead successfully.

It will cost a huge investment to keep alive these two philosophical aspects of life nourished by different generations over the last thousands of years by the young men and women of the Kashmiri society in future.

Improvisation is always an open opportunity available before every generation. It is hoped that the current generation takes the love for music and the sense of humour in Kashmir and the Kashmiri society to the new heights in the days to come.

Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo is a senior BJP & KP leader.

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.

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