Pearls of wisdom

A little wedge is enough to split a mighty tree!!
"Wedges are nowadays iron-made also. In this machine-age even the wood-cutters still prefer to use wooden-wedge over metal-wedge."
"Wedges are nowadays iron-made also. In this machine-age even the wood-cutters still prefer to use wooden-wedge over metal-wedge."Special arrangement

Pannis Darass Pannui Pon or Dara Komui Phatenovukh, Ami Pan’ni Po’in or Pan’nui Pon Chu Pannis Phathenavaan”: These are the three inter-related variants of one and the same famous Kashmiri proverb.

Its literal meaning is that breaking or splitting of the log is possible only with wedge which is made of the log itself. A wedge from itself splits the tree. Pon in Kashmiri is wedge or peg.

Wedges are nowadays iron-made also. In this machine-age even the wood-cutters still prefer to use wooden-wedge over metal-wedge.

In the past and in the context, only wooden wedge is expressly implied. Wood can be cut or split with the wedge that is cut from its own tree. A small wedge is enough to split a big tree.

These are related English idioms. While cutting wooden logs with wedge, Kashmiri wood cutters add little water to increase & accelerate the cutting of the log. Pon/wedge was & is used for fastening of boats at the banks of rivers and lakes also. There can be also other uses of it.

Often repeated & widely quoted, idiom Dara Komui Phatenovukh, Ami Pan’ni Po’in in day to day affairs of Kashmirian life, has many connotations. The idiom has a very wide local usage in Kashmirian society where, in order to put across one’s own view point, one takes help of this idiom to drive home that very point very easily & quickly.

So much powerful & wide usage has this idiom. One chief connotation among many, most importantly & accurately, fits into the overall landscape of Kashmirian political history of decades.

Background of Dara Komui Phatenovukh, Ami Pan’ni Po’in : There is a legend which is the background of this Kashmiri proverb. It is said that there was a mighty tree, Dara, very proud of its strength & firmness. It lived in a jungle. It believed in its own strength. Some four people who often used to be around this tree, one day decided to cut it down.

They decided to buy an axe from the bazaar. They were talking to each other. There was a man listening to their conversation. He heard about the plan. He went to the tree & said: “Look, Tree, a plan for felling you has been hatched “. The Tree asked, “who has planned it?”.

He said, “people who used to be around you have planned it. They have gone for buying an axe from the bazaar for the purpose”. “Thanks for informing me. But don’t worry. I am too big to get much damaged by few small cuts of a kg or two axe of these few men. It won’t harm me much. Be assured”.

The man came next day again with more information. He said:” Look, Tree. Don’t be elated by false hopes. The four men have devised a very clever plan for your utter destruction”.

“Which plan?” Tree asked. “One among them will climb upon you. He will cut thin branches from your top. Then they will make a wedge & a handle out of your own branches. They will prepare and fit handle in the axe.

. Another man will insert wedge in the middle of your trunk. Another man will strike repeatedly till wedge goes deeper & deeper inside your trunk, your body & soul, your total wajood, & then you will fall down silently”. Tree cried: “Alas, by these wicked, sinister means, they will split me & I will fall down & die”.

“Yes Tree. I am greatly sad & worried about you fate that is going to be decided tomorrow as they are coming to cut you down. God Help, my dear big Tree”. The moral of the story is that one should be afraid of one’s own people who immediately surround him.

The story fits some well known people of yore of the Kashmiri community. And, there are related stories & sayings in other cultures too.

It is said in Turkish language, when axe was swung on a tree, the tree wept & cried, “its handle has come from my body”!! Then, most suited to the political scene of Kashmir since decades is the famous saying “the forest was fast shrinking as the swinging axe moved on its trees. Its handle was made of the wood of the forest itself & so the trees kept voting for the axe as they thought its handle was one of them. “

A genuine question arises here that in the given Kashmiri proverb the meaning of Pon is vividly clear that it is the wedge & then what the word “Dara” stands for? Though in Kashmiri Encyclopedia the word “Dara” has several meanings but none of them fits the present context.

Is it motionless wooden log or tree on which Pon is used to cut, pierce, since Daras-Khalun is a phrasal word in Kashmiri? Presumably it seems to be the meaning.

Two languages in the past, Sanskrit & Persian, had considerable influence on shaping of Kashmiri language. “Dara” is not related to any Sanskrit word in the context. Persian seems to be the only related language from which it has been borrowed.

Dara is a Persian word which is a masculine name of strength & correspondingly, in the folklore background story of Kashmiri proverb, the tree was of great strength which it always boasted about. So, the word Dara that represents the tree in the story is a variant of Darius or Dara III of ancient Persia who was betrayed by his own courtiers & ministers in a battle against Alexander the great, some 300 BC, which he lost.

One of his courtiers had attempted to poison him and then he was finally stabbed to death by his own close relatives, courtiers, in connivance with his enemies. Hence, Dara here on strong probability must be related to Darius III of ancient Persia.

Then, we have also Dara Shikoh, eldest son of the Emperor Shah Jahan & brother of the Emperor Aurangzeb, who lost in a battle for a struggle to ascend the throne against Aurangzeb who later put him to death. Looking at entire historical facts, I don’t think, Dara here has any reference to Daro Shikoh.

Many Kashmiri Proverbs are modeled on foreign proverbs. It is not Kashmir specific. It is the history of proverbs & idioms of all cultures of the world. That is why we have equivalents or near to equivalents of the Kashmiri proverbs & idioms in other languages. It is because linguistically & historically (from evolutionary cultural viewpoint) all idioms and proverbs are interconnected.

Last but not least, we may say that Pon is different from Kij which is thinner and smaller than wedge. Kij is also wedge or peg. It is like a wooden nail used by carpenters to strengthen a joint in manufacturing of wooden windows, frames, door & other joinery items.

Then, you have well known Chaane-Thuch which means figuratively keeping some fault deliberately by a carpenter (Chaan) in the house during its construction.

Thuch means kij but it is used as a reference to any obstruction or difficulty or fault. It was caused or done intentionally in olden days by Kashmiri carpenters so that they could be called again by the house-owner ( Malik e Makaan) for setting right the fault, so that they get more chances to earn money, livelihood.

I think this idiom is still in good use in appropriate situations among all Kashmiris. Kij is also used for fastening tents, shamiyana, etc, to ground.

Tailpiece:

Ghar Ka Bedi Lanka Dhayeh & Iss Ghar Ko Aag Lag gayi Ghar Kay Chiraag say, seem to be common Indian equivalents of the present Kashmiri adage, Dara Komui Phatenovukh, Ami Pan’ni Po’in. Ghar Ka Bedi Lanka Dhayeh means an insider can cause maximum damage to a person or group of persons or a community.

The proverb owes its origin to a story related to epic Ramayana where Ravana’s younger brother, Vibhishana, fled Lanka to break the secrets of capturing Lanka & killing Ravana to Ram who was assembling army for capturing Lanka.

It was with that information given to Ram by Vibhishana that facilitated Ram’s victory on Lanka & killing of Ravana who was Raja of Lanka. Iss Ghar Ko Aag Lag gayi Ghar Kay Chiraag Say literally means that this house is set afire by its own house-lamp. These wise sayings are near equal in meaning & underlying idea of above-cited Kashmiri proverb. Though not verbatim, these Indian idioms correspond in meaning.

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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