Revisiting Kashmir History and Culture with Mohi-ud-Din Hajini

Kashmir: Glimpses of History, Culture and Literary Traditions by Prof. Mohi-ud-Din Hajini is another treat from the versatile Prof. Ameen Fayaz who has edited/translated it.

It helps us recover the forgotten legacy of one of the most interesting and talented men of his generation Prof Muhi-ud-din Hajini. Ameen Parray’s important work – bringing to life an important but ignored public intellectual, critic, translator and polymath Prof. Muhi-ud-Din Hajini. But for his work our English reading generation would have been deprived of knowing the phenomenon that is Hajini.


Perhaps he was the only public intellectual to use pulpit on regular basis, to use mosque as the launching pad of his activism (incidentally only speaker on Fridays who didn’t sport a beard). He had terrific or we may better sublime personality – unbeatable in argument and witticism.

He was both feared and revered – feared for his no non-sense approach to things, saying pointblank and bluntly. He had many enemies for this reason. He was well read though it can’t be claimed had requisite  mastery on certain points on which he chose to write.

Hajini has written much that only he could write in his generation and as such to be treasured. The book we are discussing today is one amongst series of books of Hajini that have been compiled and edited from his scattered published and unpublished writings. An important news for Kashmir and its literature.

The book succeeds in laying down to rest the divergent estimates of Hajini’s work. Hajini can’t be written off. He has given us a treasure of works that shall continue to illuminate the idea of Kashmiri consciousness, identity and literature.

Besides translations of such classics as Musadas Hali, anthologies of Kashmiri poetry (Kashir Shairi for the Sahatya Academy of India  and Kashiri Nasrach Kitab), he wrote collection of two volume poetry of Wahab Parray by the title of Deewan e Wahab; Kalam e Asad Parray; Kulyat e Siddiq Ullah Hajini; Kalam e Lasi Mansu; Lok Ras; Gaman Manz Pheri Pheri; and, Maqalat, and edited  the Kashmiri translation of Persian epic Shahnama by Wahab Parray in 1973.

As Ameen notes in his introductory chapter on his life and work that Hajini’s was a comprehensive project of “decolonizing the Kashmiri mind and he wanted to achieve the targets of this goal through an institutional method and approach.” 

Hajini was arguably one of the most influential literary and cultural activists of his generation and “he mobilized the government for introducing Kashmiri as an optional subject in schools, higher secondaries and colleges of Kashmir so that Kashmiri students know their literary and cultural heritage.

He, in fact prepared Kashur Reader on the instructions of Directorate of School Education.” In fact Kashmiri language owes its modernization to  his efforts  that “were guided by his understanding of world literature, global literary movements of his time, and his scientific attitude of thinking and critical bent of mind.”

Hajini worked on the margins and on certain tabooed issues. He discovered and brought to life Wahab Parray who has been one of those great poets/bards of Kashmir “whose writings could have been the subject of interest at the international level as Wahab was not only a great translator but also a great poet.” 

His conversations echoed something of Oscar Wilde. He was unbeatable  in witticism and use of slang. The range of issues he touched is amazing and there is no successor. Such titles of his paper as  “The Concept of Unity”, “Fundamentals of Science and Quran”, “Religion in World Thought”, “In Defence of Irrationalism”, “Medieval Legacy to Modern Science” show his wide interests and familiarity with diverse disciplines. He has argued for a number of theses that call for our attention and debate. One may here refer to some of them:

Building on Dr. Aziz Ahmed and Qureshie’s Asrar i Kasheer, Hajini endorses the thesis  that almost the majority of Kashmiri, including particularly Pandits, are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. He also notes with Dr. Aziz Ahmed, following Khwaja Sahib’s line of research, locates Aaron’s grave in Harwan. Hajini, however, adds a caveat: “The accurate genealogy of a nation in a country like Kashmir is never possible, though we may be precise in some particular details to a large extent.”  He sums up certain strands of evidence in favour of Hebrew influences in Kashmir:

We should not feel debased if we find numerous Kashmiri surnames such as Magray, Dand, Paray, Kar, Kara, Para, etc. traceable to Israeli group-leader’s name. Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir either jointly share Hebrew surnames such as Hore, Raina, Kichlu, Haput, or retain them separately, i.e, Hindu Kash, Gadar, Warikm, Nehru, Bakru; and Muslim, Israeli, Shora, Gado, Lawey, etc; nor should we feel alarmed if almost all villages ending with “Bal” such as Mansbal, Ganderbal, Achabal, etc. are found to be the first abodes of Israeli settlers. In fact, there are numerous village such as Asham, Ajas, (Sonawari), Benham (Baramulla), Birsoo (Ganderbal), Gosham (Islamabad), Rehe (Kulgam), Mazar (Awantipora) retaining intact the same names of places that were frequent or inhabited by the jews before coming to Kashmir. If we probe deeper into our folk lore, customs, social tendencies and even legends we do, in addition to topography, confront Jewish impact on our culture. Nevertheless, I shall leave this topic half-touched till the majority of writers and researchers digest the “discovery”…

Hajini informs us about the extent of Kashmiri contributions to Sanskrit literary and cultural heritage and philosophy:

Even though the major part of the Sanskrit literature produced by Kashmiris is lost in the political upheavals, we are proud to retain as much of the Sanskrit lore as to surpass, at least inquality, the total output of Brahmans in India. The bibliography of our ancestor’s works in Sanskrit, especially from the 7th to 13th century will require a complete volume. Suffice it say that two anthologies of Sanskrit poetry compiled by two scholars, Valabh Dev and Shri Var contained respectively selections from 360 to 380 Kashmiri poets. Out of twenty classical grammars in Sanskrit, eighteen were composed in Kashmir. Sharda, Bijbehara and Srinagar, as centres of Sanskrit learning attracted the entire Indian sub-continent and Asia. These cities were vied by rural areas where Tregam gave birth to Kalhan and Khrew to Bilhana. If you trust the research of Mr. Lakshman Dhar and Bhan Daji, the world famous Kalidasa was also a Kashmiri born probably in Nunar village near Ganderbal. Regarding Kashmir’s contribution to philosophy, it branched off into numerous schools, some of which were basically independent of the Vedas.

Certain facets of Kashmiri contribution to Buddhism are thus illustrated:

Suffice this to say that the Kashmiri Bhikshu Gonar Varma reached Java while preaching Budhism; Yahya Barmaki’s grandfather was a Bhikshu from Kashmir who was raised to the sublime position of the Head Priest at Nau Vihara in Balkh city. He and his son Jafar became grand Vaziers to Haroon-AlRashid, and practically governed the Abbasid Empire stretching from Sindh in India to Tripoli in Africa. Shayam Bhatta, another Kashmiri Bhikshu Converted Tibet to Budhism, and gave the script to the Tibetian language that is still in vogue.

There are comprehensive chapters outlining the growth of various forms in Kashmiri literature, historical background of Kashmiri language, Outlines of Kashmir Culture and Historians of Kamraz besides studies on mysticism and metaphysics in Asad Parray, and comparison of Firdousi and Wahab Parray.  

These are important contributions that enrich our understanding of our roots and luminaries. Hajini needs to be studied and celebrated and this work stamps his claim of being the most informed and influential  scholar of Kashmiri culture and language of his generation.

His literary activism helped shape history of literary culture though there remain certain questions on it and issues in ideological framing of certain opinions that call for debate. 

Let us debate the thesis of Jewish influences in Kashmir that has the potential of explaining many little understood facets of Kashmiri culture and character. This will illuminate the thesis that Kashmir is at the centre of intellectual and spiritual world and it has been the Mecca of intellect (saraswati, shardhapeeth)  and a blessed land and cultural capital for the vast regions bordering it.

A certain appropriation of Kashmiri philosophy and mysticism are at the heart  of post-Nietzschean postmodern thought. Our Sufi poetry ranks with the best mystical poetry in the world.

And our criticism and aesthetics dominates the  Indian tradition of literary criticism and aesthetics. Even today we can count people of Kashmiri origin amongst the major figures in the subcontinent that have shaped its history and politics.

The beauty of Kashmir dissolves all grounds for disbelief or skepticism. It is salvific – It refreshes the spirit and humbles the ego. Kashmir remains at the centre of the world not only in political terms but as a sanctuary of spirit, a laboratory of interfaith dialogue, a crucible of cultures and a dialogic space.  

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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