An attempt to revive Persian language in Kashmir


Khwaja Muhammad Amin Darab wrote this congratulatory messages to Maharaja Hari Singh on his accession to throne in 1923

Khwaja Muhammad Amin Darab wrote this congratulatory messages to Maharaja Hari Singh on his accession to throne in 1923
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From being the official language of courts and commerce in Jammu and Kashmir to verses of Sufiyana poetry until 1889, an exhibition on Persian manuscripts, which are written by Khwaja Muhammad Amin Darab, a poet and chronogram writer, in Srinagar has put a spotlight on the fast-fading language in Kashmir. The exhibition is an attempt to revive the language in the Union Territory.

Around 73 rare manuscripts, including 11 books, written by Darab have been put on display at the Amar Singh Club in Srinagar on Monday. It contains a chronogram on Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon and ‘tahniyat nama’ (congratulatory message) from traders of Srinagar to Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh on his accession to the throne in 1923 and a number of elegies of prominent scholars, including on the death of Muslim scholar and jurist Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri, who served as a principal of Darul Uloom, Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, prior to 1933.

“These manuscripts throw a light on Darab’s way of engaging with the community, scripting invitations of prominent families, writing ‘ marsiya’ (elegy), versified ‘ tarikhs’ (dates) and inscriptions of prominent shrines and mosques in Kashmir,” Saleem Beg, convenor of the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)-Kashmir, told The Hindu. The INTACH with the Drabus have organised the week-long exhibition.

Darab, who died in 1979 in Srinagar, is considered among the last transmitters of traditional Muslim learning, grounded in Persian adab or literature in Kashmir. He was considered as the master of Persian Qitah-i-Tarikh (chronogram) besides his Persian ‘ Naats’ in praise of Prophet Muhammad and ‘ Manqabats’.  

At present, the remnants of Persian verses in Kashmir live in ‘ Naats’ and ‘ Manqabats’ recited in mosques and shrines. Sufiana mehfils, spiritual musical nights of Sufi order, are still dominated by Persian poetry in Kashmir. 

“The Mughal rule in Kashmir in 1589 saw Persian language reaching its zenith. Eminent Iranian poets visited Kashmir in the 17th Century include Sa’ib Tabrizi, Abu Talib Kaleem Kashani, Muhammad Quli Salim Tehrani, Muhammad Jan Qudsi Mashhadi and Mir Ilahi. All except Sa’ib died in Kashmir and were buried in Mazaar-u-Shuaraa, a graveyard reserved for the poets. Among several centres of Persian learning that emerged in the Indian subcontinent following the establishment of Muslim rule, Kashmir enjoyed a distinct position,” Professor Mufti Mudasir Farooqi, an author who teaches at the Department of English, Kashmir University, said.

From the 14th to 19th century, Persian emerged both as the language of administration and all kinds of writing, including historical, literary, religious etc. “Revenue and most historical records in Kashmir still have the imprint of the Persian language that is fast fading from the scene,” Mr. Beg said.  

Darab’s life-long interest in Kashmir’s contribution to Persian is also highlighted in his meticulous documentation of the works of one of Kashmir’s greatest Persianate poets, Ghani Kashmiri. Also, Darab was a respected calligrapher of Nastaliq script evident from handwritten wedding invitations.

“This exhibition is also an invitation to individuals and families across the geography to preserve and share their family archives,” Mr. Beg added.


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