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Dr. B. N. Sharga

The Living Kalhan

By Kuldeep Raina

Lucknow, the home of Dr. Baikunth Nath Sharga holds key to Kashmir’s past. Two centuries back many families from Kashmir, among Kashmiri Pandits, Shia Muslims and Bhands-the folk theatre performers, moved to Lucknow and made it their permanent home.

The first arrivals came to Lucknow in 1775 when Nawab Asif-ud-Daula shifted his seat of power from Faizabad to Lucknow. They settled down in a locality which later came to be known as Kashmiri Mohalla, which still exists in the old city.

Kashmiri Muslims:

The Kashmiri Shia came to Lucknow from Kashmir on the invitation of Hakim Mehndi who was the Prime Minster in the court of nawabs of Oudh. They were mostly his relatives or closely known to him. These Shia families belonged to Zadibal quarter of Srinagar. In Lucknow they started living in Maqbara Alia, a locality that still exist in the Golaganj ward of the old city.

These Shia families who trace their ancestry to Syed Shah Hamadan, an Iranian Sufi, assign different reasons for their migration to Lucknow. Shahin Abidi says her ancestors had come to Lucknow at the invitation of the royal family of Avadh. Others believe that their forefathers came to the seat of nawabs to preach Islam. Mr. Sadiq Ali, a leading businessman and PDP leader has also written on this theme.

Interestingly, a prominent Kashmiri Muslim who came to settle at Lucknow after 1947, was Jafar Ali Khan ‘Asar’. He was minister of Education in J&K during the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh. Jafar Ali was a renowned Urdu poet. He has authored many books. He settled down in Kashmiri Mohalla. Rais Aga founded the Kashmiri Young Association.

Another group of Kashmiri Muslims who moved to Lucknow during the period of Nawabs was that of Kashmiri Bhands – folk theatre performers. The first group of Bhands reached Lucknow in 1795 when Nawab Asif ud Daula (1775-1797) invited them to entertain his royal guests on the occasion of the marriage of his son Wazir Ali. They settled down in the localities Shahganj and Pir Bukhara (old Lucknow). The last performing Kashmiri Muslim Bhand in Lucknow was Jahangir. He lived in Shahganj. UP Sangeet Natak Academy was kind enough to provide him a regular stipend. He died a few years back.

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Kashmiri Pandits :

In Lucknow, Lahore, Allahabad, Agra and Delhi major diasporas of Kashmiri Pandits came up. Kashmiri Mohalla of Lucknow, which at one time formed half of the old city, rose just a few decades after Kashmiri Mohalla of Delhi (Bazaar Sita Ram). This mohalla has been home to leading Pandit luminaries – Pt. Brij Narain Chakbast, Pt. Ratan Nath Dar Sarshar, Pt Bishen Narain Dar, Pt. Tribhuvan Nath Sapru ‘Hijr’, Pt. Sheo Narain Bahar, Pt.Daya Shanker Kaul ‘Naseem’, Pt.Shyam Narain Masaldan, etc.

About Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (1775-1798) it used to be said:

“To whom God does not give,

To him gives Asaf-ud-daula.”

The generosity and catholicity of Asaf-ud-daula saw influx of talented Kashmiri Pandits into Lucknow, resulting in the birth of Kashmiri Mohalla. Oudh was ideally suited to Kashmiri Pandits.It was a centre of political power in northern India, and the Nawabs were known for their liberal cultural patronage. Moreover, it lay close to Delhi, where the seat of Imperial Mughals was located.

Dr. Baikunth Nath Sharga :

Dr. Baikunth Nath Sharga is a scion of the distinguished clan of Kaul-Shargas, who were Wasikedar of the Oudh Court. In 1775, Nawab Asaf-ud-daula, after the death of his father ,Nawab Shuja-ud-daula, shifted the seat of government to Lucknow from Faizabad. Dr Sharga’s ancestors –Pt. Laxmi Narain Kaul and Pt. Niranjan Das Kaul had moved to Oudh during the rule of nawab Shuja-ud-daula (1753-1775). Faizabad was the seat of the provincial government. The two brothers had joined the Shahi Fauj as company commanders. Pleased with their ability, Nawab’s wife Begum Ammat-uz-zohra granted the two brothers a royal Wasiqa ( a sort of hereditary pension) in 1813. It was after receiving the royal recognition in the form of Wasiqa that the Kaul brothers added ‘SHARGA’ to their surname Kaul.

SHARGA:

‘Sharga’ in Persian means Horse. Probably, the ancestors of Dr Sharga served in the cavalry division of the Shahi Fauj. This, however, does not explain why only Kaul family among others serving in the cavalry division should keep the appellation Sharga.

Dr. B N Sharga is himself seeking answers for Sharga in the Mongolian desertlands. In Mongolia “Shar” means Yellow, “Sharga”-Yellowish. Sharga is quite common for indicating colour of animals: horse, goats, etc. There are several meanings for Sharga in Mongolia. A low land valley as big as 50 km. x 70 km. In the middle of Altai range is called by the name of ‘Shargun Gobi’ or Desert of Sharga. There is also an administrative unit called ‘Sharga Soum’(county) of Gobi Altai aimag. Also, an ethnic group, that came to Sharga is known by the name Sharga. These people shifted to Sharga

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valley some 300 years ago from the contemporary Uyghur Autonomous region of China, where Jungar-the west Mongolian Kingdom was situated before its collapse. Some surnames are of Central Asian/Afghan origin – Jalali, Bamzai, Durrani, Jawnsher, etc. It is even possible that the Kaul clan carried nick name of Sharga even when they were in the valley. After migration they may have dropped it for sometime only to re-adopt it later. Salman Rushdie in his latest novel Shalimar the clown has immortalized Shargas by adopting it among his main characters.

Ancestry:

Dr.B N Sharga’s earliest known ancestor is Pt. Narain Kaul (1640-1712). He belonged to Dattatreye Kaul family of Rainawari, Srinagar. His son Pt. Zind Ram Kaul came to Delhi during the times of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707). He was an outstanding scholar of Sanskrit and Persian. His fighting abilities helped him get a good job in the Mughal imperial army. Pt Zind Ram Kaul and his family lived in Bazaar Sita Ram. His son, Sahib Ram Kaul, inherited the qualities of his father-proficiency in Sanskrit and Persian and soldiering. He too served in the Mughal Army. Sahib Kaul’s sons Pt. Laxmi Narain Kaul and Pt. Niranjan Das Kaul moved to Oudh and then to Lucknow. Initially, the Kauls lived in Rani Katra area of Lucknow.

Pt. Laxmi Narain Kaul Sharga had three sons Prem Narain, Sheo Prasad and Durga Prasad (b.1797). Pt. Durga Prasad Sharga excelled as a scholar of Urdu, Persian and Arabic language and was employed in the Oudh court as a Mushirkar. In May 1856, he was one of the members of the delegation that accompanied Malka Aliya, when the later called on Queen Victoria to pray for restoration of the throne of Oudh to Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Oudh. The British punished Pt. Durga Prasad by withholding the payment of Wasiqa to him from 1857 to 1859. His Jagirs were also confiscated. Durga Prasad died in 1870.

Pt. Durga Prasad had three sons – Bansi Dhar, Sri Krishna and Bishambhar Nath. Pt. Bansi Dhar worked as Bakshi (pay master) in the Shahi Fauj of Nawab Amjad Ali Shah (1842-47). After the British annexed Oudh and disbaned Shahi Fauj, Pt. Bansi Dhar lost his job. His only son was Pt. Baij Nath Sharga (B.1850).

Pt. Baij Nath Sharga first became a Sharistedar in the Farukhabad district during the British rule and later, on the recommendation of his father-in-law Dewan Moti Lal Atal of Jaipur, he was appointed as the Nazim of Ganga Nagar and lived in Naveli, Sawai Madhopur (Rajasthan). In a palace intrigue, hatched by local chieftains, Pt. Baij Nath was poisoned to death in 1890 at the young age of 40 years. A few years before his death perhaps in 1883, he built a big haveli in Kashmiri Mohalla.

Dewan Moti Lal Atal’s (1821-1893) daughter Radhika Rani was married to Pt. Baij Nath Sharga. The grand daughter of Kishan Lal Atal, Dewan’s son was Kamla Nehru, wife of India’s first Prime Minister.

Pt. Baij Nath Sharga had two sons namely Brijendra Nath Sharga and Shyam Manohar Nath Sharga (b. 1879). Pt. Shyam Manohar Nath Sharga was a linguist of repute and had great command over Hindi, English, Urdu and Persian language. Holding M.A. degree in English literature in 1901, he was appointed Professor of English literature in 1902 in

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Canning College. Pt. Shyam Manohar Nath Sharga did LL.B from Allahabad University in 1904 and joined the Bar. Later he joined as Munsif in 1908, finally retiring as the District and Sessions Judge in 1934. Pt. Shyam Manohar was victimized by the British for his close association with Dr. Annie Besant, Pt. Moti Lal Nehru and Pt. Bishambhar Nath sahib. The British subsequently appreciatd his integrity and made him the Chief judge of Udaipur state in 1934 and conferred the title of Rai Bahadur on him in 1935.

Pt. Shyam Manohar Nath Sharga was a poet too. He had two sons Manharan Nath and Kailash Nath.The younger son of Pt. Shyam Manohar, Kailash Nath was born in 1914. Pt.Kailash Nath passed M.A.(English) and LL.B in 1937 and qualified the PCS (judicial).

As there was no vacany for the post of Munsif , Pt. Kailash Nath started his legal practice. It was after independence that G B Pant, the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, appointed him as a Judicial officer in 1947. He retired as A.D.M (J) in 1975. The noted film maker Muzaffar Ali shot some scenes on him for his documentary film, The Wasiqadars of Oudh.

Pt. Kailash Nath Sharga was married to Rajwanti (Raj Kumari) daughter of Pt. Rameshwar Nath Dar of Kanpur, in 1934. Pt. Kailash Nath had four sons – Baikunth Nath, Amrit Nath, Arjun and Vinay. His two daughters Saroj (married to Pt. Shyam Mohan Dar of Mandsaur,M.P.) and Sita (married to Kamal Zutshi of Nagpur) are married in Kashmiri families. Pt Kailash Nath passed away in 1991 while his wife Rajwanti Sharga died in 2004.

Dr. B.N. Sharga:

Dr.Baikunth Nath Sharga was born on 21st December,1938.He had his early education from Parker Inter College, Moradabad and college education from Govt.Jubilee Inter College and Shia Degree College, Lucknow. He passed B.Sc in 1959.Later, he did his M.Sc (1962) and Ph.D (1967) in Chemistry from Lucknow University. He taught Chemistry at his alma mater, Shia Degree College (1967-1994). As a Reader in Chemistry, he taught at Shia Post Graduate College (1994-1999).

Theatre

Dr Sharga has also been involved in the theatre movement. He has so far produced over 400 plays, which have been shown in different parts of the nation. Since 1965, Dr Sharga has been involved in different roles in the theatre – actor, director, producer, etc. The themes of his plays have been varied –social, mythological, comedies, etc. Dr Sharga is an institution builder. More than 100 new artistes had begun their carrer in Sharga’s plays. Some of these artistes are now working in films, TV serials. Dr Sharga has remained President, Panchsheel Kala Mandir (1970-73), President, Sanket Theatre Group (1973--),Vice-president Avadh Cultural Club (1976-1980), Member Lucknow Film Association.

Dr Sharga is a prolific writer having published over 400 articles in different periodicals. Besides over 4000 ‘Letters to the Editor’ to his credit. American Biographical Institute, North Carolina, selected him for the ‘Man of the Year’ award in 1998. Dr Sir Tej Bahadur

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Sapru Memorial trust, Allahabad, honoured him with a Silver plaque and a citation in 2004. Besides this Dr Sharga has remained General Secretary, Yuvak Bharti (1973-76), Vice-president, World Association of World’s Federalists (1970-73), General Secretary, Lucknow University Associated Colleges Teachers’ Association (LUACTA) 1973-76.

As a proud Kashmiri Pandit Dr Sharga has been taking keen interest in the welfare of the community. He has remained President, Lucknow Kashmiri Association (1996-99) and senior vice –president, AIKS (1997-2000). His role during the past 15 years and more towards the displaced Pandit community has remained unique, identifying totally with the exiled community.

Dr Sharga’s magnum opus “Kashmiri Panditon Ke Anmol Ratna”, six volumes of which already stand published, has assured a place for him in History. Kashmiri Pandit community (whether old Kashmiri families or ‘Taza Koshur’ newly migrated families from the Valley) have remained indifferent to the task of preserving their history-achievements or saga of continued persecution.

This pains a sensitive man like Dr B.N. Sharga. He undertook the challenging task of recording and preserving the history of families, which have brought pride to India. In this effort some of the families remained indifferent while some others cooperated to an extent. His effort has been a solo endeavour. He has been spending his meager savings in accessing material and publishing his research work. At times many make fun of his work. But that is the way how all great people in history have managed to do great things.

Dr. Sharga’s work and scholarship has made him immortal. He has worked out his own methodology to reach out to the families for recording their family history. At times, he has to face embarrassing questions.

Next time when Dr. Sharga asks for your ‘Vanshavali’ (genealogy) don’t hesitate to co-operate with him because he is the living Kalhan of our times. He preserves your history for posterity. We wish him good luck and a long healthy life.

(Courtesy: Kashmir Sentinel, September-2005)

Kashmiri Writers B.N. Sharga
 

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