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Samsar Chand Kaul

Samsar Chand Kaul

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Description: An Unsung Renaissance Man – A Tribute

Aditya Raj Kaul(SS1-D) with information from
K. Surendra

A leading Kashmiri Ornithologist, who gave new meaning to education in the Valley, died in oblivion in 1977. Born in 1883, Master Samsar Chand Kaul was a renowned educationist, ornithologist and environmentalist, at a time when subjects like bird watching and natural history were unknown in J&K.

A teacher at the CMS School (Fateh Kadal) –later called the Central High School (Srinagar) – Kaul fostered an interest in natural history among his students, besides teaching them other subjects. His efforts were greatly appreciated by the then British Principal of the School, C. E. Tyndale Biscoe. In a foreword to Master Samsar Chand’s book A Beautiful Valley of Kashmir & Ladakh, he wrote: “ I am most greatful to Samsar Chand for having taught his boys to love birds through his teaching of natural history”.

During his 65-year teaching career, Kaul traveled to every corner of the Valley with students and colleagues. This closeness gave him the opportunity to study nature. On trekking trips, he explained the forms of fossils and their formation to students. He would also help them identify trees by looking at the shapes of their leaves and calculating their age by counting the annual tissue rings on tree trunks.

Ornithology interested Kaul the most. With the passage of time, he learned to imitate the chirping of birds. He also had a flair for studying wild flowers, plants and mountain herbs.

He also developed interest for the collection of “Natural treasure” and made visits to the remotest areas of the Valley to collect flowers, herbs, hydro-plants, nests and feathers. They were preserved in CMS School museum called Kobutarkhana, a room where he taught Geography. The room is now utilized for the study of Natural History.

He meticulously maintained some parts of his collection in albums at his residence in Motiyar, Rainawari. Impressed by his work, he was nominated as the member of the National Geographical Society (Washington), The Royal Geographical Society (Canada) and The Society of World Watchers (England) in the late 1950’s. At times, he passed on the cheques received from foreigners as gift to the school.

He presented his experience in a vivid manner in his books: Beautiful Valley of Kashmir & Ladakh, Birds of Kashmir, Srinagar and Its Environ in the 1940’s. He became an authority on birds in the valley, and was often called on Radio Kashmir, whenever any program of birds was aired.

Another aspect of his personality was his deep involvement in spirituality. He was a scholar of Kashmir Shaivism and believed that God was within oneself. He did not feel the need to roam about on pilgrimage. In 1965, he attended Swamy Maheshyogi’s discourse on Vedanta at Rishikesh and sought his permission to recite a shloka from Utpalastutraveli, a book on Kashmir Shaivism. Hailing Kaul’s knowledge of Shaivism, Swamy elucidated the aspect of Kashmir Shaivism in detail to both Indian and foreign devotees. He was a student with a Persian-Urdu background.

Despite having achieved expertise in ornithology, he didn’t get due recognition from the government. The British honored him with small war pension, but in J&K, where he devoted his life for spreading education, he passed away in oblivion.

A comment on his book ‘Birds of Kashmir’: -

‘…the author is by nature desirous of imparting to others his pleasure in the subject. Besides giving us all the details about the birds of Kashmir, their different names, their families, their haunts and habits, he has not missed emphasizing their importance with the people. The flora and fauna of a country are vitally bound with the inhabitants, and the author has successfully shown how the birds strike not the individual poet but a whole people…many colored and ordinary illustrations add to the interest and value of the book.’

-The Kashmir Chronicle

Some comments on his book ‘Beautiful Valleys of Kashmir and Ladakh’: -

‘A most delightful book…it will be what the Greeks used to call…”a possession for ever” because it is full of so many beautiful things.’

-Lord Bishop of Lahore

‘The author is lyrical…obviously very knowledgeable… It contains excellent photographs and colored plates of Kashmir flowers…’

-The Statesman

‘…First hand description…the author wields a facile pen and exposes in a beautiful manner the magic concealed in the valley…’

-The Punjab Educational Journal

‘…The book gives lively description of the beauty spots of Kashmir. The author draws his matter from his own observations of the interior of Kashmir valleys…’

-The Amrita Bazaar Patrika

‘There is no beauty spot in Kashmir which the author has not described in the book…At frequent places the learned author has added to the interesting character of the book by the narrations of delightful stories and description of his personal experiences…’

-The Hamdard

Some comments on Master ji by his students: -

‘…The zeal, dedication and passion that he demonstrated is indeed very hard to come by. He was one of the greatest teachers, and perhaps the foremost ornithologist in our state ( & India). I feel, revered though he was, he was not well served by his students, he was not well served by his students. How else could have his contributions gone un-rewarded and un-recognized. To honor a teacher like him there should have been an award named after him by the government of Jammu & Kashmir. Most of his students served at the highest levels in state administration. There shall never be another Master Samsar Chand. Master ji lives in our heart and souls’.

-Romesh Khardori, MB. , MD
Professor – Director
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Springfield, Illinois (USA)

‘The word education comes from Latin word `educere' which means to take out the inner self of man to make him understand his abilities. Masterji aimed at this by making his students associate with their environment, the world they belong to and which belongs to them. Today when teaching has become mechanical and show biz such teachers can only be remembered. But its he who has influenced a whole generation and the influence has permeated to us. I bow to this great teacher’.

-Dileep Kumar Kaul, U.S.A.

‘Kashmir was a wonderful place to grow up. Spring is a really remarkable time there. After a very hard winter, with about 300 or 400 millimeters of snow, in March and April the whole place comes alive with flowers and lots of birds that migrate in to breed. Some of the Kashmiri masters in the school that my father and grandfather ran were interested in the animals. One in particular, a dear man called SAMSAR CHAND KAUL who wrote several books on the birds and flowers of Kashmir, was like an uncle to me as a boy and I got my first interest in birds and plants and butterflies from him – and also from my father, who had done agriculture at Cambridge and talked with me about biology’.

-Dr Hugh Tyndale-Biscoe
Prof., Scientist & Marsupial Biologist
Australian Academy of Science, Sydney

In a foreword to Master Samsar Chand’s book A Beautiful Valley of Kashmir & Ladakh:

“ I am most greatful to Samsar Chand for having taught his boys to love birds through his teaching of natural history”.

-C. E. Tyndale Biscoe
British Principal of the CMS School

Books and Articles Written by Master ji: -

Beautiful Valleys of Kashmir and Ladakh, 1942
Birds of Kashmir, 1946
Srinagar and its Environs,
Gulmarg and its Environs, 1958
Pahalgam and its Environs, 1955
The Mysterious Cave of Amarnath, 1954
Mysterious Spring of Khirbhawani,
Rahas Amar Nath Gupha (Hindi),
Sacred temple of Shankracharya,
The Sacred Temple of Khirbhawani, 1954
Date: 27.11.2004 04:14
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