A Social Reformer
by H. N. Kaul
Tara Chand of Gairu (Noorpur Village), popularly known as Kashyap Bandhu
and Bulbul-e-Kashmir, should have been given the same position among social
reformers in Kashmir as is bestowed to Raja Ram Mohan Roy of Bengal. He
is better known as a political leader rather than a social reformer. His
efforts to revolutionize the thinking of Kashmiri Pandits - change their
social structure and social disabilities, brought about a tremendous change
in the community, the impact of which is visible even today in the dress
of our women folk i.e. 'saree' and in the fast growing education of our
Born in March 1899 to Thakur Bhat in Gairu (Noorpur
village), he got his education up to primary standard in the local primary
school and then in Srinagar up to entrance examination. After passing his
entrance examination, a quest for job started and after a great struggle
he got a job of Shajrakash in Revenue department. But after some time he
left the job and went to Lahore. These were the days when Arya Samaj, Brahmo
Samaj and other such organisations were advocating social reforms. He came
under the influence of Arya Samaj and joined Vrjanand Ashram in Lahore.
He became a total vegetarian and never touched meat etc. Vishwa Bandhu
was the Principal of the Ashram. Vishwa Bandhu observed the keen interest
of Tara Chand in public service and social reforms and advised him to serve
Kashmir. It was he who named him as Kashyap Bandhu. Kashyap Bandhu became
the editor of Arya Gazette in Lahore. While in Lahore, he saw the miserable
condition of Kashmiri labour who used to migrate during winter months to
earn their livelihood. He organised them and started Kashmiri Mazdoor Board
of which he became the Secretary. He came into contact with revolutionaries
and joined Bhagat Singh's party. He was arrested in Sanders' case but was
Kashyap Bandhu was always keen to serve Kashmir
and while out of the State, he kept himself abreast of the conditions in
the State and particularly about the conditions of his community - Kashmiri
Pandits. It was during these years i.e. beginning of 1930-31 when the Muslim
Conference came into existence. In 1931 when the leaders of Muslim Conference
were in jail, a procession in connection with the demand for their release
was taken out in the city of Srinagar. It became unruly and on their way
the processionists looted the houses and shops of Kashmiri Pandits. Some
of them were killed. Though the killing and looting stopped in no time,
the scars remained for a long time. It was after this happening that Kashyap
Bandhu returned to Kashmir. He was already familiar with the condition
of the State particularly the Kashmiri Pandits. After his return to Kashmir
- Shri Prem Nath Bazaz, Shri Shiv Narain Fotedar, Shri Jia Lal Kilam and
Bandhuji organised "Yuvak Sabha" with its central office at Sheetal
It was from this place that Bandhuji started his political and social reform
activities. He realised that to ameliorate the condition of the community
the social evils in the community should be removed and reforms brought
in. During the beginning of the thirties he started his programme of Social
Reforms. The Reforms which were taken up for implementation were:
1) Widow re-marriage:
In those days widows were not allowed to remarry
as the society did not approve of it. Young widows had to suffer for whole
life and depend for their existence on the in-laws or own parents. Kashyap
Bandhu started the movement, propagated for it along with other workers.
Most of the workers who worked with him volunteered and married widows.
That was the example they put forth for the community. In those years many
widows got remarried.
2) Wasteful expenditure and other customs:
Most of the expenditure incurred during the marriages
or other festivals used to be wasteful. The manner in which feasts were
given for days together on such occasions and food stuffs and other things
wasted was unbearable. To stop all this, Bandhuji and his colleagues started
picketing and used to sit on dharnas wherever such feasts were organised.
He requested the people to limit the number of Baratis and stop wasting
the money and the food stuff. He also advocated limiting the number of
preparations on such occasions and refrain from giving huge dowries. Those
days it had a salutary effect on the community.
3) Girls' Education:
The greatest contribution of Kashyap Bandhu is
the spread of education among the girls. It was during that time that Girls
Schools such as Vasanta School came into existence. We owe it to him that
our women folk have taken to education and are not lagging behind in any
4) Weekly Congregations:
Weekly gatherings used to be organised at Hari
Parbat where the community people used to gather in large numbers. Yajnas (Havans) were also performed. This was done to imbibe unity and brotherhood
among Pandit Community.
5) Mochchi Phol:
Kashyap Bandhu started collecting contributions
and donations both in kind and cash to help widows. His volunteers used
to visit each and every house to collect rice and other things just to
give solace to the economically and socially backward persons. He started 'Silai Kendra' to give training to the needy widows so that they could
6) From Pheran to Saree:
Today we see our womenfolk in sarees and salwar kameez. During the period of early thirties, sarees and salwar kurtas were
non-existent. Pheran was the common dress for our women without any under
garment beneath it. This dress was responsible for lethargy and laziness.
Bandhuji requested the women folk to change the dress and start wearing
sarees and that too khadi sarees. There was resistance initially but he
and his volunteers started visiting each and every house and requested
the women to change the dress. His efforts bore results and today saree
and salwar kameez have become the normal dress of our women folk.
To educate the people on these social reforms,
he used the media to a great extent. He published many of his ideas through
articles in the Daily Martand (of which he was the first editor), "Kesari"
and "Desh" etc.
But alas! today we have not only forgotten the
man but we have betrayed him. He wanted us to shun dowry system - wasteful
expenditure - show off on festivals, particularly on the occasions of marriages
- we have not adhered to his teachings. Our demand for dowry has grown
to awful proportions; the expenditure on marriages has multiplied, and
our marriage festivities continue for days together. Many things have been
added to our menu- Chicken, which once was unheard of in our community,
has become one of the varieties which is served on the receptions and other
occasions. 'Nena Batta', 'Hyot Dyot', Gharachun etc. have become our culture.
Khadi, which Bandhuji wanted our women folk to use, has given place to
Banarasi and other costly silken sarees. This is how we have betrayed the
man who gave us self confidence and self respect, wanted our emancipation
and development. We can still pay him our respects and shradhanjali by
following his ideas and teachings.
Let us observe his birthday as the day of Social
Reforms every year and organise lectures, seminars etc. on this occasion.
[ The intensity of the opposition faced by Bandhu
ji will be gauged by this example:
taaraachand bulbulo trawoo israar
aes na baa traawoy z'ahtih naerwaar
pootch, zoojya tai naerwaar
im chhi shikasaek sardaar
mali baerthaey gardan
traawi feran tI lolo