Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India


Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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July-September 2001 Issue

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

  Koshur and our Identity
by Dr. B. N. Sharga
At the outset, I would like to frankly admit that I am not competent enough to write with an authority on this highly emotional and sensitive issue, so under these circumstances I will only try to express my views on this subject on the basis of the information which I have collected from different sources over the years in connection with my exhaustive research work on Kashmiriology vis-a-vis the Kashmiri Pandits.

        As we all know that the language is basically a medium of expression to communicate between one another. Its growth and development naturally depends upon the availability of its literature for which the existence of a proper script is a must to write down your feelings and thoughts for future generations. But the most unfortunate part of this whole story is that the Kashmiri language is only a spoken language and uptill now has no standard and well recognised script of its own, with the result that this language has not been able to acquire that status and position which the other regional languages generally enjoy in our country although some sincere efforts have been made by the lovers of this language from time to time to give this language its due status by promoting it at different levels.

        It is really most unfortunate that there is no authentic record about the origin and evolution of the Kashmiri language in the Kashmir Valley which still requires an exhaustive research work by the competent scholars on this subject as there are divergent views on the evolution of this language in the Valley.

        It is generally believed that during the Hindu period in Kashmir which lasted upto 1337 A.D. Sanskrit used to be the language of Kashmir which was gradually and subsequently replaced by the Persian language during the Muslim rule in Kashmir. But some research scholars consider the birch manuscript of 'Manimata Manimala' to be the most ancient script of Kashmir whereas others consider the Sharada script of Bakshali, which was first of all discovered in the Bakshali village in North Western Frontier Province now in Pakistan, to be the oldest known script of Kashmir.

        Now according to Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani, a noted epigraphist and archeologist of Pakistan, who read his research paper recently in the 61st session of the Indian History Congress held in Kolkata, a stone was discovered in Afghanistan near Mazare Sharif bearing a clear cut inscription in Sharada script describing the construction of a Shiva Temple in that region during the rule of Hindu Shahi King Vaku in the 10th century. But with the passage of time, Sharada, Pali and Brahmi scripts of Kashmir became extinct.

        In our country, every region has its own language which is taught in schools and colleges and is the medium of instruction in those states like Bengali in West Bengal, Gujrati in Gujrat, Marathi in Maharashtra, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Telgu in Andhra Pradesh and so on and so forth, but the only exception is the Kashmiri language which is neither taught nor is the medium of instruction in the schools and colleges in the Jammu & Kashmir state. In its place, the medium of instruction in Jammu & Kashmir in schools and colleges is Urdu, which really sounds something  very strange. The state government has done practically nothing uptill now to promote this language there, although the Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah has promised recently that he would do some thing worthwhile in this regard soon.

        No sincere effort has so far been made by anybody at any level to evolve a standard script to write the Kashmiri language properly, which is necessary for its rapid growth and development. The Kashmiri language used to be written in the 'Nastalikh' script in Kashmir in the past. Now Kashmiri Hindus have adopted the 'Devnagri' script to express themselves, but still there are many shortcomings in the script as a slight change in the pronounciation of a particular word changes its meaning altogether. There is no primer to teach this language to a learner who is interested to learn the language.

        About two years back, Dr. B. K. Moza of Kolkata took some initiative to evolve a standard script acceptable to all for writing the Kashmiri language but in spite of his best efforts, the response from the community members was not very encouraging with the result that he was left with no other option but to shelve his plans to promote this language for want of proper support.

In Lucknow, on the initiative of Pt. Maharaj Krishan Kaw, the education secretary of the government of India, the classes for teaching the Kashmiri language were started last year under the able supervision of Mrs. Lata Kak in Bappa Srinarain Vocational Post Graduate College, but due to non-availability of proper books to teach this language methodically, the whole scheme had to be shelved with a heavy heart. It has been learnt from very reliable sources quite recently that Dr. O. N. wakhlu and his son Mr. Bharat Wakhlu, after doing a lot of research work have developed a Roman script for writing the Kashmiri language and have also published some primary books for learning this language quickly without any difficulty. It is a good beginning and it is hoped that the efforts of these people would bear fruit in the near future.

        Then there are people who corelate the language with culture without knowing the fact that culture always changes with the times. Though my grand father was a judge in the British period and his elder brother went to England to study Law there at the Lincon's Inn, but he used to sit on a 'Takht' with a 'Masnad' and a 'Gaotakia' and he used to take the meals cooked by a Kashmiri Pandit cook and that too sitting on a wooden plank in the kitchen wearing a 'Dhoti'. Now under the present set up, how many Kashmiri Pandits will be ready to do the same thing. Is the culture of England the same today what it was during the Victorian era? The answer is a big no, simply because change is the law of nature.

        The Kashmiri Pandits who came out from the Kashmir Valley in the late 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th century and settled down in different regions of north India lost track of their mother tongue and subsequently became well versed in the languages of those regions simply for their growth and development under those special circumstances in which they were forced to live for their survival. They achieved very high positions in the society because of their merit and integrity but all through these 300 years, they tried their level best to preserve their distinct cultural identity by religiously sticking to certain values and by maintaining the purity of their Aryan blood. The concept of an intercast marriage was beyond the imagination of any member of the community at that time. A Kashmiri Pandit used to be identified by his features and complexion in the crowd even without uttering a single word. What is the position today? Many Kashmiri Pandits due to intercast marriages and intermixing of different bloods do not look like Kashmiri Pandits at all and have no traits which the Kashmiri Pandit should have.

        By giving emphasis to the Kashmiri language alone will not solve our purpose to maintain our distinct cultural identity unless sincere and effective steps are not taken to curb the alarming rise in the number of intercast marriages in our community which is actually responsible to a great extent for the fast disintegration of our microscopic community. If this trend is not checked in time, then nobody will be able to stop our community from becoming extinct in the near future.

        The modern scientific researches in the field of genetic engineering have proved conclusively that genes play a vital role in determining the basic characteristics of a human being. So for maintaining our basic characteristics intact, it is necessary that we should give due importance to preserve the purity of our Aryan blood and avoid mixing of the genes of other races and communities into our veins. Actually these are the basics which really matter in preserving our identity and not the environment and other things. If our boys and girls continue to marry in other communities at a fast rate in the name of projecting themselves as most ultra modern, then the very purpose of this exercise will have no meaning. It will be like crying all alone in wilderness. Then we will naturally become a laughing stock for others. A well chalked out action plan is the need of the hour. The following lines composed by the well known Urdu poet of Lucknow, Pt. Brij Narain Chakbast long time back, are still relevant today in this respect and convey the same underlying message to the community members:

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