Beginnings of Kashmiri Language and
By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani
As a daughter of Sanskrit, Kashmiri has a number of
traits that it shares with other modern languages of Aryan stock, and yet it has
its own peculiarities also. What makes it a unique language in the Indian
Linguistic context is the fact that it is analytic and at the same time
synthetic holding many a secret of the development of modern Indo-Aryan
That is perhaps, what Dr. Siddheshwar Verma means when he
says that Kashmiri reveals linguistic strata of various ages - "Vedic,
Buddhist Sanskrit, Pali, Kharoshthi Prakrit" etc. No wonder then that Georg
Buhler considers it to be of greatest importance in the study of a comparative
grammar of Indo-Aryan languages, preserving, as it does, not only several old
word forms but also revealing how new word-forms evolved from old bases.
Grierson too seems to ensorse the same view despite his controversial
classification of the language. The study of Kashmiri, he says, is an "essential
preliminary to any inquiry" regarding "the mutual relations of modern
vernaculars of India".
Kashmiri or Kashur’ as its native speakers numbering over
31 lakhs according to the 1991 census call it, is spoken in the region extending
from Uri to Matrigam in the north, Verinag to the Pir Panchal ranges in the
south, Zojila to Kashtawar in the east and Shopian to Lagan in the West,
covering an area of about 10,000 sq. miles. Besides the Kashmir valley, there is
a sizeable concentration of the speakers of the languages and its dialects in
Kashtawar, Ramban, Pogal Paristan, Reasi, Poonch and several other mountainous
areas of the Jammu region. Today a large number of its speakers-around 5 lakh
Kashmiri Pandits have been displaced from their original linguistic habitat and
relocated in Jammu, Delhi and other places in India. There is a clearly
perceptible dialectic variation in respect of accent and usage in the Kashmiri
spoken in Kamraz (Skt. Kramarajya-North Western Kashmir) and Maraz (Madvarajya-South
Kashmir) and the standard Kashmiri of Srinagar and adjoining semi-urban areas.
The main areawise dialects, however, are Kashtawari, Pogali, Siraji and Rambani
which preserve several old and archaic elements of the language. Unfortnuately,
there has been no attempt to study these dialects systematically which could
well reveal secrets of its development of Kashmiri from the regional. Prakrit
There exists a very strong evidence to show that Kashmiri
has descended from the vedic speech or, as Buhler has pointed out, from "one of
the dialects of which the classical Sanskrit was formed." The presence in
Kashmiri vocabulary of a large number of lexical and phonetic items that can be
directly traced to Vedic corrobate this fact. For instance, the Kashmiri word ‘yodvay’,
meaning ‘if’ is the same as Vedic ‘yaduvay’, the corresponding word for it in
Sanskrit (and Hindi) being ‘yadi’. Similarly we have the word ‘ada’ in Kashmiri,
meaning ‘so, then, thereupon, yes’, which can be hardly distinguished from the
Vedic ‘addha’ of which the Prakrit form too is ‘addha’, Again, the Vedic ‘sanna’
appears as ‘son’ in Kashmiri having an identical meaning ‘deep’. Or take the
Kashmiri word ‘basta’ which comes straight from Vedic ‘bastajin’ meaning
‘goatskin’, ‘bellows’. It is from the Vedic root ‘taksh’ that the Kashmiri word
‘tachh’ (to scratch, ‘to peel’, ‘to plane’, ‘to scrape’) is derived, Sanskrit
‘ksh’ changing to ‘chh’ in Kashmiri as in Laksha>lachh, vaksha>vachh, draksha>dachh,
akshi>achhi etc. And from this very root comes the Kashmiri word ‘chhan’, ‘a
Generally, Kashmiri words have evolved from Vedic or old
Indo-Aryan through intermediairy Pali or Prakrit forms. Thus, Vedic ‘prastar’,
from which the Hindi ‘patthar’ (=a stone) is derived, changes through the
intermediary Prakrit ‘pattharo’ to ‘pathar’ (=on the floor) and ‘pothur’ (=the
floor) in Kashmiri, retaining the original sense. Vedic ‘atyeti’, ‘comes upon,
goes by’, ‘enters’ is another example. It becomes ‘achcheti’ in Prakrit and from
it the Kashmiri ‘atsun’. (=enter) is derived. In fact, numerous such examples
can be adduced to show that Kashmiri preserves not only phonetic and semantic
but also morphological elements of Vedic speech.
The phonetic aspects of the tendency in Kashmiri to
retain some most archaic word forms has been analysed at some length by Dr.
Siddheshwar Verma. It will be interesting to look at some of the examples he
gives to provide evidence on how Kashmiri shows contact with older layers of
Indo-Aryan vocabulary. One such word that Dr Verma examines is ‘kral’, the
Kashmiri for ‘a potter’. While all other modern Indo-Aryan languages, he points
out, except Nepali and Sinhalese, have words for it derived from the Sanskrit ‘kumbhakar’,
post-Vedic development, Kashmiri alone preserves the phonetic remanants of the
Vedic ‘Kulal’, an older word. Similarly, the Kashmiri word ‘tomul’, uncooked
rice’, he says, has retained the initial ‘t’ of the Sanskrit ‘tandulam’, while
in other modern Indo-Aryan languages, ‘t’ has changed to ‘ch’, as in Hindi ‘Chawal’,
Bengali and Oriya ‘Chaul’, Sindhi ‘chavir’, Nepali ‘chamal’ and so on.
It is on the basis of such linguistic evidence that
eminent linguists like Morgenstierne, Emenean, Bloch and Turner have arrived at
their conclusions about Vedic origin of Kashmiri. Supporting this view, Prof.
S.K. Toshkahni goes even further to point out some pre-Vedic developments in the
language like the existence of words like ‘sost’ and ‘rost’ which later become
‘sahit’ and ‘rahit’.
Grierson, however, disregards all this massive evidence
and holds an entirely different view about the origin and affliation of the
Kashmir language. Kashmiri, he insists is "a mixed language, having as its basis
a language of the Dard group of the Pishacha family allied to "Shina’. He
accepts the fact that there is a predominance of Indo-Aryan vocabulary in
Kashmir, but attributes this to a powerful influence of Indian culture and
literature for over two thousand years. Almost echoing Grierson's views, Dr
Suniti Kumar Chatterji observes that "the Kashmiri language is a result of very
large overlaying of a Dardic base with Indo-Aryan. But neither Grierson, nor
Chatterji have cared to show what this Dardic base or sub-stratum precisely is.
Nor have they been able to produce any evidence of this ‘overlaying’. Grierson's
view are largely confined to the realm of hypothesis and fly in the face of
actual facts of the language. This insistence on equating Kashmiri with
Paishachi and therefore, with Dardic and Iranian makes little linguistic sense.
The Paishachi speech exists only in the few examples that
Prakrit grammarians have given of it, there being virtually no other record
available. And a glance at the phonetic and morphological features of Paishachi
as given by them proves beyond any shadow of doubt that linguistically it has
nothing to do with Kashmiri.
Grierson has further muddled the issue by placing
Kashmiri in the Shina-Khowar group of Dardic languages and clubbing these in
turn with the Kafir group. Both Morgiensterne and Emenean have rubbished this
classification and shown very clearly that Dardic languages “are of pure IA
(Indo-Aryan) origin and go back to a form of speech closely resembling Vedic”.
Emeneau has further pointed out that though the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan,
“they did not pass through the MIA (Middle Indo-Aryan) development represented
by the records".
The problem with Grierson is that he bases his arguments
on a false premise, overlookking the fact that if there are some cognate words
in Shina and Kashmiri, it is not because of any Dardic connection, but because
both the languages draw upon Sanskrit or the old Indo-Aryan as the basic source
for their respctive vocabularies. He also ignores totally the fundamental
differences that exist between the Linguistic features of Shina and Kashmir.
What is more unfortunate, however, is that many later scholars have accepted his
views uncritically, giving rise to a fallacy that still persists. As P.N. Pushp
has clearly pointed out, "the data adduced by him in this regard is just
confined to tentative resemblances: just some casual sounds and vagrant vocables
regardless of the evidence offered by the structural framework that the Kashmiri
language shares with sister languages including Sindhi, Panjabi, Marathi,
Gujarati and Bengali”.
What this structural framework actually is and how it
developed can be known only when the language is “historically studied and
structurally analysed”. In other words when we examine the written evidence of
its gradual development through various periods of time. Like other Indo-Aryan
Languages, Kashmiri too started assuming its distinct shape as a modern language
around the 10th century after emerging from the MIA stage of Prakrit and
Apabhramsha. And though much of its early literary output has been lost,
whatever written evidence is available to us today of the language is sufficient
to help us draw a clear outline of the process of its development.
The earliest extant record of Kashmiri we come across is
in the form of a commentary on the verses of a work titled “Chhumma Sampraday”,
which can be assigned to 11th century or so. The work, though in verse form has
nothing as such to do with poetry but with the teachings of an esoteric Tantric
sect of the times. A scrutiny of these verses shows that linguistically they are
closer to regional Apabhramsha, though Prakrit forms also abound. This will be
clear from the following two examples from the work:
niravidhi agam prakashi
shunnya ashunnya swarupa
padarthu sathu kavatet
The nascent features of early Kashmiri that appear in the
'Chumma Sampradaya' take a more pronounced and distinct form in later works like
the ‘Mahanaya Prakasha’, ‘Banasur Katha’ and Sukha-Dukha Charit, presenting a
somewhat continuous picture of linguistic development from the 10th-11th tury to
the end of the 15th century.
Surely Kashmiri must have acquired a distinct form in the
11th century for we have Kshemendra, a great stalwart of Sanskrit Literature
recommending to upcoming Sanskrit poets of his times to study bhasha kavya
or poetry written in the regional dialect alongside Prakrit and Apabhramsha
works. Bilhana, another great Sanskrit poet, who lived in the 12th century,
admires women of his native land for having the same command over Sanskrit and
Prakrit as they had over their 'janma bhasha' or native tongue-obviously
In Kalhana's Sanskrit chronicle "Rajatarangini", also
written in the 12th century, we come across a curious piece of linguistic
evidence in the form of a single sentence-"Rangassa Helu dinna" (the
village of Helu was given to Ranga). But it is Amir Khusro's 'Nuh Siphir' that
we find the nomenclature 'Kashmiri' being used as such for the first time
(c.1300). Khusro has placed Kashmiri along side Lahori and Sindhi as one of the
prominent languages spoken in India at that time.
If 'Chhumma Sampraday' presents the earliest recorded
form of the Kashmiri language, 'Mahanay Prakash' documents the next stage of its
development. Grierson considers it to be a work of the 15th century, but Prof PN
Pushp and Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterji assign it to the 13th century which seems
nearer the mark as an examination of its language with its tendency for
Prakritisation shows. Grierson confuses its author Shiti Khntha with Shiti
Kantha the author of a grammatical work, 'Balabodhini Nyasa' who lived in the
15th century. Interestingly, the author of 'Mahanaya Prakasha' has described the
language of his work as "Sarvagochara desha bhasha', or "the regional dialect
intelligelbe to all".
According to Dr G.V. Tagare, the term 'deshi', 'deshya'
or 'deshi bhasha' generally imply the spoken language of a particular province.
It is in this context that the term "desha bhasha" used by Shiti Kantha has to
be understood. This is made further clear by repeated references to "attharasa
desha bhasha" or eighteen provincial languages in Jain Prakrit works. There is
little doubt that Kashmiri too must have one of eighteen languages in the early
"Mahanaya Prakasha" (Illumination of the Great System or
the System of the Great Meaning) is work of the Krama (Gradation) School which
is akin to the Kula (Familial) School and is based on Shaktopaya or the Energic
Way. It deals with the Goddess, the Wheel of Energies and ritual sex and
emphasises that the Great Meaning or the Absolute Sense expresses itself
gradually through the four forms of speech: para (transcendent and
undifferentiated), pashyanti (visioning), madhyama (interjacent) and Vaikhari
(displayed) word. Obviously all this terminology and the esoteric practices of
jnaansiddhi, mantrasiddhi and melapsiddhi associated with the propitation of
deities like Vameshi, Khechari, Bhuchari, Sambarbhakshini and Raudreshwari
cannot by any stretch of imagination be taken to be poetry. But the importance
of Mahanaya Prakasha lies in the fact that it is the only written evidence we
have of the Kashmiri in the 13th Century. Its linguistic strtum appears to be
definitely old, revealing how the language was emerging from its
Prakriti-Apabhramsha form. Here is one example:
jantus samvid yas gas
Nila pit sukh
In this verse the Kashmiri pronouns yasu-yasu-yas-yas (<skt.
'yasya', Pali-Prakrit 'yassa', whoever, whomever) and 'tas-tas' (< skt. 'tasya',
Pali-Prakrit tassa', to that person. can be clearly recognised and also the
genetive marker - 'as' (< skt-'asya') used with 'jantu' ('a c-creature') in 'jantus'.
in fact a large number of Kashmiri words can be found in their older forms in
Mahanay Prakash - an aspect dwelt at some length by Grierson in 'The language of
the Mahanay Prakash'. It is a brilliant analysis in which Gerirson accepts that
the vocabulary of the work is predominantly Indo-Aryan, but attributes it to the
authors being a Sanskrit scholar- something that does not appear to be
convincing in view of Shiti Kantha's claim of having composed it in 'sarvagochar
desbhasha'. Surely, Shiti Kantha's would not have made this claim without any
While "Chhumma Sampraday" and "Mahanay Prakash" are the
earliest recorded specimens of Kashmiri language and literature, the first
heartbeats of Kashmiri poetry in the real sense of the word can be heard in the
vaakhs or verse sayings of Lal Ded only. Born in the early decades of the 14th
century when Kashmir was in the throes of an unprecedented political upheaval
with a collision between two cultures, the indigenous and Islamic, thretaening
to tear the entire social fabric apart, Lal Ded played the dual role of a poet
and spiritual leader to ensure continuity and stability. No other Kashmiri poet
has scaled the poetic heights that she attained and influenced Kashmiri psyche
so deeply as she did. Even today her vaaks or verse sayings are a source of
immense spiritual solace to Kashmiri speaking people, suffused as they are with
great wisdom. Her mystic insights, and her vision of the relationship between
the individual soul and the supreme being, her awareness of the human condition
and a deep sense of compassion, her protets against everything that demeans a
human being and restricts his freedom of will and her Shaiva world-view of the
oneness of all conciousness make her - what she is regarded to be - the greatest
cultural icon of the Kashmiris.
Lal Ded translated her existential anguish into soul
sterring poetry, emphasising the inwardness of spiritual exprience and lashing
out at religious formalism and external ceremony. But more than anything else,
she chose to speak to the common masses in their own mother tongue rather than
the literary language of the elite, borrowing her imagery ferom everyday life
and making accessible to them the subtle truths of Kashmir’s Trika philosophy.
This direct contact with the life and concerns of the
common people charged her language with tremendous power and made her poetry
glow with a unique incadecence. In fact she shaped and enriched the Kashmiri
language in a manner that it formed the basis on which a new Kashmiri identity
was forged. Here are a few of her representative 'Vaaks' which are etched
indelibly on the collective memory of Kashmiris :
sodaras navi chas laman
Kati bozi day
myon mye ti diyi tar
pony zan shraman
braman gara gatshaha
(With a rope of
loose-spun thread am I-towing my boat upon the sea.
Would that God
heard my prayer
and brought me
Like water in
cups of unbaked clay
I run to waste.
Would God I were
to reach my home!
(--Tr. Prof Jaya
yavan tu rath
posh, pony tsuy
Tsuy sakal tu
(Yea, Thou alone
the heavens, thou the earth,
And Thou alone
the day, the air, the night
And Thou alone
the slumbering and rebirth
Thi offerings of
sandal oil and light!
Yea, Thou alone
all these, for Thou art all,
What, then, to
offer Thee, what name to call?
vonanam kunuy vatsun
Suy gav Lali
mye vaak tii vatsun,
(My Guru said,
"But one thing you must know
How, from within,
still further in to go!"
The words became
my precept and my chance
And so it came I,
Lalla naked dance.
(--Tr. Nila Cram
If we look at the diction of these verses, we will find
that Lal Ded uses words which are commonly used in the colloquial Kashmiri of
today. In fact, her language appears to be surprisingly close to modern
Kashmiri. Obviously this must not have been the language of her vaaks at the
time they were composed. What it must have actually been like, we have no means
to ascertain today. As these were not written down when they fell from the lips
of the poetess but passed on through oral tredition from generation to
generation till Bhaskar Razdan translated sixty of them into Sanskrit in the
18th century. In the intervening centuries it must have imperceptibly changed
with each generation introducing its own linguistic elements and these
accretions finally adding up to massive interpolations. The only way left for us
to come as close as possible to the original language of the vaaks would be to
critically edit the text in light of the diction of the extant works written
immediately before them and after them.
However, even in the form in which the vaaks are
available to us today we find that Lal Ded has used quite a number of Sanskrit
and Saaskrit-derived words, pointing to the form of the Kashmiri language in her
times. Here are some examples of such words: 'gagan', 'bhutal', 'dyan' (< 'dina'),
'pawan', 'sakal', 'sahaj', 'kusum', 'mudh', 'jnana', 'turag', 'desh', 'wopdish'
(<updesh), tset ('Chitta'), 'Svaman', 'amritsaras', 'lay', bhan (<bhanu'), 'mukur',
zanam' (< janma), tubh (<tobha), ahar, 'bhavaruj', 'artsun' (< 'archan'), 'akshar',
'rasayan, 'brahmand', 'rav' (<ravih), 'varun', 'salil', 'lavan', 'rasani' (<'rasana),
'prakash', 'shishir', 'pran', 'sham', 'dam', 'muktidvar', 'neshibod (< 'nishbuddhih'),
'shunya', 'vag' (< 'valga'), 'vak', 'manas', 'kul', 'akul', 'pashya' (< 'pashya),
'vimarsha' (< 'vimarsha), 'rajan' (< 'rajani'), 'ambar', 'laz' (< lajja), 'mrig',
'shrigal', 'nishpath', 'chidanand-as', 'jnanaprakash-as', 'jnanamarg', 'varna',
'aham', 'antar', 'nabhi', 'tslitan' (<'chetana'), 'atsitan'- (<achebra), 'ashvavan',
'geh' (<'griha') 'svalabh (<'sulabhah'), 'kesari', 'van', 'anna-s', 'dwish' (< 'dvesh),
'zal' (< 'jala') 'chamar', 'rath', 'simhasana', 'ahlad', 'charman', 'trin', 'ahar',
'ahlad', 'chhatra', 'panka', pad', 'hridi' (< 'hridaye), 'shank (< 'shnka), 'karan',
'vatsun' (< vachana') and so on.
Lal Ded chose 'vaak' as the verse form to convey her
personal experiences and mystic insights and used it with such perfection that
it acquired a serene dignity and subtlety of tone which no one has been able to
surpass. Her mastery over the medium suggests that she must have come at the
culmination of a long poetic tradition rather than having started a new one. It
is difficult to say with certainty whether 'vaak' is based on any Rigvedic
metrical pattern or Prakrit-Apabhramsha metres like 'arya' and 'gaha'. But one
thing is certain-Lal Ded contributed the best of her creative geniues to make
the four-lined stanza an ideal medium for expressing philosophical and mystic
Lal Ded was
folllowed by Sheikh Nur-ud-Din (1376-1438), popularly known as Nunda Rishi, as
the most significant representative of the creative upsurge that was taking
place in Kashmir in the 14th century. Revered greatly by Kashmiris for founding
the Muslim Rishiorder, the saint poet left a tremendous impact on the religious
and cultural life of Kashmir. The transformation of the Vedic Rishi into Islamic
Rishi is regarded as a very significant event in Kashmir's spiritual history.
Sheikh Nur-ud-Din's disciples believed in preaching through personal precept,
laying stress on the need for inner discipline and purity of conduct and a
balance between spiritual and material life. Self-abnegation, abstention from
wordly pleasures, contentment, penance, vegetarianism and frugal eating habits,
belief in oneness of existence and human brotherhood were some of the
characteristic features of this new cult. This made Dawood Mishqati to say that
the Rishis "followed the practices of the Brahmans and the Buddhists".
It is not without significance therefore that Nand
Rishi's verses are known as "shruks" or "shlokas". Generally "didactic in
content and exhortative in tone", these verses remined one again and again of
the transitoriness of life and insubstantiality of worldly pleasures, stressing
the need for a total surrender before God's will and seeking His grace.
Sheikh Nur-ud-Din does not forget to acknowledge the debt
of gratitude for Lal Ded, his senior contemporary who is said to have deeply
influenced him. In fact there are many verses of Lal Ded which have been
attributed to the Sheikh. This has created confusion about the authorship of as
many as 35 verses which are found in the works of both. The main reason for this
is that their is no critical text of Sheikh Nur-ud-Din's verses. The Nurnamas
and Rishinamas in which they were recorded were compiled nearly two hundred
years after him with numerous interpolations and insertions. Though structurally
there is not much difference between the 'vaks' of the Lal Ded and the 'Shruks'
of Nunda Rishi, the two are considerably different in style and content making
it not much too difficult to distinguish between them. Here are two much much
quoted and illustrative verses of the Sheikh:
Kuniray bozakh kuni no rozakh
Ami Kuniran Kotah dyut jalav
Aqal ta fiqir tor kot sozakh
Kami mati chyath hyok su dariyav
(Know the one, and you will cease to be
The one whose radiance pervades all around
Reason and wisdom will never take you there
There is no one who can qualt that perennial flow.
—Trs. Shafi Shauq)
Kivaly kor nerakh panthani
Travith shury-mury to gih-bar
Yim kas bar Ladakh papani
Bar khvadaya pap nivar
(To what destinations art thou wending thy lonely way?
Renouncing hearth, home and family?
Whom wilt thou encumber with thy load of sins?
Greak God absolve from my sins
Great God absolve me from my sins.
—Trs. Prof. B.N. Parimoo)
A number of Sheikh Nur-ud-Din 'Shruks' have refrains with
one verse running into another. Some of them have the form of the 'vatsun' short
lyric also. However, it would be wrong to say that the 'shruk' is modelled after
the quantitative 'bahar' of Persian". The Sheikh was virtually illiterate and so
he could not have been able to read or understand any Persin poetry. As far as
language is concerned, we find that the Sheikh's vocabularly is predominantly of
Sanskrit origin retaining some of the most archiac words despite all the
interpolations and additions made from time to time which is illustrated by the
occurance of the such words in his verses :
'Kival' (< 'keval', 'panthani' (< 'panthan'), 'gih-bar (<
'griha'+'bhara'), 'pap', 'nivar' (<nivarana), 'niz' (< 'nija'), 'subhav' (<svabhava),
'ambi' (<'amba'), 'vodari' (< 'udare'), 'gambir' (< 'gambhirah'), 'prakrath' (<'prakriti'),
'das', 'dulut' (< 'duhita'), 'samsar-', 'ann', 'van', 'krey' (< kriya), 'vinat',
(< 'vinati'), 'antah' ('antah'), 'laz' (<'lajja'), 'svargas' (<'svarga'), kosam
(<'kusuma'), 'tap', 'ahar', 'bavasende'( <'bhavasinduh'), 'sondari' (< 'sundari'),
'yavan' (<'yauvana'), 'shunitav' (< 'shrunu'=hear), 'velu' (<veta), 'hahakar', 'padan'
(< 'pada'), 'lubh' ('lobhah'), 'krudh' (< 'krodah'), 'khag', 'duji' ('dvija''=twice-born
bird), 'sahaj' (<'sahaja), 'kartavi (<kartavya'=duty), 'Shunyakar' (<shunyah+akarah),
'shit', 'vishve', 'amrit', 'guru', 'avtar', 'diva' (<devah), 'gyan', 'varzit (<'varjit'),
akash', 'bhakti', 'karan', 'tran', 'nirgun', 'kaitas', 'disha', 'sakalan' (<'sakalena',
'vish-as' (<'visha'), 'hetu', 'kval' (<kula), 'asur', 'vahanta' (<'abhyantara'),
'ang', 'shish', 'muh' (< 'moha') 'ahankar', 'shubh', 'vopakar' (<upakara'), 'nayan',
'svazan' )<'sujanah", 'min' ((=fish), 'vopas' (< 'upavasa'), 'tranan' (<'trina'),
'lavan', 'sadbhav', 'turag' and so on.
The 'vaaks' of Lal Ded and 'shruks' of Nund Rishi had a
direct appeal because they were composed in what can be called the ordinary
speech of the people. Yet the form in which they have come down to us is not
reflective of the actual linguistic situation prevailing in, their age their
language being not much different from the Kashmir, that is spoken today but for
the archaicisms, as pointed out earlier. However, their 'temper and tone is so
characterstically Kashmiri that, have moved and enthralled generations of
Kashmiris, catering to both their spiritual and literay needs. That their
language is relatively modern can be seen only when we place them alongside
works of a later age, like the 'Banasur Katha' and 'Sukh Dukha Charit'. Both
these extant works, retrieved by Buhler, were penned down at definite points of
time in the 15th century and both therefore, present the actual picture of
literary expression in Kashmiri in that age.
Shrivara, Sanskrit scholar and chronicler who wrote the
Jaina Rajatarangini in Kalhana's tradition, has mentioned the names of several
other Kashmiri works written during Zain-ul-Abdin's reign (1420-1470)--"Zaina
Prakash" by Yodh Bhatt, "Zaina Charit" by Nottha Soma and 'Zaina Vilas' by
Bhattavatara or Avtara Bhatt-but none of these has survived. What needs to be
noted, however is that in keeping with the tradition in Prakrit and Apabhramsha,
panegrical works in Kashmiri too were given titles like 'Charit', 'Prakash' and
'Banasur Katha is a long narrative poem of haunting
beauty written by Avtar Bhatt or Bhattavtar of Lar in 1446 A.D. Based on the
story of Usha and Aniruddha as given in the Harivansha Purana, it abounds in
depictions of love and war. The lilting cadinces and soft music of its verses
and the supersensuous images of Usha's beauty make it a masterpiece of early
Kashmiri literature. Avtar Bhatt seems to have been a poet who revelled in
presenting the physiology and psychology of erotic love in a manner suggesting
that he had cultivated some of the graces of classical Sanskrit poetry. As a
poet whose sense of beauty matches that a poets like Vidyapati and Jayadeva,
Avavtar Bhatt is at his best when he is describing physical charms of the
heroine, Usha, as in those melliflous lines :
Sa Usha amar nependas dullabh
Varkamin vadana zan shashi pabh
Lat zan kshavun pike -
Pushbhar gan ada niret kshane ake
[The same extremely attractive, 'lady, Usha was very charming and difficult for
even the king to obtain. Her face was radiant like the moon. Enjoying that
flowering creeper like a cuckoo-bird, he (Pradyumna) went away in a moment]
While the poet excels in describing feminine beauty and
various shades the erotic sentiment, he displays equal poetic brilliance in
depicting the valour and courage shown by at men in trying circumstances as in
this image of Aniruddha prefering to fight unarmed than hiding his face in the
tresses of the beautiful usha:
Dhik-dhik myanes Yadav jammas
Vanati atsaa majj kachan
Yudh kara namet svakamnas
Ushe atha-chhon in than
[Shame upon my Yadav birth' O lady, shall i hide behind your tresses or shall I
fight here, even though I am bare-handed]
Apart from the narrative charm of the work that shows
poet Avtar Bhatt as a consummate and conscious artist employing his verbal
skills with great effect, we find him making sensitive use of the short lyric to
depict the mental states of the characters. Coming at dramatic turns in the
narrative, the lyrics that punctuate the descriptive passages in Banasur Katha
reflect the poet's ingenuity as well as his subtle sense of accoustic values.
Enthralling pieces like "Piya ma gatsh marnay" (Love do not go there, for they
will kill you) and "Kar iya so piy mye nikato" (when will my love come to me?)
can be seen as the earliest specimens of the Kashmiri short lyric form, the "Vatsun",
beautifully expressing tender feelings of love and longing. The present writer
was pleasantly surprised when he came across the word "piya" in these lyrics,
but then Sheikh Nur-ud-Din has also used it--"Ada kavay piy praznavnay" (How
will your lovers recognize you then?).
Another important aspect of Banasur Katha as a poetic
work is its metrical system. The poet has employed well known Sanskrit syllabic
metres like Matim, Mandakranta, Sragahara, Narkataka, Shardulvikriditam,
Mattamayuri, Tanumadhya, Vaitali, Pushpitagra, Vasantatilakam, Drutavilambit,
panchapaja, shatpada, etc. and also what appear to be some original Kashmiri
metres based on Sanskrit the metrical pattern like Thaddo, Phuro, Dukatika,
Kadokdya etc. Later, we find the author of "Sukha-Dukha Charit" also using the
similar metres. Obviously the tradition of using such metres in Kashmiri poetry
have been long and popular one. This should be enough to blast Grierson's view
that Kashmiri prosody is basically Iranian in character.
But it is from the linguistic poet of view that a study
of "Banasur Katha" is most rewarding. Together with the "Sukha-Dukha-Charit", it
sheds significant light on the medieval development of Kashmiri, being an actual
record of the language as it was used for literary expression in the 15th
century. This also help us trace earlier forms of a number of Kashmiri works
which are in use today. For instance, various forms of the Kashmiri auxiliary
verb 'chhu' occur in it as ksho, kshi, kshem, kshiyiy, suggesting that these
have evolved from the Sanskrit root 'kshi', which means 'to be similarly, 'Dittho'
(modern Kashmiri 'dywith' <Skt. drishtwa and 'ditto' (mod. ksh. 'dyut') <skt
dattah meaning having given' are among some of the intermediary forms that one
finds in Banasur Katha.
The language of Banasur Katha is predominantly Sanskritic,
with hardly two or three words of Persion, although 'Persian' had by then become
the court language in Kashmir. There is also quite a large number of such words
in its whose eitymotogyas not clear. There is also another category of words in
which the etymology does not pose much of a problem, but which have become
totally obsolte, as for instance 'yakhet' (like', as, 'just as', 'as it'), 'takhet'
(like that, 'thus', 'so'), 'kakhet' (how', 'like what' 'in what manner'), 'jave'
('quickly', 'speedily') etc. The use of several synonymous words to denote the
same meaning is one of the main linguistic tendencies, found in Banasur katha.
For instance to convey the sense of 'he says', a host of words like 'vadis', 'nigadis',
'dappi', 'vachi', 'giri' have been used.
A tinguistic feature of greater interest is the use of
rural Kashmiri dialect here and there by Avtar Bhatta. Thus we have words like 'kod'
('where'), 'prad' ('wait'-imperative), 'khadet' ('having seated'), 'dapavan'
('saying') in Banasur Katha, which have added a sweet rustic flavour to its
language. More importantly, Banasur Katha, shares most of the phonological and
morphological features of Mahanaya Prakash as well as the "Sukha-Dukha Charit".
These works document the transition of Kashmiri from its medieval Prakrit—Apabhramsha
form a modern Indo Aryan language. Before we make a mention of some of these
changes, it would be good to say a few words about the "Sukha-Dukha Charit".
Written by Ganak Prashast during the reign of Sultan
Hassan Shah (1475-1487), Zain-ud-Abidin's grandron" the "Sukha-Dukha Moha-Maya
Jal Charitam" or the "Sukha-Dukha Charit" as it has been notified in its
abbreviated form by Buhler, who obtained it from Bikaner alongwith 'Banasur
Katha', is important only its linguistic value. Written in the form of an
"advice" to a "friend" it is a work divided into four parts dealing with
subjects like jyotishya or astrology, 'garud' or tretament of snake-poison, 'Vaidak'
or treatment of common diseases and 'Kam Shastra' or the art of sexual love. The
'friend' is advised by the author about how to lead ones life while keeping in
view the transient nature of the world and the vanity of its pleasures. To call
the work poetry is to stretch the definition of the term to its furthest limit.
The author, however, does show occasional flashes of imagination and a sense of
music, the outward structure of his work being that of a narrative poem. He
frequently indulges in verbal artistry, embellishing his lines with devices like
aliteration, pun and other figures of speech.
The 'Sukha-Dukha-Charit" is composed of the same Sanskrit
and Kashmiri syllabic metres we find in "Banasur Katha'--and that is the last we
see of them. We also come across "dwiphuro", or double "phuro"--a metre Avtar
Bhatt has not used. The language, as we have already pointed out, shares most of
the features of that has been used in 'Banasur Katha' and Mahanaya Prakash', a
chain of linguistic continuity passing through all the three. Its vocabulary
gives us an idea of the kind of Kashmiri spoken in the last decades of the 15th
century, containing words for some articles of daily use, common medicines and
parts of the body which continue to be ued today with slight changes. Let us
note a few examples :
1. Kshe shastra gane kate komo bujji
Vaidak garud jyotish buddh
Sar-sar gahenas pazzi
Hans yakhet jalo majja dudth
[The Shastras are very profound, who can explain them-
The science of medicine, treatment of snake poison, astrology
We should try to grasp their essence
As the swan separates the milk from water]
2. Him zantape vigtos pape kukarma chilla
[Remembering my bad deeds and sins, I melted down as snow melts in the heat of
It is important to note that phonological changes in "Mahanaya
Prakasha", "Banasur Katha" and Sukha-Dukha Charit take place much in the same
way as they do in later Middle. Indo-Aryan dialects. While the language of
Mahanaya Prakasha is comparatively older, "Banasur Katha" and "Sukha-Dukha
Charit" show Kashmiri emerging as a modern Indo-Aryan language through the
intermediary stages of Prakrit and Apabhramsha. It will not be possible here to
discuss their morphological or phonological features in detail, but some broad
outline of their common characteristics can be indicated.
For instance, in nominative singular feminine forms a > a
(Usha > Usha, bala > bal, mata > mat, puja > puj, duhita > dahit), i > a (rashmi
> rashm, buddhi > buddh, agni > agna, shakti > shatta; i > i (Saraswati ?
Sarswat, ramani > raman, gauri > gaur. Likeswise in Nom. Masa. Sing., medial a
>u as in modern Kashmiri (Mod. Ksh.):> balak > baluk, rakshak > rakshuk/rakhuk,
Narada ? Narud, anala > anul, i > a:narapati > narpat, dinapati ? dinapat, rishi,
risha (e.f. Mod. ksh. ganapati ? ganapat, ravilh > rav). In all the three works
we have examples of elision of initial 'a' and ri) > a, i, u, though at several
places it survives. Elision of 'ch', t, d, p and introduction of the glide 'y'
or 'v', elision of 'r' and the doubling of the following consonat, -th?-d,-m>-v,-pt>t,
ntm>mmdy>jj,dhy>jj are other common phonological features.
So far as morphological features are concerned
Accusative/Dativ Mash. Sing forms are made by adding '-s' or '-as' (Skt. -asya,
Pali-assa): jantus, Parama Shivas, Banas, nipas, janas, nishibuddhas, hamsas,
kumbhas, hridayas, charanas, samsaras etcd. Feminin singular forms have been
formed by adding the suffixes '-n' or '-yi' : devi, pithi, bali, vissi, ushi,
anuradhi, vaggi etc. Acc/Dat. Masc. and Fem. plural forms have been made by
adding the suffixes '-n', '-an' and '-an' : tattva-ganan, panchan, padakamlan,
deva-daitan, nayanan, vananitan, virvaran, shishyan, kamalan, ratsun, rashun
etc. The instrumental masculine singular is marked by '-e' (paramathe, nathe,
kumbhande, kishne, chature, anande etc! the feminine forms are formed by adding
'-i' to the stem (suti, bali, chitra lekhi, dayi, kuvalayanyani, giritanayi -
cf. Mod. ksh. ashi'_. The locative singular is formed by adding the suffix '-i
or 'e' as in modern Kashmiri. The Ablative Masc. Sing forms take the suffix 'a'
(< skt. '-at' : spanda, chandra, bhaya, nala, kamala, '-akasha' At certain
places the suffixes '-u' and '-u' have also been used nabhu, nayanu, guhu,
dishavu, dishu etc. which is nearer to the Mod. Ksh. form. The past, participate
'-et' < Skt. -itva is an earlier form of Mod. Kash. '-ith '-e an -i being
interehangable in Kashmiri (bhakshet, takshet, bhavet, gahet vandict, shunet,
karet, gahet, manget, thavet, chhonet, jalet, puret pehet etc), the present
perfect is formed by the participles and, '-ani' '-an', which are all derived
from Sanskrit -'anti' (karan, phiran, pratshan, dharan, vyapan, ativan, avtarand,
pishand, karand, natsand, pathand).
There is a lot of similarity in the three works in
pronominal and verbal forms too. However, one thing can be discerned clearly,
the language of 'Mahanaya Prakasha' is comparably of an earlier age, while 'Banasur
Katha' and "Sukha-Dukha Charit" record the earlier form of Kashmiri as
Indo-Aryan Language. Together, the three document the medieval development of
Kashmiri in its successive stages.
Banasurkartha, Ph.D. Dissertation, S.S. Toshkhani (Hindi) 1975.
Sahitya Ka Itihas, Dr. S.S. Toshkhani, 1985
Katha, Manuscript, Bhandarkar Oriental Reserach Institute, Pune.
Moha-Maya Jal Charitam, MSS, BORI, Pune
Buhler. Tour in search of Sanskrit Manuscripts Made in Kashmir, Raiputuna and
Central India, Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, 1877
Antiguities of Kahmiri-An approach Dr Siddheshwar Verma
Important Aspects of Kashmiri as Language, Prof S.K. Toshkhani.
Kashmir and Ladakh-A Linguistic Predisement, Har Anand and Co.
Mahanaya Prakasha, Rajanaka Shitikantha, Research Department, Sringar,
Grammar of Apabhramsha, G.V. Tagare Motilal Bonarasi Das, Delhi, 1987.
comparative Grammer of Modern Languages of India, Jhon Beames.
Structure and Development of Middle Indo-Aryan Dialects, Vit Bubenik, Moti Lal
Banarsi Das, 1996.