Vol. II, No. 7 & 8
'Unmeelan' proves to be an eye-opening
The first ever exhibition on Kashmiri
Pandit cultural heritage leaves people spellbound
On April 12, 1998, people in the national
capital opened their eyes on glimpses of the cultural and artistic heritage of
the Kashmiri Pandits shown by NSKRI at an exhibition at AIFACS, New Delhi.
Titled 'Unmeelan', the exhibition was opened to public view by Dr. Lokesh
Chandra, eminent scholar. And what people, who thronged the exhibition on all
the four days it remained open, were shown, left them literally rubbing their
eyes with wonder. It may not have exactly taken Delhi by storm, but the event,
the first of its kind to have ever been organised, did intellectually stimulate
and inspire art lovers and the aesthetically inclined as well as those
culturally interested in Kashmir.
As Dr. Lokesh Chandra lit the ceremonial
lamp to inaugurate the exhibition, a forgotten but fascinating world of culture
came alive with rare and beautiful miniature paintings of the Kashmir School,
old Sharada and Persian manuscripts, letters and documents relating a saga of
scholarship, artefacts and articles of daily and ritualistic use, costumes and
folk art patterns and old photographs of social and religious gatherings
unfolding unexplored and unknown dimensions of Kashmiri Pandit cultural life.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Lokesh
Chandra said that the Kashmiri Pandits had played "a major role in the
transformation of India's thought process." Kashmir, he said, was the
"crown of India from where culture eminates." There are inscriptions,
he said, which reveal that the great temples of Khajuraho were built in
accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Kashmiri Pandits in their
According to Dr. Lokesh Chandra, "the
Kashmiri Pandits were not only gifted but they were also equally
adventurous." Giving examples of their genius and their adventurous spirit,
he said that they went to Central Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan and
Phillipines for the dissemination of Indian culture, art and philosophy.
"In Japan the Lotus Sutra is
considered to be the greatest and most popular Sutras of Buddhism today,"
Dr Lokesh Chandra said. "And this Sutra was translated into Chinese in the
4th century by Kumarjiva who was a Kashmiri. His father was from Kashmir and his
mother, a princess of Kucha in Central Asia. He is regarded as the greatest
Indian stylist of Chinese prose, and one of the eminent Chinese writers. Only
four of five years ago the Chinese erected a special monument to Kumarjiva,
instituting a very big prize for people who are associated with the cult of
"Kumarjiva's father had gone for
trade to Kucha. On his way, he stopped at Kashgar, came to Kashmir and then went
to Kucha. He left his wife and a son was born to them. His mother declared that
she would take the same route to Kashgar, which was called Kashi in ancient
times. Even today the Chinese call Kashgar Kashi. That was the place where the
Kashmiri Pandits taught the Vedas. Then when they wanted to have the study of
Vedangas and other higher subjects, they came to Kashmir."
Dr. Lokesh Chandra referred to yet another
gift of the Kashmiri Pandits to Japan --Siddham calligraphy. "There is a
tradition in Japan to write Sanskrit shlokas in a very beautiful script called
Siddham," he revealed. "It is a major art in Japan and the Japanese
learnt this art from two great Kashmiri Pandits, Prajna and Munishri. Even today
there is practically no house where you don't find something written in Siddham."
Dr. Lokesh Chandra explained that "the ink that is taken to write one bija
or akshara cannot be replenished. So you have to take sufficient ink to write
that particular mantra. Special dresses are created to write these mantras
taking into account the size of the character. So Kashmir has given a sense of
tremendous beauty to the people of Japan".
According to Dr. Lokesh Chandra, there is
hardly any place in South East Asia where Kashmir is not spoken of as the land
of scholars. "They went to Japan, they went to Korea, they went to
Phillipines", he said. "A number of Kashmiri Pandits", he
disclosed, went to Korea. Tyagabhadra, a Kashmiri, and his disciples were
responsible there for the choice of the present capital of South Korea -- Seol."
There was a period in the 14th century
when the Mongols were ruling over Iran, said Dr. Lokesh Chandra, giving another
example of the role of Kashmiris in the propogation of Buddhism. There were a
large number of Buddhist monastries in Iran at that time, and this is confirmed
by several Persian and Arabic texts, he pointed out. "The Americans have
made an aerial survey of the Buddhist monastries in Iran, but the results were
never published because it is a politically volatile subject", he revealed.
Just before the Islamisation of the Mongols there, the Khan wanted someone to
write an account of their history and their religion. And this task, according
to Dr. Lokesh Chandra, was accomplished by a Kashmiri Pandit named Kamalshila,
who was the royal chartsman of the Mongols.
Dr. Lokesh Chandra further disclosed that
in Mongolia proper, Kashmiri Pandits brought the Shilpashastras or canons of
creation with them for which they were given free access to the Mongolian court.
These canons were based on the aesthetic ideals of the human body or the body
modulations stipulated by the Kashmiri Pandits and are followed in Mongolia, in
parts of Western Tibet as well as in Kashmir. It is Kashmiri artists who
decorated the huge walls of monastries in Western Tibet in the 10th century, the
learned scholar said, and also at Kabo in Lahul, Himachal Pradesh. Alchi in
Ladakh was decorated with murals later. In this connection, Dr. Lokesh Chandra
referred to a Sharada inscription which, according to him, "could give clue
to the whole transmission of art in Western Tibet."
"That is why the Pandits from Kashmir
were held in great affection throughout history", Dr. Lokesh Chandra
observed. "Whether it was in Centra Asia, whether it was in China, whether
in Japan, the Kashmiri Pandits played a very important role in spreading
Buddhism and Indian culture", he said, concluding his illuminating speech
which the audience listened with rapt attention. He expressed the hope that
Kashmir would again hum not only with music, but also with great culture,
provided the Pandits made a resolve like the Jews made during their diaspora. He
was happy, he said, that an institution like the NSKRI had been started which
accepted the Sanskritic tradition. "You have rejected everything that was
yours", he pointed out, and it is that rejection that is responsible for
the situation in which you find yourself today. You have to make up and say that
you will react to every negative thought", he concluded, amidst thunderous
Presiding over the inaugural function,
Shri J. N. Kaul, SOS Childrens' Villages of India and President of the All India
Kashmiri Samaj, referred to the present predicament of the Pandits and said that
the Kashmiri Pandits had passed through many difficult phases in their history.
"But inspite of all these happenings, I think we are on the way to further
advancement. We have earnestly sought not only physically but also
intellectually our place under the sun. Normally, under the circumstances which
we have faced, our culture should have been wiped off, but we have always had a
rebirth and we have flourished." Shri Kaul said that it was his firm belief
that "the Kashmiri Pandit is bound to lead. He is bound to lead by his
destiny, by the circumstances of his life, so he must prepare himself for a
better performance." He regretted that the Kashmiri Pandits have never been
recognised because of their small numbers. "But", he said, "in
the circumstances in which we have been thrown today, we have to assert
ourselves. We have to say where we are in our journey and put it before the
nation. We have always been taught to keep our heads low while talking -- 'nemni-kremni'
as the Kashmiri phrase goes. But our children must walk with their heads
Lauding the NSKRI for having undertaken to
work "in a very important field", Shri J. N. Kaul said that the
Institute has been named after a great scholar, Nitvanand Shastri." but
there are many Shastris, some of whom may even be sitting here, who are waiting
to be re-discovered". Shri Kaul "complimented" the NSKRI
"for this beautiful work" ('Unmeelan').
Earlier, in his introductory address, Dr.
S. S. Toshkhani said on behalf of the NSKRI that the exhibition was "an
attempt to present the real cultural face of Kashmir -- a face that has been
long kept away from view". He regretted that "a state of amnesia is
today clouding the minds of the people about the role that the Kashmiri Pandits
have played in shaping the country's cultural and civilizational history."
"It is they", Dr Toshkhani pointed out, "who evolved some of the
seminal ideas and concepts that stimulated intellectual and creative activity in
ancient India. Mahayana has been their greatest gift to Buddhism, while Kashmir
Shaivism represented one of the greatest heights that Indian philosophical
thought has attained", he said. "In fact contrary to the general
impression that they remained cut off due to geographical isolation, the Pandits
of Kashmir crossed their mountain barriers to unite north and south India
through Shaivite thought."
Referring to the Kashmir school of art,
Dr. Toshkhani said that it had a deep impact on the adjoining Himalayan regions
and was one of the principal formative forces of Lamaistic art. "Can there
be anything more tragic than this that inheritors of this great cultural legacy,
the descendants of the ancient people of the Nilamata Purana, are today facing a
sinister threat of cultural extinction?" he asked. The NSKRI has been set
up to protect and project the cultural heritage of the Kashmiri Pandits, he
said, 'Unmeelan' being the first in a series of thematic exhibitions which the
Institute was going to organise in the near future.
Offering the vote of thanks on behalf of
the NSKRI, Shri P. N. Kachru complimented all those who offered their valuable
cooperation in making the event a success.
Unmeelan Glimpses of Kashmiri Pandit
Introductory Address by Dr. S. S.
Respected Dr Lokesh Chandra, Shri J. N.
Kaul and distinguished guests,
It is, indeed, a great privilege to
welcome you all on behalf of the NS Kashmir Research Institute to this first
ever exhibition on Kashmiri Pandit cultural heritage titled 'Unmeelan'. The word
'Unmeelan' means 'opening the eyes', and this exhibition is literally an
invitation to opening of eyes if only to have a glimpse of the heritage of the
Kashmiri Pandits, a people who have contributed most significantly to Indian
culture, philosophy, literature, art and aesthetics quite out of proportion to
their small numbers. That these people stand uprooted today from their native
soil and are fighting a grim battle for their survival as a distinct social and
cultural entity, is perhaps the greatest tragedy in the history of
post-independence India. There is every danger that these ancient people may be
wiped out of existence together with five thousand years of their culture and
traditions, their literature and lore. And, if such a catastrophe does take
place, prosterity shall have much to regret.
It is most unfortunate that a state of
amnesia is clouding the minds of people about the role that the Kashmiri Pandits
played in shaping the country's cultural and civilisational history. It is they
who evolved some of the seminal ideas and concepts that stimulated intellectual
and creative activity in ancient India. Is it to be forgotten that Mahayana has
been their greatest gift to Buddhism, a doctrine that penetrated into and swept
across entire Central Asia, South Asia and the far eastern countries through the
efforts of Kashmiri missionaries? One such missionary, Shyam Bhatt devised a
script for the Tibetan language and gave it its first grammar. Does not Kashmir
Shaivism represent one of the greatest heights that Indian philosophical thought
has attained? In fact, contrary to the general impression that they remained cut
off due to geographical isolation, the Pandits of Kashmir crossed their mountain
barriers to unite north and south India through Shaivite thought. In the same
manner, Shaktivad and the Tantric philosophy evolved in Kashmir linked the land
of Vitasta with Kerala in the south and Bengal in the east. Surely, the best in
Sanskrit literary tradition bears an indelible stamp of the genius of Kashmiri
Pandits. It was Kalhana who started the tradition of histriography in India with
his immortal work, the Rajtarangini, displaying a keen sense of history and
sharp critical talent. Kshemendra, one of the sharpest critics of men and
matters, was the first Sanskrit writer to have made satire as his main mode of
expression. Somadeva's Kathasaritsagara is one of the world's most wonderful
collection of tales comprehending a wide range of myth and mystery, fun and
frolic, love and lust, ambition and adventure, cowardice and chivalry.
And what remains of Sanskrit aesthetical
writing if Kashmir's contribution to it is taken out? The inquiry into the
nature of aesthetic experience by such master minds from Kashmir as Bhamah,
Udbhatta, Vamana, Rudratta, Kuntaka, Anandavardhana, Mammatta, and the greatest
of them all Abhinavagupta, soared, in the words of Krishna Chaitanya, "into
philosophy risen from the world of poetry to a poetic world-view".
In the field of Indian music, one of the
most important treatises ever written is Sharangadeva's Sangeet Ratnakara - the
work which formulates the basis of Karnataka music and has few other works in
the world to compare with it.
In the history of Indian art, Kashmir
occupies a very important place, drawing to it all the power and beauty of the
Gandharan and Gupta art, and at the same time evolving a distinct metaphor and
style of its own. The Kashmir school of art had a deep impact on the adjoining
Himalayan regions and was one of the principal formative forces of Lamaistic
art. In the 9th to 11th century Kashmiri artists were producing exquisite
bronzes and painting murals in Alchi (Ladakh), Western Tibet and Spiti (Himachal
Pradesh). The grandeur of Martand and Avantipur temples testifies to the heights
of glory which Kashmiri sculpture and architectural art had attained.
Can there be anything more tragic than the
fact that the inheritors of this great cultural legacy, the descendents of the
ancient people of the Nilamata Purana who gave Kashmir its own creation myth,
are today facing a sinister threat of cultural extinction? Shaken by such a
horrifying prospect, a group of concerned members of the Kashmiri Pandit
community set up the NS Kashmiri Research Institute in Delhi on January 19, 1997
to launch a concerted drive to preserve, protect and project the heritage and
culture of the Kashmiri Pandits. It has been named after Prof. Nityanand Shastri,
one of Kashmir's most outstanding Sanskrit scholars who was a contemporary and
friend of great European Indologists like Sir Aurel Stein, Prof. J. Ph. Vogel,
George Grierson and Winternitz.
The Institute has chalked out a well
thought-out agenda and programme for achieving its objectives which had been
endorsed by the intellectuals of the community. This exhibition is an effort in
that direction, but it is only a curtain raiser, being the first in a series of
thematic exhibitions which the Institute proposes to organise in the near
future. On display are rare miniature paintings of the Kashmir school, Sharada
and Persian manuscripts, documents and books relating to Kashmiri Pandit
intellectual attainments and scholarship. Also on view are Kashmiri Pandit
costumes, artefacts and objects of ritualistic importance besides old
photographs showing social and religious customs of the Pandits.
'Unmeelan' is an attempt to capture the
real cultural face of Kashmir, battered and bruised, though it is today. A face
that has for long been kept away from view: I along with my colleagues in the
NSKRI hope that you will find the exhibition visually satisfying and
intellectually stimulating despite the many shortcomings that it obviously has.
Named after "Sharada Desh", the
ancient name of Kashmir, the Sharada script developed from Brahmi, the mother of
all Indian scripts, around the 8th-9th century. Employed for writing Sanskrit,
and Kashmiri in ancient and medieval Kashmir, it is related to the Devanagari
script and is built along the same lines with the letters sa and ha coming at
the end of the alphabet. Aurel Stein has called it "the elder sister of
Even after Persian was made the court
language of Kashmir, Sharada continued to be used for quite some time even by
Muslims. Several 15th and 16th century tombs in Kashmir have epitaphs written in
both the Perso-Arabic and Sharada scripts. Medieval saint Sheikh Makhdoom
Hamza's will preserved in the Srinagar Museum is written in Persian as well as
Sharada. The will was written in 1577.
Sharada alphabet soon spread to the
neighbouring Himalayan regions where it was widely used. Gurumukhi, the script
in which Punjabi is written, evolved from Sharada. However the use of Sharada
script is now limited to a very few members of priestly class of the Kashmiri
Pandits for writing horoscopes.
Revival of the Sharada script is a priorty
item on the NSKRI agenda.
Kashmiri Pandit Costume
Literary and archaeological evidence shows
that in ancient and medieval times the costume of the Kashmiri male consisted
essentially of a lower garment, an upper garment and a turban. If Kashmiri
sculpture is any guide, men as well as women wore a long tunic and trousers,
probably due to Kushana influence. According to Hieun Tsang, they dressed
themselves in leather doublets and clothes of white linen. In winter, however
they covered their body with a warm cloak which the Nilamata Purana calls
Pravarana. The rich among them were also draped in fine woollen shawls while the
ordinary people had to rest content with cheaper woollen articles like the
The use of different kinds of turbans
known as ushneek or shirahshata was widely prevalent. Strange though it may
seen, the dress of a woman in early Kashmir consisted mainly of sari and
tailored jackets or blouses. She is also shown wearing a long flowing tunic and
trousers. It was fashion for both men and women to braid their hair in different
styles, wearing sometimes tassels of varied colours.
It is, therefore, difficult to say how
long back in tradition does the present attire of Kashmiri Pandit males and
females go. Of course, in early Kashmir men and women both were fond of adorning
them selves with ornaments. They wore rings in the fingers, gold necklaces, ear
rings, armlets and wristlets and even amulets. The women also wore anklets,
bracelets, pearl-necklaces, pendants on the forehead and golden strings at the
end of the locks ( a forerunner of the attahor perhaps). One thing is certain,
the traditional dress of Kashmiri Pandits underwent a definite change after the
advent of Islam. Today the following articles compose their attire:
The long flowing dress called the pheran-pravarna of the
Nilamata Purana is traditionally worn by both Pandit males and females. The
dress is always worn in a pair, the underlayer called potsh, being of light
white cotton. In case of women, the pheran has wide sleeves, overturned and
fringed with brocaded or embroidered stripes. Similar long stripes of red
borders are attached around the chest- open collars (quarterway down the front
of shoulders and all along the skirt. A loongy, or a coloured sash was tied
round the waist.
The traditional male garment is always
plain and has narrow sleeves and a leftside breast-open collar with a kind of
lapel or lace emerging from it.
B. Women's Headgear: Taranga
Taranga or the female headgear is reminiscent of the
racial fusion of the Aryans and Nagas to which the Nilamata Purana has referred.
It symbolizes the decorative hood of the crelestial serpent (nag) with a flowing
serpentine body tapering into a double tail almost reaching the heels of the
wearer. It is composed of the following parts:
Taranga - The elements for
composition of the Headgear:
a) Kalaposh - the cap, a conic
shape of decorative brocade or silken embroidery, attached with a wide and round
band of Pashmina in crimson, vermilion or scarlet. The conic shape would cover
the crown and the band would be shortened threefold around the forehead.
b) Zoojy - a delicate net-work
cloth topped by embroidery motifs, and worn over the crown of kalaposh and
tapering flowing down to the small of the back.
c) Taranga - it comprises of three
narrow and continuous wraps over and around the head, the final round having
moharlath, starched and glazed over with an agate-stone, crystal or a soft giant
d) Poots - the two long lengths of
fine white muslin hemmed together longitudanally with a "fish spine"
pattern. Lengthwise, then the whole piece is rolled and wrapped inwards from
both sides so as to form the long bodies of a pair of snakes with a pair of
tapering tails at the lower end and a hood at the other end (top) to open up and
cover the apex of the headgear while flowing down over the back almost touching
C. Men's Headgear:
The turban is the traditonal headgear of the Kashmiri
Pandit males, though its use is very restricted now. This turban is not much
different from the turban the Muslims wear except that the Pandits do not wear
any scalp cap inside. The priest class among the Pandits would wear their
turbans in almost the Namdhari Sikh style.
Kashmir school of miniature paintings
It is for the first time in the history of
Indian, or world, art that miniature paintings of the Kashmir school are being
displayed in an exhibition. With the solitary exception of a recent work by a
Russian art historian, no attempt has been made so far for a systematic study of
this important school of art.
The story of art in Kashmir opens with a
pre-historic rock drawing discovered at the neolithic site of Burzahom depicting
a hunting scene. A subsequent stage of development is represented by
master-pieces of art in the shape of Harwan tiles and Ushkar (Wushkar) stucco
figures. The Nilamata Purana makes clear reference to the existence of painting
in ancient Kashmir. From 7th-8th century onwards the school of Kashmir art
acquired distinct features, even as it was absorbing Gandharan and Gupta
influences reaching its pinnacle of glory in the times of Lalitaditya. The
movement sustained till the 10th- 11th century when its fame spread throughout
the Himalayan region.
Although no direct example of Kashmir
painting of this period has survived, the characteristic features of the
Kashmiri style can be clearly seen in the Gilgit manuscript paintings assigned
to the 6th-7th century. The murals of the Buddhist monasteries of Alchi in
Ladakh, Mang Nang in Western Tibet and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh present a
successive stage of the development of the tradition of painting in Kashmir.
These mural paintings appear to be a pictorial translation of the exquisite
Kashmir bronzes dated to 9th to 11th century.
The Kashmiri artistic tradition faced
decay during the political and religious upheaval in the 14th century. Lack of
patronage and fear of religious persecution forced master painters of Kashmir to
neighbouring Himachal princedoms where the Kashmir style revived and flowered
after being grafted into the Pahari-Kangra school.
Despite large scale vandalism and
destruction in the subsequent centuries, the traditional artistic propensities
of the Kashmiris could not be entirely stiffed though. The Kashmir school of
miniature painting survived taking a new avtara during the late 18th century,
continuing through the l9th century to the early decades of the twentieth. The
Puja room (thokur kuth) of the Kashmiri Brahmins became a virtual museum of
religious art which found expression in the illuminations of Sharada
manuscripts, horoscopes, folk-art works like the krulapacch, nechipatra
(almanac) etc. besides individual paintings. The themes were essentially
religious with forms of Hindu deities and local gods and goddesses dominanting.
In fact miniature paintings became a
family tradition, passing from generation to generation. It even became a
collective act of creativity with one expert making the border, another
executing the drawing and a third one painting the colours. These Kashmir
miniature paintings are characterized by the delicacy of line introduced to the
massive and weighty proportions of form, the colour scheme being throughout
soothing, soft and harmonious. The facial type, in the words of Dr. A.K. Singh,
is "marked with ovaloid face, fleshy cheeks, double chin, acquiline nose
and full lips, highly arched eyebrows and almond shaped eyes". The division
of space has the unique charactristic of correlating the foreground and
background. Ornamental border, with occasionally strong use of gold, is another
striking feature of the school.
Unfortunately, this rich treasure of
miniature paintings has gone virtually unnoticed by art historians, making it
difficult to reconstruct a chronological history of the Kashmir school. 'Unmeelan'
is an attempt to invite the attention and appreciation of art lovers and
conneisseurs to this very important but neglected school of art.
Faces of Glory
Pandit Harabhatta Shastri
'The celebrated scholar of Shaiva lore'
Pandit Harabhatta Shastri
[ Pandit Harabhata Shastri (HBS) is a
name surrounded by a brilliant scholastic aura, though known to very small group
of Sanskrit scholars of Kashmir (a tribe that is diminishing day by day). And
even these few have nothing more than a sketchy information to give about the
life and works of the great Pandit. Sadder still, when we at NSKRI sought to
ascertain certain biographical details about him from some of his nearest
surviving kin, we almost drew a blank. The great man who wrote the most
brilliant gloss on 'Panchastavi' and brought out a series of Shaiva texts of
Kashmir, is virtually unknown to most Kashmiri Pandits today.
It was an American scholar, Prof. David
Brainered Spooner who came all the way from Harvard University to learn at the
feet of Sanskrit scholars of Kashmir like HBS. We are giving below a brief
biographical sketch of HBS who dazzled Dr. Spooner and came to be known as one
of the greatest interpreters of Shaiva philosophy of Kashmir. Yet we acknowledge
that a lot of light needs to be thrown on the celebrated scholar. Through these
columns we request Kashmiri researchers and scholars who may have had the good
fortune of coming into contact with HBS to provide us with more details about
his life and works. ]
Born as Harabhatta Zadoo in 1874 in a
family that has produced some of the top most Sanskrit scholars of Kashmir, HBS
had learning running in his veins. His father Pandit Keshav Bhatta Zadoo was the
Royal Astrologer in the Court of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the then ruler of Jammu
and Kashmir who was a great patron of scholars and scholarship. His nephew, Prof
Jagaddhar Zadoo, has the credit of editing the first edition of the Nilmata
Purana with Prof Kanji Lal. The Zadoos originally belonged to Zadipur, a village
near Bijbehara in South Kashmir, but later migrated to Srinagar, their surname
being linked to the village of their origin thereafter.
As an atmosphere of Sanskrit learning
prevailed in the family, young Harabhatta took to it as fish take to water.
Studying Sanskrit at the Rajkiya Pathshala in Srinagar, it was in 1898, exactly
a century ago, that he obtained the degree of Shastri and came to be known as
In view of his profound scholarship, HBS
was appointed as Pandit, and later Head Pandit, at the Oriental Research
Department of Jammu and Kashmir state, a post from which he retired in 1931.
This was the Maharaja's own way of
patronising the learned men of his state.
His razor-sharp intellect, his great
erudition, and, especially his deep insight into the Shaiva philosophy of
Kashmir won him the esteem of such distinguished scholars as K. C. Pandey of
Lucknow University and Prof James H. Wood of the College of Oriental Languages
and Philosophy, Bombay. His repute attracted the well known linguist Prof Suniti
Kumar Chatterji to him and he stayed in Srinagar for two years to learn the
basics of the monistic philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism from him.
It was only after David B. Spooner came
from USA to Kashmir to learn from scholars like HBS and NS that Sanskrit began
to be taught as a subject at the Harvard University in 1905. At that time only
nine students were studying Sanskrit out of a total of 5000 at Harvard.
In the meantime HBS engaged himself in
scholarly pursuits which were to form the basis of his repute. He wrote his
famous commentaries on Sanskrit texts from Kashmir which included the 'Panchastavi'--
a pentad of hymns to Mother Goddess. With his profound scholastic background and
his deep insight into Shaiva and Shakta traditions, HBS explained and elucidated
Shakta concepts contained in the Panchastavi in his famous commentary, specially
on the 'Laghustava' and the 'Charastava' which came to be known as "Harabhatti"
after him. These hymns, held in high esteem from quite ancient times in Kashmir,
have a special significance for the votaries of Trika philosophy. There was a
debate for quite some time on the authorship of 'Panchastavi', some attributing
it to Shankaracharya, some to Kalidasa and some to Abhinavagupta. It was HBS who
proved it convincingly that it was actually composed by Dharmacharya. This view
was shared by Swami Lakshman Joo, too.
HBS also earned great repute for having
compiled and edited nine Shaiva texts, with notes and explanations, which were
published by the J & K Research and Publications Department under the
general title 'Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies.' Other significatnt works by
HBS include a commentary on 'Apadpramatri Siddhi' of Utpala, Vivarna on Bodha
Panchadashika and Parmarth Charcha.
This "celebrated scholar of Shaiva
lore", one of the greatest interpreters of the Shaiva philosophy of
Kashmir, passed away in 1951. His illustrious American disciple, Dr. Spooner,
often wrote leters to him and also to Prof Nityanand Shastri and Pandit
Madhusudan Shastri. The letters he wrote to HBS have been lost, but those he
wrote to NS have been preserved by NSKRI. In these letters he never forgot to
mention HBS and remember "the great days" he had spent with him.
NSKRI congratulates Moti Lal Kemmu for
winning Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Noted Kashmiri dramatist, Moti Lal Kemmu
has bagged this year's Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his outstanding
contribution to Kashmiri theatre. The award has come none too soon for the
celebrated playwright, for all through his dramatic career spanning over four
decades he has been constantly engaged in enriching Kashmiri drama and
strengthening the theatre movement in Kashmir in a maner no one else has. Kemmu
has already received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982 for his collection of
plays 'Natak Truchy'.
Born in 1933, Moti Lal Kemmu began his
career as a dramatist in the late fifties with the publication of 'Darpan
Antahpur Ka' -- an anthology of his three plays in Hindi. He created a stir in
the still and stagnant waters of Kashmiri drama when he published three of his
Kashmiri plays bristling with humour and satire, under the title 'Trinov' in
1966. Then came his full- length three-act play 'Lal Bo Drayas Lolare' which
dealt with women's struggle for freedom in the tradition-ridden male dominated
society. 'Tshay', an historical tragedy with existentialist overtones came next
in 1972. The Sahitya Academi Award winning 'Natak Truchy' was published in 1980
and 'Tota ta Aina ', a full length experimental play based on a folk-theme, in
In 1994, he published 'Yeli Dakh Tsalan',
a play about the response of Kashmiri folk-cultural tradition, with its roots
deeply embedded in human values, to the challenges posed by terrorism in
Kashmir. The play was translated by Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani into Hindi and
produced by the National School of Drama as 'Bhand Duhai' recently under .the
directorship of the well-known theatre personality M. K. Raina. The production
was a big draw with the theatre lovers of the capital, enthralling conneisseurs
as well as lay audiences.
Kemmu's plays are known for their candid
exposure of the absurdities and incongruities of life, using elements of the
Kashmiri folk style, "Bhand Pather" as well as modern absurd theatre
and Sanskrit drama with great effect. Besides being a playwright, he has also
directed several plays at a number of theatre workshops. Presently on a
fellowship from the HRD Ministry, he is engaged in writing a series of plays
based on Kashmir history, the first of which, 'Nagar Udasy' has come out a few
NSKRI congratulates Moti Lal Kemmu on his
achievement and wishes him many more years of creative activity in his chosen
The Symbology of Shri Chakra
-- Dr C. L. Raina
In Upanishadic and Pauranic theology,
natural forces were divinized to help man understand the Immutable -- the primal
source of creation, preservation and dissolution of the universe. This provided
a psychic opening for a vision of the unity of man, god and universe. The Vedic
gods are cosmological in character and represent man's aspiration to be in tune
with the divine. Agni, Vayu, Ashvinis, Surya, Mita, Varuna, Shri, Prithvi etc of
the ancient Vedic texts are gods who represent various moods and modes of nature
and play definite roles in the cosmic drama to keep the rhythm of the universe
vibrant. And it is this rythm that is represented by mandals and chakras
referred to as 'zageshwar' in Kashmiri religious terminology.
Seers attributed names and forms to these
cosmic forces, and gave them specific traits as aspects of divinity through
concepts. They visualized them through the concepts of bindu or the dot, trikona
or the triangle, vritta or the circle, bhupura or the doorway, linga-yoni or the
procreative symbols representing Shiva-Shakti. The different devtas and devis,
male and female deities, were allotted their vahanas or the vehicles in the form
of animals and birds giving definite meanings to their symbology.
Thus Surya, the sun god, has his celestial
chariot drawn by seven horses, each horse symbolising a definite ray. In the
same manner dwadasha adityas are symbolic of the twelve months of the year. 'Aditya'
means the son of Aditi -- the universal energy. She represents the prakriti
aspect or the 'nature mother', while akash is termed as the 'father sky'. The
surya mandal drawn and worshipped by Kashmiri Pandit ladies on Ashadha Shukla
Saptami reminds of the hoary past when the Vedic deity was worshipped in the
compounds and kitchens in Kashmiri homes and offerings of rice were placed on
the mandal or the circular drawing representing it.
The Sapta Rishis: Vashistha, Kashyapa,
Atri, Jamadagni, Gautama, Vishwamitra and Bhardwaja too are symbolic, each
representing the cosmic principle in one or other form. While Kashyapa, the
progenitor, represents temporal existence, Bhardwaja symbolises Jamadagni
symbolises lustre and Kundalini symbolises the vital breath.
Shri Chakra is the most sacred symbol in
the Kashmiri Shakta tradition. The mool trikona or the central triangle of the
diagram is the yoni with lajjabija and hrim its symbol. The triangle is
equilateral and its point of concurrence is bindu -- the absolute reality
without any dimension. Its symbolic meaning is made explicit in the following
Shri Chakra priya bindu tarpana para Shri
Shri Chakra is the priya bindu is the
eternally pleasing Shiva absorbing in it Shri Rajrajeshwari, the supreme
sovereign mother creatrix who is tarpana para as transcendental in pleasing
native. Bindu represents the dot of our conciousness which gets materialised
through saguna-sadhana of Shri Sharika manifest in the Chakreshwara. The lines
of this are the 'wave beats' of the divine and every triangle, lotus petal and
circle is the abode of varnamala (the alphabet) or matrikas. Matrikas are
worshipped at the time of jatakarma, devaguna and Shakta rituals related to
homas of Shri Jwala, Sharika, Rajnya, Bala, Bhadrakali and Tripura Sundari.
Shri Chakra is a diagram signifying hope
and aspiration. According to those who practice Shakti puja, Shri Chakra
symbolises the "One by whom all devatas live." Infinite rays of light
emanating from the chakra are received by devotees who worship it with the kadi
mantra of fifteen syllables where the 'bindu' represents the immortal face of
Shri Sharika -- the Mother of all bija mantras.
A sound is heard. Timelessness is
experienced. The spirit feels the pulsation of the Divine Mother's presence.
Kashmiri Pandits used to worship the Shri
Chakra on meru made of crystal in their thakurdwaras or puja rooms which would
be situated generally in the madhya koshtha or the second storey of their homes
in accordance with vastukala and Shakti Siddhanta or the principles of Shakti
worship. Some used to worship it on a properly engraved copper plate and some on
bhoj patra or the birch-bark leaf.
Worshipping Shri Chakra is an essential
religious practice of the Kashmiri Pandits.