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Vol. I, No. 1 
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Vol. II, No. 5 & 6
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Vol. II, No. 11 & 12
Vol. II, No. 13-15
Vol. II, No. 16-17

May-June 1998
Vol. II, No. 7 & 8

'Unmeelan' proves to be an eye-opening event

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 Tantras.

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.

"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 applause.

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 high."

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 Cultural Heritage

Introductory Address by Dr. S. S. Toshkhani

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.

Sharada Script

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 Devanagari."

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 coarse sthulkambala.

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:

A. Pheran
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 shell.

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 the heels.

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

Shiva Dancing
Shiva Dancing

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 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 Harabhatta Shastri.

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 1974.

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 months back.

NSKRI congratulates Moti Lal Kemmu on his achievement and wishes him many more years of creative activity in his chosen field.

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 shloka:

Shri Chakra priya bindu tarpana para Shri Rajrajeshwari

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.

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