Vol. I, No. 2
N.S.K.R.I. Scholars To Set Out In Search
Of Sharada Manuscripts
Scholars at NSKRI are contemplating to go
on an extensive tour in search of Sharda manuscripts, wherever these may be
found, in the country or even elsewhere. The project is likely to be launched
soon after the proposed Kashmiri Pandit cultural heritage exhibition is over, or
could be even earlier. It is believed that there is a good haul of Sharada
manuscripts in several places in the country like Nalanda, Hoshiarpur, Madurai,
Chennai and Mysore, and in Nepal. Nothing has been done so far to trace and
explore this rich treasure. George Buhler, it may be recalled had collected
Sanskrit manuscripts from "Kashmir, Rajputana and Central India", and
published his report in 1877. Not many followed his lead afterwards.
The Maharaja's government set up a
Research Department in Srinagar which did some significant work way back in the
twenties and published a whole series of Kashmir Shaiva texts under the able
stewardship of Mahamohopadhyaya Madhusudan Kaul Shastri and Mahamahopadhyaya
Mukund Ram Shastri. Soon after independence the tempo slowed down and came
alomost to a grinding halt after sometime.
The nomenclature of the Research
Department was changed to Research and Publications Department and then to
Research, Libraries and Museums, but nothing significant came out of this
exercise as very little was done to study and publish the collection of Sharada
manuscripts lying with it. This despite the fact that a scholar of the stature
of Prof. P.N.Pushp headed the department for quite some time. Perhaps it was
government policy at that time not to encourage any work in Sanskrit or
The Department was later tagged on to the
Kashmir University, but the policy of the state administration remaining what it
was, the situation did not show much improvement due to extra academic
considerations. The cultural policy of the J&K Cultural Academy too did not
prove to be any different. While anything pertaining to pre-Islamic cultural
past was mostly an anathema to it, the Academy electrified itself into action to
put up a grand statewide year-long show depicting Islamic contribution to
Kashmir's culture as part of the official programme to celebrate completion of
1400 years of the advent of Islam.
Nor can the Kashmiri Pandits themselves be
absolved for the cultural predicament they have landed into, leading to the
neglect of the Sharada script. The fact is that an overall cultural drift could
be witnessed in the community, particularly after independence, taking them far
away from their moorings and placing them in situations that could eventually
wipe out their identity as a distinct social and cultural entity. Yet nobody
seemed to care less. One may hardly like to believe it, but the fact is that
policies for their cultural extinction were being deliberately conceived and put
into execution at various levels without as much as a whimper of protest from
them. Even today, after the trauma of exodus, not much thought is being given by
leaders of the community to adopt a cultural agenda. The result is obvious:
cultural traditions are disappearing. It is a sad commentary on the present
predicament of Kashmiri Pandits that despite their eagerness to crow over others
for their intellectual superiority, there are hardly half a dozen persons in the
community who are well acquainted with the Sharada script, and of them not many
are competent scholars.
NSKRI's decision to revive interest in the
Sharada script and discover the literary wealth hidden in Sharda manuscripts
must be viewed in this context . It also arises from a genuine desire to promote
research and scholarship in the field. NSKRI hopes that its labours will be
rewarding and its scholars will be able to make some really significant and
interesting discoveries when they set out on their mission.
Portrait Gallery of Kashmin Pandit
NSKRI has commissioned a young and
upcoming artist, Sunil Handu to paint portraits of eminent Kashmiri Pandit
scholars and men of letters of the present and the preceding century. The idea
is to revive and perpetuate the memory of those who have brought honour to the
community through their outstanding contributions in the field of learning and
Born in Srinagar in 1965, Sunil Handu was
initiated into the world of art in early childhood. Sketches from the Jataka
tales inspired him to take to painting under the guidance of his Guru Shri
Bhaskar Nath. So did the illustrations of Puranic and other mythological tales.
During his formative years, young Sunil Handu was deeply impressed by the art of
Peter Paul Rubens. Soon he attracted attention towards his paintings by winning
several state level awards. He also got interestecl in drawing cartoons and made
his mark by winning the 3rd position in the national cartoon contest held in
The young talented artist, who has been
living in Delhi since the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1990, has already
started working on the portraits, expecting to complete them in about two months
time. Among those whose portraits he has been asked to paint in the first phase
are Nityananda Shastri, Govinda Kaul, Anand Kaul, Sahaz Bhatt, Krishna Joo
Razdan, Keshav Bhatt Shastri, Prof. Jagaddhar Zadoo, Prof. S. K. Toshkhani and
Swami Lakshman Joo. On being completed, the portraits will adore the NSKRI
office in Delhi for members of the community to see and feel proud of.
The case of Damodar's missing
A question of history
Kalhana started the tradition of
histriography in India with his monumental work, the Rajatarangini in 1148-50
A.D. Taking a vast historical canvas into his sweep, he showed a keen
understanding of human affairs and a sharp critical eye in depieting the soeio-political
life of Kashmir. The tradition set up by him was followed by Jonaraja in his 'Jaina
Rajtaringini', about three centuries later, in quite an admirable manner,
covering the period of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin and his predecessors. Shrivara, his
disciple, picked up the thread of the narrative after his sudden death in 1459
A.D. and went on to cover the period upto Hassan Shah's regime. Shrivara's
Rajatarangini (1459- 77 A.D.) is almost as sublime as that of Kalhana, though
its range is much narrower. Pragyabhatta and his pupil Shuka updated the
historical narrative in their sequels to Rajatarangini and brought it down to
Akbar's conquest of Kashmir in 1586 A.D.. Thereafter the tradition of writing
historical chronicles in Sanskrit is said to have stopped. Or did it really?
Ishwara Kaul's 'Durbhikshatarodayasta'
call also be classified as a historical narrative, describing as it does the
severe famine of 1878. Yet another historical work in Sanskrit that is worth
mentioning is the Rajatarangini sequels attempted by Prof. Govind Razdan which
were serialized in a Sanskrit magazine "Shri" brought out from
Recently, however, a significant bit of
evidenee fell into the hands of Shri S.N.Pandita of NSKRI core group, which
points to the existence of yet another sequel to Rajatarangini written by Pandit
Damodara, one of the most gifted Sanskrit scholar of his times. Damodara died in
1892 in an epidemic even as Stein's translation of Kalhana's Rajatarangini was
under preparation. According to Sh. Pandita, records show that Pandit Damodara,
a friend of Stein, had set himself to the task of writing yet another sequel to
Rajatarangini, carrying the narration forward from Akbar's reign to his own
times. Stein, who had seen some parts of this work, wrote: " Had Pandit
Damodara been spared to complete it, his work would have shown that Kalhana
could have found generations past no worthier successor." Writing about his
scholastic endowments. George Buhler had observed earlier that "he would
shake Sanskrit prose or verse alike from the sleeve of his garment."
With such talent, Pandit Damodara could
have really produced a very impressive work, giving an authentic account of
historical events down to his own time. A quite pertinent question that needs to
be asked is what happened to this important record of Kashmir's history of a
very critical period? Is it still existing or has it been destroyed for obvious
reasons? Why has nobody cared to make any mention of it so far? Nothing is known
about the fate of Ishawara Kaul's 'Durbhikshatarodayasta' and Prof. Govind
Razdan's sequel to Rajatarangini either.
These questions assume great significance
in the context of Kashmiri Pandit exodus from Kashmir today. Is there any one
who can provide the answers?
Pandit Govind Kaul
Pandit Govind Kaul
[ A profound Kashmiri scholar of the
late 19th century. Pandit Govind Kaul, who rendered most valuable assistance to
Aurel Stein in translating Rajatarangini, is today almost a forgotten man. There
are hardly a handful of Kashmiri Pandits who may be aware of his great erudition
and the range of his scholarly pursuits. Here is a brief sketch of the life and
works of the man whom Stein offered fulsome tributes and hailed as "
another Kalhana". ]
Born in 1846 in Srinagar as the eldest son
of Pandit Balbhadra Kaul, a universally respected scholar of his times
(1819-96), Govind Kaul (G.K) had scholarship running in the family. His
grandfather, Pandit Taba Kaul, too was a reputed scholar, having family ties
with the famous Pandit Birbal Dhar who persuaded Ranjit Singh to free Kashmir
from the tyranny of Afghan rule. G.K. and Birbal Dhar's grandson Ramjoo Dhar,
maintained the ties as friends. G.K. not only studied Persian and Sanskrit in
keeping with the family tradition, he also acquired a good knowledge of English
as well as western ways of life. To keep the record of history straight, it must
be stated that G.K. and Ramjoo Dhar learnt English much before Pandit Anand Kaul
and Pandit Shiv Ram Bhan. G.K. came to know a good deal about world affairs also
through Ramjoo Dhar who held an important administrative position . Soon G.K.
acquired fame for his erudition, particularly as a scholar of Alamkara Shastra
(poetics), Vyakarna (grammar), Nyaya (logic), and Shiva Sutras. He was equally
well versed in the knowledge of the epics and the Puranas.
By the time he was 28, G.K. was already
regarded as a scholar of considerable stature. In 1874, he was appointed
incharge Translation Department set up by Maharaja Ranbir singh. It was around
that time that he undertook, jointly with Pandit Sahaz Bhatt, to translate the
Sanskrit chronicles of Kashmir into Hindi- a project which he, unfortunately,
was not able to complete.
With the winding up of the Translation
Department in 1884, it was a trying time for G.K. He lost his job and could not
find any alternative avenue to pursue his scholastic goals. Eventually, he had
to settle for a teacher's job at the state run Sanskrit Pathshala in Srinagar.
But that too did not last and he was again without a regular job.
In the meanwhile, however, George Buhler,
that doyen of European Indologists, had spotted the Pandit for his great
learning and eruditon. It was Buhler's commendatory reference that attracted Sir
Aurel Stein's attention towards G.K. and he solicited his assistance in
translating Kalhan's Rajatarangini-a job that G . K along with Pandit Sahaz
Bhatt did with utmost competence from 1888 to 1896, and to stein's great
G.K. went into another collaboration with
Stein and fellow scholar Sahaz Bhatt when they classified and catalogued more
than six thousand Sanskrit manuscripts for Maharaja Ranbir Singh's library at
Raghunath Temple, Jammu.
Yet another contribution G.K. made was to
compile Kashmiri folk tales with Stein, which the latter formally edited with
George Grierson and publishcd in 1917 as " Hatim's Tales". The tales,
supposedly told by one Hatim Tilawony, were interpreted by G.K. G.K. also
rendered assistance to Grierson in the compilation of his Kashmiri dictionary,
but did not live to see the work completed. Grierson went on to reeord later
that G.K's assistance to him was "one of the many debts he ever owed to
On G.K's death in June 1899, a shocked
Stein lamented that G.K., ''like another Kalhana departed as my best Indian
friend beyond all hope of reunion in this Janma". Paying fulsome tributes
to him, Stein wrote: "Whenever Govind Kaul was by my side, whether in the
dusty exile of Lahore or alpine coolness of Mohand Marg in Kashmir, I was in
continuity with the past as the historical student of India. His personality
embodied all that change of ages indicated and showed as the mind and psyche of
Keshav Bhatt Shastri's Legacy bequeathed
When Panclit Keshav Bhatt Shastri decided
to set up a printing press in Srinagar in the early decades of the present
century, his was not exactly a commercial proposition. What he was mainly
interested in was to publish books on Kashmiri Pandit heritage, both religions
and cultural, for the benefit of the younger generation in particular. The
publication programme could be sustained by undertaking assorted printing jobs
from clients which could generate income. And his plans did indeed take a
practical shape with a whole series of low-priced, affordable editions of
Sanskrit texts pertaining to Kashmiri Pandit religious traditions rolled out
from the press for those interested.
With the passing away of the learned
Pandit, and passage of time, the initial enthusiasm waned and the books began to
go out of print. Then came the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, which
created a situation in which it was not possible any more to continue the
programme or to bring out fresh editions of the already printed books.
It was in such circumstances that Sh.M.L.
Pandit, of eore group ol NSKRI, met Sh. S.N. Jotshi, Pandit Keshav Bhatt
Shastri's grandson and the present proprietor of the press in Jammu, during his
recent visit. Impressed, perhaps, by the agenda of NSKRI, as explained to him by
Sh. Pandit, Sh. S.N. Jotshi offered the rights of publishiIlg their entire range
of such books to NSKRI. Overwhelmed by this gesture, Sh. Pandit readily accepted
the offer on behalf of the Institute. NSKRI will be publishing some of the books
from this series. Infact the process has already begun with the collection of
some of the immediately available copies of these out- of-print- books. These
were offered by Pandit Kashi Nath Handu who also has appreciated the work being
These valuable texts, which include Tirtha
Mahatyamas and works relating to Kashmiri Pandit religious customs, rituals and
traditions, are at present being examined by the reputed Kashmiri scholar, Dr.
C. L. Raina on request by NSKRI, to assess as to which of them could be
reprinted or used in any other manner deemed proper.
Roopa Bhavani Rahasyopadesha: Reflections on the True Self
Roopa Bhavani, or Alakh Ishwari as some
prefer to call her, is revered next only to Lalleshwari as a great woman saint
and mystic of Kashmir. Quite a number of people, particularly those belonging to
the Dhar families of Kashmiri Pandits, regard her as an incarnation of goddess
Sharika, and worship her as such. To them her 'Rahasyopadesha' is a sacred text
- a work of great spiritual significance providing guidance and inspiration
through the ups and downs of life.
As a poetess, Roopa Bhavani, who lived in
the 17th century, composed verses much in the manner of Lalleshwari, whom she
has referred to in most reverential terms. Echoes of Lalleshwari's Vakhs can be
heard clearly in many of her verses even as she talks of the essential oneness
of individual and cosmic consciousness. Experencing the ecastasies of this
union, as a goal of human life, forms the dominant strain of her poetic
expressions. Roopa Bhavani's spiritual quest, as reflected in the Rahasyopdesha
leads one through her mystical experiences to revelations about the true nature
However, the archaic touch that she has
preferred to give to her language, perhaps to lend it an authentic aura,
sometimes appears to obscure the meaning at least for those who are not familiar
with her philosophy. True, her sayings passed on from generation to generation
through oral tradition for quite some time before they were written down in the
Sharada script, but this esotric element kept their appeal confined to a few
initiates. For the masses at large, to understand her message obscurity could
well be a barrier.
The problem was partially solved by Dr.
Shiv Nath Sharma who edited the 'Rashasyopadesha' verses and brought them out in
the Devanagari script in 1941. While this helped to spread Alakhishwari's
message to a wider audience, the need for its lucid interpretration and
translation into English continued to be intensely felt. Dr. C.L.Raina, eminent
Kashmiri scholar and an authority on Shakta philosophy, has now fulfilled that
need in his brilliant translation -cum- commentary on the "Rahasyopadesha"
under the title "Mystic Revelation of Shri Roopa Bhavani." Showing
amazing competence, Dr. Raina has decoded the mystic symbology encapsuled in
Roopa Bhavani's aphorisms and aphorisms they are despite Dr. Raina's assertion
that they are " lucid analytical poetry"- making it possible for the
ordinary reader to capture Roopa Bhavani's spiritual insights into man's
relationship with Nature and God.
In the book " Mystic Revelation ol
Shri Roopa Bhavani", Dr. Raina has not attempted just literal or word for
word translation, but tried to explore the whole world of meanings behind the
word, making his way through a maze of concepts, allusions, symbols, motifs and
patterns of thought, sifting a pan- Indian stock of philosophical terms before
presenting his interpretation. The Rahasyopadasha comprises four different works
of Roopa Bhavani: the 'Nirvana- Dash-Shloki-Stava'. 'Vakya Manjari'. 'Svanubhava-ullasa-Dashkam'
and 'Antar Drishti' all of which have been analysed and explained in the light
of yoga. Vedanta and Shaiva-Shakta streams of thought. According to Dr. Raina,
his interpretations of Roopa Bhavani are based on what he calls his "
integrated approach". He has splendidly succeeded in his efforts to guide
the reader through the text to the great mystic's dazzling vision of "final
Well known Punjabi poet and writer Amrita
Pritam's brief but beautiful forward is indeed interesting. It would have
further enhanced the value of the book if some information had been given about
the painting on the cover page and the ones on the inner pages.
To conclude, one cannot but be inclined to
pray with Dr. C.L. Raina, asking Alakh Ishwari to "bless us to visit Her
shrines again which are the Shakti Pithas of Kashmir."
Shri Roopa Bhavani Rahasyopdesha:
Mystic Revelations of Shri Ropa Bhavani" by Dr. C. L.
Shri Alakh Sahiba Trust, Jammu
pp:134 Price: not given.
The memory of Pandit Ratanakanth Razdan in
its colloquial form "Ratha Razdan" lived in Kashmir until as late as
1900. This great scholar and a very fast writer is today an unknown name,
inspite of the fact that as a youth he would write whole text in one day what
his teacher expounded in a fortnight. He is credited with having been able to
habitually write six hundred Sanskrit S'lokas a day and as amazing fast writer
wrote complete Bhagavadgita while his fellow companion busied himself to a meal.
It will be welcome if any living Razdan can trace his or her ancestry to this
Scholar 'Kamal' passes away
With the sudden and tragic death of Prof.
Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal" in a road accident in Jammu on 15th October
1997, Kashmir has lost yet another Sanskrit scholar and writer of eminence. The
Kashmiri Pandit community was stunned by the sad news, finding it difficult to
believe that the acclaimed translator and commentator of 'Panchastavi' and 'Bhavani
Sahasranama' is no more . It was only in June this year that the entire
community felt proud on his being honoured by the President of India for his
outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.
Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal"
A loving and unassuming person. Prof.
Janaki Nath Kaul "Kamal" displayed none of the outward trappings of a
profound scholar that he was. Born in 1914 in Srinagar, he earned early fame as
a Hindi poet and writer. Starting his professional career as an educationist, he
remained associated with the D.A.V. Institute throughout his life and retired
from it as the Professor and Head of Department of Sanskrit. His English
translation of the 'Panchastavi', as also of 'Bhavani Sahasranama', pointed to
the range and depth of his scholarship. His translation and commentary on
Shankra's 'Vedanta Dimdimah' were greatly applauded by scholars. The erudite
Prof. Kamal was a winner of several awards and honours at state and national
level. In 1990, he won the Sanskrit Research Scholarship of J&K Dharmartha
Trust. In 1992, the U.P. government honoured him with the Sharda Samman for his
extraordinary service to Hindi as a non-Hindi speaking writer. He was honoured
at the global Kashmiri Pandit Summit held in Jammu in June 1997 for his
attainments as an erudite scholar. During his last days, Prof. "Kamal"
was engaged among other things in research on Lalleshwari's verses, a subject
that was dear to his heart throghout.
NSKRI deeply mourns the loss of the
departed scholar, feeling that it has created a void that is difficult to fill.