Tuesday, October 19, 2010


                                               ( Oil on canvas Triloke Kaul..  )




Some years back I met Triloke Kaul ( born 1925) at a marriage function at Dehradun. In an engrossing late-night discussion, he spoke about his art, Kashmir in general, the Progressive Artists Association of Kashmir and his close association with artists S N Butt and P N Kachru. He also talked fondly about G R Santosh, poet Dina Nath Nadim, poet Amin Kamil, artist Mohan Raina and poet Rehman Rahi. He talked about Percy Brown and artist S H Raza with whom he remained associated in the late forties of the last century to form the Progressive Artists Association in J&K state. He talked about his various exhibitions; solo or joint with P N Kachru and S N Butt. He talked about Albert Camus and Kafka. Kafka remains his favourite even today. He talked about Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad G M Sadiq, D P Dhar and many artists, writers and poets from our state. He spoke emotionally about his ancestral house at Shalla Kadal, Srinagar, and his studio at Sumbal. Yes, he regrets the loss of many precious books and paintings that he had to leave behind in Kashmir to save his life after the onset of armed militancy. His studio at Sumbal was vandalized and burnt. A large number of paintings done by him were stolen. Apart from about 150 masterpieces done by him, he lost some portraits done by Jatin Dass and S H Raza. He also lost some paintings that were gifted to him by Kishori Kaul, Salgaonkar, P N Kachru, S N Butt and G R Santosh. He also lost more than 3000 books on art, philosophy and literature. His prized painting "How Green was My Valley" was also lost. If you touch this sensitive issue with him, you are putting him in great pain.


 " Please don’t talk about that loss. I feel as if I was not born at all or have done nothing in my life. This loss makes me feel as if I have neither lived nor struggled and also not painted at all."


Recalling his days as Director School of Design, he spoke about hundreds of innovative designs for Kashmiri handicrafts that were created during his incumbency. He also recalled the support from his fellow artists like P N Kachru, S N Butt and A K Raina and many more artists in this area. These artists did extensive and original research work for improvement and scientific documentation of designs relating to Kani shawls, walnut wood carving, glazed pottery, Namdhas, Kashmir carpets, Samba cotton prints and Chikri woodcraft of Thana Mandi, Rajpuri. These artists also worked on natural /vegetable colours and dyes.

Popularly known as the leader of “The Trio” and ably assisted by P N Kachru and S N Butt, Triloke Kaul is a pioneer who brought Modern Art to our state. In 1948, this 'Trio' ( Triloke Kaul, S N Butt and P N Kachru ) started meeting Percy Brown ( former Principal, Calcutta School of Arts and Crafts ) who stayed in a houseboat in Kashmir after his retirement. For them, he proved to be a man of immense help and inspiration. They kept a close association with S H Raza as well who kept visiting Kashmir since 1948. This association gave birth to the " Progressive Artists Association ( Kashmir ). In May 1949, PAA( Kashmir) held its first art exhibition in Srinagar.


 Trained at Baroda ( he went to Baroda in 1952 ) by the renowned painter N S Bendre, Triloke Kaul continues to remain a tall figure not only amongst the artist fraternity of the UT( J&K) but also amongst the artists on the national scene. About him, a leading art critic of the country has written this:-


“His approach to painting also originated from the landscape. Primarily the architecture of Kashmiri houses in space set his fantasy free. Throughout he remained true to the cubist, analytic procedure to solve the problems of space, movement and colour." 

Sipping black tea, he would sit for hours executing some masterpiece with his brush. He preferred the Charminar brand of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking has remained with him even at this advanced age (98). A postgraduate in Mathematics from Lucknow University, Triloke Kaul belongs to the well-known Baroda group that includes artists like G R Santosh, Ratan Parimoo, K G Subramanyan, Prabha Dongre, Shanti Dave, K Patel, Vinay Trivedi, N S Bendre, Balkrishna Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, Prafull Dave, and Ramesh Pandya.


In March 2010, I met him again at Kala Kendra Jammu where he was invited as the 'Guest of Honour' at a function organised by Dr T K Walli son of D N Walli (noted watercolour artist from Kashmir ). He was happy and spoke about his association with DN Walli. Very recently in 2023, I met him again at  Agnishekhar's residence. He was fit and mentally alert even at 98 years of age. From his home, he had walked the distance to Agnishekhar's house in the Janipora locality.To a person who does not know him, he may appear to be living in his world. Yes, one may find that the master gets lesser drawn into discussions. But rest assured, once he opens up, you can discuss anything under the sun with him. He speaks on the ‘Theory of integers of Mathematics’ with the same ease as he speaks on works of Kafka or poetry of Amin Kamil or Dina Nath Nadim or Picasso's Guernica. The great master informs this:-


“ My actual name is Triloki Nath Kaul. We had so many Triloki Naths in our class at S P College. My teachers in the college decided that I should call myself only Triloke to be easily distinguishable. It somehow appealed to me. That is how Triloki Nath became Triloke. I got my first job offer from J&K Bank on a salary of Rs39/=per month. I did not join. I wanted to be free and do something of my choice. Along with a friend, I went to Kolkata before the partition of the country. There we worked with a Kashmiri handicrafts trader, "Canaud House ". This businessman had a shop opposite Partap Park in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar city. I was drawn towards Marxism. It attracted many young and educated youth. Gandhi Ji’s human message also attracted me. And Kolkata was an ideal place for any person interested in fine arts. The city was slower than Mumbai at that time but people appreciated literature, drama, music and other forms of fine arts. I survived the gruesome Hindu-Muslim riots of Bengal then. We did some relief work in Kolkata among the refugees belonging to both communities. After some time, I returned to Kashmir. In Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the tallest leader. I also joined his National Conference. The ideology of the party suited all the leftists of that time. The tribal raid was a bitter experience. It brought untold pain and suffering to Kashmir. Baramulla town was completely devastated. Areas like Kupwara, Handwara, Uri, Sumbal, Bandipora and many other villages had gruesome stories of suffering. "Sher I Kashmir Ka Kyaa Irshaad, Hindu Muslim Sikh Ittehaad “ and “ Hamlaawar Khabardaar Hum Kashmiri Hain Tayaar “ were the slogans raised in every meeting and gathering. Parades, wooden guns, sticks, night patrolling, refugee service, militia and the Cultural Front and finally Progressive Artists Association. It was a long journey. Hotel Rivera was our meeting point. It was on the first floor of ‘Mehta’s Photo Studio' building on the Bund. Artists from Baroda would see us in this hotel. We sold our paintings in this Hotel. S H Raza would also drop in and join us. Rivera period was very crucial to the development of art in Kashmir. S H Raza lived free in the house owned by the Kaw family of Badiyar in Srinagar city. S N Butt ( a fellow artist ) had arranged this house for him. This Kaw family later produced a great artist. Raza roamed free for many months in Kashmir. He became popular. He was seen in every gathering and at every place. People had little knowledge about art or the lifestyle of an artist. Some suspected him to be a CID man. Raza loved the water canals( Maar ) of the downtown city. He was a specialist in painting these canals and the bridges over them. He felt sad the day he learnt that the government had filled up all these waterways. I felt very depressed for a long time. I was emotionally attached to the Maar or canals. We would paint these waterways.

 Kashmiri society was very conservative in general. And Kashmiri Pandit society was all the more orthodox and conservative during those days. I mean art and painting were something unacceptable. I would often be told, " fine, good enough this playing with colours, tell us what are you going to do in life". I mean to say a Pandit could be a barber or a tailor if he had nothing else to do but an artist or a painter was unacceptable to society. And Kashmiri Pandits were never in tailoring or hair cutting activity. Yes, a few dared but they too had to abandon these activities for one reason or the other. Well-known English writer, Dr Mulkh Raj Anand suggested that I join Baroda and obtain art training. He was the man behind my going to Baroda. I studied at Baroda for 5 years. Balraj Sahni was a friend .He had a special liking for people from the Kashmir valley. Always helpful, he was a great admirer of S N Butt’s art. S N Butt was quite close to Balraj Sahni. They would have their drinks together. “


                         ( With Noted Punjabi writer Khalid Hussain  Jammu 2016.. Photo Avtar Mota )

                                          ( Oil on canvas Triloke Kaul 1960. )

( A Monochrome  GREEN AND PINK  Triloke Kaul  1950..   Photo Source.. Search Kashmir )
         ( A Monochrome  VILLAGE SCENE  By Triloke Kaul 1950 Photo Source  ..Search Kashmir  ).

                            (Triloke Kaul.. Photo courtesy ..Artist Vijay Saraf ,Jammu)



                                                          (  Triloke Kaul ..1975 )
                                                  ( Self Portrait  ... Triloke Kaul )

                                         ( Untitled Oil On Canvas .. Triloke kaul )
                                             ( Untitled Oil On Canvas .. Triloke kaul )

( Wth Vijay Bakaya Ex Chief Secretary J&K 2010 Jammu )
                     ( With Gokul Dembi and Jang S Verman at Kala kendra jammu 2012 )                                                                      
                                                            (  The Master Sitting in his Room  )
     (   Shiva Nandakeshwara Bhairva  by Triloke Kaul ..Hanging on the wall of  of his living  room )

About Triloke Kaul noted scholar and poet, S S Toshakhani says this:- 


“Triloke Kaul's contribution to the modern art movement in Kashmir has been immense. While his creative vision makes him great as an artist with a unique style of his own, he has also been a source of inspiration and encouragement to a whole generation of Kashmiri artists. People like me who have had the privilege of coming into close contact with him can never forget to recount his qualities as a human being. Sadly, circumstances have turned him almost into a recluse. Certainly, he is one of those eminent persons in this country whose creativity deserves much more respect and attention than it has received.”

The great artist is lonely and unhappy. He feels loss on all fronts. He lost his life's work, his books, his studio, his house and above all his roots. I conclude with a couplet of Faiz Ahmed Faiz:-


“Jo ruke to koh-e-garaan the hum, jo chale to jaan se guzar gaye

Rah-e-yaar humne kadam kadam tujhe yaadgaar banaa diya”…..Faiz Ahmed Faiz 



(For when we stayed, we rose like massifs,

and when we strayed, we left life far behind;

on the pathway to you beloved, every step

 we ever took became a memorial to your life.)


( Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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