Sunday, May 1, 2022

HABBA KADAL AND KASHMIRI PANDITS


                                                                                     

      
                                                    ( Habba Kadal bridge 1983.)

HABBA KADAL AND KASHMIRI PANDITS 
 
Habba Kadal is a group of residential localities that surround the Habba Kadal bridge . It extends from Badiyaar to Fateh Kadal and also includes areas like Nai Sarak, Sheetalnath , Chotta Bazaar , Syed Ali Akbar , Zaindar Mohalla, Karfali Mohalla, Kani Kadal,  and many more localities . Habba Kadal was a predominantly Kashmiri Pandit area .Along with Sheetalnath and Shivala , Habba Kadal remained the hub of cultural renaissance and reform movements of the Kashmiri Pandit Community . This bridge became a focal point of rallies and political processions of the National Conference party against Maharaja's rule. It was also the centre of protest activities of Kashmiri Pandits during the Parmeshwari Handoo agitation . 
 
Habba Kadal bridge was built by Sultan Habib Shah . For a long time It was known as Habib Kadal that finally shortened to Habb Kadal. The Afghans called it Habba Kadal. The old bridge built by Shahmiri Sultan in the 16th century was washed away by floods that created havoc in Srinagar city sometime around 1893. The Dogra rulers built a stronger bridge with Deodar sleepers thereafter. The new bridge built by Maharaja Partap Singh was thrown open to public in 1898 . It was 300 feet long and 32 feet wide . It was a 3 pier wooden cantilever structure. In 2001, Government of J&K decided to build another RCC bridge near old Habba Kadal bridge .The old bridge was not dismantled and retained as heritage structure after extensive repairs.
 
Ganpatyaar Temple , Purshayaar Temple , Somyaar Temple ,Shivala ( Chotta Bazaar ) , Sheetalnath Bhairava Temple , Raghunath Temple ( built by Maharaja Ghulab Singh ) ,Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji Ashram are located in its vicinity. The imposing Agha Hamam mosque faces the Habba Kadal bridge. Some prominent river Ghats of Habba Kadal could be listed as Ganpatyaar , Sheshyaar , Kharyaar , Somyaar , Dalhassanyaar,Badiyaar , Drabiyaar etc. These Ghats would remain busy with boats that ferried people across the Jhelum river. One could see PDS ration boats , huge boats ( Bahetch ) selling timber , sawdust and Hakh ( drifted wood ) on these Ghats .
 
Book sellers like Kapoor Brothers , Ali Mohammad And sons and another shop run by a Pandit family nicknamed as ‘Mukka Mazair’ was in the heart of the locality. The Pita Paanvol ( Paan shop ) run by a Kashmiri Pandit was in this locality . In the olden days , Habba Kadal was the first stop for the Tongas plying on Amira Kadal- Zaina Kadal route .After the Mini Buses were introduced in the city , it became a Mini Bus Adda. In olden days , while moving through Habba Kadal  , the  Tongawallas  would always keep crying in chaste Kashmiri :-

“Hey raaz baayee, buch saa ”

“Hey bobu ji, buch saa ”

“Hey shooshaa…. , hey Jigraa…. lobh Khuss ”

“Hey khwaajaa saeb,  hatai benee ,  hataa bee zar chhuyee .”

“O! Redda,hey cycle, hosha hosh ha sa , bacho bacho ”

 

( “You queen like women, save yourself ”

“You Pandit Ji, save yourself ”

“ My lungs like dear pedestrian, my liver like dear traveller, move aside ”

“You Khwaja Sahib, you sister, you woman! Are you hard of hearing ?”

“ You Reddi man, you man with a bicycle, take care, save yourself ”)

 
During early morning hours , one could see a crowd of Pandit ladies buying vegetables from the foot path vendors who sat close to the Habba Kadal bridge . One could see the typical bargaining and Gupshup of ladies in this early morning Bazaar. 
 
Artists like Shiv Raina,  Maheshwar Nath Dhar ,D N Walli, Triloke Kaul , Som Nath Khosa , Sat Lal Kampasi, Som Nath Butt, Ratan Parimu ( artist and art historian ), Bhushen Kaul, Padamshri  G R Santosh, Mohan Raina , Kishori Kaul, Bansi Parimu,  Kashmiri  Khosa, Shiban Kaw ,Suraj Tikoo, Sant Ji Sultan , Nissar Aziz, Kapil Kaul , Shabir Santosh and many more are from this area. 
 
It happens to be the locality that produced saints,poets,writers, actors ,film personalities, musician ,broadcasters , journalists , bureaucrats ,police officers,theatre artists and many eminent personalities who made significant contribution in various others fields. Some names that come to my mind are Swami Ram Ji, Shamas Faquir ( the great Sufi poet ) , Master Zinda Kaul, Dina Nath Nadim, Padamshri Pran Kishore Kaul, Mohan Lal Aima ,Padamshri Pushkar Bhan, Hari Krishen Koul (  Kashmiri and Hindi writer ) , Posha Bub ( spiritual Guru ) , Onkar Aima ,Bansi Nirdosh, Prof R L Shant ( Hindi and Kashmiri writer ), Makhan Lal Saraf, Chaman Lal Haku , Umesh Kaul ( artist and writer ) , Makhan Lal Mahav ( satire and humour poet ) , Madhu Lal Tikoo ( actor and connected with Samaj Sudhar Samiti ), Tej Tikoo ( actor radio and TV artist ), Santosh Tikoo ( artist and son of Suraj Tikoo artist ) Mohan Nirash ( broadcaster and poet ), Hriday Kaul Bharti , M K Raina ( actor ) , Jawahir Kaul (cinema  actor ) ,  Prem Nath Dar ( Urdu writer and Press / Publicity advisor to Sheikh Mohammad  Abdullah ),  O N Raina ( Sitarist ) , Satish Kaul ( cinema actor)  K K Raina ( cinema and TV actor ) J N Sadhu ( journalist) , M K Bangroo ( journalist) , Chaman Lal Chaman ( Kashmiri poet ), Lalit Parimu ( actor ) , Ashok Ogra , Vijay Bakaya IAS ( former Chief Secretary ) , Kuldeep Khuda IPS ( former DGP, J&K ) ,R K Sadhu (MD State Financial Corporation ) , Padamshri Chaman Lal Saproo, Pran Chandra, Ashok Aima ( VC, Central University, Jammu ), Rajendra Tikoo IPS ( lived and brought up in Bana Mohalla by  his maternal uncle )  Dr Sushil Razdan ( lived for more than ten years at Tankipora ) , Dr Shambhoo Nath Ghassi , Padam Bhushan  Dr M K Bhan, Dr Pran Nath , Dr R K Chrangoo,  Dr Raj Nath Bhat , Hakim Sham Lal Bhat, Janki Ganju, Mohan Krishen Tickoo ( minister in Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s cabinet ) , S N Sumbli , Avtar Krishen Rahbar, Chaman Lal Chrangoo, Hakim Sri Kanth, Piaray Lal Handoo ( theatre artists and officer in Radio Kashmir ) ,Makhan Lal Aima ( Harkar) , Ved Lal Dhar Vakil (social reformer , musician and theatre artist. All his children like Jaya Parimu , Rageshwari Mattoo and V P Dhar were highly talented in the field of music ) , Padamshri Moti Lal Kemu ( dancer who contributed for the revival of Bhaand Pather ) , Ravi Kemu( cinematographer )  , Kunal Kemu (cinema actor and grandson of Moti Lal Kemu ), Capt. S K Tickoo ,Janki Nath Kaul Kamal, Prem Nath Pardesi, Padamshri Som Nath Sadhu Hakim Bal Ji , Dr Dev Koul, Janki Nath Safaya , Dr R K Zutshi , Dr A K Koul ( first MDS Dental ) , Dr S N Koul, B K Zutshi IAS, T K Zutshi IRS, M L Koul IAS ,Vijay Malla (singer ) , Tika Lal Taplu ( BJP leader ) , Sarvanand Chiragi ,Mohan Charagi ( journalist ), Mohan Krishen Tikoo ( saffron trader and trustee Bhagwan Gopi Nath Ji Ashram ) , Rajan Khosa ( film director ) ,Dr RK Saproon( physician ) ,Dr Virander Koul ( first PhD in Chemical Engineering ), Vikram Misri ( former ambassador to China) ,H N Jattu, Kishen Ji Langoo, Kashi Nath Bhan , Asha Zaroo , Bharti Zaroo, Ayash Arif ,H N Gurtoo , Dr Farooq Fayaz, Shadi Lal Kaul ( actor ) , Madhav Dass, Triloke Dass , Bihari Kak , Ashok Zalpuri , Ashok Zafrani , Kamal Razdan,  Khem Lata Wakhlu, Ashok Bhan ( Supreme Court advocate ) , Narinder Safaya ( Supreme Court advocate ), Agnishekhar ( poet and Panun Kashmir leader ) , Kshama Kaul ( Hindi writer ), Ajay Chrangoo  , Ashwani Chrangoo  and many more .
The area had some tough looking or Don type characters as well. I can recall Maharaj Purbi, Batah Jinn ( Vijay Miskeen) , Rajesh ,Shadi Lal and some more names. One amongst these tough looking boys also happened to be the election agent of Harji Lal . Once I saw this boy in a taxi with a hand held mike suddenly stopping on the road and crying,' Harji Lal ko vote do'. He also threw some pamphlets on the road. I happened to know another boy sitting in that taxi who later told me something like this:-
 
" Harji Lal’s election work was a blessing for us. A taxi was at our disposal for full day.The petrol expenses per day were paid by Harji Lal. Every morning , we would go straight to Harji Lal's house for our breakfast ,lunch ,dinner and XXX Rum . There used to be a cook for us . Carrying our packed lunch , we used to go to Mughal gardens and other picnic spots like Gulmarg . On return we made some noise near Habba Kadal  bridge and throw  the pamphlets on the road crying ' Harji Lal ko vote do' . Some boys even stole a brass Samovar and Degcha from Harji Lal's house . He thought he would sweep the polls. We also kept him happy with this dream. After the election results were declared , Harji Lal lost even his security deposit . It was a great fun and entertainment for us " 

These tough looking boys were socially active and individually quite helpful .

This locality produced some great sportsmen. Many cricket players from this locality played in Ranji Trophy matches. I can recall Tej Kumar Tikoo , Jawahar Lal ( Jawa Beul ) and some more names.I would like to make mention of  Jawahar ( nickname Jawa Beul )who played in many Ranji Trophy matches. He would come down to the centre of the pitch to hit the ball. He would be pestered by crowds who would cry " Jaw Lal Four Traav "meaning Jawhar hit a four. And lo! Jawahir would listen and get out.

There used to be a small Paan and cigarette shop at Kraal Khod in Habba Kadal locality. Makhan Lal , the proprietor was a person who believed in communist ideology. One would always see him reading some book at his shop. His customers included professors ,writers and intellectuals . Prof M K Taing would also visit his shop for Paan or cigarettes.

I believe Habba Kadal was the only place in Srinagar city where you could see some Sikh shops that sold the leftover procured daily from army slaughter house in Badami Bagh. One could buy portions from stomach, brain, legs and other sheep or goat organs. People called them Sikka Pujj. These shop owners were  poor and so were their buyers from Kashmiri Pandit community.These shops opened late . Pandits would buy Daemini, Magaz, Paatchi, Neh Kala ,Shooshnor ,tsaaagul etc. from these shops.

 
Akhtar Khan , the lively Pushto and Kashmiri speaking Pathan had his business activity in this area ( Badiyaar ) . He was forthright and direct in his dealings and communication. Akhtar was a customer of our bank who often gossiped with bank employees and gave them some samples of special Unani medicine for what he called Quwat e Mardaana ( male power tonic ). He also supplied some herbs to Unani Hospital for which he would bring treasury bills for petty amounts of twenty or thirty or forty rupees.
 
On Shivratri days, the bazaars in the area gave a festive look . One could see brisk business in walnuts ,Nadru , vegetables, Pooja samagri ,milk, curd , cheese , mutton and earthenware pots.On Janamashtami festival , huge boats with watermelons were brought to various Ghats of Jhelum river. Kashmiri Pandits would send fruits including watermelons to their married daughters on Janamashtami day.
 
Prasad Koul had his famous Kashmiri spices outlet in this area that was thronged by people from far and wide to buy quality spices . The notorious magician cum trickster known as Ghulam Daina lived in this area . One could see gossip mongers sitting inside many shops and always busy with their discussions . Dr Gopi Nath Parimoo’s chemist shop was one such shop that was visited by the gossip mongers from the elite class . Many Punjabis had opened their shops in this locality . I remember shops like Verma Cloth House, Ramesh And Co, Sethi Stores , Mona Lisa ( opened in late seventies of the last century ) , Dehli waalon ki Dukaan ( Purshotam Lal), Calcutta Waalon Ki Dukaan ( Prop. ,Harjeet Bhatia ) , Vikas Bakery and the photography shop of ever smiling Amarjeet Singh at Kharyaar .Amarjeet was always seen in Pandit marriages clicking photographs . Many Pandit boys would sit in his shop for gossip and also to pick up photography skills .
 
The well known Kak family (opticians ) was from this locality . Trained in Lahore, Dr Amar Nath Kak had opened first optician shop ( Kashmir Optical House ) in the J&K state and started his practice from Habba Kadal . The Kak family later opened some more shops in the city including one at Residency Road, Srinagar . The spectacles made by Kak family were used by every important person from Kashmir including Molvi Mohammad Farooq and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah .
 

 

This locality produced some of the best educationists and teachers that Kashmir ever saw. They were college or university teachers or headed prestigious educational institution . These  teachers actually  created a  generation of professional  in the valley  . It may not be possible for me to include one and all as the  list could go endless. However  some  names like  Prof M K Taing ,  Prof Moti Lal Mam,  Prof  D N Madan,Prof M L Sadh , Prof Ogra ( and his  brother) ,Prof J N Dhar ( Thass ) ,Prof Bansi Lal Fotedar ,Prof M K Raina , Prof Ravi Koul, Prof O N Bhan , Prof Chaman Lal ( botany ), Prof T N Ganju ,Prof S K Shah , Prof Kanhya Lal Razdan, Prof Munshi , Prof C L Kotha , Prof  M N Jan , Prof B N Thussoo ( English who served mostly in Jammu ) come to my mind at the moment . Then we had some exceptionally talented teachers f from this locality in which  category I can recall names like  P N Khuda , Janki  Nath Misri ,Daya Krishen Koul ( Hindu High School ) ,Shamboo Nath Kachroo and many more .

 
Some prominent Halwai shops in this area could be listed as Sarwanand Halwai,  Taarakh Halwai , Munna Halwai , Hari Halwai and Gaasha Halwai. You could get delicious and soft cottage cheese from a milk selling shop near Kani Kadal bridge . The shop was managed by a woman who was sharp , intelligent and quite familiar to the residents . Chonchas had their goldsmith shop in this area . The Choncha family had somewhat monopoly in this locality . Their customer were mostly Kashmiri Pandits , who even after complaining against their trading practices , would go to their shop again and again. The Chrangoo family had another goldsmith shop in this area.
 
Hindu High School, Rupa Devi Sharda Peeth, Vasanta Girls School, Kathleshwar School, Mission School , Lal Ded Memorial School , Vinayak Middle School were some prominent educational institutions of this area. Dr O N Thussoo and his wife Dr Jagat Mohini Atal had opened the well known Ratan Rani Memorial Hospital in this area that continued serving the poor and the needy even during the period of peak militancy in the Kashmir valley . 
 
The locality had the ever busy music learning centre run under the name and style of Prem Sangeet Niketan . Outside the famous Ganpatyar Temple , one could see Goondh Navdhaara ‘s shop that sold homemade perfumes and Charan Bulgaar, a wonder cream for treatment of painful frostbite during winter season . Waza Baithaks or business centres of Kashmiri Hindu cooks were also located in Habba Kadal’s Kraal Khod locality. Rangmanch , Sangam Theatre, Vasant Theatre, Kalakendra and Sangarmal Theatre were located in this area. Shivala in Chotta Bazaar has played pivotal role in the development of drama and theatre in the Kashmir valley .

 The locality produced some amongst the best engineers, bankers ,architects, lawyers and other professionals . Arun Koul retired chairman of  U.Co. Bank happens to be from Kharyaar locality .Sri Daftari , retired Chief Engineer also hails from this locality.

In 1990, Habba Kadal emptied and the localities looked frighteningly deserted after the Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out by armed terrorists and their sympathizers . Many innocent Kashmiri Pandits from this area fell to the bullets of the armed terrorists . I can recall some names like Naveen Saproo ( BSNL engineer ) , B K Ganju ( BSNL engineer ) ,Tikal Lal Taplu ( BJP leader ) , Satish Tikoo( business ) , Sheela Koul Tiku( housewife ) , Anil Bhan , Ashok Qazi , Bal Krishen Tutoo , Makhan Lal Raina , Prof D P Khazanchi , Bimla Braroo, Archana Braroo, Sohan Lal Braroo , owner of Vikas Bakery, family members of Mrs Nancy Ganju ( theatre artist ) and many more . Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate , the dreaded terrorist was also from this locality . Javed Nalka ,a member of another prominent terrorist organization belonged to this locality .Nothing except destruction, horror and pain visited this area after 1990. The houses of Pandits were mostly bought for a song by the people who moved from far off villages or towns of the Kashmir valley . With the death of Habba Kadal locality, Kashmir lost its heritage , tradition and culture that had evolved over many centuries .
 
( Avtar Mota)


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