Saturday, May 8, 2021




R.C.Kak was born in 1893 in Razdan family of Kashmir. In 1901, at the age of 8, he was married to 7 year old Janki Devi Tikoo . Janki Devi was the daughter of Pandit Lakshman Joo Tiku of downtown ,Srinagar .Pandit Lakshman Joo was the first qualified engineer of Kashmir who was drafted to work on the construction of Jhelum Valley road . 

After graduating from SP College , R C Kak spent 5 years(1914-1919) in India taking training under the legendary archaeologist Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. After completion of his training he was appointed as Superintend Archeologist and later promoted as the director of the newly formed Archeology and Research Department in J&K State. He remained as director Archeological survey for 10 years from 1919 till 1929 . During this period he led extensive excavations of some major archeological sites in Kashmir that include Awantipora and Harwan. He wrote some scholarly and research based books on the archeological remains of Kashmir.

Kak was granted the title of Rai Bahadur in the year 1938 by the British India and thereafter he became the Maharaja’s minister-in waiting. The Maharaja was extremely pleased with his work. Kak became prime minister of J&K (1945-1947) and died in 1983. In his own  state, his death was not officially condoled.  That was the extent of humiliation  he suffered . He also moved to court against his banishment order and got it quashed.He also moved to court for restoration of his pension. In his memoirs , Radha Krishen Sher writes this:-

" Violating all the norms of civilized behaviour, the new NC government humiliated RC Kak. The latter maintained his dignity and said, “I had to do whatever I did because I was loyal to his Highness”. Despite cool relations with Maharaja later, Pt. Kak never spoke or wrote anything that could have lowered the prestige of Maharaja. There are few instances in history, where the loyal servant took upon himself the responsibility for acts of ommissions and commissions of his superiors.
RC Kak was a man of sterling character. He never bypassed protocol. During Quit Kashmir Movement, Maharaj Krishan Dhar, Governor had come to seek his advice to tackle the situation created by Nehru’s defiance at Kohala. R C Kak told him curtly, “You are the District Magistrate and enjoy full powers. 1 do not wield such powers as you do. Why do you ask me for guidance on such matters? It is your business,” When RC Kak submitted his resignation, two other senior officers-Sham Lal Dhar (later Home Secretary) and Justice Shahmiri (Sessions Judge) were also prematurely retired. They were subsequently rehabilitated by Sheikh Abdullah."

Did the National Conference leadership  settle personal vendetta against Maharaja by humiliating his prime minister? 

Tuberculosis was a great killer at that time . Penicillin and other antibiotics had not been invented. Unfortunately, in 1928, his wife Janki Devi died at a young age of 34 due to tuberculosis leaving behind four sons .In 1935, Kak remarried an English woman Mary Margret Allcock. The marriage took place in England.He had no child from this marriage. Mary Margaret adopted Kashmiri traditions with perfection and learnt Kashmiri language. She was also affectionate towards Kak's children and family. Kak's relatives affectionately called her Ben Ded or the "Great Sister". Many visitors to Kak's house at Kaksarai noticed Ben Ded dressed like a Kashmiri Panditani meeting people or attending to some household work or sitting in the garden under a Chinar tree. Ben Ded spoke fluent Kashmiri with household servants. The Kaks would also spend holidays in their family hut at Gulmarg. Later  during his exile , Kak used to spend summers in  Kasauli ,  Himachal Pradesh. Ben Ded had adopted  Lila Bhan as her daughter.

 It is true that Ben Ded accompanied her husband to  some official functions either at the Maharaja's Palace or at the British Resident’s place, but for the most part of her life in Kashmir, she kept herself out of the affairs of the administration and was fully involved in the family affairs During the turbulent period 1947, Ben Ded stood like a rock to support her husband after he was arrested by the popular government headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and externed from the State. She fought for his release with Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mountbatten. She fought for the restoration of his pension that had been stopped. After the death of her husband, Ben Ded moved to England. However, she couldn't adjust in England and returned to  India. She lived in their Kaksarai house for some time and later  shifted to  Rawalpora ,in Srinagar city . In Rawalpora colony , she lived with Dr B K.Jalali 's family  who are closely related to RC Kak.

Very reluctantly she  left Kashmir in 1990  when  the Pakistan sponsored armed  militancy created   darkness ,death and destruction  all over the valley .  She   moved to Indore to live with her adopted  daughter where she  finally breathed her last. She died in exile.

Ben Ded is believed to have with her some keynotes that Kak had scribbled for his proposed memoir. Possibly she wanted to publish her husband's memoirs. 

( Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, May 6, 2021



( Children with camphor in cloth hung around their necks )

                     ( A barber with mask )
( Playing baseball with mask )
( A man without mask not allowed to enter a tram)


 In 1918, the world faced influenza pandemic ,the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, people believe that it originated from Spain or China or some European country. It spread worldwide during 1918-1919. 

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.

With no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to  isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.

(Avtar Mota)

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Monday, May 3, 2021


                   ( Feeding the ducks )
    ( Returning from the Shrine )
  ( Naidyar Rainawari bridge )
 ( Autumn visits village Kralpora , Kashmir)
 ( A village scene in Kashmir )
 ( Approaching Pahalghaam )
(A view of Hariparbat from Nigin Lake )
( Rainawari locality in Kashmir)
   (Bohri Kadal bridge over Maar canal )
 ( The vegetable sellers )
( A Kashmiri tea shop or Chaaya VĂ an )
( Saffron fields of Pampore Kashmir' )
( The gate to the Ziyarat of Makhdoom Sahib)
( Jhelum valley road in Autumn)
( The Shrine with tulips on its roof)
( Plucking saffron flowers in Pampore )
( Habba Kadal bridge at night )


Kashmir is everywhere in his work. His special focus has been to present speaking images of life in Kashmir . He has painted women engaged in daily chores , children , boatmen , fish selling women , Bazaar scenes , snowscapes , autumn Chinars , poplars ,saffron fields , rice husking villagers, hills , brooks , river Ghats , temples ,mosques , canals , fruit laden trees ,houses with thatched roofs, innocence and poverty of his native land .                                                                    

If you look at his work , you need not read much to know how people lived in Kashmir just five or six decades back . Every work is full of life and speaking . Every frame conveys how we lived in our recent past . 

D.N.Walli was also a noted poet .As poet, he used Almast as his pseudonym. He wrote poetry in his mother tongue. He also wrote Gazals in Urdu. I quote an Urdu  couplet of D N Walli Almast ..

 "Mein uriyaan Kar ke chhodoon-gaa jhalak oss husn e pinha ki,
Jabhi to kheenchta huun roz mein tasveer jaanan ki.."

( I shall make that hidden beauty open and known to all,
Everyday ,for that reason alone , I draw pictures of my beloved )

( Avtar Mota)


All these water colours have been uploaded from the book.."Dina Nath Walli: A Passion to Portray Kashmir " by Dr. Tej Krishen Walli published in 2017...

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Avtar Mota feels like this....

"It could be the   beginning of some  real knowing the moment you discover   that you  know nothing.."

(Avtar Mota)

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How apt for the life that we experience presently? Whe shall a Covid free dawn arrive ?

(Meray mun  upvan mein
Iss jan-jeevan mein
Kab hoga savera
Ram jaane meray Ram jaane)

"In the garden that this heart used to be ,
In the life of every human being over here,
When shall the  new dawn  arrive ?
.....None except Sri Rama knows it ."

Thanks to great Sharma Bandhus.

( Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, April 29, 2021



My poem on 400th  birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji..

(Guru Tegh Bahadur )

Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari

Sankat vikat dharam par chhaaya
Dwar tere pahunche nar naari
Kripa ram ka daadas baandha
Pran bali se vipidha haari..
Aisay guru pe hum balihaari

...Jai jai guru tegh bahadur
    Sant sahay agam Hitkari

Kis ashru boondh  se charan dhoyiye
Kis deepak se karein Aarti
Rini hain tere hai guruvar Ji
Hum pandit nahin sabhi Bharati
...Yug yug tak tere aabhaari  

Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

Tum si nishtha tum si karuna
balak gobind rai me paayi
Dusht  nivarak dharam sahyak
Nidar adig aur sant sipaahi
...Pita putr Jan Jan hitkaari

....Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

Phir maanav pe sankat aaya
Kah do ab kis dwaare jaayein
Hum abodh murakh anjaane
Dukh gaatha ab kisse sunaayein
...Dagmag dole naav hamaari

.....Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

( Avtar Mota)  

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         ( Spring in Kashmir by Mohan Raina)
     ( Evening time after Snowfall by Mohan Raina)
 ( A poster designed by Mohan Raina)


"Art in Kashmir and Mohan Raina the Creative Genius"
A book by Sudesh Raina.

Sudesh Raina is a friend known to me for over 40 years. Through him I also knew his father Mohan Raina ,the noted artist . Inspite of this ,there must have been two or three occasions when I directly interacted with his father . There was something in the personality of Mohan Raina that kept many people at a distance. I for one felt that he didn't like unnecessary interaction . And then if one looked at the level and quantum of his work, one always carried some sort of complex while standing close to him.

Coming to the book under review , I would call it a tribute to the artist by his son. Possibly no better tribute could have ever been written. With this book, the forgotten artist has suddenly turned alive. He finds his space in the social media .I saw a webinar discussion on Mohan Raina with intercontinental participation. His paintings are being uploaded. I am optimistic that Sudesh is going to deal with the memories of his father the way T. K. Walli has held the memory of his father D.N.Walli, another pioneer artist .

I know how strenuous and hectic efforts were put in by Sudesh Raina to collect photographs of the paintings of his father.Mohan Raina's oil paintings, portraits and water colours were scattered all over . These were in possession of many friends, relatives and well wishers of the artist while his family had none with them. In 1990, Mohan Raina's family left more than 1000 paintings done by the artist in their Badiyar Bala house in Srinagar city when they had to leave Kashmir in hurry to save their lives . I have seen Sudesh Raina going from door to door requesting and beseeching people to provide him with photographs of the paintings of his father . The book would have seen the light of the day in 2020 but his first publisher failed to fulfill this commitment possibly due to Covid crisis. He had to move to another publisher and his efforts finally ended in a good result in the shape of this book. 

Mohan Raina ,the son of artist Shiv Nath Raina was a versatile and prolific painter who created the emblem of the J&K state in 1952 and also designed initial logos for many institutions including Regional Engineering College, Srinagar, Medical College, Srinagar and the University of Kashmir. The logos that he designed were subsequently changed by some institutions . However, the J&K state emblem designed by Mohan Raina and approved by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah remains visible everywhere to this day.
He also designed pamphlets, publicity material, created murals and some tableaus for the 26th January parade. In 1958, the J&K tableau designed by him for the 26th January parade won the first prize as the best tableau displayed by any state that year . He was the most prolific artist of his period who drew portraits of many poets, saints, political leaders and some noted writers of the state. He illustrated many books including poet Ghulam Nabi Khayal’s Kashmiri translation of Omar Khayam’s Rubayat. He also did magazine illustrations, cartoons, water colour landscapes, still life paintings, paintings based on some western classics in literature and figurative art.
Mohan Raina went to the US on a scholarship to study modern art at the University of Illinois. While in the US, he befriended some prominent American artists including Jimmy Ernst, Betty Sabo and Charmion Wiegand. All the three artists had earned name and fame the world over in their respective styles. Mohan Raina kept communication and contacts with these artists till his death.
He did illustrations for the Kashmiri dictionary compiled by Brij B. Kachroo of Illinois University. He retired as exhibition officer from the Information Department of J&K State and died from a sudden heart attack in 1983. More than one thousand paintings of the artist were lost when his house at Badiyar Bala , Srinagar was put on fire by some miscreants during the peak militancy in the Kashmir Valley.

Deliberating on the journey of art in Kashmir, the book comes straight to Badiyar ,Mohan Raina's family, his art, beautiful anecdotes, exile and the loss of Mohan Raina's work. Many people have been interviewed and their comments carried over verbatim. The book carries photographs of some portraits, landscapes ,sketches and book illustrations done by Mohan Raina. It also chronicles the growth of the artist in a family of artists and musicians . The well known Sitar player , Omkar Raina was Mohan Raina's younger brother. Tej Raina, another brother of Mohan Raina has been a Santoor player. He lives in Canada currently. Mayank Raina, the latest Sitar sensation, who has performed within and outside the country is from this illustrious family.  

The book has some memorable anecdotes and interesting details that attract reader's attention. From the book one gets a feeling that Kashmir remained his first love . He painted Kashmir's varied colours and seasons. The Chinar tree, hills ,snow, streams, lakes ,streets, bazaars and common people from his Kashmir find ample space in his work.The book gives a real insight into the personality and creative output of the pioneer . Available on Amazon, Flipkart and other sites,I recommend the book to one and all. I believe Sudesh is also selling the book directly on discount.

(Avtar Mota)

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