Tuesday, June 30, 2009


These are recent typical kashmir views . enjoy
a k mota

All photographs bear copyrights and may not be reproduced or downloaded without the specific permission of the blog writer


Lall Ded( lalleshwari ) and Sheikh Noor ud din Wali are the Tallest saints of kashmir . Both are revered by hindus and Muslims alike . Hindus call Sheikh Noor ud din Wali as Sehja Nand or Nund reshi while muslims call him Sheikh ul Aalam or Alam daare Kashmir . Muslims call Lall ded as Lalla Arifa while Hindus call her Lalleshwari . Both have composed their sayings in the shape of VAAKHS . While Lall Ded’s thought is Shaivism simplified it is also identical with the Nirguna concept propounded by saint Kabir in India Shiekh Noor Ud din attempted to synthesize the essence of Bhagwat Geeta and Holy Quran and what ultimately emerged is the Shining Rishi order of Kashmir which produced numerous saints and Sufi poets subsequently. . Wahab Khar , Shamas Faquir, Sochh Kral , Nyam Sahib,Rehman Dar , Waza Mehmood Ahad Zargar ,and Samad mir can be called an extension of the thought and concept of Rishi order of Kashmir. through their Sufi poetry .

Kalahana , Jonaraja , Sridhar ,Shuka and Pragya Bhat do not make any mention of Lalleshwari in their works . Khwaja Mohd Azam Dhadmiri makes a reference of Lalleshwari in his work Vakaate Kashmir and adds that she lived during the rule of king Alla Ud din ( 1344AD -1355AD ). From all accounts it can be assumed that Lalleshwari was born in early 14th centuary and left this world some time between 1373 AD to 1389 AD implying that she was senior to Sheikh Noor Ud Din Wali ( 1373AD – 1438AD ). There is a story attributed to the meeting of Lalleshwari and Sheikh Noor Din wali as well.. So is the commonality of thought in the Vaakhs /Shrukhs of these two towering saints of Kashmir . Sheikh pays due tributes to Lalleshwari in a Shrukh( translated in english from original kashmiri ) as under :-
“That Lalla of Padmaapore,
she drank Her fill of divine nectar;

She was indeed an awataar of His
O Supreme One , grant me the same boon!"Sheikh Noorudin (Nund Reshi)
Ancestors of Sheikh Ul Alam were Surajvanshi Rajputs of Kishtwar . Sheikh’s Shrukhs convey that NAFAS ( implying Appetite or the desires ) is an elephant like in demands and has to be kept at Bay Else this enemy wihin is going to devour the individual..Sheikh’s Mother Soder Mouj and wife Zai Ded were poets and also wrote VAAKHS. Sheikh did preaching in almost all the areas of south kashmir but finally movd to CHRAR. Shiekh’s Vaakhs are Called SHRUKHS ( shlokaas ) in Kashmiri.. His Mortal remains are buried inside the Shrine in CHRAR E SHARIEF. I shall not quote his SHRUKS but please read them as they appear in the photographs taken by me right from NAGAAM to CHRAR E SHARIEF. CHRAR is about 35 kms from Srinagar and can be approached by road via Natipora , Chhanpora , Kralpora , Chadura , Nagaam and finally at Nagaam a distance 14 kms of beautiful plateaus is to be covered to reach CHRARE SHARIEF. I have photographed the Shrine as well as the BAZAR . I have also photographed ZAR- KASAI and TEHHAR distribution by devotees at the shrine. ZAR KASAI is MUNDAN and TEHHAR is the rice cooked with a pinch of turmeric and laced with oil familiar to both Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir . The shrine suffered extensive damage in Turmoil / Militancy . It is under total renovation. So is the CHRARE SHARIEF village which has already been declared as a Model village by government . I heard almost every one coming to the shrine saying loudly :

YA PEER MYANO YAARI KAR(Oh my saint be merciful to us)
So Be it .

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The ancestors of Dr Iqbal were  Kashmiri Brahmans from village Sopur ( near village Dhanuv ) , Kulgam area and had  Sapru as their  surname . The family traces its origin to one Birbal Pandit of village Sopur, Kulgam.A large population of Anantnag district moved out to Kishtwar , Bhaderwah and Punjab in early 19th century due to three successive famines and cholera epidemics .When did this Sapru  family actually move to Punjab is not clear. All along his life , he remained   warm towards  Kashmiri Brahmans .  In Javednama , Allama writes  :

“ A’an Brahman zaadganan-e-zindah dil
Laleh-e-ahmar zi rooye sha’n khajil
Tez been-o-pukhta kaar-o- sakht kosh
Az nigah-e-sha’n farang andar kharosh
Asl-e-sha’n az khaake-e-daamangeer ma’st
Matla-e-ein akhtara’n Kashmir ma’st ”

(Those scions of Brahmans with vibrant hearts,
their glowing cheeks put the red tulip to shame.
 Keen of eye, mature and strenuous in action,
 their very glance puts Europe into commotion.
 Their origin is from this protesting soil of ours,
the rising place of these stars is our Kashmir.)

.Ancestors of Nawaz Sharif Bhat (former  prime minister of Pakistan ) and Ghulam Mohammad Gama Pehalwan ( wrestler Rustam e Hind who lived in in Amritsar before the partition of the country ) and ancestors of Kulsoom Nawaz Bhat wife of Nawaz Sharief are also from Kulgam and she is incidentally the niece of Gama Pahelwan. The story of poet Sufi Tabassum, Miraji , politician Saif ud din Kichloo and many more is similar . Obviously all of them have Kashmiri roots.
Munira Bano  and  Javed Iqbal were born from  Dr Iqbal's marriage with Sardar Begum,  a Kashmiri girl from  Lahore . Allama fondly called Munira as " Babbi ".  After the death of his wife  Sardar Begum , Allama was in search of a caretaker for his daughter . Professor Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi of AMU arranged a German governess. The children fondly called her   “Auntie  Doris”  .  Munira in particular  , discovered a mother in 'Aunty Doris' .Munira  and Javed were also attached to their maternal uncle, Abdul Ghani  who belonged to a Kashmiri family from Lahore. Abdul Ghani would take the children for sight seeing and buy them gifts . Abdul Ghani died young.

Allama  did not eat beef. I quote from page 17 of the  book' Iqbal As I Knew Him' by  Doris Ahmed :

 " He would not eat beef and if he ever took any form of beef, accidentally it would make him ill. He commented that this was probably because of the fact that his ancestors had been Hindu Barahmans. Among fruits, he liked mangoes very much and his friends, who knew about this weakness, would often send him crates of mangoes. "

During winters , Allama drank Kashmiri Kehwa tea . He would use   his Pashmina Dussa and Kashmiri Shawl. He loved smoking from his Hookah .He liked stuffed Karelas, mutton Keema,  Bhindi , Maash Daal ,Chapatis, Gajjar Ka Halwa  and  seasonal vegetables. He ate very less. Slept at 1am and got up very early.  

And the book ' IQBAL AS I KNEW HIM' by  Doris Ahmed informs us that  Allama's sisters ,  brothers , nephews and  nieces would come to Javed Manzil and stay there for days at  a stretch. Allama loved his sisters , nephews , nieces and brothers .  He would extend all help to them.Allama was very close to his youngest sister Karim Bibi.She was a frequent visitor to Javed Manzil. During winters ,  a  Kangri with charcoal had to be prepared for Karim Bibi . She would also keep it under her Lihaaf (quilt) to warm her bed before sleeping.During daytime, she would keep the Kangri under her shawl. Munira and Javed were very fond of Karim Bibi , their  Poophi ( paternal aunt ).

Munira Bano has said this:-

" Abba Ji would lull me to sleep and then pass me on to Auntie Doris .  At morning time , I would be surprised to find myself sleeping with 'Auntie Doris' .When Abba ji  died , I was suddenly woken up by Auntie Doris  . I saw everybody weeping.  There were many relations in the house . Abba Ji's sisters and their husbands  had also come.  I could not comprehend at that time as to  what had actually  happened .  I do not agree with those who regard  Abba Ji   as a very serious person. My  experience has been different. I  remember him as a person who smiled a lot and cracked jokes.”

                                                 ( Sheikh Noor Mohammad Father of Allama Iqbal )

                                                                 ( Allama Iqbal )
                                                                        ( Allama Iqbal )

Khushwant Singh, well known journalist   writes  this in  ‘The Telegraph’:-

“I am beholden to P.V. Rawal of Jammu for sending me a photograph of Allama Iqbal’s Kashmiri Brahmin family taken in Sialkot in 1931. At this time Iqbal was in his mid-fifties. He had already risen to the top as the greatest Urdu poet, at par with Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Although he was proud of his Brahmin descent, he had nothing to say about his Hindu relations. In this picture, the elderly lady seated in the middle is his grandmother, Indirani Sapru, nicknamed Poshi, wife of Pandit Kanhaya Lal Sapru. The man standing on the left in a shawl is Iqbal’s cousin, Amarnath Sapru; note the close resemblance to the poet.
The family traces its origin to one Birbal. They lived in the village of Saprain (hence, the surname Sapru) on Shopian-Kulgam road. Then the family moved to Srinagar where Iqbal and most of his cousins were born. Birbal had five sons and a daughter. The third one, Kanhaya Lal, and his wife, Indirani, had three sons and five daughters. Kanhaya Lal was Iqbal’s grandfather. His son, Rattan Lal, converted to Islam and was given the name Nur Mohammad. He married a Muslim woman — Imam Bibi. The Saprus disowned Rattan Lal and severed all connections with him. There are different versions of Rattan Lal’s conversion. The one given to me by Syeda Hameed, who has translated some of Iqbal’s poetry into English, maintains that Rattan Lal was the revenue collector of the Afghan governor of Kashmir. He was caught embezzling money. The governor offered him a choice: he should either convert to Islam or be hanged. Rattan Lal chose to stay alive. When the Afghan governor fled from Kashmir to escape its takeover by the Sikhs, Rattan Lal migrated to Sialkot.”
                             ( Photo  of Iqbal's Hindu relations published in The Telegraph)

( Avtar Mota )

Sources for the write up..
Interview of Munira Bano Iqbal on YouTube
Book ' IQBAL AS I KNEW HIM' by  Doris Ahmd
(3) Khushwant Sinfh’s write up in ‘The Telegraph ‘’

 Further , I have uploaded some photographs of Kulgam .You can see the highly revered shrine of Sufi sanit Syed Samnani , Kulvageshwari Temple , Bazar views , Two Kashmiri Pandit shops selling electric items in the  main Bazar , an apple orchard , two views of Veshav river( originating from Kounser Naag ) taken from Khudwani bridge and many other views . Kulgam is a district head quarters now. It has 5 blocks Quimoh, Pahloo, Damhal Hanji Pora , Devsar and Kulgam.. It has 3 assembly segments Noorabad, Kulgam and Homshali Bugh .

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Neither Swami Lakshman Joo nor his Ashram at NISHAT (in close proximity to Nishat Garden )need any introduction . Swami Ji was authority on Kashmir shavisim. Always Pheran Clad,Tall , Gracefull , erudite scholar , kashmiri to the core and compassionate human being . Swami ji was son of Late Shri Narayan Joo Raina  known in Kashmiri pandit circles as Nau Naran (who owned the first House Boat in Kashmir) . Swami Ji always considered Mehtab Kak and swami Ram as his Gurus. I am poorly equipped to comment on his books but i have personally seen Swami ji Engrossed in serious discussions with Smt Indira Gandhi , Dr Karan Singh and Gh Rasool Santosh ( Painter ) though many people would visit his ashram and have his blessings . The Ashram is well managed at present also by some devotees . I shall be failing in my duties if i do not make special mention of two individual devotees . One Kama ji and the other Sh Mohan Ji wattal. Kama ji who permanently lives in the Srinagar Ashram , will never allow you to go without food or Tea as the occassion be. I had the privilege of having food from her motherly hands . The motherly affection shown to one and all by Khema ji is to be experienced to be believed. Another person doing round the clock selfless service for the Ashram is Sh Mohan Ji Wattal . Life has come a full circle for Watall sahib. I happened to know him in late seventies when he was a leading exporter of the valley. Prior to that he worked in Grindlay's bank Srinagar. At present he is engaged in full time management of ISHBER ASHRAM Srinagar . Wattal Sahib lives in srinagar only and has been amongst the immediate disciples of Swami ji. I quote two incidents .Dr Farooq Abdullah came to Ashram once with Late Sh P L Handoo . He had some discussions with swami Ji and asked for permision to leave . I quote verbatim the conversation. Here it goes ;-
"Farooq take Your Food. Why should you leave without food."
" Ok Sir then i shall have Haak and rice only "
" Mohan Ji Farooq shall be taking Haak and rice with us "
Wattal Sahib ensured that Haak and Bhatta was ready in half an hour . Before her death, Indira ji had come to the Ashram and swami ji had cautioned her to be careful as threat to her life is in the Air. Wattal sahib was asked by Swami ji to bring a pashmina shawl for Indira ji which swami ji put on her shoulders as a protection from the imminent threat . While Indira ji sought Permission to leave ,Swami ji again asked her to be carefull . Swami Ji told wattal Sahib
" AMIS HA BAA CHHU SANKAT SAMAY . " " This lady has serious trouble in her desitny at the moment " Indira ji was killed just three days thereafter. So Long so much.
I have uploaded some views like the the gate of Ishber ashram, The Bhairav temple in the Ashram where Swami Ji would perform Bhairav Puja .The double storey builiding where swami ji would reside. The bed on which swami ji would recline . The Vatika hut where swami ji would often take his day meals . Present day Puja Hall with Swami Ji's photograph . The fountain in the garden laid by devotees as per his wishes .Kama ji distributing Prasada has also been photographed . Wattal sahib is siting in a chair behind. Enjoy and let us have Swami ji's blessings from his heavenly abode.


Friday, June 26, 2009


 I shall tell you  about a wonderful art of making wooden ceiling in Kashmir known as KHATAMBANDI. Brought to Kashmir from IRAN in 1541 by Mirza Hyder Douglat, Khatamband is an art of making ceiling, by fitting small pieces of wood (preferably walnut or deodar wood) into each other in geometrical patterns. All this is done entirely with hands without use of nails. The wood is processed, cut into buttons and panels and fixed in the ceiling in various floral and geometrical designs.
Indeed a painstaking work, which once used to take months to finish a 10 feet by 10 feet ceiling. The uniqueness of this art is that when the ceiling is complete, it acquires a unique geometrical pattern. With fewer or no nails used at all, the Khatamband ceiling can easily be dissembled and re-assembled at another place.

Earlier Khatamband used to be domain of shrines, palaces, houseboats and royal houses, but now every other person wants it for their house. There are more than 170 designs for the Khatamband in Kashmir, but today's artists can only reproduce about 100. Artists have however greatly compensated the lost designs with newer ones, where they experiment with mirror, colour combination and other things and there is no limit to their creativeness.
 The names of designs are derived from various cities of Iran and central Asia. The Khatamband ceilings cost about Rs 140 /= per square foot. The art is also being exported. There are many Kashmiri artisans, who work for about three months outside in different states of India, fitting various houses, hotels and other malls with their creative genius.