Saturday, July 17, 2010


All Saints' Church, Srinagar, and Cecil Barton


Dave Barton

 to me
 9:59 PM (1 hour ago) 

Dear Sir,

I'm sorry to trouble you, but I found your blog post and it interests me because my great grandfather Rev. Cecil Barton was a missionary in Srinagar until about 1904, based at All Saints Church (see the attached images). He was also a friend and climbing companion of Ernest & Arthur Neve, who you mention in the blog above.
I have quite a few of his beautiful old photographs of Srinagar, including one of Saint Luke's (in its prime). I'm in the process of scanning them all into jpgs and I'd be happy to share them if you're interested. For my part I would love to find out if Cecil's old house still exists and where it is/was (it's shown in the third picture attached; it was just behind All Saints apparently, though I don’t know if the old All Saints was on the site of the new).
Best wishes,

David Barton

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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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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


"I have no words to express my gratitude for organizers of this  Opera . My special thanks to Naadim Sahib and my thanks to all actors. I shall be failing in my duties if i do not add  words of appreciation for the Character NEEL NAAGA  OR  KING NEEL NAAGA  OR THE BLUE WATER SPRING OF  VERINAAG  KASHMIR CONSIDERED TO BE THE SOURCE OF RIVER VITASTA  , Played by Makhan Lal Saraf . My sincere gratitude to  this talented artist for this superb performance . I happen to be from the district where Neel Naag is located .  Historically, this spring  is  a link of  profound importance  in the story of   our  great river   VITASTA." 
So said Mirza Afzal Beg( in his concluding  address after witnessing the opera )    the then  Deputy chief Minister and also  a close associate of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah . He came up to the stage shook hands with all artists  and hugged Makhan lal Saraf affectionately. When the opera concluded , everyone in the  hall stood up to give the artists a standing ovation by cheering them lustily for more   than 15 minutes . The Music , the actors , Naadim Sahib's Poetic presentation and the costumes kept every one in the audience spell bound.As far as i remember it must have been late seventies  and the opera was staged in Jam packed Tagore Hall  srinagar . Mirza Afzal beg happened to be the chief Guest. I vividly remember the costumes  of the artists designed by  G R Santosh noted painter from Kashmir.

About his acting style Prof Jaya parimu informs  ,

"Having seen  him act in several one acts or dramas; I have watched him closely during "Vitasta "opera days.His entrance on stage   , with his perfect skills , poise and confidence to perform in front of the audience is masterly. His voice , emotions, and movements are just perfect. An outstanding actor."

That is Makhan Lal Saraf  the living legend of  Theatre in Kashmir. He belongs to second generation of Theatre artists  of kashmir if one considers Moti Lal Keemu , Naadim sahib , Mohan lal  Aima , Pushker Bhan  , Ali Mohd Lone , Noor Mohd Roshan , Kashi Nath Bhan, Sudhama ji Kaul, Radha Krishen Barbazoo and  S N Sumbli and many other pioneers who  belonged  to the   first generation .

About Theatre Movement in kashmir , he informs....

“ We had a community theatre in city and Paa'thhar in villages. we have a long history of theatre in kashmir. Our Paa'thhar was totally based on Ancient sanskrit Drama techniques . You start with a Prayer , You have a Sutradhaar and a Vidhushak.

In eary fifties , Prithvi Raj kapoor of Prithvi Theatre Mumbai , formally inaugurated a Theatre premises at Shivala in srinagar city . I still remember the stone that bears his name. 

Autar ji Drama ,Theatre and acting was a much detested profession in conservative society of Kashmir . I talk about a period very close to independence ( 1947 ) as well . Can you believe me that drama / Theatre actors were nicknamed as Raa’s Kath . 
“Hayo Ya haa Chhuyi Raa’s Kath or “Look he a Raas Sheep “

The nickname came from Sanskrit word Rasik (Rassa ) mentioned in Natyashastra as well but Kashmiris attached Kath to it meaning a sheep. And Our great artists Sudhama ji Kaul , Jagan Nath saqi and Radha Krishen Barbazoo could not get a match /get married because of their association with drama / Theatre. At that point of time ,the conservative kashmiri society, did not accept or recognize their talent . Things have altogether changed now. “

When Sheikh Mohd Abdullah decided to start Inter state Cultural exchange  concept , Makhan lal saraf along with 70  other artists from the state  visited entire country  to perform Plays like PIYA BAAJ PYAALA or TIPU SULTAN ( He Played the role of  Tipu's Father   ) and HIMALAYA KE CHASHME  ( He played the role of  Sherwaani ). One must read newspaper reviews of that period  to know how well the troupe from our state was received and how well the talent of our  actors especially  Makhan lal Saraf was appreciated .


Born at Chinkral Mohalla in srinagar city ,he  shares his birth place with  shams faqeer the  tallest sufi poets of kashmir.Totally self taught , he acknowledges the valuable guidance of R K Braroo( NSD Graduate ) and Pran Kishore in shaping  the artist in him. 

Saraf  remained associated with RANGMANCH (Founder 1966), KASHMIR THEATRE  (  Founder 1973srinagar ) AND BHOORANG (  Jammu as Founder member 2008 ).He also acted in Kashmiri films like Maanziraat and Mehjoor besides doing a notable role in a TV serial by Sham Benegal. His productions Dr Faustus , Kuss Log Davuss , Taqdeer Saaz are considered trend setters .His acting in  Hero Machama , Mangoo , Aknandun , Ba Chuss Tsoor ,Aaraam Haraam Hai is a class in itself. Some of the  TV serials written by him enjoyed peak popularity. To quote   PAZAR YELI MOOD, PAGAAH SHOLI DUNIYA ,GULAM BEGUM BADSHAAH , CHERRI TRUCH, KRUHUN SEERI , HAZAR DASTAAN, ME CHHUM  AASH PAGHICH AND SEEMAB 

Theatre may have given him the much needed intellectual satisfaction yet he did not live by theatre alone . Saraf worked as a section officer in higher education department of the state . I saw him many times at Amar Singh college where he remained posted for quite a long period.

In acting, Makhan  Lal Saraf has  something special  that sets him apart from his peers. This something special  brought him to the higher pedestal of theatre where he commands  much deserved respect of  a Guru .

As actor, he has the ability to transform beyond recognition . In any role, the audience always sees the character rather than Makhan Lal Saraf. He can  transform his good  physique into a distorted and unrecognisable version of himself even  without the use of prosthetics. Done  beyond his audience’s expectations,  he keeps  changing his posture , centre of balance and  his speech patterns as he performs.This technique makes his performances  powerful and believable for audiences and critics alike.

Saraf demonstrates  presence ,confidence and magnetism as he makes his entry on the stage . He drags the audience focus towards him. In any role, you find him in the pursuit of perfection . He is a great master insofar as understanding of  human behaviour is concerned.Possibly this exceptional quality is the biggest tool that  has honed his acting skills. For many actors from the younger generation, he could be a school to learn facial expressions, body language, dialogue delivery , gestural language and audience connect .
With more than sixty years of experience on the stage whereat  he produced ,directed and also scripted some plays ,Saraf is defacto a living legend. Author of some well researched books on theatre and drama that include   books   like " From Actor to Artist ( English )"and " Drama Movement in Kashmir ( Kashmiri ) ", Saraf   enjoys the unique distinction of being the first theatre artist in Kashmir whose  book  was  taught as  course text in   the  Kashmiri
Department ,University of Kashmir . My best wishes for his long life and good health.

His versatility was again on  display in" Prem Nath Versus Prem Nath", a play wherein he acted in a lead role along with Shadi Lal Kaul, another talented actor of the state. In 2014, the play was staged  in  Jammu and Srinagar .  We saw fully   packed Auditoriums with audience enjoying every dialogue and its delivery from Makhan Lal Saraf..


About this play  Theatre artist   Rajinder Tikoo adds ,

“When i witnessed Prem Nath Vs Prem Nath"", i was astonished to see Saraf sahab with same energy as he had two decades before ....he utilized full proscenium with full energy such a big stage SKICC srinagar which is never meant for theatrical ventures....Amazing it was.....”

Presently he is a little lonely man on account of the death of his wife. He misses his  kashmir where from he had to migrate out in 1990  due to widespread militancy .Age is also not on his side.   
Inspite of all these constraints, he is ever busy with his "Bhoorang  Theatre" and other activities connected with Theatre in the state. Most of the third generation of Theatre artists from kashmir have either worked with him or have been directly trained by him. He did not say so to me.Many artists confirmed this to me in  their private conversations .Entire fraternity of these  artists   give due regard to him as their GURU.

                       ( Makhan Lal saraf . Second from right in first lane with Artists and writers of the State )

Not many of us know that he also wrote poetry for sometime in his youth.Those days he was known as Makhan Lal 'Mastana ' to his friends and well wishers.

He is recipient of many awards both within the state and outside .What more is needed to be eligible for a   PADAM SHRI ? Can i ask this question?

Sunaa hai ho Bhi Chukaa hai Firaq e zulmat o noor ,
Sunaa hai Ho Bhi Chukaa hai visaal  e Manzilo Ghaam ,
Badal chukaa hai Bahut Ahl e Dard Ka dastoor ,
Nishaat e vasal Halaal o Azaab e Hijr haraam,
Jigar ki Aag nazar Ki Umang , Dil Ki Jalan ,
Kissi Pe Charah e Hijraan Ka Kuchh Assar Hi Nahin ,
Kahan se Aayee Nigaar e sabaa  kidhar Ko gayee ,
Abhi Chirag e sar e Raah ko Kuchh Khabar Hi nahin,
Abhi Girani e shab mein Kuchh Kamee nahin Aayee ,
Najaat e Deeda o Dil Ki Garhi Nahin Aayee ,
Chale Chalo Ki Woh Manzil Abhi Nahin Aayee.
( Faiz Ahmed Faiz )

We hear now that the light and darkness have parted ,
Also, now that there is a union of quest and goal,
That the lot of the afflicted is now changed ,
That the pleasure of union is now granted,
banished is the torment of separation.

Fire in the bosom , longing in the eyes , and heartburn,
nothing can soothe the anguish of separation.
Where did the sweet breeze come from?
Where did it vanish ?
The street lamp has no news yet.

Even the night's heaviness is just the same,
the moment of salvation has not arrived 
for the heart and the eye.
So let us press on ,
 The destination is still far away.

( Autar Mota )


(1) In Kashmir,We also remember  “KATH “  as a common kashmiri word used for satire and description of some not liked  person/ personality. Like yaava kath or a person who tries to look young and fashionable. Kashtwaarie kath or an ugly looking or a  person not worth being presented  .Zomba Kath or a short statured sheep not worth purchase and Bechha Kath or a begging sheep for a person who always begged for favours and material benefits  from others .For beauty and height kashmiris  used word Kazaakh teer or sheep and goats of kazaakhiastan. Remember how in early sixties of the last century , kashmiris  quickly  attached kath with the name of the then interim chief minister/prime minister of J&K who took over when  Bakshi Ghulam Mohd had to step down from his chair .Nicknaming and  Lampooning  was a favourite  amusement of kashmiris . Many kashmiri surnames are a result of this kashmirian trait.

A prayer to deity was a part of traditional folk theatre.The prayer was done by way of singing accompanied with music . This used to be an introduction of the Drama.

Sutradhaar used to come in the beginning of the play/Drama and introduce the play to the audience.Now sutrdhaar is present all along the play. He acts and does multi tasking. He is a bridge between the actors on the stage and the audience.

A vidhushak is a jestor,a clown or a comedian ,so essential to build audience interest apart from giving entertainment value to the Drama/ Play..

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