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 to the organisers of this opera. My special thanks to Nadim 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 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." 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. As far as I remember, it must have been the late seventies of the last century and the opera was staged in packed Tagore Hall, Srinagar. Mirza Afzal beg happened to be the Chief Guest. And when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah decided to start the Inter-state cultural exchange concept, Makhan Lal Saraf along with 70 other artists from the state visited the entire country to perform plays like Piya Baaaj Pyala, Tipu Sultan and Himalaya Ke Chashme. One needs to 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.


That is Makhan Lal Saraf, the living legend of theatre in Kashmir. He belongs to the second generation of theatre artists of Kashmir if one considers Moti Lal Kemu, Pushker Bhan, Ali Mohammed Lone, Kashi Nath Bhan, Sudhama Ji Kaul, Radha Krishen Barbazoo and S N Sumbli and many others as belonging to the first generation. About ‘Theatre Movement’ in Kashmir, Makhan Lal Saraf informs this:-


“ We had a community theatre in the city and Pa'thar in the villages. we have a long history of theatre in Kashmir. Our Pa'thar was based on ancient Sanskrit drama techniques. You start with a prayer, You have a Sutradhaar and a Vidhushak. In the early fifties of the last century, Prithvi Raj Kapoor of Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, formally inaugurated theatre premises at Shivala in Srinagar city. I still remember the stone that bears his name. Drama, theatre and acting were much-detested professions in conservative Kashmiri society. I talk about a period very close to independence ( 1947 ). Can you believe that drama/theatre actors were nicknamed ‘Raa’s Kath’? “Hayo Ya ha Chhuyi Raa’s Kat" or “Look he a Raas Sheep”.The nickname came from the Sanskrit word Rasik (Rasa ) mentioned in Natyashastra 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. Then, the conservative Kashmiri society did not accept or recognise their talent. Things have altogether changed now.”


 Born at Chinkral Mohalla in Srinagar city, he shares his birthplace with Shams Faqeer, the tallest Sufi poet of Kashmir. A self-taught artist, he acknowledges the valuable guidance of R K Braroo( NSD graduate ) and Padam-shri Pran Kishore Kaul in shaping the artist in him. Saraf remained associated with Ramgmanch (founder 1966), Kashmir Theatre ( founder 1973 ) and Bhoorang ( 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 Daavass, and Taqdeer Saaz are considered trendsetters. His acting in Hero Machama, Mangoo, Aknandun, Ba Chuss Tsoor, and 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 , Cherry Trutch, Kruhun seeri, Hazaar Dastaan, Me chham aash Pagahitch and Seemaab .  About his acting style, Prof Jaya Parimu says this:-


"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 perfect. An outstanding actor."

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 the much-deserved respect of a Guru. As an actor, he can 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, the 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's focus towards him. In any role, you find him in the pursuit of perfection. He is a great master insofar as the 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.







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

With more than sixty years of experience on the stage whereat he produced, directed and also scripted many 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 a course text in the Kashmiri Department, University of Kashmir. He has the credit of having produced and directed works of reputed playwrights, on stage, like Ali Mohammad. Lone, Pushkar Bhan, Sajood Sailani, GR Santosh, Moti Lal Kemmu, Bansi Nirdosh, Avtar Krishen Rehber and Hriday Kaul Bharti.

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 the audience enjoying every dialogue and its delivery from Makhan Lal Saraf. Another play, ‘Mool ( roots )’ became quite popular in 2016. The play was written and directed by Makhan Lal Saraf. He performed the lead role of Niranjan Nath Bamzai in this play. In 2018, he gave a splendid performance in “Poshgondh “, a play that portrayed the ground realities of the disintegration of Kashmiri Pandit families after the forced migration from the Kashmir valley.

As an actor and writer, he commands an enormous fan following and love in the entire Kashmir valley. Presently he is a little lonely man on account of the death of his wife. He misses his Kashmir wherefrom he had to move out in 1990 due to widespread militancy. Age is also not on his side. It has played upon his health and for the last three years, he has not been seen in theatre activities. Most of the third generation of theatre artists from Kashmir have either worked with him or have been directly trained by him. The fraternity of these artists gives due regard to him as their Guru. 

Not many of us know that he also wrote poetry for some time in his youth. Those days he was known as Makhan Lal 'Mastana ' to his friends and well-wishers. He is a recipient of many awards both within the state and outside the State.


( Autar Mota )





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 a shabby-looking 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 begs for favours and material benefits from others. For beauty and height, Kashmiris use the word ‘Kazaakh teer’ or sheep and goats of Kazakhstan. One vividly remembers how in the 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 Mohammad had to step down from his chair. Nicknaming and lampooning were favourite amusements of Kashmiris. Many Kashmiri surnames are a result of this Kashmirian trait.


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



Sutradhaar used to come at 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 multitask. He is a bridge between the actors on the stage and the audience.



A Vidhushak is a jester, a clown or a comedian,so essential to build audience interest apart from giving entertainment value to the drama/ play.


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