Sunday, August 22, 2010


  Between Sazgaari Pora and Nowshehra Srinagar lies a ziyarat popularly known as Ziyarat Syed Madni        Sahib.People over here call it as Madeen Sahib Ziyarat (  Hazrat Syed Mohammed Madni ( R A ) sahib ) as well. One can trace it to the north western side of Hari Parbat fort or exactly behind Industrial estate of    Baghe  Ali Mardaan Khan .The structure is considered to be a master piece of kashmiri Architcture  relating to king Zain Ul Abdin 's period .

As per    “Biographical Encyclopaedia of Sufis: South Asia ” a Book compiled  By N. Hanif  ( page 203 )  Saiyed Muhammed  Madni commonly known as "Madin Sahib" in kashmir was originally from Madina. He came to India along with the invading forces of Timur . From Sindh , Timur deputed Saiyed Madni to Kashmir  to be his envoy in the court of  Sultan Sikander . So Saiyed Madni came to Kashmir along with his family and settled in Rainawari .  Though a disciple of Mir Muhammed Hamdaani ,he did not show any interest in teaching or preaching in Kashmir  and lived a quiet saintly life . He also did not receive any special favours from sultan sikander whose patronage had brought him to Kashmir . However  when Sultan Zain Ul Abdin  came to power , he  became a devotee of  Saiyed  Madni and requested the saint to shift to his new capital near  Nowshera .There he built a Khaanqaah for the saint close to his own palace . Saiyed Madni died on 13th October 1445 AD and his tomb still exists at Hawal ( Nowshera ) in srinagar.

The Ceramic tiles ,  Pinjara kaari of windows( Being redone now ),  Exquisite  Wood work , the Birch roof with mud over it  , Naqsho Nigaari  and the dome of the Ziyarat are unparalleled in style and architecture.
There had been some controversy with regard to control of this shrine( Between Shia and Sunni Community ) after the death of Sultan Zain Ul Abdin  as a result of which the shrine had to be closed for  a long period..The structure also suffered some damage in a devastating fire . During sultan's time , the Ziyarat had a huge surrounding area where a Madrasa , Hamam , Khaankaah and a Langer Khaana was built . The sultan would also frequent this place . Thanx to State Archeology Department the shrine is being   restored  to its Grandeur  and glory.The walls and ceiling of this structure stand restored to original shape .The stones dating back to Sultan Zain Ul Abdin's period are also being polished . It is reported that the main door of the shrine is in British Museum. This is the only shrine in valley representing all essential features of old kashmiri architecture .

 I end this  brief post with a couplet of  my favourite poet Allama Iqbal

Woh Bandigi Khudaai  Woh Bandigi Gadhaai ,
Yaa Bandaa e  Khudaa Ban Yaa Bandaa e zamaana ..
Gaafil Naa Ho Khudee se kar Apni Paasbaani ,
Shaayad Kissi Haram Kaa Tu bhi Hai Aastaana.  

( Autar Mota )

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Saturday, August 21, 2010


“I vividly remember Miss Mehmooda Ahmed Ali shah ( The then Principal of Women college Srinagar ) coming to our house on 9th December 1973 , throwing her shawl to  the ground and sitting on the  floor with us to mourn the death of my father She wept  like a child hugging my mother for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. Wiping her tears ,she said to my mother   in chaste Kashmiri

Jaya ji Metti Chhu Dahan Dohunn Dokhuss Beuhun. Su Auss Me Boayy.

(Jaya ji I have to also sit for the 10 day mourning . He was my brother .)

I was informed by my mother that Dr Naseer Ahmed Shah , Dr Tahir Mirza , Members of Sadiq Sahib’s family ,Sh Abdul Haq Barq and my father's  childhood friend Sheikh Ghulam Mohd Frequented our house during the mourning period. Syed Mir Qasim, who was the chief Minister at that time sent a message to us that he had decided to send me to Baroda for proper Training in Art absolutely free on a  Government scholarship.Possibly my father had conveyed my interest in Art and painting to his close friends like Sadiq Sahib , Syed Mir Qasim , Poet Dina Nath Naadim and D P Dhar. Support and sympathy poured in from all quarters .We were poor and incompetent to handle this wave of support and sympathy .Consequently  My mother had to keep  the struggle continued for  survival of the family  and education of her children. We clung to her like infants for emotional and material support.” 

Said Ramesh Ji wiping his tears .

 I could make out his Artistic nature from his handwriting , delicate  but long fingers , facial expressions and above all his lovely handwriting . I had seen some paintings of this colleague of mine and that created my interest in his Background . And Lo !He turned out to be the son of the unsung VINCENT VAN GOGH ( 1853-1890) of Kashmir whom the Artist Fraternity still remembers as Som Nath Butt or S N Butt .
.” My father would also sing K L Saigal songs . Dilip Kumar was his favourite actor . He must have seen Dilip Kumar's  Daag 30 times.He was greatly touched by Dilip Kumar"s role as Devdass. Naadim Sahib was a frequent visitor to our house .In fact my father had designed the Sets for Naadim sahib immortal opera “Bombur Ta Yemberzal ” Apart from this ,he enjoyed listening to Sufiana Music , Lal Vaakhs and Shams Faquir ‘s compositions . My sisters Asha ji and Veena ji were quite attached to him . They are married since and live happily with their families .I can say that by thought he appeared to be a Marxist yet at heart he was a Dervesh in true sense . He was full of compassion and yes a little careless about his own self . He gave some of the priceless painting to his friends free. He would easily believe anybody and was instantly moved to see any pain and suffering forgetting his own self.” Added Ramesh ji with a sigh .

Som Nath Butt was born in  1925 at Badyar Bala Locality in Srinagar City in the neighbourhood of Naadim Sahib’s Lal Ded Girls School..He too volunteered to serve the refugees from Baramulla town who had been housed in the school building after the tribal raid of 1947 , The pain and suffering he witnessed in this camp drifted him temporarily to Marxism though he never belonged to any political party nor happened to be an atheist. I am informed by the family that in fact he would visit the shrines of Dastgeer sahib, Maqdoom Sahib and Reshi Peer as and when he found time . He always kept a photograph of Swami Ram Tirath in his pocket .

After completing his F.Sc. from S P College Srinagar som Nath Butt  went to Gulmarg (to live with his elder sister ) where his Brother in Law Pandit Radha Krishen Koul worked in a Hotel owned by a European .It was here  that the  young sensitive boy who had lost his mother in his infancy , came in direct contact with nature enabling him to express himself through a select medium using paper and pencils . .An Artist was thus born at Gulmarg only.


  ( Winter Scene in Kashmir .. A Monochrome by Som Nath Butt  Source  Kapil Kaul Austria )
        ( Som Nath Butt With Minoo Masani ... Photo Source Dr Ramesh Tamiri )
When Renowned Artist S H Raza visited Kashmir sometime around the partition of the country  and met almost all local Artists , He picked up S N Butt as his student and taught him intensely for two months . This period exposed the young Artist to basic styles and forms of Art like Cubism ,Surrealism, Impressionism, Expressionism, Abstract Art , Portrait drawing and many other Indian forms of Folk Art. Raza also introduced a variety of European artists to Butt and most significantly Vincent Van Gogh . Enough training for this genius who never looked back after this interaction.. Along with Triloke Kaul , S N Butt held a two Men Painting Exhibition at Mumbai in 1950 . Noticing his fresh style ,.Many newspapers carried a lead story under the caption:
                           “ A New Star is born on Art Horizon of the country  ”

           ('  TWO  FLOWERS' A  Monochrome.. year1950 By Som Nath Butt..This looks like  Vincent Van Gogh's   ' Flowers' )

After returning from Mumbai   he kept painting  with renewed vigour and in varied forms .He also won president’s Gold medal and a two year scholar ship for a project on Kashmir Shawl Designs.While Naadim sahib headed the Progressive writers Association , S N Butt became the founder of Progressive Artists Association in Kashmir . This Progressive movement in Kashmir was patronized by Balraj Sahni ,S H Raza and Percy Brown .Later P N Kachru another trained Artist from Rainawari joined them and the Trio as they came to be know,  heralded the modern Art movement in Kashmir.This trio later joined the School of Design opened by Jammu And Kashmir Government in different positions and capacities .

 Another Artist Mohan Raina , residing in Badyar Bala locality   joined the School of Design later. While in Kashmir , M F Hussain  would  invariably come  to meet S N Butt  and other artists many times in this School of Design only. G R Santosh who was also trained at Baroda joined this group but  shifted his base to New Delhi to work as full time painter .In fact prior to his formal training at Baroda,  G R Santosh learnt Art from S N Butt only . So did he teach Kishori Kaul another renowned artist from Kashmir.
Though most of the paintings of S N Butt have disappeared and are in private possession yet a few still decorate the walls of prominent Art Galleries of the country . Some  were also on display at Tourist  Reception Centre Srinagar before being suddenly removed and shifted to some unknown destination . I am also informed by the family that some Paintings were in possession of Sadiq Sahib’s family .The artist's  family has none   with them.

 Influence of Dutch Painter VAN GOGH is starkly visible in his form and style. Through colour schemes , Powerful fusion of form and content , he created his own style in Figurative Abstract .

This artist was able to explain either his struggle against the system and circumstances or his comprehension of the spiritual essence of man and nature .

                          (  A water colour portrait of S N Butt by S H Raza done in 1948 ..Source Internet )

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ( A painting by S N Butt )

 Prof. jaya Parimu Adds :

 “ The above  painting of S.N.Buttt was hanging in the auditorium of Women's college for some time. Sadiq Sahib was requested to arrange the sale through the office of Cultural Academy of his works when Butt Sahib was in a precarious condition.He had to have some money for his sustenance. Alcoholism had spoiled his health and his precious pieces of art were lying for want of recognition and sale.Several paintings of his got distributed in different institutions.

His main forte was figurative abstract and Alleys,homes ,Roofs,Attics was mainly shown whatever pieces I had chance to see.He was a great artist of the century. Had received Praise  from British Art connoisseurs. A known colourist.Unsung and now unheard in the World of Art .” 

Well Known writer , Painter and Broadcaster Pran Kishore Kaul Informs :

“It was  Syed Hyder Raza who had seen a passionate spark in S.N. Bhat’s paintings which we came to know later on. That is why Raza had taken him under his tutelage. Not only he but Trilok Kaul and another amateur painter from Rainawari Prithvi Nath Kachroo who too kept on visiting Raza whenever he was free.
 And to introduce modernism in painting in Kashmir God had sent an angel in the form of Syed Haider Raza. He became a binding factor between S.N.Bhat and Trilok Kaul.    P.N. Kachroo joined them later. Bhat had found out a place for Raza to live in near his own house. And as such he along with Trilok Kaul would spend lot of time with him. Sometimes P.N. Kachroo too would be with them. They would go on long walks over the bund which was the best avenue those days for a peaceful and inspiring stroll. Raza had become their mentor. 

          One thing was sure that  S H Raza  had become a favourite friend of S.N. Bhat  to whom, he would affectionately call him by his pet name ‘ Lassa’.

Another great influence S.N.Bhat had imbibed from, was the great poet, painter, writer and art historian Percy Brown who had settled in Kashmir after having retired from the Government school for Arts and Crafts, Calcutta. He had contributed a lot to the development of The Technical College in Srinagar too. D. N. Wali too had got his patronage in Calcutta from where he had started as a professional painter after completing his training there. Dr. Percy Brown had married the pretty daughter of the British Resident of Kashmir Col. Talbot, Muriel Talbot rechristened Catherine. She had lived with her father and had got mesmerized not only by the scenic beauty of Kashmir but also by the charm of the simplicity of the people living here. This had turned her into a poet. She later on brought out a poetic compilation too entitled Chinar Leaves. Percy brown too had been fascinated by Kashmir and the marriage to Catherine brought him closer to Kashmir. That is why he settled in Kashmir after his retirement and spent rest of his days in a houseboat which he had named Catherine in the memory of his wife, near the Srinagar Club till his death. He was even buried here in the cemetery of Sheikh Bagh where his wife too had been laid to rest.
This digression from talking about S.N. Bhat was important because Dr. Percy Brown played an important role in  S N Bhat’s  grooming. Percy Brown had seen Bhat sitting on the Bund facing the river and drawing on his sketch book. Percy Brown after watching him silently, must have seen a spark in him.Because he drew Bhat’s attention to him and then even talked to him. This encouraged Bhat to visit Dr. Brown quite a few times and I presume it must have been he from whom Bhat had learnt expressionism in landscape painting. And when he came in contact with Syed Haider Raza,  he got enlightened about impressionism, cubism, even sur-realism. Raza introduced Bhat to great masters like Paul C’zzane, Gauguin, Van Gauge and other great masters who had broken the old schools of painting and had found new paths. It was not he alone but even Trilok Kaul, P.N. Kachroo and to a great extent Santosh did get introduced to these experiments in painting in their long meetings with Raza. Cézanne being the father of Cubism became a great influence on S.N. Bhat.

S H  Raza motivated S.N.Bhat and  Triloke Kaul to move out of Kashmir and have an exhibition in the main centre of art, Bombay ,which they did. We kept eagerly waiting for the news about their exhibition because we felt it was our own exhibition. I am again reliving the moment of joy while writing these memoirs about  what we felt when the press reviews appeared in the National Press from Bombay. S.N.Bhat had been hailed by the critics as “A new star born on the horizon of Indian Paintings”. After this successful exhibition in Bombay Trilok Kaul returned to Kashmir while Bhat was detained by some affluent connoisseur of art and given space to live and to paint with all the facility he needed included a couple of drinks to relax. That made S.N.Bhat a known figure in the social circles of Bombay. It was during that sojourn in Bombay that Bhat came into contact with Balraj Sahni  who belonged more to Kashmir than Bombay. This Bombay life continued for some time for Bhat.

 When S.N.Bhat  returned from  Bombay, he was being held in high esteem especially by the intellectuals. So all the painters of the younger generation became conscious that though the gift of painting had been given to them by the Almighty God but professional training too was important. It was S.N.Bhat who was now like a godfather for them. He meanwhile had got introduced to some Army Officers who were interested in fine arts. The vibrant colours and the new technique of S.N.Bhat that he used in his paintings, influenced by modern painters of Europe like  Cézanne and Paul Klee, fascinated them. They purchased some of his paintings too for their mess. This encouraged him to join some of their parties too. It drove him towards  the pleasure of having a couple of drinks. That gradually started his journey through alcohol. But he continued painting and we loved him for that. Not only for that, but also for his affection he had for everyone and the love he showered on his friends.
 It was in that scenario that the popular bar of Laba Kaul came up in Regal Chowk that turned soon into the ‘Moulin Rogue’ for the painters, writers and intellectuals where they started meeting and relax over a drink and sizzling kebabs. S.N.Bhat, became a favourite of Laba Kaulthe owner of the joint.  G R Santosh, Trilok Kaul, P N  Kachru too would assemble there. Great  meetings, great discussions, petty quarrels and heated arguments. That was the evening scene at Laba Kaul’s ‘Moulin Rouge.’
It was during that period that under the Government Of India scheme a School of Design was started to revive the fast fading out cottage industry in the state and to introduce new designs especially in textiles and carpets, to meet the demands of the modern markets. Naturally this organisation needed painters and designers. So the natural choice to approach was S.N.Bhat, Santosh, Trilok Kaul, and others. Santosh did not want to tie himself to a fixed job. The Government motivated Trilok Kaul and S.N.Bhat to join .They agreed. Trilok Kaul because of his high academic attainment was appointed as the Director and S.N.Bhat, P.N. Kachroo and few others as specialists for designing.
As they had to prove their worth at designing, most of their time was taken by the pressures of the job. This left them little time to paint and since G R  Santosh had all the time he kept on painting and experimenting. Rest is history as far as G R  Santosh’s progress in the world of painting is concerned. But Trilok Kaul and S N  Bhat too would participate in different exhibitions. Though the job at the School of Design turned as that of any other Government Job for S.N.Bhat yet his faculties did not lax. He did create some designs which spoke of the genius in him. But the painter in him was fading out slowly. We thought it was a phase of hibernation and Goliath would wake up and strike back. But unfortunately that was not happening.
During that sluggish period he met me one day on the bund walking towards Sonawar. He hugged me which was his trait whenever we met. After usual greetings he asked me where was I going. I told him,
“ Home   . Come let us have a cup of tea there. It is just across the bridge.”
“ I know. Some other time.”
When I pressed him, he agreed and we started crossing the Old Zero bridge. He stopped midway and looked upstream and then down the flow. Then turned to me and asked,
“Doesn’t Jhelum look like a long lake from here.”
It did. It was the same question which the old lovable Col. Dickey asked me one day when he had met me when I was crossing the bridge while going to office. Col. Dickey had settled down in a house boat anchored near the Lloyd’s Bank after his retirement and used to present Western Music programme from our Radio Station. Col. Dickey had fallen so much in love with the waters of Kashmir that he, like the poet Shelley, finally drowned himself in the waters of Dal lake.
Coming back to S.N.Bhat. looking at the water wit the towering Shankaracharya hill and the mountain range behind he suddenly became serious and told me,
“Let us sit somewhere. No not at your place.”
I could feel that he wanted to talk and confide something. So we walked down to Ahdoo’s Hotel.Sipping tea there he opened up. When I broached the subject of his stopping painting he said,
“ No I have not stopped it. I am confused. Didn’t you see today standing there in the centre of the bridge what over awing magnificence wrapped us around, our entire existence for a few moments. We struggle to create. Create what? Can anything be created beyond what has already been created. Destroy and then re-create ? I am lost. You may try to escape. But then you can’t escape from yourself. That is the confusion.”
He then smiled and holding my hand said,
“Don’t worry I can’t help it. I have to paint. If for nothing else but to protect my existence amongst you all who have given me love, in spite of my weaknesses.”
He suddenly got up and said,
 “ I must go now. Sorry I had forgotten that I have to meet somebody.”
 I too got up and left with him. He accompanied me up to the Zero Bridge and then huggedme and walked up the bund towards Sonawar. From Ahdoo’s Hotel to Zero Bridge he kept quiet and I too was lost in his thoughts.
After that day I must have met him a couple of times since the pressure of work in the Radio did not give me much time to meet friends except Ghulam Rasool Santosh and Ali Mohammad Lone and some writers who wroter Radio Plays for me, like Som Nath Zutshi and others. I talked to  G R Santosh about my meeting with Som Nath Bhat. He was pained and said that in spite of promises Bhat had not left drinking. Even Trilok Kaul, P N  Kachroo who were his friends and colleagues and his other friends had tried but of no avail. Tragedy was that they all loved him.
Among his admirers were persons like Dr. Naseer, the great educationalist Prof. Mahmooda Ahmad Ali Shah, D.P.Dhar even Khwaja Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq. It was because their efforts and coaxing of Som Nath Zutshi that I heard that S.N.Bhat had started painting again. Zutshi who used to visit him told me one day that Bhat had given up drinking and was drowned in painting. He in fact wanted to have a one man exhibition soon. It was the best news we could have .
And finally the Goliath had woken up. The date of his one man exhibition was announced and it was because of the efforts of Som Nath Zutshi that Sadiq Sahib had agreed to inaugurate the exhibition. It was a great event. Bhat’s friends and well wishers had assembled in The Tourist Centre Hall. The paintings had been displayed in the opposite smaller hall. And when Sadiq Sahib cut the ribbon and threw the exhibition open a world of colour was there to see. Everyone became emotional to see the rebirth of the ‘New Star, that had risen’ years back ‘ on the Horizon of Indian Painting’. Every painting was a feast of colour. Every frame had captured different moods of the land that had given the artist his birth and now a reincarnation. It was a day when history was created in the field of art in Kashmir. The entire exhibition was declared by Sadiq Sahib as sold. Thanks to the patronage of Mahmooda ji a genuine lover of art and literature. These paintings were purchased by the government and distributed to different offices for display. And I hope they are still there. Everyone was very happy for Bhat. But as every one of that era knows that this exhibition of Som Nath Bhat was his ‘Swan Song’. Because after some time this talented artist again set himself on a path of self destruction.
He again hit the bottle stopped painting and that was his finale.”

Prof Arvind  Gigoo Adds :

“S N Butt's two paintings were hanging on the wall of the staff room of Amar Singh College. One painting was with Agha Ashraf Ali. One painting was neglected in the library of Kashmir University. I don't know what happened to those  paintings.”

Stalwart Artist   Triloke kaul adds :

“ Balraj Sahni was our common friend .He had a special liking for people from Kashmir valley.Always helpful. He was a great admirer of S N Butt’s Art. In fact S N Butt was quite close to Balraj Sahni .  They would have their drinks together . “
His addiction to liquor cut short his life and his productive years ,forcing him to remain in Hospital for long periods . Yet  he continued to paint till his last days . His family informs me that 1970 , 1971 and 1972 were liquor-free years for him .He held Many Exhibitions. In 1971 he held a one man exhibition inaugurated by  G M Sadiq  ( CM ). Late Bhagwan Sahay the then governor of the state, who was bed ridden   came with his  plastered leg supported by his daughter to see his favourite Artist’s work. He was also elevated to membership of Lalit Kala Academy New Delhi. When Sadiq Sahib was admitted to  PGI Chandigarh, he would call his friend S N Butt frequently   or keep writing to him regularly confiding even some intimate  family secrets to  this artist.
Something went wrong somewhere and Bobuji ( as he was called affectionately by his family ) again started drinking heavily after his visit to Jammu in 1973 to attend an Artist conference.. He fell sick and had to be admitted to hospital in Jammu. The family shifted him to Srinagar where he was Again admitted to SMHS hospital for about two months. On a wintry morning of 9th Dec 1973, this great Artist and human being bade good bye to this world ..Like modern Punjabi Poet Shiv Kumar Batalavi, he too died at a young age leaving friends weeping and his own family in grave crisis.

During my research work for this book, I came to know that four paintings of S.N.Butt titled ‘The Houses’, ‘Landscape - I ’, ‘ landscape- II ‘ and ‘Autumn ‘  were acquired by the J&K Academy of Art,  Culture, and Languages before his death but the fate of these paintings is not known. I also came to know that S.N.Butt had attended the October 1949 exhibition held by Progressive Artists Association in  New Delhi.   This was the first major art exhibition held by the Progressive Artists Association outside the state.This exhibition was inaugurated by Prof. Humayun Kabir. It was widely covered by newspapers. The newspapers described S.N.Butt as a  'wizard of colour combinations'.

I have also uploaded a view of Jhelum Ghat near  Lal Ded Girls School Badyar Bala  Srinagar.The artist lived  in this locality .

I end this post with lines from a poem of my favourite  Bulgarian poet Nikola Vaptsarov ( 1909 -1942 ).In early 1941 Nazi forces were allowed to enter Bulgaria and take control of the country as a prelude to the attack on the USSR.Vaptsarov joined the armed resistance movement. Arrested by Nazi forces  in 1942 and subjected to inhuman torture, he was  finally executed on 23rd July, 1942.

‘History, will you mention us

In your faded scroll?’
For the hardship and affliction

We do not seek rewards,
Nor do we want our pictures
In the calendar of years.
Just tell our story simply
To those we shall not see,
Tell those who will replace us –
We fought courageously.

( Autar Mota )

 Creative Commons License

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.