Wednesday, October 30, 2013



When respect is intended to be shown, Kashmiris use words like Huz or Mahara. Muslims use Huz which is believed to be a shortcut for Hazarat. In the Arab world, the word Hazarat is used with religious persons or respected personalities. It is a title prefixed to the name of a saint or any respected person . I found people from Turkey and Iran using word Hazarat  .It is also equivalent to the normal Western honorific addressing high officials as "your honour" or  “your majesty ”.In Kashmir when the word Huz is used, the intention is to convey “ I respect you ”. The word Mahara used by Pandits is a shortcut for Maharaj. The word Maharaj comes from two Sanskrit words, Mahat/Maha meaning  "Great," and “Rajan” meaning, "King".While the literal meaning of the word Maharaj is “Great King ”, it is used as a title to address men who hold high, noble or religious office. Kashmiri  Pandits use it for elders to demonstrate respect and regard. Amongst Kashmiri Pandits, the word  Mahara is used to convey, “ I respect you ”. 

Other titles of address that Kashmiris use are as under;

(1 ) Joo …Elders are shown respect and addressed with their names suffixed with "joo", like Ram Joo,  Krishen Joo, Subhan Joo, and Qadir Joo. Both Hindus and Muslims use Joo.

(2 ) Sahib ... Sahib means Sir or Master and was especially popular among the native inhabitants of colonial India when addressing or speaking of a European of some social or official status. It is also a general title for the boss, ‘ Sahib Chha Aamut’  … ‘Has the boss come? It was also used for addressing Europeans in Kashmir like  Biscoe Sahib or Neve Sahib for Tyndale Biscoe or Dr Arthur Neve. Kashmiris also suffix it with surname to give respect like Dar Sahib, Dhar Sahib, and Koul Sahib.  The word has been carried over and put to extensive use even after the freedom from British rule. Sahib is also used for Almighty or God.

(3 ) Haej Saaeb … Used while addressing an elderly person who has performed Haj.

(4) Pandit Ji …Used for showing respect to an elderly Kashmiri Pandit while addressing him. Pandit Ji is also substituted by the word Bobu Ji when Muslims address an elderly Kashmiri Pandit.

( 5) Khwaja Saeb… Khawaja means master or lord. The title is also closely related to other terms in Sufism or one can say a spiritual title but practically in Kashmir, it is used to address a person who is well-off or belongs to the upper strata of the society. The word Khwjabaai is used for females to show respect.

( 7 )  Kaak .. A  member of a Kashmiri family who is elderly, wise and has rich experience of life.

( Avtar Mota )
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013




Ye Udaas Udaas Bujhi Bujhi Koyee Zindagi Hai “ Firaq ” Ki ..
Magar Aaj Kisht e Sukhanvari Hai Ussi Ke Dum se chaman chaman
( Firaq )

Firaq was born in 1896 AD and married in 1913 AD to Kishori Devi . As per firaq , it was a marriage by deception. It turned out to be an unsuccessful and unhappy marriage . Two Daughters and a son were born through this marriage . Death of his only son and his elder daughter brought enormous pain in Firaq's life. And Firaq had no one close to him to share this grief .Firaq informs ...
“ Any one in my place would have opted out for a second marriage or succumbed helplessly to the situation. But I did not. As a result , my whole life has been a tale of suffering and loneliness. I have always wished in vain that some one should treat me as his own or that I should have some one to call as my own."

shiv ka vishpaan to suuna hogaa
Mein Bhi Aey dost Pi Gayaa Aanssoo

(You must have heard Shiva's poison drinking feat
I too , O friend, was obliged to gulp down my tears.)

Logon ki samajh Mein Aa Na sakaa Kuchh mujh ko bhi hai Taa’jub sa
Sunn Meri Udaasi Ka Kaaran Aey Humdum Bahut Akela Huun

( People can not understand , I too am amazed
Know then why I am so sad : I am so forlorn ! )

Ek Umar Kat gayee Hai Tere Intezaar mein
Aisay Bhi hain Ki Kat Na saki Jin se eik Raat

( This life I have spent in your waiting
There are some who could not bear even a Night’s waiting )

 Garaz ke kaat Diye Zindagi ke din Aey Dost
Woh teri yeed Mein ho ya tujhe Bhulaane mein

(Somehow , I spent my days dear friend ,
Be it remembering you or trying to forget .)

Firaq iss Gardish e ayyam se kab kaam nikala hai
Sehar honay ko hum bhi raat ka jaana samajhtein hain. .

( When has the wheel of time come to our rescue Firaq
We too think the birth of morning as the end of the night )

Dikhaa To Deitii hai behtar Hayaat ke sapnay
Kharaab ho key bhi yeh zindagi kharaab nahin.

( It can stiil dream the dreams of happier state
This wretched life , after all, is not devoid of hope.)

Dil Jo Maara gayaa Firaq to Kyaa
Zindagi bhar issi ka Maatam ho ?

( If the heart has been mauled in love ,

Should we mourn it all our life ? )

Firaq wrote a long poem “Aadhi Raat ko ” or  “At Mid Night ”. The poem is a wonderful creative work of  the poet. The poem was composed in 1944 . The poem  describes a midnight scene. The silence and a feeling of  some loss all around .Trees standing in silence like a shy Indian  bride.  Flowers drenched in dew.  And the poet’s pain and suffering desiring a change for the better. Poet’s  loneliness   and  the events of world war especially the March of  victorious Russian soldiers towards Berlin is also described in some lines of this poem  . I quote some select lines ..

Siyaah peid hain ab Aap apni Parchhaai
Zameen se ta Mah o Anjum Sukoot ke meenar
Jidhar nigaah karein eik Athhaah Gumshudagi
Falak pe Taaron ko Pehlee Jamaahiyaan Aayeen
Khadaa hai  ous mein Chup-chaap Harsingaar ka peid
Dulhan ho jaisay hayaa ki sugandh se Bojhal
Jagaa Rahaa hai koyee Aadhi Raat ka jaadu
Chhalak Rahi hai Khum o Gaib se Sharaab e Wujood

Yeh Mehv e Khwaab hain Rangeen Machhliyaan Tah e Aab
Ki Hauz e Sehan Mein Ab in ki Chashmakein Bhi Nahin
Yeh sarnigoon hain sar e Shaakh Phool GUDHAL ke
Ke jaisay Be Bujhay Angaaray Thanday Pad Jaayein
Ke jaisay Seena e Shaair mein koyee khwaab palay
Ki Khwaab Jis se puraana Nizam e Gham Badlay
Ke khwaab saanchay mein jis ke nayee hayaat Dalay
Ek aadmi hai ki itnaa Dukhi hai duniyaa mein.

Gulon Ne Chaadar e Shabnam mein Munh Lapeit Liyaa
Labon pe so gayee kaliyon ki muskaraahat bhi
Guzar Rahein hain kayee kaarwaan Dhundhalkay ke
Zameen se Ta Ba Falak Intezaar ka aalam
Hayaat pardaa e Shab mein Badalti Hai Pehloo
Zamaana Kitnaa Ladaayee ka Reh Gaya hogaa
Ab inquilaab mein shaayad Ziyaada deir nahin
Sipaah e Roos hai Ab kitani door *Berlin se………

(*It is pertinent to mention that  in 1944, the Western Allies invaded France, while the Soviet Union regained all of its territorial losses and invaded Germany and its allies.)

Aanay Waali Naslein Tum par Naaz kareingi Humasron
Jab Inn Ko Yeh Dhyaan Aayegaa tum ne Firaq ko Dekhaa thaa.

( Coming generations shall feel proud of you , O ,People of My time ,
Whenever they come to think that you had seen FIRAQ )
“ I was selected for prestigious ICS ( Indian civil service ) and offered the post of Deputy collector by the British Government .I left the job and joined independence movement under Gandhi Ji’s leadership. I went to prison many times along with Maulana Hasrat Mohani , Moti Lal Nehru , Jawahar Lal Nehru , Rafi Ahmed kidwai .
My father had died so did my younger brother Tripurari saran die of TB. Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru wanted me to take charge of Undersecretary ship of the congress party on a monthly salary of Rs250/. I accepted the offer . The work I was required to do , perhaps none could do though this work did not keep me much busy . I would spend quite good time in the company of Munshi Prem Chand and Poet Majnoon Gorakhpuri .

            (Firaq being presented Sahitya Academy Award  by  Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1960)

InAgra jail I had met Hazrat Niaz Fatehpuri who was a loveable personality . This company awakened the poetic instinct and a serious drift towards literature within me . I worked with congress party for about five years . From 1922 to 1927  and was frequently imprisoned along with other leaders of the country’s Freedom struggle . 
During this period , I also came to know the mighty personalities of Chitranjan Dass , Gandhi ji and Maulana Azad . Gandhi ji wanted me to join as Professor at Gujrat Vidyapeeth as he had seen my command over written and spoken Urdu , Hindi and English. In 1930 after completing my  MA in English , I joined Allahabad university as a lecturer and wherefrom i retired in 1958. I taught English literature , wrote urdu poetry and read everything that was produced by Hindi writers of my time. ”

Sar Zameen e Hind pe Aqwaame Aalam Ke firaq
Kaafilay Bastay gaye Hindostaan Bantaa gayaa
( Firaq )
( In this land that is India, Groups from many nations of the world kept settling ,
That is how India kept emerging and assembling itself . )

Aagoshe Mulaayam mein Sulaaya Hum ko
Khaamosh awaaz se Jagaaya Hum ko
Kuchh Hum Bhi Banaayein Teray Bigaday Huve kaam
Aey Khaak e wattan Tuunay banaaya hum ko
( Firaq )

You cuddled us to sleep in your soft lap
You broke our deep slumber with soft voice
O Motherland ! let us too lessen your troubles
You just moulded us to the shape we keep ..

Firaq Gorakhpuri  wrote many short stories . Some popular stories that got published  and widely read are
(1)   Safal jeevan
(2)   Sach kahaan hai
(3)    Deep Nirvaan
(4)   Dahi Ka Bartan
(5)   Swarn Hiran
(6)   Santoo
(7)   Rain Basera
 His father  Munshi Gorakh Prasad Ibrat ( Urdu Poet ) was a leading advocate and a scholar of urdu , Arabic ,  Persian and Sanskrit. Firaq also studied all these languages and mastered Persian , Urdu , Sanskrit and  Hindi. A taste for English literature made him to complete his MA in English .During his childhood , Firaq was deeply influenced by Ramayana , Mahabharata , Tulsi , kabir’s Nirguna philosophy and Advaita philosophy . About stories that shaped his childhood , FIRAQ   informs  in his long poem HINDOLA . I quote

“Woh  Nal Daman Ki kathha Sarguzasht e savitri
Shakuntala ki Kahaani Bharat Ki Qurbaani
Woh  Marg e Bheesham Pitamaah Woh Seij Teeron ki
Woh Paanchon Pandavon ke swarg Yatra  ki Kathhaa
Wattan se Rukhsatay Sidhaarthh Ram ka Banwaas
Wafaa ke Baad Bhi Seeta ki Woh Jalaa-wattani
Woh Raaton Raat ko Sri Krishen ko Uthaaye Huve
Balaa Ki Qaid se Vasudev ka Nikal Jaana
Woh Andhakaar Ki Baarish Badi Huyee Yamuna
Gham Aafreen Kahaani Woh Heer Ranjha ki
Shaooray Hind ke bachapan Ki Yaadgaar e Azeem
Innhi Fasaanon Mein Pinhaa Thhay Zindagi Ke Ramooz
Innhii Fasaanon Mein Khultay Thay Raazhaa e Hayaat
Inhi Fasaanon Mein Miltii Thhii Zeest Ki Qadarain”

( Firaq Gorakhpuiri )



Not many of us know that Raghupati Sahai Firaq Gorakhpuri also wrote short stories and DOHAAS ( Two Liners) . I am  posting  five DOHAAS of Firaq .

Nirdhan kavi ke Paas Kyaa -Kuchh Peeda Kuchh Preet,
Kuchh Andekhay Sapne hain _ Dard Bharay Kuchh Geet

Dharti Ko jeeta Magar Zarray se gaye haar
Saagar Eik Chhalaang ka Qatraa Apram-paar

Piyaa daras Ho jaayega- Suun Meray Do Bol
Sar Ki Aankhein Bandh kar Mun Ki Aankhein Khol

Bun aseem Vistaar ka Mun Hai Woh Maidaan
Bin Paani Bin Hawaa ke Uthay jahaan Toofaan.

Aansoo ki woh Boond jo Palak aut Reh Jaaye
Uss-say Kahin Bahumulya hai Jo Aansoo Beh jaaye .

( Autar Mota 29.10.2013 )

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Friday, October 25, 2013


Photo Autar Mota 


Sikhs who had a substantial presence in Muzaffarabad,Mirpur, Baramulla, Poonch, Rawalkote and Kotli were Brahmins who were converted to Sikhism either by 6th Guru or during the rule of Raja Sukh Jeevan Mal .These Sikhs write Bali, Issar, Dutta, Sasan, Raina , Reen ,Soodan and other Brahmin surnames.These Sikhs have a fair complexion.
Most of them who were living in POK had to come to Jammu Camps as refugees after the partition of the country. Special camps were set up for them in Jammu’s Gole Gujral, Simbal and Bhour and some more  villages in 1947.  A handful of these POK refugees opted to stay in Kashmir valley. These refugees could be seen living in Dharmshalas of Temple Complex  near Rambagh Bridge or  Chhatti Paadshaahi Gurudwara near Saida Kadal in Srinagar city  .  Like many innocent people who used to live in peace and brotherhood for centauries in this  subcontinent, these Sikhs  also suffered a lot during the Tribal Raid  and the communal frenzy of 1947  .

 Some  Sikhs mostly ( Sodhis / Rissam ) were settled in uninhabited areas and Karewas of Kashmir. They were granted agricultural land by Hari Singh Nalwa, Bhiman Singh and Sher Singh who were the governors or revenue collectors of Kashmir during Sikh rule.
As per Swarn Singh president of Central Committee of All Jammu and Kashmir Refugees (1947)

“ I am a native of Kotli in Muzaffarabad now  in POK. I headed the delegation that visited POK sometime back.. Our Historic Gurdwara near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), has been partly demolished and converted into police lines. At the time of partition, Sikh presence in POK was substantial . After the communal  riots  of 1947 .  majority of Sikhs migrated to India, while the remaining were either converted or killed . All the six members of the Sikh Jatha that I headed were guests of a relative who has converted into Islam. The neo-converts in POK are now called Sheikhs.”

Some Sikhs were also settled in Kashmir after Maharaja Ranjit singh’s forces entered the valley . These Sikhs now live in Traal , Palapora , Chithisinghpora , Hutmurrah , Ranbirpora ,Tahab, Khanpur Sarai ,Beerwa , Nowgaam ,Mattan ,and some more villages in South kashmir . These Sikhs are mostly Sodhis / Rissam  who too were Brahmins . These Sikhs were settled in uninhabited Areas and Karewas of Kashmir. They were granted agricultural land by Hari Singh Nalwa , Bhiman Singh and Sher Singh ( Governors or revenue collectors of Kashmir during Sikh rule ). Some Sikhs who accompanied the Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh were also settled in Kashmir along with these Brahmin Sikhs . These Sikhs became agriculturists/farmers. As time passed and income-earning patterns changed in Kashmiri society,this segment of Sikhs turned poor. They were also lesser educated and had no option but to take up ordinary Government jobs of peons and drivers for survival . Lately education is spreading fast within this sect of Sikhs and   young boys from this community are proving good doctors , lawyers and engineers for the society at large .

A few Kashmiri Pandit families  in Kashmir  also converted to Sikhism . I vividly remember  One such family that  lived in Naidyar Rainawari near DAV school in their ancestral house .  This was all during the visit of sixth  Sikh guru to Kashmir  .  MATA  Bhag Bhari  who presented a cloak to Sixth Sikh Guru in Kashmir  was a a saintly lady from Rainawari only. Her son Pandit Seva Ram ( who later came to be known as Bhai Seva Ram  ji ) was the first caretaker of Chhati Paadshaahi Gurdwara (  Initially a small wooden structure  but later  a Gurudwara and a Dharmshala was constructed by Hari Singh Nalwa the then Sikh Governor of Kashmir ).

Some Ramgharia and Mazahabi Sikh families have  also settled in Kashmir but their number is insignificant .  

 For sometime ,  Brahmin Sikhs  of Kashmir also carried on with some Brahminical Practices like performing Shradas for the dead. This practice has now been discarded. If you see their land / revenue records  ,Word Brahmin is also mentioned in these papers.

Another group of  Sikhs mostly khatris with surnames like Sethi, Anand , Kandhari, Sahni , Bhasin etc. also came to kashmir from Punjab during Dogra rule for trade and commerce These traders were well off and opened shops selling Gold ornaments , Trading in Tea and cloth . Some families opened Hotels and started Transport business . One family opened a Cinema Hall  while the other started a Printing press .  With them also came the noted Engineer  Sardar Ganda Singh from  Punjab  who planned and built   Hari Sing High street and some other buildings in  Amira Kadal. These Sikhs remained confined to Srinagar city only. They  gave good education to their children who either joined their  parental profession or took up good  jobs  outside the state .  
Generally   Khatri Sikhs from Punjab  living in valley  did not marry   their children with  Kashmiri Sikhs . But  now with the spread of education  and many other factors , things have changed  and  the Sikh society in Kashmir is  socially  better integrated.

 And lastly I need to mention that  Guru Nanak Dev Ji , Guru Hargobind sahib ji and Guru Har Rai ji are the three Sikh Gurus who visited Kashmir .

 “Sach kahoon suun leho sabai jin prem kio tin hee prabh Paayo.”
( Guru Gobind Singh Ji )
I tell the truth; listen everyone. Only those who have Loved, will realize the Lord

( Avtar Mota  )                                                            

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First time I enjoyed an extravagant Kashmiri Wazwaan feast was in some family function of late Sher Ali who was managing partner of the then firms known as  Ali Art Palace and M Sadak Ali And Brothers. Both the firms dealt in Kashmir handicrafts.
 We were served Wazwaan dishes in separate plates.  Sher Ali was a well-known exporter of Kashmir handicrafts, carpets, rugs, papier mache, chain stitch and jewellery with business interests in Kashmir and Mumbai. He dressed well and would move in a chauffeur-driven car. Possibly he had no child and lived in a joint family with his nephews who gave him a lot of respect and regard. Sher Ali was compassionate, liberal and helpful. He smoked imported cigarettes.

It was only during Sher Ali’s feast that I tasted a small quantity of the wonderful quince dish prepared by the  Muslim Wazwaan cooks. It was served last of all. I asked for more. My mother also prepared Bumm-Tsoonth ( quince ) with brinjals. So do all Kashmiris. And from ancient past to this day, Kashmiris never discarded the  Bumm-Tsoonth  ( quince fruit )as a medicinal fruit or cooking it as a dish of choice.

A vegetable wholesale trader in Narwal vegetable Mandi of Jammu informed me this:-

“ I do not know how Kashmiri Pandits prepare it. This Mandi receives around 2 to 3 tonnes of quince per day during the season from various sources and it is immediately all is bought by the city’s retail vegetable sellers. There is an acute demand during the  Pitra Paksha ( Shradaas ) falling after the summer season. Kashmiri pandits appear to be the lone consumers of this fruit in Jammu. ”

Quince or Bumm-Tsoonth    ( as it is known in Kashmiri ) is cultivated in Iran, Turkey, Portugal, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, USA,  France, UK, Middle East, Armenia, Georgia and various other countries of Central Asia and Europe. The quince tree grows to a height of 3 to 6 metres. The unripe fruit is green like a pear but changes its colour to golden yellow on ripening. The blossoming tree gives beautiful light pink flowers. In India,  the seeds of the fruit known as Bihee -Daana were used as medicine by Unani and  Ayurveda doctors. Iranians call it Beih and the word Bihee appears to be of Iranian origin.

 In Kashmir, dry quince seeds were dipped in water overnight and the gel that formed was consumed as a time tested laxative.

A high pectin level in quince makes it useful for making jams, sauces and jellies. In Europe,  it is also used for making puddings after being roasted, baked or stewed. Some countries in Europe use quince for making brandy and wine. In some central Asian countries,  it is also used for making Pillaf or Pickles.

It has now been scientifically established that consumption of this fruit is beneficial to health since the fruit contains dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins and is quite low in calories. Further the catechin and epicatechin present in this fruit bind to cancer-causing toxins thereby protecting colon and its mucous membrane from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and cancers. Hakeems would prescribe its consumption for all diseases of colon and skin. The fruit also contains iron, potassium, and magnesium as well as B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and pyridoxine.

Was quince the forbidden fruit that was eaten in the garden of Eden by Adam and Eve? Some historians believe in the affirmative. This fruit finds mention in the old greek literature also. Ancient greeks considered quince to be the symbol of fertility and dedicated it to Aphrodite or the goddess of love.


Whenever I think of Chile, I have an opinion about a country that has Atacama desert, a country that has Argentina, Peru and Bolivia as its neighbours and a country where Spanish is spoken.

 I am also reminded about the coup in which democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was captured by General Augusto Pinochet. Renowned writers and poets like Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda were from Chile and the Chilean Academy of Arts is known for its superb collection of paintings which include a sizeable number done by the great master known as Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma ( 1856 – 1909).
A Country with some beautiful beaches and enormous tourist potential, rich history and culture.  The Andes (mountain range) also dominate the landscape of this beautiful country. I also know about the volcanic eruptions and the earthquakes in Chile. And then Chile has become one of the more urbanized Latin American societies, with a growing middle class.
From this country, I found quince being exported to the  US. Yellow, Juicy and ripe. I purchased One lb @2.50 US dollars approximately from a Manhattan store.

I had to tell more about Quince but as per Firaq Gorakhpuri

" Ab aa gayein hain aap to aataa nahin khayaal
Varnaa hamein kuchh aap se kehnaa zaroor thaa.."

( Now that you have come,
I can’t recollect,
For sure, I needed to say something to you
in person )

(Avtar Mota)


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013



(Photographs clicked by Autar Mota )

 To these  photographs I add my faourite Hindi  poem  "Jo Tum Aa Jaatay Ek Baar " (  If you could  visit me  once only …..) composed by  Hindi poetess Mahadevi Verma . I have also done  simple English rendering  of this poem for  readers who do not know Hindi.....

( Jo Tum Aa Jaatay Ek Baar )

Kitanee karuna kitnay sandesh
Path mein bichh jaatay ban paraag
Gaata Praanon ka Taar Taar
Anuraag bharaa unmaad Raag
Aansoo leitay ve pag pakhaar


Hans uthatay  Munn ke Aadr nain
Dhuul Jaata Honthon ka vishaad
Chha jaata jeevan mein vasant
Lutt Jata Chir sanchit viraag
Aankhein Deitee sarvasv vaar .
( Mahadevi Verma )

Plentiful of compassion and abundance of  communications
Would spread  in the pathway as   pollen.
These heartbeats of mine would
Resonate with music   ,
A music of   carefree  passion
 And love filled tunes .
The tears  would clear the corridor for you ,

If you could  visit me  once only …..

These eyes full of tears would blush with  delight
And the lips would wash away  their woefulness,
Spring would visit  my  life with all its spree
And put this long stored up pain to end .
And these  eyes would shower all love that they hold within

If you could  visit me  once only …..

                ( Smt.  Indira Gandhi  presenting an award to Mahadevi ji in 1983 )

( English rendering from original Hindi  by Autar Mota 22.10.2013) 

( Autar Mota )

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Monday, October 21, 2013



Photo Autar Mota

To this photo I am adding a story on Haanjis ( Boatmen ) of Kashmir .


 NISHAD is a Sanskrit word meaning  the seventh  and the last note in the   musical scale ( Indian Classical )  . The seven original notes are Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Mahdhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada.

  During my visit to Prayag in  Allahabad  , I found that  the boatmen ferrying people  to SANGAM from Ganga Ghaat  were also known as NISHADAS  . The Boatmen over there had a union    which formed a  component of the Akhil Bharitiya Nishad Sabha (the All India Nishad Association).

In other areas all along  river  GANGA and other navigable rivers in the country  ,  NISHADAS are  also  known as MALLAHS .  In UP one comes across Hindu and Muslim Mallahs. Everywhere in the subcontinent , MALLAH as caste owes its origin to NISHADAS . Be it Bengal ,  Odisha , Sindh ,Khyber Pakhtoonwala  or Punjab .

It shall be interesting to note that Phoolan Devi, the controversial dacoit and politician belonged to the NISHADA  ( Mallah ) Community . Again the well known Samajvadi Party leader  Vishamber Prasad Nishad ( Born 1962 )   belongs to Nishada ( fisherman )  community  .

HAANJIS  of Kashmir  also belong to this  ancient  NISHADA tribe of the country . NISHADAS find mention in Vedas , Manusmriti , Mahabaharta  , Kalhana’s Rajatarangini and scores of Articles and books that I came across . From all records , this tribe   was  distinct from other Tribes of kashmir in terms of  appearance and social customs.  This tribe maintained a separate identity and were not absorbed in to the mainstream Kashmirian society till the entry of Islam . Their origin and entry period to Kashmir is disputed . Many theories have been put forth . Some  anthropologists identify the Nishadas with the "Australoid" (Adivasi) people who inhabited India before the arrival of the proto-Indo-Aryans and the proto-Dravidians . Some Historians  inform us  that this tribe actually lived on the Banks of river Sarswati  and were engaged in ferrying  people across rivers  apart from collecting timber and  fuels from the forest . When the river dried , they too moved to different parts of the country for livelihood. Another group of historians traces their origin to SRI LANKA ( Sangal Dweep  ) where from they moved  and settled  at  various places in India. Some trace them to GYPSIES.  And  the Hanjis claim themselves  to be the descendents of Prophet Noah. 

Whatever be their origin  or  entry period in Kashmir ,  Haanjis of Kashmir  also belong to the ancient  NISHADA tribe.


Chapter X

(34. )A Nishada begets on the same a Margava or Dasa, who subsists by working as a boatman, and whom the inhabitants of Aryavarta call a Kaivarta.


 MAHABHARATA informs us  that Nishadas ( an   outcast  tribe ) lived  near river Banks or in hills and forests close by. They were hardworking , Muscular and warrior like . Ekalavya belonged to  Nishada tribe . Ekalavya was the son of Hiranyadhanus, king of the Nishadas . He came to Hastinapura to join the military school  or Gurukula of Dronacharya . He was a young prince of the Nishadha tribe who achieved a skill level parallel to the  Arjuna, despite Guru  Dronacharya ‘s  rejection of him on account of his caste .  He attacked Dwaraka once, and was killed by Vasudeva Krishna in the battle .

 Nishadas were  also fighting  for Kauravas as well as  for Pandavas in the Mahabharata war.

Mahabharata also informs us that Arjuna had come to Nishada kingdom of Ekalavya, after the Kurukshetra War, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Ashwamedha sacrifice. Again King NALA and his wife Damayanti belonged to the Nishada tribe.


Valmiki’s Ramayana also makes mention of Nishadas . Shabri , an elderly woman  who meets lord Rama  in a forest  belonged to Nishada tribe .Shabri offered fruits to Lord Rama after first tasting each fruit herself . She only wanted to offer sweet fruits to  Lord Rama  who gladly ate them . Shabri  later also tells  Lord Rama to take the  help from Sugriva apart from  informing  his whereabouts  .  Ramayana treats Shabri as pious saint. Again it was Nishada king GUHAK who helped Lord Rama to cross over river Ganga during his exile .


Kalhana makes  mention of Nishadas in kashmira  at many places .  His cantos easily identify them with   Boatmen or Hanjis of Kashmir . I quote

“ To this day are to be seen ancient trees , growing on the edges of old canals of the rivers , with marks of the boat ropes fastened by the Nishadas .”
Canto 101 Taranga V Rajatarangini of kalhana  translated by R S Pandit.


Nishadas have been mentioned as ancient tribes in the kingdoms of   Dandakas (Aurangabad, Maharashtra ). Manimat  kingdom of Nishadas  was visited by Bhima during his military campaign to the east, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira . This kingdom is possibly the   present day Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh. A prince named KETUMET  is mentioned as battling along with the Kalingas  ( present day  Odisha ) against Bhima, in the Kurukshetra War. He was mentioned as the son of the Nishada king.


Nishadas living in Kashmir converted to Islam in early fourteenth centaury and most of them  started adopting   kashmirian nicknames as their castes   . As class or community , they came to be known as HAANJI or HAAENZ . The Haanjis are mostly found in and around areas of  Dal Lake, Wular Lake  and the Jhelum River right from  KHANNABAL  (Ananatnag District)  to CHATTABAL  in Kashmir   .
Walter Lawrence  in his book The valley of kashmir writes about them as under :-

´It is impossible to obtain any information as to their origin , but the profession is very ancient and history affirms that Raja Parbat Sen introduced Boatmen from *Sangaldeep. ”
*Present day Sri Lanka .

In Kashmir Haanjis  further segregated themselves into various sub sects depending upon the professions these sub sects adopted. These sub sects were primarily called

This sect lived in or  close to lakes and canals and engaged itself in growing vegetables. Haak grown by them was called HAAENZ HAAK as  distinguished from Haak grown by other vegetable growers in mainland kashmir.

This sect lived in lakes in boats and was engaged in collection of  water chestnuts from lakes essentially DAL and  WULAR AND ANCHAAR .

This is the fishermen sect . The  men  simply  collect the fish from lakes , rivers and canals  while entire marketing is done by women who labour hard in carrying these fish to city markets for ultimate sale .

This sect  would sell timber and firewood. They would  live near riverbanks  to  sell firewood and timber to people.  Quite often People would  complain about their dishonesty in weighing timber.

This sect would bring wooden scraps from rivers in boats and sell them to people as winter fuel.
They owned Doongas which they rented  out to people for picnics and other social get together . The family of the Haanji also lived in the Doonga which had a sitting space in its middle  for the guests . These doongas would move from place to place with groups of people  enjoying food and Kashmir music .

 This sect would own  flat  bottomed large boat used for carrying heavy loads .These    boats were also used by food and supplies Department to store and carry Grains for public distribution in Srinagar city. Presently this sect is also  engaged in digging sand from river beds in Kashmir .


This sect owned shikaras or  the comfortable boats with roofs  used for going across the river or making a round of the lake. Presently a shikara is quite popular mode of transport  used by Tourists for  moving inside the DAL lake ,  Nigeen Lake and Manasbal Lake in Kashmir  .Kurr Naavi Haaenz ,who ferried  people across the rivers or canals  also fall in this sub category .


          This sect is economically better than all other sects  as they own very expensive houseboats that are parked  in the Dal or Nigeen lake .  A house Boat is a tourist attraction. Most of the Houseboats have three to four bed rooms with attached toilets . Inhouse pantry service is also available in these houseboats which are tastefully carved  .The  ‘Khatumband’ roof, walnut  furniture, Papier Mache  goods etc.  make them a royal retreat.

 So long so much. I end this post with a couplet of  Amir Khusro
  ”Gori soavay  seijj  pe -  mukh par daaray keish
  Chal khusro Ghar Aapnay -Raein bhayee Chahuun daeis ”

(    Avtar Mota )

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