Wednesday, April 1, 2015



MOHD SUBHAN  BHAGAT ( 1927-1993 )


They combine the profession of singing and acting with begging . They are great wanderers travelling down to Punjab where they perform to kashmiri audiences .With the curious exception of Akingam company , which is formed of Pandits ( Bhagats ) ,Baands are all muslims . Their wardrobe is of great value .several companies which I et , have wardrobe that has dresses to the value of 2000 rupees .The Bhaggats of akingaam took to stage at the insistence of their Goddess  Devi  as they told me since Brahmins are averse to this form of acting. Brahmans of Kashmir regard akingaam players with contempt. They sing  songs in kashmiri , Persian and  Punjabi ”

(Sir Walter Lawerence  In his Book THE VALLEY OF KASHMIR  page 312 and 313  )

“Bhagat sahib  was  one of the  foundation  pillars that revived  the  Traditional Folk Theatre of Kashmir known as BHAAND  PAA’ THHAR . His contribution in this field is immense . “

(M K Raina Noted Theatre  personality  who is also associated with kashmir’s Bhaand Theatre.)

“ During the rule of Generous Nawabs ,    some Shia families  from kashmir   migrated   to Lucknow for livelihood and better opportunities  . With them ,  A  group  of Bhaands  also moved to Lucknow.  Another group of Bhaands from Kashmir was invited by Nawab  Asif Ud Daula ( 1775-1797 ) on the occasion of marriage of his son Wazir Ali .  A few of them were active post 1947 as well .Jahangir Bhaand of  Lucknow  died some years ago and he received regular stipend from Sangeet Natak Academy “
Writes  Dr Baikunth Nath Sharga  Historian and writer of kashmiri origin  from Lucknow  .

“ Unfortunately the younger generation  still feels that it BHAAND PAA’THHAR   is something that  was done in villages in the past; A  symbol of backwardness . There is a tendency to  keep  away from it. Ironically , I too faced this problem from my friends and well wishers when I decided to focus on BHAAND PAA’THHAR . But I tell you , it is a perfect form  of theatre with enormous scope for  humuor , satire ,pathos and  what not. It was  not a costume drama done by some people just to collect  grains after harvest  season as is  generally believed . “ 

Informs Moti lal kemmu  who has worked tirelessly with Mohd Subhan Bhagat and others  for revival of Bhaand Paa’thhar in Kashmir. M L Kemmu and later M K Raina brought New Techniques ,newer methodologies of performance and latest styles to this folk Art that ultimately made it a component of National Theatre movement of the country . 

 Noted writer and Scholar Dr Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani adds ,

"The credit for getting the Akingam Bhands to the forefront must go to Moti Lal Kemmu and the State Cultural Academy ." Mohammad Subhan Bhagat became what he was entirely due to Kemmu's help and encouragement. Kemmu is undoubtedly the doyen of modern Kashmiri drama, his success being largely due to incorporation of several elements of the Bhand Pathur in his style with great effect. I have translated many of his plays into Hindi including "Bhand Duhai", which was directed by M. K, Raina for the Sangeet Natak Akademi and was tremendously applauded by the audience in Delhi and other places in the country where it was shown. Kemmu has written an excellent and well researched book in Kashmiri on the Bhand theatre entitled "Bhand Naatyaam" The second chapter of this book was translated by me into English and was published in the journal Sangeet Natak (VOLUME XLV, NUMBER 3-4, 2011).”


BHAAND  PAA’THHAR  word itself is derived from two  Sanskrit words  ; BHAANA or a satirical drama as mentioned in Bharta’s Natya Shastra . Some writers believe  that Bhaand comes from Sanskrit word Bhaandiya meaning a bluffer    who is  also called Mas-kharaa  in  Hindi or Urdu  or the man who mimics others . And  PAA’THHAR   or PATRAA  meaning  a character in a play . This theatre became a platform to voice grievances during rule of Pathans and Dogras . The Bhaands would move from village to village after the harvest when kashmiris were free from agricultural activities .  Attired in their special costumes  and  assisted  some characters who played the SWARNAAI ( special clarinet ) and drum or Nagaara, they would perform at a conspicuous place in the village.
It is reported that Maharaja Partap singh  would collect information about his administration from his secret agents who would  watch the Bhaands performing in  villages . These Bhaands would raise issues of corruption , Malfunctioning of administration and  rigid  social customs that  created unhappiness in the society .Bhaands also performed pathetic plays based  the evil practice of BEGAAR ( forced labour ).

Bhaands  of Kashmir  hail mostly from   Akingaam , Muhripora , Shaangus and Gondpora in   Anantnaag district .  Apart from these villages , Bhaands also belong  Achhabal , Qayamooh ,Kokernaag , Frisal, Aarwani, Waathoora  and Dooru .

Bhaands were also patronized by many Hindu kings  in 10th and eleventh century .  This form of art also flourished during the period of Sultan zain Ul Abdin. Since Bhaand Paa’thhar could  not sustain them financially , most of them  worked as  Artisans . Kangri weaving  was  their most preferred vocation  .To perform Paa’thhar ( Drama ) , they use masks, Drums ( Dhol Nagaara ), Swar Nai ( Clarinet  ) and colourful costumes. Bhaands are  quick  witted  and straightforward people .


Mohd Subhan Bhagat was born in 1927 at Akingaaam village of  Breng Pargana in  Anantnaag distirct of kashmir. Born in a family of Bhaands , His father  , Jamaal Bhagat  was a well known Bhaand ( Mass-kharaa ) of his time. His uncle Kamaal Bhagat was also a noted Swarnai player . This family traces its roots to a Hindu Bhaand named Shankkar Shaala or Shakkar shalla  .

It is pertinent to mention that  kanwal Muhru , sodha Muhroo , Gulaab Muhroo and Maadhav Muhroo   were also Well known Hindu Bhaands from  Mohripora near Akingaam  . Hindu Bhaands would perform in  Shiv Bhakti temple near Akingaam where they  were also joined by muslim Bhaands  .  Bhaands of Akingaam  would  also visit  and perform at the Shiv Bhagti temple  for the  annual ritual . And Bhagat caste  is exclusive to the Hindu Bhaands who converted  to Islam later.

So Mohd Subhan Bhagat had no where to go and  received  all his training within the family only. He read upto class 6th and thereafter   jumped into the family profession wholeheartedly. Starting  his own group , he wrote , acted , directed and produced many Paa’thhars ( Plays ) for this  troupe called BHAGAT  THEATRE.

At a point of time it appeared that  this folk Art of Kashmir would go into extinction. But , After the establishment of Jammu And Kashmir Academy Of art Culture and Languages , this folk  art  saw a new lease of life . Together with Academy officials notably Moti Lal Kemu  ,  Mohd Subhan Bhagat is one such person who has contributed immensely for revival of this Traditional Folk Art of Kashmir . His troupe revived the dying  folk Art by  performing  Bhaand Paa’thhar  in  various cities  and festivals of the country .Some  Paa’thhars (plays ) written and directed by  him that touched heights of popularity appear in his collections that are titled ..
(1)    TAQDEER  is  his first Collection of Kashmiri Paa’thhars ( Folk  Dramas ) published in 1970. It includes three plays namely Taqdeer( Destiny ) Pouz Appuz ( Truth and Falsehood) and Yi Ti Chhu Banaan ( This also happens )

(2)    KAASHER  LUKKA   THEATRE  ( It is a Book based on some serious  work on kashmir’s folk Theatre )

(3)    DEEVAAI     RANG   (A collection of Bhaand Paa’Thhars )

It is due to his sincere and dedicated  efforts , Bhaand Paa’thhar has been revived and given a respectable place in folk Theatre of the country . His efforts were duly awarded with the Sangeet Natak Academy award and Bhand Paa’thhar also received international notice.

 Many Bhaand theatres have now come up and are doing good  work to promote this traditional and old folk theatre  Kashmir. Presently  children of Mohd Subhan Bhagat  ( Notably Ghulam Mohd Bhagat  ) are  also busy in carrying forward the mission of their father .

This family  faced the ire of Militants  whereby their expensive sets , costumes and musical instruments were looted or  burnt and their lives threatened  and some members of their troupe were  kidnapped .  A shocked  Mohd Subhan Bhagat,  felt highly depressed   with the sudden  change in the cultural ethos   due to onset of  armed   militancy in Kashmir .  And  soon  he succumbed to his deep anguish .

 At his own level ,  M K Raina ( veteran Theatre  personality of the country ) has also  taken it upon himself  to assist and help every  group that is sincerely engaged in the revival of this art in valley.

( Autar Mota )

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