Thursday, January 25, 2018





Sometime back ,   Shri Surrinder Turki  informed me that  he  belonged to the family of Turkis living in Karan Nagar. He   sent a mail  to me   saying that he happens to be a direct descendant of Pandit Taba Ram Turki. He has also confirmed that his ancestors resided in Rainawari where from they moved out long back.

Coming to Pandit Taba Ram Turki , I need to add that this  learned Pandit was a Persian poet of exceptional quality . His poetry books can be seen in some Central Asian countries .    Nabi Hadi's book titled 'Dictionary of Indo-Persian literature'  Published in 1995 , specifically mentions   his  name   at page 134.  A galaxy of Persian scholars are included in this book .Another Book Published by Beta Script Publishing  Titled ' Pandit Taba Ram Turki  …ISBN 978-613-2-48456-7'  deals exclusively with Persian poetry of Taba Ram Turki.  

 Ronald Cohn and Jesse Russel  have jointly  edited  84 page  paperback book on   life and works Pandit Taba Ram Turki published in 2013. This book, Published in English  under ISBN - 10:5512054953 and ISBN - 13:9785512054956 is sold  for  US $27.95.

Pandit Taba Ram  Turki Wrote   under the pen name 'Betab '. It was a practice among Kashmiri Pandits to use Sun ( Aftab Ram  or Aftab joo ) , Moon ( Zoona Ded  or  Zoona Maal ) and  stars ( Tarakh Kak  or Tarakh Joo ) as names .Taba is a short cut for Aftab meaning the Sun , luminous and source of natural  light.

Just across Jogi lanker bridge in Rainawari ,there used to be a cluster of Turkis . They lived close to the old house of Pandit Sham Lal Saraf ( Minister in the first cabinet of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ) .  Many Turkis moved out to live in other areas of Srinagar city . A family moved to Punjab  much before 1947 in search of employment . Three or four  families of Turkis  continued to live in this area till  January 1990. I happened to know the families of Pandit Amar Nath Turki and  Shri Makhan  Lal Turki   .  Pandit Taba Ram belonged to this  Turki clan of Jogilanker , Rainawari  .    I also had a friend  cum school mate from this family  .  And Turkis from Rainawari , whom I knew , were ignorant of their glorious ancestor ,Pandit Taba Ram Turki  'Betab'. 

 Pandit Taba Ram wrote Masnavis ( long epic poems with historical or philosophical themes ). I am informed that his Masanavis were prescribed in post graduation studies in  the University of Tehran. He was a  Persian  scholar  who could  also read and write Arabic.   It is believed that he was a student of Pandit Daya Ram Kachru (1743 A.D. to 1811 A.D.)  another Arabic and Persian scholar from Kashmir .  So was he   very close to Pandit Birbal Kachru (1789 - 1859 A.D.)  Persian scholar ,historian, Poet  and writer who wrote   voluminous history of Kashmir In Persian .

Persian language  attained the status of official language during the Mughal  rule ( 1586-1753 ) in Kashmir. This status was  retained the during the Afghan rule  (1753-1819)  . This being so,  many Kashmiri writers and scholars turned towards  Persian language and wrote / produced number of books on   history,  literature  and  poetry .  Though Ghani Kashmiri remains  the  tallest and most popular Persian poet to this day  in Persian literature   yet   no less is  the contribution of   Pandit Taba Ram Turki  to the Persian literature. His contribution  has brought  forth  noteworthy remarks  from competent critics that in the mastery of the Persian language , Pandit Taba Ram and some Kashmiri Pandits were second only to the Persians.  

J.K. Banerji in his book  'Encyclopaedia of Kashmir' chapter 16  (  From the Cultural past to the  Front ) writes :

"Outstanding among the Hindu Pandits who made important contributions to Persian poetry may be mentioned the name of Pandit Taba Ram Turki 'Betab' whose Jang Nama reached classic heights."

Noted  historian and author Gwasha Lal Kaul  Chapter 17 ( Cultural Heritage ) from the  book “Encyclopaedia of Kashmir” writes this:-

 "Jangnama by Taba Ram Turki stands on the same footing as Shahnama of Firdausi".

Pandit taba Ram  was a Personal friend of Mulla Mohd Taufiq  (  author Shahnama e Kashmir  In Persian ). Mullah  Muhammad  Taufiq  belonged  to the  family  of  Judoha,  and  resided  in  the  vicinity  of  Jamia  Masjid,  Srinagar .He was a  pupil  of  Mullah  Sati,  and  became  a  well  known poet of his time.  Taufiq is regarded by some as next only to Ghani.  He   occupied  the foremost  position  among  the  poets  of  the  day.    In  addition  to  his  Diwan,  he  has  written  treatise titled 'Shaibt, Sarufa, Bahi i  Lavil'. 

Poet , writer and  scientists , Ayaz Rasool Nazki adds this :

"After his education, Taba Ram Turki  was appointed a 'Kardar' and spent most of his service career at village Breng in Anantnag area. He was a frequent visitor to the darbar of Pt. Raj Kak Dhar who was himself a gifted poet and wrote under takhalus 'Farukh'. On one occasion , someone recited Mulla Tawfeeqs sher ....which was applauded by all . Raj Kak threw a challenge ...can anyone compose a better verse in same meter etc....Betab took the challenge and produced a master piece...he had put a condition that he will be suitably rewarded....Raj Kak ordered his men to deliver 100 kharwars of paddy at Betabs residence.And Tawfeeq Sher is...

shikasta rangiye man ba tabeeb dar jung ast 
ilaje darde saram husne sandali rang ast

Betab sher is ......

siyah bakhtam wa az bakhte khaesh khursandam
chara ki bakhte man wa zulfe yar hum rang ast..."

Mulla Taufiq and Taba Ram would share ideas and poems by  seeing each other or through exchange of letters  . He was a witness to defeat of Afghans and arrival of sikh forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore . Defeat of Azim khan  the Afghan governor  in the battle at shopian ashmir has been versified by him in his “Jangnama “.  Betab  also composed 'Ranjit Nama 'and 'Akbar Nama' . Akbar Nama relates to  Wazir Akbar Khan or Amir Akbar khan ( 1816-1845 ), a Pashto speaking  Afghan prince. He was a  General and finally Emir for about three years until his death. Apart from a valiant fighter , he was a lover of fine arts . Wazir Akbar Khan led the  revolt in Kabul against the British  forces  of  William McNaughten, Alexander Burnes and  Major-General William Elphinstone . 

Pandit Taba Ram was  was also summoned by Akbar Khan  to Kabul and honoured  for his skill as Persian poet .  He also visited Lahore and was honoured by Maharaja Ranjit singh in his Darbar where he also met the  powerful and influential   Raja Dina Nath , a Kashmiri Pandit and  the Finance Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. 
In 1861, 14 years after  his death,  a comprehensive   Diwan of poems of Pandit Taba Ram Turki   was published .

(Avtar  Mota )

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