Wednesday, November 27, 2019





PROF. PETER  RAINA (born1935)

Possibly in 1983 or 1984 i saw Prof. Peter Raina or Predimen Krishen Raina  at  his Shivpora house in Srinagar city. His father had died and he had come to Kashmir . He was closely related to  Justice  ML Kilam  , a respected  judge from Kashmir . Peter Raina's sister was married to Sh M L Kilam. And  Shri .Kilam  had told me many facets of Peter Raina's interesting personality.

Peter Raina's father ,Pandit Jia Lal Raina  'Taarivol'  was a very senior official in revenue department of J&K state  who had also visited Europe on some official assignment.
Peter Raina  or  Predimen  Krishen Raina ,a kashmiri Pandit who had his initial schooling in Srinagar's   National School where artist Bansi Parimu and  Padamshri Moti Lal Kemu were his close friends.Later ,  As a young boy, he  studied in New York , Germany and Oxford and finally did his doctrate in history  from Warsaw University in Poland. He taught history at Warsaw University.

Peter Raina is an internationally acclaimed  writer on history  who has authored more than 20  Books on Polish history, anti Communist movement  , Polish church and  politics  in Polish , a language that he mastered .He speaks fluent Polish .These books stand translated into various European languages. Apart from books he has written innumerable scholarly articles that stand published in various journals and magazines of the US and many European countries .

While In Poland , he joined a group of free thinkers who were opposed to  the curbs and restrictions imposed during communist rule. And for that he paid a heavy price.  Like other polish intellectuals who opposed the communist dictatorship in Poland , he was banished from Poland where he had been permanently  living since 1962  .  In Poland , his close friends included reputed writers like  Mieczyslaw Jastrun and Pawel Jasienic and national icon of the Polish church , Bishop Wyszynski.     Finally he moved to   Germany as an exile and taught at Berlin University and mastered   German language.

 In Poland ,he fell in love with a  Polish girl   Barbara Wyreszczynska, a pretty, blonde student at Warsaw University  and  married her in 1968. They were a wonderful couple. This marriage had a tragic end. A recent documentary on Peter Raina by a Polish film maker makes us to believe that his wife was possibly  killed by  Służba Bezpieczeństwa  , the Secret   police of the then  communist Government  of Poland.

Peter Raina is a truly  cosmopolitan. He felt at home in America, Oxford, Poland and Berlin . And like many, he searched for his place in the world. Polish director Bozena Garus-Hockuba has  explored the loves , work and life of Peter Raina in her documentary film, “They took his love away.”

Dr .Surrinder  Kilam , nephew of Peter Raina informs:

" He is multilingual . He knows Polish,German, Swedish , Russian, English and Kashmiri . A perfect gentleman and a Scholar. He likes Kashmiri food ,expensive Scotch and German beer . He lives in Berlin and keeps visiting Oxford."

Peter Raina's contribution to Polish life and restoration of democracy will go long in the annals of Polish history.

So long so much on Peter Raina.

(Avtar Mota)

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Monday, November 25, 2019




So says poet Rahi Masoom Raza too.I quote him:_

'Kal kuchh aissa huva me bahut thak gaya
Iss liye sun ke bhi an-suni kar gaya
Kitani yaadon ke bhatake huve kaarawaan
Dil ke zakhmon ke dar khat-khataate rahe..'

(Avtar Mota)

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Sunday, November 24, 2019




In Kashmir I have heard people saying :

‘ Kya sa zsong ma hovnuss ’
‘ What happened ? Has he shown him the burning lamp ?’
“ Kya sa Koduva ?”
‘ Have you turned bankrupt? ’

Apart from the usual satire, the lines convey something serious. Showing a burning lamp meant a declaration of inability to repay. The burning lamp meant that the debtor had declared himself bankrupt and unable to repay his creditors. Where from did this strange practice of burning a lamp even during day time at the business premises originate? Prakash Tandon in his book ‘ Punjabi Century’ writes :

“In a shop, completely empty of goods, there sat a man in a rigid pose of silent meditation in front of a tall brass lamp with a single wick in a bowl of oil. The man was dressed in plain white clothes and the lamp cast his shadow on the bare wall behind.”

My friend Ravi Dhar informs :

“ My father was a dry and  fresh fruit contractor and used to supply dry fruits to Lala Bal Krishen and  fresh fruits to Amarnath Bros who had their establishments in and  around Maisuma area of Lal Chowk in Srinagar. In the late sixties of the last century, i  have heard my father informing the household elders that the Khatris (as he would call them) have shown the burning lamp.” 

This is how a businessman would declare himself bankrupt. My grandfather has told me that he had seen the burning lamp scene at a Maharaj Ganj shop in Srinagar city before 1947. There are many such references in storybooks that relate to traders of Lahore and Amritsar of 1947 period. Traders going bankrupt and then burning a big brass lamp at the business premises 24 by 7 till everyone more particularly the creditors knew what had happened.

 Only a panchayat type of gathering did some reasonable settlement as legal suits were not brought in by creditors after they saw the burning lamp. Sometimes a person who had to receive ten thousand got just two hundred rupees. The panchayat or trading committee members were considerate towards the bankrupt.

This practice was quite popular in colonial India. There was no need to run away or abscond. The trader needed to be present to show his shame. As per gazetteer of 1815 ( East India Company), the bankrupt would not wear the tail of his waistcloth hanging down but tucks it up. A bankrupt was supposed to act in time so that the business interests of his creditors were not jeopardized. The swift action of early declaration of his bankruptcy earned him sympathy.

Diwalia as it was known all over the country, had many social issues. A marriage proposal in a family where some person had declared himself Diwalia was not a normal affair. The family carried the stigma for some generations. A common refrain would be expressed like this :

‘ Are you marrying your son/daughter in that family? I am told that the bride’s / bridegroom’s great grandfather had kept the burning lamp outside their business premises and put many innocent traders to trouble. Take care .’ 

Romans were the first to bring a law for bankruptcies. Roman laws provided a fairly persuasive method for dealing with individuals who did not appear to be able to pay their debts when they fell due. First, the debtor was given 30 days time to pay or find someone else to pay for him. If payment was not made, the creditor could : 

"Fasten him in stocks or fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen pounds of weight or, if he chooses, with more. If the prisoner desires, he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give him a pound of meal daily; if he choose he may give him more."

This practice has died down as the business creditors have shifted from individuals to banks and financial institutions. Business morality has also undergone a sea change.

( Avtar Mota )

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MIDNIGHT MOON …Oil on Paper by Amanda Hoskin ( UK ).

To this painting, I am adding some lines from Firaq Gorakhpuri’s  celebrated poem Aadhi Raat ( Midnight ) 

‘Khunuk fazaaon  mein  raqsaan  hain  chaand ki Kieren 
Ki  aabgeenon  pe padti  hai narm narm  phuhaar 
Ye mauj-e-ġhaflat-e-maasoom  ye ḳhumaar -e-badan 
Ye saans neend mein  doobi ye aankh madhmaati 
Ab aao meray  kaleje se lag ke so jaao 
Ye palkein  bandh  karo aur mujh mein kho jaao’
( Firaq Gorakhpuri )

“ In the cool atmosphere, moonbeams interplay,
As if a crystal bowl is getting soft sprayed,
This spell of innocent languor, the body whelmed with sleep,
The sleep craving breath, the eye drunken deep,
Come, slip into my bosom, lie down to sleep,
Close your gentle eyelids, lose yourself in me .”

 I need to say two things about Firaq’s poetry.
Firaq brought  Ramayana , Mahabharta , Bhagwat Geeta , Shiv Puran and  Upnishads   to Urdu poetry.  In his poems , one  finds references to Shiva, Rama, Sita, Ravana, Sri Krishna, Radha, Saraswati    and many more deities.    He brings names from ancient scriptures and epics of  India  like Shakuntala, Savitri , Vasudev, Ahalya, Padmini , Sidhartha, Vashisht, Valmiki, Vishvamitter, Manu, Kapil , Vyas, Chaitanya , Ramanuj, Agastya and Draupadi in his verses. He makes use of Hindi and Sanskrit words. I find words like Agni-kund , Deepshikha, Kalika, Maangbhari, Kanya, Devlok,Jagatmaata, Amrit, Kumudhini and many more in his poems, quatrains and Gazals.

Influence of English poets is visible in Firaq’s poetry. I quote some  instances 
Firaq Says:-

“ Insaan ke Haathon se jo  insaan pe guzri ” 

Wordsworth says:-

“ What man has made of man? ”

Firaq says:-

“Zindagi Kya hai isse aaj Aey dost
Soch lein aur Udaas ho Jaayein ”

Keats (  Ode to Nightingale ) says:-

“ Where but to think is to be full of sorrow ”

Then again Firaq’s poem ‘ Aey Baad e Khizaan ’derives its name from Shelley’s   ‘ Ode to the west wind ’. Firaq is also influenced by Coleridge and William Blake.

Possibly these aspects of Firaq's poetry  have not been fully explored by his critics.  

( Avtar Mota ) 

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Saturday, November 23, 2019



(Sahir and Majrooh)

Maine dil ko dil se tolaa
Tum ne maange pyar ke daam
Ab oss  kheil ka zikr hi kaisa
Waqt kataa aur kheil tamaam
................Meray Saathi Khaali jaam

(Avtar Mota)
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Thursday, November 21, 2019



"Jalta huva pul'" or "A bridge on fire" ...A collection of exile poems in Hindi  by Dr. Agnishekhar.
Publisher... Jyotiparv Prakashan.(Mobile no.. 9811721147) , Ghaziabad. Price Rs299/-
Agnishekhar  ( born 1955 ) is a well known Hindi writer and  poet from Kashmir . Apart from being a poet , he  is a mountaineer, public speaker and a  political  thinker representing  a well known organisation of   kashmiri Pandits living in exile   .
Recently  , i read  Agnishekhar's  latest   collection of  Hindi  poems  'Jaltaa huva pul' or 'A bridge on fire'. Before coming to the book  and the poems therein , i need to say something  about the poet Agnishekhar.
Agnishekhar is one of the major contributors to the corpus   of post 1990 exile writings   from Kashmir that added a new dimension to the  contemporary Indian literature. In February 2010, he  was chosen as the  event Coordinator for the  international conference of poets held in Mysore . This conference was  attended by poets,
artists and film makers  from  Iran, Norway, Germany ,Vietnam, Ireland ,  Chile , Austria,Israel, USA , Tibet and many other countries.  In this well attended conference organized by Rati Saxena of KRITYA , Subjects like conflict  survival ,exile consciousness ,human displacement in war and terror   and  loss of culture and identity came up for discussion through poems , letters ,essays and films .
Quite often,  Agnishekhar's  stature as  poet gets overshadowed by his non literary personality ( political ) for which he is more popular and  known . And after reading his poetry,  i have no hesitation to say  that  something that   needs  a broader reach and serious  understanding  is his sharp poetic sensibility . You can not ignore it. The  literary talent   of any Individual  wherever he  be ,  whosoever he be,  invariably attracts  the  attention of lovers of fine arts across all divides.   One  can not  overlook the plethoric  modernism and ensemble of moving  imagery  that he creates  through  his poems. The nostalgia that he weaves  through his poems is instantly owned    by  the people who have suffered .His poems   come from a  heart that is awash in sensitivity  and beats  with  love for the land of his birth .
Through  these  new  exile poems  , Agnishekhar  comes very  close to the poetic sensitivity of  modern   Latin American  and Kurdish  poets. I find him profoundly  influenced by  Mahmoud  Darvish ,Pablo Neruda and Nazim Hikmet.
 Agnishekhar's  previous  published books including   Kissi bhi samay  ( Any time ), Mujh se chheen li gayi meri nadi   ( They snatched my river from me ), Kaal vriksh ki chhaaya mein ( Under the shade of death tree ) ,  Jawahar tunnel,Meri priya  kavitaayen  and  Dozakh  ( A collection of  short stories ) etc. His  poetic collections have  been translated into many    languages of the country  .All these books  have been well received in the literary circles  . He also wrote script for a Bollywood movie 'SHEEN" .
 This new 144 page  book  titled ' Jalta huva pul' has   53 poems  conveying  pain ,anguish, helplessness and  suffering of   people who were forced to leave their motherland.The front cover of this new poetic collection   bears a  popular painting of  noted  artist Veer Munshi . This painting reflects the  pangs and sorrows of Kashmiri Pandits in exile.
From this new poetic collection,  two beautiful  poems are dedicated to Shaivacharya Abhinavgupt of Kashmir.   Some poems are dedicated to individuals like poet Sarvanand Kaul Premi , artist Bansi Parimu, singer Vijay Malla  and   well known Urdu writer Ismat Chugtai. Some poems convey intense feelings with anecdotes relating to   poet's  interaction with people like Gyanpeeth awardee Hindi   poet   Agyeya,  Dr Namavar Singh, Assad Zaidi, Prayag Shukl, Manglesh Dabral, Gyanendrapati, Arun Kamal   and Kedarnath singh .  There is  a poem titled "Peshwar ke shaheed school bachon ke naam" . This poem conveys  poet's  pain and anguish at the killing of 136 innocent school children by armed militants. Very loudly , he  condemns  such inhuman acts through this poem.
The poetic collection under review   begins with an intensely moving poem 'Asthiyon ka yudh'  or 'A war  for immersion of ashes of the  dead '. Let me  eloborate the context and background of this poem  so that it is better understand. There is a centuries    old practice with Kashmiri Pandits  to immerse ashes of their dead family members at Shadipora confluence   in Kashmir , a place where river Vitasta meets Sindh stream. This confluence is known as Prayaag by Kashmiri Pandits. Nilamata Purana makes mention of this sacred place  as under:-
" The wise say that by bathing in the confluence of Sindhu and Vitasta especially on the full moon day of the month of Prausthapada , one obtains the merit of the performance of Ashavmedha ."
(Nilamata Purana  verse 1384 )
After being hounded out from the  valley, many  Kashmiri Pandits continued  this practice by going to Shadipora  even during peak militancy period in spite of  grave risk to their lives. The poet writes:-
" During exile,
consigning ashes of our dead 
to our river ,
was like
a small
This fact
i understood
during the days of explosions ,
when like a thief,
i had to visit  my motherland .
Alas! The ashes  of our
dear ones too have to win a war to get consigned to our rivers "
There is another moving   poem titled "The obituary page of a newspaper" .For the poet , the obituary page of a newspaper  is like  a  reassurance of his physical existence .  Every day  ,when the poet  looks  at the   obituary page  and does not find his name and photograph, he is reassured of his being alive . The poet writes:-
" We were constrained to buy newspapers,
Constrained to see the obituary page .
This is the possible reason ,
When i don't find my name and photograph on page 2 ,
i get the proof of
being alive ."
To those who  smile or use dismissive language on  the plight of Kashmiri Pandits,   the poet  says :-
Smile on those
who ,
in desperation ,
sold their  farmlands,
and ashes of their ancestors.
Now their tattered tents
have changed into old age homes,
Keep smiling  on them."
(From poem 'Yeh Jeevan Hamaara' )
The poet feels that a bridge of tolerance and accommodation existed in his motherland that connected two banks of the river for the last many centuries. And then  suddenly  some people wilfully imported winds that destroyed this bridge. I quote some lines from his poem   'Jalta huva pull'  or 'A bridge on fire':-
" There at that spot,
terror stricken
and looking from the window of his house ,
the poet saw
how centuries are burnt down
should  the bridge  be  burnt and destroyed  .
The officers who arrived  there
were sure
that the fire will not spread beyond the bridge.
One could feel from their eyes that they had decided to construct a new bridge .
They  didn't see
how  the massive pillars at the foundation
were crumbling    into  the river and how supportive wooden planks
had opened up to get scattered."
In another poem titled " Eik Jaanleva Pustak Lokaarpan" , the  poet gives details of the  sentimental  journey  he undertook to his motherland    to offer his poetic collections to river river  Vitasta from Habba Kadal bridge. For this unusual journey, the poet went in disguise  from  his refugee camp  in Jammu  during  the days of peak militancy  .I quote some lines from the poem:-
" I had possibly visited to
get killed and waste my life.
Someone could have recognised me,
And then from the  dark windows
of the deserted houses
that stood lined up on both the banks
of the river ,
just one bullet
could have thrown my body
along with the poetic collection
Into the river below the bridge.
How good it would have been
if i  dissolved  myself like salt
in the silence of the river water .
Delivering my poetic collections
to my river,
i stood there for long
looking  at its  romance .
The poem "19 January:Eik antim raat ki kavita" sends a shiver down the spine. 19th January 1990 night has been a dreadful night for  Kashmiri Pandits when loudspeakers blared loud  in entire kashmir valley with threatening slogans   making Pandits shiver in terror. That night Pandits   were given only two options;  they had  either to join  the Azadi movement or leave Kashmir . Many innocents were already  gunned down before 19th January 1990  . The armed  groups   warned  Pandits about  the fatal  repurcussions   of their delay or avoidance to toe the desired line. With no one standing up for them , Kashmiri Pandits decided to leave everything behind and leave  to save their lives. I quote the poet : -
" For us ,
all of a sudden ,
time and  our heartbeats came to
halt  .
Every person remained stay put,
stay put wherever he was,
and stay put he remains to this day.
My mother froze in terror
in a cold and dark room
hiding her daughters
and daughters in law behind her back.
My father and younger brother
looked from the chinks of the closed window
as they tried to understand
their impending  extirpation and ruin .
Now we have no Shaka Samvat,
we have Vikrami Samvat either,
every year,
wherever we are  scattered,
within or outside the country ,
in cities like Jammu,
Delhi and Bangaluru,
In states like  Maharashtra, Punjab and others,
we remember this day,
the day we were exiled."
‌I recommend this book   to every serious reader of poetry more particularly to people who  have been banished from their motherland . Every exiled person is bound to identify and relate himself with every line of this new poetic collection.

(Avtar Mota)

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The Hazy Evening...

Firaq Gorakhpuri defines such evenings...

shaam bhi thi dhuaan dhuaan husn bhi tha udaas udaas,
dil ko kayee kahaaniyaan yaad si aa ke reh gayeen...

(Avtar Mota)

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019





(A painting on display inside Rubin Museum of Art, New York. Accession No..F1997.41.1)

For many reasons, I remain an admirer of Buddhist Philosopher Nagarjuna and his Madhyamika ( middle way ) School of Mahayana Buddhism. Nagarjuna's 'Doctrine of Emptiness .'( Shunyata)' has been a profound influence all over the world over. 

Nagarjuna's most famous text is his Mulamadhyamakakarika or Root Verses of the Middle Way, which presents in twenty-seven chapters an initially challenging, but extremely clear reasoning of how beings lack inherent existence and how this lack extends to samsara, nirvana, and even Buddha.

Nagarjuna’s exact birth and death years are not known but it is generally believed that he lived around 150 AD to 250 AD or between the 2nd and third centuries. Scholars have different opinions about his birthplace and background though most of them believe him to be from the southern part of the country. What have scholars to say about some clear references to Nagarjuna's Kashmir connection in Kalhana's Rajtarangini? I quote two verses:-

"And a Bodhisattva was in this country the sole supreme ruler of the land; he was illustrious Nagarjuna who dwelt in Sadarhadvana."
(Verse 173 Taranga I Rajatarangini )

"During this era, the power of the Buddhists whom the wise Bodhisattva Nagarjuna had protected predominated in the land ."
(Verse 177 Taranga I Rajatarangini )

It is pertinent to add that Kalhana calls him Bodhisattva; a  reverence and status that is generally granted to a person who is able to reach Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings. In this way, such illuminated souls move towards Buddhahood.

And then Sadarhadvana is present-day Harwan area of Kashmir. A Kushana period Buddhist settlement and grand monastery have been excavated at Harwan. This ancient monastery played a pivotal role in the history of Buddhism as the 4th Buddhist council of the Mahayana (Sarvastivada) school of Buddhism was held sometime in the 1st or 2nd century CE, on the orders of the Kushana emperor Kanishka I. The probable residence of Nagarjuna was also excavated at Harwan in Kashmir during 1925 excavations. In his book 'Ancient Monuments of Kashmir ', RC Kak writes:-

"The only period when Kashmir had any intimate connection with Central Asia was during the supremacy of the Kushans in the early centuries of the Christian era when Kashmir formed part of the Kushan empire, which extended from Mathura in India to Yarkand in Central Asia. Indeed, then as now it appears to have occupied a pre-eminent position; in as much as Kanishka (circa A.D. 125), the greatest of Kushan emperor is said to have convened here his great council of Buddhist divines. It may be that some pious and prosperous Kushan built this shrine at Harwan, where, according to the ancient history of Kashmir, resided the great Buddhist patriarch, Nagarjuna. "

We need to work on Nagarjuna’s Kashmir link so that it can be said conclusively that like Kumarajiva, Nagarjuna too belonged to Kashmir. Many clear indicators also point in this direction.

(Avtar Mota)


Mirza Ghalib’s poetry also bears the influence of Nagarjuna. Let me elaborate on the link. Ghalib was highly influenced by the Persian poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil ( 1642-1720 ). Bedil was a Sufi poet of Indian School or what is known as ‘SABK E HINDI’ . He had done wide study of ancient Indian Philosophers and the Influence of Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna is evident in the Persian poetry of Bedil. I quote a couplet of Bedil:-

’Aumrîst kî sargarm-e bayân-e heechîm
tumâr gushâyee dâstân-e heechim
bâ nâmi az ân mîyân, zi mâ qane’a bâsh
mâ qâsed-e paighâm-e jahân-e heechîm

( Bedil )

Across ages, we are being amused at expressing worthlessness
and we are the opener of pages of the stories of nothingness
You could expect nothing from us, but name,
we are the messengers of the world of nothingness.
(Translation Nasim Fekrat .. courtesy Kabul Diary )

The quatrain reflects Nagarjuna’s ‘ Doctrine of emptiness ’. Bedil was also influenced by the Advait Philosophy of Adi Sankara. Apart from Sohrab Sepehri ( 1928 –1980) well known Iranian poet and painter, Dr. Zabihollah Safa ( 1911 - 1999 ) Iranian scholar known the world over had also been a great admirer of Nagarjuna.

Kumarjiva, another scholar  and exponent of Nagarjuna's Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism was a kashmiri .Kumarjiva lived in China  where he spread  Damma (Dharma ) and knowledge.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019




When Jaishanker Prasad (30 Jan1890 - 15 Nov 1937) was writing Kamayani, Master Zinda Kaul (1884-1965) was busy writing hindi poems. Master ji was a lover of Kamayani that was published in 1936. Master ji published his book 'Patra Pushp ' in 1941. Patra Pushp had some beautiful hindi poems  whereby   Master ji proved that Hindi written in Kashmir was  similar in  flow and feeling to Hindi that came from Varanasi. Being influenced by Goswami Tulsidas and Jaishankar Prasad, master ji was a pioneer in bringing Hindi poetry to Kashmir.

Master ji also wrote many Dohas (a two line verse) .A sample of Master Ji's Doha is as under:-

'Prem to sukh pratyaksh hai
Dwesh prakat santaap.
Prem samaan to punya nahin
Dwesh samaan na paap'

(Love , a comfort visible ,
Malice, a visible grief.
No  virtue like love,
And no sin  like malice ....)
Influence of Jaishanker Prasad is visible in another verse of Master ji. I quote:-

" Jadd prakrati tab kaalaantar mein,
Kram  se unnati paati.
Ant Prem Pragya dwara
Prabhu mein Jaaye samaati."

After Patra Pushp , master ji switched over to  kashmiri verses.

Prior to Master ji,  we find that Shitikantha  makes  use of many  Hindi words in his 13th century  work' Mahanay Prakash' . Hindi words also appear in Vaaks of 14th  century Shaiv Darshana poetry of  Lall Ded. So many Hindi words can be found in   Shruks of  Sheikh Noor ud Din wali.Thereafter , we find Saint poet  Parmanand ji of Mattan writing hindi poetry.  He is followed by Lakshman joo Bulbul. I also found some Hindi poems of  saint poet Krishen Joo Razdan having  Dogri and Punjabi words. Thakur ji Manwati also composed some Hindi Bhajans .

(Avtar Mota).


Kamayani is a Hindi epic poem by Jaishankar Prasad. It is considered a magnum opus or  one of the greatest literary works written in modern times in Hindi literature.
Kamayani is based on a Vedic story . Jaishanker Prasad writes about  Manu ,the man who survives after Pralaya(deluge). He is without any emotion . Gradually , Manu  starts getting involved in various emotions, thoughts and actions.

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