Tuesday, April 14, 2020




( Saadat Hasan Manto's father is sitting in the chair fourth from left )

   Ancestors of  Saadat Hasan Manto ( 1912-1955 )  were  Kashmiri Brahmins who had embraced Islam in Kashmir .  Later , some ancestor from this family  had moved  to Lahore   during the  19th century.  From Lahore, the family moved to Amritsar . Some writers believe  that Manto's ancestors were  migrants of  1833 famine in Kashmir .During this period,  a large number of affected families in  Kashmir moved  to Amritsar, Lahore, Sialkot  and Rawalpindi in adjoining state of Punjab in search of livelihood . It is not conclusicely confirmed  whether Mantos were a part of this migration. Some  writers believe that Manto's ancestors were Shawl traders from Doru Shahbaad in South Kashmir,  who moved to Punjab after heavy shawl tax forced many weavers and traders to move out from Kashmir valley. As such nothing can be said conclusively as to which migrant group did Manto's ancestors belong..However, It remains a  fact that Kashmiris established handmade shawl weaving in Punjab in early 19th century  in various cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana ,Lahore etc. They also moved to hilly kingdoms of Noorpur, Kangra, Chamba in present day Himachal Pradesh . Some settled in Basholi and brought Pashmina Shawl weaving to this area. Noted Urdu playwright Agha Hashr Kashmiri's father was also a Shawl trader from Kashmir who had settled in Varanasi but would buy Kashmiri Shawls from Amritsar implying that Amritsar was a Kashmiri  Shawl trading centre before 1947. Many Kashmiri Shawl weavers   and traders  did good business in Amritsar before 1947. To this day Amritsar Raffal Shawl industry  survives . One can find a full fledged Kashmiri  Shawl trading centre in Shastri market, Amritsar. I observed that many women in Amritsar  have been trained by Kashmiri  Shawl embroiders and artisans .Raffal (woollen cloth)  for Shawls was manufactured by many mills in Amritsar till 2003 when I saw last . I am sure it must be still continuing.
                      (Manto with his father )
 Before partition , Manto  family had   five residential  buildings   at  Koocha Vakilan near Farid Chowk in the walled city  of Amritsar .Manto’s father,  Ghulam Hassan Manto ( born 1855 )  was a barrister . Some more persons from this Manto clan  were barristers by profession .

 Saadat Hasan Manto was born in Paproudi  ,Samrala ( Near Ludhiana )  where his father was posted as magistrate. After  his retirement , the family moved back to their ancestral house in Amritsar . Manto  had his  schooling in Amritsar . He  lived in Amritsar for about  20 years . Amritsar finds mention in many stories of Manto.  Dr Saifud-din Kichloo ,  the well known freedom fighter and the hero of Jalianwala Bagh  was a close relative of Manto.In fact Dr Kichloo was married to the daughter of  Hafeez ullah Manto ( uncle of Saadat Hasan Manto ),    a well known Kashmiri Lawyer  from Amritsar.
Khwaja Assadullah Manto , a well known barrister of Amritsar was another uncle of Saadat Hasan Manto . He  also  lived at  Koocha Vakilan. Manto’s father had married twice . He had three sons from his first wife Jan Mali .  Jan Mali was from a Kashmiri family .Manto was born to Sardar Begum, the second wife .   Saeed Hassan  and Muhammad Hassan , brothers of Sadat Hassan Manto were also barristers . They also lived in Koocha Vakilan  . Manto was admitted to Muslim Primary  School near Khair ud din mosque and later he went to Government High School Amritsar  located near present day Queen’s Road . Built in 1876 by Khair ud din ,,the mosque is located near Hall gate and connected with the freedom struggle of the country. From this mosque, Shah Attaullah Bukhari ( known as Tooti e Hind ) first raised his voice against the British rule in India. This white marble  mosque is well maintained and functional . It is visited by many tourists to Amritsar city.


( Inside view of Khair ud din mosque )

It was Bari Alig,  a fellow Amritsari who introduced Manto to classical European and Russian literature . Bari Alig (1906 - 1949) was born at Amritsar.He was a scholar , writer, historian and essayist. In Amritsar, Bari Alig had formed a society of 'Free Thinkers '.
M D Taseer ,Saif-ud-din Saif , Ahmed Rahi and Gh Mustafa Tabassum (Sufi Tabassum) were some other well known writers/  poets  from Amritsar who were of Kashmiri ancestry . They moved to Pakistan after the partition of the country.

( Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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