Thursday, April 29, 2021



My poem on 400th  birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji..

(Guru Tegh Bahadur )

Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari

Sankat vikat dharam par chhaaya
Dwar tere pahunche nar naari
Kripa ram ka daadas baandha
Pran bali se vipidha haari..
Aisay guru pe hum balihaari

...Jai jai guru tegh bahadur
    Sant sahay agam Hitkari

Kis ashru boondh  se charan dhoyiye
Kis deepak se karein Aarti
Rini hain tere hai guruvar Ji
Hum pandit nahin sabhi Bharati
...Yug yug tak tere aabhaari  

Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

Tum si nishtha tum si karuna
balak gobind rai me paayi
Dusht  nivarak dharam sahyak
Nidar adig aur sant sipaahi
...Pita putr Jan Jan hitkaari

....Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

Phir maanav pe sankat aaya
Kah do ab kis dwaare jaayein
Hum abodh murakh anjaane
Dukh gaatha ab kisse sunaayein
...Dagmag dole naav hamaari

.....Jai jai jai guru tegh bahadur
Sant sahay agam hitkaari..

( Avtar Mota)  

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         ( Spring in Kashmir by Mohan Raina)
     ( Evening time after Snowfall by Mohan Raina)
 ( A poster designed by Mohan Raina)


"Art in Kashmir and Mohan Raina the Creative Genius"
A book by Sudesh Raina.

Sudesh Raina is a friend known to me for over 40 years. Through him I also knew his father Mohan Raina ,the noted artist . Inspite of this ,there must have been two or three occasions when I directly interacted with his father . There was something in the personality of Mohan Raina that kept many people at a distance. I for one felt that he didn't like unnecessary interaction . And then if one looked at the level and quantum of his work, one always carried some sort of complex while standing close to him.

Coming to the book under review , I would call it a tribute to the artist by his son. Possibly no better tribute could have ever been written. With this book, the forgotten artist has suddenly turned alive. He finds his space in the social media .I saw a webinar discussion on Mohan Raina with intercontinental participation. His paintings are being uploaded. I am optimistic that Sudesh is going to deal with the memories of his father the way T. K. Walli has held the memory of his father D.N.Walli, another pioneer artist .

I know how strenuous and hectic efforts were put in by Sudesh Raina to collect photographs of the paintings of his father.Mohan Raina's oil paintings, portraits and water colours were scattered all over . These were in possession of many friends, relatives and well wishers of the artist while his family had none with them. In 1990, Mohan Raina's family left more than 1000 paintings done by the artist in their Badiyar Bala house in Srinagar city when they had to leave Kashmir in hurry to save their lives . I have seen Sudesh Raina going from door to door requesting and beseeching people to provide him with photographs of the paintings of his father . The book would have seen the light of the day in 2020 but his first publisher failed to fulfill this commitment possibly due to Covid crisis. He had to move to another publisher and his efforts finally ended in a good result in the shape of this book. 

Mohan Raina ,the son of artist Shiv Nath Raina was a versatile and prolific painter who created the emblem of the J&K state in 1952 and also designed initial logos for many institutions including Regional Engineering College, Srinagar, Medical College, Srinagar and the University of Kashmir. The logos that he designed were subsequently changed by some institutions . However, the J&K state emblem designed by Mohan Raina and approved by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah remains visible everywhere to this day.
He also designed pamphlets, publicity material, created murals and some tableaus for the 26th January parade. In 1958, the J&K tableau designed by him for the 26th January parade won the first prize as the best tableau displayed by any state that year . He was the most prolific artist of his period who drew portraits of many poets, saints, political leaders and some noted writers of the state. He illustrated many books including poet Ghulam Nabi Khayal’s Kashmiri translation of Omar Khayam’s Rubayat. He also did magazine illustrations, cartoons, water colour landscapes, still life paintings, paintings based on some western classics in literature and figurative art.
Mohan Raina went to the US on a scholarship to study modern art at the University of Illinois. While in the US, he befriended some prominent American artists including Jimmy Ernst, Betty Sabo and Charmion Wiegand. All the three artists had earned name and fame the world over in their respective styles. Mohan Raina kept communication and contacts with these artists till his death.
He did illustrations for the Kashmiri dictionary compiled by Brij B. Kachroo of Illinois University. He retired as exhibition officer from the Information Department of J&K State and died from a sudden heart attack in 1983. More than one thousand paintings of the artist were lost when his house at Badiyar Bala , Srinagar was put on fire by some miscreants during the peak militancy in the Kashmir Valley.

Deliberating on the journey of art in Kashmir, the book comes straight to Badiyar ,Mohan Raina's family, his art, beautiful anecdotes, exile and the loss of Mohan Raina's work. Many people have been interviewed and their comments carried over verbatim. The book carries photographs of some portraits, landscapes ,sketches and book illustrations done by Mohan Raina. It also chronicles the growth of the artist in a family of artists and musicians . The well known Sitar player , Omkar Raina was Mohan Raina's younger brother. Tej Raina, another brother of Mohan Raina has been a Santoor player. He lives in Canada currently. Mayank Raina, the latest Sitar sensation, who has performed within and outside the country is from this illustrious family.  

The book has some memorable anecdotes and interesting details that attract reader's attention. From the book one gets a feeling that Kashmir remained his first love . He painted Kashmir's varied colours and seasons. The Chinar tree, hills ,snow, streams, lakes ,streets, bazaars and common people from his Kashmir find ample space in his work.The book gives a real insight into the personality and creative output of the pioneer . Available on Amazon, Flipkart and other sites,I recommend the book to one and all. I believe Sudesh is also selling the book directly on discount.

(Avtar Mota)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021




Scare of Corona has come with unseen beauty of Tulip Garden of Kashmir.Very few visitors to see this grandeur..

Sarv o saman Bhi Mauj e naseem e Sehar Bhi Hai ,
Aey Gul Teray Chaman Mein Koyee chashme tar bhi hai...................... ..

In English I would say....

(  You have the Cypress and the Jasmine and  the wafting morning Breeze as well,
 O Flower ! Look around carefully ,  There sits a person with moist eyes in your garden  .)

(Avtar Mota)

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GOOD BYE SATISH KAUL ( 1946-2021).




GOOD BYE SATISH   KAUL ( 1946-2021).


    ( Satish Kaul and Yusuf Bhat with their wives.Photo courtesy..Yusuf Bhat)

     ( L to R.. Yusuf Bhat, Satish and Preeti Sapru)



GOOD  BYE  SATISH   KAUL ( 1946-2021).


Once known as Amitabh Bachchan of Punjabi cinema , Satish Kaul died a lonely man in Ludhiana some days back.  Satish acted in more than 300 Punjabi and Hindi films besides playing the role of Lord Indra in the popular TV show 'Mahabharata'. He also acted in some more popular  television serials . 

Satish Kaul  acted  in a Kashmiri tele-film " Aagur"  (1988 )for DD Srinagar. "Aagur" was written by H. K. Bharti and directed by Rajesh Kaul. It had   Bharti Zaroo Raina, Makhan Lal Saraf, Om Prakash Dhar, Bansi Mattoo, Bashir Mansoor, Irfan Khan and others in various roles.

Satish  was a brilliant actor who had flawless Urdu and Hindi accent something unusual with Kashmiri actors . Add to that ,he  neither had a godfather nor did he belong to a family directly connected with Hindi  cinema. In spite of all these issues, he managed to go up the ladder both in Hindi and Punjabi cinema primarily due to his acting skills and handsome looks.

After a brief struggle period, he was signed as hero for  ‘Ang Se Ang Lagale’, though Ved Rahi’ s ‘Prem Parbat’ was released first. He continued to get important roles in Hindi films but it was the 1975 Punjabi film ‘ Morni ‘, opposite Radha Saluja, which brought him instant fame as the lead actor. Dhanu Bhagat, Lacchi, Jatt Punjabi, Saidan Jogan, Sassi Punnu, Ishq Nimana, Roop Shaukinan Da, Rano, Jeeja Sali, Guddo, Patola, Suhag Chooda, Jatt Da Gandasa ,Vohti Hath Soti,etc. were some of his notable and successful Punjabi films. For sometime , he dominated the Punjabi cinema and became a much sought after actor. He worked with Mehar Mittal, Raza Murad, Rama Vij, Kanchan Mattu, Bhavana Bhatt, Mumtaz Shanti, Sudha Chopra, Daljeet Kaur and every prominent actor, producer and director of Punjabi cinema.

In Hindi films, he worked for big production houses with actors like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar , Vinod Khanna , Shahrukh Khan,Mala Sinha,Anil Kapoor,Jackie Shroff, Nasserudin Shah,Bharat Bhushan, Dara Singh , Randhir Kapoor and many more top actors of yesterdays. About him ,a widely circulated film magazine wrote ,' Finally Hindi cinema gets the face that it needed . Satish is going to stay long in the industry'. I am told that a Hollywood production house wanted to cast him in a project that was planned with some reputed actors . I can't vouch for authenticity of this information but looking at the profile of some Bollywood actors who worked in Hollywood projects, it could  be true as well. And then AR Kardar's "Mere Sartaj" (that had Satish in the lead role) was simultaneously running in seven cinema halls in Mumbai . He enjoyed enormous goodwill and support from one and all in the industry including Yash Chopra, Muzaffar Ali, Subash Ghai, Devanad, Anupam Kher and many more.

Even at the peak of his acting career, Satish remained down to earth and  socially connected .He met friends, helped people , attended social gatherings and visited relations . My friends tell me how once he served food to guests in a Hawan organised by Kashmiri Pandit Sabha at Mumbai. Known as Billu Ji or Billa, Satish had been an affectionate brother to his sister and an obedient son to his parents before his life took a tragic turn. 

 Satish had studied at the  National School  and DAV School ,Srinagar .Later  he did a diploma in cinematography from FTII ,Pune where Jaya Bachchan, Danny, Om Puri, Zarina Wahab, Raza Murad were a few of those who were his batch mates.


Albert Camus wrote , "But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads." Going by what Camus says, it is essential for every human being to create a harmony between himself and the life he leads. Any disharmony that he creates between himself and the life he leads is bound to invite unhappiness that robs even the smallest pleasantness from his life. Accordingly ,the endeavour of man is to create his own share of happiness in this world . Did  Satish slip into some such company that brought him unhappiness ? Did he waste his money without ever thinking about the rainy days ? Was his innocence exploited ? Did his irretrievable conduct become a perpetual source of anxiety and unease to his nears and dears ? And Firaq Gorakhpuri says this:-

" Inaayat ki Karam ki lutf ki aakhir to kuchh hadh hai,

Koyi kartaa rahegaa Chaara e zakhm e Jigar kab tak"

His wife parted company with him within a couple of years of their marriage .The death of his parents rendered him without support on emotional front. Things worsened for him after the death of his mother.  He had no work . He brought himself into a financial mess  .Unfortunately, he had to live in Mother Teresa Home in Mumbai for some years before moving to Punjab, somewhere in the year 2008.

From the film industry, Preeti Sapru , daughter of veteran actor Sapru, tried to help him . Yusuf Bhat , producer , director and a fellow Kashmiri in Mumbai' s film industry also remained a lifelong sincere well wisher of Satish . In fact Yusuf was like another son to Mohan Lal Aima and his wife Rani Ji. Yusuf had also been at the FTII, Pune with Satish. Yusuf Bhat told me this :-

“What can I tell you about Billa or Satish . He was my brother. I was another son of his parents . Mohan Lal Aima whom I called Papa Ji , treated me like his own son. Rani Ji or Billa’s mother treated my wife as her own daughter in law. Satish and his sister Sushma were with me as my siblings on my marriage day . Rani Ji performed all the motherly traditional rituals on my marriage day. Immediately after my marriage , Rani Ji had arranged a grand feast for my wife and me the way a Kashmiri daughter in law is invited by the closest relations from her in law’s side . My wife was moved by the extent of this sincere affection. It really pains me and I turn emotional to remember Aima Sahib or Rani Ji and the loving family . Mohan Lal Aima was a great musician and a very helpful person. Very clear at heart and far above from any distinction of caste , creed , colour or religion in dealing with people . I am really indebted to him and his goddess like wife who braved many rough seasons in her life. When Rani Ji died , I wept like a child. I felt I had lost a great emotional and motherly support in Mumbai . Ashok Pandit’s mother performed the last rites of Rani Ji. She too was a great lady . Nimmi , Satish’s wife was also a nice and well behaved girl. Very unfortunate that this marriage ended in their parting .I feel sad when I recollect everything.

Satish was a very affectionate, sincere and obedient boy. He would believe every person . Pure at heart. As actor ,he was very talented. Unfortunately , he failed to realize value of time and money. He cultivated some such habits as drained his time and money. Being a gentle soul, many people exploited him . We made many attempts to put him on track and he also cooperated but he couldn’t make it up . Aima Sahib would weep privately about all that was happening in Satish’s life. Even his uncle Omkar Ji was deeply concerned about him. Everyone wanted to put him on right track. I also moved out of the country for sometime. Satish had no sincere friend in the industry. This industry is sympathetic to none during bad days. Nobody looks towards the sunset area over here and people salute the rising sun only . To help him primarily , I cast him in the film ’ Zanjeer- The Chain’ produced by me in 1998 . It was directed by Shibu Mishra. We engaged Anand Milind as music composers .It had Kiran Kumar, Tej Sapru , Pratibha Sinha, Aditya Pancholi , Shakti Kapoor and many other actors . I also cast Virendra Razdan of Mahabharat in this film. He was a good human being and an equally talented actor. I wanted to give more space to Satish but he was sincere like a child in refusing it. He told me that I should focus on other popular actors for the commercial success of the film. He wanted me to earn good money from the project by sacrificing his role. That was his emotion and love for me . I can’t tell you how sincerely Preeti Sapru wanted him to start his life again. Just four days before his death , I had a detailed telephonic conversation with him. May eternal peace be upon his soul. May eternal peace be upon the souls of Aima Sahib and Rani Ji. May they reunite in Swarga . ”

Preeti Sapru remained in touch with him all along . She also visited him in Ludhiana hospital and wrote to Punjab Government seeking monetary assistance for him . In an interview to a leading newspaper in 2020 , Preeti Sapru said this:-

“ He calls me whenever he is in distress. That’s how I am aware of his situation. He has been staying at Satya’s home since three years; she was nursing him when he was in an old-age home in Ludhiana. I once visited him at her place during a shoot. I also tried to raise funds for him and wrote to the government of Punjab, as he worked in the Punjabi film industry. The Punjab government gave him Rs 5 lakh and others helped him, too. He didn’t save when he was working. Now, he is completely dependent on others. He met with an accident and fractured his backbone. He had to be operated upon immediately. Back then, my sister and I had sent him money for the surgery.

The government and the film industry should collectively devise a plan to secure the future of artistes, who are old and out of work. There is no one to help the needy in the industry.”

Padamshri Pran Kishore Kaul told me this:-

" Satish or Billa as we used to call him, was a lovely child who grew up before my eyes. He grew up with my children. For many years ,we were living almost together ; initially in the Radio quarters in the Arts Emporium complex .It was like a big family that included Mohan Lal Aima, Pardesi Sahib, Mahindra Kaul, Som Nath Kachroo, Janki Nath Kaw. Abdul Sattar, members of Pashtu unit and myself along with our families. We were considered as essential staff. Satish was a small boy and then M. L. Aima and I shifted from there to an old bungalow in Shaheed Gunj, Srinagar . Satish was affectionate and well behaved boy.He had gone to FTII to become a cinematographer but became an actor with his debut in a Dev Anand film or may be Ved Rahi’s Prem Parbat and then with a grand break in Punjabi films , Satish was a star. Possibly Prem Parbat was released first. I am not sure but he had acted very well in Prem Parbat . He did many key roles in Hindi films . I know how he was exploited in Mumbai . The rest is a very tragic and unfortunate story .When he went out of work, I also made a sincere attempt to rehabilitate him in "Saaye Deodar Ke " a serial that we were making for DD National channel. He lived with me and the unit in the Palace Hotel, Chail (HP) where we were shooting for more than a month. He did extremely well and was very happy and excited. He was extremely well behaved boy, very noble but insecure at that point of time. He talked to me for hours and promised that he will work to make it again. You can't imagine how happy I was when groups of people would come to see Satish Kaul even when he was doing no film.But then" Kisamt ke kheil niraale Meray bhaiya" .I won't say more. I was pained to know that he died under unfortunate circumstances. This lovely boy went through a lot of pain and suffering. I only wish him a Moksha . "

It is also a fact that during the period he ruled Punjabi films, regional cinema more particularly Punjabi cinema was evolving and undergoing metamorphic changes in terms of skills,techniques, style , aesthetics and technology. Did he fail to update and upgrade himself to retain his position and place. I can't say conclusively .

None from the film industry ever sought his welfare .He had many close and intimate friends in the industry. The well known dancer from Hindi cinema with whom he had reportedly developed some closeness, did not see him when he needed help and support.

 In this life, Satish  lost everything including his health. His last venture of opening acting school in Ludhiana had also failed . Prior to his death, he struggled for medicines, shelter and other basic needs of existence .Some well wishers and admirers from Punjab arranged his cremation under Covid crisis.They organized the Antim Ardaas and Keertan in a Ludhiana Gurdwara for peace to his soul.

Can we call it as the Cycle of Karma ? Is this a Burden of Karma from previous life . I don’t know and can’t  say anything . However , Dr. Carmen Harra , the well known  clinical psychologist, intuitive counselor, and  author of several  books, including “ The Karma Queens- Guide to Relationships ” has this to say :-

“Karma is the luggage your soul carries on its trip from life to life. Unfortunately, unlike luggage at the airport, this particular baggage never gets lost, which means you're stuck with it until you open it up and sort through its ancient contents.  Karma places everyone into your life for a reason, and karmic relationships will play out as planned despite your best efforts. If you stole, others will steal from you in following lives. If you nourished, you will be nourished .Your actions throughout your various lifetimes become the circumstances of your being.

Whatever dynamic is needed to repair or heal karma will be manifested through changing roles in our cycle of lives on earth. The people you know now may have had a very different impact on your previous lives! Recognize what must be changed inside of you so as to change what's outside of you. Past-life karma is resoundingly present in your current life. Mustering up the courage to open your karmic suitcase today can change your destiny for lifetimes to come.”

I am also  informed that Aalok Aima and Abhay Aima ,cousins of Satish did everything to  support him emotionally and financially  anytime and every time. Alas ! destiny had something else  in its store for Satish.

 I am sad as I conclude this brief  tribute . I wouldn’t have written it  but I was under regular pressure to write something  on  Satish who was  talented ,  affectionate, sincere and emotional .Was he  prodigal? I can't say anything  except wishing him Sadgati and  Moksha .  I conclude with a couplet of Urdu poet Ahmed Faraaz:-

‘Zindagi hum tere daghon se rahe sharminda,

Aur to hai ke sada aaina-khwaane maange

( Avtar Mota )

This tribute was published by many newspapers and magazines including the Daily Excelsior in its Sunday edition on 9th May,2021.


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Monday, April 19, 2021


               (GIAMPAOLO  THOMASETTI)


Mahabharata has become quite popular in Italy.   It has already been translated into Italian . Some  artists from Italy are drawing sketches and creating paintings based on the epic.   Giampaolo Thomasetti the well known Italian artist who  studied Mahabharata for more than  17  years ,
has  made some exceptional paintings based on the epic.He is a co-founder and a member of the International Academy of Vedic Art. These paintings were done around 2016. These paintings have earned him worldwide appreciation.

And  Mahabharata  is one of the biggest epics ever known to mankind and  a vast treasure of knowledge and wisdom. Beneath the omnipresent premise of war, lies an infinite pool of teachings and lessons. Very few narratives have been able to capture the true essence of love, loathing, envy, lust, exile , helplessness, greed and power the way Mahabharata has. The beauty of Mahabharata does not lie in the war but in the war tactics, the precious words and the rich teachings.

I need to add more that I happen to know about Mahabharata ; 

The first Arabic text on  Mahabharata dates back  to the 11th century AD. In 1845 M.Reinaud, Membre de l'Institut, Paris, published a book containing French translations of Mahabharata. Emperor Akbar got as many as 15 Sanskrit texts translated into Persian. These texts included Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Persian Mahabharata got translated by Akbar is known as Razmnama that has been beautifully illuminated with paintings of  many iconic scenes from  the epic done in Mughal miniature style .

When  Indonesia's ANTV dubbed  Mahabharata procured from Star Plus   ,it took  the entire country by storm creating a record viewership.


'Mahabharata: Der Grosse Krieg'  is a popular German edition of Mahabharata first published in 1923.


Boris Leonidovich Smirnov 's Russian version of Mahabharata is quite  popular and widely read book in Russia. 


Hiroshi Koike,  the  noted Japanese director,  choreographer, writer and President of the Performing Arts Institute in Tokyo,   adapted Mahabharata for his international  ,   adapted Mahabharata for his international 
project spanning over four years. It commenced shooting from Cambodia in 2013 with sequences shot  India, Japan and Malaysia and some more countries .  And he said:-
 "Through this great epic,I want to unite Asia ."

For B.R.Chopra 's  mega tele- serial Mahabharata ,the most impressive and powerful dialogues  were written by Dr.Rahi Masoom Raza , the noted Urdu poet and writer. Chopra’s 94-episode Mahabharata was aired on Sunday mornings. As audiences swelled, Sunday mornings became ritualistic. A newspaper wrote:-

" it is nirvana viewed by appointment."


The 1989 Peter Brook's film Mahabharata swept the entire Europe. It had  a multi-racial cast of 21 actors from 16 different countries which included Mallika Sarabhai from India in the role of Draupadi. it was a vast, immersive enterprise that took the playwright several years to make and write with Jean-Claude Carrière. It was the first time the whole epic was adapted for the theatre, and then as a feature film.It was a truly global project, which took the Indian epic to audiences worldwide.
While reviewing the film, The New York Times wrote:-

 “Revered in India but little known in the West, The Mahabharata is to South Asians what the Bible along with the Iliad and the Odyssey are to us.”

And there is a general consensus among scholars from India and  Europe   that the Kingdom of Bahlikas mentioned in Mahabharata   consisted of parts of present day Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

( Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, April 15, 2021





Review of  the book “ The Mystic And The Lyric “

(Four women poets from Kashmir) 

by Neerja Mattoo

Published by Zubaan Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Price  Rupees 450/=  


 Neerja Mattoo taught English at Government College for Women in Srinagar .She is  Chief Editor of the quarterly journal Miraas published from Delhi. Apart from the book under review , she has also published below mentioned books:-

(1)   Saktyullasah Sharika Devi: A Yogini of Kashmir

(2)   Kath : Stories from Kashmir

(3)    The Stranger Beside Me

(4)     Best of Kashmiri Cooking

(5)   Sal A Feast Of Kashmiri Cuisine

 All these books  have been well received , widely read and  appreciated . She has also written innumerable articles , write ups and participated in  many  seminars , talks and  literary discussion  either in person or online held within or outside the country . She lives in Kashmir .

 Through her present book  ‘The Mystic and the Lyric ‘, Neerja Mattoo presents the life and poetry of four women poets of Kashmir . All the four have been women of extraordinary caliber who continue to  command respect and affection in  the Kashmiri society across the Hindu- Muslim  divide. I mean Lal Ded , Rupa Bhawani, Habba Khatun and Arinmal. First two for the depth of  spiritual experience  and the last two for the elegant and unrivaled lyricism in their poetic work. The translation  of select verses   done by the author is simple , to the point and convincingly appropriate .  The reader is instantly able to catch up  with the essence of  the verses . This  stupendous translation adds to the charm of the accompanying narration . It feels good to know that the author has consulted and sought help from Padamshri Bettina Baumer while translating the verses  of Rupa Bhawani. I have always felt that Rupa Bhawani’s verses are profound  and  full of deep spiritual philosophy based on Upnishads , Yog-Sadhana and highly advanced philosophy of Kashmir’s Shaiva Darshana  as a result of which ,these verses have not been so popular . And the beautiful  translation of  Neeraja Mattoo proves me right . For the first time, through this book,  I have feasted on something that I always wanted to have under one roof. I mean Lal Ded , Rupa Bhawani , Arinmal and Habba Khatun.

The book comes in 223 pages out of which about 75 pages  ( 6 to 81 ) have been devoted to Lal Ded,  about 50   ( 85 to 135) to Habba Khatun, about 59  to  ( 140 to 199 ) to Rupa Bhawani and the remaining to Arinmal’

 Lal Ded is believed to have been born in early  fourteenth century .  Enough is written about her life and verses . I believe her to be the torch bearer of not only  Kashmir’s rich Shaiva Darshana but also a  foremost pillar of the Bhakti Movement of the country. Transcending all dogmatic religion, Lal Ded is the first poet to have propounded the concept of  Shunayata  (Nothingness) in  verses  or Vaakhs  . She also believes that the limitless and transcendent Shiva is the destroyer of darkness leading to emergence of light . For Lal Ded , Shiva is not only the destroyer from the Trinity of Brahma ( Creator ) Vishnu ( Preserver ) and Mahesha ( destroyer ) but the essential supreme ruler of Shunya  or Nothingness.

Once an Individual realizes that the final truth or reality is Emptiness or Nothingness , he carries a different outlook on qualms of mundane existence . This enlightenment also enables him to rise above the painful concerns of routine life . And accordingly , this concept of Nothingness comes up with a positive transformative power.

Though deeply rooted in Kashmir’s Trika Shaivite creed , Lal Ded had risen much above the world of creeds or labels. One can safely call her as a torch light of ‘Medieval Mysticism’ and Bhakti Movement of the country . Ramanand ( 1400-1470 ) Kabir (1440-1518 ) ,Guru Nanak ( 1489-1538 )and Sant Tukaram ( 1577-1650 ) followed her . Like Kabir , she also makes symbolic use of swan ( Raaazhans ), grinding mill ( Gratta ), washerman ( Dhob), weaver ( Vovur ) , lotus flower ( Pamposh ) to put forth her spiritual thought . Her frequent use of Prakaash Dhaam or Prakash Sthaan is synonymous with Kabir’s ‘Anahad Naad’ or “ Baaje Anhad dol “ or the musical chimes that are created when one arrives at the real self transcending all worldly experiences.  About Lal Ded’s philosophy  , Neerja Mattoo  writes this :-


Lal Ded is far above idol worship , yet she is fascinated by forms and shapes and symbolic representations , as all artists are . She thinks of God in abstract terms , naming his attributes as pure sound , pure form – the Naad ( sound ) and the Bindu ( the primal dot ) . But , for the Trikaites as well as the Tantriks , there are symbols of Shiva and Shakti  respectively , so there is no escaping from symbolism:


The unimpaired sound , the sound of the sky

The one with no name nor family nor caste

Just the self-aware sound and the Dot eternal

That God alone will mount this horse .


This verse is beautiful, graphic representations of the written and the spoken word , so important a tool for the poet . The sound in the first line is the mystic symbol OM  , which when written down must carry the shape of the  crescent and the dot to represent Shakti and Shiva on its back.”


   The author dwells on the core philosophy Lal Ded before presenting simple and to the point translation of some verses . I quote two verses appearing in the book  translated into English  by her :-


‘Gratta chhuyi Pheraan Zeri Zeri

Ohukuyi zaani gratuk thsal

Gratta yeli pheri tayi zaevul neri

Goon vaati paanay grata-bal’


(Slow and steady turns the grindstone

The pivot alone knows the secret of its skill.

As it turns it grinds so fine

The grain will find its way to the mill yard .)



“Razahans aasith sapdukh koluy

Kustaam tsoluy kyahtaam heth

Grata guv bandh tay gratan hyot goluy

Grata vol tsoluy phal phol heth.”


(A swan you were but now you are dumb

Someone stole something from you .

The millstone stopped , its channel was choked

And the miller ran away with the grain. )


After Lal Ded , we come across Habba Khatun ( 1554-1609 ) . She is a poet of love lyrics . Neerja Mattoo writes  that in the entire work of Habba Khatun , we come across some intense feelings through the realm of pure lyricism  as she describes her abandonment in love  or torture by her  mother in law . She laments , seduces, invites and complains .She makes no claims to sainthood . Her songs are meant to be sung as these are highly musical in rhyme , rhythm and cadence . The author also says this:-

 “She touches upon various moods of a woman in love , one who is not content to just love and worship from a distance , but demands fulfillment. Though she lived in a historically important time in Kashmir , in her verses we find no reference to the  events like the removal of the last Kashmir King , Yusuf Shah Chak  and the annexation by Mughal  King Akbar __ she is too wrapped up in her own affairs of the heart .”  I quote two verses appearing in the book  translated  into English by Neerja Mattoo :-



“May kari tseyi kiti poshi dasvaanay

Chhav myani daenay posh

Ba chhasay zameen tsu chhukh asmaanay

Seeras tsu chhukh sarposh

Bo chhasay nemath tsu chhukh mezmaano

Chhav myani daenay posh “


( Bouquets of flowers I make for you

O come my love , revel in the blooms

Bouquets of flowers I make for you

Come my love revel in the blooms .

I am the earth , you are the sky

A covering for my secrets are you

I am the banquet , you are the guest

Come my love , revel in the blooms )




“ Dil nith ratitham goshay

Valo myani poshe madano

Vala vesi gathsavay hande

Lanyan nyay kati ande

Lukmati kadnas rande

Valo myani poshe madano”



( You took my heart and hid yourself

Come back, my flower –decked lover  !

Come friend , let us look for dandelion leaves-

Who can erase what fate decrees  !

The mobs , they toss my name about

Come back, my flower –decked lover  !)


After Habba Khatun , we come across  Rupa Bhawani ( 1625-1721) , the mystic poet known as Alakheshwari or simply Saheb. Rupa Bhawani was born in the Dhar family of Safakadal , Srinagar . About her verses, Neeraja Mattoo writes this:-

“ Due to esoteric , subtle nature of her experiences , her poetic work is often enigmatic and inaccessible to the ordinary reader . This is the main reason why her poetry has never been popular .Unlike most Kashmiri poetry, her Vaakhs have never been sung, the form in which poems have been preserved in Kashmir’s oral tradition.        

Her Vaakhs  are the province of the ‘ initiated ‘,the verses generally being recited only at gatherings of her followers at special occasions such as anniversary of her death .”

    From her verses , it is observed that Rupa Bhawani was well versed  in Upnishads , Vedas, Shaivism  and Yogshastra . Apart from Sanskrit ,  she appears to be having good knowledge of  Persian, the official language of her period. Neerja Mattoo makes some  complex Vaakhs very simple and understandable through her apt and to the point translation. I quote two verses appearing in the book  translated  into English by her :-




“Yus mani heye dyaan ta paanastole

Kaanh na geli ta kansi na gele

Zani haras ta laages bele

Paanay paanas saeti suy mele”


( The one who meditates and weighs herself

She neither judges nor is judged

She simply waits for his benediction

She will merge with the supreme self.)



“Mata pita su braata paanay

Prath thaanay kath na naye

Niraakaar roop laegith paanay

Sath paanay ta kati sanaa nay?”


( He is mother , father , brother too

He is everywhere , where is He not?

He assumed a formless form

He is truth , where is He not ?)


The  fourth and the last  poet in the book is Arinmal (1737-1778). Arinmal is a poet of Vatsun  (lyricism ) genre . Born at village Palhalan in Kashmir, Arinmal was married to Bhawani Dass Kachru from Rainawari . Bhawani Dass was  an erudite Persian scholar in the court of Jumma Khan, who was the Afghan Governor of Kashmir from 1788 to 1792 AD . As a common practice in the Afghan days, Arnimal was married in her childhood. Before attaining the bloom of her youth, she was deserted by her poet husband . Like Habba Khatun, she too weaves musical rhymes and images through her poetry.  Her poetry brings forth her pathos , longing and  separation as her husband moved to  Kabul Darbaar  for many years making her to suffer  in abandonment .  About her poetry , Neerja Mattoo writes this :-

“ Her rich vocabulary and diction are proof of her mastery of the craft of poetry .Like Habba Khatun, she weaves charming images and rhymes to great effect. The beauty of fern and flower give her novel metaphors . Her imagination , fed on these sights , blossoms into striking imagery. The sensuous description transcends the emotions of pain . The sounds of the words have a musical quality that turns the poems into songs. This is what makes them easy to memorize and why they live on even though they were never written down .”

I quote two verses appearing in the book  translated into English  by the author of the book under review  :-


( 1)

 “Arini rang gom  Shraavana heeye

Kar yeeye darshun deeye

Shamsondhar  Paaman bo laejis

Aama taavay kotah zaejis

Naama paeghaam tas kus neeye 

Kar yeeye darshun deeye”


( I was a summer jasmine , with an ivory glow

Without luster , wan and pale I wait

When will he come and show me his face ?

Like blue Krishna he left me to shame

I am scorched and scarred by cruel mouths

Can no one carry a whisper , tell him of my plight

When will he come and show me his face ?)



 “Kya vanyo mati kya vanayo

Yi gom paanas ta ti nanayo

Lanyun nyay chhum ta ti vanayo

Baagas myanis baadam phulaya

Aadan raevus ta ti vanayo

Kya vanayo mati kya vanayo….”


( What shall I tell you  O Love , what ?

All that I suffered for love of you  ?

Or the judgment of Fate should I tell ?

What shall I tell you O Love , what ?

A burst of almond blossoms fills my garden

But in my spring  itself I was lost , should I tell ? 

What shall I tell you O Love , what ?

The hardbound book is covered in Jacket that has a beautiful painting by well known artist Neelima Sheikh . The subject  of the painting beautifully blends with the contents  of the book. Priced at Rs450/=,  it is currently available at  discount provided by the  online distributors .  I bought it for Rs333/=. By every standard , the book is worth its price and surely springs a surprise to the reader who finds it something worth reading and possessing .

( Avtar Mota )

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