Friday, August 27, 2021



( Kashmir photo 1960 by CL Sharma 'Tuliki' . Sh C L Sharma was chief artist of Hindustan Times, New Delhi . He was an ace photographer.) 

To this photo I add my Kashmiri poem, 'Aessi rov oul ' or ' we lost our home'...

   ( Aessi rov oul )

" Pazaritcha pustak kis prath varaqas
taem deuut siyaah rangan hund feish
Baalav Pyath vatch raavan Sena
Basti rott akh nov Opdesh
Jangalan kun draav Janki Natha
Tchhal saet khaarikh paandav both
Nav Ramayan nav Mahabharata
Raavan Shakuni sundh atharott
Draupdi byei guv vastra haran az
Bhagwaanan deut az kanna dol
Kya paai taem kya lobh kya prov
Assi rov neab , nagar beyi oul"

( Avtar Mota)

My English translation is as under:-

( We lost our home)  

(On every page of that truthful book,
 they splashed black ink to disfigure everything.
Down came Ravana's army from the mountains
and a new preaching spread in the settlements below.
Sri Rama was driven to the jungle,
And the Pandavas were exiled by deceit.
A new Ramayana,
A new Mahabharata for us , 
when Ravana and Shakuni joined hands .
Today once again they snatched Draupadi's clothes,
But today, Sri Krishna paid no heed to her cries.
Who knows what they gained or found ? 
But we lost our home, city and our address .)

(Avtar Mota)

.Creative Commons License
CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

Saturday, August 21, 2021





'NEELGAATHA'  by  Agnishekhar
Published in August 2021  by Pralek Prakashan Pvt. Limited, Mumbai.
  ISBN 978-81-95410-78-1
Price Rs395/=
(Available on Amazon and Flipkart)

Long back , I read  "Rashmirathi " ,  one amongst the most popular epic poems composed by poet  Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'. In this epic  poem, Dinkar Ji  has presented the story of Karna with all hues of  history and  human emotions so as to impart it  a timeless relevance . The poem leaves a profound and indelible impact on the mind  of the reader . Something similar happens if you  read  poet  Agnishekhar's  recently published book 'Neelgaatha'. I finished reading   "Neelgaatha "  yesterday .It is an epic poem set in eight Parvas( segments ) wherein the poet brings in Neelnaag, son of Rishi Kashyapa  as the  interactive onlooker and central protagonist who observes the tragic history of the original inhabitants of Kashmir right from the  draining of Satisar  lake to their recent exile and suffering . As I finished the book, entire painful history of Kashmir and its original inhabitants  kept visiting my mind again and again. This is an  excellent  poetic documentation done by Agnishekhar  with a narrative that has truthful historical background and content.

Agnishekhar  ( born 1955 ) is a well known name in the field of  contemporary Hindi literature . With six poetic collections already published and very well received , Agnishekhar has established himself as the most cogent , impressive and loudest  voice in  the arena of  the  ”  Poetry of Exile “  from India . He has shared platforms  with many  leading international poets of this genre. His poetic collections like ‘’Mujh se chheen Li Gayi Meri Nadi , Kissi Bhi Samay , Kaalvriksh ki Chhaaya Mein . Jawahar Tunnel , Meri Priya Kavitaayein  and Jalta Huva Pull have already  been translated into many languages of the country .  He has also edited  Kashmir editions of  some magazines like Pahal  and Pragtisheel Vasudha . He is also recipient of many  prestigious awards that include Girija Kumar Mathur Smriti Puruskaar , Sarva-shreth Pustak  Samaan ( J&K Academy  of Art Culture and Languages.. 2010 )  and Sahitya Shatabadhi Samaan .

Neelgaatha or the book under review  has 178 pages and is dedicated to  folklorists ,  writers and poets of   Kashmir  who’s symbols , stories and memories have been used by the poet in compilation of the epic poem.There is no formal foreword . The foreword has been substituted by a lucid and impressive  introduction to the epic poem by  Kripa Shanker  Choubey , professor at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, Wardha.  This introduction is seen on the inner side of   red jacket to the book.

If we look at the corpus of the  world literature , the topic of human banishment or exile has always occupied a dominant space in it. The issue of exile has its space in our great epics like the  Ramayana  and the  Mahabharata. The literature of exile encompasses bitter, impassioned indictments of unjust, inhumane regimes and  rulers . It also includes wrenching melancholy for lost homes, lost families, and a lost sense of belonging.

The tragedy of human banishment remains a topic that finds ample space in the works of post second world war writers, artists and  playwrights . Even to this day we have great poets like Sherko Bekas  or sculptor Bruno Catalano who are masters in conveying the innermost feelings of human beings  in exile either through their pen or brush .  They are respected and loved for this as exile is a reality lived and  experienced by human beings since times immemorial . It is neither fictional nor imaginary . Even in the Indian subcontinent , majority of the  post partition ( 1947 )writers have created a corpus of literature that deals with the painful and heart wrenching stories  of exile.

One has to have some basic knowledge of the history of Kashmir for  purposeful comprehension of the epic poem Neelgaatha that begins with a chance meeting between an exile from Kashmir with  the protagonist Neelnaag. The poet has painted this encounter in the backdrop of refugee camps , dirty  lanes , gloomy faces , bare feet children playing in a  dusty ground near the refugee tents   , women fetching drinking water from open roadside taps , men in tattered clothes and  some young boys and girls  getting  ready to take out a procession .  This is the first Parva titled Bhavishya Ka vartamaan ( Present of  the Future ) .The rest begins in flashback that conveys the story right from the draining of the Satisar lake  to this day .This story is spread in remaining seven Parvas ( segments ) titled Samay Ke  Mool, Punaragaman , Yudh , Mahaayaan ,Turushak,Ananadpur Sahib and Asamaapat .

As you leaf through these eight Parvas , you are told the story of Rishi Kashyapa ,  Nagas , Pitsachas , Indra , Hari ( Vishnu ) Garuda , Sheshnaag , Shiva , Keshva , demon Jalodhbhava and the collective efforts of Devtas ( gods ) in slaying  the demon Jalodhbhava and draining out the water of Satisar lake through Varah-mool ( present day Baramulla ) . We are told that the  Sudershan Chakra that is associated with Sri Krishna was also  put to use by Vishnu  in this fight between Devtas ( gods ) and Asuras( demons ) .  Our protagonist , Neelnaag is also witness to the scripting of Matasya Avtara , Koorm Avtara , creation of Sharika’s abode at  Hari Parvat ,  arrival of goddess  Kashmira and goddess Sharda to the land that is created after the water of the  Satisar lake is  drained out and demons are driven away. Neelnaag also witnesses the arrival of  Shiva , Parvati ,  Yashovati , Sri Krishna  and Hanuman  to Kashmir . The poem has the story of Takshaknaaga,  the  battle of Kurukshetra , Vijyeshwara shrine ( demolished in 14th century ), Gopadhari  Shrine ( Gupkar ) ,Sureshwari ( an ancient shrine dedicated to goddess Durga on the banks of  the Dal lake )  and Mahasarit  ( ancient name of the Dal lake ) apart from  Nagarjuna ( Buddhist philosopher from Kashmir  ) ,  Kanishka , Lalitaditya and many other  icons from   the glorious civilization of  Kashmir . Neelnaag  also witnesses how  saints and sages from Satidesa  or Kashmir move to China , Khotan, Tibet, Mongolia , Korea and Japan to spread Dharma and convey the message “Buddham Sharnam Gatchhaami ”. He also is privy to the arrival of Turushkas resulting in some unpopular deviations in the discharge of  Rajdharma during the rule of King  Harsha  of Kashmir .Neelnaag is pained to see a period that changed the course of Kashmir’s history. This period   begins with the arrival of Rinchena,  a fugitive prince from Tibet  . He also witnesses  the   acts of   Kota Rani ( a brave queen of Kashmir) , Ramchandra , Udayandeva  and the deceitful  refugee Shahmir  .
Nothing pains Neelnaag  more than the demolition of temples and Viharas  during the rule of Shahmiri Sultans especially Sikander Butshikan  and forcible conversion of  the people to the new faith. The  demolition activity  makes the landscape of  Kashmir free from  Viharas and temples and our protagonist or  Neelnaag remains a silent and  helpless spectator  to this destruction and mayhem .It pains him to see thedestruction of the  Martanda ( Sun Temple ) , Vijeyshwara Teertha , Kalishri Temple , Avantiswamin Temple ,  Parihaspora temples and town , Avantishwara Temple and many more  majestic temples and Viharas  . He is also privy to the rule of Sultan Zain ul Abdin  who tries to apply balm to the painful wounds of the  native Hindus  . Neelnaag  is amazed at the magnanimity of the Sultan who appoints Shirya  Bhatt as  Sarva Dharma Adhikari   and brings back the Hindus to their native  land from the plains of  Bharata ( India ) at the specific request of Shirya  Bhatt who cures the Sultan from a serious ailment.

As the poem progresses further ,Neelnaag becomes a mute witness to the cruelties of  Iftekhar Khan , the Mughal governor of Kashmir during the rule of Aurangzeb. Under the leadership of Pandit Kripa Ram of Mattan , native Hindus   seek help from Guru Tegh Bahadur . Neelnaag consoles a weeping Kripa Ram at the supreme sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur to save Dharma . Wiping his tears , Pandit Kripa Ram  pledges to take care of child  Dashmesh  or Guru Gobind Singh Ji . Neelnaag is amazed to see Kripa Ram and his brother Sanmukh Ram  attaining martyrdom in the battle of Chamkaur Sahib fighting the Mughal forces . Both the brothers  become a part of the group of 40 Muktas who attain martyrdom at Chamkaur Sahib. We also find Neelnaag seeking reasons as to why there is no end to the pain and suffering of native Hindus  when Mughals are followed by cruel Afghans . Placing his hand on the shoulders of Pandit Birbar (  Birbal ) Dhar , he suggest the sagacious Pandit to visit Lahore Darbaar  and seek  help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh  for amelioration of the miseries  and sufferings of the people  of Kashmir .  Entrusting his wife and daughter in law to his friend Quddus Gojwari  and helped by Malik family  ( Muslim ) to cross Pir-Panchal pass , Birbar ( Birbal )  Dhar reaches Lahore and  impresses Maharaja Ranjit Singh to send Sikh forces and  make Kashmir free from the cruel rule of Afghans . The Sikh army defeats  Afghans in the battle of Shopian and  Kashmir comes  under Sikh rule .Sitting on the  Shankrachrya hill , Neelnaag witnesses   peace returning to  the Kashmir valley . After some time, the Dogra rulers  emerge on the scene . Neelnaag is now  happy to  see the  clouds of darkness dispelling from the sky over Kashmir and rays of light and hope emerging gradually.  He finds  progress and development visiting his Kashmir  .The city that had forgotten the sound of temple bells is   abuzz with    tinkling of bells and Shankhnaad . There is peace and focus on developmental activities like  construction of roads , schools , hospitals , courts and  colleges . From the top of Shankracharya hill, Neelnaag looks at  the serpentine path  of river Vitasta ,  which happens to be the undying witness to many tragedies that visited the  Kashmir valley. There is a sudden turn in the poem and Neelnaag brings the poet back to his misplaced tent in the refugee camp. A camp that he shares with the victims of  armed insurgency  and ethnic cleansing . This is a crowd  abandoned by time and forced  to face antipathy from all quarters of  the establishment .

Writing such epic poems is not every poet's cup of tea.  It requires profound knowledge of history, unshakeable committment to a cause and conceptual clarity. I believe and am convinced that the author of this epic is in command of these great skills . Neelgaatha has established that   exiles are quite capable of telling their own stories without having others speak for them. I have always believed that  exile can also be a source of creativity for many writers. And the' Exile Consciousness' is surely a way to reconnect with a life that seems increasingly distant  . With its subject and style of presentation , I am sure about the immortality of this work. 


                 ( The book review  was published by the Daily Excelsior newspaper on 3.10.2021)

(The author presenting the book to actor K K Raina)

This epic poem is not only documentation of miseries and sorrows that visited a peace loving  community for the last seven hundred years , it is essentially a powerful petition to powers that be . A petition that seeks their attention saying loudly “ Look this way  to ameliorate our pain and suffering. We had it enough. ” Doesn’t Urdu poet Moin Ahsan Jazbi  also convey  the same story when he says this :-

" Sarvo saman bhi mauje naseem e sahar bhi hai
Aey gul tere chaman mein koyi chashm e tar bhi hai
Duniya sunne to kissa e gham hai bahut taweel
Haan tum suno to qissa-e-gham mukhtasar bhi.."

(  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  .
Should the world listen, the story of my sorrow is long and detailed,
Should you desire to listen, I carry a brief version as well)

( Avtar Mota )

Creative Commons License
CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

Thursday, August 12, 2021




Two Kashmiri Pandits from Zadoo family of Kashmir were associated with Neta Ji Subash Chandra Bose and later INA. I have read three references that one amongst them named  Kanti Chandra Zadoo was engaged by Neta Ji as his personal secretary sometime in 1945.He is believed to have been on board the same air craft which mysteriously crashed in 1945 near  Taihoku, Japanese Taiwan, resulting in the death of Subhash Chandra Bose and Kanti Chandra . Beyond the three  or four references, no research has been done on this aspect at any point of time.
     ( Left to Right... Dina Nath Zadoo and Kanti Chandra Zadoo) 

Both the Kashmiris were real brothers and sons of Prof. Jagddhar Zadoo of Kashmir. Dina Nath Zadoo, brother of Kanti Chandra Zadoo  served as the Captain in the Indian National Army (INA). He fought at Malaysia and  died in 1986 in India.


It may be pertinent to mention that Pandit Keshav Bhat Zadoo  ,  Prof Jagddhar Zadoo’s grandfather was the Royal Astrologer of Maharaja Ranbir Singh .Pandit Keshav Bhat Zadoo was a Sanskrit scholar and was frequently consulted by George Buhler for his work on the Paippalada Shakha of Atharvaveda. Some scholars say that the Paippalada manuscript of the Atharvaveda  in Sharda had many drawbacks . A   more  accurate and detailed  Oriya manuscript (written on  palm leaves ) translated into English is now available in India, Europe and USA. It is possibly in four volumes. Dipak Battacharya is the author/ translator of this new set of books on Paippalada Manuscript of the Atharvaveda.

Prof Jagddhar Zadoo taught Sanskrit at Prince of Wales College Jammu , S. P. College Srinagar and the Government College for Women, Srinagar ( 1951-1953)..In1924, he brought out the first critical edition of the Nilmata Purana working jointly with Prof. R.K. Kanjilal, He also translated  into English  Kshemendra’s  Loka Prakasha . He translated some portions of the Gilgit Manuscripts  discovered in 1931 and also worked with Russian and Japanese scholars . Prof . Jagddhar Zadoo was a polyglot who also co edited and assisted in the translation of many more manuscripts / books. He died in 1981.

The Zadoo family from Kashmir has always been daring and nationalistic in their outlook  .Krishna Misri ( Zadoo ) , who got herself enrolled as a volunteer in the women’s wing of' National Militia' set up by the supporters of the National Conference to fight the Invading tribal raiders during 1947, belongs to this Zadoo family. Her father , Shri  Vasudev Zadoo was an eminent civil engineer of Kashmir . This resistance group was also known as Women’s Self Defence Corps (WSDC) . She must have been a young girl of 13 or 14 years at the time of the tribal raid in Kashmir . Prof .Krishna Misri's  real brother,Pushkar Zadoo was also martyred in 1947.

( Avtar Mota)

Sunday, August 8, 2021


( Jogilanker bridge, Rainawari photograph)
( Maar canal Rainawari, Srinagar )
( Jogilanker bridge, Rainawari   Photo,,Avtar Mota )


In Jogilanker, Rainawari, we had a shopkeeper doing brisk business in provisions. Every person called him Naba Bakhor. I believe his real name was Ghulam Nabi. Behind his back, Pandits called him a Pakistani agent. Muslims owing allegiance to National Conference called him a mischief man from Jamaat ( Jamaat e Islami ). 


He was all praise for Maharaja's rule. According to him, all ills in  the Kashmiri society had come after the Awami Raj ( public rule ). This was his indirect way of hitting at the National Conference sympathisers apart from appeasing his Kashmiri Pandit customers. Exactly opposite to his shop was the bakery shop of Nila Kanth Bhan, a saintly Kashmiri Pandit. If there was no customer to deal with, Naba Bakhor would cry :-


" Dear Nila Kanth, Did you visit the Ghaat ( PDS ration depot on the canal bank)? Have fresh ration supplies arrived? How is the rice ?"


" No, I didn't but Master Durga Nath Handoo was telling me that the worst quality of rice is being supplied this month at the Ghaat. It is all Zug ( dusty or shabby in colour ). It has been a long time since we saw sparkling white rice at the Ghaat. "


In his reply, Naba Bakhor would say loudly :-


 " Should I send 10 kg of potatoes? I have bought a quintal of potatoes yesterday. We must follow our great leader ( referring to Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah) who has already advised us to eat potatoes when rice is not around."


This was a sarcastic remark meant for Ismaal Bakhor, another shopkeeper nearby. Ismaal Bakhor ( Mohammad Ismail ) was a diehard National Conference supporter.

There were two insane persons possibly disowned by their families, who used to sit near Naba Bakhor's shop. One was known as Gaffara and the other was Ghulam Mohammad nicknamed Takka Adij. While Gaffara was weak and slept even during the day time., Takka Adij was always on the move and turned violent when somebody called him by his nickname. Ismaal butcher, who had his shop near Naba Bakhor's shop, would sometimes pass on a mutton piece to Takkka Adij that he roasted in his Kangri and relished. This act earned him the nickname of Takka Adij. Quite often, Neel Kanth Bhan ( Kashmiri baker ) would pass on a hot Tandoor bread or Kulcha to Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Adij. Naba Bakhor would give him cigarettes and Morton toffees. Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Addij would relish toffees while smoking cigarettes. He smoked three or four cigarettes at a time, one after the other. For these temptations, Ghulam Mohammad or Takka Adij was seen around Naba Bakhor's Shop.

While Naba Bakhor enjoyed gossiping with other shopkeepers and customers, he had kept no space for anybody to sit inside his shop.You had to keep standing outside Naba Bakhor's shop for gossiping. He would sit in the shop during morning hours whereafter his sons would take over. They did not indulge in gossiping.

 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Maharaja Hari Singh, R C Kak, M A Jinnah, Gandhi Ji, Molvi Yusuf Shah, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, U.N.O. resolutions, General Zia ul Haq and Molvi Mohammad Farooq were frequently brought into discussion by him.  I would often hear Naba Bakhor saying one line to close his argument :-

 “Ye gayi markazitch chaal ‘.. or…. This is a trick played by the central government .”

The other party had always to roll back his logic and reasoning in any discussion with him once he declared" markaz ki chaal ' as his verdict. For his business, he was always sharp and focussed. Despite his rigid beliefs, I always admired him for his outspokenness.

One day, a middle-aged Pandit who had come to buy something fainted outside his shop. Seeking help from Nila Kanth Bhan,  Naba Bakhor physically lifted the sick Pandit and made him lie on the outer space ( penjj) of the adjacent shop that would usually remain closed. Asking Nila Kanth Bhan to take care of the Pandit, he ran barefooted and brought Dr Prem Nath Kaul 'Wafa ' from his shop. Dr Wafa put some sugar in the mouth of the Pandit and revived him. I saw the person walking back to his home.

And one day Naba Bakhor told me this:-


" Yesterday, I saw you standing near Habiba butcher's ( Habib Pujj) shop. Don't ever visit Habiba's shop. Always buy mutton from Qadir Pujj( Ghulam Qadir ) across the bridge. Why don't you buy from Ismalla ( Mohammad Ismail butcher)? He is your neighbour. You should go to the Shera butcher at Kralyaar if it is not available with Qadira or Ismalla . Never go to Habiba's shop. Don't you know that he had slaughtered a donkey sometime back? I have told this to him on his face."

I had my doubts about the  authenticity of what Naba Bakhor  had said about the   butcher. Upon checking, I found Habiba butcher  a sympathiser of National Conference.  However, the donkey story was also repeated   by another shopkeeper,  Chuni Lal Watlu .

Chuni Lal Watlu had his chemist shop exactly opposite to  the Jogilanker  police station in  Rainawari. When gossip mongers sitting in his shop ensured  complete downfall of his business , he became  a middleman for settling any issue that any resident had with the  police .However, he  was always sought after for dressing of wounds,  injections and intravenous glucose drips by people. He had developed expertise in these areas.Sometimes he would come to our house for intravenous injections  or any other medical emergency. I would also go to his shop for injections and dressing . My mother knew his brother Sham Lal , a thorough gentleman who had a chemist shop at Gankhan, ZainKadal, quite close to my mother's parental home. Sham Lal was like a family member of   Tikoo family (my mother's parental family ) .Chuni Lal Watlu knew that connection very well. He would often tell me this:
" If Sham  Lal , my brother is  your Mama ( maternal uncle), so am I. For any help, you should come straight to me without inhibition. "

Entrusting his shop to the gossip mongers, he  was always mobile .

One day I touched the issue of Habiba butcher with Chuni Lal Watlu  . He immediately told me that he   had intervened in the matter and helped Habiba butcher at the police station  when some person had lodged a complaint on the donkey issue . Beyond this ,I could not ascertain anything about the donkey story. One could also not rely  totally on Chuni Lal Watlu's version as he was given to making issues out of non issues to involve police  .  Involvement of police benefitted him financially as he had to earn something for himself and his family after the  gossip mongers at his shop had  rendered him idle.

As and when I went to his shop, I found the gossip mongers discussing Jawahar Lal Nehru or Indira Gandhi or  D.P.Dhar or  Bakshi Ghulam  Mohammad or Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the defeat of Pakistan in Bangladesh war.  Chuni Lal was a Congress sympathiser.

Chuni Lal had a human side as well. Many of his clients were from interior localities of  Dal lake  . Most of these clients would come to his shop for  glucose drips .
Glucose drip was very popular in Kashmir.It was a self medication to treat what Kashmiris felt "general weakness "  or sometimes  self presumed dehydration . Every chemist shop had arrangement for infusion  of intravenous glucose  particularly during summers.I have heard many Kashmiris talking something like this:

" I feel I have no energy. I feel tired even if I walk ten steps."
" Go to a chemist and get a bottle of glucose injected . You will be immediately full of energy."
Sometimes ,he would be taken in a  small roofless boat (   Demba Naav ) for Vitamin or pain killer or antibiotic injections prescribed by other doctors . He was quite popular with residents of Dal lake  . Once I saw a Muslim woman at  his shop. She had   come for glucose drip . She had  finished the drip and was saying this to Chuni Lal:
" I have no money with me at the moment . I will give it to you next time. I had also  to buy some items from Nand Khosa's shop at Kraalyaar ."
And she  moved out of his shop. Chuni Lal immediately brought out  a hundred rupee note from his purse and said to the woman:

"  O sister, take this money. Buy what you want. Don't think about returning it. I will not ask. Whenever you have surplus ,  return it otherwise forget. This shop will always welcome you even if you don't return this money. Of Your face resembles with Nazir Ahmed  .Are you his  sister? Take this biscuit packet for your children. "

I conclude this post with some couplets from a Gazal of modern Urdu poet Zubair Rizvi...

"Hai dhoop kabhi saaya
shola hai kabhi shabnam,

Lagta hai mujhe tum sa
dil ka to har ikk mausam.

Beete  huve lamhon ki

ḳhushboo hai meray  ghar mein,

Book-rack pe rakkhe hain

yaadon ke kayi  album ......" 


( sometime,it feels like sunshine
Sometime like shade ,
sometime i feel it like a fireball,
And sometime it feels like cool dew.
Every season within my heart,
Looks and feels like you only.

The fragrance of time spent ,
lingers in my  house,
And my book shelf is decorated by
Many albums of memories alone .. )

( Avtar Mota)




                                              (Stein with his helpers in Taklamakan desert )
                                                                ( Aurel Stein )
              ( The first page of the catalogue presented to Maharaja Partap Singh by Stein )
                                        ( The Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute  Jammu )
                                      ( The Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute  Jammu )
                    ( Letters written to Stein from Jammu By Govind Koul and Sahaj Ram Bhat in Sanskrit )

   ( A page from the printed catalogue prepared by Govind Koul and Sahaj Ram Bhat )

"Stein was the bedrock of India's archaeology, India's history, India's strategic interest in Central Asia." 
(Dr Lokesh Chandra)
Being from the Suryavanshi clan of Kshatriyas , the Dogra Rajput rulers of Jammu were ardent devotees of Sri Raghunath Ji or Sri Rama. Accordingly, they built some majestic temples dedicated to Sri Rama . Situated right in the heart of the Jammu city , Sri Raghunath Ji Temple is the example of their intense devotion to Sri Rama. This is possibly the biggest temple complex in North India .
Work on the temple was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of the Jammu and Kashmir state in 1835 AD and was subsequently completed by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860 AD.Maharaja Ranbir Singh was also a lover of literature and accordingly many libraries were opened during his rule .He also started a translation department and got some Persian and Arabic books translated .
For promotion of Dogri, Maharaja Ranbir Singh got its script standardized on the lines of Devanagari script. The modified form of the script came to be known as Namme Dogre Akkhar(New Dogra letters) as against the older version i.e.Parane Dogre Akkhar . Standardization made the script fit for purpose of litho and typo printing which was extensively done afterwards for preparing books for official use and school studies. Dogri classes were started at Raghunath Mandir Pathshala.
To protect rare manuscripts and texts lying in private hands, he opened the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library at Jammu.Pandit Asananda of Jammu ,who was connected with the royal family of Jammu did some wonderful work by collecting manuscripts from people by spending about fifteen thousand rupees from the treasury as per instructions of Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
The Maharaja entrusted manuscript collection from Kashmir to Pandit Rajkak who was assisted by Pandit Balbadhra, Pandit Sahib Ram ,Pandit Krishna Bhat ,Pandit Daya Ram and Pandit Sukh Ram. These Pandits also procured some rare birch bark manuscripts for the Raghunath Library.
The Library has more than 6000 manuscripts, of which around 2000 have been digitised . It also houses more than twenty thousand books . Many manuscripts preserved in the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library have been written in Sharda script.
The collection at the Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library includes books on grammar, lexicography, prosody, music, rhetoric, Kavya, drama, fables, Dharmasutras, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Jyotisha, Architecture, Medicine, Epics, Puranas, Bhakti and Tantra.
The active efforts since 1875 to understand Kashmir’s submerged past have to be understood to contend and substantiate the identity of Kashmir in a historical context. The patrons of Indological studies in Kashmir include Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Maharaja Pratap Singh, Raja Amar Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh. Western scholars include George Buhler, Marc Aurel Stein, George Grierson, Dr. David B. Spooner, Prof. Sten Konow, Prof. Maurice Winternitz, Dr. Eugen Hultzsch and John Marshall. The plethora of Kashmiri Pundits who assisted Indologists in unearthing the Hindu legacy of Kashmir include Prof. Nityananda Sastri, Pt. Govind Kaul, Pt. Damodar, Pt. Sahib Ram, Pt. Mukund Ram Sastri, Pt. Ananda Kaul, Pt. Ishwar Kaul, Pt. Sahaz Bhat and Prof. Jagdhar Zadoo and many more.

From Professor  Buhler's  write up, Aurel Stein came to know about Maharaja Ranbir Singh' s private collection of manuscripts held inside Sri Raghunath Ji Temple complex ,Jammu. Stein had come to Kashmir to collect Sanskrit  and Sharda manuscripts .After completing  his task with the help of his many Pandit friends, he Left Srinagar in August 1988 and  arrived in Jammu . In Jammu , he  inspected the manuscripts that were held in shabby condition in two locked rooms inside Sri Raghunath Ji Temple ,Jammu.He was more than certain that if not catalogued, segregated and scientifically preserved, this treasure may be lost due to harsh climatic conditions ,termites and other insects . He  sought help from the British resident in Kashmir  and together they impressed Maharaja Partap Singh for cataloguing  and scientific and proper preservation of the treasure.

Credit goes to Aurel Stein for getting the manuscripts at Sri Raghunath Ji Temple Manuscript Library catalogued using services of some expert Kashmiri Pandits proficient in Sanskrit and Sharda .Stein visited Jammu in 1889 for this work and was given full cooperation by Pandit Radhakrishen ,the then governor of Jammu who got a separate building constructed for this library inside the Sri Raghu Nath Ji Temple complex . Maharaja Partap Singh issued orders for this task and sanctioned special pay of Rs75 and Rs 50 per month respectively to Pandit Govind Koul and Pandit Sahaj Ram Bhat ( Sahaz Bhat )  who catalogued more than six thousand rare manuscripts in a scientific manner for this library. These experts were assisted by Pandit Mukandram Shastri   from Kashmir who was also tasked by an order of Maharaja Partap Singh on the recommendations of Aurel Stein. These experts had already worked with Stein and were well known to him. Sahaj Kak Bhat   ( Sahaz Bhat  )  and Govind Kaul stayed in Jammu for about 18 months to complete the task. They were in regular correspondence with Aurel Stein who stayed at Lahore. This correspondence done in Sanskrit is also preserved in a British museum. Stein visited the library again in 1940. His diaries are preserved in a museum in UK. The Jammu visit of 1940 in his diary reads this:
" I visited Jammu again after 50 years the Raghunath temple library. Its six thousand old Sanskrit manuscripts had been catalogued by me with the help of Pandit Govind Koul and another excellent scholar friend Sahaz Bhat in what seems now like a previous birth. It had been a dreary task but it saved the collection from being lost. I had a very attentive reception, had to talk Sanskrit again for an hour or so thus purifying my tongue by use of the sacred languages after all my peregrinations in the barbarian North and West. It was a quaint experience to find myself in the end garlanded in the traditional Kashmir Hindu fashion for the first time in life....December 12, 1940."
   ( Pandit Mukand Ram Shastri )

 Aurel Stein’s closest friends in Kashmir were , Prof Nityananad Shastri  ( Sanskrit teacher at S. P. College , Srinagar ) Pandit Govind Koul (Incharge Translation Department during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ),Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri ( Translator during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ) ,Sahaz Kak Bhat (  linguist and physician and also  father of Hakim  Sham Lal Bhat ) and  Harabhatta Zadoo ( Sanaskrit scholar and son of Pandit Keshav Bhatta Zadoo , the Royal Astrologer in the Court of Maharaja Ranbir Singh ) . Apart from these,  Stein had befriended about 15 Sanskrit scholars from Kashmir.


When Stein left Kashmir, he arranged for Pandit Govind Kaul to join him at Lahore to work on Sanskrit manuscripts. On  Govind Koul’s 's death in June 1899, a shocked Stein lamented that Govind Koul , ''like another Kalhana departed as my best Indian friend beyond all hope of reunion in this Janma". Paying fulsome tributes to him, Stein wrote: "Whenever Govind Kaul was by my side, whether in the dusty exile of Lahore or alpine coolness of Mohand Marg in Kashmir, I was in continuity with the past as the historical student of India. His personality embodied all that change of ages indicated and showed as the mind and psyche of India."


About his association with  some  learned Kashmiri Pandits , Stein writes this :-


"But perhaps the greatest advantage I derived from Kashmirian Pandit association with my labours was the chance it gave me to study in close contact those peculiarities of traditional Indian thought, belief and conduct which separate Hindu Civilization so deeply both from the West and the East and which no amount of book knowledge could ever fully reveal to a Maleecha (uncouth  foreigner) .”
The catalogue prepared by the learned Pandits was got published from Nirnaya Sagara Press ,Bombay by Aurel Stein in 1894 and presented to Maharaja Partap Singh. These rare manuscripts are available to research scholars and the library staff may allow photographing using your own camera . The birch Bark manuscripts are highly delicate ,as such copying of these is not allowed.The library is located on the back side of Sri Raghunath Temple and is easily approachable from Hari market entrance .It remains open from 19.30 a.m. to 5p.m.The library is presently known as Sri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute,Jammu.
(Avtar Mota)

 Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.