Tuesday, January 25, 2022



       ( Above two photographs relate to international edition available on Amazon)

  ( Above two photographs relate to Indian edition)

 THE TULIPS AND THE SNOWSTORM ( Stories from Kashmir) 

by Avtar Mota
Price Rs440/-

I don't claim to know the skills of story writing but what I assure every reader about the stories contained in this book is as under:-

(1) The gripping narrative of every story shall enthuse ,involve and entertain you.

(2) The easily identifiable characters in these stories are ordinary human beings who get trapped in situations beyond their control. Even when they look to the sky over their head for resolution and relief ,it responds with indifference that is luckily benign. If they smile, you smile with them. And if they are pensive , they make you pensive too. These characters bring you to the book again and again.

(3) The stories reveal happy living , nostalgia, empathy ,helplessness, pretence and sorrows of exile. The shift in our value system , whereby utility and expediency are replacing every other old value is also visible in some stories .

In one of my stories , Tarawati is tempted to buy Kohalrabi ( Kadam ) that suddenly arrives in the Sabzi Mandi .In the mid-day heat , she walks to her shelter ,satisfied and happy carrying the prized Kohlrabi( Kadam) but dies of heatstroke . She is an exile who has lost her identity and environment and finds a gleaming hope of survival at the sight of Kohalrabi . I have received affectionate Kudos from a Professor in the US for scripting Tarawati's obituary in the story. The story 'Do Not Say Bangaluru Again " reflects clash of perspective between young and old. "Book Release "and "Award Winners" fall in humour and satire category. 'A Day Inside Lalla Ded Maternity Hospital , Srinagar ', ‘Qazigund :Anda Chai Paratha and Bathroom ‘ and ‘The Afghan Dry Fruit Seller ‘ are packed with truthful and gripping humour . So are the stories like ‘ Shoe theft in Kashmiri society’, ‘ Dudda or the Uninvited Guest in Kashmiri Marriage Feast’ , ‘Gossip Shops of Rainawari ‘ and ‘ Kashmiris and Humour’.

‘ Mother ‘ is another story based on ' Mother- Child ' relation told in a different style . Unforgettable Nazir Ahmed " is the story of a brave, innocent and honest footpath vendor. ‘Terminal Dues‘ and ‘Bank Loan Guarantor’ present complex issues that the exiled Kashmiri Pandit community faced after 1990.

In these stories, you may find settled people becoming travellers. Families disintegrating as children get educated and move to far off lands in search of jobs . Only senior citizens live in the houses that they had built for their families .Loneliness hangs on doors and windows . Deep freezers arrive in the society to enable children to join the Final Samaskara ( funerals ) of their parents . Old traditions and customs come under enormous pressure . The runaway technology appears imposing a strange and all engulfing dehumanising process .

I personally believe that a writer is a part of the system. He is in it yet above it. He has to be at a spot that could be called as his intellectual observatory. For my readers , I present excerpts from some stories


( Sarvanand had witnessed how some hooligans had made obscene gestures in front of the dais from which Mrs Indira Gandhi had addressed her election rally at the Hazoori Bagh park
in Srinagar city. ………………………Sarvanand looked around and saw that everybody in the gathering belonged to the National Conference cadre. He saw Ghulam Nabi (tailor), Ismail Gujri (milk seller), Rahim Naavid (barber) and Habib Ganai (butcher) looking expectantly for his reply. Everybody knew that Pandits in Kashmir would vote for the Congress party in that particular election. Sarvanand had also come with that purpose. But then looking at the situation, Sarvanand had to say something different.

“ We have one mission here. Alla-Baen or the plough (election symbol of the National Conference party) must win. Who can forget the role of the National Conference and its leader Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah? ‘Sher i Kashmir ka kya irshaad, Hindu - Muslim - Sikh Ittehaad’ or Hindu, Muslim and Sikh unity has been the slogan of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.” Said Sarvanand.

“Pandit Ji that is good. Don’t worry. We have done the same. Your vote has been cast. Please tell your neighbour Dina Nath Ji not to trouble himself by coming to this polling booth. His vote has also been cast. You Ismaala (Ismail), give the special curd Lassi to Pandit Ji. He looks exhausted.”)
( From the short story ‘ Curd Lassi 1983’ in Part I )


( “ What is Shastar, caste or surname ?”

“ Neither caste nor surname, It is a Kashmiri word meaning iron that is tough and useful. Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims can live without iron. So it is a real secular word. Shastar Sahib was toying with the idea of using Traam (copper) or Sartal (brass) or Loi (bronze) as his pseudonym but then Abdul Aziz and Mohan Kishen clarified to him that these metals were not secular. They also advised him against Sonn (gold) or Roff (silver) as these metals don’t get identified with his vote bank. Shastar Sahib was also writing poetry when he was idle. After his first innings as Minister of State for Forests, he forgot poetry but continued using ‘Shastar’ as his pseudonym.”)

( From the short story ‘Book Release’ in Part I)


(When Ram Krishen heard it, he turned serious and said :-

“That means the poor lady is to be kept in cold storage like a vegetable or perishable commodity. This is not our Sanatan Dharma. This is not the proper way to conduct final Samaskaara. This is not provided in our sacred texts and the Shastras. We Kashmiri Pandits don’t go by these short cuts. Who will keep her on the grass mat in the mortuary? Her body needs to be kept facing particular directions. Who shall recite the Bhagwat Geeta in the mortuary for her? Who will keep the earthen lamp burning in the mortuary? We can keep her on ice slabs if we have necessarily to wait for Sanjay. You should have told Sanjay that you are performing the final Samaskaara tomorrow and he could have joined us for the 10th day ritual (Kriya). It is not proper to shift a dead body from the house and then again bring it back. After all you are dealing with a soul that has yet to attain Moksha (salvation) through the Kriya Karma (religious rituals).”)

( From the story ‘The Final Samaskara’ Part I)


(“Khan pather me shigaaf se nahin nikla. Khan ka maa hai. Khan ka biwi hai . Khan ka bacha hai. Khan ayaal mein rehta hai. Khan tabardaar hai. Sab amraaz ka ilaaj karega. Yuk zenaana yuk mardaana ka beemari majlis mein bataane laayak nahin. Aissa beemari par pardaa nahin rakhna. Ilaaj karna zaroori. Khan bil khasoosan aissa beemari ka ilaaj karega. Apna Kashmiri bhai koyi khaas baat karega. Apnaa Kashmiri bhai koyi khaas ilaaj karega. Khan dawai bech kar yuk ba yuk sunega. Maalik shifa bakshega. Yuk, dho, teen din mein dawai ka assar aayega. Abhi bolega to hawa mein. Baad mein bolega to khan ki jaan ko.”)

(Khan was not born out of a crack in some rock. Khan has a mother. Khan has a wife. Khan has his children. Khan lives in a family. Khan is a family man. Khan will cure every ailment.
Many men, many women may have ailments not worth mentioning here openly. But don't hide such ailments. Get these ailments treated. Khan will specifically treat such ailments. My Kashmiri brothers can talk to Khan privately for such ailments. After selling the medicine, Khan will attend to these secret ailments. God will grant the desired cure. First, second and then the third day, you will notice the effect of Khan's medicine. At this moment, you may curse Khan but later on, all your good wishes will be for Khan.)

( From the Story ‘ The Herbal Tonic seller from Afghanistan’ in Part II )


(There was a cloth shop owned by a Muslim from Malik family just opposite to Ram Joo's chemist shop. The gossip mongers would start arriving at 5 pm and by 6.30 pm the discussions would become loud. Ram Joo was a Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) and a skilled medical expert. He was a helpful person. He had worked with Dr Ali Jan, the renowned physician of Kashmir. However, the gossip mongers had brought total gloom to his business and rendered waste all his expertise.

When some family member of some gossip monger would try to go inside the shop due to some exigency back at home, the owner of the 'Malik Cloth Shop' would cry loudly:-

“Don't go inside. Kashmir' problem is in its final stage of settlement. They are busy preparing the agreement .Waldheim (Kurt Waldheim) has been waiting for this agreement at the UNO office since last Monday. You must understand. You are educated young man. Go back, tell your mother or the guest at your home to wait.")

( From the story Gossip Shops of Jogilanker, Rainawari in Part II)

(“Yes, apart from me, five persons were given the prestigious SSCD Literary Award for the year 2019. Poet Sham Lal Talvaas, writer Som Nath, Parvez Muscle (owner of Muscle Gym), Aziz Lipton (Assam tea trader) and upcoming singer Surbaaz Pahalwan (from Langot Akhara) were given this SSCD 2019 Literary Award. In total, six persons received the SSCD 2019 Literary Award. SSCD is the NGO of Shri Samir Samar. All the six awardees had donated five thousand each to SSCD, the NGO of Samir Samar. The awards were presented by ex-minister Dil Nawaz Bedil in a grand function held at Tehzeeb Theatre. Our names appeared in the newspapers.”
“What is SSCD?”
“Society for Stopping Cruelty to Dogs.”)
( From the Short Story‘Award Winners ‘appearing in the book ‘The Tulips and the Snowstorm  in Part I)
(When Rehman ‘Kazaakhteer’ published his first poetry book titled ‘Gagur Ta Gagraai’ (The Rat And The Thunder), he raised a GP fund loan of fifteen thousand rupees. He was expecting to recover his cost at least but unfortunately, not a single book could be sold. Roshan Gulab wrote a highly recommendatory review for ‘Gagur ta Gagrai’ in the Sunday edition of the ‘Daily World’ newspaper but it didn’t help at all. He distributed 50 books free in his book release function. Out of these 50, about 40 were found lying on the chairs when the book release function was over and the audience had left. The security guards found these abandoned books when they closed the doors of the hall where the function was held. They felt helpless in dealing with these books .The residual two hundred fifty books were sold by his wife to a Kabaadi (scrap dealer) for one hundred rupees. From this money, she purchased some snuff or Naswar (Naas in Kashmiri) and nthrew the packet on Kazaakhteer’ s face saying, ‘put this snuff in your nostrils. They are blocked. Now that you have finished your GP fund and can not publish another poetry book, this snuff will help in releasing residual poetry from your nose.’ Rehman Kazaakhteer’s friend Omkar Nath ‘Vasvaas’ also could not sell a single book of his poetic collection ‘Nar Ta Narparistaan’. He had invested rupees sixteen thousand in printing 300 copies of ‘Nar Ta Narparistaan’. The money had been received by him as part payment of his money back LIC policy. Finally, his wife threw all these books into the big household garbage bin kept by the municipality near their house and told her husband, ‘better you put on a female dress and dance as Bacha (male dancer dressed as female) in marriage functions. You will earn better.
This is the only way to recover sixteen thousand that you wasted.’)
( From the Short Story ‘Book Release’ appearing in the book ‘The Tulips and the Snowstorm' in Part I)
(And Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri also could not wait for more. He had also desired the end of the miseries created by the second world war when he wrote:-
"Sipaah e roos hai Berlin se aur kitni duur?"
(How far is the Russian army from Berlin now?)
A man turns impatient should he be made to carry some trouble. He wants to unburden himself at the first available opportunity. Qazigund was a place more connected with the unburdening or release than consuming tea, snacks or other refreshment .This was Qazigund, lined with rows of rickety and shabby looking shops .Wearing Pherans (cloaks worn by Kashmiris), the shop owners would come closer to the bus windows and cry:-
"Andaa, chai, paraatha, bathroom.
Bathroom, bathroom, valeev
mahraa, vala behen ji, vala huz" 
(Eggs, tea, Paraatha and urinal.
Urinal, come Pandit Ji, come
sister, come Khwaja Sahib.)
"Rajmaah, chaawal, murga bathroom"
(Rajmaash, rice, chicken and urinal.)
"Valaa sa, tamaek jejeer, maaz,
bataah, thool, chai ta bathroom" 
(Come, tobacco Hookah, mutton,
rice, eggs, tea and urinal.)
( From the story ‘Qazigund: Anda Chai Paratha and Bathroom’appearing in the book ‘The Tulips and the Snowstorm’ in Part II)
The book has been reviewed by Ashok Ogra , well known writer and media personality . Here is his review:-

Review published in Sunday edition of The Daily Excelsior dated 30-01-2022

The book is available on Amazon worldwide.
Link for Canada
link for UK
link for Australia
Link for Italy….
Link For France
Link for India
Pan India agent and stockist for instant phone delivery ( with discount ) to any corner of the country ..
Rohit Pandita ...Mobile..9596976373... Just call him 10 am to 10 pm IST



     ( Well known poet Farooq Nazki  holding the book )

The book is  available on Amazon( India ) . For immediate purchase on special discount price of Rs340/= , just call ROHIT PANDITA ( my agent ) on his moblie 09596976373 for express and assured delivery of an autographed copy  within 3 days through DTDC courier . Pay by Google pay , NEFT , fund Transfer or PayTm.

Happy Reading ....

( 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:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

Saturday, January 15, 2022



                                                                 ( Firaq Gorakhpuri )
                                                                     ( Munshi Prem Chand )
                                                                     ( Firaq Gorakhpuri )
                                                      ( Munshi Prem Chand and his wife )

“ Literature and fine arts inculcate an intense internal and spiritual violence, which enables us to live up to the challenges thrown up by the external world that revels in brutality,” 
(Prof Shamim Hanafi, a well-known critic and admirer of the poetry of Firaq Gorakhpuri..)
Writers from Kayasth community of UP , Bihar and Bengal have contributed enough towards development of Hindi , Urdu and English literature . I mean people like Raghupati Sahai ‘Firaq’ Gorakhpuri, Munshi Prem Chand , Mahadevi Verma ,Bhagwati Charan Verma , Dharamvir Bharati ,Nirad C. Chowdhry ,Girija Kumar Mathur , Ram Kumar Verma , Saumitra Saxsena , Dr Harivansh Rai ‘Bachchan’ and many more . However, today need to say something about two writers from the Kayasth community who remained the shining stars on the literary horizon of the country . I mean Firaq Gorakhpuri and Munshi Prem Chand; freedom fighters and great friends as well .
About his chance meeting, around 1912, with Munshi Prem Chand , Firaq writes this :-
“I had reached BA class clearing all examinations. I had come to my home town, Gorakhpur, from Allahabad during summer vacations. One evening I had gone on a walk to the premises of a huge building of a bank at Gorakhpur. There I met a friend, Mahabir Prasad Poddar (later, one of the proprietors of the famous Gita Press), who had another gentleman with him. Apparently, he looked a very ordinary person, wearing a dhoti reaching down to a little below his knees, a Kurta that was much shorter than common kurtas, ordinary shoes on his feet. I started talking to Poddar about new books. His companion also joined the discussion and the subject turned to Prem Chand. Poddar asked me, ‘Do you want to meet Prem Chand?’ It seemed to me as if he was asking if I wanted to acquire the entire wealth of the world. I could not think of my good fortune to be able to see Prem Chand with my own eyes. Showing utter disbelief for his words I asked him, ‘Meeting Prem Chand? How, where and when?’ Both of them started laughing and Poddar told me that the gentleman with him was none other than Prem Chand. I felt as if my breath was going to stop. In fact, along with extreme happiness, I felt a little bit heart-broken. Because Prem Chand appeared to be a person with very ordinary looks whereas I had assumed that such a great litterateur could not be that ordinary-looking, Yet, I was very happy to see Prem Chand.”
Firaq further writes this :-
“In a way I was also made a litterateur by Prem Chand. My first writing was got published in Zamaana by Prem Chand. When I was a political prisoner in jail it was Prem Chand who got some of my stories published in well-known periodicals. I had written a critique of his novel, Gosha-e-Aafiyat (Prem Ashram in Hindi) in jail itself after which he wrote to me: “I felt a spiritual upheaval after reading your critique. You understood my novel better than me.”
Munshi Prem Chand came to Hindi from Urdu while Firaq did the reverse . He started with Hindi and then shifted to Urdu. Munshi Prem Chand had introduced Firaq to Hindi. That was the time when Munshi Prem Chand served as teacher in a school in Gorakhpur and lived close to Firaq’s ancestral house . In fact in 1919, Munshi Prem Chand had introduced Raghupati Sahai ( who later came to be known as Firaq Gorakhpuri ) to Dwarika Prasad Diwedi who edited the popular magazine Swadesh . On Munshi Prem Chand’s recommendations , Firaq was appointed as assistant editor of this magazine on a salary of Rs20/= per month. In this magazine , Firaq published his Hindi translation of Byron’s Don Juan. For this magazine , Firaq wrote Hindi short stories , poems , Dohas , humour based write ups , memoirs , travelogues , features and literary criticisms . Impressed by Firaq’s command and style in Hindi writing , the owners of the Swadesh appointed him as the editor of the magazine . Later , Firaq shifted to Urdu . 
‘Firaq’ has written one of the most moving obituaries of Prem Chand . I quote :-
“While reading a book by Prem Chand one feels as if mother India has lifted us in her arms. We hear murmurs of our hearts in Prem Chand’s voice. We get in the magical writings of Prem Chand the life of India, the temper of India, its agonies and ecstasies, its fate, its pious dignity (Suhag) in a manner that is difficult to find elsewhere. This is the reason why among the contemporary writers of Hindi and Urdu Prem Chand has achieved popularity not only in India but international popularity as well.
Defying the British, It was on February 8, October 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi raised a strong pitch for freedom as he spoke at Bale Miyan ka Maidan in Bahrampur Mohalla, Gorakhpur in the presence of 1.5 lakh people that included Munshi Premchand and Firaq Gorakhpuri . Many people don’t know that both Firaq and Munshi prem Chand resigned from their government jobs after they heard this speech of Mahatama Gandhi. At that time , Prem chand was unwell with two children and a pregnant wife dependent on his salary . Firaq was taken to prison and lodged there for 8 months by the British officials .
Munshi Prem Chand’s style of writing, combination of words, simplicity and flow of language have been remarkable. The emotions of downtrodden people, the strict Raj system and the torn society are the subjects of his short stories and novels . His stories were loved as they touched the real Rural India and the real problems being faced by the underprivileged class. He was one of the few writers who talked about the plight the women living in rural areas and the problems they faced . Munshi Prem Chand could only present the emotions and struggles of Ghisu and Madhav in Kafan  and depict of pathetic condition of Indian rural life through the struggles of Hori in Godaan. Munshi Prem Chand also wrote poems. And Munshi Prem Chand wrote this :-
“I am a Cottier. The day I don't write anything, I've got no right to eat too that day."
About Firaq’s contribution Josh Malihabadi writes this :-
“I have to state with considerable regret that India is yet to recognise Firaq’s greatness. ...Anybody who refuses to acknowledge that the great personality of Firaq is the Tilak ( Tika ) on India’s forehead, the honour and dignity of the Urdu language, and the ornament of the Urdu poetry is nothing but a sheer oaf.”
About himself , Firaq wrote this :-
“Aane waali naslein tum par fakhr karengi hum- asro
Jab bhi unko dhyaan aayega tum-ne firaq ko dekha hai.
( 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:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

Friday, January 14, 2022


                     ( Burak Deniz )

                 ( Hazal Kaya )

                      ( Reha Ozcan )
            ( Hazal Kaya and Burak Deniz )


Watching  (  on YouTube ) Turkish drama Bizim Hikaye dubbed in Urdu  as Hamaari  Kahaani . Watching some exceptionally talented  Turkish actors like  Hazal Kaya ( born 1990 ) , Burak Deniz ( born 1991 ) and Reha Ozcan ( born 1965 )  performing the roles of  Filiz, Baris and Fikri respectively  . In this Drama , Reha Ozcan  in the role of  Fikri ( alcoholic ) is simply  superb. I have also seen Hazal Kaya in Feriha , another popular Turkish drama. She is well educated , young , talented and a natural actor . So is Burak Deniz . The title song and its music is pretty attractive and soothing to ears even if you don’t understand the lyrics . 

‘Karanlığa çak bir kibrit
Ruhunu ver ver ateşe
Omuzunda hayatın yükü
Yüzünü dön dön güneşe’

(A match in the dark 
put your soul on fire 
The weight of life on your shoulders 
turn your face to the sun)
 This drama keeps you attracted right up to the last episode ( more than 300 episodes ).  Filiza acts as father and mother to her five young siblings who are dependent on her . When her mother abandons the family, Filiz is left with her younger siblings Rahmet, Hikmet, Fikret, Kiraz, and Ismet. Her father ,Fikri  is an alcoholic and has no interest in the family or his children . He remains out  and lives a carefree life . For his drinks , he creates  every trouble for the family . Filiz tries to earn money through various part-time jobs but her life changes when she meets a handsome and cool young man Baris (Burak Deniz). Baris falls in love with Filiz at first sight and tries to gain her trust and wants to be part of this family. Baris  starts off as a leader of a car theft gang but later pursues a career as a doctor.  Filiz  tries hard to manage her family responsibilities and personal life . She tries to find space between her crushing responsibilities and love for Baris. The story  has many twists and turns that keep the viewer engrossed . The entire serial has been filmed in Istanbul.

( 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:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

Monday, January 3, 2022




The eyes are an important sensory organ in the human body that represent omniscience and are often portrayed in art as the gateway into the soul. Looking directly in the eyes of someone is a custom of honesty in the western culture.
American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that eyes "speak all languages." The eyes are undoubtedly the most expressive elements of a face, and artists have been inspired by this since the dawn of time.
It is said that the soul that can speak with its eyes can also kiss with a gaze. Often called the windows to the soul, the eyes say it all. Whether we’re happy, tired, feeling down, or confused, it shows on our faces.
Eyes give an idea of a person's thoughts and feelings. Most of the unspeakable answers are delivered through the eyes. The eyes also convey, love, longing, wait, desire affection, truth, sincerity and trust.
The eyes can also reveal much more complex phenomena: they can convey whether we are lying or telling the truth.

Here are some quotes and couplets to substantiate my argument.

“The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul” 
______R W Emerson..                   
"The beauty of a woman must be seen from her eyes because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." 
_______Audrey Hepburn 
“The first glance from the eyes of the beloved is like the spirit that moved upon the face of the waters, giving birth to heaven and earth.”
_____Khalil Gibran       


Kaaga karang dhadoliya saglaa Khaaiyo mass
Aey do nainaan mat chhuchho pir dekhan ki aas 
( Sheikh Farid )

( O crow! come and peck all this flesh
over this skeletal frame of mine,
Leave these two eyes untouched 
for they are in wait of that grand beloved of mine )

This Sloka of Sheikh Farid has been modified and translated into various languages and extensively used to portray longing and wait in films, drama and theatre. 

“Kaga sab tan khaaiyo chun chun khaiyo maas
Do naina mat khaaiyo mohe piya milan ki aas” 

"Teri soorat se hai aalam mein baharon ko sabaat
Teri aankhon ke siva dunya mein rakha kya hai"
_______Faiz Ahmed Faiz

"Jab mili aankh, hosh kho baithe
Kitne haazir-jawaab hain ham log"
_______Jigar Moradabadi   
  "Mir unn Neem-Baaz aankhon mein.
Saari masti sharaab ki si hai "
_____Mir Taqi Mir


"Aankhon se badi koyi taraazoo nahin hoti,
tultaa hai bashr jis mein voh meezaan hain aankhein"
_____Sahir Ludhianavi

"Tumhari aankhon ki tauhin hai zara socho ,
Tumhara chaahne vaala sharaab peeta hai .."
_____Munawar Rana


"Her eyes stare at me but she seems not to see me; she looks as though she were lost in her suffering."
______Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

"There are people who prefer to look their fate in the eye"
________Albert Camus

" If you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine."
________Federico Fellini


" Photography concentrates one's eye on the superficial. For that reason it obscures the hidden life which glimmers through the outlines of things like a play of light and shade. One can't catch that even with the sharpest lens."
________Franz Kafka


"Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts."
__________Paramahansa Yogananda


"Who makes us ignorant? We ourselves. We put our hands over our eyes and weep that it is dark."
__________Swami Vivekananda

"Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal."
_________Samuel Richardson


"I would sooner paint people's eyes than cathedrals, for there is something in the eyes that is lacking in a cathedral - however solemn and impressive it may be."___________Vincent Van Gogh

( 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:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.



                 THE PAETGO'R SHOP  

Paetgo’r shop was a part of the social life of Kashmiri Pandits . I remember the Paetgo’r selling simple and expensive Attahuru , Teki -taal ,Taranga , Kalpush, Zooji , Pins, buttons , threads , kohl ( Surma ) , ribbons ,Bindis , Sheesh-laath and everything that the Kashmiri Pandit ladies needed for marriage , sacred thread ceremony and other rituals . I would always see the Paetgo’r busy making Attahurus for the ladies . To supplement income , many Paetgo’r shops also started selling cosmetics . I remember the father-son Paetgo’r shop near Vishwa-Bharti College, Rainawari . Another busy shop run by a gentleman used to be at Badiyar Bala ( nickname Ramzaan Bakheel ) . Another shop used to be at Fateh Kadal in downtown. There used to one more busy shop at Habba Kadal Chowk . When Kashyap Bandhu started the movement for Sari , the business of the Paetgo'r received a major setback . As Kashmiri Pandit women started abandoning Pheran and wearing Saris, the Paetgo'r replaced the Pheran and Taranga accessories with cosmetics to survive in the trade .    

After the 1990s, the Paetgo’r shop has vanished from the landscape of Kashmir . I am sure our younger generation may not be knowing about the existence of the Paetgo’r in Kashmiri society. 
While the goldsmith made Dejhur,  the Paetgo'r crafted Attahuru for it. 

( Avtar Mota )

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



                                                            ( A Harwan terracotta tile.)
                                                      (  A Harwan terracotta tile.)
                       ( A Harwan terracotta  tile in  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA)

                                     (Avtar Mota in Metropolitan museum of Art New York..2018 )

                               ANCIENT TERRACOTTA   ART  OF KASHMIR 


Harwan is the name of a small village situated about 12 km to the north-east of Srinagar city  (in Kashmir ) beyond the Shalimar garden. Harwan is one of the earliest archaeological sites in Kashmir to throw up significant and vital artistic remains. The Buddhist monastery at the site is believed to have been founded during the Kushan (2nd century A.D.) rule and later enlarged in the period of the Huns (mid-fifth century A.D.) . The terracotta tiles  ( See Pic.1 and Pic.2  ) relating to a period ranging from the 3rd up to the 5th century A.D. obtained from Harwan are indicators of many key historical facts of ancient Kashmir. The moulded tiles obtained from the excavations of 1925 at Harwan depict designs and images of conventional flowers,   combinations of leaves, leaves of lotus plant,  ducks, cocks,  cows,  elephants, deers,  archers on horseback chasing a deer, lady carrying a flower vase, a dancing girl, semi nude male and female figures , a female musician beating the drum, a soldier in armour, men and women conversing, emaciated Yogis ( naked ), etc. Each tile has a number in the  Kharoshti language that ceased to be in vogue in North-Western India, where it had principally flourished, around  5th century A.D.

As per the  Nilamata Purana and Rajatarangini, dance and music were quite popular in ancient  Kashmir. The archaeological evidence also corroborates the Nilamata Purana and Rajataringini. At page 105 of her book “ The Nilamata Purana ( Volume 1) “,  Ved Kumari Ghai writes this:-


“ A tile from Harwan, with Kharoshti letters which can not be later than 4th century A.D., shows three musicians. The one to the left plays the flute, the centre one plays the cymbals; the third, a pair of drums. Another tile represents a female musician playing the drum. One more tile shows a dancer. The statute of a female dancer was also obtained from the courtyard of Kotisar temple in Kashmir. “


 In his book ‘ Ancient Monuments of Kashmir ‘,  R.C.Kak, who supervised the Harwan excavations in 1925, writes this :-

“ The fact that the Kharoshthi numerals at Harwan were intended for the guidance of common labourers indicates that the script must have been at the highest pitch of popularity at the time the tiles were made. I should accordingly place the date of the tiles, and consequently that of the diaper pebble masonry with which they are associated, at about A.D. 300. This conclusion receives further support from the style of the human figures and other designs stamped on the tiles. For example, the physiognomy and, to some extent, the dress of the men and women are wholly unlike that of any of the races at present residing in Kashmir, or for the matter of that in India. Their facial characteristics bear a close resemblance to those of inhabitants of the regions round about Yarkand and Kashgar, whose heavy features prominent cheekbones, narrow, sunk, and slanting eyes, and receding foreheads, are faithfully represented on the tiles. Some of the figures are dressed in trousers and Turkoman caps. 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.”

In his book ‘ Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu  Periods’  , Percy Brown writes this :-


“These terracotta plaques at Harwan each of which was moulded with a design in bas-relief, are of a character which makes them unique in Indian art. Pressed out of moulds so that the same pattern is frequently repeated, although spirited and naive in some instances, they are not highly finished productions, but their value lies in the fact that they represent motifs suggestive of more than half a dozen alien civilizations of the ancient world, besides others which are indigenous and local. Such are the Bahraut railing, the Greek swan, the Sasanian foliated bird, the Persian vase, the Roman rosette, the Chinese fret, the Indian elephant, the Assyrian lion, with figures of dancers, musicians, cavaliers and ascetics, and racial types from many sources, as may be seen by their costumes and accessories.”


About these tiles, Pratipaditya Pal writes this:-


"The earliest sites that have yielded terra-cotta objects, which, according to tradition, go back to the Kushan period, are Semthan, Harwan, Hutmurrah, Ushkur, and recently Kutbal. These sites are particularly noteworthy because of the large, stamped tiles with figural and symbolic forms that represent an independent local artistic tradition. Although tiles for paving floors and walls of monasteries were used in Gandhara, they are not as richly and diversely decorated as those from Kashmir. The figures in the Harwan tiles further show both Indian and foreign ethnic types, strange crouching ascetics unique in the Indian plastic tradition and convincingly rendered flora and fauna. Both the Harwan and the Kutbal finds reflect a mature and confident state of artistic skill but, strangely, the tradition did not continue. There is no certainty about the exact dates of these sites, although the consensus is between the third and the fifth century. "


The tiles and the archaeological finds from Harwan show a distinct Parthian or late Sasanian influence revealing the close connections that Kashmir had with the Gandhara region at the time when Buddhism was the prevalent system of belief in both the regions.The Kushana art  of the period shows Mathura, Gandhara, Hellenistic and Buddhist influence. These tiles also depict daily activities of life in those times. Similar terracotta objects, which, according to the tradition, go back to the Kushan period have also been found at Semthan ( Kishtwar ), Hutmurrah ( near Mattan, Kashmir ), Ushkur ( near Baramulla ) and Kutbal (South Kashmir ).  Although there is no certainty about the exact dates of these sites yet a consensus is between  3rd and  5th century A.D.

The archaeological finds that this area yielded include several broken fingers and toes of terracotta figures, terracotta curls belonging to the images of Buddha and some clay votive tablets bearing in relief miniature (small, tiny, little) Stupas. These clay votive tablets give an idea of the kind of Stupas that were built in Kashmir in the early centuries of the Christian era.

 In the year 2018, I happened to see some  Harwan terracotta tiles in the Asian section of the  Metropolitan Museum of Art,  New York. These tiles are displayed in the  ‘ Florence  and Herbert Asian Wing ‘  of the  Museum. Out of the three tiles ( See Pic. 3 ) that are displayed in the MET Museum, two are broken while one looks unbroken .The unbroken tile has images of emaciated ( naked )ascetics and couples drawn on it. The details convey that the tile was found at *Harwan,  Kashmir and is a mixture of Buddhist and Shaivite  Yogic images that relate to a period between the  3rd  and the 5th century A.D. At Harwan , these tiles are believed to have  decorated the courtyard of an apsidal temple . Apsidal Hindu temples are essentially Buddhist shrines subsequently converted to Hinduism.The  Metropolitan Museum details inform this :-

  Given that similar mixtures of Hindu and Buddhist imagery appear at other contemporary sites in Afghanistan and western India, the tiles may be a part of a larger exchange that occurred in relation to the emergence of esoteric  Buddhism. Numerals in the  Kharoshti script have been incised  into the tiles, presumably as an aid to their placement.”

 Such tiles establish without any ambiguity the presence of a fully evolved school of art in ancient Kashmir. A sizeable number of these precious terracotta tiles have moved out from Kashmir. In 1988, I saw many such tiles at the S. P. S.  Museum,  Lal Mandi,  Srinagar. In 1999, a terracotta tile from Harwan  ( Kashmir )  was sold  at Christie’s auction  for USD 16,100  .  This  tile had a male and female figure ( See Pic. 4) . While the  male figure in this particular tile looks like a  Dikapala ( guardian )  ,the  elegant  seminude female figure shown  holding a vase is most likely a river goddess . This river goddess bears close similarity with the portrayal of Hindu river goddess Ganga despicted on bas reliefs inside Elora caves .

Some art historians and scholars are of the view that the emaciated, crouching and almost naked ascetics appearing in the terracotta tiles recovered from Harwan and various other archaeological sites like Kutabal, Semthan, Ushkur and Hutmurrah in J&K have no link with Buddhism or Shaivism as is generally believed. Scholars like Robert E. Fisher are of the view that the tiles are part of an Ajivika religious site, later reused in a nearby Buddhist monastery. 

Ajivika was a sect in ancient India. It is said that Ajivikas wore no clothes, and lived as ascetic monks in organised groups. They practised severe austerities. The Ajivikas mostly spent their time in large earthen pots wherein they practised penance. Buddhist and Jain texts are somewhat  critical of the Ajivikas and their leader Makkhali Goshala. That in itself goes to prove that Ajivikas must have been rivals of Buddhists and Jains. The Ajivikas were known to eat very little food that was needed for bare survival. However, some texts of Buddhism accuse them of eating secretly. Similarly, some Jain texts describe a violent quarrel between Mahavira and Makkhali Goshala. Being influential, Ajivikas had many powerful followers, especially during the Mauryan rule. Even Emperor Ashoka, who spread Buddhism all over India and Southeast Asia was an Ajivik during his youth .


 Ajivikas and their way of living has been reflected in many terracotta artefacts recovered from ancient archaeological sites of India. Many caves in Bihar have Ajivika inscriptions.The images — especially flowers, elephants, and swans found in the terracotta tiles appear to represent Ajivika way of life although not much information is available about their religious beliefs.

A few curators from the US museums describe these terracotta tiles as " A Tile with Ajivaka" in their museum catalogue. 

 ‌ Were there some large Ajivika settlements or movements in the Kashmir valley during the ancient period especially in the early second to the fifth century? Did the Ajivikas move out of Kashmir that led to complete vanishing of this terracotta art after the arrival of Huns? There is an imperative need for serious research on the issue.


In 2014, I visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. This museum has many terracotta images. I saw a terracotta relating  to 6th century A.D. obtained from Akhnoor, Jammu. This terracotta is probably the head of a dancer with an elaborate hairdo. Akhnoor is a place in the Jammu division of the  J&K  state that has yielded a large number of terracotta images of this period. According to a note on the terracotta, it was gifted by Nasima Latifi to the museum.

Buddhist Stupas and remains of an ancient Buddhist monastery were also excavated at Ambaran village near Akhnoor town in Jammu. The excavations were carried out exactly below the new bridge over river Chenab about 28 km from Jammu city. Undertaken in 2001, the excavations threw up a rich treasure consisting of terracotta pots, rusted iron tools, beads, silver and gold ornaments, moulds, tiles and coins that connected Jammu with ancient Buddhist civilization between the second century B.C. and seventh century A.D. , a period belonging to the pre-Kushan, Kushan, and post-Kushan (Gupta) eras. The most significant findings from the site include Stupas, a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics made of high-quality baked bricks and surrounded by stone pathways, meditation cells, and rooms.  A three-layer casket set of copper, silver, and gold-containing bone relics and ornaments is another major finding of the  Ambaran excavations. It appears that civilization had a  link with the ancient  Buddhist civilization of  Harwan in Kashmir. The  Buddhist link between Harwan and Akhnoor needs further exploration.

After the fall of Kushana rule in the subcontinent, the terracotta art disappeared suddenly from Kashmir. Why did this tradition die so abruptly? Did the Huns, who followed Kushanas in Kashmir vandalise  Kushana artistic structures ?  Was this art prevalent in Kashmir before the arrival of Kushanas? Is there any evidence of such terracotta art in the immediate geographical neighbourhood of Kashmir? These questions need answers.


( 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:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.