Jammu & Kashmir
Although spoken by 50% of the population in Jammu &
Kashmir, it is not the official language of the state. Kashmiri
literature dates back to around 12AD.
¤ History of Kashmiri Language
Kashmiri has an interesting linguistic history. Like the other North
Indian languages, it branched off the Indo-Aryan Sanskrit, but had
another ancestor before that the Shina languages of the
But when mighty Sanskrit came, Shina was thickly overlaid. From about
the 14th century, medieval Persian too started creeping
into Kashmiri. With such foreign influences, the language boasts of
peculiarities like certain vowel and consonant sounds which no other
Indian language has. Kishtawari is the most popular dialect of
¤ The Literary History of Kashmiri
The literary history of Kashmiri, beginning from 12th
century AD, is equally interesting. Poetry is the key word, with
writers experimenting with different forms of it in all ages.
Anyway, contrary to what happened in other literatures (or rather
what has been recorded of them), the first great Kashmiri writer was a
She was everybodys favourite Lal Dad or Granny Lal. Her
sensitivity and mysticism in the verses Vaakh appealed to each alike,
Hindu and Muslim, scholar and peasant.
Other works of this formative phase (till about 1555 AD), though not
as brilliant as Lal Dads, are Shrukhs of Sheikh Noor-ud-din,
Mahanay Prakash of Shiti Kantha, Banasura Katha of Bhatavatar and
Sukhadukhacharitam of Ganaka Prashasta.
¤ The Flourishing of The Love Poetry
Love-poetry flourished in the next few centuries. Along with the
mystical and esoteric verses perfected by Habib Ullah Navshohri
(1555-1617) and Rupa Bhawani (1625-1720), a new kind of love poetry
developed. This was the beautiful lol-lyric, sung mostly by women.
Habba Khatoon (1551-1606) and Aarnimal (late 18th century)
were the ruling ladies of this genre of mellifluous verses.
Although a garden jasmine I,
in the very prime of bloom,
yet waste I as the snow in June.
Come in the garden, Love,
Come and enjoy the jasmine bloom;
It blooms for you.
¤ Influence of Persian Literature
Persian literature became quite an influence on Kashmiri in the late
18th century. and Kashmiri littérateurs like Mahmud
Gani and Waliullah Motoo (both mid-19th century) took to
translations from Persian and writing masnavis (couplets expressing
one emotion) and ghazals (romantic poetry set to music) in a big way.
The legendary love tales of Laila and Majnu, Shirin and Farhad,
Sohrab and Rustum, and many more were brought in which, a hundred
years later, also became excellent fodder for hit films.
¤ Advent of Lila-poetry
Lila-poetry was another innovation where the poet sang like a
lover-devotee of the Creators exuberance. Paramanand (1791-1885)
excelled in this, while others like Prakash Ram, Maqbul Shah, Lachman
Raina, Rasul Mir and Shams Faqir dealt with other forms of poetry.
The Kashmiris are a singing people; songs and ghazals have always
been a part of their literary culture. The cult of the maikhana
(liquor house) and sharaab (wine) in ghazals, popular in Urdu poetry
too, was created in the 1890s and 1900s. The first few decades of the
20th century saw a prolific writing of mystical and
secular poetry, ghazals, masnavis and geets (songs).
¤ The Beginning of Prose In Kashmir
Prose appeared pretty late in Kashmiri, only in the beginning of this
century. But theres really not much good Kashmiri prose, except
for a few translations. It was also the time of great socio-political
movements all over the country, which had their impact on modern poets
like Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor (1885-1952), Zinda Kaul and Abdul Ahad Azad.
Dramas are a recent entry in Kashmiri, with only a few noteworthy like
Somnath Zutshis Modur Mas and Viji Vaav, and some from the
Machaama series of Pushkar Bhan.