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Monday, 12 November 2012

Two Kashmiri Poems: History from the perspective of a people's poet

Both poems are penned by Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor (1885-1952), a sensuous poet, who later enlarged his canvas to include subjects like unity, social equality, communal harmony, and freedom. With the birth of New Kashmir, he was the most honoured poet till his death in 1952. My English translations here could not capture the rhythm and internal rhymes that are the hallmark of his poems.

Post-partition, Mahjoor played a prominent part in opposing the tribal invaders. He supported the leaders who had cast their lot with India, and inspired the people to rise as one and defend their land. He wrote "Vwolo haa baagvaano", which is brimming with self-belief and optimism for the future of New Kashmir. He had high expectations of the new popular government, not for himself but for the downtrodden.

But within a few years he got disillusioned. Being a 'patwari' (a land steward), he was in close contact with the 'aam aadmi' living in the backwaters of the valley. He was unhappy the fruits of freedom and progress had gone to the chosen few and not percolated to the grassroots. The sardonic poem "Aazaȧdee" articulates that anguish.

Pre-independence poem: Vwolo haa baagvaano

English transliteration:

Vwolo haa baagvaano

Vwolo haa baagvaano navbahaaruk shaan paȧdaa kar
Phwolan gul gath karan bulbul tithee saamaan paȧdaa kar

Chaman vaȧraaṅ rivaaṅ shabnam tsȧṭtith jaamay pareshaaṅ gul
Gulan tay bulbulan andar dubaaray jaan paȧdaa kar

Ma thav gulzaaras andar swoy gulan kits swoy kharaȧbee chhay
Yivaan sumbal chhi pay dar pay gul-e-khandaan paȧdaa kar

Karee kus bulbulaa aazaad panjaras manz tsu̇ naalaan chhukh
Tsu̇ pananye dasta pananyan mushkilan aasaan paȧdaa kar

Hakoomat maal-o-dolat naaz-o-nemat bėyi shahanshaȧhi
Yi soruy chhuy tsė nish paanas tsu̇ amichee zaan paȧdaa kar

Agar vuzanaavahan bastee gulan hȧnz traav zeer-o-bam
Bunyul kar vaav kar gagraay kar toophaan paȧdaa kar

English translation:

Come, O gardener

Come, O gardener, of a new spring the glory you must create
That flowers bloom, bulbuls sing, such means you must create

Desolate garden, weeping dew, forlorn flowers with raiments torn
Inside the dead flowers and bulbuls, a second life you must create

From the garden weed out nettles, of flowers who stunt the growth
In crowds the hyacinths will come, a flower gate you must create

Who will free you, O bulbul, now that you are crying in your cage?
From your ordeal a way out, with your own hands you must create

Power pride, money wealth, comfort luxury, kingdom and authority
All are yours, within reach, about them awareness you must create

To awaken the valley of flowers, your soothing songs you must stop
Create an earthquake, a howling wind, a thunderstorm you must create.

Post-independence poem: Azaȧdee

English transliteration:


Sanaa saȧree pariv saanyan garan tsaayi aazaȧdee
Syaṭha yȧtskaȧly asi kun jalwa haavan aayi aazaȧdee

Yi aazaȧdee chhi traavaan magribas kun rahmatuk baaraan
Karaȧn saȧnis zameenas pyaṭh tsharyay gagraayi aazaȧdee

Gareebee muphlisee bebooj naapursaaṅ zabaaṅ bandee
Amee ru̇tsi traayi asi pyaṭh aayi traavaaṅ saayi aazaȧdee

Yi aazaȧdee chhi sworgu̇ch hoor pheryaa khaana path khaanay
Fakat keṅtsan garan aṅdar chhi maaraan graayi aazaȧdee

Yi aazaȧdee dapaaṅ sarmaayidaaree chham na kunyi thavu̇ny
Vwoṅ pananyan nish chhi sȯmbaraavun hyavaan sarmaayi aazaȧdee

Lukan maatam garan andar bihith maahraaza hiv haȧkim
Yimav rȧṭmu̇ts chhi paanas suu̇ty khalvat shaayi aazaȧdee

Nabir Shekh zaanyi kathi hȯnd maanyi tas tsȧly khaanadaarėny hyath
Sy gav fariyaad karne tas vwopar gari pyayi aazaȧdee

Katshan taamat dapaaṅ vuchhahas sate laṭi tȯmla mwochhi baapath
Phȯtis kyath gara ȧny pootse tshaayi aaram baayi aazaȧdee

Gamu̇ty damphȧṭy chhi saȧree bekaraȧree chhakh dilan andar
Dapaaṅ vanahȧv panun ahvaal asi maa laayi aazaȧdee

English translation:


Give thanks everyone, to our humble homes visits freedom
After ages towards us a rare glimpse shows us freedom

This freedom in a western place showers light and grace
But upon our thirsty soil, empty thunder offers freedom

Poverty, liability and destitution, anarchy, division and repression
Coming with these blessings, a long shadow casts freedom

A houri from high heaven, freedom door-to-door won’t run
Camping in select few homes only, belly-dances freedom

Freedom says hell no, anyone to amass wealth it won’t allow
So, wealth from everyone, its own people, wrings out freedom

While people are in mourning, lords like grooms are sitting
In some secluded bower, they all take turns with freedom

Nabir Shekh* knows what I say, his wife they took away
He filed a petition and at an alien house she gave birth to freedom

Even in armpits seven times, they skin searched her for a handful of rice**
In a basket under her rags, the market gardener’s wife snuck home freedom

They are all broken hopeless, inside their hearts is restlessness
They say if we dare speak, won’t we be punished by freedom?

* Nabir Shekh is used as a generic name for those who were punished for hiding rice.

** Officials at the octroi post had to see that rice is not smuggled into Srinagar. So they were duty-bound to frisk comely poor women more thoroughly.


I am not sure if the above poem was written by Mahjoor before or after the Land Reforms of 1950, before which the daughters of poor peasants were treated as part of the estate on which the landlords enjoyed absolute rights. It seems Mahjoor was rather hasty in condemning the new government. Then again, the local government hasn't done much after the Land Reforms, have they? So, here is a more 'realistically' disillusioned poem by Roshan, written years later.

Another post-independence poem: Shaheed su̇nz maȧj

A disillusioned poem, written by Noor Mohammad ‘Roshan’ Kaul (1919-?), who expresses his angst against selfish leaders who ignored the people, busy as they were in amassing "power, pride, money, wealth, comfort, luxury, kingdom and authority" for themselves, which was but a re-enactment of the feudal regime independence was supposed to have put an end to. Roshan was influenced by progressive writers at a young age. Was one of the first to join the Cultural Congress. Translated Munshi Prem Chand’s Godaan into Kashmiri. Stopped writing poetry altogether in 1960 and went on to set up a silk factory in Srinagar.

English transliteration:

Shaheed su̇nz maȧj

Magar chham khabar gėny ḍyakas kyaazi khaȧru̇th
Buman chaar dith zan kamaan kyaazi chaȧru̇th
Vu̇chhith haal myonuy dȯgu̇ny kaȧr maȧru̇th

Mė kath chham amich graav yi van baagvaanan
Timan yim na vaadas vwofaa poor zaanan
Tsyatas paȧvy paȧvy yim na zaaṅh myon maanan

Yȯhȯy daag laalas chhu naa laala myaane
Jigar paara myaane ta ȧchh gaash myaane
Chhasay maȧj aamu̇ts shaheedo salaame

Vanay kyaah vatan aḍvatis vaatanaȧvith
Votan pyaṭh shaheedan hȯnduy khoon traȧvith
Bihith praȧny konoon roody shaana thaȧvith

Na zonukh manzil maa chhu dooris mukaamas
Na zonukh vatan maa chhu manz girdiaabas
Phiru̇kh thar ta roody dola zan kaaravaanus

Rȯngukh buth ta az aay thazar haavane
Bajar haȧvy haȧvy posh chhȧkaraavane…

English translation:

The martyr’s mother (at his grave on every 13th July)

But I know why there is a frown upon your brow
Why your brow is drawn tight like a taut bow
Why, at the sight of my plight, your head is bent low

But go tell those gardeners that I no grudges hold
Those who don’t honour the promises that they sold
Those who listen never, though they are told and told

This grief, O my precious son, is my very own plight
O piece of my heart and of my eyes the light
O martyr, I am your mother, who has come to salute you

How to tell you the nation they brought but mid-way
Leaving the blood of martyrs on the road in their wake
Bolstered by old laws, they now sleep night and day

They forgot that the ultimate goal is a distant destination
That it is stuck in a whirlpool, they forgot their nation
Turned their backs, played it cool, blocked the procession

With painted faces they come today, to show their loftiness
To fling flowers at you in a grand display of their greatness
But, O martyr, I am your mother, who has come to salute you

Martyr: One of those killed in the first uprising on 13 July, 1931.


Now, read the first poem, and start all over again.

Translations © Sualeh Keen


  1. We have failed our society in this State ,ourselves,firstly.Why our progressive writers,like Mahjoor and saintly persons like Lal Ded ,Nund Rishi have been part of Curriculum in of education...Only political entities with divisive agenda where included. Which poisoned the young minds,and today we r on cross roads,as our neighbour has exploited the same.