Rare Manuscripts Show Persian Literature Flourished In Kashmir
SRINAGAR, (IANS) – Historically known as “Iran-e-Sagheer” (Small Iran), Kashmir has a glorious and yet forgotten history of being the center of Persian scholarship.
During the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin known popularly as the ‘Badshah’ Persian received a huge impetus. He established a translation bureau where scholars translated texts from Sanskrit and other languages into Persian and from Arabic and Persian into Sanskrit and Kashmiri.
Sufis and saints who came to Kashmir from Central Asia also enriched the Persian literature. Most important among these Sufis and saints was Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani who, according to poet Sir Mohammad Iqbal, was responsible for establishing a “small Iran in Kashmir”.
From the 14th to late 19th century, Persian was the language of the administration and the primary language in which historical, religious, literary, and political discourses were written.
Kashmir had its own galaxy of Persian writers and poets who produced masterpieces in this language.
From Muhammad Amin Uwaisi to Muhammad Amin Darab (1891-1979), Kashmir’s Persian scholars have contributed greatly to literature. Many have been acclaimed for their craftsmanship in Iran.
Kashmir’s greatest Persian poet was Mulla Tahir Ghani, known popularly as Ghani Kashmiri who died in 1669. His expertise was in creating delightful metaphors and images which made him one of the few medieval poets who appeal to the modern reader.
Persian enjoyed official patronage for 600 years till the early 20th century. In 1889, it was replaced by Urdu during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
The period between that great rapture and anonymity would have remained unknown, but for a casual phone call received by Saleem Beg, convener of INTACH’s (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) J&K chapter, from Nighat Shafi Pandit, a local patron of artand tradition.
Nighat asked Saleem Beg to have a look at a cache of manuscripts she had come to possess. The manuscripts were locked in an old rusty trunk that had been acquired by her from the family of Khwaja Mohammad Amin Darab.
The trunk revealed the archives of the last major Kashmiri Persianate poet of 20th century, Khwaja Muhammad Amin Drabu and Mohammad Amin Darab.
INTACH finally mined into the collection and examined folio after folio and assembled the selection into a thread that gives an insight into the life and times prevailing then and the cultural and literary landscape of that period.