While defining the literature of Kashmir today the very first thought that comes to our minds is the turbulent socio-political upheaval that this place has been witnessing since last couple of decades. Talking of contemporary literature this phase that has affected the speakers of Kashmiri Language plays a very strong role in defining the tone and temper of the literary works as well. Meanwhile the lofty mountains that had to a great extent insulated the socio-cultural setup of this land were suddenly dwarfed by the advancement of cyberspace that was fast overshadowing the locale of this place and giving it a global tint. The migration of most Kashmiri Pandits from the valley also exposed this language to different cultures and could not escape the influences it had. The result was that this period gave rise to a very sensitive writer who stood at the confluence of a powerful local influence and a fast advancing global environment. Contemporary writings thus expressed this influence with fine sensitivity that sets them apart from those of earlier times.
Kashmiri Literature has developed rapidly in the current times. New areas are being explored and work is being done in genres that were hitherto neglected or unexplored. Thematically the literature broadened and assumed a global outlook that can easily be placed among its global peers and sometimes even surpass them. A brief look at the various genres of Kashmiri Literature follows thus. It is to be borne in mind that the reach of literature has spread and many young and talented writers are expressing their thoughts and views through their pen through these various forms of literature and naming all of them is not possible in these few words.
Contemporary Kashmiri Poetry is marked by the expression of grief and pathos that people underwent in the recent violent phase that left no Kashmiri untouched. Loss of life, identity and dignity found a powerful vent through poetry. At the same time as poetry evolved taking along with it this pain, it assumed a very sensitive stance and many works were born that are timeless in nature. The recent trends in Kashmiri poetry lean towards expression of helplessness while watching the fall of the close knit society at the hands of polarized forces. A sign of consolation however continues to be the strong undertone of the historical past of being the land of saints, whose blessings have not allowed the erosion of interreligious unity that continues despite upheavals. Poetry in the current times continues to look for those signs. The phase could very well be referred to as the dark phase. The poets continued to grapple with disillusionment and tried to employ satire that though its literary undertone continued to challenge it. In his poem Khwodaayaa Rehman Rahi pictures the entire Kashmiri society entrapped helplessly in a cobweb or as people floundering in a dry streambed with hunger gnawing at their entrails. Similarly Ghulam Mohammad Gamgeeen's Brum, Mishal Sultanpuri's Vany Ditmas and Farooq Nazki's Kob Kul present the picture of the world gone haywire. Mirza Arif asks the Harduk Gulab (Autumn Rose) why he should enter a garden where butterflies and bumble bees are no longer the same friendly types, where water lies frozen, where bulbul has bloodshot eyes. Ahmed Zareef in Boony (Chinar) laments their merciless felling, Rasul Pompur in Vuni ti Ganeemath says it is a miracle that we are still together and is afraid that the situation may not last long, for anything might happen tomorrow. This sense of tragic loss is more prominent in the poetry written in exile, the new environment of arid landscape and dry heat forcing a contrast with the valley. This poetry is full of nostalgia. Moti Lal Saqi and Arjun Dev Majboor's poetry express this pain yet with pride for their place. Poetry of all the poets, be it of those who stayed in the valley or those who left their homeland emphasizes the value of friendship and camaraderie. Majboor's Tyol, Mohi-ud-din Gowher's Kaly Zary Shaharuky Rozan Vaaly, Saki's Sawal express such feelings in a strong way besides Jawahar Lala Saroor, Rafiq Raaz, Nishat Ansari, Mishal Sultanpuri, Mohan Lal Aash, Nazir Kwolgami whose works too are replete with the undertone of this gradual loss of brotherhood.
Among the most powerful poetic voices in Kashmiri Literature in the present day are Prof Rahman Rahi (Gyan Peeth Awardee), whose powerful works include Siyah Roode Jaren Manz, 1979, and Kadle Thatis Paeth, 2013, Amin Kamil, Yim Mein Sokhan, 2007, Dina Nath Nadim Ghulam Nabi Firaaq's Su Akh Sada, 2008, Makhan Lal Kanwal's Yeth Aangnas Manz (Both Sahitya Akademi and Cultural Academy Award winner), Rafeeq Raaz's Nai Chi Nalaan, Shahnaz Rashid's Doad Khateth Gul Danan Manz. Other Notable poets include Muzaffar Azim, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Prof Margoob Banhali, Professor G M Shad (Sahitiya Akademi award winner for 2014), Farook Nazki, Qazi Ghulam Mohammad, Prem Nath Shad, Shafi Shauq's Yaad Aasmanan Hinz and Shad Ramzan's Kore Kakud Pushrith Gome (Both Sahitya Akademi Award winners).
Among the women poets, the most noteworthy are Asha Mastoor, Naseem Shifayi, Bimla Raina and Sunita Raina. Asha Mastoor expressed herself in traditional poetic forms while as Naseem Shifayi is a representative of the modern times and her poetry as such is remarkably an embodiment of the modern sensibility and boldness. Her work includes Sahitya Akademi Award winner Na Tchay Na Aks. Bimla Raina writes her poems in Vaakh form and Kashmiri Shaivism remains her prominent theme. Sunita Raina writes mostly in the Ghazal form and her poetry deals with the predicaments that Kashmiri Pandits have faced during their exile. Many other poetesses include Hamida Akhter, Wajida Tabassum, Fatima Hussain Mir Shakeela Naqash and Nayeema Ahmad. The works of these poetesses are mostly autobiographical in nature with shades of socio-cultural images superimposed.
Novel is one such genre which had not made any significant influence on the Kashmiri Language. In the recent couple of decades this genre has made significant strides with many notable works being penned by writers who for having undertaken a maiden journey into this hitherto unexplored genre have attained a status of a landmark. Notable among such writers are Pran Kishore (Gul Gulshan Gulfam 2008), Ghulam Nabi Gowhar (Arg-e-Ashud, The Torchbearer in Darkness) Chaman Lal Hakhoo (Nanga Pather 2006), Farooq Renzu Shah (Aab Chu Dazan 2007, Water is Burning) and Akhter Mohi-uddin ( Jahannamuk Panun Panun Naar 2002, Ones Own Hell Fire). Apart from these there are many other novels that have been written in the recent past. These novels portray intense feelings mostly borrowed from the immeasurable grief and tragedies that have been witnessed by the common Kashmiri people. The novel Arg-e-Ashud by Ghulam Nabi Gowhar is a portrayal of the happenings in Kashmir right from 1931 and could justifiable be classified as a historical hovel. Novel writing has only lately become an active genre and coming days are going to witness many great works in this genre.
Kashmiri Short Stories
The short story reached Kashmir late. It was introduced into Kashmir after 1947 by those who had crossed Banihal for higher studies in the Indian mainland, those who had a better understanding or Urdu, English and Hindi as well. Progressive Movement saw very long stories being written which mostly depicted the socio-cultural facets. This movement represented new aspirations, new dreams. Till the advent of this movement common masses had been befooled and hoodwinked, which was the reason the writers of this movement wrote about the themes pertaining to the common man thereby exposing the exploitation. Literary pieces of high quality like Amin Kamil's Kokar Jung Akhtar Mohiudin's Dand Wazun' or 'Daryi hund Yezar' etc. However breaking the tradition of mere rhetoric, the new short story appeared in the a special issue of Sheeraza (A quarterly Journal of The Academy of Art Culture and Languages) in 1967 thus announcing its arrival. It became evident with its first impression only that the Kashmiri short story was eager to shed light on new circumstances, new social-cultural anecdotes and new realities in a new way. Examples of such pieces are Farooq Masudi's Setha Mamuli, Rattan Lal Shant's 'Chayi Gaet' or Akhtar Mohiuddin's 'Gahe Taaph te Gahe Shuhul' or Bansi Nirdosh's 'Panun Marun'.
Makhan Lal Pandita had developed a unique diction in his long stories usually portraying the rural life, however his short stories too don't fail to stir up an emotional and psychological turbulence in the readers minds. Akhtar Mohiudin's mini-short stories like are the best examples of this genre. His mini-short story 'Babli Rouw Malyun' deals with migrant Kashmiri Pandits. Social, psychological and political conditions are touched in a powerful way in this mini-short story. Similarly his short story 71979 and Wanun Ma Bani (2009) are powerful portrayals.
Other well know works in this genre include Rattan Lal Shant's Trikonjal ,(Triangular) 2002, Raemit Maney(Lost Meanings)2003 and Ttchen (Rupture) 2005 a Sahitya Academy award winning collection, Prof O N Koul's Mulaqaat 2003, Bashir Akhtar's Anegate Nane Kathe2008 Explicit Tales in Obscurit, Raheem Rehbar's Verane Booni heund Veran Kaw2003 Neglected Crow of the Deserted Chinar and Zarre Zitche te Aftaab 2012 (Grains, Rays and the Sun), Roop Krishen Bhat's Be Ches Kasheer 2008 (I am Kashmir ) Mohiuddin Reshi's Sahitya Academy Award winning work Aana Aatish 2009 (The Mirror of Fire), Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq's Aakh 2012 (Came). Political, sexual and economic exploitation, bribery, corruption, waywardness, greed and drug addiction has been dealt with exclusively in the short stories of Mohiuddin Reshi. There is a moral message in the stories and the stories are simple without any hyperbole. However there is a strong sarcastic element in the stories that show the society its real face, justifying the title "Aana Aatash".
The last two decades saw a meteoric rise in short story telling and new experiments in this genre took place which gave it an altogether new dimension. The new genre proved its mettle and its popularity gained momentum by leaps and bounds. The modern reader with the paucity of time has embraced this new genre wholeheartedly. The journey of Kashmiri short story kept on soaring to new heights. New innovators also keep joining this caravan. Metaphorical language and antithetical expressions are being used to express new ideas. Imagination and imaginary characters have also been introduced successfully.
Essay writing is a relatively new genre in Kashmiri Literature. This genre has only recently started to woo the writers. Despite being relatively an un-trodden domain there has been serious work in this discipline. Mohammad Zaman Azurda pioneered the Kashmiri essay writing. His writings are popular fro their simple diction inimitable style sense of humour ready wit and pungent satire. His essay collection won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1984. His essay Dilich Tchay (Heart's Shadow) brings the cream of all the author has experienced, known, or heard about human heart, the storehouse of delectable emotions.
Zareef Ahmad Zareef's Khabar Togme Wanun Is a collection of 27 essays. The significance of these essays can be gauged by the fact that these are a part of the curriculum at the University of Kashmir. Rasool Pompur has also penned some good essays in Kashmiri. Kenh Nate Kenh and Taqdeer Amno Wanney deserve a special mention. Among the essayists Ghulam Ali Majboor, Abdul Ahad Hajini and Manzoor Hashmi also deserve accolades for having made significant contributions to this genre in the recent past.
Drama is another relatively younger genre in Kashmiri Literature. In Kashmir this genre is represented by baands who represent both the actors and the clowns. Literary drama was pioneered by Mohammad Subhan Bhagat, Nand Lal Koul, Tara Chand Bismil Ghulam Nabi Dilsoz and Mohi-ud-Din Hajini. In the recent past Noor Mohammad Roshan, Som Nath Zutshi, Ali Mohammad Lone and Pushkar Bhan made significant contributions to this genre. Most notable among their works include Ali Mohammad Lone's Viz Chhi Saany (the Time is Our's), Noor Mohammad Roshan's Son Sansaar(Our World) and Amin Kamil's Pagah Chu Gaashdaar (Tomorrow is Bright).Likewise Motilal Kemmu's plays Lal Bu Drayas Lolare and Tshaay are distinct milestones in this genre.
Sajjud Sailani is yet another playwright who has earned a respectable place for himself in this arena, in addition to being a poet and an artist. His notable works include Shihul Naar, Kajy Raath, Rwopaya Rood and Gaashi Taraarukh.
Research and Criticism
When we talk about literature it becomes imperative that we mention its critics who analyze the words of the writer or the poet. Criticism adds value to a literary work and works pregnant with multilayered meanings often attract engaging criticism.
The notable works of criticism and research in Kashmiri language are Prof Rahman Rahi's Kashmiri Shayri te Waznuk Surate Haal 2012 and Shaar Shinasi 2004, Mohammad Yousug Teng's Shashrang 2004, Raash, Kasher Kitaab 2009, Prof Ghulam Nabi Firaaq's Wudaw Fiqri Hund 2006 and Parne Pate 2007, Prof Hamidi Kashmiri's Tanazur Te Tajruba, Rafiq Raaz's Kashir Shayri te Aruzuk Suratehaal, Prof Shad Ramzan's Ath Zulmatas Laal Kya Che Tay 2006 and Sahal Cha Maney Bozun 2008, Shahid Delnavi's Naqd wa Nazar 2009, Ghulam Nabi Aatish's Bazyaft 2005, Kashir Luk Shayri, Wakhney te Vesnay 2007, Kosher Luka Wotur 2009 and Sarmay te Tchaam 2011 Syed Rasool Pompur's Berang 2007 and Alaaw 2009, Prof Mishal Sultanpuri's Woonth 2005 and Doontsh 2013 and Dr. Aziz Hajni's Aaena Khane 2014.
These works among some others are considered to be the beacon lights in the arena of literary criticism in Kashmiri Literature.
Some of the major works on Kashmiri Literary History include Kasher Zaban te Adbuk Tawareekh 2013 by Shafi Shauq and Naji Munnawar, Jem Sobas manz kasherzaban te adbuk tawareekh 2005 by Manshoor Banhali, Women's Literature during 20th Century (2000) and History of Children's Literature in Kashmir 2014 by Ghulam Nabi Aatish.
Though very little creative work has been done in Children's Literature in Kashmiri, some noteworthy names include Ghulam Nabi Aatish, Fazil Kashmiri, Naji Munnawar, Ghulam Nabi Nazir, Ayub Sabir, Fayaz Tilgami, Nayeem Kashmiri, Hameed Siraj, Shankar Nath Koul and Nishat Ansari.
A significantly positive development that has happened to Kashmiri Language is its inclusion in the school curriculum which is bound to give a fillip to the overall Kashmiri literature. With the increase in the readership and with students being able to study this language more creative works are expected to surface. Many such new voices are giving new dimensions to the literature of this place and with an exposure at a Global level, new thoughts, new ideas and new forms can be seen being conceived in the womb of Kashmiri Literature.
Trilokinath Raina. A History of Kashmiri Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2002.
Majrooh Rashid. Readings, Essays on Kashmiri Literature. 2007.