Rare manuscripts show Persian literature flourished in Kashmir
SRINAGAR, (IANS) – Historically known as “Iran-e-Sagheer” (Little Iran), Kashmir has a glorious yet forgotten history of being the center of Persian scholarship.
During the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly known as “Badshah”, Persian received a huge boost. 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 Persian literature. Chief among these Sufis and saints was Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani who, according to the poet Sir Mohammad Iqbal, was responsible for establishing a “little Iran in Kashmir”.
From the 14th to the end of the 19th century, Persian was the language of administration and the main language in which historical, religious, literary and political speeches 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), Persian scholars from Kashmir have contributed greatly to literature. Many have won acclaim for their craftsmanship in Iran.
Kashmir’s greatest Persian poet was Mulla Tahir Ghani popularly known as Ghani Kashmiri who died in 1669. His expertise was in creating delightful metaphors and imagery which made him one of the few medieval poets that appeal to the reader modern.
Persian enjoyed official patronage for 600 years until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1889, it was replaced by Urdu during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
The period between this great rapture and anonymity is said to have remained unknown, but for an occasional phone call received by Saleem Beg, head of the J&K chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), from Nighat Shafi Pandit, a patron place of art and tradition.
Nighat asked Saleem Beg to take a look at a cache of manuscripts she had come to possess. The manuscripts were locked in a rusty old trunk she had acquired from the family of Khwaja Mohammad Amin Darab.
The trunk revealed the archives of Kashmir’s last great Persian poet of the 20th century, Khwaja Muhammad Amin Drabu and Mohammad Amin Darab.
INTACH eventually drew from the collection and examined folio after folio and gathered the selection into a thread that provides insight into the life and times then prevalent and the cultural and literary landscape of that period.