Persian Poetry in Kashmir
Kashmir had a long history of writing in Persian after Persian became the language of the Court in the fourteenth century. Even though many anthologies of Persian poetry in Kashmir have been published including the comprehensive Tazkarae Farsi shaurae Kashmir, the best English account of this body of writing is Girdhari Lal Tikku’s Persian Poetry in Kashmir. The information presented here has been gleaned from Tikku’s brilliant account of Persian poetry in Kashmir. Needless to add, Ghani Kashmiri is the most well-known of the Persian poets of Kashmir. This is again a subject which has not received much critical attention.
Among some of the other more well-known Persian poets of Kashmir are Shaikh Yaqub Ghanai Sarfi (1529-1594), Habibullah Ghanai (1556-1617), Mulla Muhammad Tahir Ghani (d. 1669), Mirza Dirab Big Juya (d. 1707), Mirza Beg Akmal Kamil (1645-1719), Muhammad Aslam Salim (d. 1718), Mulla Muhammad Taufiq (1765), Mulla Muhammad Hamid (1848) and Birbal Kachru Varasta (d. 1865). Even though these poets composed verse in Persian, they share much in their themes and mood with Kashmiri poetry. For instance, Habibullah Ghanai writes:
Amrat kudam amir u mamur ham kudam
Dar vahdatat che faida naïf u thabat ra
Yak banda-i-jamal u digar banda-i-jalal
An yak girift Kaba digar Sumnat ra
What is the difference between the Command, the Commander, and the Executor of Thy Command?
What is Thy purpose of negation and assertion in Thy Unity?
One is a slave to Your Beauty, another to Your Glory;
One adores the Kaaba and the other Somnath
Ghani Kashmiri is perhaps the greatest of the Kashmiri Persian poets whose work was known in Iran in his lifetime. It is believed that more than 80,000 verses of his are lost to us because one of his disciples did not include them in Ghani’s divan on account of their difficulty. Ghani Kashmiri influenced the poetry of the great Urdu poet, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. Such an influence is obvious when you turn to the following verse by Ghani which exemplifies Ghani’s philosophy:
Har kas ki dad tan ba bala iman az ballast
Viran kuja zi mauj shavad khana-i-hubab
He who plunged into difficulties is free from difficulties
How can the house of a bubble be smashed by a wave?
Ghani Kashmiri’s poetry also bears the influence of Hindu and Buddhist philosophical thought.
Birbal Kachru was the leading Kashmiri Persian poet of the nineteenth century – a time when more and more Kashmiris had taken up writing in Kashmiri instead of Persian. He too meditates upon the Kashmiri spiritual tradition and the same approach to religion can be found in his poetry as in Ghani Kashmiri. Birbal Kachru writes:
Be it the mosque, the convent, the tavern
His pure light is manifest in all.
He brings strife between the infidel and the faithful,
Each of whom is a wayfarer on His path,
At times He blesses the mosque through prostration;
At times he gives strength to the infidel.
But when the eye of gnosis opens,
He is the spectacle and the spectator both.