The concept of the literary is perhaps inadequate to express how one might approach the body of Kashmiri literature—in Persian, Sanskrit , Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri – yet when we speak of Kashmiri literature and its history, it emerges as inseparable from the history of Kashmiri spirituality. It is difficult to speak of Lal Ded without Kashmiri Saivism and Nund Rishi without Quranic Sufism. Kashmiri language and Kashmiri literature co-appear in the fourteenth century with the equiprimordial rise of bhakti and Sufi devotionalism in Kashmir: the two figures with whom this story is bound up are the Saivite Hindu poet Lal Ded and the Muslim Sufi poet Nund Rishi who self-consciously turn to the Kashmiri vernacular to express their thinking. The processes of vernacularization which led to the rise of Kashmiri language and literature also paradoxically gave rise to the Sufi-bhakti universalism which has exerted its influence on Kashmiri writing across half a millennium. No doubt Kashmiri modernists of the twentieth century faced a difficult task in their attempt to create a secular literature. Be it Sufi or existential, the history of Kashmiri writing bears witness to its own beginnings in the political spirituality inaugurated by Lal Ded and Nund Rishi. Kashmiri writing also explicitly addresses the question of violence (and the violence of existence) and the search for an ethics which would also be the common ground between Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist mysticism.
The contemporary Kashmiri writing of the present still finds itself in dialogue with the question of violence in the history of its own beginnings in the poetry of fourteenth and fifteenth century Kashmir. Does the return to the beginnings of Kashmiri literary culture in the poetry of the Hindu Saivites and the Muslim Rishis signify a return to the question of ethics?
It is common to assert that the Kashmiri language developed in a bi-cultural Hindu and Islamic context since the fourteenth century. There are three different scripts of the language: Sarada (not in use), Perso-Arabic and Devanagari. Some of the earliest examples of Kashmiri writing are highly Sanskritized and deal with religious themes. The Kashmiri Saivite tradition and the different Sufi traditions which flourished in Kashmir from the fourteenth and fifteenth century had a deep impact on Kashmiri literary culture. The folk vatsun and lol traditions also developed in the shade of Saiva-Sufi philosophy.
You’ll find on this website selections from not only the poetry of Lal Ded and Nund Rishi but also contemporary poets such as Rahman Rahi and Bimla Raina who return to the meditations of these saint-poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth century.