Table of Contents
   About the Author
   Ancient Kashmir
   The Traditional Music
   Instruments Used
   Some Famous Songs
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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Ancient Kashmir

The ancient history of Kashmir is shrouded in mystery. The legends and myths trace the. ancient history and reveal some glimpses of pre-historic Kashmir. According to legends the valley of Kashmir was originally a deep vast lake. The oldest record of this legend is 'Nilmata-Purana' which has been quoted by Pandit Kalhana (Great poet and historian who lived in 12th century A.D.) Pandit Kalhana mentions in his Raj-Tarangini (written in 1148-1149 A.D.) that at the beginning of Kalpa (cycle of creation of the universe) the valley was a lake, hundreds of feet deep, called Satisara. This land in the womb of the Himalaya was filled with water and formed the lake of Sati. Sati is goddess Parvati or Durga who was the divine consort of Lord Shiva. This lake was the favourite resort of this goddess. The demon infested lake dates back to the Seventh Manavantra, and the chief of these water demons was Jalodbhava (who dwelt in that lake). The demons used to terrorize the Nagas (snakes who guarded the waters) and caused great devastation and distress to the inhabitants of neighbouring plains. The great sage Kashyap, the grandson of Lord Brahma, heard from his son Nila (a Naga himself) the stories of brutal oppression and misery of the people of Satisara. He resolved to rescue his progeny. The sage did a long penance to relieve the sufferings of the people and his prayer was granted. Pandit Kalhana's Nilamata-Purana, which quotes that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, acted as the leaders of the gods and assisted Kashyapa in defeating Jalodbhava. It is stated that while fighting the gods took positions on the peaks of surrounding mountains but the demon Jalodbhava would lived deep inside and hide himself in the womb of the water.
He refused to emerge and was invisible as long as he remained hidden. Goddess Sharika appeared in the form of Hari (a myna) carrying a pebble in her beak which she dropped upon Jalodbhava to finally slay him. The pebble is believed to be the hillock presently known as Hari Parbat or Sharika Parbat. The pleased Sage Kashyapa settled in the dry valley after the land and people were rescued from the dangers of demons. Kashmir is said to be named after this sage and it is believed that it was originally called Kashyap Mar (Mar meaning the habitant) which literally means settlement of Kashyapa. Other Gods and Goddesses were also so enchanted by the beauty of the valley that they also refused to leave.
According to Nilamata-Purana, names of places like Verinag, Anantnag, Sernag, Kokarnag etc. show traces of ancient Naga beliefs. After that people from South of India were settled by Kashyapa in the valley and the earliest settlers came from the Northern parts of Ladakh and Dardistan as well as from the plains of India. The earliest among the races that entered Kashmir from the Punjab and other parts of India were the Aryans.
According to Kalhana, history begins with King Gonanda I. After three Gonanda rulers twenty-three generations of Pandavas ruled over Kashmir. It is believed that 68 (sixty eight) kings of Gonanda dynasty ruled over Kashmir. They were weak and insignificant. Therefore, Ashoka extended his control over Kashmir. Ashoka is said to have built the towns of Srinagar on the bank of river Jhelum and has been responsible for introducing Buddhism in Kashmir. Buddhism did become the state religion in his reign, but he respected Hinduism as well. After his death, the Mauryan empire began to disintegrate and Jahka Ashoka's son, became an independent monarch of Kashmir. Three centuries later, Kashmir passed under the control of Kushanas. Kanishka, Huska and Juska were among the well known Kushana rulers. Kanishka was the most powerful monarch, whose rule extended to North Western India and Central Asia. After Kushanas, Kashmir was ruled by a number of local rulers including Abhimanu, Vibhisana ≠I, Inderjit, Ravana, Vibhisana II whose names occur in Ramayana. During the reign of these kings, Shaivism made headway. Kashmir was ruled over by the Huns for some time, but local rulers soon regained powers and the second Gonanda dynasty came into being after the fall of Gonanda dynasty Karkota dynasty established its rule in Kashmir. In all, sixteen kings of this dynasty ruled over the land for over two and a half centuries, some of whom played a prominent role in the expansion of economic, social, political, religious and cultural fields, beyond the frontier of the valley. Buddhism spread fairly well when Heiun-Tsang visited Kashmir and he noted remarkable religious tolerance.
Lalitaditya, known as Muktapida ruled over Kashmir who was the most prominent king of the dynasty. After the fall of Karkota dynasty, Utpala dynasty came to power. One of the finest kings of this dynasty was Avantivarma. Never before were Kashmiris so happy and prosperou≠s during the twenty-eight years rule of Avantivarma who with the help of a local genius, Suyya, he founded the town of Avantipur and built two magnificent temples therein, namely Avantisvamin and Avantiswara. Hinduism gained prominence and Buddhism was relegated to the background.
Avantivarmanís successor, Sankaravarman disturbed the peace and prosperity of the kingdom by resorting to unnecessary military expeditions. Then came the reign of Gupta dynasty. After the Guptas came the rule of Kalsa and Harsa. Harsa was a remarkable figure, youthful and possessed great personal beauty. He was an expert linguist, a poet and highly educated. He was liberal and kind hearted. He had a taste for music. He composed songs and introduced Carnatak music to Kashmir. After him Jaya Simha ruled for twenty-eight years. After the death of Jaya Simha, Dulocha, a Mongol warrior and adventurer, who hailed from Turkistan, invaded Kashmir.
After the Buddhist rule, the events took such a turn that Kashmir witnessed the dawn of the Muslim Sultanate. Muslim rule started on a favourable note. Shah Mir adopted a human enlightenment and just approach. The next Sultan was Shahab-ud-din. Then came Qutub-ud-din. He banned un-Islamic practices like drinking, gambling, dancing and playing musical instruments. After his death, his son Zain≠ul-abidin was the most tolerant and benevolent ruler. His reign was very peaceful. During his reign Hindu Mahabharta and Hindu Shastriyas were translated. He was a precursor of Akbar, in the field of religion and of Shah Jahan, in the field of construction. It was he, who developed the beautiful island, Char Chinari and the famous Dal lake.
In 1589, Kashmir became a province of the Mughal Empire. Akbar visited Kashmir in 1589. The Mughal institutions and Mughal pattern of administration were introduced. Jehangir, fell in love with Kashmir when he observed the beauty of a site near present day Gulmarg. His son, Shah Jahan made several trips to Kashmir. It was in Jehangir's and Shah Jahanís period that the world famous Mughal Gardens, including Shalimar, Nishatt, Achhabal, Chashma Shahi and Pari Mahal were developed.
During Aurangzeb's reign Kashmir saw fourteen governors.
After the death of Aurangzeb, Mughal empire began to crumble and Kashmir was destined to fall under the grip of the Afghans. Shah Abdali was invited to rule over the valley.
After that there was the beginning, of Sikh rule in Kashmir which lasted for 20 years.
Dogra dynasty lasted for about hundred years. This period saw four Maharajas-Gulab Singh, Ranbir Singh, Pratap Singh and Hari Singh.
The Freedom Movement in India was gathering momentum and the Muslim league was emerging on the scene and these developments influenced events in the States of Jammu & Kashmir. A number of young men received higher education in Lahore and Aligarh and returned with a new political and social awakening. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was one of them. Today, the position has come to such a pass that majority of Hindus and some peace loving Muslims have migrated to other parts of India.

Origin of Music in Kashmir

Music is basically a spontaneous creation to give expression to human instincts, sentiments and emotions with its universal appeal and potentiality to enlighten soul. It has been the most important medium of expression of human emotions from early stages of life on earth. This art has progressed and evolved everywhere in the world with the evolution of civilizations. Different places and different nations have evolved their different music and art. Wherever human civilization and culture advanced, literature, learning and art got promoted. The advance≠ments in civilization from time to time have witnessed simultaneous progress and promotion of music.
The kind, type and form of music that was in vogue in Kashmir in the distant past is unknown and unclear. Suitable techniques and art of writing on the subject of music had not been developed in ancient Kashmir. The musicians and artists did not also relish writing. Proper systems for teaching and learning this art had not been in use. During ancient times the people of Kashmir were the followers of Hinduism. This region was an abode of Hindu religion and people worshipped gods and deities, the which included worshipping of Shiva. The people were speaking Sanskrit dialect and hymns, lyrics, etc. were also sung in this language. The region was brought under the influence of Buddhism during the reign of Ashoka. However, no drastic change could take place in the spoken language, art, culture and music under the influence of the region. The only authoritative work, which traces the history of this early period, is Nilamata Purana which also contains references to music and art.
Many festivals were celebrated during this period in which musical concerts and dips in the river Vitasta, and collective singing in the evenings featured as per the details of Nilamata-Purana. There is no denying the fact that the art of music and dancing has been living in India from time immemorial. Mathura, Kashmir and Banaras had been the prominent centers of learning science and art. The temples used to be important places for learning music and singing and dancing girls used to perform in these temples. During this ancient Hindu rule one does not find any difference between the music, art and culture of Kashmir and that prevailing elsewhere in rest of India.
Kashmir has seen remarkable advancement and liberal patronage of music during this ancient period, which is clearly depicted by the tiles found during the excavations at Harwan. These tiles and some sculptures bear the pictures of dancing and singing persons and also of the ladies playing on the rhythmic instrument. The historical facts bear enough evidence that music and dancing had been popular in Kashmir in very old times.
Music and Fine Arts did not progress much during the 11th and 12th century A.D. This was the period of turmoil, disturbance and economic depression. The decadent state of Hindu rule for nearly two centuries resulted in their downfall. All the historians have consistently narrated that during the reign of Sukhdeva Kashmir was completely devastated by Dalacha who was a Tartar aggressor.
The ancient music that had survived subsequent to the invasion of Dalacha received another severe setback at the hands of Sultan Sikander. The period of this Sultan was predominated by an official attitude of hatred towards music and dance.
Srivara asserts that this Sultan on the provocation of some narrow-minded persons destroyed all the literature and material existent on the subject of music.
This means that Sultan Sikander under the influence of conservative Muslim priests had destroyed by setting on fire the religious books, Hindu manuscripts and the works on music and art. According to M.L. Kapur the musical instruments for entertainment purposes were forbidden by the Sultan. Thus the temple Sangit or the religious music got discouraged and was distanced from royal patronage.
The original faith of the people who lived in Kashmir valley was a sort of Shaivism. In the opinion of some scholars, Shiva shakti worship was prevalent in this region even before the advent of the Aryans to the Indian soil. It originated out of the cult of Mother Goddess and was closely connected with the cult of Shiva. The lamp of Shaivism burnt steadily in the valley throughout the period of Hindu rule and even afterwards. This gives a clear idea that Shiva Puja or worship of Shiva was generally practiced in Kashmir.
A renowned Shaivite school for teaching Kashmiri Shaivism and its philosophy is existent. An installation of this school was run by a well known Saint, Swami Laxman Jao, at Ishber, Srinagar. This saint is considered to be a reputed contemporary authority on Shaivism of Kashmir.
The language, civilization and culture of Central Asia cast its shadows on every walk of life in Kashmir. This was the time when the victories of Muslims had brought about changes in the language, civilizing music and art of the Indian subcontinent also. The new belief of Islam changed the lifestyle of the people in Kashmir like it had influenced the rest of India, particularly its northern parts. The music bloomed and came into vogue during the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin. Srivara was himself an accomplished artist and a great musician attached to the court of Sultan Hasan Shah. He was Head of the Depart≠ment of Music and used to sing vernacular of Persian songs for the entertainment of the king and other countries in which he composed with leading musicians of that time. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin and Sultan Hasan Shah have been in particular the luminaries for patronizing music and fine arts. They visited musicians from India and distant south. Their period is quite noticeable for overall progress. Music flourished and reached its climax under the patronage of the Sultan, whose court was adorned by renowned and prominent musicians brought from various distant places in India and Central Asia.
Sufi writes in the book Kashir that "he invited artists and musicians from Iran, Turan, Turkistan and Hindustan and offered them good prospects and concessions to settle down in Kashmir." In fact the main schools of music in the valley were founded by the Irani and Turani musicians in the time of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. During this period avenues were also found for adopting and including various Ragas and Raginis of Indian music.
Srivara writes that the singers from Karnataka sat gracefully before the king Hasan Shah as if they represented the six tunes namely Kedara, Gauda, Gandhara, Desha, Bangala and Malva. This makes it clear that serious efforts were made during this period for this entertaining fine art of music to reach the heights of perspective. Hence, the Indian musicians used to participate in the concert and competitions and would perform in the courts of the sultans for being generously awarded.
Sufi giving a vivid description states that when Muslims came over to India, they brought with them their own style, particularly Sufi music. Luminaries like Hazrat Amir Khusrau had made significant contributions for revamping the Indian music and bringing it closer to Central Asian and Persian music. It is quite reasonable to believe that Amir Khusrau had succeeded in his effort to combine the Persian and Indian systems and evolve new melodies characteristic of the new personalized Indian Culture.
The new synthesis lead come into vogue in India and was touching the heights of popularity. Thus, a synthesis was created which gave a vast scope to music for benefiting from certain concepts, experiments, achievements and fundamentals of Indian music. In the process, the music of Kashmir, which had primarily originated from the Central Asian and Persian music, was also shaping and evolving.
Folk music of Kashmir had been a spontaneous creation, associated with usual merry making celebrations ≠and an automatic expression of joy and delight.



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