Kashmir has consistently enjoyed a rich and distinct cultural
heritage that has been always viewed with awe in the Indian horizon. The social,
cultural, economic and artistic life of the people in this "Paradise upon
earth" inspired many writers and researchers (including me) to choose
subjects varied in nature reflecting the cultural legacy of the land. Kalhana's
'Rajtarangini' is one of the works, which brought into limelight several such
nuances of the lives of the people of Kashmir to write on the subjects, which
had a social and cultural bearing.
My book focuses on the subject "Traditional music of
Kashmir in relation to Indian classical music". Music is basically a
spontaneous creation, which gives expression to human instincts, sentiments and
emotions with its universal appeal and potentiality to enlighten the soul. It
has been the most important medium of expressing to 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 forms of music and art. Wherever human
civilization and culture advanced, literature learning and art got promoted. The
advancement in civilization from time to time have witnessed simultaneous
progress, development and promotion of music.
Delving into the past brought me to the conclusion that the
music of Kashmir during the Hindu period was more or less a shadow of Indian
Music. Nilmatpurana and Kalhana's chronicle suggest that ancient music of
Kashmir was a version of Indian music. Ancient Kashmir had been a prominent
center for learning of art and the courts were thronged by artists and
musicians. They maintained very close links with the rest of the country and
Indian impression was reflected in the culture of this place. The art of writing
on the subject of music had not been in vogue. The musicians and artists did not
relish writing during those days, as a result of which we do not possess any
written material on the notation or on the grammar of music, which was prevalent
at that time. Kashmiri have seen great lovers of music. Since Kashmiri language
does lot have any script of its own, the culture and tradition ,reserved in its
music has passed from generation to generation.
However some styles of music and singing like temple sangeet,
Shiv gayan and folk music survived the upheavals and persisted to appeal on
account of their sentimental value and emotional attachment. These styles of
music are continuing even now as a distinct genre and as a tradition of ancient
Kashmir. Kashmiri music is so full of melody and rhythm that it distinguishes
itself easily from the music of any other state. The delicacy, the grace and
charm of Kashmiri music is ultimate.
There is no function or celebration, which is performed
without music. Not only on happy occasions but even in times of sorrow, the
involvement of music is a must. Like 'Van', a folk form of Kashmir that is sung
when someone dies and an environment of sadness prevails all over. It is a
matter of honour for the Kashmiris that Lalleshwari, Habba Khatoon, etc. the
great musical personalities belonged to Kashmir. Lalleshwari-the mystic poetess
who used to roam naked-was of the opinion that the body is a creation of God and
so need not be covered. Her couplets were superb and people even after years
find solace in her poetry. Her 'Vakhs' are sung in every Kashmiri family.
Likewise Habba-Khatoon's invention of Ragas, poetry have all gone a long way in
building the culture of Kashmir.
Although the Kashmiris came under the threat of losing their
art and culture by the militants even then the modern institution of culture and
art, media, electronic media, cultural academy and Information Department of
J&K Government have played a key role for revival of the art and initiated
serious efforts for preserving and promoting the invaluable cultural heritage.
These institutions are credited with strenuous efforts endeavouring at a
suitable notation system, appropriate grammar and development of audio-visual
In the present study, the traditional music of Kashmir has
been divided into the following categories:
1. Songs sung by women folk
2. Songs sung by minstrels
3. Songs sung by the professionals with the view of
4. Songs sung by farmers
5. Religious songs: Bhajan, Leela, Shiva songs.
Songs sung by Women Folk
Vanvun is a prayer in the form of folk music. It commences
with a prayer to God. The subjects of vanvun also refer to the events of the
Vedic period. In Vedic period, when Goddess Sinnavali's marriage was performed,
God Pooshan had prepared a beautiful headgear to decorate her head. This was
called Kapal-apush in Sanskrit. Lord Indra beautified it further, wrapping a
white strip of cloth around it. This custom prevails among Kashmiris as a
compulsory item of marriage even today. 'Kalpush' in Kashmiri, is Kapal-Push in
Sanskrit and the white twinkling strip is Tarang in Kashmiri. The customs till
date are followed accordingly.
In the pronunciation of Vedic language with the use of
Uddatta, Anudatta and Swarit, every vowel and its following consonant preserves
its pronouncing capacity. The technique with which Uddata, Anudatta and Swarit
are used for modulation in chanting of Vedas, is the same as used in vanvun
Vanvun played a leading role in maintaining the continuity of
our culture from the Vedic period through the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shrimata
Bhagwat till the present day. Hindu Vanvun preserves our faith in spiritual find
ancient beliefs; besides it provides religious fervour and divine grace to the
occasions as we welcome Lord Siva and Parvati to participate at the outset of
every ceremony. The fact is that the Kashmiri language, cultures as well as
religious ceremonies have a direct bearing on the speakers of Rigvedic language.
Vanvun thus, is the pure reflection of the same.
Ruf: Ruf is a very interesting and emotional type of
folk dance. It is directly related with spring. Every season lasts for three
months. At the outset of spring, Kashmiri entertain themselves by dancing and
singing. This practice was prevalent even in the ancient time, which is
Hikat: It is an inseparable part of 'raas'. We
can even form of 'raas'. Reference of 'raas' is prevalent in Kashmir, and is
available in Bhatt Avatar. Even his predecessor, Nund Rishi, was acquainted with
'raas'. In this dance two girls stand in a circle in a pair, facing each other
with two sticks in each hand and strike at each other's stick and sing.
Lalnavun: In Hindi it is called 'Lori', in
English it is called Lullaby and in Kashmiri it is called Lalnavun. Lalnavun is
based on Vatsalaya Ras. It reflects motherly love, which is pure. It depicts the
unbroken bond between the mother and the child. The Mother prays for the long
life of the child and to make the child sleep.
Songs sung by the Minstrels
These songs are sung by the professionals from the view of
earning money. They sing Band Pather, Ladishah, Chhakri.
Chhakri: one of the many forms of folk music of
Kashmir-is rhythmic, fast and when in full swing attracts the attention of each
and every listener. The environment around gets totally melodious and musical
and people start dancing. Likewise 'Ruf' another folk form of Kashmir is mainly
a dance item. Ruf has been derived from the word dwarf, which means a black bee.
As the black bee sucks the juice of the flower, sits on it, moves forward and
goes backward, the same moment has been depicted in Ruf dance.
Chhakar has an important place in the Kashmiri folk music.
This type of song has been practiced for a long time. It is sung collectively in
a group and the singers, themselves play the instruments and the style of
singing is such that the first line of the song is sung by the leading singer.
The same line is repeated by other members of the group. It is a very popular
and entertaining folk song.
Bachhi Nagma: The general meaning of the Bachhi Nagma
is adolescent melodious voice. But in villages, it is still known by the old
name 'bachhi gyavun'. During the Pathan reign (1758-1818) the Arabic word 'nagma'
must have been added to it. So it is the mixture of bachhi (originated from
Sanskrit) and 'nagma' (originated from Arabic). Their dress matches the dress of
kathak dancers. The Kashmiris have great liking for the dance and music of
Dhamaly means leaping and jumping. Dhamaly is a holy sport in
Brij in Uttar Pradesh. It is related with an exercise of saints who jump over
burning fire. This is a dance performed by fifteen to twenty persons. Ladies
don't take part in it. The whole team wears white cotton dress and a head gear.
Songs sung by the Farmers
Naind Gyavun: This
song is related to farmers' folk songs. 'Ninad' of Sanskrit. The word Gyavun is
originated from 'Gayan' of Sanskrit. The tradition of agricultural songs is
prevalent in every state and region. The nature of agricultural songs is joyful,
exciting and merry making. Songs make difficult tasks of the farmers easy and
enhances their zeal.
Leela songs are dedicated to God. Prayer songs in Kashmiri
were written in Sanskrit in the past which were dedicated to Shiv Shakti, Vishnu
and Budh Dharam. Kashmir has been the place of Rishis whose every action was
consecrated to spiritual powers. Even today we can hear Hindus in temples
reciting the couplets from 'Panchastavi' (prayer book in Sanskrit).
The first chapter defines the ancient Kashmir in its
historical perspective. It gives an overview of the ups and downs that Kashmir
The 2nd chapter delves into the origin and development of
the music of Kashmir.
Kashmiri traditional music is blessed with melodious charm.
Besides that, it is a store house of the traditions of Kashmir.
3rd chapter gives various categories of traditional music
prevalent in Kashmir. The examples, the meanings and the occasions on which they
are sung have been given i.e. Ruf, Vanvun, Marriage, Yagneopavit etc. Chhakri
Lalnavun, Bandh Paether, Bachha Nagma Zarkaskasay, Hikat, Ladishah etc.
4th chapter presents some songs with their singing patterns
by way of notations.
5th chapter presents some of the songs which have classical
basis or are close to Ragas.
The last chapter deals with the instruments used to play with
the traditional music of Kashmir.
The ancient history of Kashmir recorded by Pandit Kalhana in
Rajtarangini has specifically mentioned the art of music and musical instruments
in this region in the distant past. The ancient musical instruments used in
Kashmir had been more or less a reflection of the Indian musical instruments in
usage during that time. According to Pandit Kalhana, the folk musical
instruments like earthern pots, brass vessels etc. were used by Kashmiri people
from very early times. In the past Kashmiris used mainly rhythmic maintaining
4. Nai (Flute)
8. Santoor etc.
Among the musical instruments Santoor occupies an important
place in Kashmiri music. Soofiana singing is not possible without the
accompaniments. These days, it is gaining popularity even outside Kashmir. Its
sweet tapping creates a feeling of romantic mood whereas its soft tunes remind
of the tranquility of the other world, which suits the mystical temperament of
Soofiana music. The instrument emits loud and enchanting sounds. Santoor is
being used for Mousiqui in Kashmir since 13th century.
In the year 1956 the people of the state of J & K and
around, heard for the first time, Indian Classical music being played by an
artist on an instrument, which was restricted to Soofiana gayaki only. Kashmir
is proud to produce eminent artists namely Pandit Bhajan Sopori, Tibbat Bakkal
who have made a mark in the field of Hindustani Classical music and have greatly
contributed their lot not only in Hindustani Classical music but have shown the
relationship of Kashmiri music in Indian Classical music. Santoor, to his
gharana is not only an instrument which produces enchanting tunes but an
instrument that sings and is on par with Sitar, Sarod and Violin.
Pandit Sopori, as a Santoor player, has retained the
traditions of santoor and the technical nuances essential for Indian Classical
Pt. Bhajan Sopori has composed music for Kashmiri serials
like Heemal Nagrai and Habba khatoon etc.
In the end I would like to present some folk songs of Kashmir
which are based on Indian ragas and talas, thus depicting the relationship of
Kashmiri music to Hindustani Classical Music.
Dr. Sunita Dhar