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



Dr. Sunita DharKashmir 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 aids.
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 earning money
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 singing.
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 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 mentioned Nilmatapurana.
t: 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.
: 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 Bachhi Nagma.
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.

Religious Songs

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 witnessed.
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 instruments like.

1. Tumbaknari
2. Noet
3. Setar
4. Nai (Flute)
5. Thaliz
6. Khayasa
7. Rabab
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 tradition.
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



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