Ballad in Kashmiri
A Kashmiri ballad is a narrative song in short stanzas or couplets
with end-rhymes, often with refrain or the first line repeated at intervals and
usually of popular origin and orally transmitted. The earlier ballads are simple
in metrical structures and show little of the fineness of a deliberate art.
Their authorship is unknown. The latter ballad have been composed by the known
poets but in these too the simplicity, sincerity of style and sincerity of tone
like the earlier ones do not at all suffer. All Kashmiri ballads vary in length.
Ballads in Kashmiri have arisen among the people of a locality or a village
who have shared the same habits, customs and thoughts for generations. A gifted
man among them may weave some folk-tale or a legend or an important event into a
song and other persons add to it or change the lines and hand them on to the
next generation. Besides, a professional minstrel called geven vol (singer) and
a bard known as Ladi Shah also compose ballads. A ballad in Kashmiri was
sung for the story it told and not merely as dance-accompaniments. Sometimes for
the sake of entertainment, dance was also performed alongwith the singing of a
narrative song. These dances are (i) bacha-nagma wherein a male in the
garb of a girl dances singing the narrative song, (ii) bhanda-nagma, in
which an actor of a small itinerant dramatic group sings ballads while dancing
(iii) hafiz-nagama, a beautiful dancing girl and her companions may sing
a narrative poem. She dances all along. Generally, a hafiza (dancing girl)
dances to the accompaniment of Sufiana kalam (poem of philosophical
Kashmiri had become the popular language of Kashmir even earlier than
12th century A.D. when Kalhana lived and wrote his Rajtarangini and
Kashmiri balladry must have gone back to the early past but no ballad of that
old and far off time has come down to us. A narrative poem in Kashmiri, Banasurvadha
composed in the 15th century is the oldest narrative poem and it narrates a
mythological story. It is during the early Sultan period in Kashmir that the
Kashmiri language got a high status that it deserved and naturally from 15th
century onwards we find the art of balladry grow vigorously.
The characteristics of a Kashmiri ballad are its straightforwardness,
rapidity of narration and its simplicity. They deal with passions and motives
that pulsate through all human beings. Many of the Kashmiri ballads have immense
dramatic power and simple and regular metrical beauty.
The Kashmiri ballads may roughly be classified into four kinds, according to
their source, content and even style and diction:
1. Many Kashmiri ballads are connected with religious or semi-mystic
themes. Epic and Puranic episodes like Sudama Chirata, Radha Swayamvara,
Siva-Lagan were selected by the ancient wandering m instrels of Kashmir and
passed down through the ages by word of mouth. Pandit Parmanand (1791-1885),
though known primarily for his devotional songs, has also composed ballads on
these episodes drawn from the loves of Lord Krishna and other Hindu gods. The
ballads of this class, though composed in Kashmiri, contain many Sanskrit words
here and there. Some ballads are even based on episodes from Rajtarangini of
Kalhana. These are mellifluous and invested in an expression of ecstasy.
Famous also are narrative poems like Ramavataracharita, Krishnavataralila,
Civapariviya. All these have been composed by Prakash Bhat in pure Kashmiri
but in "Hindu dialect".
2. There are ballads of purely Kashmiri origin based on Kashmiri folk-tales
like Himal Nagraye, Bombur and Lolre, Zora Khoran and Hayaband and
Shabrang, etc. The stories of Kathasaritsagar by Somadeva, who
flourished about 1070 A.D. also have inspired some ballads.
A collection of tales in prose and ballad form known as Hatim's Tales were
recited by one Hatim, an oilman by profession.
Ramzan Bhat's ballad of Akanandun is a marvellous narrative poem.
According to the historian Sufi, "The poem is a ballad. Its style is
simple, vigorous and forceful". Akbar Lone, a less known poet, also
composed a fascinating ballad Z'iny Mazoor (The woodcutter) on a story of his
own imagination; it is full of Persian words.
Several ballads are based on incidents centering on real persons, for
example, ballads which relate the exploits of a kind-hearted and a generous
thief, Madhiv Bishta. One of the ballads concerning him begins with:
"The master and the mistress are going
up and down (during the wedding)
Sona, you continue with your job".
It is very popular. In the latter quarter of the 18th century a kind of
ballad called Rang consisted of a stanza of four lines and each song
consisted of such seven stanzas. The adept in this kind of poetry was Qazim
Ganai. In these the poet used to sing the romantic episodes of some ancient
3. There are cherished ballads based on Persian themes and history. These
include Yusuf and Zulaikha and Laila Majnu which deeply moved the
ancient folk-lorist. The Arabic story of Hatim Tai has also been turned into a
song. These forms, though composed by village folk in their native Kashmiri, are
modelled on Persian poetry. In fact, the Kashmiri ballad singers have strong
Persian pearls on Kashmiri threads. They are composed in the couplet form for
employing Persian Bahar-i-hazaj. The poets have borrowed words, epithets
and phrases of the Persian language.
By about the end of the 18th century the literature of Kashmiri begins and
Kashmiri poets like Moh'd Gami (d 1885) had written ballads with a sweet
flavour of Persian romance, as Sheikh Saman, Sheikh Mansoor Pahil Nama and
Yak Haqayat. Abdul Wahab Pare (1845-1914) has written poems mostly
permeated with pessimism. Notable examples are Sahalbnama, narrating the
colossal devastation caused by flood and Be'boojnama describing the
chaotic condition of the time. Pir Azis Ullah Haqani (1854-1928) also wrote some
long narrative poems which may not strictly and technically be called ballads
4. Though there is along tradition of comic and satiric ballads, going back
to the times of Sanskrit poet Kshmendra of the 11th and 12th centuries, but it
is in the 19th century that we find them most in vogue. These comic ballads
describe the sad plight of the people under the onslaught of the natural
calamities like flood, famine and cruelties of the officials. These ballads
known as shahar-aashob are written in masnavi style couplets.
A unique Laddi Shah humorous ballad brings out the wit and worldly wisdom of
Kashmiri people. Among the modem satirical ballads Lakshman Razdan's Lala
Lachman is the most famous. It has a peculiar lure and a strange tone.
Laddi Shah is sung by the minstrels in one single tune accompanied by the
music created by stirring the iron rings strung on an iron rod. The other kinds
of ballads acquire a unique charm when sung in chorus to the accompaniment of
rabab, or sarangi, tumbaknari (a kind of dholiki) and not (an earthenware
In the Kashmiri ballads accompanying dances "embody the heritage of
Kashmir's dynamic past and the spirit of beauty vibrating through its bountiful