Making Mahjoor

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When Mahjoor sang his call for renewal, Kashmir was not the basket-case it is today. If the poet was animated by fervour for the future, he was also inspired by what he saw around himself – nature, largely unsullied and unspoilt. His words of hope and challenge must have sprung as much from his confidence in his compatriots as from the bounteous mother’s blessings the Valley boasted of. But now, and since long, there has been betrayal on both counts. Anyone visiting Kashmir untutored today would find it hard to believe that it had once moved the poet to sing walo ha baaghwano nau baharuk shaan paida kar. Where is the baagh, and where the baghbaan? Even saints and rishis born and bred here have found inspiration from nature’s bequests and scaled great heights in their spiritual journeys, leaving behind timeless lessons for humanity on how to forge its relationship with the world. In a way, this intellectual debt has been acknowledged time and again in poetry and prose, with some going to the extent of attributing the noblest verses sung here to the portraiture of nature. Ancient sites excavated during the twentieth century, too, also an indication of the strong affinity people of Kashmir had with their land. This is also reflected in literature, whatever the language in vogue in different periods of the region’s history.      

Hafeez Jalandhari compared portraying Kashmir to drawing streams of milk from the rocks of Mount Bistun. The warp and woof of Ghani Kashmir’s poetry is nothing but the beauty of Kashmir. Even poets like Thomas Moore and Mirza Ghalib, who have never visited Kashmir but read of it in books, or heard of it from others, have produced masterpieces in glowing tributes to this land. Thomas Moore introduced Kashmir to the world thus: Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/ With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave. Mirza Ghalib put it thus: Mir’s poetry is beyond description; it is no less than the garden of Kashmir. Pandit Narayan Chakbast said: Every speck of my Kashmir is exceedingly hospitable; even the wayside stones offered me water to drink. European travellers who visited Kashmir have praised this land in most beautiful prose.

Love for nature and its preservations were deeply ingrained in the local psyche. Much before the Vedic period, people here were ‘nature worshippers’. They saw gods and goddesses in different manifestations of nature and held them in high esteem. For them, preserving nature was the greatest religious duty. And this is said to have been so far thousands of years.  

Assuming that Kashmir today has even average awareness of how highly such elements figure in its lore, both recorded and transmitted by word of mouth, is there even a tinge of a sense of loss at what has been wrought? What would the verdict be today if some outsider arrived for inspiration for his creativity? Would anyone find a resonance, or even a fleeting resemblance, with what had been described so graphically barely a hundred years ago? Given their aspirations in life, and how they translate into the physical world, would present-day Kashmiris be remembered as lovers of nature? No one should be surprised if the undeniably talented artists and writers of today sing no odes.

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