Why Persian Needs Revival in Kashmir

Insha-e-Darab on Kashmir’s last Persian poet conducted recently

AT a point in time, Kashmir resembled and mimicked Iranian culture so much in the wake of arrival of Islam and missionaries from Central Asia that it came to be known as Iran-e-Sagheer (The Litttle Iran). Nowhere else was this imitation and import seen with such rigor and extent as in literature and literary traditions.

Kashmir went on to produce some acclaimed poets of Persian language, who gained name and fame not only at home, but were celebrated across the Persian speaking world. For a long time, Kashmir continued to maintain and secure its place of repute by making immense and precious contributions to the Persian language and literature. Not only did Kashmiris contribute immensely to this literary tradition but Kashmiris also benefited upon interacting with this language of longstanding and brilliant literary tradition.

While the Bostan and Gulistan of Sa’adi instilled in people the moral, civic and religious sense, the Mathnavi of Rumi, opened to them the nectar fountains of mysticism, philosophy, didactics and a host of other religious and mundane sciences. The compositions of Khayyam, Hafiz, Saib and others heightened and polished the literary and aesthetic attitude of people across the board. Persian continued to serve the purpose of literary, aesthetic, moral and religious arbiters for the people of Kashmir across centuries.

The loss of Persian, not only from everyday life but also from the academic circles too had its repercussions. The treasure trove of wisdom, philosophy and literature turned inaccessible and alien to people resulting in the subsequent degeneration and loss of century old tradition.

Languages are portals to culture and civilization and this meant that Persian served as our passport to the entire cultural and civilisational architecture of Central Asia, helping us enrich and expand our own mental and social horizons. At a time when the West is rushing towards the Persian classics and poets like Rumi and Hafiz have attracted vast translators and exegetic corpus around them, back home, we have ousted this legacy which used to adorn our social and intellectual spaces. We are yet to develop even a proper sense of the tragedy of the loss of Persian from our cultural matrix and the cascaded loss it has brought us in intellectual and cultural terms remains unquantifiable.

In our schools, Persian is not even taught as an optional subject and this sufficiently reflects our indifference towards the language and lack of sense of our cultural and historical nexus with it.

Amidst all this disappointing and discouraging scenario, some bursts of light shine now and then and it appears that an undercurrent of consciousness is rippling in our young generation and they will inevitably wake up to the spell and splendour of this language.

There is a sort of resurgence – an unfelt movement which is constantly magnetising the people and populace towards this language. A number of unrelated reasons seem to have acted like a catalyst in this direction and have imparted impetus to the reception and learning of this language. With the arrival and profusion  of social media, Rumi’s poetry and his wisdom quotes have struck a chord with the youth and despite the fact that most of us do not bother to venture beyond the surface, there are many who have been led to Persian language and literature  by the way of Rumi. There are students and learners, who have explored the online resources, met Persian knowing people and benefited from books of all sorts to gain entry and expertise in this language. It is true that on the whole people have drifted away from Persian, but the language continues to be received with awe and amaze and the people knowing the language are dignified and seen as embodying the wisdom and values – as is intrinsic to the language itself. This social ascent adds to the prestige of language and makes its learning/ speaking a desirable act. Though the number of people who understand this language are scant, even today, the orations, chants and recitals in all major shrines continue to be in Persian. This has left an indelible mark on the minds of people and sanctified the language for them. They may little understand it, but they do feel it, relish its spiritual aura and are at times drawn into ecstasy by the power and purity of this language. All these factors make a strong case for the vivification of Persian and in reviving it we shall be revisiting and recreating our own literary, cultural and intellectual heritage.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist

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