(Last Updated on : 31/10/2012)
Kashmiri literature has a history of at least 2500 years, dating back to its glory days of Sanskrit. The most ancient luminaries include Patanjali, author of the Mahabhashya commentary on Panini`s grammar, indicated by some to have been the same to write the Hindu treatise acknowledged as the Yogasutra and Dridhbala, who had re-improvised the Charaka Samhita of Ayurveda.
During medieval times, the great Kashmir Valley School of Art, Culture and Philosophy recognised as `Kashmir Shaivism` arose. Its memorable and irreplaceable masters comprise Vasugupta (c. 800), Utpala (c. 925), Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja. Names of the Anandavardhana and Abhinavagupta can successfully be enlisted in the theory of aesthetics. Several generations later, in the present-day contemporary times, a fresh lease of life given to identical "school of thought", was lent by Swami Lakshman Joo of Ishbher/Gupta Ganga, Srinagar, India.
The earliest utilisation of Kashmiri in literature can be witnessed in Kalhana`s Rajatarangini (12th century A.D.), in which a three-word phrase of Kashmiri Apabhramsa was beautifully made use of. However, the earliest masterpiece in Kashmiri literature appears to be the Mahanayaprakasa by Sitikantha Acharya, which belong to the period within 1200-1500 A.D. Another work of supreme anonymity, without even a recognised date, is referred to as the Chumma-sampradaya, also furnishing as the oldest specimen of Kashmiri literature. The 14th century Saiva woman-saint Lal Ded , also admired as Lalla Didi, indeed had composed umpteen authorships in Kashmiri, which are still very much well liked, both amongst Hindus and Muslims. The sayings or shruks of another mystical and spiritualist poet Sheikh Nuruddin (1377-1440 A.D.) have been amassed in the book named Nurnama or Rshinama. Utthasoma, Yodhabhatta and Bhatta Avatara were the substantial Kashmiri poets in the court of Zainul Abidin (1420-1470 A.D.). Utthasoma`s treatise on music called Manaka, Yodhabhatta`s Jainacharita and Jainaprakasa and Avatara`s Jainavilasa were authoritative works of this period. Banasuravadha is considered as the earliest epic poem in Kashmiri language.
The period within 1500-1800 A.D. had witnessed the incessant and unceasing maturation of Kashmiri literature. Hubba Khatun (1551-1606 A.D.) was an exceedingly remarkable poetess, whose lyrics on love and romance referred to as lol, beguiles the Kashmiri people even to this date. Rupabhavani and Aranimal were other impressive poetesses of Kashmir region. Sahib Kaul, a Hindu poet who had existed during the time of Mughal emperor Jahangir, had composed works like Krishnaavatara and Jananmcharita. The Ramayana was adapted into Kashmiri by Prakasarama (also referred as `Divakaraprakasa Bhatta`) in his Ramavataracharita in the late 18th century. He later had authored its sequel, the Lavakusacharita. Mir Abdullah Baihaqi`s Koshir-Aqaid and Mukhtasar Waqayah also belong to this glorious period in Kashmiri literature, which had remained witness to several Persian works like Laila-Majnu and Shirin-Khusro being adapted into Kashmiri.
During the period subsequent to 1800 A.D., Kashmiri literature came under the heavy influence of Urdu and English, apart from Sanskrit and Persian, giving rise to novel ideas and styles. Mahmud Gami, Maqbul Shah, Paramanand and Wahhab Pare were some of the early poets from this period. Mahmud Gami had lent life to striking works like Yusuf-Zulaikha, Laila-Majnu and Shirin-Khusro. Gami had also composed an astounding number of ghazals. Paramanand had penned numerous narrative poems like Radhaswaymvara, Sudamacharita and Sivalagan based upon Sanskrit Puranas. Abdul Wahab Pare (1845-1913) had adapted Firdausi`s Shahnama into Kashmiri and also in fact had interpreted the Akbarnama. Another skilled and proficient persona of the same period was Lakshman Ju, who had authored Nala-Damayanti and a number of ghazals and short verses in Kashmiri. The Sikandarnama by the 12th century poet Nizami was translated into Kashmiri by Maulavi Siddiqullah. K.F. Burkhard and G.A. Grierson were the two European scholars who had encouraged and boosted Kashmiri literature during the colonial period.
The other authoritative works of this period within Kashmiri literature comprise Krishna Razdan`s Sivaparinaya; Dinanath`s Krishnavataralila; Waliullah Mattu`s Himal Ta Nagaraya, Azizullah Haqqani`s Gazliyat-i-Haqqani and Ramzan Bath`s Akhnandana. Pirzada Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (1885-1952) was one of the earliest nationalist poets of Kashmir, who had penned several lyrical and patriotic poems emoting the essence of politics and polity. Nandalal Kaul was a celebrated poet and dramatist in the Kashmiri language. He has been ascribed with momentous plays like Satach Kahwath, Ramun Raj, Dayalal and Prahlada Bhagat. The Bhagavad Gita was memorably dished out into Kashmiri by Pandit Narayan Khar.
Significant and commanding poets in Kashmiri literature from the post-Independence period include Abdul Ahmad Azad, Dinanath Nadim, Amin Kamil, Ghulam Rasul Nazki, Rahman Rahi, Abdul Haqq Barq and Nur Mohammed Roshan. Dinanath Nadim`s verse instances like Yirada, Ba Gyavna Az and Zindabad Shyamji had ushered in fresh dynamism into Kashmiri verse. He also had penned an opera referred to as Bambur Yambarzal in 1953, for which Dinanath Nadim had triumphantly fetched the Sahitya Akademi Award for Kashmiri literature in 1967. Nadim later came together with Roshan and rendered life to another opera, Himal ta Nagaraya in 1956. Rahman Rahi was also a recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award (1962) for his Nauroz-i-Saba. Another Kashmiri writer, Akthar Mahiuddin also had earned the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1958 for his compilation of short stories named as Sathsangar. Akthar Mahiuddin also owns to his recognition and acknowledgement two novels, Dod Dag and Zuv ta Zolana, and another compendium of poems named Swanzal. Motilal Kemmu is a renowned dramatist who wrote powerful plays like Trunov, Mangay and Manjuli Nika.
During the contemporary era of 1950s, a number of well-informed and erudite youth turned to Kashmiri writing in the form of both poetry and prose, in the long run enriching modern Kashmiri writing by leaps and bounds. Amongst these bunch of writers are included Dinanath Nadim (1916-1988), Rahman Rahi, Muzaffar Aazim, Ghulam Nabi Firaq, Amin Kamil (1923-), Ali Mohd Lone, Akhtar Mohiuddin and Sarvanand Kaul `Premi`. Somewhat later day writers of the said genre comprise Hari Krishan Kaul, Majrooh Rashid, Rattanlal Shant, Hirdhey Kaul Bharti, Nazir Jahangir, Moti Lal Kemmu (playwright). Contemporary Kashmiri literature successfully come to sight in Sheeraza, issued and printed by the Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Anhar, published by the Kashmiri Department of Kashmir University, and an independent magazine named Neab International Kashmiri Magazine.