The twinkling starry skies change their mood with change in the season, the magical dance of the beams of full moon round and round the chariots of light - winged clouds attending silent nights, the smiling showers of the morning sunbeams playing with the hymeneal merriment of the opening buds, wild and cultivated, the lush green emerald mountains surrounding the valley of flowers but enjoying eternal smiles of this flower beauty, the songs of the flowers of various hues ad dazzling colors, matched with the unending orchestra of birds playing hide and seek in the boughs and the branches of plants and trees, the murmuring brooks and streams flowing from the springs gushing out of the warm and loveful bosoms of the earth and the frozen snow of the Himalayas, the foaming , roaring rivers amidst their zigzag method and manner but with commitment to sustenance and development of life at various levels- all feel highly proud seeing the mind of Kashmir enriched, matured and flowered by in her poetry and song. This pride is conscious of the role that natural surroundings play in providing warp and weft for designing Kashmir’s poetic art.
But Kashmiris have poured their soul in other forms as well. They have blended many things in weaving, for instance carpets, and they have created colorful designs which, like the shapes of Grecian Urn of John Keats, assume immortal forms---observational, sensational, emotional, aesthetic, musical, volitional and imaginative. They have created things to keep human beings busy in self-discovery, self-creativity and self-fulfillment. Some have used chisels to carve their souls on wood, copper, silver or gold or yet other stronger stones. It is only the rough who think that chiseling crafts needs merely a stomach and the work is neither high browed nor subtle. The drawing of lines on wood, metal or stone with elements of nature brought into interplay through beatific puzzles open for observation and thinking. The choice of materials and, designs and shapes, the toss of imaginative feats and proportion of interrelationship harmonious interrelationships reflect the minds of those who chose chisels as their form of worship. Kashmiris, again, do a marvelous job in woodwork and the art of building. Dwellings, shrines, mosques, houseboats exhibit that builders and architects try to compete with poets, thinkers, and other seekers of truth in pouring their minds and souls into their building art. Women’s earrings are designed in wood and thrown hanging in building corners, particularly of shrines, lattices are carved out of wood to represent seeing stealthily under the pressure of super-ego or regimental dogmatism. Windows and door tops are arched round to indicate in the Quranic vein unison that promotes mystics as, for instance, Bayazid of Bistam or Ibni Arabi, the sheikh of sheikhs, in spiritual matters. I am making very brief references to food preparations (as of wazwan) pottery, needle work (Soozani of pashmina), calligraphy, folk song, folk dance, and drapery for fear of lengths that do not suit the occasion. In the context of drapery and costumes, however, I refer to Shelley who, in his long poem Prometheus, praised Asia’s limbs which to the poet seem burn through the vest that hides them. Then the radiant lines of the morning shroud them wherever she and her limbs shine. Kashmiri truth seekers and lovers see their beloved through costumes and forms too. In a broad sense all forms of art serve as outer coverings in which the truth of the matter, or the soul or reality, is reflected.
We shall now refer to Kashmiri poetry which bears a heavy responsibility on its shoulders in the same way in which man bears the scriptural trust. Kashmiri mystical poets are almost as important as the masters of Persian literature; given the Persian literature has richness which has been seen in the most developed languages of the world. Besides, Persian has very strong politico-economic, socio-cultural, and religious-metaphysical grounds to stand upon and to grow. Kashmir has never had such a fertile ground for its nourishment and growth. With all this, Kashmir’s spiritual or metaphysical heritage has been considerably rich, Kashmir has not lagged behind if we keep the experience part of the heritage into consideration. The experience is the crown of Kashmir culture. We cannot detail out here the contributions of all the Sufi masters from Khawja Habibullah Nowshehri and Momin Sahab down to Ahad Sahab Zargar and Mahjoor (God bless them all). We shall therefore be brief, precise and selective.
A close examination of Kashmir mystic poetry reveals that our masters have attained self-fulfillment and are bestowed with creative powers. Like Maulana Abdur Rehman Jami, Khawja Habibullah Nowshehri, for instance, appears to be well aware of ‘Kuntu Kanzan Makhfiyan’ which provides extra ordinary courage and spiritual satisfaction to matured mystics and to Nowshehri. He is like Mansoor on account of this but does not reveal the secrets openly. However he takes pity on the recluse for the latter’s superficial knowledge suggesting to him to follow the religion of love. He does not give vent to his secrets of love because working for and tolerating the brunt of these secrets in a closed society is not everybody’s cup of tea.
Shams Sahab Faqir, to cite another example, does not like to put labels on himself and like Rumi he thinks to be neither Eastern nor Western, neither an angel nor a djinn, neither a believer nor a heretic. He declares freedom assuming to be a Sarmad, a Sikander, a Solomon himself. Even from pre-creation days he thinks he has the wings to fly to space-less states which flight is assumed only a status of God. Moreover, he assumes he is neither created by earth, no water, nor air nor fire- four elements responsible for the emergence of man on the earth. He therefore seems to be declaring for himself a God –like existence like Hazrat Mansoor Hallaj. Moreover, like Moses (AS) he thinks to be listening to divine music which is accompanied by a VISION. He realizes Muhammad (SAW) himself enlightening him completely to place him at the creative stage. Ahmad Sahab Batwari, another mystic poet, claims catching unknown sounds of the mysterious flute with which even Rumi begins his known Mathnavi. Batwari knows the flute and the various dimensions of its sound, the knowledge that seats him on the thrown of power. He claims to be aware of the underworld and its secrets which in the Quranic language is a part of ascension a flight to the unknown states of existence, taking one to the presence of God. He too thinks in the way in which Hallaj did but is not condemned to die on the scaffold. Ahmad’s distinguished quality is his knowledge of the Hindustani way of reaching God which to Anna Marie Schimmel and Iqbal was an attraction for Muhammad (SAW) as well and according to a tradition even the well- known poet of Persia, Hafiz, was prepared to surrender Samarqand and Bukhara to gain this spiritual experience. AZ HINDUSTAN SAAZ KARETH AAYIKHAI PADMANIYAY is the significantly famous song that Batwari sang in praise of the Hindustani-way. Batwari’s symbols like NOORPUR, CHEEN, SHAM, MISIR, and RUM are used by mystics to go deep into mystic truth. At an important stage of development he hears the calls of Big Mosque and bears their brunt to gain the highest state of nearness to Great God. Ahad Sahab Zargar of our time adopts AKANANDUN as an allegory to experience this state. Zargar asserts he designs Adam, inspires soul into him, is well informed about the secret which Muhammad (SAW) is, and also revelations of the Quran. In fact he thinks he alone is responsible for surfacing God. Zargar also wrote Gul Snober, an allegory that throws open an important secret of love. He was ridiculed for his ideas by the dogmatists as expressed in ‘KAFAR SAPDETH KORUM IQRAR’, one of his well-known poems (I said yes after wading through denial).
Love as the fulcrum of mysticism has been adopted almost by all the mystic poets of Kashmir but Waze Mahmood, Maqbool Shah Kralwari, Nema Sahab , Rahim Sahab of Sopore, Mahmmod Gami , Rasul Mir and Mahjoor can be mentioned for their fiery passion and ecstasy in particular. Waze Mahmood’s songs are at the tip of the tongue of those who love the kingdom that failed not, the kingdom of love. Kralwari’s Gulraiz is an allegorical garden of love in which the human ego seeks the Divine Ego through love and suffers mind blowing and heart breaking miseries for its sake. The rhyme and rhythm of the allegory suits the state of love. Nema Shahab makes use of human nature to reveal the deeper meanings of mystic truth and to weld human body with the process of seeking. Rahim Sahab’s songs are sung often to realize the taste of love and to use it as a popular power for spiritual exaltation. His blend of the mundane with the spiritual does not spoil the lofty state of love as a real force to reckon with in spiritual matters. Rasul Mir known as the Keats of Kashmir is greater than him in the eyes of the boozer mystic as he knows how to develop a perspective to reach God and in that perspective how to use passions and desires together with all their beauteous forms as ladders to reach the beautiful and the sublime. Rasul’s song brings the feminine in so much that he appears sensuous to the untrained eye. To add amber to the fire of love and to burn everything mundane in it takes Mir to Persian classical masters like Jami and Nizami and exalts his position as a lover mystic. Mahjoor not very different from Rasul, he sings love’s lyre like a nightingale on the beauteous bough of nature relating it with the Real. His songs remind of Rasul’s passion but his musicality adds fuel to already burning flames of love as a spiritual force. Such is the force of lyricism in his verse that people forget that he uses it only to achieve nearness to the one who is sublime and all lovable!
One of the striking features of our mystic poetry is Majaz, the ephemerality of life in its physical form, the exotericism of mystic experience. It is interplay of form and meaning, of course a very dangerous spiritual feat! It may cause serious dangers to the practicing mystic if his guide is not in full control of the journeying. Some readers do not read deeper meanings in exoteric poetry .Some guardians of the system may raise serious objections too. Hafiz and Khayyam, Rasul Mir and Mehjoor, to cite some examples, are infamous for indulging in sensuous poetry but it is this poetry that gives value to their song! This formal approach to spirituality and mystic poetry provides the composer enough material to beautify the verse as a means to get ecstatic. He brings natural environment of Kashmir and biological nature of man together and produces, with the help of imagination and figurative language, a blend that serves as a beautiful mirror to observe spirituality. The dance of the formal with the real adds music to the song, grandeur to Kashmir culture and power to other-worldliness. This makes the earth and the sky dance in poetry with all the juxtapositions of hue and color that haunt minds with beauty and sublimity. This helps us to view God in the whole phenomenal drama and its highly alluring ecstasy and varying moods. This is the most spectacular gift that Kashmir presents to the subcontinent and the materially dominated world that unfortunately has lost touch with the everlasting and Infinite truth.