Musings on Influential Travellers to Kashmir

Musings on Influential Travellers to Kashmir

Ashok Ogra
Initially, the e-book title ‘Eleven Unforgettable Vacationers to Kashmir’ didn’t spark any pleasure in me. Above all of the vacationers included within the e-book weren’t shrouded in anonymity. Their biographical sketches, whereas meticulously detailed by the writer, provided scant new insights into their lives or contributions. And but regardless of this preliminary disappointment, the e-book revealed its true essence because the writer, blogger, poet, documentarian, Avtar Mota, brilliantly situates these vacationers throughout the lush landscapes and wealthy historical past of Kashmir. The writer evokes the essence of a spot and a bygone period. Mota adeptly resurrects forgotten chapters of our previous, illuminating them with a vibrancy that resonates from web page to web page. What emerges is the contribution of those vacationers that aren’t sometimes within the highlight however are vital to be retold.
The Nobel Laureate, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, set foot in Kashmir for the primary time in 1915. By the discerning observations of Mota, we’re aware about Tagore’s enchantment with the valley, significantly in the course of the autumn season. It was right here, by the serene banks of the Jhelum River, that he discovered solace and inspiration in considerate silence. Tagore drew parallels between the Jhelum and his beloved Padma, a connection that fueled the creation of his famed “Balaka” (Flight of Cranes) sequence of poems that vividly seize the frenetic dance of geese, their wings whipped into frenzy by the storm, their joyous cacophony a testomony to the boundless marvel of the skies above.
An intriguing historic footnote reveals that the pilgrim register of the Martand temple bears the signature of this distinguished customer from Bengal, marking his presence in Kashmir.
The authors dwells on position performed by Grasp Zinda Kaul and Pandit Anand Kaul (Bamzai) in orchestrating Tagore’s go to, culminating in a memorable gathering of metropolis’s main intellectuals and writers at ZainaKadal, Srinagar.
The writer rigorously chronicles the go to of one other Nobel Laureate, V.S. Naipaul, who discovered solace in the fantastic thing about Srinagar. Naipaul’s reflections paint an image of silent boat lanes, the rhythmic passage of grass-laden boats, and the magical interaction of clouds and mountains – a testomony to the enduring attract of Kashmir’s landscapes. “The clouds fell low over the mountains, generally in a stage financial institution and generally shredding far into the valleys. The temple on the high of the Shankaracharya hill, one thousand toes above us, was hidden. We’d consider the lonely Brahmin up there, together with his woolen cap and small charcoal brazier (kangri) beneath his pinky brown blanket.”
Acutely acutely aware of the voluminous literature already out there on Mahatma Gandhi’s visits to Kashmir, Mota delves into the lesser-known points of his sojourns. From prayer conferences to heartfelt interactions with the native populace, these anecdotes provide a glimpse into the Mahatma’s profound reference to Kashmir. “The Mahatma visited Dr.Peshin’s hospital and interacted with sufferers there. He was additionally dropped at Sheetal Nath by some Kashmiri Pandit leaders. Gandhi didn’t tackle any public assembly in Kashmir, however no matter he needed to say, he conveyed it in his night prayer conferences held within the spacious lawns of Kishori Lal Sathi’s residence at Barzulla, Srinagar,” Mota writes.
The writer provides depth when recounting Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar’s affinity for the valley. Mota shares attention-grabbing anecdotes of the actor’s visits, from feeding fish within the Mattan spring to attending musical gatherings in Srinagar. One such Mehfil was organized by Bashir Bakshi, whereby Vijay Malla and Ghulam Nabi Sheikh sang Ghazals. The thespian was impressed by the Urdu Ghazals sung by Vijay Malla. Capt S.Ok. Tikoo remembers Dilip Kumar attending the wedding ceremony of Janki Ganju at Karan Nagar. Ganju used to work as a lobbyist for the Indian Embassy in Washington.
Regardless of the prominence given to those celebrated figures, the writer additionally pays homage to lesser-known contributors just like the Neve brothers (Ernest and Robert), pioneers of contemporary medication in Kashmir. Mota informs us that in 1888, they each transformed the allopathic dispensary at Drogjan (slightly below Shankaracharya Hill) right into a full-fledged hospital with 135 beds. Additionally they established the Kashmir State Leprosy Hospital. Each Ernest and Arthur travelled extensively throughout the size and breadth of the Kashmir valley and Ladakh and authored a number of books together with ‘Thirty Years in Kashmir,’ ‘Past Pir Panchal,’ ‘Crusaders in Kashmir’. . Dr. Arthur Neve died in Srinagar in September 1919. He was given a state funeral with hundreds of individuals attending the procession. The writer laments that no memorial or hospital has been named after them.
Because the narrative weaves via the varied experiences of every traveler, it turns into evident that Kashmir has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those that have wandered its paths. From the cinematic endeavors of David Lean, who shot the houseboat sequence that includes Victor Banerjee for the movie ‘A Passage to India’ in 1983, to the poetic reflections of Firaq Gorakhpuri, the e-book captures the essence of Kashmir via the eyes of its guests, providing an intriguing tapestry of encounters. Referring to a night get-together that had been organized in honor of Firaq, the writer regales the readers with amusing conditions: “the second Firaq Sahib entered, the liquor and poetry session began as soon as extra in full swing.”
Within the waning years of the nineteenth century, Swami Vivekananda emerged as a determine of profound distinction. His sojourns to Kashmir in September 1897 and once more in the summertime of 1898 had been marked by moments of profound introspection and revelation. As a visitor of Justice Rishibar Mukhopadhyaya and Nilambar Mukhopadhyaya, luminaries serving below Maharaja Pratap Singh, his presence in Srinagar was not only a go to however a mission to determine a non secular haven-a Math-for his followers. But, this dream was thwarted by the British authorities, a setback that would not dampen his indomitable spirit.
With nice devotion, Mota recollects Swami Vivekananda’s pilgrimage to the sacred Khirbhawani temple. “Swami Ji had been considering over the vandalism of the temple by the Muslim invaders. Troubled at coronary heart, he thought: How may the individuals have permitted such sacrilege with out providing robust resistance! If I had been right here then, I might have by no means allowed such a factor. I might have laid down my life to defend the mom.”
Thereupon, he heard the voice of the Goddess saying: “What if unbelievers ought to enter my temple and defile my picture? What’s that to you? Do you defend me, or do I defend you?”

Mota’s singular ability lies in attending to the center of ambivalences, significantly people who float to the floor in unusual conditions. Cecil Tyndale Biscoe, previously a curate in London’s impoverished neighborhoods, ventured from Amritsar to Srinagar in December 1890. Assigned the management of 4 boys’ colleges in Fateh Kadal, Anantnag, and two junior colleges in Habba Kadal and Rainawari, these establishments had been initially established by James Hinton Knowles. Biscoe’s academic philosophy underscored the significance of bodily actions, together with mountaineering, trekking, boating, soccer, and cricket, amongst others. His dedication to schooling and the upliftment of the marginalized is obvious all through his tenure.
Mota’s detailed observations additionally shine mild on Hungarian born Marc Aurel Stein to whom goes the credit score for translating Kalhana’s ‘Rajatarangini’, -The River of Kings from Sanskrit into English. A real polyglot, explorer, archeologist, and geographer, Stein would spent his summers within the serene meadow of Mahand Marg in Ganderbal.
Surrounded by Pandit students, Stein’s dedication to Sanskrit manuscripts of Kashmir, impressed by luminaries like Prof. Rudolf Roth and George Buhler, underscores the wealthy tapestry of educational and cultural trade.
Exploring the hidden points of 11 distinguished vacationers to Kashmir, the narrative gives a fascinating and immersive expertise. By detailed vignettes, stunning information, snippets of dialogue, and eager observations, the e-book not solely broadens the thoughts but additionally touches the center. Whereas the standard components of those tales might resonate with familiarity for some readers, the depth and variety of the lesser-known particulars contribute to a wealthy and absorbing learn.
(The writer works for reputed Apeejay Schooling, New Delhi. Views expressed are private.)

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