Iqbal Ahmad

The less known Persian manuscripts

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Apart from Sanskrit records of Kashmir which are hardly explored, our Persian documents and manuscripts too have not been given any such treatment which these deserve. As a result, most of them are facing a similar crisis as that of the Sanskrit records. Most of these manuscripts are still not translated, un-catalogued and undocumented.

Like Sanskrit works, these Persian documents are at the verge of becoming outdated as only a few scholars can decipher and explain the meaning of these works to the common reader. Only a few people know Persian anything beyond the language spoken by the Iranians.

In common terminology, Persian is an Iranian dialect which is still prevalent in most parts of Iran. But for Persian scholars and historians, its significance in context of Kashmiri culture and history is very much established. Since the decline of Sanskrit, it was Persian which filled the literary gap here. Historically speaking, Persian evolved here in late 14th century AD when Shahmiri Sultans founded Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir.

Since the 14th Century and till 20th Century, Persian found a strong base in Kashmir and served as the official language of the people here for centuries together. Besides, it was also taught formally in local Madarassas. During the reigns of NC’s founder and former Prime Minister of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, that a new education policy was formulated and Persian was introduced as one of the languages for school education.

Kashmiri Pandits had also learned this language and their contribution to its promotion has been outstanding. Persian language originally emerged from Persia, modern day Iran, but it found tremendous love and affection in this mountain locked valley and also flourished here. The fame was such that most of the Islamic religious scripts were available in this script, from much earlier times predating the introduction of Arabic.

Just like Arabic, it was obligatory for every Muslim of the sub-continent to learn Persian. In fact the contribution of Muslims to promotion of this Iranian dialect was based on the fact that in order to understand religious teachings, one had to learn Persian. One cannot deny the role of Kashmiri Pundits played in the development of this language and its literature.

Among Kashmiri Pundits, the name of Munshi Bhawanidas Kachru stands out among Persian writers and poets. The original style of his Bahri-tavil is held in high esteem. Pandit Taba Ram Turki, Satram Baqaya, Daya Kachru, Aftab Bhan, Gobind Koul, Kailash Dhar and a number of others have made great efforts and contributions in the development of Persian literature.

When we classify our written and official languages, we know that Prakrit was the earliest dialect of northern India, it was followed by Sanskrit. Sanskrit faded away to pave way for Persian and thousands of books were written in this language which covered almost all the fields of education and literature.

Those were the glorious periods for Persian language and literature. However, things changed, Persian could not stand the new cultural and literary invasions. A time reached when this script became challenged here and was dropped from the school curriculum. Urdu and English languages filled the vacuum. Notwithstanding the fact that Persian is still taught in few government universities and colleges, but it is totally abandoned from local Muslim madarassas, which is shocking.

Despite its religious and literary significance and background, Persian should never have got such a treatment given its deep roots and religious as well as cultural significance for the people here.

I am not here advocating the promotion of Persian language but I stand against its neglect. If one doesn’t know Persian, there are fair amount of chances that one cannot understand Kashmiri culture in its entirety.

Efforts must be made to bring the scattered manuscripts and documents under one umbrella and preserve those for future generations. To understand the philosophy, history, culture and moral values hidden in these Persian manuscripts, we could have encouraged its systematic translation into new and prevalent languages of this land.

Almost all the Sufic philosophic traditions and rituals are preserved in this language. Let us not again wait for others to undertake the documentation of these manuscripts as this job is ours; let us do it!

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