Category Archives: Kashmir

Kashmir vs Cashmere

Published / by Jehangir

Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Cashmere is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world.

Kashmire, Cashmeer, Cashmere, Cashmire, Kashmeer and Kashmir have all been used throughout the past few centuries to describe the Vale of Kashmir.

Writing about the travels of Francois Bernier, George Forster used the spelling ‘Kashmire’ for the valley in 1783. He also used ‘Kashmire’ in the title of his 1798 book ‘A Journey from Bengal to England – through the Northern part of India, Kashmire, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia by the Caspian Sea.’

With the advent of the nineteenth century, the term ‘Cashmeer’ to denote the valley seems to have gained popularity while ‘Kashmire’ just disappeared. ‘Cashmeer’ was used in books like ‘The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean‘ published in 1807 and ‘The Arabian Nights‘ published in 1811.

In subsequent decades ‘Cashmeer’ was used interchangeably with ‘Cashmere’ till it fell out of favour and the latter became increasingly frequent by the 1840s. A few instances of ‘Cashmeer’ can be found in the 1850s and the 1860s, before bowing out in 1871 in an inexplicable blaze of glory having being brought centre-stage by Robert Shaw, an old Kashmir hand writing about his exploits in ‘Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar.’

I say inexplicable because the gentleman responsible for the last mainstream use of the term ‘Cashmeer’ served as the British Commissioner in Leh and must have been well aware that the official name of the kingdom by the 1870s was ‘Kashmir’ – even ‘Cashmere’ having been officially relegated by that time.

Strangely enough around the same time a pamphlet written in defence of the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1870 was titled ‘The Maharaja of Kashmeer and his Calumniators‘, marking a rare use of the term ‘Kashmeer.’ The pamphlet sought to counter western authors severely castigating the misrule of the Dogra ruler in ‘The Wrongs Of Cashmere‘ (1868) by Arthur Brinckman and ‘Cashmere Misgovernment‘ by Robert Thorpe published posthumously in 1870.

‘Cashmire’ was intermittently used over the years, primarily in literary works, and while writing in or translating from French, with ‘Kaschmir’ being the German equivalent.

One of the earliest uses of the modern name ‘Kashmir’ is found in the ‘Historical and Descriptive account of British India‘ published in 1832 by a group of British experts led by Hugh Murray. The valley is described as the ‘little kingdom of Kashmir’ and extolled as a ‘terrestrial paradise’.

Baron Charles von Hugel used the term in scientific papers published in 1835 and 1836 and his books – ‘Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek‘ (1840) and ‘Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab‘ (1845).

Over the course of the nineteenth century, ‘Cashmere’ and ‘Kashmir’ kept jostling for prominence. Official acceptance of ‘Kashmir’ over ‘Cashmere’ was an important factor and by the 20th century it was ‘Kashmir’ that had become the accepted term for the valley with ‘cashmere’ being reserved for an exquisite fabric made from the soft undercoat of Himalayan goats.

Incidentally the valley is called ‘Kasheer’ in the native Kashmiri language.

P.S Boring Scientific Explanation from the internet:
the British Raj standardized on the Hunterian system in 1872, and from the article, it looks to me like ‘Kashmir’ would be the proper Hunterian transliteration. Prior to 1872, the Raj (and before that, the East India Co.) appear to have haphazardly used either the Wilkins system or the “Dowler” system‘.

The Memory of Music

Published / by Jehangir

My earliest musical memories (should that be memory of music?) are of qawwali singers at a great fair. Terracotta parrots in life-like colours and a huge communal degchi (?) complete the vision that has endured in my mind for almost half a century.

The memory is most certainly of the Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer Sharif but my thoughts associate a lakeside location. I should ask my brother who seems to have inherited our father’s legendary memory.

Anyway science accepts that ‘the songs we love become woven into a neural tapestry entwined with the people, seasons, and locations throughout our lifespan’. My qawwali memory was nudged by the Aaj rang hai qawwali in Shashi Kapoor’s Junoon and jolted many years later by NFAK‘s estatic version.

Junoon is a haunting tale of obsession and tragedy set during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. I feel that the meticulous attention to costumes, language and music make it one of the most historically accurate films of Indian cinema.

My fondness for qawwali translates into an undying passion for Urdu (or the other way round) and dismay that the inexorable march of capitalism, masquerading as globalisation, can only progress at the expense of the local language and culture.

Globalisation is being touted as a harmless process of deeper economic integration around the globe but the expediency of a global village demands a global language. We have seen how Hindustani slowly crowded out Urdu over the years – fueled mainly by Bollywood songs and the Hindi film industry. Globalisation (Cocacolisation!) may just ensure that English and its illegitimate sibling Hinglish deliver the death blow to Urdu.

Fewer young people these days seem interested in the fading beauty of Urdu. My elder son is one lonely example so it is heartening to discover this awesome website by Hamza Shad. Hamza has authored excellent translations of some of the classic qawwalis including those of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Urdu, Qawwali & NFAK!

More power to your pen, Hamza Shad.

A video primer on the Art of Qawwali.

P.S : As expected Javid Bakshi not only confirmed visits to Ana Sagar (hence the lake) but also the existence of the storey-high communal degchi that was presented by Akbar the Great to Ajmer Sharif. Thanks, Bro.
Cooking vessel at Ajmer Sharif

Googling your Memories

Published / by Jehangir

In February 2011 I blogged about the demonstrations and revolts in the Middle East which later came to be known as the Arab Spring. In the post I quoted a Persian ode that had figured alongside Laxman’s caricature of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1979.

Think not, 0 King! thy sceptre or thy pow’r
one moment can arrest the destin’d hour !

After years of fruitless searching, I managed to track down the image after a long and hazardous quest that took me into the depths of the Deep Web and beyond.

Not really! I just googled it today and voila.

A growing number of newspapers, archives, and institutions are publishing searchable databases of their data on the internet. It is a researchers dream come true – with the flip side that anyone can post false or biased information online. While accessibility vs accuracy concerns are justified, just the sheer number of books and historical photographs available online is staggering.

Amazingly enough, I found this rare colour photograph of my parents in an online photo archive published from New Zealand.

The persian sceptre/power quote is from the great persian poet Firdausi .
Apparently miffed by the lacklustre response shown by Sultan Mahmud Ghazni towards his epic 'Shahnama' or 'Book of Kings', Firdausi wrote a satire on the king. The complete 'Shahnama' can be read here.