[Yojana Archive] Kashmir: Poetry and Mysticism



In the evolution and development of literary, criticism, metaphysics and poetics in Sanskrit, Kashmir holds an important place as being the birthplace or residence of several prominent literary critics, theoreticians, philosophers and commentators.

Contributions of Kashmir in the field of literature

(1) Sages

  • The list includes names such as Panini, Chandracharya, Bharata, Kshemendra, Abhinavagupta, Vasugupta, Somananda, Somadeva, Bilhana, Kalhana, Patanjali, Anandavardhana and many others.
  • Panini’s Astadhyayi is the basis of Sanskrit grammar, while Bharata’s Natyashastra is the foundational text for theorising on dramaturgy.

(2) Poetry

  • The poetic theories of auchitya, guna, rill and dhvani are the contributions of Kashmir to Indian poetics.
  • From Buddhism to Shaivism to Sufism, Kashmir’s literary and cultural landscape has enriched the corpus of mysticism and literature in India.

(3) Philosophers

  • The great philosopher Abhinavagupta lived in Kashmir in the 11th century and his name has become inseparable from the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism.
  • This system of philosophy teaches the concepts of abhas-vad (intuition) and pratyabhijna (recognition).
  • Abhinavagupta also added the ninth rasa, “shanta rasa” to the typology of eight rasas enumerated by Bharata in Natyashastra.
  • His other compositions include Tantraloka, Abhinavabharati, commentary on the Bhagavad Gita titled Gitartha Samgraha and Parmarthasara.

(4) Persian poetry

  • There was a robust spiritual environment wherein saint-poets such as Lal Ded flourished and composed vaakhs (four-line stanzas).
  • In contemporary Kashmiri poetry, Bimla Raina has preserved the tradition of the singing of Lal-Ded’s vaakhs.

(5) Secular literature  

  • Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani was a master in the rishi or reshut parampara of Kashmir wherein his mystical thought blended the values of Kashmir Shaivism and Sufism.
  • He composed four-to six-line poems known as shrukh in Kashmiri and is also credited with translating the Holy Quran into Kashmiri.
  • The tradition of great women saints and mentors is preserved in the verses and dargahs in Kashmir.

(6) Music

  • The first all-women Sufi band was formed in 2015 in the region and they call themselves “Yemberzal” and are dedicated to preserve the Sufiana mausiqi, the tradition of Sufi music and Kashmiri classical music.

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