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Hindu Bhakti Songs In Jammu And Kashmir – Hindu Devotional Literature

Bhakti literature in Jammu and Kashmir has two distinct traditions: that of an ishta-deva personal god whose leelas (manifestations and actions) form the basis of poetic narration and that of a non-personal God. The Hindu Bhakti Songs in Kashmiri skillfully describes Rama Leela and Krishna Leela and is traditionally sung during ceremonies and even as lullabies in the homes of Kashmiri Pandits. The Hindu devotional literature as has long history in Kashmir.

The Bhakti poets essentially adhere to the canonical narratives of Rama and Krishna as narrated in the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Rama theme entered the Kashmiri language much later than the Krishna legend. This was so in spite of the fact that Sanskrit literature produced in Kashmir recorded not only awareness of the Rama tradition but also its incorporation into critical as well as creative writing.

First among the three major poets in this tradition are Parmananda (1791-1874) whose poems have been thematically divided into five groups by this biographer and translator Zinda Kaul. The first group includes litanies addressed to Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesha. These poems called Dinakrandana (cries of a humble person), contain four padas, the last providing the refrain. The second group contains poems on yogabhyasa (Yogic practices) and mystic symbolism about lotuses. One of this most popular poems, Santoshi byali bavi ananda phal (the seed of contentment will blossom into the fruits of ecstasy) is in this group.

The third group includes Sudamacarita (the story of Sudama), Radha Swayamvara (selection of a spouse by Radha0 and Sivalagna (marriage of Shiva). In these poems, Zinda Kaul observes that Parmananda “pours his whole soul, giving free expression to his love of God, whom he loved particularly in the form of Radha Krishna. It was probably due to these that Parmananda’s poems came to be known by the name of lila (Paramananda Sukti Sara, II, pp.40-45). The poet would sing these lilas, accompanied by the madham (a stringed musical instrument).

The fourth group comprises primarily didactic poems, in which a sadhaka (a seeker), attains purification o jnana (self realization). The emphasis is on control of senses, quietude, concentration, vairagya (renunciation), knowledge and bhakti (devotional love).

The fifth group consists of poems which, as Zinda Kaul says, “have been considered the ripest fruit of his old age and maturity. These poems show the wisdom of a jivanmuta (the one who has attained freedom from cycle of life and death).”

Lachman Raina Bulbul, disciple of Paramananda, followed his master in thought and style. He acquired proficiency in Persian and Sanskrit which he skillfully assimilated into Kashmiri. In linguistic terms he was less archaic and more contemporary than Parmananda.

Prakash ram has contextualized the story of the Ramayana according to the contemporary Kashmiri traditions in his Ramavatacarita. In this epic, Rama is an avatara of Vishnu. In his narrative, he introduces his own additions and amendments, such as the induction of Sita’s wicked sister-in-law and some episodes not mentioned by Valmiki.

Another disciple of Paramananda, the Shaivite mystic, Krishna Razdan, is thematically a part of the Bhakti tradition. In his Siva Parinaya (the marriage of Shiva), the marriage ceremony of Shiva and Parvati is contextualized in the native Kashmiri Pandit tradition and ceremonial practices as they are observed in the valley. The style and diction of the poems are those of the typical wedding songs sung in Kashmir.

There is another important poet Sahab Kaul in the Bhakti tradition, whose years of birth and death are still debated. In his Krishnavatara Charita, Sahab Kaul pioneered the lila-kavya (devotional poetry) in Kashmiri. The text of this work was edited, translated and published by George Grierson (Baptist Mission Press Calcutta, 1928), who, according to some scholars, mistakenly attributes it to Dinannatha.

Toshakhani considers Krishnavatara Charita as “the first Kashmiri poetic work that presents Krishna as the avatara of Vishnu with narratives of his leelas. In his view, Sahab Kaul is one of the major representatives of the Bhakti tradition in Kashmiri in two centuries. (Kashmiri Sahitya Ka Itihas (1985) Toshakhani, Shashi Shekhar)

Source Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume II – page number 227 – IHRF - Rupa