Habibullah Nowsehri (1555-1617) was born at a time when the popularity of Persian language and literature was at it’s heights, and Kashmiri was used only in folk songs and tales. His father, Shamasud Din Ganaai, left him under the tutelage of Sheikh Yaqoob Sarafi, a reverent saint and scholar, who taught him the Quran, Islamic mysticism and Persian prosody and rhetoric. He had a penchant for sufi music and in an unorthodox way, advocated its use for the enlightenment of the soul.


The Festival

He wished and appeared
In full abundance,
How shall I name Him?
Let us go for the festival.

o crow, be the courier,
Reveal all my pangs to Him,
I shall divulge my secrets to you
Let us go for the festival

See, how Qais in his frenzy,
Entered his grave alive,
All for his Lailaas love
Let us go for the festival.

The music of “santoor and “dahar”
Are reproved in the Shari’at.
But music is the life of the lovers,
Let us go for the festival.

(Divay, 16th-17th century)


In the Wilderness of Love

In the wilderness of love
I discovered the truth;
And so is God happy with me.

From the ocean which gave us birth,
Stay in hope, I’ll present you a drink,
All the forms emerge from it,
So is God pleased with me.

There arc some who quaffed the chalices,
But there are some who are satiated without a sip;
Some have attained their goal,
While some are still lured,
I discovered the truth.
And so is God happy with me.

(From Ashqi Van, 16th-17th century)


A Supplication

Afflicted with love, I dolefully cry,
There is no “hakim” to find out my illness,
There is no relief in fasting and crying.
Once I was an avalanche at the top of Harmukh;
The sun of summer made me melt.
Once I was a blossomig bush;

The flowers are withered and the twigs bare.

Lets be together as otter in water;
Let’s wear rags and ramble together.

(16th-17th century Tr. by Suraya Shafaq)

Rwapi Vaakh


RWAPI VAAKU (Rwapi Văkh) are the spiritual sayings of a saint poet of the 18th century, named Rwapi Dyad (1621-1721).  Her vaakh are like those of the 14th century woman-poet, Lal Dyad. She composed her stanzas, each comprising two hemistiches, to express her insights into the human soul in the light of her education in Kashmiri Shaivamat. Rwapi Dyad, also known as Alkeshvari out of veneration, was born at Safakadal (Srinagar). Not happy with her in-laws and having a meditative inclination, she abdicated her home and devoted her life to the noble cause of educating the people in the matters of brotherhood, social justice and spiritual enlightenment. She spent the major portion of her life at bar in a small hovel on the bank of the beautiful river, Shahkwal. There, she had discussions with several sufi saints and brahmins, including Shah Sadiq Qalander, a renowned Persian scholar. The Afghan governor of her time also visited her for spiritual guidance. When she died in 1721, Shah Sadiq Qalandar wrote a befitting chronogram on her:-

Aarif I zat aan alak avtaar
qallb-i ansan khwesh shIkasL~
kardah parvaaz soo-I arsh-i azeem
baa dIJ-i neyk iahmatash pa yva St.

(The great saint Alak Avtaar, i.e., god’s viceregent, broke asunder the mould
of earthly elements and soared to heaven. May God bestow His grace on her

No shade of fear, no sense of guilt,
What deemed right that I did;
I raised no dust, no wayward step I took,
I entertained all the obligations of the tribe,
I lack nothing and nothing I need.

He arrives of his own accord,
Aggrieved, but playfully, he takes his-tread;
A dancing bard enters the yard,
In frenzy he leaves and withdraws his chord.

He is not what He seems to be,
All your words there change into one dot,
He is all and everything is in his plot.

He helps you read, He is father indeed,
He gives you light, but the was does not recede;
The waxing and waning are the glimpses He gives,
He is the Lord of all and the servant in need.

I stepped out but my path you crossed
So ask not for my hands raised in prayer,
The colours so bright all around you bloom;
What I have not is most blessed.

I rummaged the deep, and deep into mine
The clay and stones revealed the sign,
The spring then bloomed in the valleys of my within,
And the dawn came washing and truth began to shine.

No shadows of the tribe are cast on me;
The oneness of the light is bright everywhere;
The sorrows, the fears and the dread are vain.

The awakened awareness radiates the forms;
The bulbs and stalks in the bosom sprout;
His breath into the flowers is breathed,
The gales of fragrance enliven the room.

Rwapi Vaakh, l7th-l8th century Tr by Gulshan Majeed


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