Poetry is evocative. It elicits a reaction in anyone who reads or listens to it. Add in the lyrical beauty of Kashmir to poetry, and we, as readers, know that we’re in for a dazzling treat.

While Agha Shahid Ali is definitely one of those poets whose work has found a home in the hearts of all his readers, he is, by no means, the only Kashmiri poet who has such a way with words. From spiritual poetry to romantic lyricism, Kashmiri poets have explored a number of themes, all of which have only made Kashmiri literature richer.

(Image via Hindustan Times)

01

Naseem Shafaie

I asked the rose, where is your scent?
It said, “The autumn took it away.”
I asked the spring, why the lines on your forehead?
It said, “For my wounds have been salted.”
So I left the garden that once bloomed
And since then,
I wander, aimless.

The first Kashmiri woman to win the acclaimed Sahitya Akademi Award, Naseem Shafaie is one of the most popular contemporary Kashmiri poets. Her poems have been translated in English, German, Italian, Korean, English, Urdu, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Telugu. She rose to fame with her poetry, which spoke of the Kashmir atrocities from a woman’s perspective. Her poetic style is one that combines honesty with nostalgia, and always manages to leave an impression on those who read it.

Read her poetry here.

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02

Zinda Kaul

The fading moonlight in the last hours of the night
The sweet fragrance of flowers everywhere
The music of the heavens and the earth is one
The soft breeze of heavens and a magic in the air
Perhaps he is just about to arrive, perhaps he has come
The one who waits for me, my eternal lover

Zinda Kaul, fondly known as Masterji, was the first Kashmiri poet to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for his poetry collection, Sumran. Greatly influenced by Lal Ded, he mainly wrote on devotion and philosophy. He composed poems in Persian, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri, and also translated Kashmiri works into English, Persian and Devnagri. His death in 1965 was considered to be a monumental loss to the Kashmiri literary world.

Read his poetry here

(Image via JK News Today)

03

Lal Ded

Wear just enough to keep the cold out,
Eat just enough to keep hunger from your door.
Mind, dream yourself beyond Self and Other.
Remember, this body is just picking for jungle crows.

Lalleshwari or, as she was more famously known, Lal Ded, was perhaps the most famous Kashmiri poet belonging to the 14th century. Known for her Vakhs, she renounced her marriage and became a student of the saint Siddha Srikantha. Her poems are often derived from experiences in her personal life, and her brushes with Sufism. Lal Ded has had a lasting effect on Kashmiri literature and Sufism, with her poems being translated to English by a number of authors.

Read her poetry here.

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04

Rupa Bhawani

Selflessness is the sign of Selfless;
Bow down at the door of the Selfless.
The Selfless are the highest authority—
The Kings of the time and wearers of the crest and crown.

Following the footsteps of Lal Ded was Rupa Bhawani, whose spiritual poetry made her one of the most popular poets of Kashmir. Renouncing marriage, she took up the name Alkeshwari and, with her father as her spiritual guru, grew as a poet. Unlike Lal Ded, whose poems were simplified over time, Rupa Bhawani’s poems were preserved throughout in Sanskrit, thereby retaining their original meaning and impact, and showed the influence of her mastery over other languages like Kashmiri, Sanskrit, Persian and Hindustani.

Read her poetry here.

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05

Abdul Ahad Azad

There is a restlessness in the heart, there is a veil over our dreams
‏All this is an illusion. When will you wake up?
The heartbroken, the dejected, my friends and well-wishers
‏How you destroy human hearts in the name of the human?

Often called the John Keats of Kashmir, Abdul Ahad Azad was a well-known modernist poet. In his poetry, he criticised religious orthodoxy, and strove to remind people of their purpose. In his short life, he composed ghazals, long poems and couplets, and was a pioneer in the Kashmiri nationalist movement in the 1940s. Azad, along with famed poet Majhoor, was

Read his poetry here.

(Image via Amin Kamil)

06

Amin Kamil

The lost cow is looking for the elevensome, would someone tell her?
Five drowned in dry land, six are aflame in water.
The peddler of ghazals, this Kamil, makes fiery calls
But the fatefrost people are coldly sleeping in water.

A major voice in Kashmiri poetry, Amin Kamil was influential in supporting modern ghazals written in Kashmiri, by giving his ghazals a contemporary touch. Along with poetry, he has also written short stories, novels, plays and musicals. His poetry is steeped in humour and reflects contemporary life, while making a social comment on the surrounding environment. Through his poetry, Kamil managed to be simple as well as profound. His influence on modern Kashmiri poets has been immense, and he continues to inspire them even today.

Read his poetry here.

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07

Habba Khatoon

He bared me to mid-winter frost,
Let the summer sun scorch me dry,
Made me wander like a wayward stream
He makes me languish night and day

Zoon, or Habba Khatoon, was a famous 16th century Kashmiri poet and was credited with being one of the few to introduce romantic lyricism into Kashmiri poetry. Called the ‘Nightingale of Kashmir’, she was a peasant woman who married the king of Kashmir. When he was imprisoned by Emperor Akbar, she spent her days singing her songs in the Valley. Her poems depict desire and love, and in a daring role reversal, in one of her poems, she beckons her lover with desire. Her poems also managed to encapsulate the beauty of Kashmir, the everyday life of the people as well as their struggles.

Read her poetry here.

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08

Arnimal

The jewels of my eyes I’ll lay at your feet
Come beloved mine, my childhood friend

You flew like a bird to rivers and shallows
my heart tore in two –
the calls I heard were not yours
Come beloved mine, my childhood friend.

Arnimal could have easily been Habba Khatoon’s successor when it came to romantic poetry. Born in the 18th century, Arnimal was married to an aristocrat from the court of Jumma Khan, the Afghani ruler of Kashmir, who spent most of his time in Kabul. Arnimal’s yearning for her husband gave way to love and longing in her poetry. Being a Hindu, she often appealed to Krishna in her poems, and her melancholy poetry is sure to touch every soul.

Read her poetry here.

09

Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor

With deep-seated grief and pain in every fibre,
I wonder when love carved its image in my heart!
My eyes welled up with tears when I remembered
How he sat relaxed in a boat alone,
Leaving me tossing on the waves!

Known as Mahjoor, this poet was crucial for introducing previously unexplored themes in Kashmiri poetry. These themes include freedom, love, harmony and the problems of the common Kashmiri people. He was also known as the poet who radically changed the traditional forms of nazm and ghazal. Mahjoor is also known for introducing songs of youth, gardeners and birds into his poetry, something that was previously unheard of in formal Kashmiri poetry.

Read his poetry here.

Prasanna is a human (probably) who makes stuff up for a living. When she's not sleeping or eating, you'll find her in the quietest corner of the library, devouring yet another hardbound book. She vastly prefers the imaginary world to the real one, but grudgingly emerges from her writing cave on occasion. If you do see her, it's best not to approach her before she's had her coffee.

She writes at The Curious Reader. You can read her articles here