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Arnimal: The forgotten poetess of Kashmir

Post by on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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Abandoned by her beloved at a very tender age, her young heart wept and her eyes longed for a glare. But neither did she hear him nor did her cries bore any fruits. She spent her life waiting for her husband to come to see her.

 

 

Eventually when the husband did come to see her, he saw his wife dead on the pyre, ready to be cremated. Such was the tragic life of an 18th century poetess popularly known as Arnimal.

 

Born and brought up in Palhalan village of Baramulla district, a disgruntled Arnimal was married at a very young age to Munshi Bhawani Das Kachru, a renowned Persian poet, scholar and savant. He belonged to a respectable family settled in Rainawari, Srinagar and held a position of honour in the court of Jumma Khan, who was the Afghan governor of Kashmir from 1788 to 1792.

 

As time passed, the marriage appeared to be a failure and Das deserted her. Arnimal couldn’t bear this ill-treatment from her husband whom she considered as the object of worship (Devta). At last, she got frustrated and was left alone by her in-laws. She returned to her parental home Palhalan and wrote these verses:

 

When will they touch my courtyard?

I will place them on my head ‘O’ come

For love I left my home and hearth,

And tore the veil; ‘O’ come

I was famous beauty once and now

I have faded in my teens, ‘O’ come!

 

Disheartened and lonely Arnimal spent most of her life at her father's home and it was there where her work began to sprout and mature under the whirling sound of the Spinning wheel (Yander).

 

Devastated by the separation from her husband, Arnimal sought solace in poetry. Aware that her husband was an accomplished poet, she created her own to woo him back. In 18th century, in the midst of bountiful Kashmir nature, life was hard and painful in her parent’s home. She sought solace in nature to create poetic effect.

 

Arnimal was not into philosophical teaching or complex religions, she highlighted her condition with simplicity and charm. Her state is sad but creates powerful emotion to hide that sadness or creates poetry for solace.

 

Arnimal’s poetry is sort of a given up poetry. It is poetry of disillusion told with beauty and simplicity. In that simplicity lies Arnimal’s talent. She highlights her condition in simplest terms and in the process gives a glimpse of 18th century Kashmiri women.

 

Kashmiri writers describe her as one of the best female Kashmiri poetess after Habba Khatoon. “Though we have limited literature available on Arnimal, but we can’t ignore her contribution towards romantic poetry,” they said.

 

They describe Arnimal as one of the best romantic writers. “Her poetry rose from the heart, got welled up in the breast and out came the pathetic gems of Kashmiri literature. In all types of poetry, feelings get converted to thought and thoughts get converted to words. In Arnimal’s case, spoken words with a feeling still produced effect and impact and are heard more than two centuries after her death,”they said.

But the tragedy with Arnimal is that her poetry has disappeared and is not recorded as a written material. Even though there is a theatre named after her at Palhalan, they don’t know much about Arnimaal.

 

A retired teacher from Palhalan, Ghulam Qadri Tantray is the only person in the Village who has read me literature about Arnimal. Tantray again like others describe her poetry based on personal tragedy and trauma. 

 

Arnimal dedicated her whole life for her husband who was himself a Persian poet. She thought one day her husband will mould and come back to her but that happened but it was too late,” Tantray said.

 

Arnimaal’s songs have come down to us through traditional singers/musicians (as is the case with other stalwarts of the medieval Kashmir) and eventually their renderings immortalized her songs especially among lovelorn womenfolk.

 

Some Muslim writers and critics do not subscribe to this story. In their opinion, Arinimal never existed. Prominent among them, Amin Kamil in his Kuliyat Habba Kahoolawe (Published in 1995) says: Alongwith Habba Khatoon, the name of Arinimal is often propped up. And comparing the (literary aspect of) both, Arinimal is said to merit above Habba Khatoon. But the fact is that no ‘Gonmath’ with the name of Arinimaal ever existed. This, in fact, is the result of a wrong thinking, and so much has been said and conveyed of her, that her existence now becomes undoubtful.”

 

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Text for boxes

 

Born and brought up in Palhalan village of Baramulla district, a disgruntled Arnimaal was married at a very young age to Munshi Bhawani Das Kachru, a renowned Persian poet, scholar and savant. He belonged to a respectable family settled in Rainawari, Srinagar and held a position of honour in the court of Jumma Khan, who was the Afghan governor of Kashmir from 1788 to 1792.

 

...........

Arnimal’s poetry is sort of a given up poetry. It is poetry of disillusion told with beauty and simplicity. In that simplicity lies Arnimal’s talent. She highlights her condition in simplest terms and in the process gives a glimpse of 18th century Kashmiri women.

 

..........

When will they touch my courtyard?

I will place them on my head ‘O’ come

For love I left my home and hearth,

And tore the veil; ‘O’ come

I was famous beauty once and now

I have faded in my teens, ‘O’ come!

 

..................

Kashmiri writers describe her as one of the best female Kashmiri poetess after Habba Khatoon. Though we have limited literature available on Arnimal, but her contribution towards romantic poetry can’t be ignored.

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