Opinion Op Ed 07 Sep 2019 Mystic Mantra: Habba ...
The writer is an alim (classical Islamic scholar) and doctoral scholar with Centre for Media, Culture & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia. Contact him at grdehlavi@gmail.com

Mystic Mantra: Habba Khatoon – The Nightingale of Kashmir

Published Sep 7, 2019, 1:26 am IST
Updated Sep 7, 2019, 1:26 am IST
I have sought you over hills and dales, I have sought you from dawn till dusk, I have cooked dainty dishes for you.
An emblem of classical Kashmiri romance, Habba is recalled when one explores Gurez, an ethnically distinct region in Kashmir where a pyramid-shaped mountain is called “Habba Khatoon Hill”. Notably, this is the place where a famous king of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak met the Nightingale of Kashmir, fell in love and tied the knot with her. But ironically, the marriage did not last and Habba Khatoon was separated from Yusuf Shah Chak after he travelled to Delhi to confront the Mughal Emperor Akbar despite stiff opposition from his wife. (Photo: PTI)
 An emblem of classical Kashmiri romance, Habba is recalled when one explores Gurez, an ethnically distinct region in Kashmir where a pyramid-shaped mountain is called “Habba Khatoon Hill”. Notably, this is the place where a famous king of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak met the Nightingale of Kashmir, fell in love and tied the knot with her. But ironically, the marriage did not last and Habba Khatoon was separated from Yusuf Shah Chak after he travelled to Delhi to confront the Mughal Emperor Akbar despite stiff opposition from his wife. (Photo: PTI)

The Nightingale of Kashmir, Habba Khatoon, also known as “Zoon” (the moon) because of her immense beauty — “the dazzling damsel” is one of the many mystic poets from the ancient valley of Kashmir.

An emblem of classical Kashmiri romance, Habba is recalled when one explores Gurez, an ethnically distinct region in Kashmir where a pyramid-shaped mountain is called “Habba Khatoon Hill”. Notably, this is the place where a famous king of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak met the Nightingale of Kashmir, fell in love and tied the knot with her. But ironically, the marriage did not last and Habba Khatoon was separated from Yusuf Shah Chak after he travelled to Delhi to confront the Mughal Emperor Akbar despite stiff opposition from his wife.

 

After she became separated from Yusuf Shah Chak, Habba Khatoon composed soul-stirring poetry which earned great popularity in the Valley. Some of the poetry that Habba Khatoon wrote after her separation from her husband are these:

I have sought you over hills and dales, I have sought you from dawn till dusk, I have cooked dainty dishes for you.

I do all this in vain!

Why are you cross with me?
I shed incessant tears for you,I am pining for you,

What is my fault, O, my love?

Why don’t you seek me out?

Why are you cross with me?
The shock of your desertion has come as a blow to me,O cruel one, I continue to nurse the pain.

Why are you cross with me?
I have not complained even to the spring breeze That is my agony.

Why have you forgotten me?

Who will take care of me?

Why are you cross with me?
I swear by youI do not go out at all,I don’t even show up at the spring.I, Habba Khatoon, am grieving now.

Why didn’t I ever greet you, my love?

The day is fading and I keep recalling, Why are you cross with me?
Much against the poetic norms set by her male counterparts in Kashmir, Habba Khatoon did not toe the line of unromantic “pious” poetry. Most of her poetry is a blend of sweetness and enduring pathos that have touched the common people in Kashmir on a personal level. At a time when poetry in Kashmir was often confined to the individual, she put down her personal experiences and feelings for the emotional fulfilment of society.

Habba was among the few Kashmiri women who found their way to the echelons of power as the Queen of Kashmir’s famous King. At the same time, the age-old Rishi-Sufi culture allowed her to be a part of the spiritual Kashmiri tradition. Many women in Kashmir used to be disciples of Rishi-Sufi masters and had a large part in spreading the teachings of Rishism.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an alim (classical Islamic scholar) and a Delhi-based writer. He can be contacted at: grdehlavi@gmail.com

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