October 22, 2020

Slice of Kashmir buried in Nalanda

Patna: A Bihar lawmaker is trying to put a nondescript village around 100km from Patna on the state’s tourism map as it is said to be the resting place of the last sovereign ruler of Kashmir Yusuf Shah Chak, also the subject of many poems of his wife, the famed Habba Khatoon.

Yusuf earned the wrath of Emperor Akbar by refusing to pay his respects at the Mughal court. Historians say the soft-hearted Kashmir king was tricked by Akbar’s emissaries to come to Agra, the capital of the Mughal empire, promptly imprisoned and exiled to Bihar in 1586. Yusuf Shah was given land in Nalanda and was permitted to maintain a cavalry of 500 soldiers. In 1591, Yusuf Shah died and was buried at Biswak village in Nalanda. He never returned to his beloved Kashmir or to his wife.

JDU Legislative Council member Ram Vachan Rai raised the subject through a call attention motion in the House but failed to get a satisfactory reply following which he has decided to pursue the matter personally with the tourism department.

Rai told The Telegraph: “Yusuf Shah had established a mini Kashmir in Nalanda. Even the old revenue records of the district mention a village named Kashmirichak. The late chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah had visited Yusuf Shah’s grave in 1977 and paid respects.”

Rai said he raised the issue because some of his friends from the literary world, who are natives of Jammu & Kashmir, had enquired about the condition of the grave and had also suggested developing this place could attract tourists, especially from Kashmir. “Hence, I wanted to know from the government whether it was interested or not in developing this place from a tourism point of view,” the JDU lawmaker said.

But, Rai said, the reply he got from the government wasn’t convincing. “As I am not satisfied with the answer, I have decided to pursue the matter with the tourism department for further action,” he added.

Tourism minister Pramod Kumar said the place housing the grave of the former Kashmir ruler had already been developed.

He said that the place was also important from an archaeological point of view, hence his department wanted the site to be first inspected by experts. Any final call on its development would then be taken by the art, culture and youth affairs department, Pramod Kumar said.

Kashmiri lore has it that Yusuf Shah, who ascended the throne in 1579, was given to solitary bouts of roving in the hills. It was during one such stroll that he chanced upon a meadow that to him resembled a rainbow. Enchanted by the sight and the fragrance of the flowers, he is said to have named the place Gulmarg (land of flowers).

It was during another such incognito ride on his horse, so goes the legend, that he chanced upon a poor peasant girl named Zoon singing Kashmir songs. Yusuf was enamoured by the girl and she too fell for him without knowing who he was.

The already married Zoon eloped with Yusuf and became his queen and was named Habba Khatoon. Her songs tell the story of her life and romance with the king who never returned from the faraway land.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

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