Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Dina Nath Nadim – A Great Literary Figure of Kashmir

Dr. Romesh Raina

Present day generation of Kashmir may not be remembering Dina Nath Nadim but the history and his contribution to its literary world keeps him alive. In fact without his name the literature of Kashmir is incomplete. He emerged on the scene at a time when Kashmir was passing through a stage of transition dictated by the force of circumstances brought about by the Qabali raid. At the same time people were called to defend the valley from the raiders from Pakistan. Poets and writers played a significant role through their works in retrieving the valley from the clutches of the enemies. It is in this context that Nadim’s contribution is permanently etched in the mental memory of the people and the place.

Background – Nadim was born in Srinagar Kashmir in 1916 to Pt. Shankar Kaul, who died when Nadim was only eight year's old and was brought up in poverty. Nadim’s mother, therefore, played a significant role in his growing up and evolution as a poet. She originally belonged to the village Muran a village where the oral poetry constituted the part of the culture. Her singing the vaakhs of Lalded and poems of other poets, influenced the growing boy and ignited the flame of poetic genius in Nadim.

Nadim completed his academic qualifications by doing B.A in 1943 and B.Ed in 1947. Thereafter he started teaching for many years in Hindu High School Srinagar. After independence, he was appointed as the Assistant Director of Social Education. Because of his cultural background, he also became a member of the Sahitya Academy. Throughout his literary journey, he was greatly influenced by communism and progressive writers. This led him to become one of the founding fathers of the Left movement in Kashmir and also gave him an opportunity to travel to USSR and China. Due to his Leftist leaning, he became a regular contributor to Kwang Posh - a monthly journal run by the communists of Kashmir. Recognising his propensity for communism, he was awarded Nehru Award in 1971. He was also honoured with Sahitya Academy Award for Shihul Kul – a collection of his poems.

His emergence on the poetic scene

Kashmiri poetic scene was passing through difficult times as Master Zinda Kaul and Mahjoor’s demise had left a vacuum in the poetry. Around this time Nadim was struggling to make his mark as a poet and he initially began dabbling with poetry in urdu but with little impact. This made him shift to Kashmiri. On being asked about his changed preference to write in Kashmiri, his response was “my mother tongue has grater claim on me”. His first Kashmiri poem appeared in 1942 “Maej Kashir” .

The political events especially the 1947 raid on Kashmir saw the great mobilization of Kashmiri poets, writers and artists contributing in a big way to boost the morale of the people and also to instill the fighting spirit in them. It is here that Nadim made his mark when he read his poems Sonth and Graav in a mushaira organized by Arif, a fellow poet. This was followed by Me Ccham aash pagahich. It turned out to be a powerful anti-war and pro-peace poem. It spread a message of revolution and Nadim as its strong proponent. Thereafter his poems essentially portrayed poverty and intense nationalism. To institutionalize the contribution of poets, writers and artists, the J&K Cultural Front was born. The artists involved used to play in remote rural areas of Kashmir in their mother tongue Kashmiri. The establishment of Radio Kashmir on 31st July 1948, encouraged these artists by providing them a platform which gradually increased its reach and appeal. Radio Kashmir in due course of time became an important medium of communication and connectivity with the people at large thus making it a powerful tool of resistance against the political crisis of those times. It also turned out to be an instrument to thwart the evil designs of the enemies. New slogans were coined and reputed poets and literary figures were invited to spread the message of nationalism, and mobilization of the people against the invaders.

As the events unfolded, his poetic persona became so powerful that this period earned the name of beginning of Nadim era. He was credited with the epitaph of being the people’s poet, while making a distinction between him and Master Zinda Kaul who was described as the Amarnath cave of Kashmir because Masterji’s poetry was spiritually elevating. And Nadim was described as Deodar because of his strength. During his poetic sessions, he was often referred to as a storm in Deodar (because Deodar withstands even the storm).

There is a collection of about 150 poems written by Nadim which includes English, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri. His notable poems include:

a) Bombur Te Yambarzal (Opera)
b) Trivanzah (Monologue)
c) Bi G’evi Ni Az (Blank verse)
d) Gris’ Kur (Peasant Girl)
e) Dal Hanzni Hund Vatsun (The song of the Dal lake boatwoman)
f) Lachhi Chu Lakhcun (Experimentation)
g) Zun Khats Tsot Hish (Sonnets)
h) Zit’nl (Fireflies)
i) Zalir’Zal (The Cobwebs)
j) Nabad Ti Tethvani (Rock Candy and Worm-seed)

There is a long list of his poems but the above-mentioned poems left a significant impact not only on the minds of the people but on the literary map of Kashmir. He is credited with intellectualization and Kashmirization of Kashmiri language. Of significance is his usage of words which he chooses to give them new meaning and wider understanding, for example: ayigrayi and many likewise. Nadim’s strength lies in innovation, experimentation and intuition which he used successfully to capture the imagination of a common Kashmiri. He came across many phases during his period and he responded as per the demands of the time. He presented his ideas in distinct style and mostly in an experimental frame.


The upheaval of 1947 had inflicted an extreme psychological injury on the people which affected the poets, artists and writers in equal measures. The intensity of resultant depression in the environment lent an additional demand for literature that the masses could understand easily and communication through Kashmiri language became an effective weapon. Deeply influenced by agony and burning desire of the people, Nadim chose patriotic poetry and real issues of the people as his theme. The poetry thus composed talked about the miseries of a common man and he contributed notably in expressing the inner urge of the masses. It injected a new energy in the Kashmiri poetry which brought the unjust social and exploitative political conditions to the lime light.
He laid a firm foundation on which the Kashmiri literary transition got reared in subsequent years. Its essence lay in awakening the Kashmiri mined which meant the regeneration of Kashmiri culture, its basis and traditions. It infused a new energy in the environment which was quite visible in his poetry and presentation of real Kashmir through Kashmiri poetry is his significant example of keeping the sole of Kashmir alive. It also instilled a revolutionary zeal in the people of the valley by using high voltage slogans like Nara-e-inquilab during the period of political deterioration in Kashmir. This slogan proved to be a great force in motivating the people defend their motherland.
His contribution will always remain a source of inspiration for all the generations because essentially he gave a human touch to the poetry. This is visible when he says Me Chhu Hyond ti Musalman beyi Insan Banavun (urge to turn Hindus and Muslims into human beings again,) Sherwani Sund Khab (The Dream of Sherwani).

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