Historian Hasan Shah


One of Kashmir’s reputed chroniclers of his time, Pir Hasan Shah Khoihami (1832-98), had taken pains in collecting various documents of historic importance. Author of almost a dozen odd books including the celebrated History of Kashmir in Persian, Pandit Anand Koul had written this small piece about the author, exactly a century back. In 1971, the government acknowledged his importance formally by putting on an epitaph on his grave in Gamroo (Bandipore), a patch that has witnessed intense tensions to prevent encroachment in recent years

Moulvi Hasan Shah was born at a village called Gamru a mile to the south east of Bandipore in Kashmir in 1248 AH (1832 AD) and died at the same village in 1316 AH (1898 AD) at the age of 66 years. He came of a family of Pir’s or Muhammadan priests, distinguished in Persian and Arabic learning. His seventh ancestor was Kashmiri Brahman, named Ganee Koul, who became a convert to Islam, being named Sekh Gazi-ud-Din. This man’s eldest son, Sekh Yaqub, was a scholar of much renown and was therefore, taken in the court of the Mogul Emperor, Shah-i-Jahan. Hasan Shah’s father Maulvi Gulam Rasul wrote four books in Persian poetry called Majmua Sem, Risala Turja, Ajib Manzar, and Karamat-i-Aulia. The father taught his son Persian and Arabic and made him as much accomplished in these languages as he himself was. Hasan also learnt the Greek system of medicine from other teachers which he practiced until the closing years of his age.

In 1875-78 AD occurred a terrible famine in Kashmir whose ravages assumed appalling proportions. Hasan wrote out a pamphlet in Persian verse in which he described the true character of the calamity and a made certain sensible suggestions for Diwan Anant Ram, the then Prime Minister to be presented to His Highness the late Maharaja Ranbir Singh who was at that time at Jammu. The Maharaja conferred a Khilat of honour upon Hasan as a mark of recognition of his literary merits.

After this, Hasan wrote three books in Persian and Kashmiri mixed, which are greatly admired by the public. Their names are – Gulistan-i-Ikhlaq, Kharita Aerar and Ajiz-i-Gariba. He once went to Rawalpindi and there came to know that there was a Persian history of Kashmir written by Mula Ahmad at a village called Pindori in the Rawalpindi district in the possession of a man named Mulah Muhmud. This history is a very rare book. It is said to be the translation of an ancient book called Ratnakar Purana containing the accounts of thirty-five kings who ruled in Kashmir five thousand years ago, and also of seven kings who ruled in Kashmir from the end of second to the beginning of sixth century of Christian era, which accounts were lost to history.

Ratnakar Purana had been discovered in the time of Zain-ul-Abdin who reigned in Kashmir from 1422 to 1474 AD and under his orders Mulah Ahmad, the poet laureate of his court, translated it into Persian. Ratnakar Purana is now again untraceable and on this account the above-mentioned translation is of immense importance.
Hasan went to Pindori and took a copy of this history. Returning to Kashmir, he wrote a history of Kashmir of his own, in which he embodied the important facts he had found in Mulah Ahmad’s history of Kashmir. This copy of Mulah Ahmad’s history was subsequently lost by him in a flood in which his boat capsized, he being thrown into water together with the books and rescued but also without the book.

In 1902 AD, the Kashmir darbar tried to secure a copy of Mullah Ahmad’s history, but Malah Mahmud, from whom Hasan had got his copy, had since died and his family had removed to Kabul at the invitation of his majesty the late Amir Abdul Rahman Khan.

Hasan gave a subtle touch of humour mingled with cunningness to his deeds as a priest. One or two anecdotes might be mentioned. Once, a woman told him that her mother-in-law was often quarrelling with her, and asked for a charm enjoining upon her that whenever her mother-in-law would begin to utter harsh words to her, she should at once put the charm under her own teeth and press it hard. The Pir’s instructions were faithfully followed. The daughter-in-law having the charm pressed under her teeth could not open her mouth to remonstrate with her mother-in-law for her vituperations and the latter’s fury would consequently at once abate. The result was that there was soon peace between them. The simple woman ascribed this change not to her own silence, but to the efficacy of the charm, for which she came to the Pir and thanked him.

Another time a woman told him that whenever she sit down to spin, it would happen that she had to go away to do some other more urgent work and she, therefore, requested to be given a charm in order that she might keep herself busy with her spinning wheel. The Pir gave her a charm with a thin thread attached to either end of it enjoining upon her to tie it an with her own toe on one side and with the spinning wheel on the other, whenever she went to spin, taking care that the thread would not break. The result was that she thought of nothing but the thread, which the Pir had said must not break, and the consequence was that her thoughts became concentrated and she forgot everything else while spinning. The ignorant woman ascribed all this to the wonderful efficacy of the charm and had firmer faith in the Pir.

Sir W R Lawrence, when settlement Commissioner of the Kashmir State, was supplied by Hasan with much historical information and was also taught the Kashmiri language by him. In page 464 of his Valley of Kashmir Sir Walter thus expresses his gratefulness to the man:

“What else (Kashmiri language) I have learnt, I owe to Pir Hasan Shah, a learned Kashmiri, whose work has entirely been among the villagers.”

When Sir Walter became Private Secretary to his Excellency, the Viceroy, he send an invitation through the Resident in Kashmir asking Hasan to come to Simla to be presented to his Excellency but the invitation came too late, as Hasan had died just a few days before.

Hasan had only one son named Gulam Mohammad Ali, who died in 1311 AH (1893 AD) in his 35 year of age. Leaving two sons named Gulam Mustafa and Gualm Muhammad Sa’id behind. These are now at their native village engaged in their hereditary occupation of priesthood of a large number of Muhammadan’s and are also doing agriculture.

(This obituary was excerpted from a longer piece History of Kashmir by Pandit Anand Koul that appeared in the Journal & Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, New Series Volume IX in 1918, almost a century a century ago.)

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