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Habba Khatoon, was a legendary Muslim poetess that lived in Kashmir in the 16th Century. She was born, in the small village Chandrahar,known for its  saffron fields. It is known that she was extremely beautiful and hence named Zoon  (the Moon).

Unlike typical peasant girls, she learnt to  read and write from the village moulvi. She was married to a fellow peasant boy at an early age. Her new family  could not understand the relevance of her poetic being, which led to deeper differences with them with  each new day.  Feuds with the husband and mother in law turned abusive, and ultimately she was divorced.

She narrates in her own verse :

“The mother-in law grabbed me by my hair, which stung me more than the pangs of death. I fell asleep on the supporting plank of the spinning wheel, and in this way, the circular wheel got damaged. I cannot reconcile myself with the atrocities of the in laws, O! my parents, please come to my rescue.”

However, she bore all the torture with great patience,  until one day, her mother in law could not tolerate her tolerance, anymore.   She was separated from her husband  and sent to her parents home. To which she complained in anther verse,

“I have been waiting for long with extreme patience for you – O! my love (or Aziz) do not be cross with your moon (zoon)! I have adorned myself lusciously from top to toe; so enjoy my youth as lively and inviting as a pomegranate flower.”

Laden with pain and sorrow, she  resorted to writing more pensive  poetry and singing songs of separation,  in Kashmiri.

Zoon sang, roaming in the saffron fields and sitting under the shade of chinar trees.

One version of  her further life is :

One day,  in a fairy tale manner,  a prince Yusuf Shah Chak, was out hunting that way on horseback. He  passed by  the place where Zoon was singing under the tree.

He heard her melancholic melodies, and went to look at her and was stunned by her beauty. As soon as their eyes met, they fell in love. And soon,  Zoon and Yusuf Shah Chak were married. She was given the title of  Habba Khatoon.

The couple lived a ‘happily ever after’ life, and Yusuf Shah became the ruler of Kashmir, until Yususk Cahk was decieved and imprisoned by Mughal Emperor Akber.

The other version narrated by Birbal Kachroo and Hassan Khohyami :

” ‘Habba’ at such a tender and impressionably age could not recover from the rebuff she received at the very threshold of her conjugal life. Her despondency flowed out in the form of poetry pulsating with unartificial fusion of sound and sense. Her fame reached the amorous ears of Yusuf Shah, who admitted her to his harem as a ‘Keep’, and did not allow her the status of a queen.”

“So, when her paramour Yusuf  fell on bad stars, ( arrested by Akber) , Habba must have eaten her heart away in disgust and dismay. This was the second rebuff she received at the bands of the destiny, and this impulsive Lady unresponsive in love, unaccepted by the society still did not own defeat. She created an exuberant world of her own, punctuated it with her emotions resonant with the dirge of what she had got and what she lost. She lived in her thoughts, so to say.” 

It is said, Habba Khatoon languished in separation from her beloved husband, and composed several heart wrenching lyrics which she sang while wandering from village to village in the Kashmir valley.

One such original verse is:

مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه

یارَ میانے یاون رایے
مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه
کیازِ زایے کونہ موٍیایے
‎پوو کٓتھ کیُتھ سوِندر ناو
‎کاُلی وسُن چھُ میژِه شایے
‎مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه
‎دور دنیا بوز طوفانیے
‎تورٕ روستُے لدَنَے آو
‎کور مے ساُلا یِرٕوُنہ نایے
‎مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه
‎باغ بوستان بُلبُل آیے
‎مَنز چَمنَن ماُرِکھ ژھوِ
‎گُل گیہ بَرٕ بُلبُل ضایے
‎مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه
‎تَتہ کٕریزیم پنُن سایے
‎ییتہ آسم محشرُن تاو
‎حبہ خوتون نادا لایے
‎مَنز سرایے لوسُم دوٕه

English Translation:

My friend‪,‬ this youth is loss
‏I lost all day on the way

‏Why were we born‪?‬
‏Why did we not die‪?‬
‏Why such beautiful name‪s?‬
‏We must wait for the Judgment Day
‏And I lost all day on the way

‏The way of the world is a meaningless storm
‏I invited a difficult fate
‏And I lost all day on the way

‏Many nightingales entered the garden
‏And they had their play
‏The flowers left the garden
‏To make way for the nightingales
‏And I lost all day on the way

‏Please protect me on the Day
‏Where there will be fire of Hell
‏Habba Khatoon will give you a call
‏And I lost all day on the way

Habba Khatoon introduced “lol”  ( please don’t read it ‘laugh out loud’🙂  ) to Kashmiri poetry.

 “lol” is more or less equivalent to the English ‘lyric’.

It conveys one brief thought and is full of melody and love.

Habba’s forte is love-in-separation. She has not sung even a single verse eulogizing the munificence of Yusuf Shah when she was in her company.  Habba like a born-poet selected ‘separation’ for her treatment of love. Her verses throughout waft an air of restlessness and not contentment. Calm, composure and resignation to be in turmoil to fate are absent in her poetry.” says  Prof KN Dhar.

An example of her Lol:

Lol of the Lonely Pine

The one who dazzles – have you seen that one ?

Upon him look !

A sleepless stream in search of him I run,

A restless brook.

In far off woods, a lonely pine I stood

Till he appeared,

My woodcutter, and came to cut the wood.

His fire I feared,

Yet though he burn my logs, behold I shine,

My ashes wine !

Here is a Habba Khatoon lol:


Ilmana Fasih
31 October 2010

Source: http://www.koausa.org/Poets/HabbaKhatoon/article2.html

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