Dogri from past to present

Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’
Dogras are well known as warriors and for miniature pahari paintings all over the world. Historical references show that the word ‘Duggar’ is derived from ‘Durgar’ and the most primitive mention of it is found in Chamba copperplates of 11th century A.D. It refers to the community inhabiting the region between the Ravi and Chenab rivers. It is believed that by the 19th century when British came to these parts, the entire mountainous and sub- mountainous region between Sutlej and Chenab rivers was called ‘Duggar’ and its inhabitants ‘Dogras’.
The earliest mention of mother tongue of Dogras, Dogri is found in 1317 A.D. in an enumeration of Indian languages made by Amir Khusro. In this list Duggar Bhasha has been mentioned right after a reference to the language spoken in Delhi.
If we cast a look at the Dogri literature, then like all other literatures it can be divided in two categories .i.e. Folk literature and written literature. It is imperative to add here that much before written literature, Dogri literature like all other regional literatures existed in oral form.
In folk literature, we find folk tales, songs, idioms, proverbs, riddles, ballads, karaks, bhakhs, etc that make it quite rich and representative of Duggar life. It is universal as the contents therein are universal. It talks about different rituals, traditions, nature and local deities. The folk literature that existed orally with the generations carrying forward it to next generations as a part of their traditional heritage has been registered now in written form also. The research scholar are doing extensive researches and preserving it in their thesis and research papers. Some of the amateur writers are also enthusiastic in working on folk literature and contributing with their creative writings.
On the other hand, we find references of written literature during 16th and 17th century historical sagas and Khandkavyas. Maharaja Ranbir Singh also got translations of Sanskrit books done to develop Dogri prose for common use. Frederic Drew, a scholar traveler who lived in the state from 1862 to 1872 gives an account in his work of Maharaja’s Royal Durbar in which all documents were in Dogri. However generally the written Dogri literature may be divided in two parts i.e. Pre 1940 and post 1940.
Shivnath, in ‘History of Dogri literature’ published by Sahitya Akademi New Delhi way back in 1976 writes that Dogri writing before 1940 was little explored field . The early specimens of Dogri writing are to be found in rock and temple inscriptions, copper- plate inscriptions, rhapsodies in praise of kings and their genealogical tables, title deeds, samads, agreements, letters and some Christian missionary literature. They are mostly in Takri script current in Duggar till the beginning of 20th century.
But Takri is no more in use now. However, we still find it inscribed on community utensils in some remote areas. With the passage of time this old script has almost vanished and Devnagri Script was adopted by Dogri writers that gave a boost to language to flourish.
Dogri literature is very rich as it is abundant with different genres. Whether its poetry or prose we find classical contributions by writers. We may feel proud to advocate that we have world class literature in our mother tongue. It is quite important to recognize the contributions of those writers who have enriched Dogri literature with their colossal contributions.
The research works show that Dogri poetry rose from rich tradition of folk songs long ago in 16th to 18th centuries thanks to royal patronage. The significant poets of that period include Manakchand, Gambhir Rai and Devi Ditta. This tradition of traditional singer-poets combination continued with Maya Das and Raghubir Das in late 18th century. In early 19th century we get poets like Ganga Ram and Lakhu whose traditions were carried forward during 20th century by Ramdhan, Santram Shastri, Mehta Mathura Das, Hakam Jatt, Mulraj Mehta, Baba Kanshi Ram, Kavi Dattu and Hurdutt. But it was ‘GUTLUN’ of Dinubhai Pant published in 1944 which may be recognized as advent of modern day poetry.
In its initial stage when Dogri was looking for respect and space from her own, Dogri poets played a revolutionary role. Soon Dogri poets became heart throb of masses and literary meetings were attended in huge numbers that inspired many to pen down their feelings in mother tongue and eventually they emerged as celebrated writers. They also include Raghunath Singh Sambyal, Anant Ram, Ram Nath Shastri, Krishan Smailpuri, Ved Pal Deep, Jitender Udhampuri, Kehari Singh Madhukar, Ved Rahi, Narsingh Dev Jamwal, Yash Sharma, Brahmnand, Parshuram Nagar, Charan Singh, Onkar Singh Awara, Dr. Karan Singh, Romal Singh Bhadwal, Praksh Premi, Abhishap, Duni Chand, Padma Sachdeva, Tara Smailpuri, Champa Sharma, Darshan Darshi, Gyaneshwar, Kunwar Viyogi, Mohan Lal Sapolia, Ram Lal Sharma, Peeyush Guleri, Shiv Ram Deep, Inderjeet Kesar, Mohan Singh, Dhyan Singh , Surinder Singh Manhas, Lalit Magotra, Susheel Begana, Shivdev Singh Susheel, Rattan Doshi, Nasib Singh Manhas, Usha Kiran, Vijaya Thakur, Ashwani Magotra, Pradhuman Singh , Virender Kesar , Randheer Singh Raipuria, Shashi Pathania, Promila Manhas, Nirmal Vinod , Surjeet Badsali, Om Vidyarthi, Jagdeep Dubey, Chanchal Bhasin, Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’ etc.
In short stories, although we have ‘PEHLA PHULL” written by Bhagwat Prasad Sathe as first book published in 1947 followed by ‘SUI DHAGA’ of Lalita Mehta in 1957, but thereafter we find many prominent short story writers penning down their works for different magazines and publishing their own books too. They include Narender Khajuria, Ram Nath Shastri, Narsingh Dev Jamwal ,Ved Rahi, D. C. Prashant, Bandhu Sharma, Ram Kumar Abrol, Neelambar Dev Shama , Desh Bandhu Dogra ‘Nutan’, Jitender Udhampuri , Padadma Sachdeva, Praksah Premi , Om Goswami, Jitendra Sharma , Shiv Mehta, Champa Sharma, Ashwani Magotra, Rattan Kesar, Baldev Singh, Krishana Prem, Jiten Thakur, Manoj, Lalit Magotra, Inderjeet Kesar, Baldev Singh, Shashi Pathania, Chhatrapal, , Shivdev Singh Manhas, Chaman Arora, Shakunt Deepmala, Tara Danpuri, Shakuntala Birpuri, Raj Rahi, Jagdeep Dubey, Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’, Nirmal Vikram, Shivdev Singh Susheel, Santosh Sangra, Sudershan Rattanpuri, Ashok Dutta, Sudesh Raj, Pankaj Gupta etc. Dogri literature has collections of essays also and majority of those who are poets and short story writers have contributed as essayists also.
Theatre plays have always played a significant role in not only awareness of the society but have been a part and parcel of literature also. It started with BAWA JITTO that was staged at Tikkri in 1948 when Ist ever Exhibition of Miniature painting was also organized there. There after the tremendous response from the public boosted the morale of team and it became a regular feature. Another play that helped the movement was SARPANCH. We have established playwrights who have contributed to Dogri literature with their remarkable theatre plays like Dinu Bhai Pant, Ram Nath Shastri, Narsingh Dev Jamwal, Madan Mohan Sharma, Ved Rahi , Yash Sharma, Narender Khajuria, Mohan Singh, Desh Bandhu Dogra ‘Nutan’, Om Goswami, Balwant Thakur , Kumar A. Bharti, , Shivdev Singh Susheel, Chhatrapal, Shiv Mehta , Rattan Doshi , Jagdeep Dubey, Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’, Deepak Kumar, Pritam Katoch, Rajneesh Gupta, Raj Rahi etc
It’s a fact that within limited words neither Dogri literature can be discussed in detail nor the names of all the writers having contributed be mentioned. I know a large number of names are missing but it’s the restriction of space otherwise a book may be complied on the Dogri Literature and contributing writers.
However, the fact remains that Dogri literature cannot be discussed without the contributions of some towering personalities and of them is a man widely known as ‘Pitamaha of Dogri’ and some remember him as ‘Bharatendu Harishchandra of Dogri’ also. He is Padma Shri Prof. Ram Nath Shastri. He led the movement for winning gratitude and honor for his mother tongue Dogri with all grace and had convinced those established writers penning down their creative works in other languages like Hindi and Urdu to realize their moral responsibilities towards their own language and traditions. He inspired them to write in Dogri and enrich own language and literature. It did the most wanted and desired magic and many joined the movement. The language that had been discarded by own started getting admiration.
“Hindi Sadhi Daadi Ae
Te Dogri Sadhi Maa,
Daadi Thar Daadi
Te Maa Thar Maa.”
Pt. Dinu Bhai Pant ‘s this verse had also created magic. He is still regarded as one of the most acclaimed Dogri poets who led from the front and became a crusader of a movement that started showing results soon. Padma Sachdev, one of the most prolific writers of the soil knew very well that something different needed to be innovated to promote her mother tongue. That is why she persuaded Swara Kokila Lata Mangeshkar and famous singer Mahendra Kapoor to render voices for Dogri songs. Rest is a history.
It is pertinent to add here that organizations have always played a substantial part in preserving and promoting literature to new heights thus providing a platform for expression of different thoughts to the devotees of literature in every nook and corner. There are so many organizations like Bandralta Sahitya Mandal, Dogri Sahitya Mandal, Ramnagar, Kavi Dattu Sahitya Sabha Bhadu, Dogra Mandal Jammu, Delhi, Kangra Yuvak Sabha of Delhi, Duggar Manch, Nami Dogri Sanstha and have contributed for literature but without the mention of Dogri Sanstha , the journey of Dogri literature cannot be discussed at all.
On January 29th’ 1944, on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami, also called Sarasvati Puja in honour of Goddess Saraswati a popular festival commemorating the welcome of spring season, a group of six eminent personalities Sansar Chand Baru, Bhagwat Prasad Sathe, Ram Nath Shastri, Dinu Bhai Pant, Dharam Chand Prashant and Narayna Dutt Mishra founded an organization that has seen 78 springs now. There are only a few literary organizations that have the privilege of such a long stint that too with continuous activities since inception.
Regular publications in Dogri was the necessity of time. Sanstha started it with “JAGO DUGGAR” published way back in 1949 and from 1953 onwards it started publishing quarterly magazine “NAMI CHETNA” that has more than 206 issues published till date. It is often said that if you wish to know the history of Dogri literature, cultural traditions and heritage, you need to go through the regular editions of “NAMI CHETNA”. In addition to it, Sanstha has also enriched Dogri Literature with numerous other publications and translations of world literature.
Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages’ magazines like ‘SADHA SAHITYA’, ‘SHEERAJA’ and providing subsidy to writers for publications and newspapers DOGRI TIMES and JAMMU PRABHAT of Kashmir Times publication house have also played a significant role in providing a much needed platform to writers.
In order to get Dogri included in 8th Schedule of Indian constitution, different literary as well as art organizations came together under one banner ‘Dogra Sangarsh Samiti’ and almost every individual directly or indirectly supported the demand. After decades of struggle Dogras were blessed with their mother tongue Dogri included in the 8th schedule. It opened new vistas not only for the writers but for all Dogras. It was proud feeling but loaded with certain responsibilities too.
After abrogation of article 370, Union Territory Administration gave another gift to Dogri when it got the honour for being one among the five official languages English, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri. Now the official works will be in Dogri as well.
In present context, it may be said that there are many creative writers who have been contributing to Dogri literature in different genres. Whether its novels, short stories, poetry, essays, plays, Dogri writers have been able to cast a spell on the masses and their translated works in other languages have taken their writings to a broader canvas.
Although the written literature is not very old, but step by step dogri writers have proved their worth at all forums. The journey that started from folk literature has now travelled a lot and the present generation writers have been touching global concepts in portraying their concerns in creative pursuits.
According to me what inspired the new entrants in the field to write more and more in dogri language is a gut feeling to promote their language and get honored with prestigious awards also. When Sahitya Akademi New Delhi started awarding Dogri writers with prestigious award in 1970 and Narender Khajuria became the first ever dogri writer to get the honour for his collection of short stories ‘NILA AMBAR KALE BADAL’ it infused new spirit in writers and Dogri literature got the right direction to compete the class literature being written in other languages. It opened much needed avenues of translation of world literature also.
In addition to regional level awards like state academy award, Prof. Ramnath Shastri memorial award, Kunwar Viyogi Award, Sahitya Academy New Delhi’s main award, translation award, children literature award and Yuv Puraskar are also instrumental in motivating the writers to publish their works. Although it’s my personal feeling that the genuine writers never aspire for awards but if these come in the process then it’s always welcome.
Dogri writers have an obligation to consolidate their roots which are watered by mother tongue ‘DOGRI’ and all Dogras have to preserve it and save it from any threat of extinction.