Literary Heritage of Khyber Past and Present

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Literary Heritage of Khyber Past and Present, Prof. Dr. Qabil Khan Afridi
Published in Khyber.ORG on Thursday, April 21 2011 (http://www.khyber.org)


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Literary Heritage of Khyber Past and Present

Prof. Dr. Qabil Khan Afridi

Publishing Date: Thursday, April 21 2011

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When I was faced with the prospect of taking up a research project in Literature my instant and natural reaction was to investigate the literary heritage of Khyber. Khyber is my native land and my home and the milk of Khyber still circulates in my veins , although I have turned my back on it, as it were, for the last about twenty years, to have settled in Peshawar. But this physical migration has hardly affected my spiritual attachment to Khyber, and I have always felt strongly drown towards it by the ties of strong tribal instincts, which I feel to be my second if not the first nature. The occasional social events of births and deaths take me back to my ancestral village, in the lap of the bleak but imposing mountains, on the Khyber highway, near Landi Kotal, the focal point of the Khyber pass. I still mingle and rub shoulders with my villagers and cousins, without the least hint of alienation, although life has put us on divergent paths on the road for survival . I still slip back into their idiom with delightful ease, and to articulate their distinctive dialect is a real pleasure. And with this I am once again a part and parcel of their social paradigm. Their culture is also rich in literature. I was associated with the Khyber School of literature right from my school days, back in the fifties. What if not a poet or writer myself, I attended their literary gatherings with religious regularity. It was back in the heady days of the nineteen-thirties, long before I was even born, that a group of local poets and writers agreed to be meeting on regular basis, in a tea shop of the then Landi Kotal Sarai, to be listening to the fresh kalam of each other. (this brings to mind the London coffee House literary gatherings of the eighteenth century writers like Addison, steel, Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith).

Qasim Khan Afridi

The moving spirit behind the formation of this group was Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, by then a recognized poet, playwright, prose writer and a Pir of sorts. The other poets or writers of this group were Malik Saida Khan Shinwari, Akram Farooq, Basir Shinwari and Haji Maruf Khan. These are now being looked upon as the founding fathers of the Khyber Literary Movement. They started holding proper Mushairas at Landi Kotal or at each others villages. Apart from providing ample entertainment and intellectual and aesthetic awareness, these Mushairas attracted a younger generation of poets and writers like Lal Zada Nazer Shinwari, Abdul Akbar Shinwari, Shahzad Khan Jauhar and Muhammad Umar Seemab Shinwari. They used to hold occasional literary sessions or Mushairas, with sometimes writing poetry an a given line ( Tarhi Mushaira). By 1953, the literary consciousness was awakened to the extent to organize a permanent literary circle called Da Khyber Adabi Jarga, under the patronage of Ostad Hamza Shinwari. Nazer Shinwari and Murad Shinwari were selected as its president and General Secretary respectively. With this was usheres in a golden period of Khyber literature, when this literature was given due recognition outside Khyber also. Its reverberations soon were heard all over Pakhtoonkhwa or from the Indus to the Oxus. The Jarga held regular weekly sessions of criticism, apart from occasionally organizing grand Mushairas to which poets were also invited from all over Pakhtoonkhwa. Among the younger generation of poets and writers who were inspired and groomed by the Jarga were:

Amir Muhammad Saghir Afridi, Noor Muhammad Zigar Afridi, Azam Shinwari, Khatir Afridi, Khyber Afridi, Sadbar Shinwari, Ahmadzai, Qasir Afridi, Mir Ahmad Akhtar Afridi, Syed Insha, Maulana Muhammad and Ashur Khan. Out of these, Murad Shinwari and Saghir Afridi also wrote prose, particularly short stories and essays. Yet a third generation of writers of the Ulasi Adabi Jarga was fast coming up. They included; Abdul Qayum Kausar Afridi, Zabita Khan Afridi, Munir Khan Afridi, Ihsan Zaheer Afridi, Shakir Shinwari and Miskin. From time to time proper elections of for the cabinet of the Jarga were held. With the passage of time the membership of the Jarga also swelled to a fairly large number of poets and writers. Its written constitution was passed from the General Body, held in 1986. The constitution was further amended in 1996 and elections were held which approved the following cabinet:When I was faced with the prospect of taking up a research project in Literature my instant and natural reaction was to investigate the literary heritage of Khyber. Khyber is my native land and my home and the milk of Khyber still circulates in my veins , although I have turned my back on it, as it were, for the last about twenty years, to have settled in Peshawar. But this physical migration has hardly affected my spiritual attachment to Khyber, and I have always felt strongly drown towards it by the ties of strong tribal instincts, which I feel to be my second if not the first nature. The occasional social events of births and deaths take me back to my ancestral village, in the lap of the bleak but imposing mountains, on the Khyber highway, near Landi Kotal, the focal point of the Khyber pass. I still mingle and rub shoulders with my villagers and cousins, without the least hint of alienation, although life has put us on divergent paths on the road for survival . I still slip back into their idiom with delightful ease, and to articulate their distinctive dialect is a real pleasure. And with this I am once again a part and parcel of their social paradigm. Their culture is also rich in literature. I was associated with the Khyber School of literature right from my school days, back in the fifties.

What if not a poet or writer myself, I attended their literary gatherings with religious regularity. It was back in the heady days of the nineteen-thirties, long before I was even born, that a group of local poets and writers agreed to be meeting on regular basis, in a tea shop of the then Landi Kotal Sarai, to be listening to the fresh kalam of each other. (this brings to mind the London coffee House literary gatherings of the eighteenth century writers like Addison, steel, Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith). The moving spirit behind the formation of this group was Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, by then a recognized poet, playwright, prose writer and a Pir of sorts. The other poets or writers of this group were Malik Saida Khan Shinwari, Akram Farooq, Basir Shinwari and Haji Maruf Khan. These are now being looked upon as the founding fathers of the Khyber Literary Movement. They started holding proper Mushairas at Landi Kotal or at each others villages. Apart from providing ample entertainment and intellectual and aesthetic awareness, these Mushairas attracted a younger generation of poets and writers like Lal Zada Nazer Shinwari, Abdul Akbar Shinwari, Shahzad Khan Jauhar and Muhammad Umar Seemab Shinwari. They used to hold occasional literary sessions or Mushairas, with sometimes writing poetry an a given line ( Tarhi Mushaira). By 1953, the literary consciousness was awakened to the extent to organize a permanent literary circle called Da Khyber Adabi Jarga, under the patronage of Ostad Hamza Shinwari. Nazer Shinwari and Murad Shinwari were selected as its president and General Secretary respectively. With this was usheres in a golden period of Khyber literature, when this literature was given due recognition outside Khyber also.

Its reverberations soon were heard all over Pakhtoonkhwa or from the Indus to the Oxus. The Jarga held regular weekly sessions of criticism, apart from occasionally organizing grand Mushairas to which poets were also invited from all over Pakhtoonkhwa. Among the younger generation of poets and writers who were inspired and groomed by the Jarga were: Amir Muhammad Saghir Afridi, Noor Muhammad Zigar Afridi, Azam Shinwari, Khatir Afridi, Khyber Afridi, Sadbar Shinwari, Ahmadzai, Qasir Afridi, Mir Ahmad Akhtar Afridi, Syed Insha, Maulana Muhammad and Ashur Khan. Out of these, Murad Shinwari and Saghir Afridi also wrote prose, particularly short stories and essays. Yet a third generation of writers of the Ulasi Adabi Jarga was fast coming up. They included; Abdul Qayum Kausar Afridi, Zabita Khan Afridi, Munir Khan Afridi, Ihsan Zaheer Afridi, Shakir Shinwari and Miskin. From time to time proper elections of for the cabinet of the Jarga were held. With the passage of time the membership of the Jarga also swelled to a fairly large number of poets and writers. Its written constitution was passed from the General Body, held in 1986. The constitution was further amended in 1996 and elections were held which approved the following cabinet:When I was faced with the prospect of taking up a research project in Literature my instant and natural reaction was to investigate the literary heritage of Khyber. Khyber is my native land and my home and the milk of Khyber still circulates in my veins , although I have turned my back on it, as it were, for the last about twenty years, to have settled in Peshawar. But this physical migration has hardly affected my spiritual attachment to Khyber, and I have always felt strongly drown towards it by the ties of strong tribal instincts, which I feel to be my second if not the first nature. The occasional social events of births and deaths take me back to my ancestral village, in the lap of the bleak but imposing mountains, on the Khyber highway, near Landi Kotal, the focal point of the Khyber pass. I still mingle and rub shoulders with my villagers and cousins, without the least hint of alienation, although life has put us on divergent paths on the road for survival .

I still slip back into their idiom with delightful ease, and to articulate their distinctive dialect is a real pleasure. And with this I am once again a part and parcel of their social paradigm.

Their culture is also rich in literature. I was associated with the Khyber School of literature right from my school days, back in the fifties. What if not a poet or writer myself, I attended their literary gatherings with religious regularity. It was back in the heady days of the nineteen-thirties, long before I was even born, that a group of local poets and writers agreed to be meeting on regular basis, in a tea shop of the then Landi Kotal Sarai, to be listening to the fresh kalam of each other. (this brings to mind the London coffee House literary gatherings of the eighteenth century writers like Addison, steel, Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith). The moving spirit behind the formation of this group was Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, by then a recognized poet, playwright, prose writer and a Pir of sorts. The other poets or writers of this group were Malik Saida Khan Shinwari, Akram Farooq, Basir Shinwari and Haji Maruf Khan. These are now being looked upon as the founding fathers of the Khyber Literary Movement. They started holding proper Mushairas at Landi Kotal or at each others villages. Apart from providing ample entertainment and intellectual and aesthetic awareness, these Mushairas attracted a younger generation of poets and writers like Lal Zada Nazer Shinwari, Abdul Akbar Shinwari, Shahzad Khan Jauhar and Muhammad Umar Seemab Shinwari. They used to hold occasional literary sessions or Mushairas, with sometimes writing poetry an a given line ( Tarhi Mushaira).

By 1953, the literary consciousness was awakened to the extent to organize a permanent literary circle called Da Khyber Adabi Jarga, under the patronage of Ostad Hamza Shinwari. Nazer Shinwari and Murad Shinwari were selected as its president and General Secretary respectively. With this was usheres in a golden period of Khyber literature, when this literature was given due recognition outside Khyber also. Its reverberations soon were heard all over Pakhtoonkhwa or from the Indus to the Oxus. The Jarga held regular weekly sessions of criticism, apart from occasionally organizing grand Mushairas to which poets were also invited from all over Pakhtoonkhwa. Among the younger generation of poets and writers who were inspired and groomed by the Jarga were: Amir Muhammad Saghir Afridi, Noor Muhammad Zigar Afridi, Azam Shinwari, Khatir Afridi, Khyber Afridi, Sadbar Shinwari, Ahmadzai, Qasir Afridi, Mir Ahmad Akhtar Afridi, Syed Insha, Maulana Muhammad and Ashur Khan. Out of these, Murad Shinwari and Saghir Afridi also wrote prose, particularly short stories and essays. Yet a third generation of writers of the Ulasi Adabi Jarga was fast coming up. They included; Abdul Qayum Kausar Afridi, Zabita Khan Afridi, Munir Khan Afridi, Ihsan Zaheer Afridi, Shakir Shinwari and Miskin.

From time to time proper elections of for the cabinet of the Jarga were held. With the passage of time the membership of the Jarga also swelled to a fairly large number of poets and writers. Its written constitution was passed from the General Body, held in 1986. The constitution was further amended in 1996 and elections were held which approved the following cabinet:

  • MM President: Lalazada Nazer Shinwari.
  • MM Vice-President: Murad Shinwari.
  • MM G.Secretary: Aslam Tasir Afridi.
  • MM J.secretary: Rahmat Shah Lihaz.
  • MM Press Secretary: Kalim Shinwari.
  • MM Treasurer: Jehanzeb Majboor.
  • MM Propaganda-Secretary: Ayub Irshad Afridi.

Another election of the Jarga in 1998 selected the following cabinet:

  • MM Patron: Lalzada Nazer Shinwari.
  • MM President: Murad Shinwari.
  • MM Vice-president: Riaz Shah Afridi.
  • MM G.Secretary: Aslam Tasir Afridi.
  • MM J.Secretary: Kalim Shinwari and Amir Haidar Shabgir Afridi.
  • MM Press Secretary: Hashim Khan Hashim Afridi.
  • MM Treasurer: Manzoor Cheshti Afridi.
  • MM Executive-Members: Mir Ahmad Akhtar Afridi. Rahmat Shah Lihaz Afridi. Sharafat Khan Zamir Afridi. Mustaqim Atif Afridi.

The general body of the Jarga consist of the following also:

Ahmadzai Qasir Afridi, Hikmat Gul Hikmat Shinwari, Lalmadar Zakhmi Shinwari, Kohat Khan Zakir Afridi, Hazrat Islam Gharqab Shinwari, Zahoor Shinwari, Sher Alam Shinwari, Faiz Ahmad Nasir Afridi, Niazuddin Niaz Afridi, Amir Haidar Shabgir Afridi, Sikandar Mahtab Afridi, Sharafat Khan Zamir Afridi, Abdur Rahim Afridi, Amanullah Bawar Shinwari, Yar Hussain Sahil Afridi, Abdur Rahim Shaugir Shinwari, Adil Rishtim Afridi, Saghir Afridi, Abdul Ghafoor Ihrar Afridi and Alamzeb Masroor.

The progenitor of this School, Hamza Shinwari, was also the subject of the Ph.D. thesis that I had submitted to the University of Peshawar in 1990 and had got it approved and obtained my degree on it. Many scattered pages of that thesis also thread the story of that School. In this connection I have met almost all the poets and writers of this school and have interviewed most of them - some of the present research was but a review of my findings of some ten to fifteen years ago when I had to properly pigeonhole all those vary many writers and their works. However, it was now felt that in the mean time much water had flown under the Bridges, also eroding much fertile soil from the hills. Hams Chinaware died in 1994, leaving the School to his successors. He was closely followed by the untimely death of Khyber Afraid, a promising poet of the future. The older generation of the School is already on the wane, overtaken by senility and a sense of withdrawing into their shells for the ultimate hibernation. However, their place is being taken by a shoal of young fry, forever on their swift, restless fins. Whether they will keep up the dignity and prestige of the School is yet to be seen. It is, however, highly gratifying to see that some of the younger upholders of this School are deeply committed and keenly devoted to the cause of literature and the preservation and advancement of this now almost sixty-years old School. And among the very many poets and writers of this School, there are also some playwrits and prose writers, trying to maintain the tradition of Hams Chinaware, who has tried almost every genre of literature.

In connection with the present research I also ventured in the Valley of Tirah in July the year before last, in the hope of digging up some material for the project. On this tour I was accompanied by three or four of my ex-students from as many Afridi clans. They were actually my escorts to conduct me through the land of my forefathers, for going alone would be foolhardy on my part to take the risk. The next problem was trudging the rough terrain for miles on foot for which the only alternative was to hire and ride a pony, a more repulsive proposition. However, we landed in the Aka Khel area, which lies on the south-east of the Tirah Valley proper, where we stayed for three or four days and nights to take off our fatigue. The only redeeming feature of the life or culture of the are is the self-less and unobtrusive hospitality of those people. They never get fad up with any number of guests for any duration of time, whom they will have no stone unturned to entertain with-better food and better accommodation than they will enjoy themselves.

In Aka Khel area there were two very old Madrassas, now moribund, but whose stock of books were ill-preserved in crumbling, moth-eaten racks. We took out all the rusty, crumbling manuscripts. They were mostly theological treatises in Arabic or Persian. Some were positively written in Tirah by the heads or some teachers of the Madrassas. The people whom we met were the grandchildren of the founders of those Madrassas. In one Madrassa, we were told that students came to study there from as far away as Bokhara in Turkistan and Delhi in Hindustan and that there would be a number of students, studying there all the time. In another Madrassa we were told that some students would also have befriended gins, who would play with them in off times. Along with old Persian-Arabic manuscripts the Madrassas had also preserved some exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the Holy Quran. Whether they were written at Tirah or brought from outside could not be ascertained. But their preservation was sadly inadequate. They were already partly devoured by the moths or white ants and in another decade or so they would be a heap of dust. And the idea of giving them to some library to preserve on scientific lines would not be acceptable to the owners.

However, we trudged the Tirah Maidan for nearly a month, discovering one or two other collection of books of this or that Alim or Maulvi Sahib, they being books of the same nature and description. We decided that we should leave them to some religious scholar to sift and benefit from. Our concern was literature, whether Pashto or even Persian and not religious literature of the sort that we came across there. We were, however, pointed out one or two poets in some remote corner of Maidan. But how to contact them was the question. But then had they been poets of any repute their fame would already have trickled down to Landi Kotal, a sort of cultural centre for the entire Khyber. Since they were anonymous was decided to leave them anonymous.

And with this I will concentrate on the exploration of the subject i.e. the literary heritage of Khyber, on which there is more than enough sources and material. I only hope that I will do justice to it in the process of documentation, interpretations and execution.

Professor Dr. Qabil Khan
English Department.
Peshawar University.
Dated: 25/04/1998.

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Literary Heritage of Khyber Past and Present, Prof. Dr. Qabil Khan Afridi
Published in Khyber.ORG on Thursday, April 21 2011 (http://www.khyber.org)