Writings & Media

My first essay on a visit to the Holy Amarnath Cave in Kashmir was published in 1953 when I was 22 years old. Subsequently I have been writing and published regularly on a fairly wide spectrum of topics. A small selection of which is available here. Readers who are interested may refer to the original publications, details of which are given in the bibliography on this website.

Music has been a major and magnificent input into my consciousness from a very early age. I first heard my mother singing Dogri folk songs and devotional hymns when I was very small. Subsequently I learnt Indian classical music for several years, and continue my practice down to the present day. To the surprise of many friends, I am a Rock and Roll addict, having followed this genre right from when Bill Halley and the Comets launched the rock revolution, I follow American soft rock and folk music with great pleasure. Among my favourites are Billy Joel, Dire Straits, Boyzone and Whitney Houston. I also love the Waltzes of Strauss, particularly the Blue Danube. Take Five by Dave Brubeck is another of my favourites.

Dogri Pahari folk Songs

In one of his shorter poems Sri Aurobindo has a memorable line - "all music is only the sound of His laughter." There is indeed a certain divine quality in music that is found in no other form of artistic expression, and this is true alike of the rich majesty of classical music as also the lyrical quality of folk music the world over. India particularly, with its wide spectrum of language and tradition, has a rich store of folk music to which every region has made its contribution. This music expresses in a simple and direct manner the joys and sorrows, the triumph and tragedy, the shadow and sunlight, of rural India, and folk songs often tell us more about the essential life and character of a people than many solemn and ponderous tomes written by scholars.

The Dogra-Pahari people of North India, who inhabit a wide belt stretching from Poonch in the west to Simla in the east, have for centuries been famous for their valour and martial endowments. They also have a unique artistic tradition, reflected in the exquisite Pahari paintings, which are the pride of collectors and museums the world over. In addition, though perhaps somewhat less well known, there is the rich reservoir of Dogra-Pahari folk songs which have great beauty and charm.

Life for the Dogra-Pahari people has never been easy. Although the land they inhabit is rich in forests, wealth and hydroelectric potential, these resources have barely begun to be exploited. The mainstay of the people, therefore, has traditionally been either agriculture or service in the armed forces. The latter necessitates the young men having to venture forth at an early age, leaving behind them their near and dear ones. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the songs speak of the anguish of separation. Romance has a tinge of sadness, and love is all Democrat, poignant for the inevitability of prolonged absence. This is well expressed in one of the songs which I have translated thus:

Hark, the chakors call to each other through the moonlit night,
see how the separated lovers pine for each other!
In the day-time they laugh and play amongst themselves,
but such is their fate that wicked night intervenes and separates them;
they sigh all through the long night and call loudly to each other, but in vain.
Only the sufferer can really know the true nature of his suffering,
no one else can fully appreciate another's pain;
seeing the plight of the chakors
Samailpuri warns everyone not to fall into the torment of love.

The theme of separation runs through this song also:

The clouds tempestuous gather overhead and the cold rain-drops begin to fall,
but alas, my beloved comes not to me!
The bulbuls chatter in the flowering garden,
and from the distant hill-tops reverberates the call of the beautiful peacocks,
high above the papiha is in ecstasy and from the bushes the chakor,
and the cold rain-drops begin to fall, but alas, my beloved comes not to me!

The thunder rumbles, filling the sky with sound,
and in the trees the noisy birds twitter and sing,
the simple villagers carelessly leave their homes unattended and thieves have a field-day,
but alas, my beloved, the thief of my heart, comes not to me!

The fabric of life is a mixture of joy and sorrow, and the Dogri folk songs reflect the innate joyousness and gaiety of the Pahari people despite the difficulties that they have to face. The following song tells of a bangle-seller who displays his wares on the village street:

The bangle-seller from Bathri comes -
with a basket full of bangles on his head;
he roams through the cobbled streets
and looks upon the beauty and grace of the bride.

Life is a patchwork of shadow and sunlight;
tread carefully and with understanding;
otherwise, like the hilly streamlet in summer and the fallen branch of the tree,
your happiness and beauty will wither away.

Hearing the sound of a motor-car the simple inhabitants of Chamba began to wail and lament.

At long last the marriage feast is over,
the bride in body is delivered to her spouse but her heart and love have been shattered;
on one fair hand she wears the auspicious wedding bangles but on the other there is the bracelet of her beloved.

A popular folk song from Chamba describes a newly-wed bride who tastes the inexpressible joy of new love:

Gori is happy in the snowy ranges of Chamba,
the rain falls in torrents and her shawl is drenched.,

Gori's snow-white teeth are like a necklace of champak flowers,
she has gone to live in Chamba but my heart remains sad here without her.

From the ranges of Chamba sound the cheerful naubats,
and from Jammu the beat of the nagara drums;
in every home are lovely girls,
adorned with auspicious, forehead marks, Gori is happy in the snowy ranges of Chamba.

There is also a deeply religious facet of Dogra-Pahari life, and many of the songs are devotional in character. These include popular songs describing the various months of the year, such as this one which covers six months of the traditional Hindu calendar and is sung by women in the evenings when they light little earthen lamps and walk around the sacred tulsi plant:

'Rim-jhim', 'Rim-jhim' falls the rain upon her bed, and she stands outside her houselistening entranced to the flute of Krishna.

Comes the month of Chaitra and the garden overflows with flowers,
she gets up before the break of dawn and picks them for her beloved.

Comes the month of Vaisakha and the branches are loaded with flowers,
and the fragrance of the blossoms fills the countryside.

Comes the month of Jyeshtha and the hot sun scorches,
my heart thirsts for your love like fishes for water.

Comes the month of Asharh and the mountain streamlets swell to gushing torrents;
those alone who have meditated on Him will cross safely the broad stream of life.

Comes the month of Shrawana and the maidens dress in red and shed their perfume in all directions.

Comes the month of Bhadra and the nights are deep and dark,
those alone who have worshipped the sacred tulsi plant will cross safely the broad ocean of Existence.

In common with the tradition that runs through the lower Himalayas, the Dogras are worshippers of the Goddess. This song is in praise of Jwalamukhi, the goddess of the flames, whose shrine in Kangra attracts lakhs of pilgrims every year;

O Mother Jwala, dwelling amidst the mountains, fulfil our innermost desires.
A bright red garment adorns Your body and on Your forehead is the yellow saffron mark,
the five-hued shawl covers Your head,
its edges shimmering, with golden embroidery,
O Mother Jwala, dwelling amidst the mountains,
fulfil our innermost desires.

From all comers of the earth, O Mother,
pilgrims come and sing Thy praises having bowed before Thy holy self all their cravings are satisfied,
0 Mother Jwala, dwelling amidst the mountains,
fulfil our innermost desires.

Bramha, the Creator, recites the Vedas before Thee and Shankara meditates upon Thee amidst the mountains;
the devotee who sings Thy praises is granted by Thee his heart's desire,
0 Mother Jwala, dwelling amidst the mountains,
fulfil our innermost desires.

The musical accompaniment to these songs is simple, consisting usually of a drum (dholaki) and often a flute. The tunes, however, are rich in beauty and variety, with all the freshness of the clear mountain air, and the charm of a sparkling hill stream. No one who has heard them can easily forget the lilting beauty of the Dogra-Pahari songs, which represent a brilliant facet of our rich folk-music heritage.

Section IV Contemporary Essays

As for literature, I have been an avid reader from my early childhood and continue to read as much as I can. Apart from the classics, also I am particularly interested in space fiction, specially the film versions.

The Earth has no corners

The book is a felicitation volume to mark the 70th birthday of India's "Universal Man", the poet-prince-philosopher-politician, Dr. Karan Singh, but it is much more than that. His personality and concerns have been used as a mirror by distinguished world celebrities to investigate the roots and traditions of mankind and look to its future.
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As i see it... The Karan Singh reader

Over the last four decades, Dr. Karan Singh's writings have ranged over a very wide area reflecting his diverse interests and multi-dimensional activities. These include philosophy and religion; politics and population; culture and global society; environment and education; Dogri songs and English poems; an autobiography and novel; as well as travelogues around the world.
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Mountain of Shiva

Chapter 4

The next morning Ashok decided to climb the Mountain of Shiva. Since that first dramatic impact, his eyes had time and again been drawn back to the temple. At night it was skillfully floodlit, so that it glowed with a mysterious translucence against the clear, starlit sky. From inquires made at the hotel, Ashok had learnt that it was always open and could be reached by a fairly stiff half-hour climb from the base of the mountain.
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The Friend

The Night of Nights

A Lovely Day

Clouds

Sonnet written on Shivratri

Resurrection

Eternal

The Mystic

My Friend

Storm

Some Thoughts on Love

Vision

The Garden by the Sea

The Adventurer

Kaleidoscope

The Second Fall

A Whispered Dialogue

The Seminar

The Conference

Tea

Fallings

Quiz

The Tree at Night

The Wind

Stormy Night

Department Store

The Ocean

Winter

The Living Flame

Lines Written in Milano

The Cinema

There was Music

Sometimes

The Gull

The Gull

Please

Hope

Tete-a-tete

Quest

City

Demagogue

Radha's Lament

Moonbeams

Jet Fighters

Dream

In Memoriam

Rajas

Sattva

The Fourth

Hymn to Shiva