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(1554 - 1609 / Chandrahar, Kashmir / India)

Biography of Habba Khatoon

Habba Khatoon poet

Habba Khatun was a 16th century Muslim poet from the village of Chandrahar of Kashmir. She was born in the small village Chandrahar, and was known under the name Zoon (the Moon) because of her immense beauty until her marriage with Yusuf Shah Chak, who later became ruler of Kashmir, after which she was called Habba Khatun.

Her songs are popular in Kashmir and she is almost a legendary figure in Kashmiri literary history. Perhaps the influence she has exerted over the popular imagination had much to do with the difficult life she had as a peasant girl who had received some basic education. Habba Khatoon was a peasant girl who, after a difficult first marriage which ended in divorce, married Kashmir's last independent King, Yousuf Shah Chak. When the Mughal King Akbar conquered Kashmir and exiled Yousuf Shah Chak, Habba Khatoon spent the rest of her life wandering across the Valley singing her songs. Even though there is some dispute about biography, the texts associated with her name are widely popular across Kashmir.

She grew up in the midst of the saffron fields and in the shade of the chinar trees. She was not raised as a typical peasant girl. She had learnt how to read and write from the village moulvi. At an early age her father married her to a peasant boy. But this illiterate peasant boy could not keep Zoon happy. He could not understand the longings of her heart. Just like Lal Ded, Zoon also was sad. Lalla became desperate and left her home. Zoon divorced her husband and started singing songs in Kashmiri.

Zoon used to sing in the shade of a chinar tree. One day Yusuph Shah Chak was out hunting that way on horseback. He happened to pass the place where Zoon was singing under the chinar tree. He heard her melancholic melodies, and went to look at her. He was stunned by her beauty. As soon as their eyes met, they fell in love. Later, Zoon and Yusuph Shah were married. She changed her name and became Habba Khatun.

Habba Khatun introduced lol to Kashmiri poetry, lol is more or less equivalent to the English 'lyric'. It conveys one brief thought. It is full of melody and love.

Habba Khatun kept Yusuph Shah under her control. The couple was very contented, and Yusuph Shah became the ruler of Kashmir.

Their happiness did not last long. Akbar came into prominence in Delhi, and he called Yusuph Shah there. In 1579, Yusuph Shah was compelled to go to Delhi. In Delhi, Akbar arrested him. He was kept in prison in Bihar. Poor Habba Khatun was separated from Yusuph Shah. The songs of Habba Khatun are full of the sorrow of separation. It is claimed that Habba Khatun introduced the 1ol into tho Kashmiri (language) After her came Arnimal who also sang mournful lyrics.

Habba Khatoon spent her last days singing her songs in the Valley, songs which are popular to this day. Even now you can see young Kashmiri singers turn to such popular lyrics as Mye ha kaer chey kit and Che Kamiu Sonei Myani.

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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,

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