Sufiana Mausiqi: Kashmir’s Forgotten Classical Music

Shabir Ahmad Mir

Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, India

Volume 7, Number 3, 2015 I Full Text PDF


Kashmir is one of the few regions of India which has a distinct regional classical music tradition along with a rich repertoire of folk and modern light music. The classical music of Kashmir is known as Sufiana Mausiqi. It is a type of choral ensemble music which is based on the principal melodic concept of Maqam, plural Maqamat. It is an amalgam of the music of Persia, Central Asia India and was born due to the intercultural synthesis of the music of already mentioned regions during the 15th century. Regrettably this glorious tradition of the past is currently on the brink of extinction. Based on in-depth interviews and discussions with master musicians and other persons associated directly or indirectly with this art form and the review of some original texts related to the subject, this paper examines the current state of Sufiana Mausiqi in Kashmir and its future prospectus.

Keywords: Sufiana Mausiqi, Maqamat, Sufism, Kashmir, Saaz-e-Kashmir

  1. Introduction

Sufiana Mausiqi is the classical choral ensemble music of the Kashmir region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is based on the principal concept of Maqam and is close to the Central Asian Maqam traditions but also influenced by Indian classical music. The word Sufiana has been derived from “Sufism”, meaning “mystical” and Mausiqi is the Urdu word for music. Therefore the phrase Sufiana Mausiqi means ‘mystical music’. Sufiana Mausiqi is so called because of the association of this musical form with the Sufis and the text used in it is mostly that of Sufi poets. “It functions primarily as a religious music being connected with the rituals of Sufis (Muslim mystics) and as elite entertainment music performed in secular context. Although Sufiana has the fragrance of Indo-Central Asian Music traditions, it has its own distinct style, structure and mode of presentation that gives Sufiana its own identity and distinguishes it from Indo-Central Asian music as well as Indian Classical music. It, according to Josef Pacholczyk, is a genre characteristically Kashmiri. This music is taught orally and passed on from one generation to another. At present this musical form is practiced by traditional musicians belonging to the three districts of Kashmir-Srinagar, Budgam and Anantnag. “Sufiana is traditionally performed in the context of a Mehfil which is of two kinds, a religious Sufi meeting in which Sufiana is an integral part of the event and a secular meeting, in which the Sufiana lovers gather expressly to listen to the music”. At present the tradition of performing in Mehfils is a rare case. Nowadays whatever Sufiana Mausiqi we listen, it is through the medium of Radio and sometimes through stage performances. In fact this glorious tradition of the past is presently facing the threat of extinction. A very few families are practicing this profession now. Earlier there were many gharanas (schools) of Sufiana Mausiqi spread across the length and breadth of Kashmir valley. But at present only four gharanas exist. The only surviving Ustads (Master musicians), Mohammad Abdullah Setari, Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, and Mohammad Ismail Bhat are finding it difficult to carry forward the tradition. Many Maqams and Talas have been forgotten. Saaz-e-Kashmir, the only bow instrument is on the path of extinction. In the past, a dance form namely Hafiz Nagma was associated with Sufiana Mausiqi in which a female dancer, “Hafiza” would represent the meaning of the song through various hand gestures and movements of the body. This dance form is now out of practice…Full Text PDF


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