Kashmir and the Mughal Fad of Persian Pastoral Poetry
The annexation of Kashmir by the Mughals resulted in the celebration of the natural beauty and imperial architecture of the valley in a body of Indo-Persian court poetry. Visited by the emperors Akbar, Jahāngīr, Shāh Jahān, and Aurangzeb, Kashmir became a major cultural and literary center in the seventeenth century. Especially in Shāh Jahān’s reign, the poet laureate, Kalim Hamadāni (d. 1651), along with a dozen other poets visited Kashmir and composed topographical poems using the masnavi form, initiating a literary fad that lasted for over two decades. Although most poems modified the model of the city poem for this purpose, using the same metaphors praising urban spaces that included descriptions of idealized Persian gardens, others produced poems in the pastoral or bucolic mode with realistic descriptions of actual places, the flora and fauna of the region, and praise of life in the countryside. Given their relationship to the empire and land, Iranian and Indian-born poets employed by the Mughal court had differing attitudes to the place of Kashmir in the imperial mosaic. The fad of the Kashmir poem is a previously unexplored episode in the history of seventeenth-century Mughal court culture.