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Habba Khatoon: The last Queen of independent Cashmere

It snowed so heavily that the Mughal army forced by intense cold , slit open the stomach of the elephants and the horses to take shelter in them.

On Oct 2, 1586, the last king of independent Kashmir went to Mughal court in Lahore for peace talks. To his surprise, the Mughal King Jalal-ud-din Akbar, jailed him never to return. The event remains a dark blot on the character of the Mughal king till now. Akbar had faced humiliating defeat at the hands of the Kashmiri kingdom, about the battle author of Tarikhi-i-Kashmir, says

“The battle lasted for one month between the strong armies of Yaqub and Akbar. It snowed so heavily that the Mughal army forced by intense cold , slit open the stomach of the elephants and the horses to take shelter in them. Yet, it did not help. The winter was so severe that animals were sunk up to their chests in the snow. The net result was the scarcity of provisions of such a magnitude that one Ser of grain costed one Ashrafi . Mullah Ahmad Kashmiri composed this couplet

They saw the crescent

They though it was bread

They stretched their arms

To snatch and catch it

The Mughals were defeated . Around three thousand of their men hit the bucket.  However when the king was incarcerated , the kingdom fell like the pack of cards.  His second wife, Habba Khatoon and the last Queen of Cashmere wandered in wilderness singing songs of separation from Yosuf Shah Chak.

The folk lore has it that Habba Khatoon was a peasant girl and fond of poetry. One day, when she was singing Yosuf Shah passed by , bewitched by her beauty and voice, Yosuf Shah Chak arranged her divorce from her abusive husband and married her. Thus, the peasant girl became the Queen of Cashmere.  This is the widely held belief in Cashmere and even her birth place of Gurez.

 

But often we are so caught up with the glorification of myths that we forget to investigate. The history has it the other way.

Queen Habba Khatoon

Before marrying Habba khatoon, Yosuf Shah had married twice and his first wife gave birth to Yaqub Shah and Ibrahim. After the demise of his first wife, he was absorbed by poetry and music. These days he met Habba Khatoon. Her birth name was Bibi Habiba. She belonged to the  Sayyed lineage of Kashmir.

The story starts from the arrival of Sayyed Fakhruddin and Sayyed Faridudin in 1364. Fakhruddin was a disciple of Mir Sayyid Ali hamdani. He settled in Avantipora and continued his missionary work.

Family Chart of Sayyid Fakhruddin/ Muslim Kashmir
Family Chart of Sayyid Fariddun/ Muslim Kashmir

Both the Sayyid families lived in Cashmere. Their third generation entered into matrimonial alliance. Bibi Habiba was born from the marriage of Badi Al Jamal and Bahar Shah. She was cared by a nurse soon after her mother passed away. She learnt Persian and could compose her own verses in Koshur and Persian.

Sultan Yosuf Shah Chak
Coins in the name of the Sutan

The local Imam taught her Quran and she also learnt the art of singing Nasheeds from a music teacher. She was married to Sayyid Kamaluddin. the marriage was unfit.  Habba Khatoon was highly educated while as her husband could not even think about attaining that level. The marriage was a disaster. His sister could not tolerate that Habba Khatoon was a learnt poet and the fights starting taking ugly turn. Soon, Habba found herself going back home. Habba Khatoon obtained divorce and returned home in Pulwama.

Furthermore Habba Khatoon  talks about in her own verses

Molis Naav chum Sayyid Al Bahroo,

Maaj naav chum Badr Al Jamal

Sayyid Koor chess por kamaloo

Watho lalo niendariyai

Malin mein arbaab ase

Tohai duram Habba Khatoon naav”

 

My fathers name is Sayyid-al-Bahar,

My mothers name is Badr-al-Jamal

I am a Sayyid girl full of virtues

Awake! O beloved from thy sleep

My parents held position of authority

Hence, my name was fixed as Habba Khatoon

 

The tragic story was known to everyone including prince Yosuf Shah Chak. His emissaries managed the meeting and bewitched by her beauty, he decided to marry her. Yosuf Shah Chak gave her the name Habba Khatoon which means beloved lady.

Gravestone of Yosuf Shah Chak in Bihar

Even in custody of Akbar, Yosuf longed for Kashmir. When asked the reason of his eagerness for Cashmere, he replied

The distant meadows are in blooms!

Hast thou not heard my plaint?

Flowers bloom on mountain meads;

The lilac blooms in distant woods,

Hast thou not heard my plaint?

Yosuf was longing for his Queen who was later brought. After the surrender of Yaqub Shah Chak, Kashmir lost its independence. Yaqub Shah was poisoned by Qasim Khan according to Bahristani Shahi and died on 5 Oct, 1593 .Yosuf along with Yaqub lays buried in Bihar along with the last queen of independent Cashmere; Habba Khatoon. The mortal remains of whom are yet to be received along with other two Kashmiris.

 

Family chart updated on 22, Sept 2018 .

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