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Arnimal: The forgotten poetess of yore


From times immemorial, Kashmir has been a seat of learning.  From scholars to poets, Kashmir has produced a number of personalities who have created a niche in their respective fields.

Poetess like Lal Ded became popular for her spiritualist compositions, musings, methods, and practices.  Similarly, Habba Khatoon was known for narrating pathos and sufferings. 


Arnimal, a poetess from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district has an equal contribution to our literature. Ironically, she has almost been forgotten.

She entered into the poetic world not because she was fond of it but due to suffering and intense love for her husband.

In her poems, she has narrated endless wait and longing for her husband.

Habba Khatoon developed a class of poetry called `Vatchun’. She lived in the fourteenth century. It is said that Arnimal perfected the same genre. Poet Abdul Azad called Habba Khatoon’s poetry the first storey of a house, and Arnimal’s a more refined second storey, both sharing the same foundation.

Arnimal was born some 200 years after the Habba Khatoon, in Palhalan Pattan, a village some 30 km away from Srinagar. She is considered the famous poetess of Vastu form.  She lived during the period when afghan ruled over Kashmir. Her father’s name was ‘Gashir Ram’ (Gashu) and ‘Wanri’. Arnimal was pretty, imaginative, and accomplished.

She was married to ‘Munshi Bhavani Das Kachru’- a  famous poet of Persian and other languages. She was married at an early age, but soon her husband deserted her. 

This dealt a huge blow to sensitive and tender-hearted Arnimal. She loved her husband very much and tried hard to win his heart, but couldn’t succeed. All of her poetry is dedicated to her beloved husband.

               Owing to the pangs of separation

                       My complexion

                 This was like July jasmine

            Has assumed the pallor of the yellow rose

 ‘O’ when he comes and let me have a look at his beloved face.

Arnimal couldn’t bear ill-treatment from her beloved whom she considered as the object of worship (Devta). One can find the descriptions of domestic violence in her lines, which showcases defiance, very rare for women in her times. Her soulful rendering of the pain she went through only added lyrical music to her poetry, perhaps fashioned by welling tears that had no succor, endlessly. Thus, she was able to compose the pain flowing out of her and shape it into a sepulcher of all the love, joy, and beauty that lived within her and that flowed for those that wanted to quench their thirst through time.

At last, she got frustrated and was left alone by her in-laws. She returned to her parental home Palhallan and came with these verses.

When will they touch my courtyard?

                 I will place them on my head ‘O’ com

                  For love, I left my home and hearth,

                     And tore the veil; ‘O’ come

               I was famous beauty once and now

            I have faded in my teens, ‘O’ come!

She was dejected and depressed. On the other hand, reproached and reticulated by her relatives. She always said to her colleagues that her husband will come to see her.

            My rivals are flying taunts at me

             Since he has ceased to speak to me

    Won’t he come for a short while and show me his face?

     So that I would offer my arterial blood as a sacrifice for her safety

                     God grant happiness to my beloved.

She spent her life waiting for her beloved husband. When her husband came, it was too late by then. Arnimal was dead. Her body was on the pyre waiting to be cremated.

The tragedy with Arnimal is that her poetry has almost disappeared. Even there is a theatre named after her at Palhallan, but not much is known about her in the village.

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