The Kashmiri language is spoken mainly in the valley of Kashmir. It is called Zaban-e-Keshir by its native speakers as the valley of Kashmir is known as Keshir. Kashmiri is also spoken by people who are living across the border from the valley in Pakistan. It has been made a compulsory subject as a language in all schools in the Kashmir valley up to the secondary level since 2008.


There is ambiguity in the origin of Kashmiri. There is one basis that places Kashmiri under the Dardic group of languages. Another basis places it under the Indo Aryan group of languages. Sir Grierson, in his breakdown of languages done in 1919, has placed Kashmiri under the Dardic family of languages. He has categorised the Dardic language under three major groups – the Kafir group, the Chitrali group and the Dard group. As per his classification, the Dard group includes Kashmiri, Maiya and Rambani languages.

Sir Grierson regards the Dardic language as a sub family of the Aryan languages, feeling that there is neither an Indian dominance nor a complete Iranian or Farsi influence but considers Kashmiri to be a third branch of the Aryan parentage.

The Indo-European languages have been divided into many sub groups in accordance with the geographical connections. Even when Dardi was being used in the region, Sanskrit had its regular impact as it did on the other North Indian languages. Dardi has slowly faded away with time.

From as early as the fourteenth century, Farsi had also crept in with its influence on the Kashmiri language. It has left its peculiar impact with the language in terms of consonant sounds and certain vowels which no other language has.

Types of Kashmiri Dialects

There has never been any serious linguistic research on Kashmiri dialects. Yet it is clear that there are two clear dialects. They are regional and social dialects. Regional dialects are also divided into two types. They are those regional dialects which are spoken within the valley of Kashmir and those which are spoken in the regions outside the valley of Kashmir.

Even in the valley of Kashmir, Kashmiri speaking areas can be divided into three regions:  Maraz that covers the southern and south eastern region, Kamraz that covers the northern and north western region and Srinagar with its neighbouring areas. The main variations in spoken Kashmiri are phonological in nature. For example, Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz district differentiates itself from the variety that is spoken in the Maraz district as well as Srinagar broadly in the use of specific stress and intonation.

However, the linguistic variations are not that significant as Kashmiri spoken in all the three regions is mutually intelligible. These dialectical variations can also be considered as different styles of the same speech. Kashmiri that is spoken in Srinagar and its surrounding areas holds the importance of being the standard variety that is used in literature and mass media communication.

Not much of socio- linguistic research work has been done to study different speech variations of Kashmiri which is spoken by different communities and people belonging to different occupations and professions. One distinction that can be pointed out is in the speech variations of Hindus and Muslims, the two major communities who speak Kashmiri natively. The Hindus use Sanskritised Kashmiri and the Muslims use Persianised Kashmiri to mark the two style differences on grounds of variations in pronunciation morphology and vocabulary that is common among Hindus and Muslims.

A process of style switching can be noticed between the speakers of these two dialects in terms of different situations and participants. The frequency of this style switching process between the speakers of these two communities will depend mainly on different situations and periods of contact between the participants of the two communities at various educational, social and other levels.


Kashmiri has front, central and back vowel phonemes. The nasalisation is phonemic in Kashmiri. The high and mid central vowels in Kashmiri cannot be found in any other Indian languages. Kashmiri has also developed back vowels that have not been rounded and which are not found in any other Indo-Aryan or Dravidian languages.

Kashmiri has consonant phonemes like stops which are bilabial, Affricates, nasals and lateral semi-vowels. It does not have voice aspirated stops. Palatalisation is an important feature. Kashmiri has borrowed a great number of vocabulary items from Sanskrit, Farsi and also from English.

Kashmiri shares a large number of grammatical features with other Dardic languages. Nouns are declined for case, gender and number. There are four cases – a direct or nominative and three oblique like dative, ergative and an ablative. Different case markers are added to the nouns in oblique cases. Pronominal suffixes are quite often suffixed to finite verbal forms to indicate pronouns that are personal.

There are two sets of adjectives. They are declinable and indeclinable. The declinable adjectives are for number, case and gender and indeclinable adjectives do not decline for number and gender. All verbs are conjugated and they can be categorised in different sets according to the sentence patterns. All the verb roots, barring few, end in consonants.

Three distinctions are made in the conjugation of past tense. These are the simple past, indefinite past and the remote past. They are formed by adding different past participles to the verbs. Main verbs are classified into copulative, transitive and intransitive. Conjunct and compound verbs are used quite frequently in Kashmiri. The verb in Kashmiri always comes in the second position in a sentence. Kashmiri is categorised as a verb language.


Various scripts have been used in the Kashmiri language. The main scripts are Devanagiri, Sharda, Roman and Farsi. The Sharda script was developed around the tenth century and is the oldest script used for Kashmiri. Now, it is being used for very limited purposes and that is mainly for writing horoscopes by the Kashmiri Pandit priestly class community. The Devanagiri script with its additional diacritical marks has also been used for Kashmiri and is still being used by some writers. The Farsi script with its additional diacritical marks has been recognised as the official script for Kashmiri by the Jammu and Kashmir government. Most of the books are being printed in this script.


Kashmiri is the only Dardic language which is remaining today with a literature. The literature has been around for more than eight hundred and fifty years. The earliest use of Kashmiri in literature is found in Kalhana’s `Rajatarangini’ in the twelfth century. Phrases of Kashmiri Apabhramsha are used. Among the earliest compositions in Kashmiri is `Mahanayaprakasa’ of Sitikantha Acharya.  The first great Kashmiri literary writer was a fourteenth century Saiva woman saint called Lalla Didi whose compositions are still popular today.  

Lalla Didi (also known as Lal Ded) and Shaik-ul-Aalam are important Kashmiri poets. The poetry of Lal Ded is known as Vyakh. Aalam is considered sacred by the common people. People have great admiration for his Shruks. Even his longer poems are quoted from the pulpit in the religious sermons. He is so popular that a number of his verses are quoted in day to day conversations by the common people and some verses are used as wise sayings and parables since the late eighth century.

Shaik-ul-Aalam’s poetry is an expression of his observations and spiritual experiences. He has got a lot of depth in his verses. He made his poetry the message of his faith in love, peace and brotherhood between all creeds and beliefs. He has transformed his feelings and observations into word pictures and living images. Shaik-ul-Aalam is also popularly known as Hazrat Nooruddin Wali and is much revered in Kashmir.

The poetry of Lalla Didi and Shaik-ul-Aalam represents the phases of Kashmiri language when it was flourishing with the influence of the Sanskrit culture. It belongs to a period when Kashmiris could absorb and understand the philosophy behind the poetry.

Aytar Bhat’s verses also represent the language of the elite of the period of the fifteenth century. This particular period of Kashmiri history is full of civil unrest and chaos.

In the early seventeenth century, Hubba Khatun wrote remarkable lyrics on love and romance called `Lol’. These works are still remembered by the Kashmiri people. Rupabhavani and Aranimal were the other great poetesses of Kashmir.

Sahib Kaul, who lived during the time of the Moghal Emperor Jahangir, wrote `Krishna Avatara’ and `Janamcharita’. A new kind of romantic poetry developed with the esoteric verses of Habibullah Navshohri and Rupa Bhawani. Translation of Persian literary works was done into Kashmiri by poets like Mahmud Ghani and Waliullah Motu in the mid nineteenth century along with Masnavis that were couplets expressing one particular emotion. Ghazals were also composed and received with much appreciation. The legendary love tales of Laila Majnu, Shirin Farhad and Sohrab Rustum became famous in this period.

In the nineteenth century, in addition to Sanskrit and Farsi, Urdu and English also started influencing Kashmiri. This brought about new styles and ideas in the Kashmiri literature. Abdul Wahab Pare, in the early twentieth century, adapted Firdausi’s `Shahnama’ into Kashmiri and also translated the Akbarnama. Another poet of this period was Lakshman Ju who wrote `Nala Damayanti’ and few ghazals and short poems in Kashmiri. The European scholars, Sir Grierson and Burkhard also promoted Kashmiri literature during this period.

Dinanath Nadim’s poems like `Irada’, `Ba Gyavna’ and `Az’ brought fresh life into the Kashmiri verse. He also wrote an opera called `Bambur Yambarzal’ in 1953 that won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1967.

Preservation of Kashmiri

Kashmiri language is very rich in its texture. Yet, people are finding it difficult because of the problem of poor readership. They are not able to understand the Kashmiri literature in its real perspective. This is happening because of the irresponsible attitude and indifference shown by people towards their own culture and language. An average Kashmiri today is not bothered about his heritage or language.

They are comfortable when they are speaking this language. They understand it perfectly well. But when it comes to the written form, they feel uncomfortable and get confused. Most of the great writings by Kashmiri philosophers and scholars are left unnoticed. Hundreds of Kashmiri books are being printed undoubtedly each year but they are hardly read by the Kashmiris themselves. The Kashmiris really need to get their literacy rate up and start becoming conversant with the Kashmiri script.

Article Posted By : tahnaklView All Articles

Tahseen Nakavi Juror

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Keywords :
Kashmiri , Kashmir


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