Yash Sharma
(India, 1929)   
Yash Sharma

Yash Sharma is a leading Dogri poet, playwright and lyricist. Although widely known for his lyrical poetry (which he sings in performance), it was not until 1990 that he published his first book of a hundred poems, Jo Tere Man Chitt Laggi Ja. He was sixty-one at the time. The book fetched him the Sahitya Akademi Award. His second book, Bedi Pattan Sanjh Mallah, was published in 2002. He lives in Jammu and continues to write and perform his poetry.

Dogri, an Indo-Aryan language spoken by at least two million people, is one of the state languages of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also spoken in northern Punjab, Himachal Pradesh as well as parts of Kashmir and Pakistan. While it was recognised by the Sahitya Akademi as an “independent modern literary language” in 1969, it was only as recently as 2003 that it was listed a national language of India in the Indian Constitution.

Yash Sharma’s poetry was recently published in English translation by Anil Sehgal, in a book titled Tale of a Virgin River. The book also contains a CD of poems, sung by Sharma’s daughter and classical vocalist, Seema Seghal. Sharma wrote the lyrics for the first Dogri film, Gallan Hoiaan Bitiyaan, as well as the first Dogri telefilm, Tugi Meri Soan. Translator Anil Sehgal points out that despite his popularity as a lyric poet, Sharma “remained largely indifferent to the commerce that invaded the literary world”. Consequently, he published late and many of his poems still remain scattered and undiscovered. A collection of his complete works has recently been commissioned by the Sahitya Akademi.

Dogri poet Kunwar Viyogi describes Sharma’s work as one of “ebullient warmth” while Dogri writer  Shivnath speaks of Sharma’s “inimitable performance and rich musical voice”. While the magic of Sharma’s live performance cannot be recreated here, this edition does contain two evocative renditions of his poetry in music by Seema Sehgal.

The three poems selected for this edition are wistful in tone, redolent with the evening mist and pine-forested mountain air of  Jammu. Whimsical and lyrical, it is possible to see some of the poet’s affinity for music in these poems. At the same time, there are images and phrases of sudden sharp beauty — algae growing across the pond of the mind, for instance – that reveal Sharma’s feel for the literary possibilities of his language.

Particularly unexpected is the note on which ‘An Evening in Sanasar’ closes. An atmospheric poem about an evening in a Dak bungalow with an eternal caretaker, the last lines return the reader to reality with a jolt. One suddenly realizes that this magical landscape is, in fact, situated in a social and economic moment that is far from utopian: “Today’s visitor,” says Rasiya, the caretaker, with quiet pragmatism, “is a minister./ He will organize a job/ for our son, Hunsoo . . . ”

© Arundhathi Subramaniam


Bedi Pattan Sanjh Mallah, Vaasu Prakashan, Jammu, 2002
Jo Tere Man Chitt Laggi Ja, Vaasu Prakashan, Jammu, 1990

Also on this site

Two of Yash Sharma’s poems sung by Seema Sehgal:
Jhajjar Gori Te Tawi Bind Saanvali 
Halleya Thumb Bo Kambeyaa Diya


Tribune India: Review of Sehyatra, a tribute to Yash Sharma by his wife.
Tribune India: on the release of  Tale of A Virgin River – translations of Yash Sharma’s poems into English by Anil Sehgal, sung in Dogri by Seema Sehgal.


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