Habba Khatoon- The Nightingale of Kashmir

Habba Khatoon- The Nightingale of Kashmir

Prof. (Dr.) Asghar Ali Ansari

School of Languages, Literature & Society

Jaipur National University, Jaipur, India


Kashmir is not only a land of beautiful scenes and landscapes but it has also been a literary fertile   land since ancient times. It has produced a number of great poets who composed poems in Kashmiri language like Lalleshwari, Mahmud Ghani, Arnimal, Mahjoor, Rasool Mir, Habba Khatoon etc, who have enriched the Kashmiri literature by their spiritual poetry and romantic lyrics. These Kashmiri poets have explored a number of themes in their poetry and thus have made Kashmiri literature richer. Habba Khatoon was one of the best and unique poets in Kashmiri literature in 16th century. In this blog we will explore Habba khatoon’s  biographical sketch and her poetic style.

  • Habba Khatoon’s original name was Zoon or Zuni which means moon.
  •  This name was given to her at the time of her birth due to her physical beauty which equalled that of the moon.
  • She was born in a small village in the present Pulwama district of Kashmir in a family of a poor farmer.
  • Although a member of a poor family, Zoon learnt reading and writing Kashmiri language from the village female religious teacher.
  • Since her childhood she was interested in composing and singing lyrics. She had a beautiful melodious voice and natural talents for composing lyrics.

Her First and Second Marriage:

Zoon was married to an illiterate peasant boy at her young age. But due to the difference in thinking level the marriage was not successful and ultimately Zoon was divorced. After her divorce she started writing and singing songs in Kashmir. One day when she was singing under the shade of a chinar tree, the ruler of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak, saw her. He was so much impressed by her stunning beauty and melodious voice that he fell in love with her at first sight. He proposed her and finally she was married to Yusuf Shah Chak and thus a poor peasant girl became the queen of Kashmir and changed her name to Habba Khatoon.

Her Tragic Life:

Yusuf shah and Habba Khatoon loved each other very much and led a happy married life for six years. But the destiny had written a separation in their fate. The Mughal emperor of Delhi, Akbar entered into their lives as a villain. In order to capture Kashmir, Akbar made two unsuccessful attempts. So, he called Yusuf Shah to Delhi for a peaceful resolution. But when Yusuf Shah reached Delhi, he was imprisoned by Akbar and was sent to a jail in Bihar where he died and his tomb is still there.

Transformation in Her Life:

The separation from Yusuf Shah Chak was a great shock for Habba Khatoon. This tragic incident changed her life. She lost interest in worldly life and became ascetic and wandered around the valley singing songs in the memory of her beloved husband:

My Yusuf has been snatched away,my grief has reached the sky.

A storm has taken over my house, leaving me in lurch.

My eyes long for him, my tears flow incessantly.


Her Poetic Style:

  • Habba Khatoon was different from her contemporary poets who focused mainly on spirituality and the beautification of Nature.
  •  But Habba Khatoon was a broker of taboos. She wrote bold romantic poetry and also used clear language of romance.
  •  Her poems are full of sorrow as well as personal. Her poems are romantic, highly metaphorical and symbolic.
  • Unlike spiritual poets of her time, Habba Khatoon wrote poems about earthly and physical love.
  • She never hesitated to express her love for his lover.

Her poetry is still considered the most powerful because she, in her poetry, like William Wordsworth in the 19th century, used the language of the ordinary people and wrote on the subjects which were related to the common people. Habba introduced a new form of poetry, ‘lol’ to Kashmiri literature which is like English lyric. Thus, in this way, Habba Khatoon contributed a lot to the Kashmiri literature.

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