Dina Nath Walli ( Almast Kashmiri ) (1908-2006)

Dina Nath Walli   also known by his pen name Almast Kashmiri was born in Badiyar in downtown Srinagar in 1908. Having lost his father at an early age, his childhood was marred by financial difficulties. Encouraged by his mother and his maternal grandparents, he did a course in Fine Arts from the Amar Singh Technical Institute. Kashmir inspired Walli so much that, apart from painting, he also explored its rural outdoors through swimming, cycling, trekking and boating. He founded a trekking group and undertook expeditions to Kausernag, Mount Zabarwan and Mount Harmukh. In 1930, he moved to Kolkata. Here he learnt various forms of art under the guidance of Percy Brown, principal of the Government College of Art & Craft at the University of Calcutta. He returned back to his hometown 6 years after studies and started painting. His water colour paintings were mostly concentrated on landscape art pieces in those days. He received Maharaja Gold Medal by the government of Kashmir in 1939, Highly commended medal from the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta in 1940, AIFACS Vetern Artist Award in 1996, Sarvasati Samana in 2004. He was also fond of Sufiana music and played the violin, sitar, sarangi and flute. During a trip to Calcutta in 1940, Walli was spotted by British scholar, artist, art critic, historian and archaeologist Percy Brown, who became his mentor. In 1953, Brown inaugurated Walli’s first solo art exhibition in Srinagar. An accomplished poet, Walli wrote in Kashmiri as well as Urdu under the pen name ‘Almast Kashmiri’ (The Ecstatic Kashmiri), and recited his Urdu poems at mushairas attended by great poets like Josh Malihabadi and Jagan Nath Aazad. In 1955, his first book of Kashmiri poems, Bala Yapari (This Side of the Mountains), was published. His second book, Sahravuky Posh (Desert Flowers), was published to critical acclaim in 1978. He was the part of the modern art movement in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. His paintings on everyday scenes made him a popular artist. He received Gold medals by the government of Kashmir in 1939 and highly commended medal from the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta in 1940. His paintings are known for his unique touch. He was familiar with different types of paintings/arts like Salvador Dalí’s surrealism, Pablo Picasso’s Cubism, expressionism, impressionism, Pop art and Abstract art. He had also produced an album of 12 paintings. In the mid-1950s, Walli was invited to join the Progressive Artists’ forum in Jammu and Kashmir but chose to remain aloof to preserve his distinct style. From 1953 to 2004, Walli held several art exhibitions in India. There were years when he became a recluse yet continued to paint mesmerising landscapes. He died in Karnal in 2006. The only recognition Walli ever received from the state of Jammu and Kashmir came in the form of a gold medal bestowed upon him during Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime in 1939. More recently, the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) instituted an award in Walli’s name. The award is conferred annually on emerging artists.Solo shows1.)  He did first one-man show at Nedou’s ho   tel, Srinagar 1953, opened by Percy Brown.2.)  He did second one-man show at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay on January 1954, opened by late Sh. S.K.Patil3.)  He did third one-man show at AIFACS, New Delhi on December 1954, opened by late Shri Sardar K.M.Panikkar4.)  He did fourth one man show at NDA, Pune, 19555.)  He did fifth one man show at Artistry House, Calcutta, 1956, opened by Dr. Kail Dass6.)  He did sixth one man show again at AIFACS New Delhi, 19647.)   He did his seventh show at Rabindra Bhawan, Lalit kala Academy, New Delhi8.)His eight show was done at Kuwait, in 2004

 

Rouf Ahmed can be reached at roufahmed008@gmail.com