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Habba Khatoon (or Khatun), also known as Zoon and as the Nightingale of Kashmir (1554–1609), was an important Kashmiri Muslim poet and ascetic. She was also the wife of Yusuf Shah Chak, a ruler of Kashmir.
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She was born in the small village of near Pampore the outskirts of Srinagar in what is now the Jammu and Kashmir state. She was originally known as Zoon or Zun (the Moon), a common Kashmiri first name even as of now. According to the oral tradition, she was called Zoon because of her great beauty. Although a peasant, she learnt how to read and write from the village moulvi. At an early age her father married her to a peasant boy but this first marriage proved difficult, and apparently ended in divorce.
According to legend, one day Yusuf Shah Chak was out hunting that way on horseback. He heard Zoon singing under the shade of a chinar tree, and the couple met and fell in love. The oral tradition describes Zoon as Yusuf Shah's queen consort, although there is scholarly debate about whether she was in fact a lower status mistress or member of his harem. She entered the palace in about 1570, and at some point changed her name to became Habba Khatoon.
Habba Khatun kept Yusuf Shah under her control[further explanation needed]. The couple were reportedly very content, and Yusuf Shah became the ruler of Kashmir. However, they were separated in 1579 after the Mughal emperor Akbar had Yusuf Shah arrested and imprisoned in Bihar, never to return. After this, Habba Khatoon became an ascetic, and spent the rest of her life wandering across the Valley singing her songs.
Habba Khatun composed songs in the Kashmiri language. It is claimed that she introduced "lol" to Kashmiri poetry, "lol" is more or less equivalent to the English 'lyric'. It conveys one brief thought. Braj Kachru states that Habba Khatun and Arnimal "perfected the lol form of Kashmiri poetry".
There is some dispute about the historical accuracy of Habba Khatun's biography, however the songs associated with her (including Mye ha kaer chey kit and Che Kamiu Sonei Myani) are widely popular across Kashmir. Her songs are frequently mournful and full of the sorrow of separation. Her tomb lies near Athwajan (English connotation: Handful of Rings) on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
She has a profound presence in the oral tradition and is hailed as the last independent poet queen of Kashmir.
Indian Coast Guard has also named a ship as CGS Habba Khatoon after her name
- Krishan Lal Kalla (1985). "19. Nightingale of Kashmr". The Literary Heritage of Kashmir. Mittal Publications.
- Habba Khatoon (1554–1609), Biography
- Kashmiri poets: Habba Khatoon