As the world on Wednesday observed the International Women’s Day, people in Jammu and Kashmir have probably forgotten Malika Pukhraj, who earned international recognition of being the Queen of Melody. She was born in 1912 in the border town of Akhnoor in Jammu and was considered the greatest Jammu royal court singer of the British India in 1940's and subsequently migrated to Lahore (Pakistan) because of alleged intrigues against her in the palace.
Malika's Abhi to main jawan hoon ghazal has become an evergreen song that she recited 90 years ago in 1927 in the court of the then ruler Maharaja Hari Singh and earned a fabulous award of Rs.350 in appreciation. The reward at that point of time when she was 15-year-old child was not a small amount as with it she could have bought about 228 grams of gold at that time which would today cost more than Rs.7 lakh.
The rare receipt of the reward on one Anna revenue stamp of the Bhaderwah Jagir of the Maharaja was available in the royal record. At the age of 13, she visited Jammu and recited some song at the coronation ceremony of Maharaja Hari Singh, who was so overwhelmed by her voice that he appointed her as a court singer. She, however, became a world famous ghazal and folk singer but she did not forget her roots in Jammu.
Her interpretation of Hafeez Jalandhari’s song Abhi to main jawan hoon received massive popularity and is still relished by millions of people particularly in India and Pakistan.
Malika Pukhraj died in 2004, but her ghazals and Dogri folk songs are being kept alive by her daughter Tahira Syed who recites these on the television and other functions.
It was just like a festival for people of Jammu when Malika Pukhraj along with Tahira for the last time came here in early 1980's and performed in a jam-packed theatre. She also visited her house in the lanes of Kanak Mandi, which is now known as Rajinder Bazar.