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HABBA KHATOON, ‘ZOONI’ (1554-1609)

Habba Khatoon Zooni was a poet and queen of sixteenth-century Kashmir. She was nicknamed ‘Zooni’ or ‘of the moon’.

Habba’s father Abdul was a poor peasant of the village Chandrahara near Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley. Habba was a child prodigy and composed scintillating verses. Her fame soon spread as a singer. When she reached puberty, she was married off to a poor peasant, but was not happy. King Yusuf Shah of the Chak dynasty heard about her, came to hear her songs and was enchanted by her voice. He got her a divorce and made her his queen. Some time later the Mughal Emperor Akbar attacked the kingdom, captured the king and annexed Kashmir in 1587. Habba escaped and began to wander over the Kashmir countryside, captivating people with her singing. She became known as Zooni. She composed lols or traditional short lyrics and sang with a musical instrument. The film director Muzaffar Ali, of Umrao Jan fame, started to make a film on her in the late twentieth century, but due to various hitches the film was never finished.
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