The earliest use of Kashmiri in literature is found in Kalhana’s ‘Rajatarangini’ (12th century A.D.) in which a three-word phrase of Kashmiri Apabhramsa was used. However, the earliest composition in Kashmiri appears to be the ‘Mahanayaprakasa’ of Sitikantha Acharya , which belongs to the period 1200-1500 A.D. The 14th century Saiva woman-saint Lal Ded has written many compositions in Kashmiri which are still very popular. The sayings or ‘shruks’ of another mystic poet Sheikh Nuruddin (1377-1440 A.D.) have been collected in the book ‘Nurnama’ or ‘Rshinama’. Utthasoma, Yodhabhatta and Bhatta Avatara were important Kashmiri poets in the court of Zainul Abidin (1420-1470 AD). ‘Banasuravadha’ is considered as the earliest epic poem in Kashmiri.
The period 1500-1800 A.D. witnessed the continuous development of Kashmiri literature. Hubba Khatun (1551-1606 A.D.) was a remarkable poetess, whose lyrics on love and romance called ‘lol’ still captivate the Kashmiri people. The Ramayana was adapted into Kashmiri in the late 18th century by Prakasarama (or Divakaraprakasa Bhatta) in his ‘Ramavataracharita’. Mir Abdullah Baihaqi’s ‘Koshir-Aqaid’ and ‘Mukhtasar Waqayah’ also belong to this period, which saw many Persian works like ‘Laila-Majnu’ and ‘Shirin-Khusro’ being adapted in Kashmiri.
In the period after 1800 A.D., Kashmiri literature came under the influence of Urdu, English, Sanskrit and Persian giving rise to new ideas and styles. Mahmud Gami, Maqbul Shah, Paramanand and Wahhab Pare were some of the early poets of this period. Mahmud Gami produced note-worthy works like ‘Yusuf-Zulaikha’, ‘Laila-Majnu’ and ‘Shirin-Khusro’. Paramanand wrote many narrative poems like ‘Radhaswaymvara’ and ‘Sivalagan’ based on Sanskrit Puranas. Abdul Wahab Pare adapted Firdausi’s ‘Shahnama’ into Kashmiri and also translated the ‘Akbarnama’. Another competent poet of the same period was Lakshman Ju who authored ‘Nala-Damayati’ and a number of ghazals and short poems in Kashmiri. The other important works of this period include Krishna Razdan’s ‘Sivaparinaya’; Dinanath’s ‘Krishnavataralila’; Waliullah Mattu’s ‘Himal Ta Nagaraya’, Azizullah Haqqani’s ‘Gazliyat-i-Haqqani’ and Ramzan Bath’s ‘Akhnandana’. Pirzada Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (1885-1952) and Nandalal Kaul were other famous poets of Kashmiri.
Important Kashmiri poets of the post-Independence period include Abdul Ahmad Azad, Dinanath Nadim, Amin Kamil, Ghulam Rasul Nazki, Rahman Rahi, Abdul Haqq Barq and Nur Mohammed Roshan. Dinanath Nadim’s poems like ‘Yirada’, ‘Ba Gyavna Az’ and ‘Zindabad Shyamji’ brought new vigour into Kashmiri verse. Rahman Rahi is known for his work ‘Nauroz-i-Saba’. Motilal Kemmu is a renowned Kashmiri dramatist who wrote powerful plays like ‘Trunov’, ‘Mangay’ and ‘Manjuli Nika’.