One of the most respected families in Kashmir, Drabus originally come from the town of Darab (meaning “in the water”) in Fars province, South of Iran. Darab, 280 kms from Shiraz, is known as the birthplace of Ardeshir, the founder of the Sasians empire.
The name Drabu is a shortened, more anglicized version of Darabu which in turn was a corrupted form of the original, Darab.
Circumstansial evidence, though not concrete, suggests that Darabs were originally Parsis who converted to Islam. It is hypothesized that the great Aryan King Jamshed’s well known general, Darab was one who converted to Islam is the ancestor of the present day Drabus of Kashmir.
In 1320’s A.D, Drabus are supposed to have migrated to Kashmir. This is the time when Kashmir was ruled over by Rinchan Shah, later Sultan Sadr-ud-din.
The family did well in business, which was largely in trade of handicrafts, and were counted amongst the richest of the land. However, they were better known for their piety and religious acumen.
Most member of the Drabu clan subscribed to the Qadiri school of Sufism. The center of their weekly “pilgrimage” was the shrine of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jeelani at Khanyar. However, Drabus also have a strong, almost personal, association with the local patron saint Sheikh Hamza, popularly know as Makhdoom sahib or Mahboob ul alam.
Since the late nineteenth century business was below its peak and the depression of 1929 had a crippling effect on their business from which they never recovered or as many old timers say chose not to recover.
This is largely attributed to the extreme dedication of Salaam ud Din Drabu (1860 – 1944 ) to religion. He was very highly regarded throughout the valley and is seen almost as equivalent to a wali.
Even though the valley went through turbulent times in the 30s, there is no evidence of any direct or active political affiliation of this family.
His son, Ghulam Hassan Drabu, however, was openly pro maharaja.This was largely due to his landed interests that he had acquired from his father-in-law, Aziz Mir who is widely regarded as one of the richest men of his time. His father, Qudoos Mir finds a mention in the classic, Vale of Kashmir by Walter Lawrence.
In fact the profile of Drabu family takes a major turn in 1903 when Ghulam Hassan is married to Zain Apa daughter of a zamindar, feudal lord, Aziz Mir. From being rich urban gentry, Drabus are quickly transformed into landed aristocracy. Ghulam Hassan Drabu inhertited Bow as his feudatory Aziz Mir.
Aziz Mir business acumen is legendary as he is said to have made money on every single business venture.Family folklore has it that he loaned money to the Maharaja on a couple of occasions.
Aziz Mir’s business acumen was more than matched by his aesthetic sense which was reflected in every aspect of his lifestyle; be it construction or drinking wine; caskets of which he used to import from Wales. The last mansion he made, is a one of the finest seen in Kashmir. He had even build a small hydro power generating system for his house way back in 1922 !
Mir had three daughters but no mail heir which led him to look for a “Ghar Damaad”. It is said that he once chanced to see an extremely handsome young man and set his sights on him for his eldest daughter; the young man being Ghulam Hassan Drabu son of Kh Salaam-ud-din Darabu. In addition to Ghulam Hassan, Salaam sahib had two other sons – Badur –ud-Din and Aziz-ud-Din Drabu. He had no daughters.
The marriage done in 1903, Hassan moved to Rajpora, a hamlet 38 miles north of Srinagar.
A few years later, after the birth of a daughter, Apa died and Hassan not so keen on staying in the rural environs was ready to move back. However, Mir was keener to retain him, and offered him his second daughter in marriage.
Presumably to protect his material interests, Hasan insisted that his younger brother, Badur din Drabu, be married to the third daughter of Aziz Mir. This done, of the four daughters Mir had, t