Kashmir through the Ages

By Kashinath Pandit

Part I: Ancient Kashmir

Ancient Kashmirian scriptures call the land as Kashmir Mandala. Many virtues are attributed to it like the land of the spiritualists and of piety. The term Kashmir (or Kashmir) is variously interpreted. Indian antiquarians consider it composed of Ka meaning water in Sanskrit and Meera meaning dried up land. Herodotus and Ptolemy have called it Kaiser and Kasperia respectively. In Khurasan, the western province of Iran, there is a town by the name of Kashmar. However, Iranian etymologists have not established the etymological construct of the word.

Ancient Kashmirian scholars have, one and all, mentioned the strange mythology about the creation of the land called Kashmir. The legend goes like this: Kashmir was an enormous sea of water and there was no aperture in the surrounding mountains to let water flow down. Then sage Kashyapa, the grandson of Brahma, made penance for centuries in the end till Vishnu responded to his prayers and ordered Varaha avatar to desiccate the vast sea of water. Varah appeared in the form of a unicorn and struck his horn at the mountains at a place now called Baramulla creating an aperture wherefrom water flowed down, and in due course of time, the land began to dry up. The legend goes on to say that Jalodbhava was the water demon taking shelter in the vast lake and was causing much hindrance in establishing habitat in Kashmir. Vishnu assigned the task to Sharika goddess, who assumes the form of a maina picked up the Sumeer Mountain in its peak and dropped over the demon crushing him to death. The mount received the name of Sharika Parbat from ancient Brahmans of Kashmir, which, owing to phonetic change prevalent in Kashmir became Harika = Haeri Parbat in local idiom. This is the reason why the Brahmans of ancient Kashmir attributed divine qualities to the mount and even consecrated it with a temple and the symbolic idol of Sharika. The ancient Brahmans of Srinagar city usually paid a visit to the mount early morning, circumambulated it and offered prayer to the deity. This had become the routine of their daily life engagements.

After the land was desiccated as a result of the penance of saint Kashyapa, he prompted the Brahmans from the neighbouring areas of Abhisara to come and settle down in Kashmir, cultivate land and raise families. Earlier settlers were mostly migratory spending only the summer in Kashmir and migrating to warmer places in the south during winter.

The history of Kashmir, the legends connected with it and the establishment of a civil society in its crude form begins around the middle of the first millennium of Christian era. Ancient Kashmiri Brahmans have had their own calendar called Laukika and later on Bikrami after famous India King Vikramaditya.

If we were to give a scientific angle to the mythological fund stated above we can say that Kashmir was like a bowl surrounded on all sides by the high ranges of the Western Himalayas. For innumerable millennia, it remained filled with water pouring down from the huge glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains. At some time in the historical period, some gigantic geographical changes took place, in all probability a big earthquake, which split the rocky mountain near Baramulla leaving an exit route for the great waters of Kashmir. It might have taken centuries to dry up the land and make it habitable. This all appeared very extraordinary o the ancient Kashmiris who gave it deep mythological colour and the legend persisted. In a sense, we may say that ancient Kashmir is shrouded in legends and mysteries that remained an inalienable part of its ethos for times to come.

Antiquarians believe that one group of the ancient Aryans migrated from the Central Asian Steppes had headed towards Kashmir and the present day Kashmiris are the progeny of those Aryan hordes. Ethnically they are included among the Aryan stock though, of course, in northern parts of Kashmir like Ladakh and Tibet, the people trace their origin in Turko-Mongoloid stock.

Ancient Kashmiris were of Brahmanic faith, the faith which early settlers had brought with them when they moved from the Indian plains into Kashmir. They also brought the Sanskrit language with them. The ancient works that have come to our hands are mostly in the Sanskrit language. The earliest historical-geographic work which could be called Kashmir Almanac is Nilamata Purana written around 500 A, D. Kalhan Pandit, writing his celebrated chronicle the Rajatarangini in around the first quarter of the 12th century, has made a mention of about six Sanskrit historical works that were extant in his day and of which he had made good use of in compiling his chronicle. The bulk of Sanskrit works written or compiled by ancient Brahmans of Kashmir are unfortunately lost to us owing to the vicissitudes of time and vagaries of human nature. Yet as late as the closing years of the 19th century, the great German scholar and researcher Buhler, during his visit to Kashmir, managed to retrieve some of the lost funds and carried it all the way to Germany where it remains preserved in state repositories. Stein, the celebrated translator and annotator of Kalhan Pandit’s Rajatarangini writes in the introduction to his two-volume stupendous work that he had great difficulty in procuring the authentic an dependable manuscript of Rajatarangini when he came to Kashmir around A.D.1879 on the unique mission of rummaging through the annals of ancient Kashmir. He finally managed to locate one authentic manuscript, which, to his astonishment was in Sharada script. Thus he had to engage the service for some eminent Kashmiri Brahma scholars like Pandit Govind Kaul to transcribe it into Sanskrit on which he began his research work. Stein has very honestly recorded that the Brahma scholars of Kashmir who assisted him in his translation, commentary and annotations to Rajatarangini were of great eminence and erudition and without their help, he would not have been able to fulfil his assignment.

Before we proceed to talk about the Hindu ruling houses of Kashmir, it is apt to refer to the reports of archaeologists about the origin and growth of early society in Kashmir. In terms of Neolithic history, we are guided by the archaeological finds at Harvan, Shadravahana of Sanskrit works, near present-day Shalimar Garden on the Dal Lake where terracotta slabs with inscriptions and figures have been discovered beside various artefacts like the hunting material as well as fishing instruments and stone tools. The existence of wildlife in Zabarwan hills rising behind Harvan is very much there and interestingly this is also the site of the reputed wildlife sanctuary of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Gofkral excavations made more recently confirm the inferences arrived at by the archaeologists examining Harvan. Among the archaeological sites of the times of Kushanas of Kashmir —— Kanishka, Jushka and Huvishka —-5th century AD, we have the archaeological fields in Kanispora (originally Kanishkapora) in Baramulla, Ushkor (again in Baramulla in the village of the same name) and Zakura near Srinagar city.

In the British Museum in London, there is a Kashmir section in which Kashmir artefacts have been preserved with much care. At one corner of the section is a placard saying ‘Artefacts from Baramulla excavations; I felt interested in it and on close examination came to know that these terracotta artefacts were mostly from excavations made in Ushkur slopes that form the part of St. Joseph’s College and hospital premises now and were brought to London by the Fathers of Mill Hill who ran the mission college in Baramulla during the British Raj. The curator of the section finding that I evinced keen interest in Baramulla was jubilant to know that I hailed from Baramulla. In a state of excitement, he said that the ruins of temples of Kashmir eloquently speak that its architecture was In no way inferior to the Greek architecture though unfortunately, the vicissitudes of time did not spare them.

The first ruling dynasty of the Hindus in Kashmir is known as Gonanda dynasty. For the systematic history of Hindu ruling dynasties of Kashmir from the first millennia down to the 12th millennia has been systematically recorded by Kalhan Pandit in Rajatarangini which has to be accepted as the essential source material for ancient Kashmir. Apart from the historical sources consulted by Kalhan Pandit, he made extensive field study of the inscriptions of numerous temples, visited innumerable historical sites for on-spot observations and contacted a vast and assorted group of scholars called Pandits to collect samples of oral history. Thus we may say that Kalhan Pandit employed all the methodology considered unavoidable for true and faithful history. Generally, Rajatarangini is considered the first factual and coherent history written in India.

The picture of the monarchy, its administrative mechanism, the army, the civil society, the ecclesiastical institutions and the life under several Hindu ruling dynasties in Kashmir for nearly one millennium is adequately recorded in Rajatarangini. The fact is that Kalhan Pandit was an astute scholar in his own right besides being descendent of an influential house of bureaucrats of ancient Kashmir, has dealt with many dimensions of a Kashmirian lie in ancient times down to his own age in mid 12th century. The church institutions occupy a prominent place in his history and he does not fail to record to which deity, faith or philosophy a particular temple was consecrated. The most conspicuous thing to note in Kalhan Pandit’s history is the superb inter-community rapport in ancient Kashmir meaning the spirit of coexistence among the Brahman community and the Buddhist community. There is not a mention of even a single event of a clash between them over a period of one thousand years or more. Coexistence among the two communities was to the extent that if the King consecrated a temple to Vishnu, the queen consecrated one to the Buddha or the Boddhisattvas.

King Ashoka, 320 B.C. an ardent Buddhist, dispatched missionaries to Kashmir to propagate Buddhism in Kashmir. It not only spread quickly in Kashmir, but Kashmiri Hindus converted to Buddhism, initiated expansion of Buddha’s message to peoples in western and northern regions beyond Kashmir boundaries in Afghanistan, Tukharistan, Sogdiana, as far as Mongolia, Tiber and beyond. Kamalshree, the reputed Kashmirian Buddhist missionaries rose to great popularity and fame in Tibet and beyond. The Tibetan manuscripts of Buddhist times make elaborate mention of Kashmirian impact on the Tibetan converts from Shamanism to Buddhism. Peshawar in Pakistan, the ancient Pushkalavati of Vedic records became a famous Buddhist centre besides Taxila (Takhshashila) where like Nalinda a Buddhist university or institution came into being mostly manned by ancient Kashmirian Buddhists. It will be recalled that the tallest Buddha statue existed in Afghanistan nearly 350 feet high at Bamian near Balkh. Some years ago, the Taliban fanatics destroyed the image by gunfire. Ancient Kashmir had become the most celebrated centre of Buddhist learning and Chinese scholars like Hieun Tsiang and Fahein came all the way across the great Silk Route to Kashmir to learn Buddhism from great Acharyas.

Balkh, the Bhakri of Vedic records, was a great centre of Buddhist learning in ancient times. It was here that the famous Nava Vihara was set up by the devotees of Buddhist faith which came to be called Nav Bahar by Arab and Persian historians after the Arabs captured Balkh and converted the inmates of the Vihara to the Islamic faith. The chief priest of the Nava Vihara was a Pramukh from Kashmir whom, the Arabs, after his forcible conversion, called him Barmak and from there the legendary Barmecides of the western historians and Barmakis of Persian historians. Arab conquerors took Barmak (Pramukh) a captive to Baghdad, the capital of Abbasid Caliphate and handed them over to Caliph Harun al Rashid. The Abbasid Caliphs were utterly surprised on finding the Kashmirian nobleman highly intelligent, sophisticated and cultured and made him his vizier giving him the title of Abu Sahl the Barmak. This celebrated House of Barmaks has rendered the greatest service to the dissemination of ration sciences among the Arabs, Romans, Iranians and the western societies in general. They had set up the great House of Knowledge (bait ul hikma) where translation from Greek into Arabic of the famous works of great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Longinus, Plotinus, Galen and others were made by most eminent scholars of the realm of Abbasid Caliphs. From Arabic, thee were translated into Roman and other western languages and the first impact of the revelation of this unique store of knowledge led to the Renaissance in Europe in A

The ancient Kashmirian found himself very close to nature and this had an everlasting impact on his psyche. His homeland was surrounded by the Himalayan ranges of Karakorum, Hindu Kush and Badakhshan to the north and Pir Panchal to the south also called Kohistani Hindostan by Farsi historians. The valley was like a bowl and the exit routes were only through identified passes which were numbered. Beyond the mountains to the north lay the vast Central Asian Steppes inhabited mostly by nomadic warlike tribes and clans always on a rampage. Therefore from very early times, Kashmir had the threat of incursion from the hordes from the north or northwest and northeast. The intruders used the identified passes called “dranga” in Rajatarangini. Conscious of the fact that the rapacious hordes were in the habit of leading incursion into the valley (mandala) of Kashmir through the passes, King Lalitadittya (7-8th century) had issued standing orders that the Lord of the Gate (Drangapati) meaning the person commanding the control of the passes will be only from the royal blood. In other words, it suggests that the commanders of the passes could be bribed and the security of the state thus endangered. Perhaps that happened when Zulchu the Turkic predator led an incursion into Kashmir. The perfidy of bribing the keepers of the fort by the Tibetan intruder Rinchen (A.D, 1337-38) and the resultant capture by his troops of the Gagangir fort in Lar also was an act of bribery. It will be reminded that Shah Mirza, the Khasha bandit of Rajpura (Rajouri) forced his way into the valley through ‘drangbal’ meaning the pass in Baramulla and after half a century later, the rabid Iranian Islamist posing as an outstanding Sufi but actually a propagator of Islamic faith also entered Kashmir valley through the same pass in Baramulla after tracing his way all along the Swat valley in NWFP. It is no surprise that Pakistan sponsored and trained jihadis fighting our troops in Kashmir also used these passes during the early days of infiltration though of course now they have discovered new and untapped entries along the Line of Control.

We said that nature has been the closest companion of the Kashmiris of olden days. Therefore not only maintaining the purity and uncontaminated status of objects of nature but also raising these to the level of veneration became part of the lifestyle of ancient Hindus of Kashmir. In the first place, they gave proper names to all mountains, hills, hillocks, plains, meadows, plateaus and declines that formed their homeland. Secondly, water and water bodies assumed the greatest significance for them. Almost all of their shrines and tirthas are located very close to a water body. In Srinagar city, most of the temples were built by the bank of Vitasta. The ancient Kashmiri Hindu attributed divine qualities to Vitasta the main river and its tributaries. The confluence of the Vitasta and Sindhu (Sindhu means river or stream in the terminology of Rajataangini) near Andarkot (Abhiyantarakotta) the ancient capital of the last ruling dynasty of the Hindu kings is called Prayag in the memory of Prayag of Allahabad. Specific days were assigned to the worship of water bodies. For instance, Vyth-triya was the day specified for worshipping the Vitasta as this river is considered the manifestation of goddess Sharika. Desecration of a water body was considered a great sin and the Brahmans have strictly disallowed even the smallest pollution of water. There is hardly a stream in Kashmir to which the Hindus of ancient Kashmir did not attribute one or the other divine quality. The classical ashramas and tirthas one and all are located amidst lush green forests or forest recesses in clean and pure environs that add to the grace of the shrine. The ancient Hindus found the abode of Shiva in the hollow of a cave at a height of above 12,000 feet called Shri Amarnath and fixed the time frame for visitation braving enormous dangers and difficulties along the tortuous route. The most unique aspect of ancient Kashmiri’s love for his holy motherland is the ‘mahatmyas’ or the geographical and topographical record of prominent sites, shrines and objects of nature. The Vitasta Mahamya, for example, gives the origin, the course, the confluence and the habitats along the banks of Vitasta. Most of these Mahatmyas have been made use of by researchers and scholars and travellers.

Ancient Hindus of Kashmir had evolved their calendar based on bright and dark fortnights of the moon. This was called Loukika calendar which, later on, was replaced (not entirely) by Bikrami samvat introduced by Raja Vikramaditya.

The legend is that Kalidasa and Panini both were born in Kashmir though they shifted to other parts of India. This statement is difficult to endorse but nevertheless owing to the vast and profound Sanskrit scholarship that prevailed in Kashmir for centuries the concept has developed that these great masters of the language were originally from Kashmir. Ancient Kashmiris used Sanskrit as the medium of expression. However, with the passage of time, it got mixed up with indigenous Kashmiri vocabulary in which there appeared some peculiar sounds that could not be exactly represented by Sanskrit alphabet notwithstanding the fact that the Sanskrit alphabet is perhaps the most scientific one in the world. The peculiarity of Kashmiri phonetics was the reason why ancient Hindus of Kashmir invented the Sharada script which, according to the pundits of this script, represents very closely the Kashmiri phoneme. For example, cha sound of Sanskrit changed into the sound of Kashmiri and a sound into z sound. Kashmiri phonetics accepts half vowels or broken vowels which could not be represented by Sanskrit alphabet. As such Sharada became the popular script during at .least last two centuries of the Hindu rule.

In all probability, Sharada script developed in yet another great centre of Sanskrit learning in Kashmir of olden days and that was of Sharadapeetha or the Sharada institution of learning. Shardi is the name of a habitat on the left bank of Krishanganga which was reached from Kashmir via Goshi in Kupwara district of today. A great centre of learning developed close to Shardi where the kings of Kashmir had built a fort and garrisoned troops in it to disallow intruders passage to Kashmir. Sharda is also the name of Saraswati and in Sharda Maharmya we are told that Saraswati river became invisible and joined Krishanganga somewhere upstream the present Shardi village. The ruins of Sharda temple are still visible in that region now under the occupation of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Sharda was a tirtha, the abode of Saraswati, the seat of learning and a visitation spot of distinguished scholars from the western part of Kashmir Kingdom whose borders then extended to the present day Swat in NWFP. J&K State Archives preserve about five thousand Sharada manuscripts even today.

The extent of the Kingdom of Kashmir at the closing period of Hindu rule was enormous. To the west, its borders touched on Kapisa (Kabul) and Gandhara (Kandahar) in present-day Afghanistan. To the south, the Stadru (Sutlej) River marked the boundary of Kashmir kingdom and to the north, it extended to Yarkand and Kashgar. Raja Lalitadittya of 8th century led a great campaign to the northern regions and passing through present Tajikistan arrived at Yarkand to chastise some troublesome hordes in that vast and desolate desert of Central Asia. Lalitaditya is reported to have carried military campaign right up to Gauda (Bengal) and was known as the most powerful king of his times.

The decline of once fabulous Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir began soon after the ravages of the Mongol hordes, who had captured half of Europe and almost all of the Asian heartland under the command of Genghis Khan. The rise of Central Asian warlords and warriors in the 10-11th century proved disastrous for the trade carried along the famous Silk Route. Ancient Kashmir was closely connected to that trade route and this was her main commercial trading route. It became unsafe for caravans and thus proved fatal for Kashmir economy. Secondly, internal conspiracies at the royal court in Kashmir and foolish obstinacy of the Brahmanic segment of society in not understanding the pulse of the times and refusing to change caused havoc to the Hindu state. Lastly, the rise of Islamic power towards the middle of the 14th century played a vital role in dismembering the two –thousand years old the Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir. In A.D, 1339, Shahmir appeared on the scene and that marked the closure of the chapter on Hindu kings of Kashmir.
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Part II: Transition to Medieval and Modern Age

External incursions

Warriors and predators beyond the northern and north-eastern borders of the Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir hardly missed the chance of making incursions in the mainland particularly when they found that the grip of the royal court had become loose at any point of time. Zulchu, a warlord from Turkistan region led a strong force of seventy thousand Turk and Mongol soldiers and horsemen into Kashmir entering from Baramulla route in A.D. 1323. The author of Baharistan-i-Shahi, a remarkably accurate Farsi chronicle of medieval Kashmir written in the first quarter of the 17th century says that “the chroniclers of the events of Kashmir have not recorded a tragedy more disastrous and catastrophic than Zulchu’s incursion.” Describing the ravages of the invaders, Baharistan writes:

“Whosoever fell into their hands between the boundaries of Kamaraj and the farthest end of Maraj (meaning northern and southern Kashmir) was put to the sword. People who had run away into mountains and forests were captured. Men were killed and children and women were made prisoners and sold to the merchants and traders of Cathay (or Khitai the Persian term for China) who had accompanied his troops. All the buildings of the city and the villages of Kashmir were burnt. His troops consumed as much of food grains as they needed and whatever remained was destroyed by them”.

Unable to meet the overwhelming enemy, Raja Suhdev, the ruling king of Kashmir escaped the clutches of the invading forces and hid in Kishtwar mountain ranges. However, Zulchu, after winding up his mission of destroying Kashmir and its people, took the Pir Panchal pass to withdraw from Kashmir. But he along with his troops was overtaken by a terrible snowstorm and blizzard over the mountain pass and met with total destruction.

As a result of Zulchu’s (Zulju’s) ravages, administration in Kashmir had collapsed into shambles and human beings were nowhere visible. After some time the survivors emerged from the mountains and restarted their lives from a scratch. In a situation of chaos and lawlessness, in absence of regular ruling authority, thugs and musclemen, the Highlanders raised their bands of armed men to establish their sway and carve out their small fiefdoms. They made the lives of surviving people only more miserable. In these circumstances, it became easy for a Tibetan warlord named Rinchan to lead an incursion from Lar Valley and besiege Rama Chand, the commander-in-chief of Kashmir royal forces at Gagangir fort. Rama Chand was killed in the fighting and Rinchan now emerging successful took Ram Chand’s son Ravan Chand and his daughter Kota Rani as prisoners. Rinchan forced Kota Rani into matrimony and in A.D. 1324, he declared himself the King of Kashmir.

A myth has been spread by Kashmiri historians of the medieval period who exclusively wrote in Farsi that Rinchan, after ascending the throne, converted to Islamic faith on the prompting of one Bulbul Shah, a foreigner perhaps a Turkistani saint. The fantastic story is invented that Rinchan wanted to adopt one of the two faiths as the King of Kashmir but unable to decide which of the two faiths, namely Hinduism or Islam he should choose, he decided that he would adopt the faith of one whom he accosted first the next morning. Since the person was Bulbul Shah, therefore, Rinchan adopted Islamic faith. The indigenous historians have one and all showered frugal praises on Bulbul Shah as the first Muslim missionary in Kashmir and the first to serve the propagation of Islamic faith in the valley.

More recent researches have totally disproved this theory and it is now established that false and fake stories have been invented to prove that Islamic faith spread voluntarily and without violence in Kashmir. We have evidence to show that Rinchan was not an atheist who adhered to no faith. He was a firm believer in Buddhism and practised. But it is true that by the time Rinchan became the king, followers of Islamic faith were to be found in some parts of Kashmir, particularly in the capital city of Srinagar. They could have been the merchants conducting trade along the fabulous Silk Route in those days. Most probably they could have been the Muslim traders from the regions of Kashghar, Khotan and Yarkand in the then Eastern Turkistan where Islam had arrived as early as A.D. 680 from Khurasan. This statement is corroborated by Baharistan which tells us that many traders from Cathay accompanied the troops of Zulchu. The story of Rinchan meeting with Bulbul Qalandar and adopting his faith (Islam) and promising to promulgate the new faith is very proudly told by almost all Farsi historians of Kashmir but without quoting the source. There is no dearth of spurious stories of this pattern told by these historians. The real history of the transition period has not survived the vicissitude of time and the concoction has never been verified scientifically.

After the death of Rinchan, his queen Kota Rani recalled her husband Suh Dev from Kishtwar desiring him to resume his kingdom. But the sudden appearance of one Urdun, a Turkish warrior in Kashmir forced Suh Dev to escape once again to Kashmir while his queen Kota Rani managed to bring together the local chiefs and raise some contingents to challenge the invaders. The Kashmiris this time managed to push back the intruder.

The rise of Shahmir

Kota Rani’s two commanders, Shahmir and Bhatta Bhikshana (her foster brother) succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of the Turk intruders and restored the semblance of law and order in the country. However, Shahmir would not tolerate Bhatta Bhikshshana and contrived his assassination. This made him the master of the situation. He roped in many local chieftains and led an attack on Kota Rani in her Andarkot (Abhiyantara Kotta) fort near Prayag, the confluence of the Vitasta and Sindhu. Kota Rani’s guards were overpowered by the insurgents and she was made a prisoner. Farsi historians have given conflicting stories about Shahmir forcing Kota Rani into matrimony. In A/D 1341, the traitor and usurper Shahmir declared him the Sultan of Kashmir and ascended the throne. He became the founder of Islamic rule over Kashmir and also the founder of the first ruling Muslim house of Shahmirs.

Two rulers of this house deserve short notice. The first is Sultan Sikandar the grandson of Shahmir, known to us as Sultan Sikandar the Iconoclast. Destruction of many popular Hindu temples including the Sun temple of Martand and forced conversion of thousands of Hindus to Islamic faith is attributed to him. In the process, it is said that the motivator of his frenzy against the Hindu subjects was one Suha Bhatta, who had converted from Hinduism to Islam out of some grudge against his former Hindu community.

This was the time when some Muslim mendicants from the western regions of Kashmir began to come to Kashmir bringing with them the outlines of the new faith of Islam that had overrun Khurasan comprising the present eastern province of Iran and the lands of Aryana including the ancient Tukharistan and Sogdiana. In around A.D. 1381 Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, a somewhat distinguished man of religion rose from Hamadan in west Iran and accompanied by some of his associates landed in Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Qutbu’d-Din. He posed as a Sufi saint, established himself at the site of Kali temple in Fateh Kadal vicinity in the old town of Srinagar and began preaching his faith to the people. Kashmir historians writing in Farsi have profiled him as a great Sufi scholar and saint, which assertion, however, is not sustained by Iranian records. His Sufi credentials are suspect and the controversy rages among the Kashmirian historians about the Islamic sect to which he adhered to. Our researches have shown that he was a fanatical Muslim whose Kashmir mission was to propagate Islamic faith and not Sufism. His son, Muhammad Hamadani, who arrived in Kashmir during the reign of Sikandar the Iconoclast, had serious sectarian differences with his father. It was Muhammad Hamadani who was the evil force behind both Sultan Sikandar and his proselytized vizier Suha Bhatt. The vizier is reported to have given his daughter in marriage to Muhammad.

The Hindus of Kashmir found some respite during the reign of Zainul Abidin Bud Shah. But when decay crept into the Shahmiri ruling dynasty, the Sayyids of Baihaq, the rabid Sunnis from Baihaq in Khurasan, Iran, had made their presence felt at the court of Muhammad and then Feroze Tughlaq in Delhi. On knowing that the ruling house in Kashmir had weakened and that the ground was ripe for deep inroads of Islamic faith, the Baihaqi Sayyids heading a formidable force of Turk, Iranian and Afghan warriors came to Kashmir and found fertile ground for interference till they assumed power by force and stratagem and thus began the long era of rivalry and animosity between the local warlords and the intruding Baihaqi rulers. At this point in time, Islamic faith had made a strong foothold in Kashmir. Mosques and hospices were erected and a large number of religious mendicants from western regions calling themselves Islamic scholars and saints came in droves to share the munificence of the rulers and their court in Kashmir.

During the closing years of the Hindu rule, a powerful clan of sturdy warriors arose from northern regions of Krishanganga River. They were called Chaks which is the corrupted form of Chakra and the founder of the clan was called Lankar Chak which is the corrupted form of Alamkar Chakra. Originally they were Hindus but had embraced Islam and contributed to Shia sect. Alamkar Chakra had risen to be a commander of the Hindu ruler and was something like the Keeper of the Fort near Sharadi village situated on the left bank of Krishanganga which became famous later on for the site of Sharada tirtha. The descendants of Lankar Chak rallied around them a strong force and declared themselves the overlords of Drav region along Krishnaganga River. Strong and sturdy Chaks created considerable difficulties for the Baihaqi Sayyid rulers of Kashmir and ultimately their most powerful warlord Kaji Chak (Kanchan Chakra) wrested political power from the Baihaqi Sayyids.

The rise of Chaks marked two important developments. One was that the Shia sect attained authority of ruling over Kashmir and the second was it fueled sectarian dissensions and unrest within Kashmirian society. But more importantly, the rise of Chaks has to be considered as the beginning of a deep-seated rivalry between the indigenous Kashmiris and the descendants of the Sayyids (Sadaat) or the aliens who had grabbed power in Kashmir. The indigenous people, with whom the Chaks identified themselves, bore a grudge against the aliens and it gradually went deep into the social fabric of Kashmir. In a sense it led to the polarization of Kashmir Muslim society viz. indigenous versus people of alien origin. This underlying social trend continues in Kashmir down to this day.

However, with the passage of time, the Chak clansmen could not maintain unity and faced split essentially owing to their covetousness for political power. For nearly two centuries, Kashmir saw great turmoil, lawlessness and chaos owing to the absence of any central authority. The local chieftains and feudal lords became powerful in their respective Parganas (counties) and did not pay any heed to the central authority which was there only in name. Of the most powerful feudal lords were the Damras (now Dhars and Dars), Lavanya (now Lon), Margesha (now Magray), Ekanga (now Keng) and Lanjkhor (now Lankar) etc. They were often at war with one another and were either on the side of the main authority or against it as suited their political interests. As the Chaks were busy all the time to quell one insurgency after another, the Hindus of the valley, whatever was left of their community, did not become the direct target though they eked out a miserable living all the time in fear of being destroyed by the overwhelming power of the warlords. This taught them the art of living in adverse conditions bordering almost on slavery and servitude that destroyed their individuality. It deformed Kashmiri Pandits into a segregated, semi-paralyzed and imbecile community that was written off by successive regimes.

Before we proceed with the events of Kashmir history, it is pertinent to say few words about the philosophical aspect of Kashmiri Hindu community during the process of conversion and replacement of the Hindu rule by the Muslim rule. During the Hindu period, Kashmirian Hindus have developed Shaivism as the fundamental concept of creation, preservation and destruction. Shaivite philosophy of universality of creation had made a deep dent into Kashmirian psyche. Great Shaivite philosophers like Abhinava Gupta had brought the fundamental principles of Shaivism to the Hindu community. Humanism, universality and unity of being were the principles which it taught. When the Muslim missionaries —-

The greatest calamity that befell the Hindus of Kashmir, indeed a calamity far greater in magnitude and effect than that what had been wrought on them by Sikandar the Iconoclast or his fanatical Iranian mentor Mir Muhammad Hamadani or Suha Bhatta was the appearance of one Shamsu’d-Din Araki in A.D. 1483. Some historians say that he had actually made two visits to Kashmir in the completion of his mission of eradicating the traces of idol worshippers of this land. Araki came from a region called Arak and lying to the south of Caspian Sea. According to some researchers, he was an ethnic Kurd who had settled down in Gilan in northern Iran. Araki’s Kashmir mission is shrouded in great mystery. We are told that he came to Kashmir on a mission assigned to him by Mirza Husayn Bayaqara, a descendant of the Timurids of Herat. The mission was to bring some medicinal herbs and elixirs from the mountains of Kashmir to cure the ailing Sultan. However, after his arrival in Kashmir, he abandoned the mission of procuring herbs and undertook his real mission of creating a place for himself in the court of Kashmir Sultan and spread the message of Nurbakhshiyya order of Sufis. He had been sufficiently trained in that ideology back in Iran and now, after creating a vast circle among the nobles and the gentry in Kashmir, he openly preached Nurbakhshiyya philosophy which he called Nurbakhshiyya order of Sufis. Nurbakhshiyya is the extreme Shia in their beliefs. Araki said that the first and foremost task that had to be undertaken in the process of propagation of Nurbakhshiyya order in Kashmir was to embark on the massive missive mission of destroying all traces of Hindu faith and culture in Kashmir. He undertook this stupendous mission and executed it ruthlessly. Scores of temples were destroyed by his goons who he called Sufis and Dervishes. Conversion of hundreds of thousands of Hindus at the point of the sword through these Sufis and Dervishes and the story of the destruction of scores of temples has been vividly told by his biographer Muhammad Ali Kashmir in his work titled Tohfatul Ahbab. I had the opportunity of procuring an authentic Farsi version of this work from distant Askardu and it was translated with exhaustive notes and finally published by Voice of India Publication, New Delhi. The second edition of the work was published in 2018. In his horrendous acts of destruction of Hindu community and culture, he was assisted by Kaji Chak the army commander and Musa Raina, a Hindu converted to Islam who rose to become the vizier. For nearly one hundred years after the holocaust of the Hindus at the hands of Araki and his Nurbakhshiyya scoundrels, the remnants of Hindu community, not more than a handful of them, lived in abject poverty, destitution and deprivation and under the fear of being annihilated lock, stock and barrel at any time. For them, it was a day to day, nay hour to hour survival.

Misrule, fanaticism and chaos let loose by the Chaks in Kashmir prompted some Sunni intellectuals and men of influence to approach Emperor Akbar in Delhi to lead an incursion into Kashmir and put an end to the Shia atrocities and rule there. A delegation of five members headed by the well-known scholar Maulana Sarfi succeeded in making a presentation to the monarch who dispatched Raja Man Singh, his army commander along with a large force to conquer Kashmir. After overcoming some initial obstruction Raja Man Singh succeeded to defeat the forces of Yusuf Shah Chak, took him a prisoner and annexed Kashmir which came to be called a new subah (province) of the Mughal Empire in A.D 1586. Akbar ordered the construction of the ramparts of the fort on Hari Parbat hillock that provided means of livelihood to the people of Kashmir. Successive Mughal Governors conducted the administration of Kashmir and remitted the tax money raised here to the royal court. Hindus found some respite during the reign of Akbar and Jehangir who had developed a great fascination for the scenic beauty of Kashmir and laid the two famous gardens close to Srinagar city namely Nishat and Shalimar that exist till date in their pristine beauty. The Mughal rule brought Persian language and literature to the Kashmiri literati and some of the Kashmir Governors like Zafar Khan Ahsan made a valuable contribution to the development of Farsi literary enterprises by the Kashmiris including a small number of Hindus as well.

With the decline of the Mughal rule in Delhi, Kashmir Governors resorted to perfidy and betrayal and after aligning themselves with Afghan warlords, took Kashmir out of Mughal rule and placed it under the Afghans in A.D. 1752. The Afghans Governors were oppressive and tyrannical and extracted huge taxes from the people of Kashmir whom they considered wretched cowards. Kashmir sank deep into poverty, destitution and demoralization under the Afghan Governors. In particular, the remnants of Hindus were subjected to tyranny and blatant discrimination. It was a Kashmiri Pandit namely Birbal Dhar who took the initiative to wriggle out of the tyrannical rule of Afghans. He led a secret mission to the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in whose able rule Punjab had reached the pinnacles of glory. The Sikh troops, after receiving more reinforcement, dealt a decisive blow to the Afghan troops and wrested the control of Kashmir from them in A.D. 1819. The Sikhs also appointed Governors in Kashmir to run the writ of Khalsa Durbar. The Sikhs were considerate in their administration in the subah of Kashmir in comparison to the Afghans. The Hindus, who had been instrumental in getting the Afghans ousted and replaced by the Sikh rule, enjoyed some favours, not all of them but the creamy layers of that community. Neither the Afghans nor the Sikhs undertook any developmental project in Kashmir and went on fleecing the poor peasants or shawl weavers by imposing heavy taxes on them.

The Sikh power was gone with the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His successors got embroiled in internecine wars till the British colonialists finally subdued them in the Battle of Sabraon. Unable to pay the war indemnity to the colonial power, the Sikh Durbar sold Kashmir to one chieftain of Jammu who was also a commander in the Sikh army. He paid 75 lakh rupees of war indemnity to the British and with that embarked on conquests to the north annexing Gilgit, Chitral, Hunza, Nagar and the Aksai Chin and Lesser Tibet to his kingdom. Thus was born the modern State of Jammu and Kashmir in A.D. 1846 founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh and ruled by his three generations till, in 1947, the Dogra rule was done away with and replaced by a popular government.

Post-independence Kashmir

Nearly three months before the formal announcement of the partition of India and transfer of power on 15 August 1947, the colonial agents in concert with Qayyum Khan, the then Chief Minister of NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan) were hatching the conspiracy of launching a proxy attack on Kashmir. The Frontier tribesmen, particularly those of Mahsud tribe were the proxies supplied with arms, ammunition and logistic support. On 26 October 1947, the hero of Uri battle, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, the commander of State Forces whom Maharaja Hari Singh had told to fight till the last jawan and the last bullet. He kept his word, delayed the capture of Baramulla by at least 24 hours which were crucial to the saving of Kashmir. This greatest son of the soil and the pride of Dogra warriors deserve to be given the highest honour of the country.

In Baramulla, the tribal lashkars unleashed terror on the nuns manning St. Joseph’s Hospital. Reverend Father Shanks, the Principal of St. Joseph’s College, of which this writer happens to be the alumni, broadcast from BBC the tragic saga. The lashkars received full support from the Khashas and Bombas of the Poonch-Uri hill tract and once they entered the valley, they were supported by crowds of local Muslims who took in their hands whatever sort of arms they could lay their hands upon and embarked on the wholesale loot of the Hindus and the Sikhs of Baramulla district. Hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs were gunned down in their homes and workplaces. Among the locals who overnight turned into semi-tribesmen and barbarians in their hostility and brutality towards the Hindus and Sikhs were mostly those who we had seen raising the flags of National Conference and yelling the slogan of Sheri Kashmir ka kya irshad/ Hindu, Muslim, Sikh ettehad.

On 26th October 1937, V.P. Menon, the Cabinet Secretary and Dwarkanath Kachroo, the Personal Secretary of Nehru managed to obtain the signature of Maharaja Hari Singh on the Instrument of Accession and on the morning of 27th October, Jawans of 1 Sikh Light Infantry landed at the Damodar Udar Airport and found that the airport had already been encircled by the invading forces. The heroic battles fought to relieve the airport and then the historic and decisive battle of Srinagar also known as the battle of Shalteng was fought in following days in which the invaders met with the utter route and lost nearly 700 of their lashkars. On the morning of 7 November, Baramulla was recaptured by the Indian troops and the enemy pushed downstream of Uri. The fighting first with the lashkars and then with Pakistan army continued for more than a year when at the stroke of midnight on 21 December 1948 India agreed to ceasefire albeit under great and unrelenting pressure from the British Labour Party Premier Clement Attlee. The ceasefire at the line where it existed today deprived India of the most strategic Krishanganga Valley and Gilgit Baltistan.

Nehru is criticized for taking Kashmir question to the Security Council knowing that the Anglo=American bloc was antagonistic to the Indian interests. Perhaps he came under the influence of Lord Mountbatten with who he had special relations which the Soviet Union looked at with great suspicion so much so that Stalin called him “the running dog of British imperialism.” The Security Council passed two resolutions, 1948 and 1949 stipulating that Pakistan withdraw her troops and fighting men from the part of Kashmir she had occupied, let Srinagar administration take the charge of the entire state and then a plebiscite would be held under the auspices of the UN. Pakistan has been befooling Kashmiris by telling them that India was avoiding plebiscite. They make no mention of the first item on the resolution which is of Pakistan withdrawing her troops. Pakistan not only not withdrew but reinforced her military presence and prepared to fight a full-fledged war with India over Kashmir.

While the Constituent Assembly was busy drafting the Constitution of India, Sheikh Abdullah raised the issue of incorporating a clause in the Indian Constitution of special status (Article 470) for the State of Jammu and Kashmir arguing that J&K being a Muslim dominated state feared domination by the Hindu dominated India with which accession had been made. Law Minister Bhimrao Ambedkar rejected the idea and said he was not going to make another Pakistan in India. Home Minister Sardar Patel rejected and, even the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad rejected it. Pandit Nehru resorted to his proverbial obstinacy and got the Act passed and incorporated. Whatever was remaining was completed by adding Article 35-A to the Constitution albeit clandestinely. The roots of the Kashmir issue are to be found in the Indian Constitution and nowhere else.

The rise of separatism in Kashmir

Hindsight shows that Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru made Kashmir a personal question between them. Nehru believed the Sheikh was a secular, democratic and progressive leader but failed to gauge his dimensional political acumen. The Sheikh fully understood that he could successfully exploit the naivety of Nehru regarding the factual situation in Kashmir. Emotionalism in politics and particularly in the politics of freedom struggle spells disaster for the struggling masses. Till the last minute of his life the Sheikh aspired for the Sultanate of Kashmir but he could camouflage his deep-set wishes with tremendous cleverness and subtlety. Soon after Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution, the Sheikh began nursing the idea of greater autonomy and finally independent status for the State. This was strongly reflected in how he brought pressure on Nehru to remove Maharaja Hari Singh within a month and half of signing an agreement with him (Hari Singh) agreeing that he remains away from the State for six months and then his case would be decided for a parliamentary monarchy. Nehru, the democrat and the liberal, had no qualms of conscience in betraying Maharaja Hari Singh and breaking the agreement barely a month after it was inked.
Raising the voice for handing over only three heads to the Union government, the Sheikh threatened to rescind accession if his demands were not met. In June 1953, he delivered a very damaging speech in RS Pora Jammu saying that he had decided to withdraw from the accession of the State with Indian Union because the Union government was no honouring the clauses of the instrument of accession. Nehru found himself in an embarrassing situation. On the night of 8-9 August 1953, the Sheikh was removed from the position of Prime Minister of the State, arrested and imprisoned somewhere outside Kashmir. A case of sedition was brought against him, which, after some years was watered down and left in the cold store.

Nehru played very unfair with Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, who had not only replaced the Sheikh but had with great courage and determination stonewalled the rising storm in Kashmir meaning the pro-Sheikh upsurge. He was ousted unceremoniously leaving behind a political chasm that was never filled. Sadiq’s claim of introducing Indian National Congress meant politically solidifying links between India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir proved a damp squib. Under the cover of progressive ideology, Sadiq managed to win over the support of the Indian Left and grabbed power in the State. Any unbiased assessment of Sadiq’s regime is rather irrelevant because Congress party could hardly any mass base in Kashmir against National Conference despite the fact that Indian Congress, somehow, came to be considered the mild face of Indian Muslim League.

With the death of Sadiq and exit of Congress regime, and also with the removal and finally early death of Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, political arena in Kashmir was left open for the Sheikh. The humiliating defeat of Pakistan army in Bangladesh war in which over ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoners of war and Commander Niazi had surrendered to the Indian Commander General Arora became the catalyst to the changed stance of the Sheikh. In 1975, he concluded an Accord with Indira Gandhi and seized power rather through the unconstitutional mechanism.

Back in power 1975, the Sheikh changed his style of working and planning. He came close to the Saudis through their intelligence agency Al Akhbarat which was active in Kashmir in the aftermath of political developments in the region after the execution of Zulfikar Bhutto in Pakistan and chalked out an understanding of sorts with Jamat-i-Islami. In 1964, Nehru had sent him to Pakistan to talk with President, General Ayyub Khan about the possibility of a Confederation of three states (which meant making J&K an independent State if Pakistan agreed. General Ayyub rejected the suggestion outright and the Sheikh went to Muzaffarabad to garner support for Confederation formula among the PoK leaders. However, he had to return post haste on knowing that Nehru had expired.

Such was the political incompetence of the Indian State that after the death of the Sheikh, the vacant chair of Chief Minister was offered to his son on a platter. It exposed the Union government of its bankruptcy about Kashmir politics. Dr Farooq, understanding that the Union government had no alternative to his party and regime, began to behave in aggressive and rather outlandish manner, which prompted the Union government to react in a yet more outlandish manner in which Farooq was removed in a rather crudely manipulated blitzkrieg and his brother-in-law nicknamed Gulshah was installed on the throne of Kashmir. All norms of democratic handling of the situation were thrown to wind and Kashmiris began to believe that India was using them as pawns. Naturally, it provided ammunition to the separatist’s ideology espoused by Jamat-i-Islami. The Union government failed to understand that by playing tricks, it was strengthening the hands of Jamat-i-Islami in Kashmir.

However, in the Assembly elections of 1986, National Conference used its old tricks of rigging the election and intimidating the opposition candidates through craft and stratagem. The Jamaat had floated Muslim United Front (MUF) as its party but it’s important candidates including Salahuddin were manhandled by the NC goons and the rigged election threw up Farooq Abdullah as the new chief minister and with him the ISI, on the behest of Kashmir JI, jumped into the fray and schemed for armed insurgency in Kashmir which began in right earnest in late 1989 and early 1990.. Ever since armed insurgency sponsored, abetted and fully supported by Pakistan army and ISI is in place.

Kashmir political leadership calling itself mainstream parties like Congress, NC and later PDP all mastered the art of hunting with the hound and running with the hare/ Through double speak and double action, Kashmir political leadership has maintained insurgency till date. They have fleeced India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Kashmiri Diaspora in the Gulf and the European States has played the paymaster of armed insurgency in Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiris have been sent to their graves rightly or wrongly, it is difficult to decide. The security forces engaged in quelling the armed insurgency in Kashmir have suffered many casualties and the fate of the fighting remains uncertain.

The ISI and Kashmir separatists and secessionists working and acting in unison have made two significant achievements in the course of nearly three decades of armed insurgency in Kashmir. (a) Ethnic cleansing of Kashmir has been fully and most successfully brought about with nearly four hundred thousand Hindus extirpated from their ancient homes and hearths at the point of gun (b) Islamization and Wahhabization of Kashmir has been fully completed that has led to permanent alimentation of the people of the valley from Indian connection, and (c) Kashmiris had mastered the art of obtaining gun from Pakistan and money from India. The income per capita of Kashmiris is in the neighbourhood of 9,000 rupees while in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh it is around 900 rupees.

It has to be remembered that the so-called communal harmony in Kashmir, vociferously articulated by the separatists and jihadists, is the greatest lie ever told in the history of mankind. But the Kashmiri Muslim has the art of convincing the world that they were secular just as they have convinced the Muslim world that it was Governor Jagmohan who contrived the exodus of the Pandits of Kashmir.

What are the lessons we need to remember? There are some of them. (a) Unless Pakistan is annihilated from the pages of history, Kashmir and allied questions will not be resolved. India has to change and become a militarized state where the judiciary must enact and army must enforce. Central grant allocations made to the State should be trifurcated for three regions Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu. It means the administrative trifurcation of the State. That has to come sooner or later, and the State has to yield its place to three autonomous regions, each region having its respective legislature and executive and judiciary. A centrally controlled linkage between the three regions has to be established through the mechanism of joint or unified supervisory body.

Finally, the Union government has to remember that the seven-decade-old arrangement in Kashmir is not going to be sustained anymore.

The End

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