CULTURAL HERITAGE OF KASHMIR PANDITS

BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

CULTURAL HERITAGE OF KASHMIR PANDITS
EDITTED BY S.S.TOSHKHANI AND K.WARIKOO
Review by Bilhan Kaul
Hardcover: xxviii + 364, Figures, Index
Publisher:
Pentagon Press - 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8182743982
ISBN-13: 978-8182743984
About the Book
Kashmir is not merely a geo-space, but is the geo-cultural Matrix from which Thoughts and concepts embedded in (he depths of the consciousness of its people have emanated, giving shape to their civilizational ethos. Kashmir has been a Mindscape or rather an ideogram representing Cultural syndromes whose meanings echoed far beyond its Physical borders even in distant lands. The History of Kashmir Pandits has been synonymous for a Large part with the deep core of the Values derived from this intimacy between man and nature.

Ancient Texts repeatedly call it Kashmir Mandala, a name that encodes spatial and temporal locus in terms of a Sacred geography. The symbolism that the term signifies encompasses both the geographical Meaning of a zone or a land and a cosmic sphere or circle with the presiding Deity occupying the central spot. The Mandala also symbolizes a sanctified cosmic or an ideal City according to Buddhist texts. The Taxonomy of Kashmir Mandala has geo-political ramifications when one takes into consideration the extended sphere and influence of the Valley outside its territorial frontiers. Occupying a central place in the wonder World of Himalayan culture, Kashmir has contributed its serene Vision and deep WISDOM to the development of its unique traditions. Prompted by historical factors and geographical location, the people inhabiting this vast zone have been sharing with each other Religious beliefs and practices, ritual behaviour and moral attitudes, Artistic styles and Architectural features, Folklore and mythical legends through centuries of cross-regional exchanges and social interactions a process in which the scholastic and artistic proclivities and activities of Kashmiri Pandits have played a pervasive role. Ancient chroniclers have repeatedly referred to the intimate historical and cultural links that existed between Kashmir and Kangra, Chamba, Kullu and Spiti at one end and Taxila, Gandhara and Kabul Valley at the other.

The book presents an overarching Study of the significant contributions made by Kashmiri Pandits in core areas of Indian cultural and intellectual endeavours, from aesthetics, poetics, dramaturgy, historiography, linguistics, literature, folklore, Transmission of the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism, Kashmir Shaivism, mural, architectural and Sculptural art. With these narratives on the long Odyssey of the Kashmiri Pandits serving as the perspective, the volume presents interesting and insightful inquiries and scholastic analyses into different spheres of this great cultural heritage.
Book Review by Bilhan Kaul:
Ever since the migration of Kashmiri Pandits, one among many migrations, numerous books have been written by them.Cultural heritage of Kashmiri Pandits edited by Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani and K.Warikoo is a welcome addition to it. The book has twenty four chapters and contribution is from many scholars.S.S Toshkani has contributed much and so has K.Warikoo.Others who have contributed are personalities like Neerja Mattoo, Mustaq Kaw, A.R Nazki, Dr.R.L.Bhat and others.

The book has a detailed long preface by the editors which among other things says that respect commanded by Kashmiri Pandits can neither be admitted to their role of performing religious rites and ceremonies nor to any hegemonic status they supposedly enjoyed in the society, it was mainly due to their intellectual proclivities and activities.

The book’s long list of articles is commenced by S.S.Toshkhani with Kashmiri Pandits and India’s Cultural Traditions . The article re-emphasizes Kashmiri Pandits’ major role in India’s Cultural Traditions.Dr.S.S.Toshkhani is a scholar of outstanding merit who has considerable knowledge about culture and civilization from Saivism to authors as diverse as Kshemendra and Somadeva are discussed with skill.

One significant point which the author makes is that Kashmiri Pandits were more inclined towards critical than creative literature. This is a good observation and is true to this day but as the author points out that artistic tradition of Kashmir received a setback in the 14th century due to political upheaval .That is a point to be noted indeed.

Chapter 2 has very good article by Tej N.Dhar’s “Kashmiri Pandits through History”. The author is at times critical but is not wide off the mark. The author alludes to forcible conversion and the suffering caused in its wake and makes a valuable point that “it looks somewhat strange and ironic that in spite of highly reliable evidence recorded by contemporary historians, some scholars are still trying to propagate the view that people embraced Islam in the valley voluntarily, because they were lured by attractions!”

Abhinavgupta and the Shaivite Tradition of the Sarda Desa is a scholarly article by Rajnish Mishra and Chapter 4 has social structure and cultural identity of kashmiri Pandits by S.S. Toshkhani.The author says that Nilmat Purana can be regarded as a virtual encyclopedia of civilizational development in early Kashmir. Religious rituals and Ritual Arts of Kashmiri Hindus by the same author form the Chapter 5 of the book.

Quoting Frits Staal,the author points out that religious rituals has special significance in Identifying groups.

Mustaq A.Kaw has written about “Some Kashmiri Pandit Historiographers” beginning from Kalhana to Birbal Kachru. The author strangely does not agree with Sultan Sikandar’s iconoclastic purges but adds that Jonaraj’s book throws a light on the termination of Hindu rule.

Kulbhushan Warikoo writes about shrines and pilgrimage places in Kashmir. From Shankaracharya to Hari Parbhat they are discussed in detail. The author has another article on myth, legend and facts about the holy Pilgrimage.

A.R.Nazki has written in search of Roots and the article is welcome in many respects.One it is written by a Muslim,who acknowledges his Pandit ancestry with nostalgia. The author goes to Pak Occupied Kashmir to find about Sarda Temple. The Author traces his Pandit ancestry from one side and that of foreign settlers on the other side.

Rashneek Kher, the poet and scholar,writes about Shankaracharya and some Kashmiri Pandits traditions.The author has grasped his subject well and quotes Will Durrant and Kant.

S.S.Toskhani traces the roots of “Bhakti in Kashmir” in his next article.Bhakti Poets such as Bhatta Narayana and Utpal Deva are mentioned with appreciation. Lal Ded is an obvious addition. The author says that Bhakti Poets cannot be delinked from Indian Literary Tradition. The same author has an important article by the name of “Lal Ded and her Spiritual Journey”.Who does not know about Lal Ded ?S.S Toshkhani has done much through his articles in Koshur Samachar and in this one in helping us to understand Lal Ded.

Dr.R.L Bhat writes about the political content in the Vaakhs of Lal Ded. However,much we may try to point out,there is not much poilitical content in lal Vaakhs either because she was already dead when major political upheaval took place during Sikander’s time or she lived far away where it was possible she remained untouched. But in one Vaakh Lal Ded mentions not to differentiate between Hindus and Muslims and tells foreigners to maintain human dignity.

Prof.Braj B.Kachru contributes his mite with the pen by writing an article on Dina Nath Nadim.The author highlights Nadim’s contribution in forming and changing Kashmir Literature.Nadim,no doubt,was a major poet.

M.L Kak traces the Pandits in Journalism from Kashap Bandhu to Prem Nath Bazaz and to this day.The author says that Journalists like A.N Dhar, M.K Dhar, T.N.Kaul, J.N.Parimoo have left an indelible impression. One thing, however,not to be missed is that our Journalists do not know how to put things in proper perspective post-migration. This is partly due to the fact that they do not know how to fight or are probably trying to be objective without seeing the point.

K.Warikoo sums up the book with his Kashmiri Pandits in retrospect and prospect.

All in all it is a well written contributory book from various authors. It has many articles which are of interest both to a scholar as well as layman. The editor need to be congratulated for producing a fine book.
About the authors:
Dr. S.S. Toshkhani is a leading scholar of Kashmiri language, literature, Art and culture. He is author of six Books including History of Kashmiri Literature (in Hindi), and Editor, Malini.

Prof. K. Warikoo is Director, Central Asian Studies Programme, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the Secretary General (Hon'y) of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, and Founder Editor, Himalayan and Central Asian Studies, a quarterly journal published since 1997. His major publications include Central Asia and Kashmir : A Study in the Context of Anglo-Russian Rivalry (New Delhi, 1989); Ethnicity and Politics in Central Asia (Co-Editor) (New Delhi, 1992); Central Asia : Emerging New Order (Editor) (New Delhi, 1995); Society and Culture in the Himalayas (Editor) (New Delhi 1995); Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh : Linguistic Predicament (Co-Editor) (New Delhi 1996); Gujjars of Jammu And Kashmir (Editor) (Bhopal, 2001); The Afghanistan Crisis : Issues and Perspectives (Editor) (New Delhi, 2002); Bamiyan : Challenge to World Heritage (Editor) (New Delhi, 2002); Central Asia since Independence (Editor) (New Delhi, 2004) and Afghanistan : The Challenge (Editor) (New Delhi, 2007); Cultural Heritage of Jammu and Kashmir (Editor) (New Delhi, 2009); Himalayan Frontiers of India (Editor) (UK, US and Canada, Routledge, 2009).
About the reviewer:
*Bilhan Kaul is a freelance writer and hasbeen a regular contributer in various magazines and newspapers.

The writer has written extensively on forced conversion and believes it to be the root cause of the conflict in Kashmir. A Central Government Employee presently lives in Janipur, Jammu (India).
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