Kashmir & Kashmiri Pandit

In 1st millennium, Kashmir became important center for Hinduism and of Buddhism; later still in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose. In 1349 AD Shah Mir became first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. FOR next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir including Mughals who ruled from 1526—till1751 AD, Then Afghans ruled till 1820 AD. Sikhs followed by Dogras, ruled till 1947 AD. After independence from British Kashmir became disputed land and has been ruled by India, Pakistan, China [Aksai chin and Trans Karakoram tract].

Word Kashmir is an ancient Sanskrit word which literally means Land of Kashyap. Kashyap Rishi, one of the Sapt Rishi’s, was a Sarsawat Brahman. Kashmiri Pandits are his descendants. According to NILMAT PURAN, Kashmir was a huge lake called SATISAR. This lake was drained by Kashypa, Son of Marichi, Son of Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla[Varhamulla]. Kashypa asked Brahmins to settle at the place. There is a legend that theses Brahmins [Aryans] who settled in valley displaced local inhabitants [nagas, peshachas]. An agreement was reached between these Aryans and local inhabitants, where by locals settled in forests. Like we have thanks giving ceremony in USA for local natives Indians, we have same sort of ceremony at Kashmir, called KichdiAmavasaya. Over a period this thanks giving ceremony was reduced to cooking Kichidi and offering it symbolically to Nagas and Peshchas by keeping Kichdi outside house at a suitable platform , a practice done even today.

Kashmir became one of the major centre for Sanskrit scholars. According to Mahabarata, the Kambojas ruled Kashmir during epic period from a capital city called Rajapura[present day Rajouri]. Later Panchals ruled Kashmir, Peer Panchal mountain range was so named by Panchals. According to Kalahana, first king mentioned by him is Gonanda 1[653KALI ERA], Traditional date of coronation of king Yudhshitra, eldest brother of Pandavas. Rajtarangni written by PanditKalahana was written around middle of 12th century. Jonraja, Srivara and Prajnia Bhatt completed this historical chronicle till Akbar’s time, 1588 AD. Mauryan rule was followed by Kushan rule in valley. Kanishka was famous ruler of kushan dynasty. A Buddhist conference was held in Kashmir during his rule at present day Harwan. This conference was presided by a Kashmiri hinduVasumitra. Hien Tsang from china also attended this conference. Buddhism prospered in valley during Kushan period.

In 600 AD Kashmir was again ruled by a hindu king of Karakota dynasty. From this dynasty emerged LalitaDityaMukhtapid, a great Kashmir conqueror. Lalitaditya defeated Kanauj king and conquered North India, Gujarat, Malawa and Sindh .In north he conquered Ladakh and Tibet. He ruled between 724 AD ---761 AD. Art and culture were greatly supported by him and his son Jayatida. Lalitaditya had capital near KhirBhawani .Martand temple was built by him. Around 855 AD---856 AD Karakota rule ended. This rule was followed by Utpal dynasty. Most important ruler of this dynasty was Maharaja Avanti Varman. It was he who recovered Kashmir from utter political and economic disorder. His reign witnessed peace and prosperity. His capital city was Avantipur which he embellished with two temples---one dedicated to lord SIVA and other to lord VISHNU. Suya, an engineer in this period was instrumental in saving valley of repeated floods. Avantivarman was succeeded by his son in 883AD.

After the eclipse of Utpal rule, Lohara dynasty ruled Kashmir. It was during the rule of queen Didda that Gaznavi twice tried to capture valley but fort at Lohara proved impregnable. Queen Didda later transmitted power to son of her brother, Udairaj. From 1089 AD---1101 AD KING Harsha ruled .It is during Harsha’s period rebellion arose because of his misdeeds. He was killed along with his son. When Kalahana completed his Rajtarangni in 1149 AD—1150 AD, king Jaisimha, hindu king was ruling Kashmir. Jaisimha ruled till 1155 AD. From 1155 AD---1339 AD rulers in valley remained busy with intrigues, debauchery ,incessant feuds and valley fell prey to foreign rule. A weak and worthless raja Sahadeva was ruler when ferocious Mongol Dulucha ravaged valley and helped in ending hindu raj. It is is during this period three adventurers, Shah Mir from Swat ,Rinchin from Ladakh ,LankarChak from DARD ,Gilgistan came to Kashmir and played significant role in subsequent Kashmir history.

Shah Mir who was a minister to a hindu king, seized power after death of this king. He is even reported to have forcibly married widow of king. Rinchin organized a rebellion and seized throne. He converted to Islam as Brahmins refused him in Hindu fold. This enraged Rinchin who not only embraced Islam but started brutalities against Brahmins. Brief time table of Muslim rule is as follows:-

Sultanate rule----1346 AD—1586 AD

Moghul rule-----1587 AD-1752 AD

Afgan rule------1752 AD---1819 AD
Then came Sikh and Dogra rule…

Sikh rule------1819 AD---1846 AD

Dogra rule----1846 AD—1947 AD.

Muslim rulers by and large were ruthless to Hindus of valley. They forced conversions and harsh laws on Hindus. This forced emigration of Hindu population from valley. Two kings need to be mentioned here in whose time brutalities peaked; one is SikanderButshikan and other Aurangzeb. SikandarButshikan ordered all temples in Kashmir to be thrown down. Sikander ruled from 1389AD----1413 AD.

A state of Hindu majority over a period has been converted in to a near Hindu less state. What a human tragedy!! Kashmiri pandits [KP”s] who gave birth to a state, a philosophy to live, nurtured human brotherhood are today finding themselves on verge of extinction. Big question, why?

From ancient to Islamic rule one can see that Kashmiri Pandits developed valley both materially and spiritually. Sanskrit flourished in valley. Shaivism and Mahayana Buddhism are other contributes of KPs. People from other parts of world especially Southeast Asia, China came to Kashmir for learning.

Once Muslims came to power in Kashmir miseries of KPs started. This state of affairs continued till Afghan rule. KPs got respite from these atrocities in Sikh and Dogra rule. If Sikhs and Dogras did not treat Muslims well, why blame KPs? It was hoped that in independent India, KPs will have bright future, but no? Forceful conversions were replaced by harsh laws. With one stroke of pen KPs were deprived ownership of lands they owned. KPs which were over 5% OF VALLEY POPULATION IN 1947 WITH 20% EMIGRATING OUTSIDE STATE reached to low percentage of 2% by 1990.Various state govts in power enacted laws to deprive KPs college admissions and jobs under one pretext or another. With land already taken away from them and jobs not getting, slow exodus of KPs started from 1947 onwards. Those living in valley faced all sorts of harassment in day today life.. It was because of their living subdued life that kept them afloat in valley, not because of Muslim brotherhood as claimed by some.

Another bout of vandalism started in1986, this time in Southern Kashmir, Anantnag. Temples were destroyed and KPs were harassed to the extent that they started moving outside valley for safety. Then came 1990, a call was given from mosques, in Newspapers asking KPs to leave valley or face death. Hundreds of KPs were brutally killed and hundreds of temple destroyed/ vandalized, some in remote areas were forcibly converted. This started mass exodus of KPs from valley. KPs got scattered all over India, though main chunk stayed back at Jammu. It was hoped central Govt will come to rescue of KPs but all in vain .Central Govt was more interested in keeping itself in power than helping KPs. Central Govt started appeasing Muslims at the cost KPs.How much KPs suffered during this exodus needs to be seen to be believed.In the name of ‘AZADI’ There has been ethnic cleansing of valley more appreciated by rest of world than by Indian Govt.This exodus can be compared to exodus of Israelis in MOSES time. But there is no one to highlight this modern exodus of KPs having been already abandoned by both state and central govt. Indian public at large has been mute spectator to this tragedy, With some lip sympathies by a few. India claiming to be largest democracy in world failed to protect life and property of KPs’. What a shame!! The day is not far off when world will read about KPs and their fate in history books only.

In the end I want to remind reader about an editorial which appeared in Daily MARTAND published in valley in 1950.Editorial was about future of KP. Narration in article read as follows:---

A youth is arrested in valley on charges of causing disturbance in neighbourhood and brought to court.

Judge to youth: ---WHY do you cause disturbance in neighborhood?

Youth to Judge: ---Sir, we were living in jungle, couple of dozen of us. Slowly people started dying. Now I am alone. I do not know what will happen to me, who will cremate me, so am frustrated.

Judge: ------Who are you?

Youth: -----I am KP.

Judge who was a young Muslim did not understand meaning of KP.Door man an elderly Muslim came to rescue of judge and said, sir his ancestors lived here, we drove them out long back.

A question remains, what KP did to be on list of endangered species? Species get extinct because of climatic changes, natural catastrophes or hit by a comet. What hit KP TO GET EXTINCT----?
*Dr. Makhan Lal Babu, Born and brought up in Kashmir, lived in Kashmir till his migration from valley in 1990. Retired as Professor and Head Neurosurgery from Institute of Medical sciences, Soura, Srinagar. Has published a lot of professional articles, both in national and international journals. His interests, besides medicine, are in Ancient history of Kashmir, Vedas and Ancient India. His focus is educating youth who are fast losing track of their glorious roots and culture.
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