Saffron Valley of Mystic Splendour
OF MYSTIC SPLENDOUR
The fascinating Valley of Kashmir, lying at an average altitude of 5200 feet above the mean sea level, is approximately eighty-four miles in length and about twenty-five miles in breadth. The geological evidences confirm the concept that Kashmir Valley was a vast mountain lake, called Satisar. The existing remnants of this vast dead-water lake are the beautiful water bodies of Wular, Dal, Anchar, Hokarsar, Khushalsar and others. The old name of Satisar was replaced by Kash+Mir, after the name of great saint, Kashyapa, who devoted himself to religious exercises to fight the water-demon (jalodbhava). However, some scholars believe that Kashmir was called so on account of the early settlement of a semetic tribe called Kash, who also founded the cities of Kash, Kashan and Kashghar. But this theory is yet to be substantiated by indisputable evidences.It is commonly believed that the present inhabitants of Kashmir are the descendants of the Aryan race, who immigrated from the south under the patronage of saint Kashyapa. In proto-historic times, the probable semitic tribes of Kashmir-Nagas, Pisacas and Yaksas; used to go to Tibet and Central Asia in summer and return to the Valley in winter to harass the Aryans who had settled there. It was Chandradeva, a descendant of Saint Kashyapa, who interposed and restored the rites of the Nila to resist these semitic tribes. This also reveals the close ties which existed between Kashmir and Central Asia from very ancient times. In fact the Central Asian landscape begins from Kashmir the immediate neighbours of Kashmir in Central Asia-Ladakh, Baltistan and Dardistan; were integral parts of Kashmir Mandala during all periods of history down to the year 1947, when the Dogra rule came to an end.The veritable chain of mountains which surround the Valley presents a magnificent and imposing view. To the north is great promontory of Naga Parbat, 26620 feet; and to the east stands grim Haramukh, 16903 feet. Further south is the sacred Mahadeo; followed by the lofty Gwash Brari, 17800 feet; and the mountain in whose bosom lies the sacred cave of Amarnath, 17321 feet. On the south-west is the Pirpanjal range, 15000 feet; further south is the Tos Maidan, 14000 feet; and the snowy Kaji Nag, 12125 feet. The mountains of Kashmir are infinitely varied in form and colour. The Valley is connected with the outer world by no fewer than eight mountain-passes.
In the eastern hills, there are gorgeous little valleys. Between the flat land and mountains are sloping hills in whose laps lie delightful meadows called the Margs in Kashmir. Lower down are extensive tablelands or plateaus which are called Karewas (wudars). Saffron, being the highly remunerative commercial crop of the Valley, has been the monopoly of these Karewas especially Pampore Karewa, 15 kilometres from Srinagar. These Karewas, covering almost half of the area of the Valley, are gaining importance in the economic set-up of the region as they have started unveiling their potentials for the suitability of variety of crops besides saffron.
The basin shaped Valley of Kashmir, surrounded by mighty mountain ranges, has a large area of alluvial soil. It may be classified into the new alluvium, which is of great fertility; and old alluvium, which is of less fertility but can produce excellent results with moderate rains. The cultivators have divided the soil of Kashmir into four categories:Gurtu, where soil contains a large portion of clay; Bahil, which is rich loam with higher fertility status; Sekil, it is light loam with a sandy sub-soil; and Dazanlad, where soil is chiefly bound on low lying ground near the swamps. Other kinds of soils are Kharzamin and Nambal. The agro-climatic response in the Valley allows fruits, cereals and non-cereals to grow in abundance and this regional harmony, with some technological innovation, has decreased the effect of environmental control.The Valley develops various winds and pressure belts leading to different rainfall regions in different seasons. January is the coldest month. The spring, when snow begins to melt, is mostly cool-moist. Summer is humid and warm. However, it is breezy and pleasant in the side valleys and mountain meadows. Autumn is dry and bracing with the maximum hours of sunshine. The people of Kashmir have divided a year into six seasons out of which different croppings emerge. The six seasons are: Sonth (March-May), Grishim (May-July), Wahrath (July-September), Harud (September-November), Wandh (November-January) and Shushur (January-March).When the snow disappears in summer, the mountain streams-white with the foam passing through the pools of the purest silver; dash down making melodious sounds. Kashmir also abounds in springs of clear transparent waters, which are associated with the quaint old snake-worship and form the useful auxiliaries to the mountain streams. Vethvatur, a spring little below Verinag, is the source of Jhelum, which drains the Valley. The tributaries of this great river are the Liddar, Sind, Pohru, Vishau, Rambiara, Ramshi, Dudganga, Suknag, Ferozepura and Ningal streams. The Valley of Kashmir is also very rich in flora and fauna, whose contribution in the regional economy cannot be underestimated.
Kashmir can claim the distinction of being the only region of India which possesses an uninterrupted series of written records of its history. The earlier known kings of the Valley are Gonanda I and Damodara I. According to Kalhana, Gonanda I was the contemporary of Kauravas and Pandavas (later Vedic period). Hasan Khuihami claims to have traced the thirty-five kings, which were missing in Kalhana’s chronicle. Of the early kings who ruled over Kashmir at the beginning of Christian era, Ashoka followed Buddhism; while his son, Jaloka, reverted to the worship of Lord Shiva. The Buddhists, however, regained their strength under the patronage of the Turushka kings-Hushka, Jushka and Kanishka.
In spite of natural geographical impediments and high mountain ramparts, Kashmir had maintained close relations with the contiguous ruling principalities of Central Asia. Buddhist missionaries from Kashmir – then great centre of the Buddhism; extended their work beyond the Hindukush in Central Asian territories, China and Tibet. They bore the hazards of traversing the difficult routes for the propagation of the Buddhist philosophy in these distant lands. Most of the Buddhist missionaries who worked in Central Asia, China and Tibet hailed from Kashmir or had received their education and training in the Valley. Natural calamities took a heavy toll of life as these dedicated missionaries traveled over the fatal mountain tracks. The Buddhist scholars from Central Asia were also provided the schooling in Kashmir.
During the reign of King Tunjina, an impending disaster of famine was averted by the miraculous arrival of countless pigeons. King Pravarasena II ruled over Kashmir from A.D. 79 to 139, and founded the capital city Srinagar. The wicked and cruel Mihirakula who ruled over Kashmir in A.D. 515, killed hundreds of elephants for his amusement. He also ordered the execution of thousands of women, for their supposed unchastity, along with their husbands and brothers. Kalhana has discussed in detail the eminent ruling dynasties of Kashmir – the Imperial Karkota, Varman and Lohara.
Dulacha or Zulju, a Mongol from Turkistan, invaded Kashmir in A.D. 1320 and caused incredible tyranny, bloodshed and destruction to the people and land of Kashmir. With the founding of Sultanate in A.D. 1339, Kashmir became a land of attraction for the Muslim missionaries, Sufis, saints and divines of Central Asia, who came in great numbers and propagated the message of Islam in the region. The foreigners began to influx in the Valley and the territory established links with the neighbouring Muslim countries .Central Asian culture, customs, habits, usages, manners, dress, diet, language and ideas penetrated into this little Kingdom, which brought about a socio-cultural change in the contemporary society of Kashmir. In due course of time a new culture comprising indigenous and foreign elements came into being.The credit of islamising Kashmiri society goes to Central Asian saints, sufis, artisans and men of letters. Internal disorder and turmoil compounded with Timur’s invasion of Iran and other parts of Central Asia had compelled these people to leave their native land and move in search of a secure place. In doing so, they found shelter in Kashmir. At this point of time, Buddhism was being replaced by Saivism in the Valley. The Muslim missionaries found themselves face to face with the followers of Sivism. The outstanding immigrant saint, Sayyid Ali Hamadani, popularly known in Kashmir as Shah Hamadan, who planted the sapling of Islam in the Valley, was from Hamadan in Iran. Bulbul Shah – a well known Muslim missionary, and Shahmir – a refugee from Iran, manipulated the conversion of Rinchana – a Buddist, to Islam and laid the foundation of Muslim rule in Kashmir.Sultan Sikander—the Iconoclast, destroyed the grand and old temples in the Valley and used their plinths and friezes for raising mosques. Hindus were offered three choices-death, conversion and exile. Some of them fled Kashmir. many were executed and most of them were converted to Islam. About seven maunds of sacred threads of the massacred Brahamns are reported to have been burnt and the sacred books of Hinduism were thrown into Dal lake.
The saying goes that there virtually remained only eleven Brahman families in Kashmir, and Sikander, under the evil influence of Suh Bhat- the newly converted general, flattered himself that he had extirpated Hinduism from the Valley. The great King-Zain-ul Abidin’s chief glory was his tolerance towards his Hindu subjects. He manifested every desire to repair the wrongs inflicted on the Hindus by Sikander.The intellectuals and scholars from Iraq also found Kashmir as a fertile field for propagation of their faith. These scholars were encouraged and even provided jagirs in the Valley. Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, who visited Kashmir twice, was the founder of Nurbakhshiya order in the Valley. His mission was to strengthen the roots of shia faith in Kashmir. But Mirza Haider Dughlat, who ruled over Kashmir from A.D. 1540 to 1551, was not favourably disposed towards Shiaism and sowed the seeds of discord between the two sects of Islam, Sunnis and Shias, only to further his political interests.With the advent and expansion of Islam in Kashmir, an interwoven Hindu-Muslim culture gradually began to emerge. Both communities influenced each other. The newly converted Muslims did not give up their old customs and traditions at once. The Hindu shrines and places of pilgrimage continued to be sacred for them. Even inter-marriages took place in the upper classes. The Muslim rulers married Hindu women and allowed them to profess their own religion. Hindus learnt Persian language and attainted respectable scholarship in that literature. However, Sanskrit remained confined to the small Brahmanic community.Shahmirs were replaced by the Chaks, who could not establish any stable rule. With the Mughal conquest in A.D. 1586, Kashmir virtually lost its independence and became the part of a vast empire. No doubt, Mughal rule was the era of consolidation and construction; but whatever was achieved by Kashmir during the reign of Akber, Jahangir and Shahjahan was lost during the reign of later Mughals.Then followed the period of brutal tyranny, the rule of the Afghans. They victimised the Hindus and Shias. Mughal art and architecture was destroyed and razed to ground. Their brutality and cruelty crossed the extreme limits when Hindus were tied up in grass sacks, two and two, and drowned in the Dal lake. A pitcher filled with ordure was placed on the head of a Hindu and stones were pelt on it, till it broke and the unfortunate Hindu become wet with filth. Hindus were compelled to flee the country or were killed or converted to Islam. Hindu-parents destroyed the beauty of their daughters by shaving their heads or cutting their noses to save them from degradation. The Afghan governors used to squeeze as much money as they could out of the wretched people of the Valley. The oppression became so unendurable that Kashmir turned with hope to the rising power of Ranjit Singh. With the advent of Sikh rule, the people of Kashmir heaved a sigh of relief.The Valley of Kashmir had been ceded by the Sikhs to the British in lieu of indemnity imposed on the Lahore Durbar. The British made it over to Maharaja Gulab Singh on March 16, 1846, for a sum of seventy-five lacs of rupees. In this way, the territory and people of Kashmir were virtually sold to Gulab Singh by the British. Thus began the Dogra rule in Kashmir. The present Jammu & Kashmir State was born.The creation of the Jammu and Kashmir State in 1846, through the Treaty of Amritsar, was a master-stroke of British diplomacy in Asia. No doubt, Kashmir never became a past of the British Indian domain, but the British allowed only minimum operational freedom to the Dogra rulers. In fact, the British created a buffer state of Jammu and Kashmir under the title of a “Sovereign State”, to keep Russia at a distance from British India and to counter the Czarist “menance” in Central Asia.In the middle of the 19th century, the growing menace of Russian expansion in Central Asia posed a direct threat to the security of British domain in India. So there was need to create a buffer between the two rivals in Asia. Kashmir, like Afghanistan, served the purpose. Installation of a British Commissioner in Ladakh in 1847-48 was a prelude to the forceful perpetuation of British imperialist policy in Kashmir. The British managed their Kashmir policy with extraordinary caution and subtle diplomacy.History of Kashmir in the second half of the 19th century should be studied in the backdrop of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia. Any move on the Central Asian chessboard had its direct impact on Kashmir. The policies of the British in Kashmir were designed to fit in the scheme of their “frontier policy” in Central Asia.In 1885, the first British Resident was appointed in Kashmir. With this statrted the active British intervention in Jammu and Kashmir State. Creation of Gilgit Agency, subjugation of Chitral, establishment of a Council and finally partial deposition of Maharaja Partap Singh in 1889 was the completion of British imperialist strange-hold over Kashmir. This was managed by the British through their successive Residents in Kashmir. State people’s movement in Kashmir against the Dogra rule started in the first quarter of 20th century.After partition and independence of India, Kashmir acceeded to the Indian Union. But the tyrannous misdeeds of Sultan Sikander and the brutal cruelties of Afghans were repeated against the Kashmiri Pandits. They became the scape-goats of India democracy, socialism and secularism. Shaikh Abdullah strived hard to finish them socially, economically, politically and culturally; because he wanted to create the “Shaikhdom” for himself. For 22 years, 1953-1975, he injected—by gradual degrees—animosity, antagonism, hostility and hatred for India, Indians and Kashmiri Pandits into the blood of Muslims of Kashmir. He managed to saturate the young Kashmiri Muslim mind with the dream of self-determination and independence from India colonialism. Kashmiri Pandits were termed as Indian agents, humiliated and mortified. But then the whole political scenario in the State took a dramatic turn in 1975 when, overlooking the great expectations he had created among the Muslims in Kashmir and whose blood had been infused with Hate-India virus Shaikh Abdullah entered into an Accord with the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, and assumed the reins of power. The slogans of plebiscite, self-determination, independent Kashmir, ect. evaporated into air and Shaikh Abdullah spoke the language of Indian nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. Obviosly he left the Muslims in a delimma. To which of the Shaikh’s stands should they give credibility ? They were betrayed, disillusioned and left in wilderness. Was the ceaseless anti-Indian orientation perpetrated by the Shaikh for over two decades all a gimmick, a hoodwink, just to make a fool of them? When the things came to this pass, the Kashmiri Muslim, long misled and misguided, resorted to violence and terrorism. Pakistan exploited this situation to revenge the humiliation of 1972. This is the genesis of the prevailing terrorist scenario in Kashmir. The role of Shaikh Abdullah in creating this arsenic atmosphere in the Valley is to be thoroughly investigated. Now his prodigal son and Chief Minister of Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, has created confusion by raking up the demand for the restoration of greater autonomy to the State, even though his own son, Umar Abdullah—a non-entity -- is a minister at the Centre. Farooq Abdullah should understand that there is little difference between greater autonomy and “azadi”, which is being demanded by the terrorists.
In fact, terrorism was already there for Kashmiri Pandits since 1947. The talibanisation of the Saffron Valley began in 1989 after their brutal killings and mass exodus. They were forced to migrate from their motherland after 5000 years. They lost their roots, their history, their culture and their identity. They lost their ancient heritage, spiritual philosophy and tradition. Every thing is lost for them and they have not even got the displaced status.
|*- Dr. Satish Ganjoo was born on May 1, 1956, to Shri Omkarnath Ganjoo and Smt Sheela Ganjoo in the Saffron Valley of Kashmir. He obtained the coveted academic degrees of M.Phil (1983) and Ph.D (1987) in Modern History and International Relations from the University of Kashmir. He held the distinguished faculty positions in various colleges in Kashmir. Dr. Ganjoo developed the excellent potential for research and published a number of books on diverse topics of history, politics, international relations and Islamic studies. Besides Dr. Ganjoo was involved in different interdisciplinary research projects, participated in several seminars and wrote about sixteen research papers. Presently working as Senior Faculty Member at the Post Graduate Dept. of History, Ramgarhia College Phagwra (India),
Books authored & edited
Afghanistan's Struggle for Resurgence, Soviet Afghan Relations, Dictionary of History, Kashmir Politics, Muslim Freedom Fighters of India, 3 vols, Economic System in Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Glimpses of Islamic World & Wailing Shadows in Kashmir
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