The Real and Rare Unheard History of Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir, the charming state endowed with stunning natural beauty is regarded as the ‘Crown’ of India as well as the ‘Heart of Asia’. It shares international boundaries on three sides with China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and is bounded by Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the south.
Geographically and culturally, this northernmost State of the country can be divided into three distinct regions. The hilly plains of Jammu lie in the south, the high altitude desert region of Ladakh in the north. And in the middle, like a dazzling jewel in the crown, is the verdant valley of Kashmir.
The history of Kashmir is as interesting as a fairy tale. The mountainous state is traversed by six mountain ranges – the Shivalik, the Pir Panjal, the Great Himalayas, the Zanskar, the Ladakh, and the Karakoram. The great rivers Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, and Ravi along with a number of tributaries, flow through the State. The lofty snow-clad mountains, verdant valleys, rampaging rivers, wonderful wateríalls, lovely lakes, lush green meadows, spectacular scenic beauty, ancient shrines, magnificent forts and palaces and above all the beautiful people have made Jammu and Kashmir a paradise on earth and one of the most popular tourist destinations, since time immemorial.
The Earliest History Of Kashmir (Rule of Gonada I)
The history of Kashmir commence interesting episode, Gonada I went to war with Krishna of the epic fame on the side of his relative. Jarasandha, King of Magadha. He laid a siege to Mathura but was killed. His son Damodara also suffered the same fate in another attack on Krishna at a swayamvarra ceremony at Gandhara (now Afganistan and NWFF). Then the dowager queen Yoshovati was installed on the throne. Very little information is given about the political, social, or economic conditions of the people living in this remote and ancient period of the history of Kashmir. As a matter of fact, nothing is known about thirty-five out of fifty-two kings of the earliest dynasties. Kalhana gave them up as lost because their history was not available to him.
However, one of these lost kings of the Pandu dynasty, Ramdeva by name, is said to have vanquished continent of India from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea under his sway. The Mauryan Emperor, Ssoka (274 BC-237) conquered Kashmir in the middle of the third before Christ. Probably it was for the first time that the Valley came under foreign domination. But this enslavement did not prove with unmitigated evil because the Mauryan imperialism brought with it Buddhism to Kashmir. The Vedic Brahminism had degenerated and become an instrument of reaction, cruelty, and suppression. The ruling class headed by a section of short-sighted Brahmins had become demoralized. A story is recorded that in the days of King Sundarasens, God became so annoyed with the evil deeds of the citizens of Sandimatnagar, the capital, that He warned Kattal, the only good man in it, in a dream, to leave the city early next morning. When he did so, Sandimatnagar was submerged along with the king and its inhabitants. The site of the city is now occupied by the Velour lake.
The advent of Buddhism in Kashmir and Rule of Ashoka
So when Buddhism came with its doctrines of love, piety, universal brotherhood, spiritual discipline, high morals, equality, and liberty for all classes and both sexes, the Mauryan imperialism proved a blessing in disguise and this left a prolonged effect on the history of Kashmir.
Emperor Asoka was tolerant in the matter of religious views. He allowed people to practice their own religions and follow their own customs and traditions. But he also despatched Buddhist missionaries to preach the new creed. The first missionary to come to Kashmir was Majjhantika. Many Kashmiris readily accepted the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Rules of Right Conduct. Significantly enough Nagas, an intellectual class though belonging to lower strata of society, were the first to accept the new faith. Progressive Kshatriyas and enlightened Brahmins followed soon. The mass conversions produced revolutionary changes in the political, social, and cultural life in Kashmir.
The thinking of the community was tired, the creative forces were released and the lower castes received encouragement and secured freedom which they had ever experienced before. It is not known whether Asoka visited the Valley himself but there is a presumption that he did because it was he who for the first time laid the foundations of the present city of Srinagar at the site which is now known by the name of Pandrethan. He also built many viharas and stupas in the Valley. After the death of Asoka Kashmir appears to have regained her independence.
He was succeeded by Jalauka whom Kalhana states to be the son of the former. But in Indian history there is no mention of a son of Asoka by that name; therefore Jalauka was probably a native king of the Valley. During the reign of Jalauka, Buddhism suffered a reverse in the beginning but later on, he was converted to the new faith and built viharas for the bhikshus. Jalauka patronized learning and established Constitutional Government on firm foundations by introducing a Council of Ministers consisting of: the Chief Justice, the Superintendent of Revenue, the Treasurer, the Chief of the Army, the Envoy, the Pontiff, the Astrologer, Jalauka also created eighteen departments of State to administer the country in an organized manner.
The Impression of Kushans in Kashmir
The Kushans came to power in India at the beginning of the Christian era and the history of Kashmir witnessed a new era in terms of religious conceptions. Having conquered the whole of Northern India including Gandhara, Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan, they brought Kashmir too under their sway. Kanishka (78-123 A.C.) was the most powerful of the Kushans who embraced Buddhism. He was enamored of Kashmir and not infrequently held his court in the Valley. The chief event of his reign recorded in Buddhist chronicles is a general assembly of the Sangha convened by him under the presidentship of Nagarjuna to settle the strife between the contending Buddhist sects. The meeting place was Kandalvan, a monastery near Shalimar. It was attended by five hundred monks and arhats who came from all parts of India and made an exhaustive examination of all authoritative Buddhist literature. The assembly compiled elaborate decisions including a work called the Mahavibhasha.
The canons of the faith as formulated by the assembly were inscribed on copper plates and were deposited in stone boxes. Then they were put underground and a stupa was built by the Emperor’s order over it, The place known to be near Srinagar has not been located so far. Though Vedie religion existed side by side, Buddhism was most popular in the valley during the Kushan period, Kalhana says that Bodhisattva Nagarjuna was virtually the “sole supreme ruler of the land.” To such an extent was politics dominated by religion. It was an era of peace and progress. The Buddhist kings were lovers of learn- ing, art, and architecture. They built thousands of viharas, stupas, monasteries, and sacred cupolas. Kanishka was succeeded by his sons Havishka (123 A.C.) and Jushka (140 A.C.) who also built cities in their own names.
Revivalism of Brahmanism in Kashmir
With the end of Kushan rule in 178, A.C. Buddhism received a set-back in Kashmir and the history of Kashmir was painted with the colors of Brahmanism. For more than four hundred years the new faith had led the country in awakening the common people and arousing a spirit of defiance in them against obscurantism and social injustice. A dynamic society of free men had taken birth which was absorbed in making original contributions to philosophy, literature, arts, architecture, and science,
But the reactionaries were not altogether dead. With the rise of the Gonanda dynasty at the end of Kushan rule a reaction definitely set in against Buddhism and attempts were made to revive Brahminism. It must be remembered that by now Buddhism had become corrupt and the Mahayana cult had changed the complexion of the original doctrine to such an extent as to make it almost indistinguishable from Brahminism. That facilitated the task of the opponents who started a campaign to liquidate the libertarian creed of Gautama.
But it appears that among the critics of Buddhism were not only reactionary Brahmins but also progressive intellectuals who were not prepared to surrender the social and spiritual liberties that Buddhism had ushered in the Valley. While the former wanted to put the hands of the clock of progress back and revive the social, political and religious conditions that prevailed in the country during the pre-Buddhist days, the progressives saw that not only was it impossible to deprive the people of those liberties in social, political, religious, and intellectual spheres which the Buddhist era had established but that any attempt to do so would prove disastrous.
Some of the kings of the Gonanda dynasty under the reactionary Brahmins persecuted Buddhists. One of them, King Nara, the sixth in the line, is said: “to have burnt down thousands of viharas”. This was against the sacred traditions and Jaboriously built the culture of the people. There ensued strife, civil war, and unrest.
In such disturbing conditions, as misfortune would have it, an unscrupulous cruel barbarian appeared on the scene who worked havoc in the valley. He was Mihirgpula, the Hun. With the decline of the Gupta Empire in India, the Huns consolidated their power in northern India. Tormana, the Hun king, appears to have been a sagacious ruler. But his son Mihirgula proved a fiend. He relentlessly slaughtered and persecuted his Buddhist subjects which aroused the kings of India to combine and attack him.
The confederation headed by Baladitya and Yashodharman defeated the Hun army and Mihirgula was taken, prisoner. The chivalrous victors, however, generously released him and allowed him to go into exile. To what other places would Mihirgula repair but Kashmir which has always been a refuge for the persecuted and sanctuary for the criminal. Possibly he had also heard of the anti-Buddhist activities which the Kashmir king countenanced that prompted him to go to the valley. But “Mihirgula’s brutal character was not bettered by Baladitya’s magnanimity,” writes: Havell. “He took shelter in Kashmir where the raja protected him and gave him and his retinue a small appanage for their maintenance.
But at the first opportunity he made a treacherous attack upon his benefactor, seized the kingdom for himself and with the augmented strength which success always brings to tyrants of criminal propensities next invaded Gandhara”.! There the royal family was exterminated, thousands of non-combatants were massacred, the magnificent Buddhist viharas and monasteries were plundered by his hordes and laid in ruins.
One can imagine what must have been the lot of Buddhists and freedom-loving people in the history of Kashmir when the valley was overrun by barbarians during the time of Mihirgula. It is said that “people knew the approach of the Hun armies by the vultures and crows which flew ahead of them.” Kashmiris called Mihirgula by the name of Trikotiha (slayer of three crores) and Kalhana says that he was “the terrible enemy of mankind (who) had no pity for children, no compassion for women, no respect for the aged”.
Once while returning from an expedition an elephant slipped on the Pir Panjal range near Aliabad Sarai and the poor beast fell down the precipice. The dying animal gave a shriek which so pleased Mihirgula that he got all the hundred elephants in the camp pushed down the mountain one by one. The place is called Hastivanj and local people still point out the ridge where the savage king amused himself.
It is interesting to note that Mihirgula favored a class of Brahmins and built temples to please them. “Evil minded as the tyrant was”, says Kalhana, “he yet sought to win religious merit by building Shaiva shrines and endowing Brahmins with monasteries which the lowest of the twice-born (Brahmins), as vile as their protector, did not disdain to accept’? Who could these vile creatures among the Brahmins be excepting those who detested the revolution that had been brought about by Buddhism in the social, spiritual and intellectual life of Kashmir and who wanted to take the country back to the pre-Buddhism period?
Overpowered by the sense of his own innumerable misdeeds and the awareness of the opposition of the better mind of Kashmir Mihirgula committed suicide circa 530 A.C. After Mihirgula the kings of the Gonanda dynasty were restored to the throne. But the bitter experiences at the hands of the cruel Hun awakened in the people of Kashmir an undying urge for freedom and this marks the first instance of the concept of freedom in the history of Kashmir. Unbridled despotism and divine claims of the kings came under severe censure and rebuke of the people. A Council of Ministers was therefore established to keep a strict watch over the powers of the monarchs. A convention of revolutionary significance in the history of Kashmir people’s:
struggle for freedom was laid down according to which the king could be disposed of or even line of accession altered when the interests of the state or its people demanded it. This was a: remarkable step. Under the influence of the progressive intellectuals, the Kashmiris proclaimed and actually asserted the so sovereignty of the people. The theory of state parallel to that of the divine right of kings was born. Thus the last of the Gonanda dynasty. Yudhishthira I, was expelled from his kingdom for misconduct! and an outsider Pratapaditya was invited to occupy the throne and assume the rulership for the progress and prosperity of the people. This again brought Kashmir under foreign rule and the suzerainty of Vikramaditya of Ujjain.
192 Year Rule of Vikramaditya and Restoration of Gonanda Dynasty
The Vikramaditya dynasty ruled Kashmir for 192 years: Jayendra, the last of the dynasty, attempted to become a despot, and though his Prime Minister Sandhimati resisted his arbitrary conduct the king continued his misdeeds. Ultimately Jayendra was dethroned by the will of the people and Sandhimati consented to the prayer of the citizens to rule the country.”
This change restored the Gonanda dynasty to the throne which remained in power till the last of the line Baladitya died issueless. The dynasty had become extinct, a prince Durlabhvardhan of the Karkota line was installed on the throne of Kashmir.
The centuries that followed the accession to the throne of Sandhimati witnessed the golden period in the early ages of the history of Kashmir. The conflict between Buddhism and Brahminism had been resolved by the most intelligent method of fusion of the two cultures which flowered in the Shaivite philosophy containing positive achievements of both. The acceptance of the new philosophy by the intellectuals as well as by the masses resulted in the rout of the reactionary Brahmins.
It was in this period that the history of Kashmir witnessed advancement in literature and skills. Kashmiris produced the noblest of literature in many branches of knowledge. They became famous all over Asia as the most cultured race and teachers of humanity. The learned Kashmiris traveled all over the Subcontinent, went to Tibet, China, and abroad overseas preaching the gospel of Buddhism or the philosophy of the new creed Shaivism that they had founded at home.
The architecture and sculpture of this period are magnificent and virile. Noble in design and glorious in execution it can favorably compare with architectural achievements of this age in any other civilized part of the world. And lastly it was in this period that the kings of Kashmir excelled as conquerors and proved that they were gifted with the ability to successfully command big armies and that Kashmiris were as brave at wielding arms as they were intelligent in evolving ideas. Hieun Tsiang, Chinese traveler, who visited the valley in 631-33 A.C. wrote: “Kashmiris loved learning and were well instructed”.
It is beyond the scope imagination to describe in detail the events, however interesting they may be, of the various rules of the Gonanda (restored) and the Karkota or the Naga dynasties till Avantivarman ascended the throne in 857 A.C. But mention may be made of King Meghvahana, who ruled gloriously for 34 years. He was a staunch believer in non-violence and forbade the slaughtering of birds and animals in his kingdom. He was such a zealot in the spread of his creed that he went on an expedition, conquered many countries, including the far distant Ceylon and inflicted the ideology of non-violence on the kings and the peoples of the conquered Jands. Other notable monarchs were Praversena I who laid the foundations of the city of Srinagar at the present site and built the first bridge across Vitasta (Jhelum); Matri Gupta, the poet, who assumed rulership under curious conditions as a protege of Vikramaditya of Ujjain; Durlabhvardhan in whose time the renowned Chinese traveler Hieun Tsiang visited the valley and lived in it for two years; Durlabhaka also called Pratapaditya who built Pratapapur (modern Tapar) with its magnificent edifices and temples, and Jayapida who founded Jayapur (modern Anderkot).
Lalitaditya – Most Famous King
The most famous of all the kings in the history of Kashmir is Lalitaditya, also called Muktapida, who ruled Kashmir for 37 years from 695-732 A.C. The country having progressed and prospered by the benefit of more or less good administration for a long period, Lalitaditya raised a big army and trained and organised it for warfare outside Kashmir.
He then led several expeditions to northern, eastern and central India subduing, among others, Yasovarman, king of Kanya Kubja (Kanauj) in 720 A.C. He received tribute from the eastern kings and wore the turban of victory in the Antarvedi or the region between the Ganga and the Jamuna.
The land of Kanauj from the banks of the Jamuna to the banks of the Kalika came under his sway as if it had been a yard attached to his house. A little later Lalitaditya seized all the elephants in the kingdom of Gaudas(Bengal). He went on conquering one kingdom after another of the southern peninsula: including the “seven Konkans” and the regions to the west. Having brought Bharat Varsha under his sway, Lalitaditya turned his attention towards north-west and trans-Indian regions bordering on Kashmir.
He conquered one after another Purushpura, Taxila, and Gandhara. He proceeded further into Bukhara and Turkistan defeating small and big kings in the way and returned by the north subduing the rulers of Dardistan (modern Gilgit) and Baltistan. The countries lying adjacent to Kashmir such as Jammu, Kashtwat, (Kishtwar), Parnotsa (Poonch), and Rajapuri (Rajouri) were annexed by Lalitaditya to his kingdom but with others, he was content to make them own him as their overlord. Lalitaditya was not only a great and good ruler, but he was also a brilliant and generous victor. Generally, he treated the vanquished rulers with kindness. Except when they were insubordinate or disloyal he never attempted to humiliate them.
Lalitaditya carried on the expeditions of conquest till the very end of his days. Indeed it is said that he disappeared on the Zojila pass while he was returning from one of these expeditions which he led towards Aryanaka (Persia). He remained absent from the country most of the time and it is remarkable that Kashmir was well-governed according to to.the standard of that time by the council of ministers as there was neither any discontent among the people nor any attempt at the usurpation of the throne. Kalhana says that the king’s Prime Minister, Shankuna, filled his treasury with gold with his magical powers,
This shows that the country must have been prosperous enough to enable the Government to collect huge revenue for the State. But this prosperity was confined to the upper classes and the condition of the exploited masses did not differ in essential respects from serfdom. While the courtiers had “fried meats” and “delightful light wine cooled with ice and perfumed with flowers” the food of the common people was, rice and Haakh (Sanskrit Shaka).
In one of his expeditions Lalitaditya met Bhavabhuti the famous poet of Vidharba- A lover of learning, the king brought him to his court. Lalitaditya was not without blemishes in his character. He was a drunkard and would commit acts of folly and injustice when under the influence of liquor. It is related that in one such moment while living at Parihaspura, a city built by himself, he caused the king of Gaudas (Bengal) to be murdered in Trigami. Lalitaditya governed Kashmir adopting machiavellian principles, making him as one of the most prolific leaders in the history of Kashmir. In a kind of instrument of instructions to his council of ministers, he is reported to have observed, that “those, who dwell there in the mountains difficult of access, should be punished even if they give no offense; because sheltered by these fastnesses, they are difficult to break up if they have accumulated wealth.
Every care should be taken that people in the villages should not be left with more food supply than required for the year’s consumption, or more oxen than wanted for the tillage of the fields, because, if they keep more wealth, they would become ina single year very formidable Damaras (feudal lords) and strong enough to neglect the commands of the kings”.? Lalitaditya was of the view that cultivator’s style of living must be lower than that of the city dweller, that offices should not be held by family cliques and that troops should not be raised from a single district. Some of the views are doubtless anti-social, reactionary and unbecoming of the great monarch that Lalitaditya was. Possibly the prosperous conditions of the feudal lords frightened him; possibly he needed more and more money for his military exploits. But, in any case, such views about the administration have to some extent neutralized the great achievements to the credit of the famous king.
Lalitaditya introduced certain constitutional reforms and created new offices of High Chamberlain, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Master of the Horses, Keeper of the Treasury and Chief Executive Officer in addition to the old ones. For the first time in the history of the valley, he executed drainage works on an extensive scale which brought large fertile tracts of land out of water for cultivation. Consequently,food supply became abundant.
From Kushan times the people of Kashmir were closely associated with the people of Gandhara and other lands in the north. It appears that Lalitaditya and his predecessors had family connections with the Hindu Turks of this region. His Prime Minister, Shankuna, and some other highly placed officials belonged to these countries.
Lalitaditya was a great builder. Wherever he went he built towns and cities and erected temples in them dedicated to different deities. At the successful completion of each expedition, he would either lay the foundation of a new town or get a temple constructed. He was a Shaivite by faith but evinced equal regard for Buddhism. “He is the most conspicuous figure in the history of Kashmir”, writes Sufi “He raised his country to a pitch of glory it had never reached before. The ruins of the temple at Martanda about five miles from Anantnag or Islamabad, and of his city, Parihaspura, fourteen miles from Srinagar, bear eloquent testimony to his greatness”.”
The great nation remembered Lalitaditya for many centuries after his death and he had had a firm impression on the history of Kashmir. Alberuni, the famous Muslim traveller who accompanied Mahmud Gaznavi (first Muslim invader in the history of Kashmir) in the eleventh century, records that the Kashmiris of his time celebrated the ally certain day as the festival in commemoration of Lalitaditya’s victories, Lalitaditya’s successors proved to be selfish, greedy and incapable men. They were puppets in the hands of the feudal lords who were all the time quarreling with each other.
The Awantivarman’s Rule
Within half a century, one by one all these countries which had been annexed by the great conqueror declared their independence, which would not be regrettable. But the misfortune was that inside Kashmir there was disorder due to maladministration and misgovernment. Fortunately, at such a juncture another great king in the history of Kashmir ascended the throne in 855 A.C. He was Avantivarman who should be considered noblest of all the rulers in the history of Kashmir because his greatest ambition was to raise the people culturally and socially and he did not aspire to be a conqueror at the cost of the progress of his own homeland.
In Avantivarman’s time, the valley was inundated and water-logged so that very small area of land was available for cultivation. Floods and famines had become annual visitations and people were dying by hundreds for want of food. Wisely did Avantivarman devote his sole attention to the economic condition of the people. Fortunately, the king secured the services of a genius in Engineering named Surya. The parentage of this great man is unknown. Probably he was an illegitimate child of some unfortunate woman as he was found in a new earthen pot with a lid in a dust heap on the street by a Chandala (outcaste) woman who adopted him. Surya’s deep and wide knowledge of irrigation engineering enabled him to rightly attribute the cause of flood to the silt which had accumulated at the bed of Vitasta below Baramulla where the river leaves the valley and enters the rocks. He, therefore, got the silt cleared and also drained a large part of the Vitasta.
He raised solid stone embankments on either side of the river, wherever needed. Having successfully completed this work of primary importance, Suyya next devoted his energies to framing other irrigation projects for the welfare of the people. He diverted the rivers and “after examining various kinds of soil, he supplied the villages with water of viaducts from the river removing their dependence solely on rain.”!
Thus a vast area of culturable land was reclaimed and the people got plenty of food to eat. Within a decade he changed the face of the valley from a miserable-looking and poverty-stricken country to a prosperous land. Kalhana says that the paddy which was sold for 1050 dinnars a khari (khirwar or about two maunds) previously became available at 36 dinnars a khari after Suyya had executed his marvelous schemes of engineering. Even during times of great abundance the purchase price of a khari of paddy had been two hundred dinars in the valley.
Surya’s services in the history of Kashmir have never been properly and fittingly evaluated. He was one of the truly great personalities of the times of whom Kashmiris can rightly feel proud. He was of doubtful birth, an adopted son of a poor outcast girl. All haughty, high-brow men and powerful exploiters in the society were bent upon opposing and foiling him. It is not surprising that when he presented his plan to Avantivarman the courtiers with one voice derisively commented upon it. He was considered crazy. Reactionary Brahmins particularly were determined to destroy him. They could not brook to see a low- caste man doing work that only a genius could accomplish. But Surya firmly stood his ground and through sheer perseverance ultimately won.
Even after he had achieved success his opponents presented his schemes in a clumsy and grotesque manner. They said that the Engineer took boat-loads of money to places of ‘Vitasta and dropped heaps of coins into the river so that famished and stricken people in their attempts to find the sunken wealth would desilt the river. It was nothing of the sort. Surya’s plans were based on sound principles of Engineering and he proved to be the master craftsman to carry them out. Doubtless, he spent huge sums on drainage which proved to be a wise investment in the long run. His opponents declared it to be waste like throwing money into water. It must however be acknowledged that Avantivarman possessed the fair sense of recognising merit wherever he found it. That helped Suyya and enabled him to perform his wonderful feats.
In recognition of his services to the State a town was founded in the name of the Great Engineer. It is called Suyyapur (modern Sopore).
When the economic condition of the people was improved and order restored in the country, Avantivarman bestowed his attention upon the revival of Art and Architecture. He founded the town of Avantipura and built two temples near it. He attracted men of learning to his court. Eminent among them were Shivaswamin, Ratnakara, Anandvardhan and Kallata Bhat.
With the death of Avantivarman in 884 A.C., a long dark age started in the history of Kashmir. History of almost all those who succeeded to the rulership of the country till finally, the Hindu monarchs became extinct, is a black record of shameful deeds hardly ever relieved by any silver line of meritorious action.
There is nothing notable to mention during this period except that a powerful, ambitious but unscrupulous queen Didda, daughter of the Shahi dynasty of Gandhara, ruled the country from 980-1003 A.C., As a matter of fact, she was at the helm of political affairs for nearly half a century. She was the power behind the throne when from 950-58 A.C. her husband Kshemgupta ruled. She became Regent from 958-72 while her minor son Abhimanyu was nominally on the throne. She ultimately became the ruler in 980 A.C. in her own right after she got her two minor grandsons Nandigupta (972-73 A.C.) “island Tribhuvana (973-975 A.C.) secretly assassinated one after the other and a third one Bhimgupta (975-080 A.C.) imprisoned for flouting her authority. Didda was a strong-willed person who put down all opposition to her with ruthlessness.
INVASION OF MAHMUD GHAZNAVI
A new chapter was written in the history of Kashmir in 1015 A.C. when Mahmud Gaznavi invaded Kashmir. The Kashmiri troops faced the invader at Lohara near Rajouri.
The mighty conqueror was resisted and repulsed. Owing to inclement weather, Mahmud had to return without fulfilling the ambition of conquering the valley. This was the only expedition of the Emperor, which proved unsuccessful. It was in the reign of Sangramraja (1003-1023 A.C.) that Anandpal, after his defeat at the hands of Mahmud, sought shelter in the valley.
The Medieval Kashmir
Here end the early ages in the history of Kashmir and we will now enter into the medieval times, we have described the ups and downs in the political life of our people from the earliest times. It is meet that we should know something about their cultural achievements for no history of a freedom movement can be complete without a knowledge of its cultural side.
It is no easy task to state correctly the social and economic conditions of the people of Kashmir during the earlier ages. The available historical material on the subject is very meagre. It is obvious that the lives led by Hindu Kings were, generally speaking, simple. Their wants were few and their own economic and social lives were not far removed from those of ordinary men. Hieun Tsiang, the Chinese traveler who visited Kashmir during the reign of Durlabh Vardhan (617-53 A.C.) found the people prosperous and peaceful though at the same time he called them “light and frivolous and of a weak and pusillanimous disposition.”
It is remarkable that in the discharge of public duties the Kashmir queens have distinguished themselves as well as the kings. Seclusion or veiling of women was unknown even among the upper classes and royalty in ancient Kashmir. The queens, as well as the kings, were sprinkled with the sacred waters of the coronation. The queens had their own councilors and treasurers. They took an active part in the governance of the countryside by side with the kings. Some of them ruled independently and with firmness, Mention has already been made of Rani Yashovati who came to the throne at the dawn of history. About her, Kalhana observes that “the eyes of men which viewed womankind with scant courtesy as the objects of their pleasure, looked upon this mother of her subjects as if she were a goddess”.
Queen Sugandha ruled Kashmir just at the beginning of the tenth century and she is counted as one of the notable queen in the history of Kashmir. Suryamati who made the rule of her husband Ananta -(1028-63 A.C.) a success when the rebellion of the feudal lords had all but deposed him. Finding Ananta weak to govern and realising that the country needed a strong administration she forced him to abdicate in favor of his son Kaisha. Of queen Didda who, like Razia Begum, scandalized her courtiers through her illegitimate intimacy with a Gujjar named Tunga but unlike the latter survived the deed, we have already taken note.
Kalhana’s Rajtarangim mentions scores of women, including queens, who played by no means insignificant roles in the politics of Kashmir. We find that in early times in Kashmir “women had emerged from the domestic into the political stage, were free, owned immovable property, managed their own estates and even fought at the head of their troops”. In describing the women of Kashmir, their beauty, and accomplishments, the poet Bilhana tell us that they spoke Sanskrit fluently.
As an achievement of the continued struggle for freedom during the Buddhist and Hindu periods, kings had been divested of much of their autocratic power. The traditional authority of the Supreme Council of the State consisting of ministers and feudal lords was recognized. It was under this authority that dozens of monarchs who had proved unfit to rule were deposed and replaced by candidates with the needed qualifications and merit.
Even during peaceful times, it was this Council of State which decided the succession to kingship in a disputed case. When the Gonanda dynasty became extinct it was through the election by the ministerial council, as representing the voice of the people, that a prince of the Karkota line was consecrated with sacred water poured out from golden jars. In the disturbed and unsettled times of the tenth century Kashmir, a notable incident has been recorded by Kalhana which occurred in or about 939 A.D.
when Commander-in-Chief Kamala Vardhan was in a position to seize the throne for himself by armed might. He hesitated and was anxious to win public opinion to his side. He called the progressive Brahmins, the representatives of the intellectual class, together and canvassed them in his desire for election to the throne. “Make a countryman of yours, strong and full-grown king”, he beseeched.
“To the historian, the interest lies, firstly, in the fact that in spite of the corruption and violence of the times, an appeal was made to the traditional law of kingship instead of to the force of arms”, observes E.B. Havell, “and secondly, in the unexpected result of the Assembly’s vote, which was that Kamala Vardhan’s claims were set aside in favour of a Brahmin candidate, Yashaskara who was duly consecrated as king by the ancient Vedic rite of abhisheka and reigned for forty-seven years afterwards”.
It is true that public opinion in the modern sense did not exist in the ancient history of Kashmir but doubtless feudal lords, wealthy nobles, intellectual classes, groups of artisans and Brahmins, in general, were exerting tremendous influence on the administration as well as on the conduct of the ruler. As soon as a king became unpopular in the eyes of the people and if he could not be deposed constitutionally or by ordinary peaceful methods, risings and rebellions were organized and the king made to feel the force of adverse public opinion. The deposition of kings by the people is as well known to the history of Kashmir usurpation of the throne by court intrigues or by coup d’ tat. Many sections of masses took a prominent part in such rising.
They were led by Damaras (FeudalS), Nyayakas (Village Headmen) and similar wealthy or politically conscious classes. There were other factions like Tantrins (the Praetorians) and the Ekangas (the Gendarmes) who supported the royal authority and guarded the palace and the king’s person. There can be no doubt that the fear of these risings produced a healthy and wholesome check on the conduct of the kings. As in every other country during early times, the Church and the
The state worked for hand in hand in Kashmir. But it is interesting to note that in case of a difference the Brahmin leaders of the church resorted to hunger strike and passive resistance to get their grievances redressed. Kashmiris in early ages were freedom-lovers and intensely patriotic. But their patriotism was not aggressive, nor did they become unjust in their love for their national heroes and great men. My country right or wrong was none of their mottoes. Mention has been made of the assassination of the king of Gaudas at Trigami under command of Lalitaditya. The followers of the murdered king travelled all the way from their homeland to Kashmir to avenge the death of their master. On reaching Srinagar they attacked a temple and rooted out the god Ranaswami and broke it to pieces because it was the most favourite god of Lalitaditya.
Kalhana justifying the action of the Guardians, observes, as a believer in human justice, that “the world is filled with the renown of the heroes of the Gaudian country who sacked it (Ranaswami) in revenge of their master’s death.”
The Economic Life Of People Of Kashmir
The economic life of the people must have been very simple. The only source of production was land. There were no big industries and no extensive arts and crafts. Cultivators had to pay one-tenth of the produce of their land to the State. But the condition of the common people as disclosed in the Rajtarangini was not a happy one. Owing to the eternal strife between the kings and the feudal barons on the one hand and by the tyranny of the bureaucrats on the other, the people were crushed, Fiscal extortion was another demon which destroyed them. It is however notable that neither birth nor caste was a bar to the holding of any civil or military office.
The Brahmin and the Domb (a low caste) alike could be soldiers as well as Rajputras, the professional warriors. Some of the best and bravest generals and expert swordsmen have been Brahmins who have also ruled the country from time to time. King Chakravarman (923-933 A.C.) married an untouchable Domba woman and made her the premier queen. She entered the famous sacred temple of Vishnu near Srinagar to which, followed by the feudatory nobles, she paid a visit in the state. Her relatives held high posts and, says Kalhana, “orders issuing forth from the mouth of the Dombas became like royal commands difficult to transgress and were not transgressed by anyone”. Though the ancient Hindu society was ‘caste-ridden and villous.
Ancient Kashmiris were Naga (snake) worshippers and followed the religion of the Vedas to a large extent. But other creeds of antiquity such as Zoroastrianism, Confuscianism and the religion of the Jews were not unknown to them. When Buddhism was imported into the valley during the rule of Asoka, they cheerfully adopted it. The doctrine of Lord Buddha remained a popular religion in the valley for several centuries.
Its decline and final disappearance from Kashmir as from India as a separate religious cult were the result of a process of gradual intellectual absorption. Learned Kashmiris served as missionaries of Buddhism and carried the teachings of Gautama to China and many other distant lands. The priest Kumarajiva who studied the Vedas and the Hinayana Buddhist doctrine in Kashmir was honored by the title of Tungsheo (one though young in years is ripe mn wisdom) by a monarch of the Ching dynasty (284-417 A.C.) for the services which he rendered to the cause of learning. Another savant was Prince Gunavardhan of Kashmir who settled in China and painted Jataka stories at Canton.
Kashmir Buddhists also carried the torch of the Faith to Tibet and as distant a country as Yadavdwip(Sumatra). Prince Gunavardhan before going to China landed at this island. Here he converted the ruling queen to Buddhism who in her turn converted her family and thousands of her subjects to the Faith. The people of Khotan ascribed their conversion to a Bodhisattva called Vairocana who had come from Kashmir.
But the greatest contribution to the evolution of Buddhism, that changed its entire complexion and made it a popular religion of the masses, was made by Nagarjuna, who flourished in the first century B.C and made Buddhism embed in the history of Kashmir. By birth, this great thinker belonged to Berar, but early in his age he made Kashmir his home and settled at Sadarhadvana (modern Harwan), a village 12 miles distant from Srinagar. “Nagarjuna was the Luther of Buddhism, the apostle of bhakti-marga, who would find means of expression for the deep-seated religious instincts of the masses through the way of devotion to the Divine Teacher, rather than through the dry agnostic philosophy of the Hinayana Schools”, writes Havell. Nagarjuna is the author of the radical school of the Mahayanist Buddhism which is called the Madhyamika, the Middle Way. It no doubts made Buddhism a popular creed over the greater part of Asia but in the land of its birth, the Faith lost that revolutionary fervor which characterized it during the first few centuries after the death of Lord Buddha.
The Mahayana opened the path for Brahminism to absorb the heretic creed and make it as one among so many castes of Hinduism. But these vicissitudes in the fate of the Sangha have not affected the greatness of Nagarjuna in the Buddhist pantheon. He has been raised to the exalted position of Bodhisattva and enjoys the reputation of being the greatest thinker of the age. The powerful critical philosophy of Nagarjuna has been revived by Japanese commentators of modern times. Kalhana tells us that the dialectics of Nagarjuna’s critical philosophy destroyed the primitive beliefs of the people of Kashmir as it cut at the roots of the religious rites prescribed in the Nilamatpurana
Equally remarkable if not more important than the establishment of the Madhyamika School, is the evolution of a new religious philosophy by the Kashmiri philosophers during the centuries following the one when Nagarjuna flourished. It is the glorious outcome of the fusion of the ancient Vedic and Buddhist cultures. This indigenous system of philosophy is markedly different from other known systems of philosophies in India. It is called Kashmir Shaivism (as distinct from-the Shaivism of south India) or the Trika Shastra (the three-fold science) or simple Trika (the triple).
As the name implies this philosophy pertains to the three vital matters of greatest importance namely (a) man (b) his universe and (c) the fundamental principle which keeps on restoring order, equilibrium and harmony in the universe where it is disturbed and disrupted by constant change. Though dealing with all the three in larger or lesser degrees the Trika is particularly interested in man and his personality. Shaivism considers Sivatantrya(complete freedom) as the one and the final goal of human life.
The only reality of the universe is Shiva who is infinite consciousness and unrestricted independence. He has many other features like omnipresence, eternality and formlessness through independence is peculiar to him. “Our bondage is due to ignorance”, say the’ Shiv Sutras. “Though the soul is infinite consciousness man thinks ‘I am finite’, though independent he thinks ‘I am the finite body’ “, observes Kshemendra in his comments on the Shiv Sutras. “The soul forgets that the world has existence only in Shiva and that the soul is identical with the Lord”.
The Trika describes consciousness of man as the Atman, the nuclear core, which 1s the eternal and one witness of all that is undergoing ceaseless change namely the body, mind, and spirit composed of thoughts, feelings and emotions which are subject to growth and decay. In this philosophy, the word for’ change is “speeding”. The aim of the Trika Shastra is to awaken man to the fact that this Atman, the Witness, is no other than the Shiva, the All-powerful Lord of the Universe. A second to Shiva there is none.
Religious Philosophies That Dominated History of Kashmir
Of the Indian philosophies, it is the Sankhya system of Kapila which has analyzed man’s personality in detail and discovered twenty-five elements composing it. The Trika has gone deeper and found no less than thirty-six principles. It has laid open new layers of consciousness and regions of the sub-conscious states. And the system does not rest with mere delineation of the principles.
In addition to the detailed analysis of man’s physical, psychic, psychological, spiritual, and mental personality the Trika teaches the exact method of knowing these constituent parts by direct experience, that is by realizing them as facts and not mere figments of imagination.
The Trika Shastra is the synthesis of the essential things that are to be found in almost all the Indian philosophies: plus the knowledge gained by the Kashmiri thinkers with their own observations and experience. Itis an intelligent synthesis of all that is abiding, universal and enduring in the Vedanta, the Sankhya, the Vaisheshika, the Nyaya and the Vinaya of Buddha; it also contains the core of Vaishnava and Shakta teachings, especially the gospel of supreme love and all-absorbing devotion for the beloved. “Shiva is the subject as well as the object, the experiences as well as the experienced”.
In Shaivism, beauty is another name for morally good and the power responsible for creation is the Most Beautiful. Love, Truth and Beauty are the different names of one and the same thing.
The Trika philosophy is characterized by absolute monism, depth of thought and originality. Essentially it is an idealist philosophy unrelenting in its analysis and logic; but it does not shirk realism, the objective reality of the world.
According to Shaiva’s philosophy, Soul is of the same nature as consciousness; there is no difference between the individual soul -and the universal soul. Therefore the doctrine of the plurality of souls is denied in the Trika Shastra. While synthesizing the previous systems of Indian philosophy the Kashmiri thinkers sedulously avoided including barren parts represented by negativism, escapism, and unemotional of the Upanishadic Vedanta. In Shaivism, there is no Maya, the principle which creates illusory forms. Even the existence of a promoting cause, Karma, or a material cause Prakriti is not admitted.
Shiva is absolutely independent and creates all that exists under the influence of desire by the mere force of His will. He makes the “ world appear in Himself as 1f it were distinct from Himself though it is not so really; even as objects appear in a mirror, God is as unaffected by the objects of His creation as the mirror is by the images reflected in it? In Trika Shiva is represented as the symbol of the external process of destruction and creation. Shiva is Bhairava (Terrible) and also Kala (Time Destroyer). He is at the same time instinct, love. Shaivism has no use for self-mortification as a way to Realization.
The Trika literature is divided into three parts namely (a) the Agama Shastra, which is the science that has come down from remote antiquity. The origin of the books of this class is unknown; they are believed to have been the discourses between Shiva and Shakti, (b) the Spanda Shastra, the science of the universe as ever-changing or “speeding” phenomena and (c) the Pratyabhijna Shastra, the science of Recognition. The last is also often called the Ishvara Pratyabhijna Shastra that is the Science of the Recognition of God (Shiva).
The system of Shaivism was first founded by Vasugupta in the eighth century A. C. and the first book on the subject which has come down to us is Shiva Sutra Vimarshini, an Agama Shastra. The legend has it that, as revealed to him in a dream, Vasugupta found the Sutras inscribed on a rock called Shankar Pal. He copied them without delay and taught them to his disciples. This rock has been located but the inscription is no more traceable. Vasugupta himself wrote Spanda Karika, an important book on the subject. After he followed many other thinkers of eminence who either made original contributions to the Trika philosophy or wrote commentaries on Agama Shastras or the works of their predecessors,
Vasugupta’s disciple Kalatta Bhat composed Spanda Vritti in the ninth- century. Soon after came Somananda, a great genius, the founder of Pratyabhijna School, with his dazzling treatise the Shivadrashti. Utpaladeva whose books Pratyabhijna and Stotravali are given a place of authority on the subject lived in the tenth century. The most prolific, profound and versatile thinker on Shaivism is Abhinavagupta who was born between 950 and 960 A.C.
He was a literary critic and the greatest exponent of the Shaiva philosophy and has written a number of books including commentaries and many original works, His monumental production the famous Tantraloka is rightly called the encyclopedia of the monistic idealism of Kashmir. It comprises 5,800 stanzas and is divided into 37 chapters. For those who could not “enter into” the widely extensive Tantra Loka, Abhinavagupta composed Tantra Sara which, as he says, is “composed of easy words”. Another book by him is, Parmartha Sara, an-admirable and beautiful synthesis of Sankhya and Vedanta systems of philosophy.
Besides being a philosopher Abhinavagupta was a voluminous writer on several other subjects—Dramaturgy, Rhetoric and Philosophy of Poetry, Abhinavagupta had thousands of followers among the intellectuals in the valley and there is a tradition that he, along with twelve hundred of his disciples, walked into the Bhairava cave near Magam and was never seen again. Other important writers on Shaivism were Kshemendra, Kshemraja, Jayaratha and Yogaraja.
In connection with Shaivism, two points are of great interest to us living in the modern age of democracy and freedom. .They throw much light on the culture of Kashmir of the centuries when the Trika philosophy was born and flourished. First, it is remarkable that almost all the Shaiva philosophers have laid emphasis on the fact that the Trikain both of its aspects, as a system of philosophy as well as applied science, is meant for all human beings without any distinction of sex, creed, caste or color.
No one is to be deprived of the knowledge of Truth or the practice of realizing the Ultimate Reality, the Complete Freedom. Indeed Abhinavagupta has clearly laid “it-down that “a man must have a woman as messenger” for communion with the all Powerful “who must be treated as one’s equal and with honour”; otherwise he has no right to take part in any religious rites or rituals. Further “a woman devoted to the principles of the Trika will succeed in achieving the same siddhi in twelve days” as will take men if they have the least fear in their hearts, twelve long months.”*
The second notable point in the Trika philosophy is that it clearly forbids suppression of any thought however strongly in opposition to Shaivism. The Swachhand Tantra of Kshemendra directs that “no genuine follower .of Trika should have any quarrel with another system of thought and worship”.
It was only recently that the store-house of ‘the philosophical literature of Shaivism came to the notice of the outside world by the efforts of the State Research Department. It is now attracting the attention of many eminent thinkers and scholars some of whom consider it more synthetic and profound than all the other known works on religious philosophies of the world. In the words of Rabindra Nath Tagore, the Trika “has penetrated into that living depth of thought where diverse currents of human wisdom unite in a luminous synthesis.”
The intellectual labour of the Kashmiri thinkers of the early ages was not confined to the spheres of philosophy and’ religion, They wrote on many other subjects. Works on Literature are numberless. Among the important ones, mention may be made of Bhim Bhatea’s Raranarjumyra (700 A.C.) Damodara Gupta’s Kutint Afata (760 A.C.) Kshiraswami’s Lexicon (800 A.C.) Ratnakar’s Harivijaya (850 A.C.) Sri Swan’s Kapphanabhyudaya (830 AC) Valabhi Deva’s commentaries on Kalidas’s works (9M A.C.) Soma Deva’s Kathasarit- sagara (1030 A.C), Mankha’s Sr: Kanth Charita (1160 A.C.) and Jayadrarha’s Hari Chanta Chintamani (1200 A.C.).
Kshemendra who lived in the period 990-1065 A.C. was a versatile genius. He was of wealthy parentage, well educated and had travelled extensively in India. Though born in a Shaiva family he studied Vaishnavism and was drawn towards it. He also esteemed Buddhism very highly.
Kshemendra was a lover of the stage and a frequent play- for. His studies were wide and extended to Law, Grammar, Ayurveda, Politics, Music and Painting&. He also knew carpentry and smithy. He was the tutor to the heir-apparent Kalasa. No less than thirty-four books written by him are extant. Among them is Desopadesa which delineates vividly the moral and political evils rampant in his own days. It fives a glimpse into the history of Kashmir of his times.
Kshemendra is bitterly satirical of the government officials. His style is that of Voltaire and his book Narmamala is a remarkable work in this style. Another of his books Darpadalena (Pride has fall} is also well known. Kshemendra was the first person to render into Sanskrit the monumental work of Gunadhya, the Braham Katha or Great Story, which was composed in the first century of the Christian Era in Pishacha dialect (ancient Pushto) and consisted of 1,00,000 slokas. One of Kshemendra’s beautiful and lucid poems is Samayamatrika which describes the progress of a courtesan throughout Kashmir. The poem is strikingly original in conception. :
Another great poet was Bilhana who was born in 1078 A.C. at Khunamuh near Srinagar. He is a romantic figure. Finding no scope for his talents in Kashmir he went down to the plains at the early age of 16. He travelled through the whole of northern and central India gathering fame for his intellectual | attainments. At Kalyaniin the Deccan he was asked by the raja to teach the princess. Soon the teacher and the pupil fell in love with each other. With the raja’s permission, they married. Bilhana’s love for his homeland, however, brought him back to Khunamuh where he died at the venerable age of 80 years.
Among his works that have survived are (1) Vikramankdev Cha- vita (2) Karnasundari Mala (3) Chaurpanchashika. The first named begins with the origin of Chalukya dynasty of the south and praises the king who ruled at the time. It contains eight cantoes and in the last Bilhana gives a history of his own family and a short account of the kings of Kashmir. Bilhana’s poetry is lucid, simple and charming but he is no good at history. He has given a graphic and beautiful picture of the Srinagar of his own days. Vilhena repeatedly asserts that saffron is inspired by poetry and as this plant does not grow anywhere outside Kashmir therefore true poetry cannot be produced anywhere else but in the valley of Kashmir.
The great Patanjali was, according to some scholars, born in Kashmir before the dawn of the Christian era. Besides him, other grammarians have flourished in the valley, notable among whom are Chandra in the second century, A.C., Kshiraswami and Vamana in the reign of Jayapida (774-808 A.C:) and Kayyata (950 A.C.) who wrote the Laghuvritti.
Many books have been written by distinguished authors on Alankar Shastra (Poetics). Out of the sixteen most famous rhetoricians of ancient India Kashmir has produced no less than fourteen. Outstanding among them were (1) Vamana Bhatta who wrote Kavyalankara in 750 A.C. and was the founder of the Riti School, (2) Udbhata (774-813 A.C.) the teacher of the theory of three varieties, (3) Rudratha who composed Srinagartilaka in 825 A.C, (4) Abhinava Gupta the great expounder of the theory of Rasadhvani, (5) Ruyyaka (1125 A.C.) who wrote Alankava Sarvasya and (6) Mamata (1150 A.C.) who upheld the Rasa theory in his inimitable work Kavyaprakasa. Eighty-seven commentaries of which 25 are available, are known to have been written on the last-named book. Mamata occupies a very high position in the literary firmament of Kashmir in the beginning of the twelfth century. He belonged to the village Galandar.
He had two brothers Jaiyata and Uvvata and all the three were noted literature. Kalhana mentions Ashvaghosha, the celebrated author of Buddhacharita, as a resident of Kashmir. It is said that Kanishka acquired him as part of war indemnity and after profusely honouring him provided him with a suitable residence in the valley to peacefully carry on his literary pursuits. Ashvaghosha was a Poet, musician, scholar, religious controversialist and a zealous Buddhist preacher.
Some research scholars believe that Kalidasa was a native of Kashmir because of his various references to scenes and events in his dramas and poems which could have occurred nowhere else but in Kashmir.
Two famous writers on medical science who flourished during the Hindu period in the history of Kashmir were Charaka and Narhari. There was a controversy about the birth-place of the former but the discovery of some Buddhistic literature in China has set the doubts at rest. It has proved that Charaka flourished in the rule of Kanishka in the first-century A.C, and was a native of Kashmir. His book Charaka Sanhita contains eight chapters and deals not only with the diagnosis, prognosis, therapy and anatomy but with remedies and diet as well. It also gives elaborate instructions for the guidance of doctors and students of medicine besides dealing with the main diseases found among human beings.
Nagarjuna, the founder of Mahayana Buddhism, was a chemist of great repute. He was one of the first propounders of the Rasayan and made use of Chemistry in the amelioration of human suffering. He possessed great medical and pharmaceutical acumen and had a wide knowledge of drugs and medicines. He recast the whole of the Sushruta Samhita and added the last portion known as Uttar Tantra to it. He was well-practiced in the art of compounding medicines and prepared pills by taking which one could prolong his life for many years so that neither the mind nor appearance decayed. Besides himself, one king, Satvahraja, is said to have partaken of this mysterious medicine.
The authorship of the famous treatise Rasaratnakara which is in the form of a dialogue is attributed to Nagarjuna. “Nagarjuna’s outstanding contributions to India’s chemical knowledge”, says G.P. Srivastava of the Department of Pharmaceutics of the Banaras Hindu University, “rightly entitle him to be styled as the father of Indian Chemistry.
That he was one of the earliest Indian alchemists and that the credit of having invented the process of distillation, sublimation, calcination, coloring and alloying of metals, extraction of copper from pyrites and use of metal oxides in medicine etc., is only due to venerable Nagarjuna, is admitted on all hands. He is also accredited with having introduced kajaili or the black sulphite of mercury into medicinal use.”
Nagarjuna had profound faith in the efficacy of the Science of Chemistry. He has said: “As long as the Science of Chemistry prevails let not pain and pestilence torment men.”
Astrology has been a special study of Kashmir Brahmins. The works of Bhaskaracharya, Aryabhatta and Ratnakantha are quoted as authorities by all those who follow the Indian system of Astronomy.
Admirers of Freud and those who believe sex impulse to be the main driving force in the behaviour of human beings and dangerous to be ignored or suppressed will be interested to learn that Kashmiri writers applied their mind to this problem from very early times. Several books have been written on the subject. Mention may be made of two of them one was written by Vasunanda in the fourteenth century and is called Kama Shasira; the other is the well-known book Kok Shastra also called Ratirahasya by Premier Koka Pandit.
The latter gives a scientific and elaborate description of sex in its biological and psychological phases. All the above-mentioned works of Kashmiri authors or any subject is written in Sanskrit verse, the script being Shards (and not Devanagri), an invention of their own.
The ancient history of Kashmir is distinguished for its architectural and artistic attainments no less than for its contribution to philosophy, religion and literature. The valley abounds in impressive ruins of what must have at one time been grand edifices.
Vandalism has helped the destructive hand of Nature in demolishing most of the architectural accomplishments of early ages but whatever remnants exist to enable us to have some estimate of this side of Kashmir’s past culture. Almost nothing is left for us to see from the architecture of the pre-Buddhist period
The most ancient ruins are those at Harwan and Ushkar which belong to the Kushan period and are of the Buddhist type. They bear upon them the indelible marks of Indo-Greek influences of the Gandhara School. Though both these Buddhist structures evince the same plan as those in the Gandhara kingdom of the same period, ample use has been made of the local materials and suitable changes have been effected to adjust that material to the plan.
In Ushkar good use has been made of the stone chip masonry obtained from local quarries. At Harwan the “diaper-pebble” style consisting of small round pebbles fixed with large and solid blocks has been freely pressed into service. “The terra-cotta tiles of Harwan in ‘Kashmir (third century A.C.) depict knights on horseback, with bow and quiver of arrows, wearing long “frock coats” with the fluttering edges of the Virpatta as described by Kalhana. The tile paved courtyard of Harwan is extremely interesting on account of the portraits of ethnic types which are Central Asian as well as the style of dress and ornaments of the men and women of that age.”
The ruins of the temples during the Hindu period can be seen at Avantipur, Pattan, Martand, Tapar, Buniyar; Pandre- than, Loduv, Wangat, Parspore and several other places throughout. the valley. The architecture of this period is surely reflective of the fusion of Vedic and Buddhist cultures. It guesses massive grandeur and has the rigidity and strength of the ancient Egyptian temples coupled with the grace of Greece. It has the simplicity of style and finish of the dressing. It gives an inkling into the mind cf the Age and the simple living but high thinking of the architects who could design and the master builders who could erect such refined and beautiful structures.
The celebrated temple at Martand is the finest specimen of this age. It was built by Lalitaditya at the beginning of the eighth century A.C. It is imposing in its dimensions being 63 feet long. The pillared quadrangle around the temple is 200 feet by 142 feet. The big edifice for the image of the sun-god stands surrounded by this colonnade of fluted pillars with intervening trefoil-headed recesses. The stone carving on the gateways is very fine, rich and elaborate and the pillars
most of which are still standing to present an attractive appearance.
The large temple at Ludov simpler and plainer in construction is similar in design to the angular-roofed viharas of Gandhara. It has no decorations, is circular internally though externally it is square in construction.’ It has a single arched entrance.
The two temples built by Avantivarman at his capital] and known as Avantiswamin and Avanteshvara dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu impress the visitor with their sumptuousness, grandeur and magnificence. Their imposing gateways are still standing. The temples were built with huge blocks of limestone, massive and durable. The peculiar style of architecture that was started by master-minds of Kashmir during the days of Lalitaditya or even earlier reached a stage of perfection during the rule of Avantivarman. The temples at Avantipura reveal the peace, progress and prosperity that prevailed in the country through the grace and charm of workmanship which built them.
The ruins of other big temples and edifices of this period tell the same tale of grandeur, strength, beauty and massiveness. But one need not confine oneself to them to have a picture of all that was great, grand and splendid in the architecture of ancient Kashmir. The smaller edifices are no less attractive. The temple at Pandrethan near Srinagar 18 feet square built in a tank is a thing of perennial beauty. It is made of sculptured stone and stands complete. The ceiling of this small structure shows the classic sculptured embellishments of the tenth century.
One cannot forget to mention the grand, but small by comparison, a temple on the summit of Copadari Hill now called Shankaracharya by Hindus and Takhti-Sulaiman by Muslims. It sits like a head on the shoulders of a mountain- man and commands a marvellous look of the whole of Srinagar and most of the Valley including the Dal lake. Which patriot has not sat for hours at the base of the temple and mused over the past, present and future of Kashmir The place is inspiring indeed. The temple was rebuilt by Gopaditya in the sixth-century A.C.
It is not correct to call this Kashmir architecture Hindu because it differs in certain essentials from the Hindu architecture of India. Just as the Shaiva philosophy evolved by the Kashmiri thinkers is not the same as the philosophy owned by the Hindus of the rest of India, similarly, the Kashmiri architecture is not strictly speaking Hindu. Though basically Indo-Aryan in origin, it has evolved under the strong influence of Greco-Buddhist and the Gandhara Schools of Architecture.
Besides, the local thought and talent have also played a considerable part in shaping plans and designs of the structures. Elements of Chinese architectural design are also suspected in it. For these reasons it is a class by itself and should not be confused with the Indian architecture.
It is difficult to accurately evaluate the progress of the ancient history of Kashmir in the matter of sculpture. .Almost all the noble images of the gods and goddesses, as well as other figures of deities in the shape of giants, birds, and beasts, were destroyed.
But those that have survived and were unearthed during the last three or four decades speak highly of the ancient art of sculpture in the history of Kashmir. It appears that this art also flourished first during the Buddhist period when the views of the Mahayana. The school encouraged the sculptors to carve images of Buddha in all forms, Jataka stories were mostly the subject of the artists. Later on, the images of Shiva and Vishnu also were produced.
“The allegory in the Trika philosophy was expressed in sculpture by the body of Shiva Ardha Narish- vara (the lord who is semi-feminine) in which Shiva is united with his consort Parvati, the right-hand side of the body being the male sex and the left-hand side being of the female sex”, writes RS. Pandit. “Parvati (literally the Maid of the Mountain) is the Shakti or Energy of Shiva personified under a feminine form and united with him. Thus we see depicted in Art the varied aspects of the destructive and generative Energy as the Union of the male and female forms” .? The emotions represented by a few images lying in the State Museum at Srinagar are precise and unforgettable.
Because of the enchanting surroundings which constantly inspire the head and heart of a sensitive and emotional being the Valley of Kashmir is the fittest place for the growth of the fine arts like painting, music, and dancing. There are references in Nilamatapurana and other ancient books that show that painting was a well-developed art in Kashmir during the earlier centuries of the Christian era. In the Nilamatapurana it is expressly laid down that the “temples and the chaityas must be adorned with pictures”.
Kalhana also mentions painted halls decorated from within which existed in the Valley during his times. Sir Auriel Stein discovered in 1931 a few manuscripts in Northern Kashmir which were beautifully bound in painted covers with attractive figures on them. On the walls of the Bota Masjid which lies below the castle-hill of Srinagar, the pictures of Buddhist saints are to be found which are hidden by whitewash. This Masjid was formerly a Buddhist temple.
As in other parts of India dancing girls were ‘attached to the temples from very remote times in the Valley. The art of dancing was common in the respectable families and, according to Kalhana, princes and nobles were accepted connoisseurs of the noble art. Some of the dancing girls became consorts of kings of Kashmir. King Uchhala married one who belonged to a family of dancers. In the twelfth-century dancing women of the temples took a prominent part in the politics of the State. This shows what a tremendous influence the art of dancing had on the social life of the people in the early ages of the country.
There is hardly anyone in the valley who is not a lover of music and does not sing. Tailors in their shops, carpenters at their work, labourers carrying the load, boatmen moving the paddle and the peasant transplanting the paddy-stalks, all hum a tune. From ancient times great musicians have sprung from the Valley. It is a significant fact that a Kashmiri, Sharangdeva, who lived in the first half of the thirteenth century, was the author of Sangit Ratnakara which is the most authoritative work on the Indian Music both in the north and in the south.
It treats of ragas, instruments and other technical details of Indian Music. Many commentaries have been written on it in Sanskrit, Hindi and Telugu languages. King Harsha himself was a musician and a poet of high calibre. He also loved dancing. As a matter of fact, he carried these noble tasks to the extreme which proved his undoing.
Much confusion has been caused by the misreading of this great event by most of the Hindu as well as Muslim historians of the Valley. In order that we may understand and appreciate the revolutionary change that took place in the fourteenth century and which deeply affected the future course of social, cultural and political life in the Valley, we should know the historical background in which it occurred.
From the time of the Avanti Varman’s death in 883 A.C. until the beginning of Mahmud Ghazni’s invasion in the eleventh century, page after page of the Rajtarangini records only the bestiality and savagery of the low-born adventurers who misgoverned the country. During the century following 902 A.C., the rulership of the kingdom changed hands as many as eighteen times. Some times the kingdom changed hands frequently. between two rivals as in the case of Partha and Chakravarman.
The latter was murdered in the chamber of a Domba girl and such was the degradation of the court morality that in 937 A.C, murderers were engaged by the king’s own wives to crush his knees with a large stone as he lay dying in the embrace of the girl.
The history of Kashmir in relation to the two succeeding centuries is a sordid record of short reigns, murders, suicides, plots, conspiracies, rebellions, oppressions and extortions. In the words of Sir Francis Younghusband it was “a state of perpetual intrigue and assassinations, of struggles with brothers, cousins, uncles, before a chief even came to the throne; of fights for power with ministers, with the military, with the nobles when he was on ic, of wearying, petty internecine wars; of general discomfort, uncertainty and unrest’. One king, Uchhala’s successor Radda alias Sanka, reigned only for a few hours of the night and his half brother Salhana for no more than eight months.
Kings became puppets in the hands of this or that class of feudal lords or military chiefs. If one king was under the thumb of Damaras, another functioned at the behests of Tantriks or Nyayaks. King Rajadeva packed the entire administration with the men of Lavanya (modern Lone) caste. There was no law nor order in the country.
The rulers were profligate drunkards and their ministers and advisers were cruel men with no intelligence, no statesmanship and no love of the homeland; clowns occupied responsible positions and became ministers; cowards and fools were appointed as commanders of the army. At the beginning of the twelfth century, Kashmiris elected one Vopyadeva as their ruler in the hope that he will administer the country well. But he disgusted his admirers by his puerile acts. “He felt happy at the sight of large blocks of stones and ordered his ministers to increase the size of the smaller ones by making them drink the milk of beasts.” Jonaraja calls him “Rakshasa chief covered with grass”.
Of the monarchs of these centuries of misrule in the history of Kashmir, Harsha (1089-1101 A.C.) is considered to be one whose rule was characterised by prudence and munificence towards men of Learning. He was of powerful frame, great personal beauty, courageous and fond of display. But his spendthrift nature, his elaborate fashions in dress and ornaments and his multifarious extravagances soon involved him in debt. He levied all imaginable taxes but still, the treasury was unable to meet his needs.
He then began to rob the temples of their wealth. He did not stop with this. He laid his hands on and confiscated the images of gods in the temples made of precious metals in a villainous manner. “There was not one time in a village, town or in the city which was not despoiled of its images by that Turushka King Harsha”, says Kalhana.
He adds: “He appointed Udayaraja perfect tor seizing divine images. In order to defile the statues of gods, he had excrements and urine poured over their faces by naked mendicants whose noses, feet, and hands had rotted away. Divine images were dragged: along by ropes around their ankles with spit instead of flowers.”? With the unclean money that he got by these abominable and dreadful methods, Harsha abandoned himself to more and more excesses of debauchery and profligacy. This reduced him to the necessity of levying more taxes. A tax was levied even on: night soil by him. This drove the people to rise in revolt under the leadership of Ucchala and Sussala, the nephews of the king. The royal palace was set on fire, the queens were burnt to death, the heir-apparent was killed and the’ king himself was hunted down and mercilessly slain. Kalhana records that Harsha’s body “naked like that of a pauper” was cremated by a compassionate wood-dealer.
A few decades later, a new and an unfortunate turn came in the history of Kashmir as there appeared a ruler, named Rajadeva (1213-1236 A.C.)-who was greedy, conceited and cruel. According to Jona- raja, the king made it a point to insult the Bhattas, vanguard of the progressive intellectuals, plundered them and brought them to such a pass that every member of the community was heard to cry “I am not a Bhatta, I am not a Bhatta”. Bhatta in Kashmiri means a learned Brahmin.
There were many floods, famines and epidemics during the century which reduced the vitality of the people to the lowest and decimated the population. Thousands died of starvation every year and many more were sold into slavery to foreigners
It is not very difficult to imagine what must have been the plight of the people who had been subjected to such ruthless oppression continuously for hundreds of years in the history of Kashmir. There was universal, unrest in the valley; all classes of people were deeply afflicted and groaned under the weight of the misrule. The very air breathed a spirit of revolt. Only a small clique among the upper classes who ruled the country were making merry over the miseries of the masses. The structure of the Government and the fabric of the society had weakened toa dangerous point. They were ready to give way before the smallest stroke from any side.
When Sahadeva ascended the throne in 1300 A.C., Kashmir was ruled by “drunkards, gamblers and profligate women and had put a bad spot on history of Kashmir. As misfortune would have it, in 1319 A.C., a Tartar adventurer from the north, Zulqadar Khan, known as Dulcha, invaded the country. He had a big army under his command, which was however neither well armed nor adequately equipped. But the ferocious Tartars were able to create terror in the minds of the stricken-people and the demoralized, decrepit, and weakened government.
Sahadeva did not have the courage to face the invader. He fled to Kishtwar .leaving the helpless people exposed to the depredations of Dulcha, which he and his hordes carried on for many months. Dulcia plundered the people, took slaves, and set fire to the city of Srinagar. It was consoling to the Kashmiris that when after the killing, harassing, and impoverishing them for eight months, the plunderers went to leave the Valley at the advent of winter, the whole army perished in the snow along with their leader.
A little before Dulcha’s invasion, a Buddhist prince, Rinchen, son of Vakatnya, King of Western Tibet or Ladakh, had left his homeland after the murder of his father in a rebellion and taken refuge at the court of Sahadeva. True to his culture and tradition the king granted not the only asylum to Rinchen but also assigned a jagir to him for his maintenance. Sahadeva, though timid, inefficient, and cruel, was still magnanimous and hospitable.
Some years earlier in 1319 A.C., another man Shah Mir, a Muslim native of Swat valley in Dardistan, had come to Kashmir in search of employment. It appears that Kashmir kings had developed some fascination for the Muslims. King Harsha had some Muslim captains in his army. So when Shah Miz approached Sahadeva with the prayer for being allowed to live in the Valley it was readily accepted and a village was given to him as a jagir.
A third figure whose descendants were destined to play an important role in the history of Kashmir also arrived in Srinagar at this time. He was Lanka Chak, a Buddhist prince from Dardistan. Defeated by his brother, Lanka fled from his homeland and found a welcome asylum in Kashmir.
Shah Mir was a shrewd politician and a far-sighted statesman. He was a keen observer of events and having lived in the city and moved among ruling circles and upper classes for half a dozen years, he knew the ins and outs of the administration of the time. He was also well acquainted with important people.
He saw the possibilities and the opportunities that lay before him in the chaotic conditions prevailing at the time. He was advanced in years, widely experienced and sober inhabits.
Rinchen being of royal birth also appears to have possessed some intelligence about him. But both were fully conscious that, despite disturbing times, they could not aspire to rise to power without the substantial support of the public opinion. Undoubtedly, both were conspiring and intriguing, which was the only kind of politics known during those days. Undoubtedly also, they had realized the possibilities and the opportunities that a scheming brain could seize in the disturbed conditions of the country.
But neither Rinchen nor Shah Mir had any armies of their own. Unless, therefore, they could enjoy some popularity both among the civilian officials and the army chiefs, they could not have been successful in their intrigues.
There can be no doubt that Sahadeva must have become unpopular with all classes of the people owing to his cowardice and desertion. Popular or unpopular, he did not become the king again for, after his flight to Kishtwar, he disappears from the history of Kashmir and we do not hear any more about him.
By the time Dulcha and his army were buried in their snowy graves, Shah Mir and Rinchen appear to have begun to become favorites with some feudal lords, court officials and army chiefs. Perhaps they had rendered some public service and maintained the morale of the people during the dark days of the Tartar depredations. It seems people were prepared to acknowledge the sovereignty of Rinchen, though a newcomer compared with Shah Mir, perhaps because he was a scion of a royal dynasty or because he worshipped at the shrine of Buddha whose religion was most popular for centuries in the Valley. The patient and shrewd Shah Mir also supported him.
There was opposition from Ram Chandra, the Commander-in-Chief and Prime Minister of Sahadeva, but he could not secure the help of politicians and had, therefore, to run away and take shelter in the fort at Gagangir in the Lar Pargana. Before long Rinchen defeated Ram Chandra through a stratagem and killed him in a battle outside the fort. Kashmir needed a strong, capable ruler and she found one in the person of the fugitive Buddhist. Jonaraja calls him “a lion among men”.
As a gesture of goodwill towards the opponents and the survivors of the vanquished foe, Rinchen wisely married Kota, the daughter of Ram Chandra, and appointed his son Rawal Chandra as Commander of the army with Western Tibet and Lar as his jagir.
After his accession to the throne, Rinchen wanted to become a Shaivite (Hindu) but was refused admittance into the fold by orthodox Brahmins. In his desperate hunt for a new faith, he met a Muslim saint called Bulbul Shah who had recently arrived from Turkistan. The persuasive teachings of the saint profoundly influenced Rinchen and so he embraced Islam.
On his conversion, Rinchen assumed the name of Sultan Sadar-ud-Din. He built a mosque and a khanga for his preceptor at the place which is now known by the name of Bulbul Lanka in Srinagar. Rinchen was very clever and alert. Even today Kashmiris remember him and if anyone is over clever and too active he is called “Renton”, But Rinchen was also just, merciful and as ubiquitous as one could be during those hard times but he did not live long. He died in 1322 A.C. leaving behind him his widow and a son Haider.
Now a significant event occurred in the history of Kashmir. Kota Rani did not allow Haider to be proclaimed the successor to Sadar-ud-Din. Instead, she invited one Udyanadeva, brother of Sahadeva, who had fled to Gandhara at the time of Dulcha’s invasion. She married him and made him the king, Shah- Mir, patient and sober as ever, did not object, supported Kota Rani’s move, and acknowledged the sovereignty of Udyanadeva. Probably he realized that Kota Rani had played her hand masterfully and catered for the sentiment of the people; probably he knew that his own adherents and supporters were not yet numerous and that Kota Rani was beloved of the lords and nobles. Thus Islam suffered a reverse and the Hindus regained sovereignty over Kashmir.
Unfortunately, however, Udyanadeva did not give a good account of himself. He did not prove worthy of the trust that Kota Rani reposed in him. He remained on the throne for fifteen years but lacked wisdom, courage and ability. He was cowardly and proved by his conduct that Kashmiri Hindus had exhausted all potentialities to rule and administer a good government. Had Kota Rani not kept the authority in her own hands and managed the government of the country while Udyanadeva acted as a nominal monarch, Hindu rule would have finally ended earlier than it actually did. Had Kota Rani lived and ruled at a little better time and had the social, political and economic conditions not become so appalling and chaotic by the misrule of so many wicked monarchs one after another, she would have surely shone like a luminous patriot. But misfortune dogged her footsteps.
Soon after Udyanadeva’s installation as the king, the Valley was invaded by yet another desperado, Urwan also called Urdil by some historians and Achala by Jonaraja. Udyanadeva, as before, ran away in dread to Ladakh as he thought that Dulcha had turned up again. But Kota Rani stood firm and faced the invader heroically. She made a stirring appeal to her subjects and advised them to stand solidly behind her against the aggressive foreign hordes. Accordingly, Kashmir for once during those dark times fiercely resisted and defeated the enemy who had to sue for peace. Shah Mir took a leading part in this patriotic war which endeared him to Kashmiris.
Notwithstanding his base desertion, Kota Rani invited Udyanadeva again and re-installed him on the throne. Only if Kota Rani’s choice had been a better one she might have been able to preserve the Kashmir throne for Hindu kings. What she did failed to secure the approval of the people; it also created: jealousy and deep indignation in the mind of scheming Shah Mir.
Udyanadeva died in 1338-39 A.C. Kota Rani had one son named Bola Rattan from him. When the throne became vacant the dowager queen over-ruled the claims of both Haider and Bola Rattan and herself ascended the throne. She was however afraid of Shah Mir because by this time he had made many friends among the feudal lords and army chiefs through\ his wisdom, patience, bravery and large-heartedness. He was seventy-six years old and had lived in the Valley for more than twenty-six years. Kota Rani finding that it was not safe to live in Srinagar with supporters of Shah Mir all around, repaired to the fort of Andarkot near Sumbal which was once the capital of the State and still a flourishing town. Moreover, she appointed Bhikshana, an efficient, experienced, and trusted noble, as her Chief Minister which proved an added cause for displeasure to Shah Mir as he thought his claims were ignored.
The time had ripened now and the road for the revolt was open. Shah Mir had only to raise his banner and people came under it in large numbers. He swooped upon Andarkot and murdered Bhikshana by a base trick. This decided the fate of the contending parties. With the loss of her trusted Prime Minister, Kota became helpless and had to surrender. It is said that she accepted the proposal of Shah Mir to marry him but eventually overpowered by grief and disappointment, the sensitive, self-respecting, and patriotic queen committed suicide. Thus was laid the foundation of the Muslim Rule in Kashmir in 1339 A.C and the beginning of a just era in the history of Kashmir
Join our Groups