Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Preface
   Territorial & Political Analysis
   Heritage And Legacy
   Crudities And Contradictions
   Prelude To Proxy War
   Terror And Horror
   Tears And Trauma
   Political Treachery
   Nation in Crucible
   Ekta Yatra
   Violation Of Human Rights
   A Peep Into Macabre

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Chapter 2

Heritage And Legacy

No civilisation is conquered from without
untill it has destroyed itself from within

Kashmir has everything precious to India's heritage. It has been a nursery of learning and religion, has a breath-taking landscape as if painted to perfection by the Master Painter. It is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and also Buddhists. Millions of pilgrims present themselves and prostrate at the feet of Mata Vaishnav Devi, Mata Ragya Khsheer Bhawani, Rajarajeshwari Mahatripursundari, Jagadamba Mata Sharika and above all Lord Shiva and Parvati in the Amarnath Cave in the lovable lap of Himalayas. After draining the lake and creating the Kashmir Valley, Rishi Kashyap blessed his creation with the celestial river Vitasta.

 Upto the beginning of fourteenth century, Kashmiris were living in peace, co-existence, tolerance and were mostly devoted to spiritual and academic pursuits. Kashmir was the abode of Hindus, who were devoted to contemplation and higher learning. They are the original natives of the Valley of Kashmir. These Hindus popularly known as Pandits, are apart of the Vedic heartland of India and have lived in Kashmir from times immemorial and have a history dating back beyond the Neelmat era. The Hindu religious percepts have borne the message of universal peace, brotherhood and co-existence of all creeds and faiths. The Hindus of Kashmir are progenitors of Shaivite monism and Hinyan and Sarvastavadin Buddhism which spread to Central Asia, Tibet and Western China. They propounded the great Shaivite doctrine of Trika and the theory of recognition. A Kashmiri Hindu is a spiritualist to the core. Since ages his urge for Sat Chit Anand, together with the environs he was in, has made him a colossus. He never did believe in material comforts though he did procure all, but with all that, his subconscious was always booked to something most profound and subtle. A Kashmiri Hindu has the strength to get in plenty but, above all, he is strong enough to leave and renunciate everything with grace. This has been his forte since ages. This is not his cowardice. It is his innate human Divine strength. He perceived the world as unreal and still believes it so. But even with all this he never compromised with his basic cultural and religious moorings come what may. A Kashmiri Hindu's culture is part and parcel of his spiritual activity that he always had and still has utmost importance for it. Religion being tuned to his peculiar environs followed suit. No wonder a Kashmiri Pandit's cultural and spiritual pursuits moulded his religion in such a way that he had to create his Ganga sangam (at Shadipur confluence of Sindhu and Vitasta), Sharda Peeth, Jyotir Lingas etc. in Satisar, i.e. Kashmir only. This aspect has been reflected in almost all of India's regions where local customs have intermingled with religion. A Kashmiri Hindu's nature has always been cosmopolitan. No wonder this percolated in Indian ethos as Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. (World is a big family). The snow-capped mountain peaks around the Valley evoked the image of Shiva (Shivpuri). The worship of Shiva and study of Shaivism is, therefore, a predominant theme in the religious and philosophic practice of the Kashmiri Hindus. The beginning of Shivasana or Shivagama can be traced to the beginning of Vedic revelations.

 The Shankaracharya temple atop about 1000 feet high hillock of the same name is to the south-east of Srinagar. Ringed by the perennially snow-bound mountain peaks, the magnificent Dal Lake and the zig-zagging Vitasta (Jhelum) flowing placidly through the heart of the ancient city of Srinagar and the temple commands a fascinating bird's eye-view of the city and the celestial Valley. The Shiva temple a massive stone structure is built on a high octagonal plinth strictly in accordance with Hindu tradition. The temple has 84 recesses on its exterior and is surrounded by a parapet well enabling devotees to have the Parikrama of the temple safely. The stairs leading to the sanctum santorum number 36, first flight of 18 steps followed by 12 steps and again followed by six steps on either side of the landing terminating the second flight. This total of 36 steps is also in accordance with Hindu tradition, 36 denoting as many elements of which cosmos is made, viz. Shiva Tattva to the Prithvi Tattva.

 The hillock, according to Tarikh-i-Hassan, (pp 394-496, Vol. II) and (Waquiai Kashmir of Mulla Ahmed was known originally as Anjana and later as Jeth Ludrak and the temple was built by King Sandhiman of the Gonanda dynasty of Kashmir (471-536 Laukek Era), corresponding to 2605-2540 B.C. He gave the name Jeshteshwara to the temple and the hillock came to be known as Sandhiman Parbat after the name of the King. According to Dr.Stein, translator of Kalhana's Rajtarangani, King Gopadityas (369-309 B.C.) repaired the temple and donated two villages, the present Gupkar and Buchhwara (Bhaksira Vatika) for the maintenance of the temple. This time the hillock was given the name Gopadari or Gopa Hill. This name and Jeshteshwara for the temple prevailed till the Kashmiris dedicated the temple to the sweet memory of Adi Shankaracharya, who visited Kashmir and stayed at the temple complex. This is confirmed by Tarikh-i-Hassan (pp.80-82, Vol.I), although there is some confusion about the dates of Adi Shankaracharya's visit to Kashmir. However, after the dedication, the temple and hill came to be known as the Shankaracharya temple and hill after the great sage and scholar from the south of the country. After the first repairs to the temple carried out by King Gopaditya, King Lalitaditya (697-734 A.D.) repaired it.

 The original Shiva Lingam in the temple, along with over 300 precious idols of Gods and Godesses therein and other structures and residential quarters around the temple, were destroyed by Sultan Sikandar (the iconoclast), who ruled Kashmir between 1389 and 1413 .D. King Zain-ul-Abedin (1420 to 1470 A.D.) repaired the temple and its dome, which had been damaged by an earthquake, as a gesture of goodwill towards the Hindus of Kashmir, who had been persecuted by his father and grandfather. Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-din the Governor of Sikh ruler of Punjab (1841-1846 A.D.) also repaired the temple in his own tome. Later, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the second Dogra ruler of Kashmir repaired the temple once again and installed the present Lingam in it. Later, a saint from Nepal and Swami Shiv rattan Gir Saraswati, who had his seat at Durganag temple complex, carried out some repairs to the temple. The Maharaja of Indore electrified the temple during the forties of this century and installed a dazzling flash-light on its top, making it conspicuous during the night also.

 The temple was originally connected with Vitasta (Jhelum) near the temple of Godess Tripursundari on the right bank of the river, now known as Shurahyaar (Shudash Dashyar) by a finely sculptured stone stair overlooking the present Badami Bagh Cantonment of Sonawar. This flight of steps was dismantled by King Jehangir and the stones were used by his queen, Nur Jehan, who built a huge mosque, known as Pathar Masjid near Zaina Kadal in Srinagar. The mosque was never used for prayers by Muslims (Sunnies) as it had been built by a woman belonging to the Shia sect. The temple was approached via a bridle path from the Durganag temple at the base of the hillock. This path was later electrified by the Daramath Trust. In early seventies, however, when the Central Government, at the persuation of the Sate Government, put up the T.V. tower on the Dal Lake side of the hillock, a road was constructed to connect the tower with the lake near Nehru Park. Later, the Dharamarth Trust laid a flight of about 599 chiselled stone-steps, with side walls and landings, to connect the T.V. tower with the temple. That way the temple was lately approached both via the bridle path starting from Darganag temple and via the T.V. tower road.

 Mrs.Walter Tibbits in her book, The Cities seen in East and West, says in the chapter The City of Sun that: "The hill is rough and jagged as the path of yoga (the Path of Union with God). The elements have stained its every shade of ochre, the colour sacred to the lord of Universe. Sharp rocks break the path as the trills of the way out and wound the feet of the aspirant of knowledge. On its summit stands in simple, solemn dignity a small fane of grey stone. Its columns are fluted, its dome is round, surrounded by a trident. Inside if one thing only, an upright black stone... The Lingam is the oldest religious symbol of the world. It is also the simplest. But to the Shaivait, no gorgeous imagery of the Mass, no elaborate ceremonial of Mecca, can compare with the solemnity of that black stone... Guardian of the austere glories of Maheshwara, crowning of the fort-like hill, high, serene, ascetic, bearing no ornament save that of the quiet spirit of Shiva himself, the Jeshtrudra shall command the Happy Valley long after we and those that come shall have passed away".

 Calling the Shankaracharya hill as koh-i-Sulaiman and ancient temple thereon as Takht-i-Sulaiman is a later day ruse started sometime in the 19th century by some fanatical Muslims of Kashmir to complete the process of Islamisation of the historically known places of Hindu worship in the Valley and also to bury deep for ever the Hindu past of Kashmir. It is in line with the demolition of the then famous Hindu temple of Maharshi (Vishnu) and the erection thereon of a structure known now as Jama Masjid, conversion of the Mahakali Temple near Fatehkdal, Srinagar into the present Shah-i-Hamadan mosque, and the Ekadasharudra (Shiva) temple in Khanyar, Srinagar into the Ziarat Dastgir Sahib, not to speak of hundreds of temples throughout the Valley which were earlier destroyed completely or converted into mosques, ziarats and dargahs, during the Muslim rule in Kashmir (14th to 18th century A.D.)

 The Shankaracharya Hill, and the temple on top of it, is the most attractive, conspicuous and one of the oldest monuments still there in the Valley. It surely attracts attention of any one visiting Srinagar, and may be, reminds him of the glorious Hindu past of Kashmir. It would perhaps fulfil the dream of many fundamentalists of Kashmir to have an Arabic style mosque in its place as the most prominent landmark on the process of Islamisation of the Valley. As it is, the half a million of Hindus of Kashmir, the descendants of the pre-Muslim Kashmiris have been hounded out of the Kashmir, which is at present virtually like any other Muslim country ruled over by gun-totting terrorists, trained and abetted by Pakistan. The conversion of the Shankaracharya Temple into a mosque or a ziarat would surely add to the present single-hued portrait of Kashmir as the door to the Islamic world to its west and north, which is claimed to be one of the objectives of separatism and terrorism. Farooq Abdullah cannot just be faulted with any knowledge or understanding of history. An accident of history pushed him into politics and later placed him in the Chief Minister's chair. And now when he has been discarded by the Muslims, his reference to Shankaracharya Temple having been Takht-i-Sulaiman at the national Integration Council meeting in June, 1992, can be said to have been aimed at wooing these Muslims as also presenting himself as a champion of secularism to the gathering of like-minded Hindu-bashers at that time. What is, however, far more stunning about this hyperbole of Dr.Farooq Abdullah at the N.I.C. meeting, is the speed with which a prominent journalist Shri Inder Malhotra, took the wrong cue and proceeded to thrash the Hindu communalists, on the basis of a patently incorrect remark of Farooq, and without verifying the facts. Journalists and intellectuals, particularly the high profile and respected among them, are supposed to educate and guide their countrymen on the basis of historical facts and truths and not allow themselves to be swayed by momentary political winds which can change course without any advance signal or warning. It is hoped that Shri Malhotra has since updated his knowledge about the Shankaracharya Hill and Temple: the sooner the better. The following stanza from the Old Testament to appreciate that King Solomon never visited Kashmir, not to speak of his having ever established the Takht-i-Sulaiman (Solomon's Throne) on the Sulaiman Teng (Solomon's Mound) in Srinagar:
 
 

  • Solomon succeeded his father, David as King and his royal power was firmly established (1 king 2:14).

  • He was king of Jerusalem, over all Israel for forty years (1 King 11.42)

  • He died and was buried in David's city and his son Rehomoam succeeded him as king (1 king 11.43)

And that was around 950 B.C. when Islam was nowhere on the scene. There is absolutely no mention in Hebrew texts of King Solomon having ever visited Kashmir and established his throne on the Shankaracharya Hill. This is just an assumption, a recent creation for ulterior motives and with malafide intentions. There is no mention of any Solomon in the pre-Islamic annals of Kashmir.

 The world famous Indologist and archaeologist, Dr.Stein has said in his translation of Kalhana's Rajatarangani (Page 43, Vol.II) that "the present name of the hill meaning Solomon's Throne (Takht-i-Sulaiman) is undoubtedly of Mohammedan origin...that the ancient designation of the hill was Gopadari, is proved beyond all doubt...in Kalhana's chronicle". Professor Sahebzada Ghulam Hassan, author of Tarikhi Hassan (History of Kashmir) also confirms categorically that the name Kohi Sulaiman is given to the hill by Muslims. Fergusson, in his book History of Indian Architecture (page 282) says that the temple on Gopadari (now Shankaracharya) is one of the earliest buildings in Kashmir. The tradition of Abul Fazal's time also distinctly attributes the temple to the time of King Gopaditya (369-309 B.C.).

 The claim that King Solomon ever visited Kashmir and established his throne anywhere in the Valley is obviously false and motivated. It is just a part of a preposterous conspiracy going on in Kashmir, on official level as well, to somehow obliterate the Hindu past of Kashmir, which for all practical purposes stands adequately enshrined in Rajatarangini by Kalhana, the Waquiai Kashmir by Mulla Ahmed, the Ratnakar Purana, by Ratnakar Pandit, the Tarikhi Hassan by Sahebzada Ghulam Hassan, and the writings of Dr.Stein, Fergusson, and the dozens of others both foreign and Kashmiri. The conspiracy was furthered about a decade back when Sheikh Abdullah changed, in one stroke, the old Kashmiri names of as many as 800 villages. The separatists have now started calling another hillock in Srinagar, the Hari Parbat on which stands the ancient shrine dedicated to Mother Goddess (the eighteen-armed Sharika), as Koh-i-Maraan. The hundred year old internationally-known library of the State Research and Publications Department, which housed many rare books and manuscripts in Sanskrit and Sharda scripts, has been closed and the valuable materials, put haphazardly into gunny bags have been dumped somewhere in the godowns of Kashmir University to rot.

 It would be quite appropriate to mention here of the recommendations of the Glancy Commission, constituted by Maharaja Hari Singh, after the communal riots engineered by the then Kashmir Muslim Conference in 1931, that "it is evident that both the Shankaracharya Hill (including Durganag temple) and Hari Parbat Hill belong to Kashmiri Pandits" (Page 4 of Glancy Commission Report). The Report also assured that "the areas that were vacant on the hills and on the plains in Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat area were to remain intact and in possession of the Pandit community, which no non-Pandit could encroach, occupy or build upon". Unfortunately, these exclusive Hindu areas have been encroached upon and usurped extensively after 1947, revenue records tampered with, and almost all areas stand build upon now. In this context it would be proper to make a mention of ancient Bhairav Nath Temple at Chhatabal, Srinagar, which remains under police lock and key since 1972 as some Muslims of the area came to claim half of this prime land belonging to the shrine located on the meeting point of river Vitasta and the river Dood Ganga. A Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir once told a Hindu delegation that they would better come to a settlement with the Muslims, or he would be constrained to convert the area into a public park. As against this, when Kashmiri Hindus could, during the Sikh and Dogra regimes in J&K, retaliate against the excesses committed on them by successive Muslim Sultans and Governors, the Hindus demonstrated unforgettable magnamity and large-heartedness, and a deep sense of peaceful co- existence. Here is what a renowned Kashmiri historian, based in Pakistan, had to say about the sagacity of the Kashmiri Hindus:

 "It is to the lasting credit of Pandit Birbal Dhar that when a deputation of Muslims headed by Sayyid Hassan Shah Quadri Khanyari approached him to dissuade the Sikhs from the destruction of the Khanaqah-i-Shahi-Hamadan; he moved in the matter, used his influence and saved the historic structure from vandalism.." (Page 726 of Kashmir by Dr.Sufi.)

 Farooq Abdullahs and Inder Malhotras may kindly keep in mind that history cannot be changed by making off-the-cuff remarks. "History in no blind goddess and does not excuse the blindness in others."

 Abhinavagupta was one of the most outstanding Acharyas of the Shaiva philosophy. He lived in Kashmir in the 10th century A.D. The versatility of his genius was recognised in his own time. He was called the Shankaracharya of Kashmir.

 The Kashyap Bhoomi now called Kashmir, nestling in the outer Himalayas, has been alluring to itself invaders and bandits, saints and sages, scholars and preachers and travellers and lovers of nature alike for ages past. The core socio-religious group of this blend, Kashmiri Hindus, developed into a distinct cultural organism, favoured by geographical fastness and climatic rigours. It impregnated this land of the gods, the cradle of the holy Vitasta with the springs of love, amity and peaceful co-existence. It always maintained a subtle as well as a gross relationship with the Indian mainstream. In fact, Hindu society of the sub-continent remained an umbrella, a super cultural dynamo for this Kashmiri society. Ramayan, Mahabharat, Srimad Bhagvat, and the full galaxy of Indian saints and scholars always nourished and sustained Kashmiris in their pursuit of meaning in life. A pilgrimage to Kashmir is El Dorado for a Hindu living anywhere. Kashmiri ethos never got detached from its moorings as recorded in the noble utterances of the anonymous sages of our Upanishads and the Vedic lore. Among the most profound principles enshrined in these texts is the cultivation of an open mind in the realm of the spirit: "Truth is one, though the sages have called it by various names", and that all faiths deserve our respect.

 Kashmiris are descendents of Rishis and Munis like Dev Vashishta, Bharadwaja, Dattatriya Munishwar etc. etc. and such names are being repeated and commemorated at the time of religious rites, dharmic functions, sradhs etc. by Kashmiris according to their gotras. Pandit means a very learned Hindu, authority on some subject or a learned teacher. History has subjected Kashmiris to severe test and taught them to bear their lot with patience and fortitude. Deeply religious, the Kashmiri Pandit has never met violence with violence. Infinitely tolerant and liberal towards people of other faiths, there is hardly any instance in the history of Kashmir when the Pandits expressed their disapproval of the religious practices of other faiths. To Kashmiris, the numerous holy springs, the blue mountain lakes and silvery peaks of the majestic mountains have been sacred shrines of their five thousand years long ancestry during which Kashmir emerged as the Sharda Peeth a hallowed place for ancient learning. To be known as Kashmiri Pandit is not to be recognised as a person subscribing to clannish mediocrity, but a matter of pride for those who sought over the centuries to shape a distinct style of life by contributing knowledge and learning, despite unheard of cruelty and tyranny suffered by them at the hands of cruel rulers, who came to spread Islam. The pathways through which members of the Kashmiri community passed, in their escape of tyranny of religious bigots, six hundred years ago, are mute witnesses to the immense sufferings the Kashmiri has undergone to preserve and upheld his distinctive style and heritage. During the five thousand years of history, they have made colossal contribution to world civilisation in the field of religion, philosophy, Sanskrit literature, medicine, history, aesthetics etc. As model of non-violence, they have never handled lethal weapons or spoken harsh words. Devoted to the study of Vedas and other Shastras in all their aspects, the essence of these studies has been coursing in their blood stream from generation to generation. In peaceful or turbulent times they were protected under the spiritual umbrella by a large number of highly advanced saints and sages who flourished in the Valley from time to time. No wonder, they preferred death to change their religion and withstood stoically the ruthless monsters of five hundred years of Muslim rule. And when pushed back to the wall, they migrated to places of safety in the hot plains of India. Till recently Kashmiri Hindus were using Saptrishi era and even now have retained it symbolically.

 The Hindus of Kashmir were models of simplicity, purity, truthfulness, ascetic tendency and compassion. All these traits of the highest human culture were built up by the Rishis and Maharishis who, in their secluded Ashrams, performed austere penances and at the same time taught a large number of students who stayed in the Ashrams and led a life befitting a Brahmin Brahmachari. The children of the households lived with Acharyas in the latter's homes. There they used to serve their teacher by gathering fuel for homes and offered morning and evening prayers. The recitation of Vedic hymns with proper accents, preceded by the syllable OM took place at day break. Upanayanam Sanskara, which literally means taking the child to the Guru, was the most important in one's life. Rishis and Paramrishis, in their Ashrams and seats of learning, propagated gems of philosophy, art, literature and history. Apart from imparting teaching to Kashmiri students, they instructed numerous scholars from entire Bharat, who braving long and arduous journey came to Kashmir to drink deep from the well of knowledge at the feet of the masters. No wonder that from the remote ages, Kashmir became the seat of learning and earned for itself the appropriate name of Sharda Peeth or the seat of Sharada, the goddess of Learning and Fine Arts. Apart from performing rites and rituals, as prescribed by the Shastras, the householders worshipped the Hindu Triad, namely Shiva, Vishnu and Bramha and their Consorts, Parvati or Uma who has a variety of other names such as Kali, Durga, Mahadevi, Gauri (the Consort of Shiva); Shri or Lakshmi (the Consort of Vishnu) and Vageshwari or Saraswati (Consort of Bramha). A long list of Shivacharyas (Kashmir's Shaivism being the crest jewel in the firmament of Indian metaphysical world) and learned teachers of the hoary past at Sharada Peeth, are but a few examples that do proud to this patriotic, but unfortunate, persecuted Pandit who continues to be driven to desperation with his back to the wall. His main forte has been learning, which assumed a high profile in the past when Hinduism reigned supreme in Kashmir, in centre of excellence at Sharada Peeth - ancient but now defunct seat of learning on the banks of Krishna Ganga in the Valley of Mount Harmukh (mouth of Lord Shiva) (now under Pakistani occupation). It provided instruction to the scholars from as far away as Kerala, thus cementing the bonds of emotional integration of the people.

 The appellation Bhatta is a remnant reminder of the honorific that went with the degree Bhatta - awarded to graduates coming out of the portals of this prestigious institution. Kashmiri language had an indigenous script. Its fate has been decided in the earlier chapter. Activities, as always, in Hindu and patriotic Kashmir, reasoned to the rhythm of the ebb and flow of the Indian society - the mother current of all that has flowed in this land of Vedanta proclaiming unity and harmony of all life. Contribution of Bhatta (Kashmiri Pandits) touched a high in the past when they were not forced to run for their lives, their footsteps always dogged by anti-human and anti-cultural forces. Therefore, they have a proud past and still possess a vast potential for still better achievements in the service of this great country and humanity at large, provided they are able to discern their future in its appropriate perspective, beckoning them to sincere and catholic efforts. In their overall setting of their Kashmiriat, Kashmiri Hindus, who had to flee the Valley in medieval times, successfully maintained their social identity. They continued to maintain some tenuous social links with their erstwhile mountain-grit homeland and apart from and in spite of their handicap of being unable to maintain their mother-tongue, they faithfully observed all rituals associated with all their mundane and sacred functioning as Kashmiri Saraswat Brahmins.

 Kashmir's devastation began in the early fourteenth century. The Hindu King, Udyan Deva, true to Kashmir's traditional hospitality, gave shelter to a run away Muslim, Shah Mir Khorasani. In fact, the Hindu rulers would give refuge to any person in trouble or peril. Udyan Deva passed away in 1338. His queen, Kota Rani, did everything to maintain her rule. But that was not to be. True to pattern, the man for whom her husband had done everything to keep him comfortable, turned tables against her. He conspired to get Kota Rani imprisoned at Anderkot, where she had gone to look into the grievances of the people of the area. He released Kota Rani after he had captured the throne and established his sway. He asked Kota Rani to become his wife. On her blunt refusal, she was forcibly put into his harem. But this dethroned Kashmiri monarch, upholding the honour of her person and of entire womanhood, like Rani Padmini, gave a big slap to the treacherous Mir and killed herself instantly soon after she was forced into his bed. Thus came to an end peace and harmony in Kashmir. This was the beginning of dark days for Kashmir and Kashmiri people were subjected to brutal persecution and forcibly converted to Islam. What happened during this period is a tragic saga of Evil perpetrated upon the people of the kingdom. Starting with the prolonged rape of the entire length and breadth of the Valley earlier Changeez Khan and Halaku had raided the Valley and later on Dulacha or Dulcha (Zulqadr Khan) a Tartar chief from Turkistan who laid waste the land and another by Achala, another Turkish leader ruined its people entirely. What little was left to complete the picture of death and destruction was taken over by Sultan Sikandar. The sacred thread of assassinated Hindus weighing dozens of maunds were burnt. The invading hordes were bordering on absolute illiteracy and barbarism beat all records in the history of mankind in matters of inflicting tyranny and cruelty on Hindus of Kashmir. Those who resisted vigorously were tied back to back, put into sacks and then thrown into the pristine waters of the Dal Lake to meet their watery grave. The prominent Hindus were forcibly locked in cattle sheds, which were filled with smoke emanating from the burning cowdung. The cruel leader agreed to free them only if they cursed their religion and embraced Islam. Sikandar, who took pride in calling himself Iconoclast, the fourth ruler of Shamiri dynasty openly confronted Kashmiris with choice between conversion to Islam or death. Most of the Kashmiris were converted to Islam on point of sword and all their temples including marvelous Sun Temple at Martand and majestic Vijeshwar (Bijbehara) were destroyed by this brute. The Bhatta Mazaar, the graveyard of Hindus, the name given to the bund across Dal Lake made on the dead bodies of the victims of Islamic fanaticism is a gory reminder of that dark period in the long and chequered history of Kashmir. The places Bhatawath i.e. path of Battas (Pandits) now pronounced as Batote on the Jammu Srinagar highway and Kashtwar or Kasht-niwar. i.e. remover of troubles, on the other side of the Valley in Jammu region had provided refuge to the fleeing and frightened Kashmiris from the Valley. The Sultan destroyed Hindu temples and Hindu shrines and burnt rare Hindu scriptures with a ferocious vengeance. He set the trend for spoilation of temples, defiling the images and usurpation of the valuables. Noted historian, Ghulam Hassan has recorded, "Since the days of Hindu kings, a large number of wonderful temples were existing in this land. Their architecture and construction left even very knowledgeable persons bewildered, Sikandar, through a very heavy hand, demolished all these temples from their roots. First of all continuous efforts were made for one year to destroy the Martand temple but it remained intact. Then a huge quantity of wood was piled up inside the temple and set on fire. Similarly, temples in Bijwara, numbering more than 300, were also brought down to the ground. The kali Shri temple was earlier destroyed by Sultan Qutubuddin. Sultan Sikandar constructed another mosque in its place. Sikandar made a public announcement that anyone not adopting Islam should leave the country or else would be killed. As a result, large number of Hindus migrated to different directions. Some of them got converted to Islam. Some Brahmins preferred death to Islam. All Hindu books were collected and thrown into the Dal Lake". The original is written in Urdu.

 Jawahar Lal Nehru accompanied by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan visited the Martand temple in 1941. The Archaeological Society of India keeper showed them some black-shining blocks, replete with imagery, that had escaped the devastating fire. Nehru wrung his hand in despair, saying "What did they gain by vandalising such a great artistic treasure?" Well known British archaeologist and historian, Stein, writing about the Martand temple says: "The ruins of this splendid temple are still the most striking objects of ancient Hindu architecture in the Valley." The temple was built by the famous King of Kashmir during 724-761 A.D. in honour of Sun God. The ruins of another temple town Awantipur, built by Utpal dynasty's ruler, Awantivarman in 855-883 A.D. are witness to their grandeur. The demolished Martand temple, even now in its ruined state, invites comparison with Parthenon of Greece.

 As the Muslim rule was consolidated in Kashmir Valley by the middle of 14th century, a large number of Kashmiris migrated to what appeared to them more congenial regions of the sub-continent. Some of them moved as far South to the Konkan coast and merged with the Saraswat Brahmins of that region. The horrifying memory of this period of tyranny has left permanent scars on the psych of Kashmiri Hindus and even now it is related that just eleven families escaped this trauma by going into hiding in the Valley. Many of the survivors returned to Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abedien, who was grandson of Sikandar the Iconoclast. Initially, he was cruel and fanatic as his grandfather. But a grave event proved to be a water-shed in his life. One day his pleasure-seeking prodigal son asked his attendants to take him along the river. In fact, he intended to go in search of new choicest pastures. It was very early in the cold morning. He spotted a young girl pouring water with flower petals into the river Vitasta. He went near her and as he began to draw her towards him by getting hold of her with his right arm, she pulled herself with a jerk, ran away and was soon lost in the lanes and bylanes. The prince returned and decided to order her formal capture by his soldiers. The girl belonged to one of the eleven Hindu families, who were in hiding. Apparently, she had been taking the risk of going to the river bank in the early mornings for samarpan or neirmaal. As soon as the prince reached his palace, he felt immense pain in his right arm. Shortly his arm became motionless and his pain, which slowly spread to other parts of the body, became unbearable. Physicians and later Maulvis were summoned to either treat him by medicine or show their miracles. Nothing was left undone. But the prince appeared to be nearing his end by each passing day. There was no respite in the cries of the prince day and night. Sultan became restless and there was gloom all round. One day when Zain- ul-Abedien was about to go for offering his usual Namaaz, one of the attendants of the prince bowed before the Sultan and related to him the entire episode of the fateful morning. The King consulted his trusted courtiers. The girl was traced and brought to the palace. The King very politely and affectionately asked her whether she could forgive the boy and cure him. The girl in a low voice and with great modesty and obedience, narrated before the King the agony of the innocent Brahmins who were in hiding. She told him that she belonged to one of these families. Her father and a few other elders who had also been brought before the Sultan along with the girl, assured him that they could pray for the prince provided they were allowed to live freely and the threat of conversion was removed. The king joyfully agreed and issued the firman immediately in this regard. The Pandits did the needful and the prince began to recover and soon he was his old self. Zain-ul-Abedien, now a fully transformed personality, announced that the Hindus who had migrated from the Valley, could return to their homes and profess their faith with full freedom. He also decreed that those who had been converted forcibly could also revert to their original faith, if they so desired.

 Zain-ul-Abedien turned into a very tolerant and enlightened ruler. During his rule (1423 to 1474 A.D.) large number of Hindu migrants were recalled and rehabilitated in perfect security and honour in the towns and villages of Kashmir. Their properties were restored to them. He fully helped the Hindus to repair their vandalised places of worship and to build new temples. He appointed a Pandit, Shree Bhat as his chief advisor. Even today, after five centuries, he is on the lips of every Kashmiri whether Muslim or Hindu. He is popularly remembered as Budshah or great king. He completely abandoned the path of bigotry and fully concentrated on the well-being of his subjects and development of the Valley.

 Kashmiri Hindus continued their precarious existence in their homeland under Akbar, Jehangir and Shahjehan. Some of them took to Persian studies and began to be appointed as tutors by the Mughal elite even at such far of places like Delhi and Agra. Aurangzeb's fanaticism brought another crisis in the life of Kashmiri Hindus. They were again confronted with the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Aurangzeb was very keen for conversion of Hindus of India to Islam. According to Mecauliffe, the experiment of wholesale conversion was first tried in Kashmir. The Kashmiri Pandits were well-known for their scholarship and their conversion to Islam would induce other Hindus to embrace Islam. S.M.Latif, in his History of Punjab says:

 "Aurangzeb sent Iftikhar Khan as Governor of Kashmir in 1671. Iftikhar carried out the fanatical policies of Aurangzeb with great zeal. Aurangzeb's motives in persecuting the Brahmins were obvious. The Brahmins both presented and propagated the Hindu religion and tradition. Their whole-sale conversion to Islam would have definitely helped in bringing the rest of the Hindus into the fold of Islam. The Brahmins of Kashmir were renowned for their learning and orthodoxy. The Valley of Kashmir surrounded as it was by the Muslim lands, could easily be assimilated with the rest of the Muslim India across the Attock river, North Western province, Afghanistan and Persia."

 During the 49 years of Aurangzeb's reign, Kashmir was administered by 14 Governors. Iftikhar Khan was most cruel of all these. The Sikh tradition speaks of the atrocities against the Brahmins of Kashmir and the visits of their deputation under the leadership of Pandit Kripa Ram Dutt of Mattan to Anandpur Saheb. Seva Singh, the author of Shahid Bilas has stated:

 Sorrow stricken Brahmins came to Anandpur and said: "Protect us, O Lord, the son of Guru Hargobind. Hear our pathetic pleas. Guru Tegh Bahadur - protector of the poor and the cows, you are the Prophet of the Almighty in the kalyuga. We have none to go for help. Our condition is most pitiable. protect us the way Lord Krishna protected Draupadi. We have gone from pillar to post. You are the Lord Krishna of the present age. We have no other hope. We seek refuge at thy feet. O Lord!"

Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Sikh Guru heard their tale of woe. He gave them hope and courage. By telling Aurangzeb to convert him instead of the helpless Kashmiri Hindus, he drew the rage of the Mughal fanatic on him. The Guru's martyrdom along with his companions Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayal Das at Chandni Chowk, Delhi, saved Kashmiri Hindus.

 Afghans brought Kashmir under their control by 1750 A.D. and made it a province of the kingdom of Kabul. Their atrocities made life unbearable for Kashmiris. One of the Pathan governors, Asad Khan used to tie up Hindus two and two in grass sacks and sink them in the Dal Lake. Another Governor, Mir Hazar made an improvement and used leather bags instead of grass sacks for drowning Hindus. Another Governor. Atta Mohamma Khan was a terror to women both Hindu and Muslim. Jabbar Khan, who followed him, tried even to change the weather of the Valley. These events have been detailed in my book: "Unhappy Kashmir - The Hidden Story". During this darkest period of Pathan rule, Hindus were killed or converted. This massive genocide reduced them further to a small minority. Leaving aside their Islamic zeal, Pathan rulers were cruel to Muslims also. Peasantry and labour were crushed economically. Kashmiri Muslim labourers were used as ponies and forced labour (begar) was introduced.

 The persecution of Kashmiri Hindus from 1400 A.D. to 1819 A.D. has been well documented by a Muslim historian, Ghulam Hassan Khohami and Junaraja. During this period, thousands were made to embrace Islam by force, thousands were killed, others fled away. Many perished en-route while fleeing. Many consumed poison to escape the persecution while others burnt themselves in flaming fire. These are all historical facts which paved the way for conversion of Kashmir from a Hindu area to a Muslim majority area. It is an irony of fate that while the Kashmiri Hindus accomodated, mingled with and absorbed the culture and traditions of all outsiders, who came to Kashmir, they were repeatedly rewarded with the most inhuman and brutal treatment. The most valuable treasure of Kashmiri Hindus were their scriptures. These were brutally burnt. Heavy taxes were imposed on Hindus when allowed to live. Bestialities like chopping of the noses and tongues, beheading, drowning in water after tying people back to back etc. were inflicted on the Hindus. Those who escaped forcible conversion, mutilation and death were forced into exile. The Muslim rule, with the exception of the period under Budshah, is the story of terror and horror. However, since the native Muslims were overwhelmingly converts and belonged to the same ethnic group as the Hindus, there had been a local ethos in Islam as practised by the common Muslims, leaving the ruling lords aside. The period of Lal Ded and Nand Rishi was, no doubt, a period of spiritual renaissance for all Kashmiris put together. The converted Muslims had retained the essential ingredients of Hinduism. In fact, Islam in Kashmir acquired its own distinct colour and hue. The Sufi and Rishi order influenced Islam in Kashmir. The local devout Muslims believed in basic tenets of Islam, such as oneness of god, the Day of Judgement, the system of punishment and reward. But greater emphasis was laid on inner purification. They believed that the true meaning of Jihad was to wage a war against the evils inside man and true victory can be attained by curbing desires. The Rishis had a tremendous impact on the social and cultural life of Muslims and Hindus together. A seventeenth century poet wrote: "The candle or religion is lit by the Rishis. This Vale of Kashmir that you call a paradise, owes a lot of its charm to the traditions set by them". The virtues of Kashmiri Islam as it developed by and by - contemplation, asceticism, renunciation, abstinence, simplicity, co-existence, etc. were common to the virtues admired in Hinduism. But unfortunately the new interpretation of Islam got pushed into the Valley through Aligarh channels informally and under the auspices of Jammat- i-Islami-Hind through former channels. Healthy traditions in Kashmir's culture were damaged and destroyed among the Muslim's and unhealthy ones propped up and fertilised. Seeds of narcissism were planted by politicians with lust for power making Article 370 a tool for their power game. In the process Islam lost its Kashmiri ethos and even Sufism lost all its validity. On the occasion of Meraj- ul-alam, on 21st February, 1990, more than a lakh Muslims from Srinagar, using all modes of transport, reached Chrar-i-Sharief at the shrine of Sheikh-ul-Alam, Sheikh Nurruddin, the name by which Nand Rishi is known among Muslims, and vowed to take Kashmir out of India and clear it of all non-believers. Since then there has been no mercy on the Hindus of Kashmir. This event was a water-shed in the present insurgency. In the district town of Anantnag, killing of animals is forbidden during Navratri days in September-October, in reverence to the sacred memory of renowned Muslim saint Rishi Malloo Saheb, whose shrine in the heart of the town is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims as also Hindus. Muslims abstain from meat-eating during these days. But on account of intensive preachings of Imams from U.P., Delhi and other Indian cities, the Islamic ethos took an about-turn in Kashmir Valley. In the same town of Anantnag, in 1986, on the auspicious day of Janmashtami, Qazi Nissar, an Islamic scholar and Mirwaize of South Kashmir, came to the main thoroughfare of the town called Lal Chowk, with a sheep and killed it by his own hand under the resounding clappings of thousands of Muslims, who had been specially asked to assemble there on the occasion. Qazi Nissar had announced in advance to do so as an act of deliberate aggressive provocation to the Hindus as a signal that Islam would be followed this way only in Kashmir. The frightened Hindus of the town had sheltered themselves in their homes and Hindus in the rest of the country were fast asleep under secular sedatives.

"Oh! Aaftaab tooney dekha hai sab zamaana,
Kashmir kay chaman mein Panditon ka Ashiana.
Hum shaandar apna itihas pesh kartey,
Hota na pustakoon per garzulum washiana."

Kashmir: Distortions & Reality

 

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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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