by P.N.K. BamzaiThe
Valley of Kashmir is known among the Kashmiri Pandits or Saraswat Brahmins
of Kashmir as Saradapeeth or the Abode of the Goddess of Learning and Fine
Arts. During their five thousand years of history, they have made colossal
contribution to world civilization in the field of Religion, Philosophy,
Sanskrit literature, medicine, history, aesthetics, etc. As models of non-violence,
they have never handled lethal weapons or spoken harsh words. Devoted to
the study of Vedas and other Sastras 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
their 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 in their religion and withstood stoically the
ruthless masters for five hundred years of Muslim rule. And when pushed
back to the wall, they migrated to places of safety in the hot plains of
has been repeated in 1990 but on a vaster scale. Threatened with annihilation
by Islamic Fundamentalists and gun-toting terrorists, the hapless Brahmins
migrated en masse to Jammu and other places in the hot plains of the rest
of India, leaving behind their hearths and homes, movable and immovable
properties, their jobs and business, even the education of their children.
The treatment they received from the State and Central Governments is perhaps
the most bitter instance of this nature in the world. As refugees in their
own country, their governments treated them with disdain. Instead of giving
them comfort and solace, their attitude towards them was callous and inhuman.
How and wherefrom
did the Kashmiri Pandits or Vedic Aryans enter and settle in the Valley
is an interesting episode in the early movement of people from place to
The main theory
about the Aryan settlement in Kashmir as advanced by Dr. Grierson was that
they formed a part of the stream of Indo-Aryans from Central Asia, but
did not share the migration to India via the Kabul River Valley to settle
in the Punjab. They broke away from the mainstream while crossing the Hindukush
and entering the Valley via Dardistan settled there.
But after deep
research for the last 15 years the writer has come to the conclusion that
Dr. Grierson's Theory was erroneous. Actually they came to the Valley from
the Punjab centuries after the first settlement of Aryans there.
the earliest stream of Aryans who entered India, found the banks of the
River Saraswati in the Punjab fertile and conducive to easy cultivation,
and settled there.
the Rig Veda as "the mother of rivers", scholars have debated for centuries
whether Saraswati is a myth or has been a reality at some distant point
a team of archaeologists, geologists, geographers and historians led by
the famous archeologist Dr. V.S. Wakankar, began their quest of the river
in 1985. Armed with high-tech facilities like landsat and multi-spectoral
scanner (MSS), the team began the quest from the believed source of the
river at Adi Badri in the Shivalik Hills in Ambala They sieved through
the whole area notably 150 prominent sites along the route in the Thar
Desert ending at Somnath in Gujarat.
At the end
of it all they had solid evidence to prove the existence of a highly developed
culture on the banks of a mighty river which they say was Saraswati.
this evidence, the existence of a mighty river, matching the Vedic description
of Saraswati, has been scientifically proved. The multi-spectoral scanner
(MSS), a widely used and relied upon equipment in archaeology, indicates
various channels of the river in the region.
MSS observations of various channels, Sutluj was the main tributary of
Ghaggar (the present name for Saraswati, now in Pakistan). But tectonic
movements forced Sutluj to flow in different direction (at right angle
to its original channel), thus leaving Ghaggar dry.
A study of
the landsat imagery of Ghaggar (Saraswati) reveals that the river had a
constant width of six to eight kilometres from Shatrana in the Punjab to
Marot in Pakistan.
of the river spread prosperity all around and the settlers passed centuries
there in peace, building well-planned towns and cities to live in. The
Aryan society was by and by stratified into classes according to the kind
of their work and profession or varna. But as ill-luck would have it, the
life-giving river changed its course several times and ultimately dried
up. Known as Saraswat Brahmins, Kshatryas and Vaisas, they left the Punjab
in search of equally good if not better land in the rest of the sub-continent.
An enterprising batch went back to the mountains in the north to reside
in the Kashmir Valley of whose beauty and salubrious climate they had heard
from their forefathers who used to go there during summer. They sought
the protection of Nila, the Lord of the Nagas and begged his permission
to settle in the Valley permanently as his subjects.
to their tale of woe sympathetically, but promised the requested permission
on condition that they conformed to the social usages and customs of the Nagas. The Saraswats agreed to these conditions when the Naga chief permitted
them to reside permanently in the Valley.
Into The Valley
At what point
of time this important immigration into the Valley of Saraswat Aryans (comprising
Brahmans, Kshatryas, Vaisas and Sudras) took place is not possible to say.
However, the beginning of the Saptarishi or Laukika Era seems to be the
time when the Sarswat Aryans entered into and settled in the Valley, after
getting permission from Nila, the lord of the Naga tribe who were already
settled there. The beginning of this era nearly coincides with Mahabharata
war. The date of the coronation of King Yudhishtra is given as Kaliyug
Samvat 653. Kalhana too begins the Rajatarangini from this time as is evident
from the description of the installation by Lord Krishna of Queen Yasomati
on the throne of Kashmir as the guardian of her son King Gonanda II.
or Laukika era is still in current use among the Brahmin population of
Kashmir. Buhler was the first to prove from the extant tradition of Kashmiri
Brahmins and other evidence that the commencement of the Laukika Era is
placed on Caitra Sudi 1, of Kali Samvat 25 (expired) or the year 3076-75
B.C. Since his discovery correct accounts of the Laukika reckoning are
to be found in all handbooks of Indian chronology.
That the Kashmiri
Brahmins have held on to and followed this calendar tenaciously for the
last 5066 years is a strong point in favour of assuming their entry in
the Kashmir Valley round about the beginning of this era.
exigencies of time and division of labour gradually differentiated the
priestly Brahmins from other castes. And when the Saraswat Aryans entered
the Valley, the Brahmins were in a dominating position and laid down rules
and regulations for the other castes to follow in accordance with the agreement
with Nagas. From that time begins the emergence of the Kashmiri Pandits
or the Saraswat Brahmins of Kashmir as a distinct community in the all-embracing
comity of people called Hindus.
learned, it was only the Kashmiri Pandits who were capable of expounding
the Vedas, the Vedanganas, the Itihasas, the Puranas and the Mimamsa. They
were well-versed in various orthodox and heterodox philosophic systems.
Jurists, astrologers, mathematicians, poets and philosophers were from
this community. Even the less educated among them did fairly well, for
they could act as Kathavacaks or reciters of sacred stories and performers
of various domestic rites. Sanskrit was their mother tongue and both men
and women spoke it fluently.
good care of the Brahmins, for they received land gifts and money. There
is mention of many grants or agraharas in literature and epigraphs. Villages
were transferred to the Brahmins with pastures for cows, with lands, water
and trees, fruit bearing or otherwise.
A class that
helped in the preservation of Dharma and contributed much to cultural progress,
naturally enjoyed some privileges in a society dominated by it. Smritis
and the Puranas speak of the Brahmins as being exempt from taxation and
capital punishment. The ancient Dharmasastras lay down that a Brahmin should
not be given any corporal punishment. Many other Smritis speak of exile
as the maximum punishment for a Brahmin.
Brahmins of Kashmir were models of simplicity, purity, truthfulness, ascetic
tendency and compassion. All these traits of the highest human culture
were built-up by 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 Brahmin Brahmacharin.
Thus the Guru-Shishya Parampara was established. The children of a house-holder
lived with Acharyas (teachers) in the latter's home. There they used to
serve their teacher by gathering fuel for homa and offered morning and
evening prayers. The recitation of the Vedic hymns with their proper accents,
preceded by the syllable OM took place at day-break. Early morning was
the time set apart for studies.
Upanayan Sanskara, which literally means taking the child to the Guru,
was the most important in one's life. The Brahman, the Khatriya and Vaisa
boys were initiated when they were 8, 11 and 12 years respectively. This
initiation of a boy into the three R's took place on an auspicious day
in a festive atmosphere. Gods were propitiated, feasts arranged and presents
offered to the teacher before entrusting the student to his care. A very
disciplined life was laid down by the medieval digests for students receiving
Brahmanical education. By the time the boy attained the age of sixteen
years, he was expected to be the master of all sciences and arts.
course naturally differed according to the needs of the student. A Brahmin
learnt the four Vedas, the six Angas, the various scripts, Mimamsa, Smritis,
Puranas, Karmakanda, Jyotish, Ganita, Music, Sciences, etc.
of a student did not end here. They took inspiration from the Rishis and
Paramrishis who in their ashrams and seats of learning propagated gems
of philosophy, art, literature and history. Apart from imparting education
to hundreds of Kashmiri students, they instructed numerous scholars from
distant lands, 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 remote ages Kashmir became the seat of learning, and earned for
itself the appropriate name of Saradapeeth or the seat of Sarada, the Goddess
of Learning and Fine Arts.
performing rites and rituals as prescribed by the Sastras, the Brahmin
householder worshipped the Hindu Triad, namely Siva, Vishnu and Brahma
and their Consorts - Parvati or Uma who has a variety of other names such
as Kali, Durga, Mahadevi (the Consort of Siva); Sri or Lakshmi (the Consort
of Vishnu) and Vagheswari or Saraswati (the Consort of Brahma)
In later times
a special sect who were devotees and worshippers of Sakti - the manifestation
of power and energy of Siva - came into prominence and were known as Saktas.
Their rites and rituals and the mode of their performance differed basically
from the mainstream of the Kashmiri Pandits.
mountain peaks around the Valley evoked the image of Siva with Ganga coming
out of His locks and gushing down in streams to the plains below, spreading
life all around. Hence, Kashmir has, from time immemorial, been known as
the Land of Siva (Sivapuri). The worship of Siva and the study of Saivism
is, therefore, a predominant theme in the religious and philosophic practices
of the Kashmiri Brahmins. Though the Trikka philosophy popularly known
as Kashmir Saivism took shape in the 8th Century A.D., Sivasana or Sivagama,
that is Saivism as such, is far older than this date. Indeed we can trace
its beginning in the Vedic Revelations.
of the earliest works on Saivism in Kashmir is lost in antiquity. It is
said that originally there were sixty-four systems of philosophy covering
every aspect of thought and life, but they all gradually disappeared and
the world was plunged into spiritual darkness. Then Siva, goes the legend,
moved by pity for the ignorance and sufferings of mankind, appeared on
the Kailasa mountain in the form of Srikantha. He commanded the sage Durvasa
to spread true knowledge among men. Durvasa created three sons by the power
of his mind and to one of these, Tryambaka, he imparted the knowledge of
diluted with the animistic faith of the indigenous Nagas and influenced
by the Saivite faith, formed the religion of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley
from their settlement there till the appearance of Emperor Asoka in the
middle of 300 B .C. along with a contingent of 5000 Bikshus whom he settled
in the Valley to study and propagate Buddhism.