Kashmir in Ancient
by Dr. B. N. Kalla
scholar and linguist, Dr. Kala is presently with the Department of Sanskrit,
to the Nilmat Purana, the land of Kashmir was occupied by a vast lake called
"Satisara". Modern geological observations have supported this legendary
view. On the basis of this fact, the word "Kashmir" is derived from Sanskrit
"Kashyapa + Mira" which means the sea lake or the mountain of sage Kashyapa.
Kashyapa was the originator of Kashmir. In Kashmiri, it is called "Kasheer"
and "Kashmir" in the Indian languages. Phonetically, "m" is eroded here
as we find erosion in the word "Samudra" (ocean). "Samudra" changes into
the form of "Sadur" (derived from Sanskrit Samudra in the Kashmiri language
and "Samandra" in the Indian languages. "M" is retained in Hindi, Urdu,
etc. but not in Kashmiri. Thus "Kashyapa + Mira" = Kashmir in the Indian
languages other than Kashmiri and "Kasheer" in Kashmiri. Mir in English
means the sea as Mariner. In Latin Marinus (more- sea).
The name of
Kashmir does not occur in the Vedic literature. In the "Nadi Sukta" of
Rig Veda, there is a hymn which mentions the name of Vitasta (in Kashmiri
Veth and modern Jhelum).
Among the grammarians,
the earliest referenee to Kashmir is found in Panini's (500 B.C.) "Ashtadhayi"
and in Patanjali's great commentary on it. There the term "Kashmir" and
its derivation "Kashmira" are stated as the name of the country and its
Among the epics,
we find the name of "Kashmir" in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The
Mahabharata refers in several passages to "Kashmir" and their king, but
in a way which merely indicates that the valley was situated in the hilly
regions to the north of India. Similarly, some of the Puranas refer to
Kashmir in the list of northern nations. The earliest Sanskrit literature
of the valley so far known is the Nilmat Purana. According to the opinion
of Dr. Buhler, a famous German Indologist: "It is a real mine of information
regarding the sacred places of Kashmir and their legends". Besides, the
reference to worships prescribed by "Nila" and observed by the people,
the work dilates upon such various topics as the Principal Nagas or sacred
springs of Kashmir, the origin of the "Mahapadamsara" (present Wular Lake),
places dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, the sacred river confluences and
lakes, the chief pilgrimages of the land and in the end upon the sanctity
of the Vitasta.
Varahmihra (C.A.D. 500), in his
Brahtsamhita, includes the Kashmiras in the north-eastern
division of the other tribes who lived in this region. He mentions the Abhisaras,
Daradas, Darvas, Khashas, Kiras, etc., the tribes which are
known from other sources to have inhabited Kashmir and its neighbouring
regions in historical periods. Harasha, a famous poet (7th Century A.D.),
in his "Ratnavali" (drama), refers to the saffron of the Kashmira country,
which was best of all types of saffrons, both in colour and in scent.
Purana describes the tribes as Nagas, Pishachas, Darvas, Abhisaras, Gandharas,
Shakas, Khashas, Mundavas, Madaras, Yavanas, etc. In the Atharvasamhita,
we find mention of some northern tribes like the Bahlikas, Mahavarshas,
Gandharis and Mujavats. The Brahmnas and the Upnishdas refer to some of
the tribes who lived in the north-west, such as the Gandharas, Kekyas,
Madaras and Ambashthas.
the polyhister, in his work, namely "Samyamatrika", furnishes us with some
useful information about the topographical details of his country. His
heroine, Kankali travels through the length and breadth of Kashmir. To
the poet we owe the first reference to "Pirpanchal" route (Panchadhara).
After Kshemendra, Somdeva, the author of the Kathasaritsagar, describes
Kashmir as a region in the south of the Himalayas by the waters of the Vitasta. He mentions some of the holy sites of the valley, such as
Vijayakshetra, Nandikshetra, Varahkshetra and Uttarmansa and the town of
of Shivavijayesha or Vijayeshwara, since ancient times one of the most
famous shrines of the valley, has given its name to the town in which it
was situated, Vijayeshwara, the modern Vijabror 75¡9' long, 33¡48'
lat. "Bror" in Kashmiri means God, a derivative of Sanskrit Bhattaraka,
corresponding to Ishvara.
The name, Nandikshetra,
is given by the Nilmata, the Nandikshetra and Harmukta Mahatmyas to a high
alpine valley at the foot of the east glaciers of the Harmukh peaks which
contains the sacred Kalodakalake, popularly known as Nundkol. The Nanikshetra
includes the ncighbouring site of Bhuteshwara or Buthsher, in the Kankanai
valley below Nandkol.
is modern Baramulla.
is meant the sacred Ganga lake situated below the eastern glaciers of Mount
Harmukh and popularly known as Gangabal.
the town founded by Hranyaksha at Ranyal, a village situated circ. 74¡52
long. 34¡12 lat. close to the high road which leads from Srinagar
to Ganderbal and the Sindh Valley.
contemporary of Kalhana, lived during the reigns of King Kalsha and Harsha.
He also left an account of his native valley. In his Vikramandekadeva Charita,
he gives us a vivid picture of the Kashmirian capital and the village of
Khonomusha (present Khonmoh) where he took birth. His account, apart from
its poetic beauties, is full of local details. In addition to it, he has
given the description of the language of his time. As per his version,
Sanskrit and hakrit were in use like their mother-tongue.
For the history,
as well as for the early geography of the valley, Kalhana's Rajtarangini
is a very important historical document. In the first Taranga of his work,
he gives us an account of the legends relating to the creation of Kashmir
and its sacred river, the Vitasta, and refers, besides, to the most famous
of the many Tirthas in which Kashmir was abundant. For the historical geography
of Kashmir is the mass of incidental references of topographical interest
scattered throughout his work.
was really rich in holy places and the objects of pilgrimages were planted
throughout the valley. According to the Rajtarangini, Kashmir was a country
where there was not a space as large as a grain of sesamum without a Tirtha.
The springs (Naag in Kashmiri), which had their tutelary deities in the
form of Nagas, the streams and the rivers, in particular sacred legends
attached to each of them, innumerable places connected with the worship
of various gods and goddesses - all these and many more have been frequently
mentioned by Kalhana. They have some topographical importance as they enable
us to trace with more or less certainty the early history of most of the
popular places of pilgrims visited up to present day. The marvellous accuracy
of Kalhana's topographical knowledge about some of the Tirthas tends to
show that he visited them personally.
A number of
feferences made by Kalhana regarding the origin of towns, cities, villages,
estates and shrines are also of topographical importance. His knowledge
about the birth of these towns and shrines seems to have been gathered
from the inscriptions, recording the consecration of temples and grants
of land by former kings.
of nomenclature followed in ancient Kashmir preserved a genuine tradition
regarding their founder. In the cases of towns and cities, the appellation
"Pura" is attached to the name of the founder. In the cases of religious
structures, terms indicating the deity or the object to which the building
was dedicated follow.
for the foundations of the towns, etc. made by Kalhana, are sometimes accompanied
by accurate description of the sites chosen and of structures connected
with them. Mention may be made in this connection about his descriptions
of the towns of Pravarapura, Parihaspura and Jayapura Dwarvati. It is Kalhana's
accurate dcscription which alone has helped future scholars to idenlify
some of the ruined sites of present times with the famed cities of the
past. The seventh and eighth Tarangas of Rajtarangini are full and elaborate
with detailed topographical intormation. Kalhana, incidentally, tells us
so much about the various localities connected with those events - we can
clearly trace them from the map. His topographical exactness is strikingly
revealed from such accounts as the regulation of the waters of the Vitasta
by Suyya, the sieges of Shrinagar under Sussala, the battle on the Gopadari
hill in the same period, the blockade of Lohara and the siege of the Shirahshila
The poet, Mankha,
was a contemporary of Kalhana. In the third canto of his work - Shrikanthacharita
- he gives an account of Pravarpura, the capital of Kashmir.
texts of topographical interest, mention may be made of Haracharitachintamani
of Jayadratha. Jayadratha belonged to the end of the 12th century AD or
the beginning of the 13th century AD. In his 32 cantos, he deals with a
number of legends connected with Shiva and his Avatars Of these, eight
legends are centred round well-known Kashmirian Tirthas and afford the
author an opportunity of describing various sacred sites of Kashmir, connected
directly or indirectly with them. Jayadratha's detailed description shows
the gradual development of legends connected with different places of pilgrimage
since the days of Kalhana.
Mahatmyas of Kashmir are also interesting sources for early historical
geography. Thus the fole of Mahatmyas in describing the topography of the
valley cannot be ruled out. They give us a good intormation regarding the
ancient nomenclature of Kashmir. Among the 51 Mahatmyas, the Vitasta Mahatmya
is a big one which is divided into 35 Patalas. They generally set forth
the different legends connected with various places of pilgrimage, the
merit to be appeared by their visits and the rites to be performed in each
of the sites. They contain many early materials and local traditions and
are thus vaiuahle for a systemalic study of the old topography of the valley.
The Nilamat Purana Vol I; Dr. Ved Kumari
2. Early History
and Culture of Kashmir: Dr Sunil Chandra Ray
English (translation): M. A. Stein.
5. Kashir Dictionary.
vol IV, published hy Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture &
has given an etymology of 40,000 words of Kashmiri language up to the last
volume - Vol VII of Kashmiri Dictionary published by Jammu and Kashmir
Cultural Academy, Srinagar.
Encyclopaedia Dictionary of the English Language.