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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri


Return of the Brahmin

by P.L. Zutshi

PL ZutshiThe Brahmin from Kashmir has been caricatured time and again by historians and travellers alike as an ‘anthropological’ species. The interest has been to describe the population strains in the unique territory i.e. the valley of Kashmir, the Himalayas around and the associated natural grace and abundance of natural loveliness. The Brahmin featured specially for their erudite scholarship in theology, logic and philosophy combine.

Kashmir was an erstwhile ‘lake’ in geological times, which after drying and desiccation developed into the Vitasta valley and got populated by the Brahmin from the Shardian stock joining the original inhabitants, the Nagas and the like. In course of time after few millennia, Kashmir too turned into a territory of the rulers and the ruled.

This ‘Brahmin’ from the Sharda-Desh is identified by the same definition and meaning as is offered in the Manusimiriti. Along with this given tag, these people tilled land reared cattle and were engaged, very seriously, in prayer penance and introspection. They thus constituted a strict socio-religious people interested in persuasion of Sanatan knowledge, which necessitated a search for the source of awareness. The Brahmin knew well, that, the Self in relation with the environment constitutes the necessary element of knowledge of self and its persuits. The song, 'vassudeva kutambkum' was already in air, along with the need and necessity of ‘Gods’ representing earth, water, fire, crop, rain etc. also recognized.

Foreground :

The Brahmin from Kashmir is none other than an offshoot of the parent stock of Indus Valley Civilisation. Age dating of this civilisational order being a scientific activity may as well get set by assessment of the pace of human evolution, genetics and by working back on the processes of initiation of the rich philosophy, which by no imagination could be a day's work. It is believed to be very deep in time and may have no match, however to the current inferences. We have at present no authentic data on the rate at which genetic changes take place, changing also the intellectual order of humans that responds to the growth order. From the earliest state of organized living to a reasonable level of maturity in thought processes, should without any doubt or exaggeration require a long period of time. The recovery of clay figurine and seals from Harappa-Mohanjudharu sites, should be enough only to serve to the extent that ‘Indus’ people had begun to observe and think in terms of means and methods of engaging children. It is a branch stage for remote from the maturity level in thought processes and introspection.

The human thought process where mind gets well organized such that the organized thought enters into the realms of being established, should take much longer time, not less than as a few millennia.

Ten thousand years B.C. could be the area of time when the Brahmin from lower reaches of Indus valley travelled north and along the river valley into Krishenganga-Karnah valley. This terrain including Afghanistan, Gandhar, Gilgit, Chilas later developed into ‘ Sharda Mandal’ (Sharda-Desh). It thus developed into synonymous concept as Sharda civilization, backed up by Sharda language. Sharda language, as revealed later, is told to be having an edge over Sanskrit. The place ‘Sharda’ situated along the west bank of Krishenganga river environmentally turned out be a most suited place to build Vihars (Hermitages), temple complexes and the language. This place steals the honour of being designated as ‘ Sharda Peeth’ or in real the seat of learning. We also know of ‘Sharda University’ where scholars used to gather for research and discourse.

We may be thus in a position to believe, even emphatically, that the full blown Sharda civilization descended into the Kashmir valley when the later had become completely habitable post desiccation of the Satisar lake. The flat fertile land was an invitation for labour, invitation for tilling and cultivation. It also appeared to be an abode secluded enough in the lap of Himalayas to pursue prayer and penance.

With the last phase of glaciations around ten thousand years B.C., began the Neolithic period and the end phase of ‘Kerewa lake’ sedimentation. Packed with event stories, Kashmir registers tectonic activity at intervals. And another rise of Pir-Panjal took place, close to the beginning of the last phase of Stone Age. With it, Vitasta had made its appearance as of now meandering through the broad flat valley. Looking over at the valley flat from the mountain slope, three prominent hilltops i.e. ‘Hariparbat’, ‘Shankaracharya’ and ‘Khrew’ appeared most picturesque and eye-catching.

The Shardian :

The small Brahmin population at Sharda in their long stay had in an option-less compulsive state, begun to appreciate nature in all its shades and nuances. A unique awareness and extraordinary perspective had already dawned on these people. They had begun to recite nature and draw nectar out of it. "Who knows what was it before it was Naught?" This sentence caters to a train of expression. It necessitates to deliberate seriously on the ‘nothingness’ and create enough logic to live by until finality gets known. The Brahmin thus gets on to know, the hard way, the secrets embedded in and around the daily observation. The deep engrossment in nature of ‘ Space’ ‘ Water’, ‘ Heat’, ‘ Air’ and ‘ Earth’ provided them with enough logic to confirm for good the importance to the objective world. This complete experience built the fundamentals of knowledge. The ‘Vedic’ verse thus rhymes out as an irresistible impulse in praise of ‘Nature’, its beauty and importance.

The expression given to the details would never cherish an option. For the population, life at Sharda was exiting and demanding. Their daily chore in the intense cold turned to be tough and challenging but their pleasure unbound in search of an absolute attunement with ‘ Nature’ ‘ Prakrati’, they believed, was their only guide in search of knowledge frontiers. They adapted to it in full awareness and willingly despite the relatively harsh environment. They attended to a routine around Vihars and temples, the cattle and the fields, and made life to vibrate happiness in experience and an ultimate ‘Joy’ in living. The Brahmin packed his/her day with work of sorts which included making for the living and life. The habitat comprised a mud hut dimly lit with crude thatched roofing and of partially finished wooden frames and doors. The walls were plastered with mud both inside and out, yet sweeped clean with clay wash, which is bright and dense.

The porch and the entrance were equally clean plastered with cow dung and clay. The courtyard was looking as an established space and as required by a peasant family. This style of life continued at Sharda for a few millennia with the Brahmin developing as a master of himself.

Their faith in the philosophy that ‘nature was the principal provider and it received back all that is left’, was profound.

Word ‘ Sharda’ got coined to connote a figurine of the ‘Goddess’ of knowledge and learning and hence the place where lived the people who pursued learning ‘nature’ with belief in it. The temple at Sharda was central and surrounded by vihars. It was designed in intricate geometrical pattern and a ‘domal’ frame, in accordance to the dome faces of the ‘cubic’ crystal of diamond. The temple was small yet with very thick and massive stonewalls. It had a low and well designed triangular arcade type entrance, intended to replicate Cosmos and thus also the universal oneness. It had as well a low stone terrace (Parikrama).

The sanctum is a spring covered by a stone slab symbolizing the Mother Divine. The slab bears the engraved 'Srichakara' (unconfirmed). This intricately designed geometrical figure of forty-three triangles within three concentric circles and an outer square frame with four entrances. To many of us it symbolizes the womb of the Universe in two-dimensional geometry with every line and triangle given a meaning. To add a bit of logic, the 'Srichakra' should conveniently represent the projection of full blown ‘domal’ faces of a diamond crystal. Diamond portrays nature’s absolute perfection in form and inner reflectance of a crystal.

Diamond incidentally is the hardest substance known. If ever nature is to be replicated in its perfect form, diamond crystal is the only substance.

It thus helps to symbolize the perfect ‘human’ in its body frame and mind.

While conceiving the Vedic verse at Sharda, time stretched long enough and a compulsive need arose to name ‘Lord Rudra’ to take hold of the aboriginal world of men who were there as Nagas and others. This Lord is exclusively powerful who commands the nature and dominates it The bare Earth stretches under his naked feet and the infinite Sky above as the exclusive roof. Attired in ‘Naga’ dress with a lioncloth of animal skin, a ‘trident’ for defense, a ‘damaroo’ for the music of it or to signal to the fellow gentry whom ‘He’ represented as the chieftain. ‘Rudra’ with ferocious looks appeared defiant. ‘Parshuram’, the Ramayanic personality just looks alike.

Shardians, having obtained valid knowledge had learned and spotted most planets and celestial bodies. They had inferred about the zodiacal division of the starry canopy. The interrelationship of the sun and moon to the earth was well understood together with their movement. The rudiments of astrology too were felt about seriously.

These people were well equipped with the Sharda language and literature with a strong inclination to lay faith in the Creator, with a closest affinity to mother figure ‘Sharda’. Rudra got in the fame of imagination representing power both of being the protector and destroyer.

To these people the sole interest in life had been to locate and add attribute to the Creator. In response to this objective they choose, for intelligent birth and growth and gave to the children, who they considered as their basic endowment, to imbibe without fault the entirety of nature. ‘ Self enquiry’ was practiced as an essential are of learning. Without any choice importance was to it.

Descend in Valley :

The confident Shardians from the Indus (Krishenganga region) and equipped with objective faith and having snug the Vedic hymn descended in to the valley of Vitasta.

This event could in all probability be towards the beginning when the ‘Iron Age’ is declared elsewhere. The preferred route was across the valley of Krishenganga (then Indus valley) over the mountain tops to north of Kashmir to Harmukh mountain, Lolab, Kupwara (Wanghome), Baderkali, Handwara, Sopore, Wular-Manasbal, Tulmul, Hariparbat - Vicharnag, Harwan [around Dal Lake] Rainawari, Khrew, Bijbihara, Anantnag, Verinag - Vethvathur (Vitasta source). The migration in to the virgin land of plenty must have taken several ages having also picked up an objective to reach the source of the sacred river Vitasta in the wilderness of nature. Fewer in numbers the Shardian Brahmin proved to be explorer who besides locating new abodes around water sources located fertile pieces of land for tilling and settlement. They were least hesitant to co-habit with local tribal population and loved to build bridges of corporate living. The ‘Nilamat Puran’, one of the oldest renderings of man, gives a graphic account of these people with details of their habitat and social milieu. Life continued for another long spell until when during pre- Mahabartian time there was a very large influx of population from the ‘Saraswat civilization’, which has long history of its own.

Saraswati river in its majestic form flowed from the Himalayas between the River Satluj and River Yamuna.

Tectonic upheavals along the ‘Delhi- Ridge’ changed the course of this river.

Following this event there was a 'river capture’ in which the Saraswati River lost its identity and turned into a ‘mythical river’ with mention only in the classical literature of India’.

Studies have however, established the river course of Saraswati, forming part of the Indus basin. The reason for migration of this population to Kashmir, Banaras, Konkan, etc. is therefore obvious. Migration to Kashmir was excessively large one being in close proximity and because of the through acceptance at the level of the ‘order’ of civilization. The Brahmins from ‘Saraswati Valley’ found inviting compatriots in Brahmins of Kashmir. Languages of the two were ‘Sharda’ for the later and ‘Sanskrit’ for the Saraswats. In course of time Sharda got retained as the language of speech and Sanskrit as the language of written expression.

Sanskrit got considerably enriched by Sharda, which believably has a better phonetic command. Thus commenced yet another spell of Kashmir history through the Mahabhartian Period into the present. When ‘Kalhan-Pandit’ picks up historical events. He picks with Lord Shiva, (a social form of Rudhra), and all what is mentioned in ‘Neelmata Puran’, into the origin of Kashmir valley from Satisar Lake and into a habitable place. Factually, Kalhan’s historical treatise begins with King Nila and the population of Nagas. ‘ Sharda (Sarda) is brought into reference as a place where is there ‘Goddess Sharda’ and river Madumati in Krishenganga valley. ‘Kalhan Pandit’ does not forget to introduce to us the word ‘Saraswati’ along with ‘Sharda’.

Kalhan mentions that in Kashmir the contemporaries of Kaurvas and Pandavas up to Gonanda in the Kali era, fifty two kings had passed in oblivion. The descriptive in Kalhan- Pandit’s Rajtarangini, as Jawaharlal Nehru says, is the story of medieval times and often enough it is not a pleasant story. There is too much of palace for intrigue and murder and treason and civil war and tyranny… it is the story of kings and royal families and nobility, not of common folks… It is a rich store house of information political social, and to some extent, economic.

The development of life solely in economic sense alone was either not understood or it was deliberated with a secondary place by choice. Former could be true because of the fact that a lifestyle practiced very consciously for an unknown period of time, was essentially and uniquely even for the entire population. This inference is offered from what we gather from historians who talk of a period earlier than a thousand year and more about the uniformity in living and performance of a special chore.

‘Uniformity’ is stressed. It is equally understood from the rural setting of Brahmin families and not without a strong support of their thought content.

Spiritual Values and Myths :

When we visualize a little more the pre-historical state, it is clear that Vitasta River, associated with mythology, was a great allurement. It symbolized the ‘Half Self’ of lord Shiva.

Without the grace of Shiva-Sakti, the Progenitor, Provider, Protector, they believed, life could not be a possibility.

In the land of plenty there was enough room for selection of tillable land and opportunity for penance, - an obsessive occupation. While at Sharda the community had created few beliefs and myths, which they adhered to as truths and in matter of fact manner, two of these being Omkar and Rudhra (Shiva). Srichakra, represented the geometry of life, these subjects and the universe. In their earnestness ‘Srichakra’ was engraved at Hariparbat, a prominent picturesque hillock and named it as ‘ Chakrishoor’ or the abode of Goddess Sharika.

Around this site revolved most the life of migrants from Sharda for a pretty long period. This Goddess had a sway over their lives, they believed that nothing under the sky did exist without Her sanction and stamp.

The ‘Goddess was eulogized as the Mother supreme and loaded with hymn after hymn woven around her in praise of her powers, love for her creation, beauty and grace.

More myths and beliefs continued to get accreted that involved more localities with natural features, and local geographic and physiographic prominences. Meanings were given and not without an attribute to each with an added aura of mystery. In search of the mystic and with a genuine need, people were earnest and therefore experienced the associated urgency. In the process got also added the instinct of explorer.

They discovered places around with a real magic of beauty and carried gods and goddesses to these places as a gesture of reverence. In this way entire Valley became a ‘ place of pilgrimage’. Thus increased in proportion the involvement and the love of the land. Said a wise man but, “Leave the land, abandon it if it gets polluted and your faith stands encroached by the lesser ‘ beings’. This is told more in exercise of ‘tyag’ balidan and non-attachment. This is being considered as an attributive quality of savants.

The mathematics of learning of astronomy and astrology got continuously refined and up-graded.

These subjects continued to be center of interest for research. In fact these subjects in course of time developed a synonymity with the ‘ Brahmin’ name from Kashmir and the place developed into a center of attraction for learning and enrichment of Indian theology and philosophy, humanities and literature. (That literature, without leaving trace, is consumed by the vandals during the later ‘poignant’ historical events).

Kashmir through the ages therefore, gained the importance of being called the abode of Gods. A pride of honor it enjoyed all along. It is the land of Brahma were spread in abundance the fragrance of the Supernatural. It also stayed as the living philosophy; the code being 'Shiv-Shakti’, in brief the core of Kashmir Shaivism. Here in is told in explicit terms that, ‘ life is what it is, live it in the name of the Creator’.

The life :

Privileged as they felt in the land of beauty and plenty, the people stayed undisturbed by any contemporary happenings. They thus pursued a principled living as householders and as very active aesthetics. It was a period, free from want, free from any source of attrition and which is a perfect corporate experience in the state of harmonious living. A dawn of understanding for the men and women that human life was a great boon not repeated often. This belief was not without the accompaniment of a strong intuitive feeling. The ‘pairpartnership’ was thus understood as a transient opportunity and a knowledge event to observe the exclusive gust of stormy fire of life. That, ‘the event history has never to be the same in the transcendence of time’, was a rational truth felt by every conscious soul. Nature was considered to be the only endowment and source of life amenities and therefore, not amenable to any level of transaction. All this rendered nature as sacred and also the ultimate provider. This philosophy negates any attempt at transacting business with any of its produce or product. It would be a profane sin. The asset theory, so popular as of now, was therefore, nonexistent, more so the liquid assets. Society was in its most nascent stage hence a content of faith and trust was observed in plenty. Requirements were addressed as a need of each individual and unit. Living in confirmation with nature was a non-negotiable instrument. It is thus felt that the society and the life in it exhibited an inhibitive attitude of a stable civil life, without fear and non-coercive. ‘ Ebb and Flow’ a phenomenon that, might best explain the aptitude of living, in nature, with nature, by nature and for the nature-Ebb and flow explains Nature’s restlessness with it self before the Ultimate; symptomatic of a peaking civilization where the divine is within the visible frame. This state of living and being continued for generations without interruptions, wherein the people landed into an unfelt ocean of calm. It was a state free of terror, with mind and intellect was available for wild flights in Human and Divine realms. The Brahmin equipped thus researched in him self. he ‘Mahabarat-Yudd’ is inferred to have been an event, which has taken place towards the end of ‘ Dwaper- Yug’ and the beginning of ‘ Kali-Yug’. It is an event therefore about five thousand years+ or the beginning of Iron Age { {Late-Holocene}.

In Kashmir, Vitastians i.e. – a unique assimilation of Shardian-Saraswat Brahmin population was an established civilization. They had by now observed the constellations and observed also the Great Bear (Sapt Rishi ] and perhaps known the implication of pole star.

The installation of geometrically shaped ‘Tulmul Spring’ was in commemoration of ‘Sapt-Rishi Samwat’ the Sapt- Rishi calendar. The Rig-Vedic hymns were already making the vibes. Kashmiri Brahmin, as introduced and discussed by now turns out to be a distinguished breed of men – women of yester years. They love, worship emulate the Nature. Their established belief has been universal oneness. In this kind of precept every thing melts down to integral brotherhood where the Nature was a great support – rather the only support. To these people by now Life was never an unexplained phenomenon.

God is assumed to create, not without being part of its Creation. Thus it is an intrinsic system in the ‘visible invisible’ syndrome of objective world in which nothing stands untouched, unguided, uncontrolled or unobserved by its Creator. What we may define as God, it is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent entity. An integral definition thus brings God very close to humans who enjoy the unique power of introspectiveness. It involves Humans and God equally.

Being introspective, Man is ever in state of search. It is because he is given to play second fiddle in the equation of creation. Man is but a Creator too, and he knows it well. The ‘chick-egg’ riddle may not need any complicated explanation.

Man created the ‘God Figure’ who out of itself had created the universe and His prototype the Man. In this riddle it hardly matters whether the ‘egg’ or the ‘chick’, each is for the other and not without. Further the ‘Time’ as a factor in the equation of creation, has a unique obligation, in which the Creation has to be a ‘singular event’.

Therefore the ‘riddle’ looses importance if any. Subsequently to the Creation the objective world is set on a long and an evolving journey and ‘series of events’.

One of these events is the cause of human 'civilization', which, S. Freud says in his words, “began the first time, when an angry person cast a ‘word’ instead of a stone”. Rudhra- the first of the Lords in the Indian mythology briefly appears to resemble this Freudian Man, the torchbearer of human civilization.

Exactly then, the Brahmin from the Indus valley - Shardian stock of Kashmir stands as yet another earliest witness to this dateless event.

Rudhra is initially sighted as the one look- alike tribal Naga Highlander occupying the snowy peaks of Nanga Parbhat (could be a deformation of Nanga Parbhat). Anger is reflected in very attire of otherwise demure Rudhra. It could be a chieftain who controls and is a protector too. The Brahmin from Kashmir is thus obsessively nostalgic about its Creator. The intimacy is very special. It is rather an affair. If called upon to enunciate, the Brahmin calls it by Shaivism. It is a term meant to negate any dual meaning to the ‘Creator- Creation’ equate. That the seed holds the tree is a sanatan expression and hence calls for no deliberation. The great belief that matter gets energized into form through the Creator’s will is as profound as the self-awareness.

Any exercise of will on the part of the Creator or its prototype the Human Being is bound to turn into seed and hence an event in Creation. Time automation is thus also a function of the Cosmic Will.

Its presiding deity is remembered and propitiated as ‘Lord Shiva’. These musings enliven this Brahmin for a lifetime, careless and careful to exercise his conscious.


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