Kashmiri mind transcends
the bounds of narrow religious and communal view
of Hinduism and Islam, and has been a creation of
thousands of years of cultural and spiritual
enquiry and experiment. It was amidst its cool
valleys, known for their enchanting beauty, that
these fair coloured men - all of them brahmins -
with their sharp features, aquiline noses and
beautiful eyes, measured with and exceeded in
thought and spirit, the excellence of their
surroundings. Different religions were considered
as complementary aids to greater understanding of
the human spirit and these geniuses of thought,
untangled the path of men from the snares of
narrow religious creeds and conventions, to strive
into perennial streams of freedom, sustained,
softened and sweatened by love, religious
catholicity and enlightened human understanding.
Right from the very
ancient times, Kashmir had become a clearing house
of spiritual knowledge, a laboratory to nourish
and to give shape to new thoughts and a place
where scholars concourced, conversed and concurred
to give ground rules for thinking processes,
language, logic, aesthetics, religions,
philosophies, music, dance and sciences. Scholars
and spiritual seekers moved regularly from Kashmir
to various parts of India and central Asia and
from central Asia and India to Kashmir.
Says Grierson " For
upward of two thousand years Kashmir has been the
house of sanskrit learning and from this small
valley have issued masterpieces of history,
poetry, romance, fable and philosophy. For
centuries Kashmir was the home of the greatest
sanskrit scholars ..". According to Bilhana
" Even women in Kashmir spoke Sanskrit and
Prakrit quite fluently ".
Is it surprising,
therefore, that Panini-the father of sanskrit
grammar was born there in a village called
Salatoor-for which reason hewas also known as
Salatooriya-but later moved to Patliputra (Patna
in Bihar ) where he taught sanskrit grammer.
Patanjali, the author of Mahabhashya-the
commentary of Panini's grammar-and also one of the
greatest systems of Yoga- ' Yoga Darshan ', was a
Kashmiri. ' Saivism' which represents one of the
most luminous attainments of spiritual endeavour
to relate human with the Divine, was conceived
there and was and is being taught in the valley
even today. According to Prof. Sylyan Levi, Caraka
author of the famous book on Medicine,
Carkasamhita, was a Kashmiri, and so was Koka -
author of Koka Shastra which is considered the
most important book on sex after ' Kamasutra '.
Even ' Panchtantra ' is supposed to be of Kashmiri
origin. Damodara Gupta wrote Ruttani Maram an
interesting poetical work dealing with the ethics
of concubinage. Much can also be said in favour of
Kalidas having been a Kashmiri.
The names of mighty minds
who made contributions to Indian thought in the
field of sanskrit learning, literature and
sciences covering a wide field of philosophy,
potery, prosody, aesthetics, tables, plays,
medicines, astronomy, astrology etc., are legion.
Volumes have been written on the work of these
great personalities. What is, however, more
important, is that during this period and even
centuries before Christ, there was a constant flow
of scholars from Kashmir to the rest of India and
vice-versa. Having become a seat of learning
scholars from all over India used to go to Kashmir
for higher studies.
As is well known
Kashmiri's had developed their own script, called
the sharada script for writing sanskrit. It is
significant, that 'recently several important
manuscripts of works of Kashmirian Saivan
philosophy in sharada and some South Indian
scripts have been found in Kerala and Madras'.
Kashmiri scholars wrote
extensive commentaries on the Gita, Mahabharata
and other important sanskrit works including those
of Kalidasa and others and actively participated
in many important assemblies deliberating on
religlon, philosophy or literature in various
parts of India.
According to Narayan
Menon, the most important work on music in the
medieval period is that on Karnataka Music, Sangit
Ratnakara. This was written by Sarangdeva whowas a
Kashmiri. His father had immigrated to South in
the 12th century and worked at Devagiri. Menon
says that Sarangadeva's book formulates the basis
of Karnataka music and there are few West Asian
and European works to compare with ' Sangita
Ratnakara' when it comes to detailed accounts of
theory and practise by scholarly musicians.
According to Professor
Thattacheriar, head of the sanskrit department of
Madras University, the contribution of Kashmiri
scholars to South Indian Philosophy, aesthetics,
dance and music has been very significant. For
instance, it is known that Thirumalur, one of the
earliest teachers of Saivism in South ( 1st to 9th
Century AD ) came for Kashmir.
Similarly, many scholars
from India went to Kashmir and settled there.
Notable among these is Atrigupta, a well known
scholar from Kanaujwho came to Kashmir at the
invitiation of King Lalitaditya. His descendent,
Abhinavagupta ( 950-960 AD ) stands like a prince
amongst Kashmiri thinkeres, wose contribution in
the field of aesthetics and philosophy has been
the most profound.
There is a strong belief
that Shankaracharya visited Kashmir and the legend
has it that he held philosophical discussions with
Mandan Misra and his wife. So did Ramanuja the
doyen of the Vaishnava creed go to Kashmir all the
way from Madras to argue with the Kashmiri
In the field of Tantra
Shastra, the links established between Bengal,
Kashmir and Kerala, would in itself be a fertile
field for study to provide considerable evidence
of exchange and inter-action that took place over
many centuries. 'Kaula' is a title given to the
adept in the tantra sadhana and the prevelance of
this system of spiritual pursuit in Kashmir can be
judged by the number of ' Kauls ' in and outside
Kashmir, whose surname is derived from the
spiritual attainment their fore-fathers may have
Earlier, during Ashoka's
reign, 5000 monks were settled in the valley to
establish a centre of study and propogation of
Budhist religious texts. Ashoka is stated to have
gone to Kashmir and worshipped Lord Shiva at the
famous temple of Harmuktaganga.
In the later period,
Kanishka held the third Budhist Council in Kashmir
and ' Mahayan Doctrine ' was born. The
deliberations were conducted in sanskrit. Kashmiri
missionaries, radiated into Tibet, China and other
parts Or south-east Asia. In order to make
propogation in Tibet purposeful, Kashmiri scholars
devised a script and grammar for the Tibetan
language and translated Mahayan Budhist Doctrines
into Tibetan. The greatest among these
missionaries is Shyam Bhatta who created the
script and grammar for the Tibetan language.
Added to these facts, are
the evidence in sculpture strewn all over the
valley. Says Lawrence "The valley of Kashmir
is the holy land of Hindus and I have rarely been
in any village which cannot show some relic of
Antiquity... " The ruins of Martanda and
other old temples are even now called ' Pandawa
Houses ' and Kalhana says it was at Lord Krishna's
advice that Yasovati was made queen regent of
Kashmir after Krishna had defeated King Damodara,
A whole population of
Saraswat Brahmins, who gave themselves up wholly
to the refined graces of life, in the bracing and
beautiful environment, unique in its own right,
and kept alive the pursuit of spiritual enquiry
and art of living, have to be seen in the
foregoing back-drop of the pre-budhist era and
later, which gives some indication of the deep
spiritual and cultural links of Kashmir with the
rest of India.
But history was not to
leave them at peace. While muslim Kings invaded
India, their ingress into the valley was at first
thwarted by high mountains, cold weather and snow.
Mahmud Ghazni made several attempts but finally
like Napolean's retreat from the Russian soil, he
yielded against the geography of Kashmir and
abandoned the idea of invading Kashmir again.
Islam had, however, swayed over vast territories
around Kashmir, and the new faith had made its
entry gradually, stealthily but steadily. Harsha,
a Hindu King, influenced by Islam, destroyed Hindu
temples and images. During the ' Saltanate ' rule
lasting for over 200 years from early fourteenth
century, King Sultan Sikander, decided to convert
Hindus by force and his Prime Minister, Suha Bhatt
( Saif-ud-Din ) a convert to Islam, razed to the
ground some of the most famous and beautiful
edifices to the Hindu temple and architectural
genius. Mosques were raised in their place.
Simultaneously, muslim scholars from Iran and
other places were invited, and the artistic
propensities of the Kashmiris were stifled by
banning playing of musical instruments and
Yet amidst this
multi-point thrust on the Hindus, Sanskrit
continued to be the official routine language in
the Government. Several Kashmiri Pandits were in
high position. But Persian and Arabic words were
freely used and it was in about the 15 th century
that Persian became the official language under
the rule Or Sultan Zain-ul-abibin. He was a great
King, who lent Hindu content to the Persian
language by getting some of the ancient Hindu
scriptures translated into Persian. Kashmiris
during this and later periods made outstanding
contributions to the Persian literature.
Zain-ul-abidin laid the foundation, for a cultural
synthesis, where in the spirit behind form, it was
difficult to find the dividing lines between
Hinduism, Budhism and Islam.
During this period, the
local language became the repository of Sanskrit,
Arabic and the Persian words; and Kashmir became
the cradle of cultures and almost through
unconscious accretion of various influences worked
out a synthesis, which became the dominant message
in the poetry of some of the greatest seers of '
Unity in the diversity of religions', such as 'Laleshwari'
and ' Nunda Rishi '.
Although buffeted by
constant strifes and travails of wars, through the
passage of history and persecuted by religious
bigots, Kashmiri Pandits survived the holocaust of
tyranny, which at one time reduced their
population to a mere eleven families, the rest
were eithel converted or fled from the valley to
various parts of India. There have thus been a
series of exoduses from the valley.
In the words of Dr.
Sengupta " Kashmir has been very much in the
news since 1947 as if it is just a piece of
terrain, over the possession of which warring
forces are at bay ....
We want the world to know
a bit of the bubbling fountain of life that has
been flowing through her arteries, since the Aryan
immigrants settled first in this snow-capped
valley, which constitutes a diadem of diamond on
the head of India".
India has thus a
spiritual and an emotional stake in Kashmir, which
has been the culmination of thousands of years of
deep association, exchange and a living process.
It is the duty of every Indian, not to barter it
away because of lowly concept of communal claim on
her, on the basis of majority muslim population.
Kashmir has indeed become the symbol of
Kashmiri Pandits, have
gone through the tortures of wars and persecution.
A few thousands of them - perhaps less than a lac
are in Kashmir and other parts of India. They have
played their enlightened and constructive role in
various fields through the centuries over the
length and breadth of India, which can be written
in letters of gold and have always been the torch
bearers of cultural excellence of India.
Pandit Nehru's and the
Nation's spontaneous response to fight Pakistan
have to be seen in this broad vision of Kashmir's
place in the cultural mosaic of India and the
Nation must take due note of the efforts and role
of the Kashmiri Pandit community so as to ensure
that the links between Kashmir and the rest of
India enriched by the glorious past of thousands
of years, are not snapped or obliterated by