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Jona Raja

by Professor K. N. Dhar

Jona Raja at the very commencement of his Raja Tarangini acknowledges the debt he owes to Kalhana - the doyen of chroniclers of Kashmir. He treats him as hig ideal and his reputed dictum in respect of history writing as his guide-line for supplementing suitably the course of events, where Kalhana had left it. Kalhana has very aptly remarked:
"That noble-minded (poet) is alone worthy of praise whose word like that of a judge, keeps free from love or hatred in relating the facts of the past."
Jona Raja has faithfully striven to live upto this maxim. There are some omissions and commissions here and there, still this most illustrious, Sanskrit historian of the Muslim period, being the first in the line, is also the best, by any standard whatsoever.

In those insecure times the safety of the chronicles was the prime concern. The fear of interpolations can also not be ruled out. Before we proceed to examine critically the narrative of Jona Raja, it will again be useful to allude to erroneous inferences of modern scholars on this subject. Dr. Parmu has remarked that "His (Jona Raja's) besetting defect is that he generally puts the poet above the chronicler". Herein the learned scholar has innocently betrayed his ignorance regarding Sanskrit language and literature. Actually the reverse of it is true which is a compliment to Jona Raja. Kalhana's Raja Tarangini is classed under historical poetry in Sanskrit literature. No such honour has been bestowed upon Jona Rnja's Raja Tarangini. It is at places versified prose, to borrow the epithet from Dr. Buhler. In this respect Dr. R. N. Singh has to say "Jona Raja after I recording an event proceeds further; he even skips over the chain of events at the slightest possible hint. He does not stay behind to explain it, but transfers this burden to the reader." Further on, the learned scholar has remarked, "The Raja Tarangini of Jona Raja is history. It is neither a biography nor an eulogy."

Without mincing words, Jona Raja admits that his chronicle is merely an "Outline history of King". He does not make tall claims for elaborating the events or sitting on judgement on these. Moreover, he very candidly owns that he was commissioned to write his chronicle by King Zain-ul-abdin, through the good offices of Shirya Bhatta, the Head of Judiciary. Therefore, it may be contended that he being a professional chronicler and also in the pay of the sultan, his account might have tilted in favour of his benefactor. Dr. Mohibul Hassan does refer to this seemingly believable handicap by saying, "Being a courtier of Zain-ul-abdin, Jona Raja is inclined to exaggerate the virtues of his master and gloss over his failings." On careful scrutiny of the account given by Jona Raja about Budshah (Zain-ul-abdin) and his father (Sikandar) it seems that he has safely steered clear of personal inclinations.

While describing thc vandalism of Sikandar in razing temples and places of pilgrimage of Hindus to the ground, which would have alienated Jona Raja's sympathy for reasons obvious, he like a faithful reporter does pay tribute to the king's administrative acumen. He does not spare his Sultan from chastisement when it is due. He vehemently chides his co-religionists, the earlier Hindu Kings, for their lack of political foresight and also for being the slaves of lust.

All told, Jona Raja has given an account of twenty three rulers of Kashmir, out of which thirteen are Hindus, one a Bhautia and nine Muslims. This account covers a span of 459 years, He has been the contemporary of Sikandar and Zain-ul-abdin, by virtue of which his description about these two kings is not only lucid but also authentic. The general impression gleaned from the account of Hindu kings is that their hold on the reins of their kingdom was tottering under the irresistable weight of court intrigues, corruption, avarice, lust and sex. These failings were all the more be meared with physical and moral cowardice. Therefore, the occupation of Kashmir by Muslims was a natural culmination of this choas and confusion. Degeneration of the highest order had already permeated the soul of Hindu society and the astute Muslim struck when the iron was hot. Hindu rulers had to blame only themselves far this catastrophe. Their levity did not even allow them to lick their wounds. Cultural conquest of Hindus had already commenced when Islam entered the valley a century or more before Muslim rule was installed here. Jona Raja treats the reign of these last Hindu kinds in a very cursory and brief manner. He has disposed of some Hindu kings in four or five verses. The brevity he has employed can be assessed by the fact that the description of thirteen Hindu Kings is dispensed within 174 verses out of a total of 976 verses comprising his chronicle. Jona Raja has himself adduced the reason for his lack of sympathy for these kings, as alluded to earlier. The chief cause for this unconcern was that Jona Raja wanted to pick up the thread from where Kalhana had left it, only to induct continuity into his chronicle. His main forte was Muslim Rule, for which alone he was responsible to King Zain-ul-abdin.

Jona Raja has described the Muslim Rule at length and a span of 140 years is covered by him. He could not complete the assignment of the King as he was probably cut short in life before he could do the last eleven years of Budshah's reign have however been commented upon by Shrivara - a professional heir to Jona Raja.

Jona Raja treats Shahmeer as the first Sultan of Kashmir. He ascended the throne of Kashmir under the name of Shamsud-Din and ruled for 3 years from 1339 to 1342 A.D. Prior to his snatching the throne by deceit and guile from Kota Rani, he was her chief adviser and also a paramour. After sharing the same bed for one night with Kota Rani, he got her murdered alongwith her sons. Thus the last symbol of Hindu Raj in Kashmir ended. Shahmeer was not an indigenous sultan, but came perhaps from Persia as a refugee. Dr. Mohibul Hassan takes him to be a Turkish adventurer. Even though Jona Raja prefixes the epithet Sultan with Renchan, the Buddist also and the implication from it may be that he has taken Renchan as the first non-Hindu ruler, yet it was a very brief interlude which was followed by the restoration of Hindu monarchy. The Muslim rule entrenched itself in Kashmir, without any break whatsoever, with the reign of Shahmeer. Hence he earns the right to be called the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir.

Jona Raja has not referred to the episode of "BULBUL SHAH", who according to Persian chroniclers converted Renchan to Islam. He only alludes to one Deva Swami who refused to admit Renchan into Hindu fold. Furthermore, Jona Raja asserts that it was the manouering of Shahmeer which got Renchan initiated into Islam.

Jona Raja has given us a graphic description of three invasions on Kashmir prior to the establishment of Islamic rule here : one by Dulcha, the other by Renchan and the third by Achala. Dulcha, a Turk with a retinue of sixty thousand strong cavalary swooped on Kashmir "like a lion forcing its way into a deer den."

King Kurushah, whom Jona Raja has taken as the grandfather of Shahmeer, tried to buy Dulcha off with a very good amount of money. Dulcha, whose sole intent was loot and carnage, did accept the money, but stayed back to unleash his cruelty over Kashmiris. Jona Raja has given a heart -rending description of the invasion of Dulcha :-

"Those Kashmiri people who had eluded destruction, after the Dulcha-cat took to heels, came out of their holes like the mice. When the scourge let loose by Dulcha did abate (when he was sent away) no son could find his father, nor father his son, and brother his brother."
The second invasion was that of Renchan Buddhist, who came down from northern mountains to loot and plunder Kashmir. Jona Raja has said in this connection:
"As a kite swoops on the birdling having dropped from its perch, in the same manner the invincible army of Renchan dispossessed of all belongings Kashmiris."
Afterwards Renchan also occupied the throne of Kashmir in collaboration with Kota Rani.

The third invader, Achala was prevailed upon by Kota Rani not to unleash his sword on the innocent people. He was invited to adorn the throne which was lying vacant, as the king had fled to Ladakh. Achala was taken in and he disbanded his army. Once he did this, it was very easy to see him off. Consequently, when Shahmeer came to the throne, he had a stupendous task of rehabilitation awaiting him. He acquitted himself very well in this field and proved to be a very competent administrator. In the words of Jona Raja "He changed the face of Kashmir." The salient facts come to surface while describing the ascendency to power by Shahmeer. Jona Raja alludes to the oracle of the great Goddess wherein She predicted to him (Shahmeer), in a dream, that his progeny would rule Kashmir henceforth. By putting this anecdote to pen Jona Raja seems to have reconciled mentally to the change of power in Kashmir and also adduced Divine sanction for it. He has also called Shahmeer as "Kula Natha", the chief of the Muslim population in Kashmir, which could put its counter-weight against the machinations of landed aristocrats, such as Damaras (Dhars), professional fighters like Lavyanyas (Lones) and also Bhatta (the entire Brahmin faction). Perhaps that was the reason why Kota Rani took him into her service and confidence. This very influence with his co-religionists facilitated him to grab power without a single leaf fluttering in the valley. His seige of Anderkot (near Sumbal) proved as the last nail in the coffin of Hindu authority over Kashmir.

Shahmeer did not live long to consolidate tbe ravaged Kasbmir. He breathed his last on the full-moon day in Ashadha in 1342 A. D., after a brief reign of three years and five days.

Jona Raja, for reasons obvious, has cursorily treated the reign of Sultan Jamsheed (1342-44) and that of Sultan Alla-ud-din (1344-56) sons and successors of Shahmeer. As he (Shahmeer) was an astute politician, he transferred the burden of the kingdom on those two sons jointly, so that they did not feel foul of each other afterwards. But the two brothers could not carry on witll each other and the reign of Jamsheed, for two ycars, was only a tragic interlude of conspiracies and brotherly feuds. He was such a weakling that Jona Raja has aptly used the words "Being a king in name only, he actually suffered incessantly till he was relieved by death." Herein we shall have to refer to the observation made by Dr. Sufi; he has come to the conclusion that, as soon as Jamsheed was crowned king, he was deposed by his brother Ali Sher (Alla-ud-din) and spent the two years before his death rather in exile and penury. Dr. Parmu has written that Jamsheed was killed in 1344 and Dr. Mohibul Hassan has suggested that "Jamsheed finding himself not strong enough to fight (against his brother) fled and after aimlessly wandering about in the valley for a year and two months died in 1345."

In this context the account given by Jona Raja does not confirm the views given by these learned authors. He unambiguously records that Jamsheed put to sword so may followers of his conspiring brother Ali Sher at Avantipur, that "the current of the Jhelum began to flow upwards due to the heaps of corpses thrown into the river." He records further that Sultan Jamsheed made "Sathya Raja" (Shiraz) responsible for the safety of the city of Srinagar and himself went for a trip to Handwara. It has nowhere been suggested by him (Jona Raja) that the Sultan was forcibly deposed and also killed. In the words of Jona Raja he died a natural death after being a Sultan for two years less by two months.

Jona Raja does allude to Jamsheed's holding the charge of 'Commissioner of Guards' stationed at one of the mountain passes, leading to Kashmir Valley. Perhaps this very reference of his becoming the 'Commissioner of Guards' has led these learned authors to do a bit of unfounded kite-flying. Jona Raja explicitly lays down that Sultan Jamsheed got fed up with wars, when Ali Sher inflicted a decisive defeat on his son. Morever, Ali Sher broke the truce of two months cease-fire, offered initially by him. All these factors prompted him to relinquish the royal authority voluntarily, and during the closing months of his life he did accept an assignment much below his status. Therefore, it is sufficiently clear that he was neither deposed nor killed.

Ali Sher, assuming the name of Alla-ud-din ( 1344-1356 A.D.) ascended the throne of Kashmir by guile, deceit and statecraft. Despite these defects he was a master-mind in politics and a dauntless warrior. Two great events of his reign have been narrated by Jona Raja. The first being a direct reference to a bevy of Yoginis (females possessing magical powers), whose leader has been identified as 'Lalleshwari'. In Kashmiri tradition, Lalla is not credited with having found any order of 'Yoginis' at all. She lived by herself and also in her own thoughts. Therefore the use of the word 'Chakra' does not confirm the views by Persian scholars. It might also cannote the host of eight Yoginis - attendants of Durga, Shiva's consort. Again, Kashmiri tradition makes Lalla-Arifa contemporary with Syed Ali Hamdani (Shah Hamdan), about whom Jona Raja is surprisingly reticent. It may be inferred here that Jona Raja did not mention the name of Shah Hamdan, as he was the sole instrument for transplanting Muslim faith in place of Hinduism in Kashmir. The crusade for mass conversion in Kashmir was initiated by him. Even if he (Jona Raja) would have liked to refer to Lalla, Shah Hamdan's mention would have been a natural corollary to it, as far as Kashmiri tradition goes. Therefore, he chose to skip over both these personalities in Kashmir history. The chief of 'Yoginis' (Nayika), narrated earlier, may be construed to be a female Tantric worshipper, otherwise she would not have offered a 'goblet of wine' to Alla-ud-din. Subsequent Persian sholars have tried to replace 'wine' by 'milk'- as former is forbidden by Islam. But Jona Raja has no such aberrations. Here again, 'Lalla' is never associated with wine etc in Kashmiri tradition like the left-band ritualists. Therefore, to infer from 'Yogini' the existence of 'Lalla', in that period at least, according to testimony of Jona Raja, is not only far-fetched but also preposterous.

However, the silence of Jona Raja about Lalleshwari and Shah Hamdan should not erroneously lead us to believe that these two personages never existed in Kashmir and are only the figment of imagination. Kalhana has not at all referred to Abhinavagupta, the reputed Shaiva Scholar, though other such erudite scholars like Udbhatta, Rudratta, Vaman and Anandavardhan have been mentioned profusely by him. Yet Abhinavagupta did live in Kashmir on the basis of the testimony of the colophons of his works, in which he has indicated the year of composition of a particular treatise. Ho has bequeathed to us his own genealogy also. The force of tradition is always irresistible and cannot be dispensed with cheaply. What is actually meant to be conveyed here is that although Jona Raja's chronicle, as it is available to us, does not contain the names of Shah Hamdan and Lalleshwari, yet their having breathed the air of Kashmir cannot be doubted.

The second event of Alla-ud-din's reign is the terrible famine which shatterd the economy of the country; but Jona Raja does not write that remedial measures were taken by the Sultan to offset its unsalutary effect on the people. Some scholars have wrongly quoted Jona Raja and ascribed this compliment to Sultan by him - "But he did all he could to alleviate the sufferings of his subjects". Actually, Jona Raja dismisses this calamity in one verse. He says, "In the nineteenth year of the local calendar (i.e. 1343 A.D.) a ghastly famine, tormented the people as a reproof for their bad deeds". Just after it he gives the date on which the Sultan breathed his last.

Again, another scholar has indicated that Sultan Alla-ud-Din transferred his capital from Anderkot to Alla-ud-din Pora, a new city founded by the Sultan. The description given in this behalf by Jona Raja reveals that the Sultan re-established his capital at Jayapida Pur - another name of Andrakot. Alla-ud-din shifted his capital back to Andrakot from Srinagar. Shahmeer, his father had made Andrakot as the first capital of Muslim kingdom in Kashmir. He had sentimetal attachment with it for being associated with Kota Rani. His elder son Jamshed transferred the capital to Srinagar, but All-ud-din, from the view point of safety, shifted it back to Andrakot.

One redeeming feature during the reign of the first four Sultans comes to full view. Even though the pace of proselytisation was gathering momentum every day, during this period of only three decades or more, yet the influence of Hindus at the royal court did not wane. The Hindus occupied the position of counsellors, advisers or ministers. Sultan Jamsheed confided in his counsellor Lakshman Bhatt. Udayashri was probably the prime minister of Sultan Alla-ud-din and Chandra Damar his commander-in-ehief. In the company of both these, the Sultan had caught the glimpse of the Yogini, as referred to earlier. Similarly Sultan Shahab-ud-din, when away on military campaigns, depended upon Kota Bhatt for internal administration of his kingdom.

Jona Raja is all praise for Sultan Shahabud-Din and compares him with Lalita Ditya - the famous warrior-king of ancient Kashmir.

In the wake of his illustrious predecessor, Shahab-ud-din also undertook many military expeditions and even went as far as Peshawar and Ghazni. His appetite for extending the borders of his country was unquenchable. It was also necessitated by the fact that the kingdom of his predecessors was shrinking by their incompetence. Several scholars have doubted the veracity of these campaigns and termed these as highly exaggerated. Their scepticism is perhaps based on the misnomer that Kashmiris only knew how to defend and could never venture to indulge in offensive. On the testimony of Jona Raja this assumption is not only unjust but also unfounded. He (Jona Raja) has narrated that the Kashmiri Sultan Sikandar was offered a gift of two elephants by Timur the Lame. Timur, who looted Delhi without compunction and called himself invincible, could not have parted with his two elephants for the King of Kashmir, for nothing in return. It was definitely the scare of Kashmiri army, which the Mongol scourage tried to pamper, so that it did not attack his forces while returning.

Where diplomacy could not work, Kashmiris were behind none to defend their Motherland by a call to steel. Law and order in the country was firmly established; no conspiracies or schism polluted the placid atmosphere; hence the need for moving out for annexations was keenly felt by the Sultan. The political geography of Kashmir was now turning a new leaf. Therefore, the testimony of Jona Raja regarding the military conquests of Shahab-ud-din need not be taken with a grain of salt. Kashmiri armies have penetrated deep into Kishtwar, Bhotia Pradesh, Lorin and Poonch. The military prowess of Kashmiris also did show itself off admirably well later, when Mughals were repulsed not only once but twice. Jona Raja like an awake artist does presage that "posterity might take this account of the superhuman exploits of the Sultan as mere flattery". This leaves nothing for us to guess otherwise.

Shahab-ud-din was not a religious zealot. He was catholic to the marrow of his bones, not by expediency but by conviction. When it was suggested to him that the huge idols of copper and bronze be smolten and converted into coins, as the imperial mint was running short of these, he promptly declined to order this vandalism and said: "How paradoxical it will seem that I would like to amass fame by breaking these immortal idols which have been installed and worshipped by certain people who have earned approbation (by doing this)".

An unprecedented flood engulfed Srinagar in his reign, when the surging waters even mounted the surrounding hills. The Sultan, therefore, founded an alternate city at the foot of "SHARIKA SHAIL" (HARI PARVAT) and named it after his consort Lakshmi, as Lakshmipur and not Sharikapur. This city extended from modern 'Hawal' to Lal Bazar. He also founded one more city, at the confluence of the Vitasta and the Sindh after his own name, as Shahab-ud-din pur (modern (Shadipur).

Unfortunately some Persian historians have painted Shahab-ud-din as an inconoclast in their misguided enthusiasm for the propagation of Islam. Jona Raja has prophetically smelt this and has consequently warned the future generations: " The king Shahab-ud-din had broken, the idols of gods; this preposterous and unfounded assertion should not in any way unnerve the posterity." Jona Raja was born in 1389 and died in 1459 A. D. Shahab-ud-din's span of reign ranges from 1354 to 1373 A. D.; so it is abundantly clear that Jona Raja's account of Shahab-ud-din's rule is only 16 years anterior to him. In the face of such a brief interval between the death of Shahab-ud-din and the birth of Jona Raja his testimony can never be dismissed cheaply, while the Persian chronicles. e. g. Baharistan Shahi (1586-1614 A. D.) Haidar Malik's Tariki Kashmir (1618 A. D. ) and, to crown all, Peer Hassan's Tarikhi Kashmir ( 1885 A. D. ) depended upon for what they have recorded about Sultan Shahab-ud din. Theirs is only a hearsay or wishful thinking while Jona Raja, from the point of historicity, is more reliable.

To sum up, Jona Raja has every sort of admiration for this benevolent Sultan of Kashmir; only Zainulab-din (Badshah) possesses a slight edge over him according to this Hindu historian. Kutub-ud-din (Kuda-din) succeeded his father Shahab-ud-din as the Sultan of Kashmir from 1373 A. D. The Sultan had to undertake military compaigns against Raja of Lohara (Lorin) and the Khashas (Khokhi), inhabiting the south western belt of Pir Panchal range (Rajori) and also in Kishtwar. He brought these erring vassals to book under the generalship of Lolak the Damar. The Sultan also started a free 'langer' for the people in view of recurring famines in the valley, every, year at very huge cost. Through the blessing of one Yogi Brahma Natha he got the desired progeny; he had been without any son or daughter earlier.

He also founded a township within the city, after his name, as Qutab-ud-din-pora. Modern scholars have identified it as the tract of land now known as Mohalla Haji Peer Mohmad Sahib, (also called as 'Langar Hatta' bazar near Islamia College to-day). There is a mohalla in Srinagar bearing this name even now. It is situated on the left bank of the Jhelum between Zainakadal and Ali Kadal, some distance below Gurgari Mohalla. I am led to believe that the Sultan was in some way the founder of this locality/habitation. Future research may unfold some relevant information regarding this.

Sultan Qutub-ud-din breathed his last in 1381 A.D. At time his son Sikandar was only eight years old. Being minor, mother Subhatta acted as his regent and appointed two advisers, Uddak and Sabak, for efficient governance of the land. Shri P. N. Bazaz gives her name as Bibi Hora but does not indicate any source. The mother had such an immense love for her elder son Sikandar, that she did not hesitate to put to sword her own daughter and son-in-law Mohammed, when it was suspected that they were conspiring against the reigning sovereign. The younger son Haibat was also similarly done away with by poisoning. In such a callous yet judicious manner the fondling mother paved the way for her gon to ascend the throne without any impediments, whatsoever. On assumption of regal power Sikandar started a compaign of exterminating his foes; his own brother-in-law (brother of his first wife Shri Shobha) was not even spared. The two advisers during the regency of his mother were done away with. Here-in we shall have to refer to a controvercy regarding the status of Shri Shobha in the harem of Sultan Sikandar. Persian chroniclers have termed her as the second wife of the King ; but according to Jona Raja this seems to be a wild guess. He clearly indicates her position as "Mahadevi", the senior - most queen. When Sikandar married Mera, the daughter of King of Ohind, Udbhandpur near 'Attak' in west Panjab, Shri Shobha suffered in her rank. Mera, being a Muslim by birth, got precedence over her. Till then the Sultan was not much biased against Hindus. Again, Jona Raja pays a compliment to him in as much as the queen Shri Shobha got the Shiva-temples rennovated, presumably with the consent of the Sultan. The valour and terror of the Sultan made him quite safe and secure on the throne. Perhaps the most note-worthy event of his reign is his diplomacy with which he bought peace from Timur the Lame, who had earlier sacked Delhi. The scanning eye of the Sultan could not under-rate the invincibility of this barbarous Turk; hence smelling his invasion on his land, he sent an emissary to him when he was camping at the Indus and conveyed his unflinching loyalty to him. The whimsical Turk felt flattered by this gesture of servility and sent a word back to the Sultan to meet him along with his army at Dipalpur. The Sultan had hardly reached Baramulla with his retinue when he was given to understand that Timur had already left for his homeland Samarkand. This good tidings gave great relief to the Sultan. The Turk-invader had been touched by the loyalty of the Kashmiri Sultan and sent him two royal elephants as a present.

Jona Raja does not give all these details. He only refers to the gift of two elephants sent by the "Malchha" King (Timur), while returning from Delhi, to the Sultan. But in this very verse he has also unfolded in one word the cause for this unbelievable kind gesture from this cruel and callous invader. He uses the word "the suspicious Malechha King". Herein this Sanskrit historian would make us believe that Timur feared an attack from the Sultan when his army was returning to Samarkand with invaluable booty. In order to keep him in good humour the Turk sent two royal elephants to him. Jona Raja further extols the towering stature of these beasts which were definitely a rarity in Kashmir. Jona Raja acknowledges the superiority of his Sultan over Timur and in a subdued tone does hint that the latter wanted to buy neutrality of Sikandar, for which end in view he sent the gift of two elephants to him. Like an astute general, Timur could anticipate Sikandar's sending reinforcements to Sultan Mohd Tughlak of Delhi. In order to forestall these designs he overwhelmed Sikandar with this unique but, all the same, very respectful gift. During the sack of Delhi it was free for all, but Sikandar's intervention would have made a veritable difference. Persian chroniclers, Hindus as well as Muslims, are unequivocal in asserting that it was Sikandar who was actually scared of vandalism of Timur, which seems more probable. Jona Raja has tried to be over-patriotic in delineating this incident. At the same time, he deserves credit also for not skipping over this great event in Indian History, when he refers to the sack of Delhi by Timur.

During the initial years of his rule the Sultan was very forbearing and charitable. Jona Raja has most graphically described this trait of the King. He has recorded "Nobody can describe his charitable disposition; the lotus-hands (of the Hindu subjects) would always feel drenched with water." It is a convention with the Hindus to receive alms or 'dakshina' (fee etc) with hands wet with water so that in return they spray the benefactor with this very water, showering blessings on him. It is therefore clear that Sikandar treated the Hindu subjects also kindly along with the Muslims. Unfortunately the Sultan could not maintain this policy for long. The visit of Syed Mohammad Hamdani, the illustrious son of Amir Kabir, changed his Catholic out-look on life to a large extent. Jona Raja very diplomatically ascribes the reason of this great change in the Sultan to the vices rampant in his (Hindu) subjects. But at the same time be acknowledges the over-all superiority of this missionary from Hamdan. He tells us that "He was a shining moon among the stars; though very junior in age, he was adored as the senior-most in scholarship." The Sultan was in his grip and under his spell and through his exhortations an era of unprecedented proselytisation was inaugurated in Kashmir. Shariat was for the first time proclaimed as the state religion. He appointed the ministers, all of them neo-converts: Ladda Raja, Vaidya Shankar and Suha Bhatta, perhaps with this unfailing belief that the converts are more rabid than the originals, hence will not hesitate to perpetrate every kind of tyranny on their erstwhile co-religionists.

At the instance of Syed Mohammed Hamdani the Sultan married Mera, the daughter of the King of Ohind, who was a born Muslim. Naturally Shri Sbobha, his first queen, had to get degraded in status. Her sons were killed. Mera, gave three sons to the Sultan: Mer Khan, Shahi Khan and Mohammed Khan. Dr. Mohibul Hassan has somehow or other inferred that Shri Shobha had adopted sons. While, quoting Jona Raja on this subject, incorrectly, he has mentioned no other source for this inference. Jona Raja has actually used the epithet "artificial" with the sons of Shri Shobha. According to Hindu Dharmashastras adoption is of two kinds - one "Dattak", the offered and taken, the other "Kratrim", only for completion of certain rites of a sonless father, after his death. In the first the consent of the adopted is not necessary, while it is imperative in the case of second, who acts as a waterson. Even though adoption is banned in Islam, yet this custom of adoption is not wholly extinct among the Muslims of Kashmir, even today. Therefore, we can safely assert that the sons of Shri Shobha were actually the water-sons. The word used "artificial" can have other intonation also. It may mean "unreal". Since the sons were the progeny of a Hindu queen, hence they were not real Muslims though given Muslim names. So they were banished from the state. The sole motive for their being shunted out of Kashmir seems to be to keep the throne safe for the (real) Muslim sons of Mera.

The Sultan founded a new city at the foot of the Sharika Parbat. Muslim historians have called it as "Nowhatta" - the name which has survived to date. They refer also to his building of the imposing Jama Masjid, adjacent to the new city.

Actually the arch-intriguer against the Hindus was Suha Bhatta. He came under the influence of Syed Mohammad Hamdani, and was converted to Islam with the name of Saifud-Din - "the sword of faith." He may not have proved as much a defender of his adopted faith, but he did definitely unleash his sword on Hindus. Herein his name proved prophetic. Jona Raja equates Suha Bhatta with the ancient King Harsha - the Turk, the epithet given to him contemptuously by Kalhana, for the wholesale destruction of temples and idols. The massive temples at Martand, Bijbehara, Ishabar (near Nishat Garden), Triphar (at the foot of Mahadeva mountain) and in Baramulla district were razed to the ground.

After demolishing the temples, the relentless crusader against Hindu faith, Suha Bhatta turned his attention towards the persecution of Hindus. He enforced Jazia and compelled thousands of Hindus to embrace Islam. Those who resisted were put to sword; some fled the country for fear of reprisal. But there were also dauntless believers in Hindu faith who did raise a banner of revolt against this mass conversion. Jona Raja gives their names as Sinah Bhatta and Kastuta - the grocers and Nirmalacharya. The last mentioned spurned the royal patronage and preferred penury to change of faith. The excesses Committed by the subordinate officers cannot absolve the reigning king from the infamy thus earned and sins committed; hence the tyranny let loose by Suha Bbatta paid its toll back in the shape of the Sultan's incurable malady. Seeing his end near, he annoinated his eldest son Mir Khan (Ali Shah) as his successor and breathed his last on the eighth day of the dark fortnight or Jeth in 4489, the year of the local calendar. It comes to 1413 A.D. according to the English calendar.

Before the account of Sikandar, as given by Jona Raja, is concluded it will be pertinent to refer to the meticulous caution with which the historian has tried to cover up the mis-deeds of the Sultan by keeping Suha Bhatta only in the dock. Perhaps Jona Raja did not like to malign the parent of his benefactor (Budshah) for reasons obvious and consequently shifted all the odium to Suha Bhatta and to Hindus. But at the same time he does say that the Sultan could not wash his bands off these atrocities. His tacit consent must have been obtained by Suha Bbatta tbrough the good-offices of Syed Mohammad Hamdani, who was actually the big boss in those dark days. The Sultan was always at his beck and call and could not go against his wishes. Persian historians have advanced many reasons for Suha Bhatta to wreck vengeance on his erstwhile co-religionists, but Jona Raja has simply written that he came under the magnetic spell of Syed Muhammad Hamdani and at his bidding took to heaping inhumanities on Hindus and their religion.

In discharging his mission of persecuting Hindus he had to prove that he was more loyal than the king. His over-enthusiasm in this respect can be squarely explained by the fact that being a convert his go-slow policy could have been misunderstood, and also misinterpreted; hence he had to look like the most devout Muslim and the most zealous partner in this "Jehad" against the Hindus. The fanciful inferenccs of Persian historians in this regard have no credence as the contemporary record of Jona Raja is silent on these.

Mir Khan assumed the name Ali Shah on ascending the throne. He, after fruitless flirtation with regal splendour, decided to undertake pilgrimage to Mecca and nominated his brother Shahi Khan (Zainulabdin) as his successor. But being prevailed upon by his father-in-law, the Hindu Raja of Jammu, he changed his mind and returned to Kashmir. Shahi Khan did not resist his taking up the mantle of Sultan once again. Later he was killed in a battle with Khokhars, thus paving the unobstructed way for Shahi Khan to ascend the throne. These two incidents are perhaps sufficient to prove that the inherent tenets of Muslim faith had not made any substantial headway in the Valley, though the population was being admitted into its fold by hook or by crook. This was only a political expediency. The King Ali Shah had married two daughters of Hindu Raja of Jammu, which is un-Islamic, since a Muslim has been ordained to marry a non-Muslim only when he or she is converted to Islam. It is also enjoined in Islam that two real sisters cannot be wives to the same spouse concurrently. Moreover, once a 'Kasad' (resolution) is made to undertake Haj, it should not be revoked in any case. This very background facilitated Budshah to rehabilitate Hindus, as the loyalty of the people to their new faith was not even skin-deep as yet. It may well be called just a change of label from Hindu to Muslim, the neo-converts were still finding their feet, their only hobby was to pay off old scores under the garb of religious crusades. Shahi Khan (Budshah) as a prince already had a foretaste of this, when the adjoining Hindu tribes and neo-convert tribes of Thakurs and Khokhars had helped him to regain the throne from his brother. Therefore on assumption of power he elected to own benevolence instead of violence. Sultan Sikandar and his evil-genius Suha Bhatta failed to cash on this policy of conciliation instead of confrontation, thereby mutilating their image in Kashmir history.

Jona Raja has very rightly referred to this change of heart in Budshah. The Sultan effected far-reaching and sweeping adjustments to make the Hindus comfortable and thereby he made amends for the sins of his predecessors.

So much ink has been spent in delineating the golden reign of Budshah, that it would seem redundant to repeat all this. However, some light needs to be thrown on two or three points which have been more or less glossed over by the authors.

The first point which deserves emphasis is that Zain-ul-abdin was never under the influence of Hindus. He was a devout Muslim and would consult the Shaikul-Islam on every measure he would like to introduce. Perhaps this is also the reason that "Shariat" as the state-religion could not be replaced. In accordance with its dictates, Jazia also was not revoked entirely, but fixed at a lower rate. Zain-ul-abdin could not dare to go totally against the current of public opinion, built brick by brick by his forefathers, so far as treatment towards Hindus was concerencd. Fanatics did raise their eye-brows on his attitude towards the Hindus and for this very purpose Syed Sad Ullah came from Mecca with a huge load of books. He tried to cajole the Sultan into reversing this tolerant policy, but the latter did not oblige. Budshah seems to have been more awake than those zealots who would try to foist their faith on others not by persuasion but through coercion. He therefore first of all called upon his own kinsmen to set their house in order. Muslims had multiplied themselves into different sects; Shias, Sunnis, Sayeds, Sufis and were vying with each other to show the other sects down. The Sultan could very well anticipate that once the object of their combined hatred - the Hindu was gone, they would fall out among themselves. Once such a nihilistic propensity is nurtured, it can express itself in any shape whatsoever. Therefore like a true follower of the Prophet be tried to consolidate the Muslim Brotherhood and exhorted them to sink their differences and close their ranks. It would have done more harm than good to the spread of Islam. How prophetically Budshah hinted towards this, can be easily corroborated by the subsequent Chak rule over Kashmir. Therefore, reinstallation of the irritant - the Hindu- did not only do good to him but also made the Muslim society cohesive and viable.

The second point which needs explanation here is the appointment of the Hindus to very responsible posts. The neo-converts, thinking themselves dandies, could not be expected to handle the intricate problems of statecraft. Moreover, they were actually the scum of the Hindu population; hence their credentials for running the government could not be depended upon, and the proverbial Eleven had survived the tyranny of the earlier Sultans. The state was in the doldrums owing to lack of foresight on the art of the predecessors of Budshah. Draught and flood in his reign trade the state poorer all the more. In this predicament a hunt for Brahmin talent was made, so that the state be entrusted to it to set things in order. Moreover, the Hindu, unbelievably elevated to such position after an interval of condemnation, had perforce to appear more loyal than the king and would apply his heart and soul together to prove his capability. Thus the state was again put on the rails and attained the speed which it had squandered earlier. Tilakacharya, Shriya Bhatta, Sinhabhatta, Ruyya Bhatta, Karpura Bhatta, Ramananda, Gaurak Bhatta, Jaya Bhatta and a host of such luminaries administered tho land of their birth with unparalelled devotion and to the best of their capacity. In the bargain Budshah made double gain. He became the champion of the uaderdog - the Hindu - and also gave his state a very good government.

Tbe third point regarding the renovation of the temples aod grant of lands to the Hindus can also be explained in this manner. During the reign of earlier Sultans, more-so when Sikandar through Suha Batta unleashed an era of unprecedented tyranny over the Hindus, the temples were annihilated and the Hindus wsre fleeing the country, leaving bebind the jagirs attached to these temples fallow and desolate. The neo-converts only relished in bringing death, destruction and loot, but never cared to attend to these jagirs for getting produce out of tbem. At best they could think ooly of converting temples into mosques but that sentiment alone could in no way act as the substitute for sustenance.

Budshah's scaaning eye could very well locate tbe disease; so he not only pledged safety to the biding Hindus, but also coaxed those, who had left, to return to their homeland. Rennovation of temples was executed under the supervision of Shriya Bhatta, which restored confidence into Hindu folk. Once again the lands attached to these temples were brought under plough and the food prospects of the country improved substantially.

Moreover in the wake of building a network of canals and water feeders, he rehabilitated the Hindus also on the land thus reclaimed. It served the purpose of replenishing the government treasury with tbe revenue these lands yielded. Whatever the inherent motive of Budshah regarding these steps, it is laudable on his part to usher in liberalism, despite the resentment of his Muslim subjects. He stood his ground firmly well and that is perhaps the indisputable reason which makes him the tallest of all the sultans in Kashmir. He possessed an unbending sinew and could never be swayed by passion. His reason thoroughly groomed was not only precise but also perfect. When the neo-converts under instructions from Syed Sad Ullah, who harboured a grudge against the king, as alluded to earlier, got arrowed to death a Yogi who had blessed the Sultan with male issues, he at first sought the counsel of the Shaikhul Islam, who decreed tbat "eye for eye" treatment be meted out to him. But the king did not like to act in haste and also alienate the sympathies of the Muslims. He introduced a novel method of punishing Sad Ullah by making him ride a donkey with his face towards its tail and his beard singed off. Tbe people werc asked to spit at him wherever he was conducted in this plight, but the King spared him his life. In other words he extended immunity from death to Syeds also, as was tbe practice regarding tbe Brahmins in earlier Hindu period. Undoubtedly the Sultan resurrected the dying human values, nursed these with his sharp intellectual prowess and tried to sell these out to his co-religionists. Nature willed otherwise. When his reign, like the flicker of a glow-worm in engulfing darkness, came to an end, his successors could not appreciate the exact import of his emancipated outlook, but reverted to wbolesale repression on Hindus, that also with vengeance.

Jona Raja has given us an eye-witness account of the first thirty-nine years of the reign of this gracious Sultan. He concludes tbe account abruptly at verse 976, without adducing any reason for it. The account of penultimate eleven years of his rule has been narrated by Shrivara in his Zaina Tarangini, as already indicated.

This benevolent Sultan, by commissioning Jona Raja to pen down his history, has been instrumental in doing permanent good to the annals of Kashmir. No contemporary Persian chronicle has come down to us in this respect. The earliest Persian reference to Kashmir is contained in 'Tarikhi-Feroz Shahi' (1285-1286 A. D.) by Zia-ud-Din Barni. Obviously this is a historical record about Fetoz Shah Tughlak of Delhi. Montion of Kashmir hao come there-in in a casual manner. Mulla Ahmad's 'Tarikhi Kashmir', was composed after the reign of Budshah. It can conveniently be treated as the first Persian chronicle of the Sultans af Kashmir. In view of this, by getting the events recorded by contemporary Hindus, the king not only provided an authentic base to these, but also bequeathed to the future scholars enough material to build up his personality, after exchanging the notes of Sanskrit and Persian histories. It will not be an exaggeration to say here that his period alone can take rightful pride in being authentic in Kashmir History. Jona Raja has performed his mission with honesty of purpose and dedication to his profession. His account of Budshah, though incomplete, is not wanting in any thing. It is neither magnified nor played down. The subsequent Persian chroniclers, without any exception, have profusely drawn from him and then only built, their respective theses. Kashmiris owe a debt to Jona Raja for erecting the contours of a light-house of accurate historicity which reduces to nullity thankless pastime of groping in the dark.

Source: Glimpses of Kashmiri Culture 

 

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