The Doyen of Sanskrit chroniclers, Kashmirian Kalhana was destined to write about the Hindu period of Kashmir History only upto A.D. 1148. Therafter, being inspired by overwhelming talent of his illustrious predecessor, Jona Raja pieced together the reign of subsequent Hindu Kings up to 1339 A. C. when the Sultans appeared on the Kashmir-scene. It was at the instance of celebrated Shirya Bhatta that Jona Raja took up the thread of chronicle writing with Jaya Singh's last seven years to the end of Kota Rani, the Hindu monarch of Kashmir and wove a panoramic picture of fourteen Hindu kings in 307 verses. Thus the chronicle of later Hindu Kings of Kashmir did not suffer by default in any way, more or less was made complete and self-contained by this versatile scholar.
Even though Jona Raja has confessed that Kalhana was his ideal, yet he has not been able to pin-point the sources on which he rebuilt the History of these Hindu kings. Kalhana, on the other hand, has most lucidly given as a lengthy inventory of sources which came in handy to him while delineating the History of ancient Hindu period of Kashmir. Unfortunately for Jona Raja, no such reference material could be available to him, more so in the context of social and political turmoil which found a fertile soil during the reign of those later Hindu Kings. Perforce, he had to draw upon public-memory, tradition, and other allied direct or indirect evidence and piece these together for giving it the shape of readable chronicle. Moreover, the selection of medium-Sanskrit also posed a veritable predicament to him. In his own words he has lamented the apathy of general public for Sanskrit and so has elected to caption his chronicle as "Raja Tarangini in the footsteps of Kalhana.” He could correctly divine that this title borrowed for Kalhana would draw the elite towards it since the reputation of Kalhana as a master-mind in wedding History to poetry was irrefutable, an alibi for Kalhana through his own treatise.
Despite all these shortcomings, it goes without saying that Jona Raja has taken up his assignment in all seriousness and has not indulged in futile kite flying. He along with his successors in this field -Shrivara, Prajya Bhatta and Shuka- have kept their heads cool and have in no way got involved emotionally with the turn of events. The inauspicious atmosphere staring them in their face did not at all ruffle them and they have admirably enough maintained the highest traditions of chronicle writing; their counterparts in Persian have more than often lost their balance and in their misplaced zeal for Islam have mutilated the actual content and ethos of Sultan period of Kashmir History. They have presented most of these Sultans as rabid crusaders against the Hindu way of life, which does not stand the veracity of facts penned down by the contemporary Sanskrit chroniclers. These chroniclers having been reduced to a minority overnight as also treated like the under god (as narrated by Persian Historians), had every reason to deride this proselytising attitude of the Sultans, but instead have placed honour where it was due and have not also refrained from calling spade a spade. The very fact of engaging Sanskrit Scholars for writing the History of Sultan period gives a lie to what Persian Historians have termed as mass conversion under duris or general genocide of the Hindus at that time. Jona Raja takes Sultan Sikandar, in collusion with Suha Bhatta, to task for his inhuman treatment towards Hindus, though he was in the pay of his son Sultan Zainul-abdin Budshah. This kind of plain - speaking on the part of Jona Raja deserves kudos but at the same time acts as a telling reminder of the freedom of expression allowed so benignly by this benevolent Sultan. To crown all, Jona Raja has praised Sultan Shahab-ud-Din for his catholicity, yet Persian chroniclers have dubbed him as the worst kind of Hindu-baiter. Shrivara has recorded in his "Zaina Raja Tarangini" that a Buddhist monastery at Bijebehara and a rock Shrine of "Ganesha" at the foot of Hari Parbat in Srinagar were built at public level during the reign of Sultan Hassan, the grandson of Budshah, but at the same time he has said that the Shrine of 'Bahu Khitkeshwara' at the confluence of the Jhelum and Dhud-Ganga was razed to ground by hot headed Muslims,' actually neo-converts. The very fact of converting Hindu Shrines into mosques preserving their sanctity in every respect speaks volumes for the forbearance exhibited consciously or otherwise by the Muslim Population of Kashmir. In recent years we have seen the sordid fate which such places of worship met during Russian Revolution or even after it, when we are told that the man of today is more rational than he was ever before.
At the same time, these chroniclers have suggested loudly -rather reading between their lines- that the Sultans of Kashmir always treated themselves as the big brother and never mixed with local Muslim population. They were so conscious of their blue-blood that they preferred to marry daughters or sisters of Rajas of Jammu, Rajouri etc. rather than have any such matrimonial relations with Kashmiri Muslims. At best they brought sayed girls to their harem who were obviously foreigners here and belonged to the highest echelon of Muslim hierarchy. But, when during the decline of Sultan rule, local factions began to assert themselves, the force of circumstance made them initiate such relations with the most powerful factions not for the love of it but to make themselves secure on the rickety throne.
In the background of such detached attitude to chronicle writing we can safely assert that Jona Raja has steered meticulously safe between enthralling emotion and nauseating exaggeration. Later Hindu period of Kashmir History is an eloquent testimony to this kind of highest norm observed by him most tenaciously. He has elected to sit on the fence and narrate the events as they take shape of their own accord. He never sits on judgment on these and leaves it to the reader to draw his own inferences. He had enough excuse to lament when the rule of Hindu Kashmir was slowly and steadily raking way for an alien sovereignity, but instead has felt relieved to see the end of such incompetence and depravation which these Hindu kings represented in letter and spirit. This is a glowing tribute to his undaunted spirit unruffled by sentiment or religious loyalties.
Jona Raja has altogether given us a list of twelve Hindu Kings punctuating it with a brief interlude of "Renchan" and then proceeded with Udyan Deva and Kota Rani. The last seven years of JaYa Singh's rule (1148 A. D. to 1155 A. D.) were exhausted in obstructing muslim incursions into the state for which he also sought the help from neighbouring Hindu chieftains. He seems to be the last Hindu monarch worth his salt and laid down his life while defending his home land. After him the reins of the Government passed on to his son 'Parmanuk' 1155 A. D. to 1164 A. D. through whose incompetence the vassals of Kishtwar, Rajouri and others on the outer fringe of Kashmir declared independence. He has been portrayed as an idiot with least credentials for becoming a king. Thereafter, 'Vanti Deva’ (1164 to 1171 A. D.) and 'Bopa Deva' (1171 A. D. to 1181 A. D.) ascended the throne one after another and the social and political conditions deteriorated in the country due to their being nincompoops. They were followed by 'Jassaka' (1181 A. D. to 1199 A. D.) given to levity and lust. However, his talented son Jagdeva (1159 A. D. to 1213 A. D. ) tried his best to stem the rot and halted the disintegration of the state. He erected a towering shrine of 'Harsheshwara' Lord Shiva at Razpur near Khonmuh. Unfortunately he was poisoned to death by the commander of the gate guards (passes leading into Kashmir) "Padma" by name.
His son Raja Deva (1213 A. D. to 1236) had fled to Kishtwar but was brought back by the enemies of the commander of gateguards, the nobles of Khovurpora in the Liddar Valley. Later on 'Padma' was also done to death by some hunters. Raja Deva was acknowledged as the ruler by the entire Kashmiri population. He rehabilitated 'Lavanyas' ('lones' in Kashmiri) and made them his strong allies. But he could not arrest the erosion that had seeped down into the very fibre of Kashmiri society and was venquishad by the chieftain of 'Lar' - 'Baladhyachandra' who grabbed half of the metropolis- Srinagar from him and built a hospice 'Baladhymatha' (Kashmiri Baldimar) in his own name. The Brahmin-section of the population did not take kindly to his weak-kneed policy, consequently revolted but were brought to bay with an iron hand. They were persecuted so vehemently that they opted for changing their caste even. Jona Raja associates the abominable term 'Na Bhatto ham -’ 'I am not a Bhatta' (Kashmiri Nabtu) with this Hindu King for the first time. He founded the two localities of Rajori (Kadal) within the city and Village (Razul) consecrating these with his own name.
Sangrama Deva (1236 A. D. to 1252 A. D.) his successor put in herd labour to reclaim the lost territories from neighbouring chieftains but his younger brother 'Surya' fell foul with him and indulged in conspiring against him though he had been given the respectable authority as the chairman of the Council of ministers. Consequently a fight broke out between the brothers in which 'Surya' was taken prisoner and killed subsequently at the 'Hamal', the Governor of which locality 'Tunga' had sworn allegiance to him. During the absence of 'Sangrama Deva' the descendants of Kalhana had unleashed a reign of terror throughout the state and the king had to seek asylum with the ruler of Rajori. Thereafter "Damaras" also joined hands with the "Kalhanas" and sucked the blood of Kashmiris. Sangrama Deva returned to his state incognito, collected his forces and overwhelmed his enemies. He also gave reprieve to 'Kalhanas' for being Brahmins. He built a row of twenty-one barracks for the Brahmins and cows at Bijebehara. But the 'Kalhanas' nursed a grudge against the King and secretly conspired to get rid of him. Pandit 'Yashska' the poet, immortalized the King in his composition replete with poetic excellence. However, this treatise along with its title is not available to us today. We also are not informed about the medium used by this poet - Sanskrit or Kashmiri.
His son Rama Deva (1252 A. D. to 1273 A. D.) avenged the murder of his father by putting to sword all those who had colluded with each other to kill him. On the left bank of 'Ladar' stream he built a very imposing fort in his name. The Vishnu temple at Kakapora was rennovated by him which had earlier been desecrated mistakenly. He had no son of his own, hence adopted a Brahmin-boy 'Lakshma' by name. The queen 'Samudra' erected a hospice within the city naming it as 'Samudra Matha' ï·“ (Kashmiri 'Sodramar').
We are given to understand that a Brahmin boy, the adopted son of Rama Deva, Lakshma Deva occupied the throne (1273 A.D. to 1286 A.D.) but it proved to be a veritable crown of thorns for him. Though being made 'Khshtrya' by his profession, he could not shake off his marrowï·“deep Brahmanical outlook. The Turk 'Kajjala' invaded Kashmir during his reign and Lakshma Deva was uprooted. His queen 'Ahalya' built a serai calling it as 'Ahalya Matha' (Kashmiri 'Ahalmar') within Srinagar.
'Sangram Chandra of 'Lar' in collusion with the Turk invader 'Kajjala' made Lakshma Deva's successor 'Sinha Deva' (1236 A. D. to 1301 A. D.) flee to the 'Ledar' Valley which comprised his nominal state now. When 'Sangrama Chandra' died, Sinha Deva entered the city and indulged in setting the house in order. The King was a devout Hindu, so constructed many shrines, the prominent amongst these was the temple of 'half lion, half man' (Nara Simha) at Dhyanodarï·“the Karewa of Dhyneshwara near Bandipore. He also honoured his guru Shankar Swami by allotting him the income accruing from ten shrines. The King was poet also, but none of his compositions has come down to us so far. However, he fell in bad company later on and had illegal relations with one courtesan 'Idagali' by name. The chief teller of Royal treasury Darya (Khan) by name got the King assassinated by 'Kama Samuha.'
This very 'Kama Samuha' was instrumental in installing Simha Deva's brother 'Suha Deva' (1301 A.D. to 1320 A.D.) on the throne.
During his reign a sizable number of fugitives came to Kashmir for seeking employment here. The king obliged them readily, least knowing that he was digging his own grave and working unconsciously for the dissolution of Hindu Kashmir. Along with these fugitives Shahmeer arrived in Kashmir in A. D. 1313 and the king Suha Deva allotted a Jagir to him making him comfortable in every way.
At that very time 'Dulcha' invaded Kashmir with his hordes spelling disaster. King Suha Deva, not having the nerve to confront him, tried to buy peace from him with a huge sum of money. For meeting that end he imposed exhorbitant taxes on his subjects already groaning under the terror of Dulcha not sparing the Brahmanas even who were immune from such levies. The ego of the Brahmanas was hurt to such an extent that many of these preferred self immolation to paying of taxes. Even after getting a huge amount as gratification, Dulcha did not vacate Kashmir for long eight months. During this period Kashmiris suffered untold miseries, to borrow Jona Raja’s words could not afford to come out of their hideï·“outs for being killed, like rats out of fear for the cat. At last he went out of Kashmir through Pirpanchal negotiating 'Tarbal' pass towards the South of Divsar. Again Jona Raja would make us believe that a very small portion of the population had survived this holocaust and that also could not find any food to eat. Kashmir had become desolated completely.
During this nemesis which visited Kashmir, 'Renchan' a runï·“away prince from Ladakh was in the Valley but was lying low for fear of Dulcha. He was perhaps biding his time to strike at the right moment. Propitiously for him Kashmir was in shambles, the people and their ruler demoralised, so he did not encounter any resistance in grabbing the throne. He had earlier subjugated 'Rama Chandra' the last chieftain of 'Lar' though perfidy. He managed infiltration into this stronghold of Chandra Dynasty in the disguise of cloth-sellers and was successful in murdering Rama Chandra and marrying 'Kota Devi' a scion of his family. King Suhadeva went into hiding and Renchan (1320 A. D. to. 1327 A. D.,) had his bread buttered on both sides. Jona Raja uses the adjectival epithet 'Sultan' with his name hinting towards his conversion to Muslim faith, though he had beseeched one Deva Sawmi, a Shaivite, earlier to admit him into the Hindu fold. But on his being a 'Bhautta' the Swami did not oblige him. Renchan tried to consolidate his position with an iron hand and suppressed the 'Lones' who had become very powerful.
He founded 'Rinchenpur' (near Kashmiri Bulbul Lanker) whithin the capital surrounded by a moat (Kashmiri Mar) on all sides. At last he became a victim of a conspiracy hatched jointly by Tukka a compatriot of Rinchen and Udhyan Deva who had taken refuge in Gandhara. A fight ensued between these two factions. Rinchan received a fatal head injury and died. Earlier Rinchan had been very much pleased with the nonï·“partisan attitude of Shahmeer who had not aligned himself with all such intrigues against the monarch; so had made over his son 'Harder' to him for upbringing.
Rinchan could have been safely termed as the first Sultan of Kashmir but after him Hindu rule again continued for sixteen years. He might at best be called the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. It might well be termed as a rehearsal for induction of Sultan rule later.
After him Udyan Deva (1323 to 1339 A. D.) settled himself on the throne marrying 'Kota' the widow of Rinchan. Jona Raja has not cared to give exact credentials of Udyan Deva or his relations with King Suha Deva. The chronicler laments his rise to power as he lacked statesmanship and also nerve. He bestowed governorship of 'Kamraz' and other places on the sons of Shahmir - Jamshed and Ali respectively. Actually the power was concentrated in the hands of Kota Rani the queen while the king would spend all his time in religious observances. Jona Raja has indulged in laughing in his sleves when he mentions that Udyan Deva had fastened bells around the neck of horses so that insects were not trampled over, as if these poor creatures would hear and comphehend such an advance warning.
The last nail in the coffin of later Hindu rule was the invasion of Achala who was tactfully prevailed upon to return after getting a good sum from Kota Rani. During this invasion instead of confronting Achala or negotiating peace with him on diplomatic level, king Udyan Deva like an irresponsible coward had fled to Ladakh throwing his wife to wolves. But Kota stood this test well and called her husband back. She had a son from him named 'Jatta' who was made over to 'Bhaikshana' one of his ministers for being properly nursed.
During this confusion and anarchy with which the firmament of Kashmir was overcast, Shahmeer after making his position secure tried to fish in these troubled waters. He could very well divine that the Hindu empire was tottering under its own weight of incompetence; so to fill in this vacuum his credentials were now the best. However, like an astute diplomat he stood his ground well and did not take a rash step. He had been made the chief of guards on duty at the mountain passes. This position he exploited to his heart's content and manipulated infiltration into the valley on a large scale. Secondly, he unified the scattered muslim population within Kashmir and became their leader. Moreover, he coaxed the commissars of Bhangil, Beerwa, Hamal etc. into matrimonial alliances thus enlisted their support. He also would demoralize Kota Rani the virtual ruler at that time by reminding her that her son 'Haider' who was in this tutelage would inevitably suffer if she tried to thwart his plans. Kota Rani out of motherly affection for Harder could not take any action against Shahmeer. This resulted in making him stronger every day; sensing that the time was ripe for striking, Shahmeer raised the banner of revolt and looted Shankarpur (Pattan) and set Bijbehara on fire and encamped on the 'Udars’ (Karewas) of Chakdar. The Lones, Damaras and Bhauttas defected to his side through his superb statesmanship and his garrison outnumbered the Royal army in men as well as material king. King Udyan Deva died and now the decks were cleared for Shahmeer by Nature even.
Kota Rani after suppressing the news of the death of her husband for a couple of days went to Anderkot. While engaged in_ planning counter strategy she was beseiged by Shahmeer. Earlier, Shahmeer had 'Bikshana' murdered on whose help Kota could very safely depend.
In this atmosphere of gloom and despair Shahmeer sent feelers to her to get married with him. Kota Rani in order to save the throne for her as also for guaranteeing safety to 'Haider' acceded to the proposal of Shahmeer. She could not see through the game Shahmeer was initiating under the cover of this marriage-proposal. The siege was lifted, and Kota having become the spouse of Shahmeer only for one night, was in the morning handed over to assassins. Thus the later Hindu period of Kashmir History came to an ignonimous close and Shahmeer waiting in the wings had a cake-walk to the throne of Kashmir for ushering in Sultan rule.
After going through this brief detail, we cannot resist inferring that this epoch of Hindu kings of Kashmir had outlived itself for obvious reasons. Out of 16 Kings in this period, five were killed through court intrigues. Four amongst them fled the country for not sizing up to the impending danger. Some amongst these Kings were so spineless as to share the capital Srinagar with rulers of Lar – comparatively a very small principality. A fugitive from Ladakh Renchan could very safely entrench himself on the throne without a leaf in the valley. Only Kota Rani tried her best to resist the onslaught made on this Hindu Kingdom but she was alone in undoing toe wrong that had permeated the entire of Kashmiri society then. She valiantly tried to fight against time and tide and in doing so had to pay the price of getting killed.
So, it may be said without any fear of contradiction that in the context of such an undignified rule of later Hindu kings, the induction of Sultans can unmistakenly be construed as the Divine retribution in every sense of the word when man fails, Nature intervenes. Fortune had smiled over Yashovati when she inaugurated the Hindu rule in Kashmir, but Kota Rani being more dashing and resourceful than her had to succumb to the conspiracy of circumstances making her write an epitaph over this period with her own blood.
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