Table of Contents

   Kashmiri Writers

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Early Kashmiri Society-An Analysis

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

From the above analysis of the nature and character of the pre-Islamic Kashmiri society and its way of life we can safely arrive at some conclusions. We can characterize it as an open-minded, liberal and human society, culturally advanced, intellectually alert and aesthetically conscious. The religion that formed and bedrock of its values and ideals allowed different beliefs and modes of worship to co-exist happily and cordially. In his introduction of Edwin Muir's 'Life of Mohammet', well-known historian Ram Swarup has quoted Prudence Jones, spokesperson for the UK Pagan Federation to have observed: "All the world's indigenous and ethnic religions have three features in common: they are nature-venerating, seeing nature as a manifestation of divinity; secondly, they are polytestic and recognize many gods as many manifestation;  the third feature is that they all recognize the Goddess, the female aspect of Divinity as well as male".  This in nutshell also sums up the religious outlook of the early Kashmiri society. It had several inherent weaknesses too.

But when Islam came to Kashmiri in the 14th century with its ideology and beliefs, its theology and dogmas, its laws and codes of conduct, its lore and legends, everything that the Kashmiri society stood for earlier was upturned. Its entire social, spiritual and cultural fabric was shattered by the cataclysmic events that followed. Some scholars say that long before Muslim rule was established there, Muslims had settled in Kashmir. They give examples of the presence of Turkic Muslim soldiers in Harsha's (19089-1111) army, and the employment of Turkie mercenaries by Bhikshachara (1120-1121) against Sussala as evidence. They quote Marco Polo as suggesting that a colony of Muslims existed in Kashmir in the 13th century. All this may well be true, but was only when refugees and adventurers from different quarters converged on Kashmir during the reign of King Suhadev (1301-1320), that the Hindus lost Kashmir to Islam. Till then Kashmir may have known Muslims, but not Islam as such. The earlier attempts by Hisham bin Amru'I—Taghlibi, the Arab governor in Sindh, in the 8th century and Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) to invade Kashmir had ended in failure. Not much is known about the impact of Muslims who had settled earlier in Kashmir on the existing society, but it seems that their activities went unnoticed largely because of Hindu tradition of hospitality. But when Rinchana, a Buddhist fugitive from Ladakh and Shah Mir, an adventurer from Swat, came seeking refugee, they colluded with Saiyyid Sharaf-ud-Din alias Bulbulshah, who had arrived earlier, to subvert the very society that gave them shelter. They succeeded in doing hat Ghazni could not an established Islamic rule in Kashmir by subversion, perfidy and treachery.

Lacking political foresight and ignorant of Shah Mir's motives and ambitions. Suhadev committed the folly of granting him a whole village for his sustenance. Earlier he had bestowed a jagir on Bulbul Shah also. Rinchana too got employment under Ramachandra. Suhadeva's commander-in-chief. And even as the two were consolidating their positions by clever means, Zulji or Zulqadr Khan, a Turk/Mongol chief invaded Kashmir at the head of a huge army of 70,000. Suhadeva fled to Kashtawar, without the Kottarajas or petty chiefs of border posts, coming to his help. He left people to the invader's mercy. Zulju ordered a massacre and his soldiers decimated thousands of people, enslaved thousands, burnt down villagers, plundered towns and destroyed standing crops. After eight months of his devastating stay Zulju left taking fifty thousand Brahmins with him as slaves, but perished along with the pensions and troops near Devasar Pass in a heavy snowfall. His ravages have been described in detail in Jonaraja's Rajataragini and the Baharistan-i-Shahi. Famine ensued as the Zulju's troops had destroyed all stores of grain, causing immense misery to the starving survivors.

It was Zulju's devastating invasion that actually scripted the fall of Kashmir into Musilm hands, for in the anarchy conditions created by it, Rinchana saw the opportunity for himself to grab power. According to Baharistan-i-Shahi, Rinchana, smuggled his men with weapons in the guise of merchants in to the fort where his master Ramchandra had shut himself up. In the bloody attack that followed Ramachandra and his men were treacherously killed and his family imprisoned. Even children were not spared and pregnant women's wombs were cut upon. Seizing power in a coup, Rinchana later freed Ramchandra's son Rawanchandra and married his daughter Kota Rani.

Rinchana's conversion to Islam is one of the most controversial issues in the history of Kashmir. Jonaraja says that he wanted to become a Hindu, but the Shaiva guru Devaswami refused to admit him into the fold. But this does not seem to be the fact, for, as Prof. A.Q. Rafiqi has rightly pointed out, even if that were the case, Rinchana, being the king, could have approached any other Brahmana for it. "Conversion from Buddhism to Hinduism or vice versa was not a new thing", Prof. Rafiqi writes. It is wrong, therefore, to put the blame on Devaswami, as some modern historians have done, simply because he was a Brahmin. Is it not possible that his hestitation had something to do with the revolutions cased by Rinchana's treachery?

Another story was floated which attributed Rinchana's acceptance of Islam to "divine grace". Rinchana, it is said, held discussions with both Hindu and Muslim scholars about what is "Truth", but none could satisfy him. He then decided to adopt the religion of the first person he should see in the morning. And who could that person be other than the "Sufi" Sharafu'd-Din Bulbul, offering namaz outside the palace? Rinchana became a Muslim adopting the Islamic name Sadr'-ud-Din. The story "was concocted to glorify Islam and establish the miraculous power of Sayyid Sharafu'd-Din", says Prof. Rafiqi and rightly so.

It seems more probable that Rinchana's conversion was manipulated by Shah Mir himself with the connivance of Bulbul Shah to establish Muslim rule in Kashmir. And thus the refugee from Ladakh became, the ruler of the Kashmir in 1320 A.D, but died less than three years later. Kota Rani made Suhadeva's brother Udyanadeva the king and herself became his queen. Hindu rule was restored but not for long. Again a Turk (or Mongol) marauder, Achala, swooped upon Kashmir and Udyanadeva fled to Ladakh. Showing exemplary courage, Kota Rani organised a resistance with the help of Bhatta Bhikshana, a Brahmin noble, and Shah Mir as well as some Kottarajas or clan-chiefs. She managed to send the invader back, while Shah Mir gained popularity for his role. Shah Mir now started scheming openly for grabbing the throne which he had been eyeing all along. Not that Kota Rani, who had proclaimed herself the ruler, failed to read his mind, but she played her cards badly. Instead of cutting Shah Mir to his size, she further strengthened his position by offering his administrative posts to his two sons. And not just that, when Shah Mir reigned illness, she sent her ablest general Bhatta Bhikshana to inquire of his health. Shah Mir murdered Bhatta Bhikshana treacherously and besieged Kota Rani in her palace at Andarkot. Overpowering the queen, he seized power in 1339 AD, laying the foundation of Muslim rule in Kashmir. Kota had to pay with her life for the folly of not having arrested the wily Mir immediately after Bhikshana's murder. That was the final act in the sordid drama that saw Hindu Kashmir loose out to Islam without ever getting a chance to recover.

Both Shah Mir and Rinchana repaid the generosity and hospital of the Hindu rulers as well as people with perfidy most could and unimaginable. And though "no Arab legions marched into Kashmir with their swift horses and slender sword," as Prof. K.N. Pandita has observed, it will be wrong to think that the sword played no part in destroying its ancient society and changing forever its religious and demographic profile. Did not the blitzkriegs of Zulju and Achala create conditions of such abysmal chaos that it became easy for adventurers like Rinchana and Shah Mir to grab power without as much as a ripple? Shah Mir's ascension to the thrown as the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir triggered the inexorable chain of developments that had a terrible impact on the psyche of its hapless Hindus, making them retreat into a sulk from which they have still not been able to retrieve themselves. The period of transition to Islam is most crucial in the history of Kashmir, but unfortunately it has been presented in a manner that shows utter disregard (or should we say utmost contempt) for truth. It is extremely important to understand how people belonging to a society saturated with civilization and steeped in learning came to accept in vast numbers a religion totally incompatible with their deepest convictions and long established traditions. It must be noted that the process of Islamization of Kashmir that began during Rinchana and Shah Mir's time gathered a furious momentum with the arrival of Sayyid Mir Ali Hamadani on the scene and proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Kashmiri Hindus-a nightmare of mass massacres, holocaust, genocidal attacks and enslavement. Let us have a look at the sequence of events that led to it before arriving at any conclusions Sayyid Ali Hamadani, regarded one of the greatest missionaries of Islam by Kashmiri Muslims, arrived from Hamadan probably in 1381 with an entourage of 700 other Sayyids who it is widely believed fled Persia to escape persecution by Taimur. Earlier he had sent two of his cousins, Sayyid Taju'd-Din and Sayyid Hussain to Kashmir "to explore the religious atmosphere of that country" according to Prof. A.Q. Rafiqi. He was initiated in the Kubrawiya order of Sufi's by Ala'ud-Din Simnani who "believed that the duty of a Sufi was to preach his faith".

The first thing Sayyid Ali Hamdani did in Kashmir was to admonish Sultan Qutbu'd-Din for having married two uterine sisters against the Islamic law and for dressing himself after the fashion of the Hindus. The Sultan quickly divorced one of the two sisters, and abandoned the Hindu costume to wear Muslim dress Hamadani he then set upon his proselytizing activities to fulfil Allah's command to him. He is sand to have converted as many as 37,000 Hindus to Islam. He probably wanted Qutbu'd-Din" to make the persecution and torture of Hindus as state policy" as Prof. K.L. Bhan writes in his book Paradise Lost: Seven Exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits" But as the author of Baharistan-i-Shahi says, "Sultan Qutbu'd-Din failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani, he decided not to stay in Kashmir anyt more and left via Baramulla under the pretext of proceeding on a pilgrimage to Mecca". But he left for the Sultan a mandate in the shape of 'Zakhirat-ul-Mulk' which made it imperative for every Muslim ruler to treat his non-Muslim subjects (Zimnis) according to the convenient of Caliph Umar. Sayyid Ali's mandate divides the subjects under a Muslim ruler into two categories-Muslims and Kafirs-and lists 20 most humiliating and degrading rules for the infidels to comply with absolute obedience. The mandate forbids non-Muslims to construct any new places of worship, to reconstruct any existing place of worship that may fall in to ruin to ride horses with saddle and bridle, to carry weapons, to wear signet rings, to openly practice their customs and usages among Muslims, to carry their dead near the graveyards of Muslims to mourn their dead loudly, to build their houses in the neighbourhood of Muslims, and to prevent Muslim travellers from staying their place of worship or temples. They are also required to receive any Muslim traveller in to their houses and to provide him with hospitality for three days and to wear humble dress so that they may be distinguished from Muslims. Sayyid Ali does not mention any rights which non-Muslims could expect in return for obeying these twenty conditions, but concludes with the note that if they infringe any of them then Muslim shave a right to kill them. An open licence to kill those who do not believe in Islam!

It was Sayyid Ali Hamdani who got the temple of Kalishri near Fatehkadal in Srinagar demolished and converted into a Khanqah, now known as Khanqah to Maula "Sayyid Ali's proselytizing activities", writes Prof. A.Q. Rafiqi, "are highly extolled by both medieval and modern scholars. But none of them gives any details of the method adopted by him at his work" Rafiqi adds. "There is no doubt, however, that Islam received great impetus because of Sayyid Ali and his followers. He left his deputies at a number of places which were great Hindu centres of those days, such as Pompur, Avantipura and Vijabror. These followers of Sayyid Ali established Khanqahs, and the network of branches which gradually emerged became important centres of preaching and proselytization".

The proselytizing frenzy of the Sayyids reached a crescendo in Kashmir during the reign of Sikandar Butshikan or Sikandar the Iconoclast. At the behest of Sayyid Ali Hamadani's son Sayyid Muhmmad Hamdani who came to Kashmir in 1393, Sultan Sikandar let loose a reign of unprecedented terror against the Hindu population. "To him", writes the author of Baharistan-i-Shahi, "goes the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands", adding that "immediately after his arrival, Sultan Sikandar, peace be on him submitted to his religious supremacy and proved his loyalty to him by translating his words into deeds". One of the first to be converted by the Sayyid was Sikandar's minister Suha Bhatt, who was given the Muslim name of Malik Safu'd-Din. The two at the instigation of Mir Sayyid Mohammad Hamdani committed the most barbaric atrocities on Kashmiri Hindus, giving them no option but to accept Islam, exile or death. Hassan writes: "Sikandar meted out greatest oppression to the Hindus. It was notified in the city that if a Hindu does not became a Muslim, he must leave the country or be killed. As a result, some of the Hindus fled away, some accepted Islam and many Brahmanas consented to be killed and gave their lives. It is said Sikandar collected by these methods about three khirwars (240 kilgrams) of sacred threads (from Hindu converts) and burnt them...All the Hindu books of learning were collected and thrown into Dal Lake and were buried beneath stones and earth".

Sikandar imposed the Jiziya on Hindus, prevented them from applying tilak on their foreheads and prohibited the selling of wine, dancing of women, music and gambling. He derived a peculiar sadistic pleasure from destroying Hindus temples and smashing their idols, from which he got his notorious nickname, Hassan says:

"This country (Kashmir) possessed from the times of Hindu kings many temples which were like the wonders of the world. Their workmanship was so fine and delicate that one found himself bewildered at their sight. Sikandar goaded by feelings of bigotry destroyed them and levelled them with the earth and with their materials built many mosques and Khanqahs. In the first instance he turned his attention towards the Martanda temple built by Ramadeva (it was actually Lalitaditya who had built it) on Mattan Karewa. For one full year he fried to demolish it but failed. At last in sheer dismay he dug out stones from its base and having stored enough wood in their place set fire to it. Gold gilt paintings on its walls were totally destroyed and the walls surrounding its premises were demolished. Its ruins even now strike wonder in men's minds. At Bijbeahara three hundred temples including the famous Vijayaeshwara temple which was partially damaged by Shahabu'd-Din were destroyed and with the material of the latter a mosque was built and on its site and a Khanqah which is even now known as Vijayeshwar Khanqah".

Like some possessed maniacs, the iconoclasts went on destroying one magnificent temple after another, one splendid image after another—Martanda, Vishaya, Ishana, Chakrabhrit, Tripureshwara. Sureshwari, Parihaspur, Mahashri, the temple built by Tarapida all became targets on their frenzy. Jonaraja, the contemporary historian says with anguish : "There was no town, no village, no wood where Suha and the Turshka left the temples of Gods unbroken". Adds R.K. Parmu: "Then they rebuilt the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta, and the mosque of Khanqah Maula was built in commemoration of Sayyid Ali Hamadani. Two other big mosques were built in Bhavan and Bijbeahara. All these mosques were built from the material of the demolished Hindu temples; and the spacious courtyard of the Lokeshwari temple in Srinagar was converted into the Mazar-i-Salatin."

Parmu blames it on the "fanatical zeal" of the "malevolent" Sayyids who in their fiendhish exultation gave Sikandar their most coveted title of "Butshikan", the iconoclast.." Prof. AQ Rafiqi is clear that Sikandar's orthodox policy was not dictated by political reasons but on the advice of Mir Muhammad Hamdani. Genocidal attacks and barbaric decrees created so much terror and panic among the defencless Hindus that they fled for their lives—across the Smithan Pass to neighbouring Kashtawar and via Batote (Kashmiri 'Bhatta Wath' or the path of the Bhattas) . This, as Prof. K.L. Bhan points out, was the first mass of exodus Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir.

The orgy of violence and proselytizing frenzy continued unabated into the reign of Sultan Ali Shah (1413-1420). The renegade Suha and the demoniac Sayyids went berserk in their attempt to destroy Hinduism, root and branch. The whole Valley was bathed in the blood of the innocents. Jonaraja draws a heart-rending picture of the plight of Hindus, in particular Brahmins of Kashmir comparing them to fish tormented by a fisherman in a closed river. He says that their religious ceremonies and processions were banned; heavy taxes were levied on them; and to starve them their traditional allowances were stopped, forcing them to become beggars. For a mouthful of food, "they went from house to house, lolling out their tongues like dogs". Some roamed in the streets in the disguise of Muslims to save their emaciated families from hunger. To escape oppression and to preserve their religious identity, may of them ran away from their land through bye-roads as the main roads were closed, "the non leaving his father behind and the father leaving his son". Passing though difficult terrain, many of them died of scorching heat and illness, many of starvation due to scanty food. But not all succeeded in escaping. Many of those who remained behind committed suicide by taking poison, many by drowning self-immolation. Many hanged themselves, many jumped from precipices. Numerous Hindus were killed brutally while many were forced to convert to Islam.

Deeply disturbed by the suffering of his co-regionalists on the even of Zainu'l-Abidin's ascension to throne, Jonaraja laments: "As storms do with trees, or locusts with paddy crops, wicked people belonging to his (Sikandar's) faith worked havoc with the traditions and usages of Kashmir. His lament viewed against the background of Suha Bhatta's role in the misery heaped up on Kashmiri Hindus raises a significant question: how to explain the behaviour of the neo-converts towards their erstwhile co-regionalists? Purna, the barber who instigated Zainu'l-Abidin's on Haidar Shah to commit barbarities against the Hindus is another case of the rabidity of the neoconverts. He got their limbs amputated, their tongues and noses chopped off and had them impaled. Other neo-converts too joined the orthodox Muslims to provoke the king to commit inhuman atrocities on Hindus, to desecrate and loot their temples.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



Facebook Account Follow us and get Koshur Updates Video clips Image Gallery
Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

 | Home | Culture & Heritage | Copyrights Policy | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Credits | Contact Us |

Any content available on this site should NOT be copied or reproduced

in any form or context without the written permission of KOA.