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The Pain of Somnath

by Dr.  Sushil Fotedar

Yes, Somnath is a very painful chapter in the history of Hindu India. You just have to read Professor Rawlinson's excellent, unbiased and vivid commentary of the event to feel the agony seeping through and through. I quote the relevant passage verbatim:

“… a massive stone lingam, five cubits in height, which was regarded as being of special sanctity and attracted thousands of pilgrims. It was bathed everyday in water brought all the way from the Ganges, and garlanded with flowers from Kashmir. The revenue of ten thousand villages was assigned for its support, and a thousand Brahmins performed the daily ritual of the temple. The original shrine, like so many in ancient India, was built of wood: it was supported by fifty-six teak-wood pillars, coated with lead and inlaid with jewels. A chain of massive golden bells hung over the idol: jewelled chandeliers, images of pure gold and veils embroidered with precious stones were stored in the treasury. The temple, together with the buildings to accommodate the ministrants, formed a regular town, surrounded by a wall and strongly fortified.

Mahmud left Ghazni in December 1023 with 30,000 picked horsemen. He appeared suddenly before Multan, which surrendered. Here he obtained the necessary camels for the desert-crossing, and both Bikaner and Ajmir opened their gates to him. Six weeks’ arduous march brought him to Anhilvad and the raja, Bhima by name, fled at his approach. Mahmud probably marched against Somnath by the route running along the southern coast of Kathiawar. On Thursday, January 30th, he broke through the enceinte of fortresses surrounding the town and approached the walls of the sacred city. The inhabitants, confident in the power of the god, jeered at the invaders from the battlements. Next day the assault began. The Muslims after a severe struggle, succeeded in gaining a footing on the ramparts, but were too exhausted to do more. And now the Hindus began to realize their peril. All night long the temple was thronged with wailing crowds, beating their breasts and calling upon the deity to come to the help of his own. But there was neither voice nor answer. At dawn the attack was renewed, and step by step the defenders were forced back through the narrow winding streets to the walls of the shrine itself. Here a last despairing stand was made until at length the Muslims, planting their scaling ladders against the walls, stormed them with loud cries of Din! Din ! Fifty-thousand Hindus were put to the sword ; others tried to escape by the sea and were drowned. The treasure taken exceeded two million dinars in value. According to one story, the Brahmins who had submitted begged to be allowed to ransom the lingam, but Mahmud would not listen. He refused, he said, to appear before the Judgement Seat as one who had taken money to spare the idol. The stone was broken in pieces and a portion of it buried in the threshold of the mosque of Ghazni, to be trodden under foot by true believers…”

But who says the laziness of those fat Brahmins indulging in meaningless yagnas can be equated with Dharma ? They were no different from the Pandas you find at Benaras, Haridwar, Puri and at most of the Hindu shrines around the country even now, moving around like hungry vultures ready to gulp down everything and anything in your pockets. In a grotesque distortion of our beautiful religion, they have misinterpreted the theory of Karma to suit their own selfish ends. Haven’t we read in the Gita that when Arjun wanted to give up, Krishna rebuked him in the strongest possible language calling him a eunuch even, and coaxed him to fight for that was his Dharma ? Kashmir Shaivism also tells us the same. What surrounds us is not an ‘illusion’ and when faced with injustice we are supposed to rise like true heroes and fight it out till the bitter end only that we keep the larger picture in mind, that is all.



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