Subhash Kak

Subhash Kak

Subhash  Kak
Subhash  Kak has been called India's leading
expressionist poet. He is the author of two other books 
of poetry The Conductor of the Dead and other poems
and The London Bridge and other poems. His poems 
have appeared in leading journals of Hindi and English 
poetry in India and the West.

The Kashmiri Poet of Louisiana

by Anwar Shaikh

Vol. 4, Issue 14
Oct-Dec 1996 

Emotion is the basic characteristic of a poet because a good verse cannot come into being until he feels a touch of excitement. Though emotion is one of the three groups of the phenomena of the mind, that is, cognition, will and feeling, it is the exuberance and refinement of feeling, which gives birth to tasteful and elegant poetry. However, nature has been generous to Subhash Kak of Louisiana; he originally comes from the Valley of Kashmir, whose natural scenery testifies to the fact that the Creator made this tract of land with the materials, which may be termed as marvel, mystery and munificence. This young man's poetry is not only enriched with the same elements as the soil of his motherland, but he is also a scientist. Though cognition is not an essential part of poetry, his scientific endowment serves as a bridle to the stallion of his emotions and he gallops at a majestic pace instead of going wild.

Subhash possesses the virtue of couching simplest situations in the manner that is creative and elaborate. This is what elevates him as an expressionist: his style makes the dull night fulgent with moonlight, renders the silent streams sing with ecstasy and induces the sullen birds soar higher and higher in search of satisfaction. There is a deja vu in his art, which makes the reader feel vaguely that he already knows it, though it is the first time he has read it. This is the suggestive power of Subhash, a kind of artistic telepathy.

A true poet is recognised by the reminiscences of his homeland when in a foreign country. This is an expression of his nostalgia, the evidence of his love and loyalty to his past. In his highly moving poem "My Father in Hawaii, " one finds the stunning imagery of Kashmir rolled into the Hawaiian landscape bursting with beauty, bliss and beatitude. His descriptive mastery creates an aura, which exhibits the smiling of buds, colours of a rainbow and melodies of the chirping birds associated with the immortal Valley where he was born and grew up.

The fluency of his verses clearly demonstrates his natural aptitude for poetry. He does not seem to be forcing himself to write a couplet or a stanza. Once he is moved by the effect of an event, it is the ethos of the happening that uses Subhash as the mouthpiece for its expression. No wonder, he has been called "the leading expressionist poet of India" by the National Herald.

The term "Expressionism" is used to describe an artist's deepest feelings. It is this characteristic of Expressionism, which earned the Expressionist drama of Germany the description: "drama of the soul." One can visualise Subhash's soul moving through his verses with hope and desire, yet the Lord Kama cannot be seen anywhere with his erotic arrows in search of pretty damsels. His passion is pure and pious, bordering on perfection, and not touched by the pollution of puerility. The "Inner Sarasvati" clearly demonstrates that the thirst for his ancestral values is being quenched by the genetic stream of enquiry quietly chanting praises of the Lord.

Subhash Kak has to his credit, another two books of poetry, namely "The conductor of the Dead" and "The London Bridge, " but here we are talking about his work: "THE SECRETS OF ISHBAR." This anthology comprises thirty- two poems and spans over sixty-two pages. It is available from: 

B- 36 DDA Flats,
New Delhi 110017, INDIA.

Books and Essays

  • The Conductor of the Dead and other poems
  • The London Bridge and other poems
  • The Nature of Physical Reality
  • Patanjali and Cognitive Science
  • India and Century's End
  • The Astronomical Code of the Rgveda
  • In Search of the Cradle of Civilization (with George Feuerstein and David Frawley)


Featured Collections

Kashmir, Sarasvati, and the Floods in Mohenjo-Daro

By Ram Nath Kak and Subhash Kak*

* Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901, USA

Pandit Ram Nath Kak 
Pandit Ram Nath Kak

Subhash  Kak 
Subhash  Kak

1. Introduction

According to the Nilamata Purana the valley of Kashmir was originally a lake. Geological facts also suggest that the valley was originally a lake, although it is not clear that the entire valley was submerged. Drew, in his book [1] on the geography of Jammu and Kashmir which appeared in 1875, suggested that the legend of the lake in the Nilamata Purana should not be considered to be an independent support ot the theory of the lake. He argued that the legend may have arisen out of an attempt to explain tho striking geographical features of the valley. A similar legend exists regarding the draining of the Kathmandu valley in Nepal [2]. Bhargava argues that the Rgvedic name Vitasta (meaning 'span') for the river coming out of the Kashmir valley means that "the gorge through which it comes out was shallower and narrower in those days and allowed a comparatively small quantity of water to flow out of the valley at a time. The so-called bursting and draining of the lake would really be due to some seismic disturbances, which resulted in the widening and deepening of the gorge through which the Vitasta came out, thus allowing a much larger quantity of water to drain away, increasing the size of the river and decreasing that of the lake." [3] This suggests that before this seismic event, the waters of the Kashmir valley would have had more than one point of egress.

There exists other indirect evidence that Kashmir valley was not settled in comparatively recent times since there is no mention of it in the early Vedic texts as well as the epics. So it is likely that the legend codes a genuine historical tradition.

We consider these facts in juxtaposition with recent archaeological discoveries that indicate that a major seismic event around 1900 B.C. was responsible for the changes in the courses of several rivers, including Satluj and Yamuna. We suggest that this was the same seismic event that caused the draining of the Satisara lake. This draining led to such an increase in the waters of the Indus river that catastrophic floods were caused in Mohenjo-Daro and other Harappan cities on tbe banks ol this river.

2. The Mahabharata Connection

Nilamata Purana says that upon a request by the sage Kasyapa, Visnu asked Balabhadra (Krsna's brother) to pierce the mountains of the valley. When the lake was drained the valley became inhabitable.

The significance of this legend has not been properly appreciated by historians. The reference to Krsna's era links the draining of Satisara to the era of the Mahabharata battle. The question of the dating of this battle has not been resolved yet. Three diverging eras for this battle that have been widely examined are: 1424 B C. as given by the Puranic evidence; 2449 B C. as claimed by Kalhana in his Rajatarangini and also before him by the astronomer Varahamihira; and 3137 B.C. as given by the tradition of the Kaliyuga calendar which is supposed to mark the death of Krsna, 35 years after the battle.

Recent research on the Puranic king lists, as well as analysis of the Vedic texts, indicates that the first date of 1424 B.C. is impossible; being too late. This leaves us with two candidates: 2449 B.C. and 3137 B.C. (This assumes that the astronomical markers associated with the battle were well remembered). Current archaeological evidence favours the first of these two dates. This is because new theories equate the Aryans with the Harappans and since the period following the Bharata battle was a golden period as far as Sanskrit literature was concerned, one would expect to find a period of material prosperity. The centuries in the period 2600-l900 B.C. were the most prosperous of ancient India and so, on current evidence, we pick Kalhana's date of 2449 B C. for the battle. [4]

The Mahabharata appears to remember events that are prior to l900 B.C. as in the legend that when Vasistha threw himself into the Satudri or Sutudri (Satluj) it broke into a hundred streams. Hydrological evidence has revealed that Satluj connected thus to the Sarasvati in the 3rd millennium B.C. [5]

The Bharata battle epoch of 2449 B.C. will be the earliest when Satisara drained if we accept the .Nilamata Purana reference to Balabhadra. This is supported by the fact that the accounts of the Mahabharata battle do not speak of the participation by any king of Kashmir.

The actual draining occurred after 2449 B.C. but the events were transferred to this famous epoch.

3. The Sarasvati Evidence

The archaeological discoveries of the past two decades have added a wealth of information to our understanding of the decline of the Harappan civilization that covered most of North and West India. This civilization is now seen as a part of the Indus-Sarasvati cultural tradition, with its focus in the region around the Sarasvati river, that has been traced back to at least 7000 B.C. It is generally accepted that the tradition met a catastrophe around 1900 B.C. when the Sarasvati river dried up in the sands of the Rajasthan river. [6] Tectonic upheavels are believed to have led to the capture of the Yamuna and the Satluj, which drained earlier into the Sarasvati system, by the Ganga and the Indus systems respectively. After this event the material condition of the region went through a phase of decline.

While the reasons for this decline are bound to have been complex, a primary cause of the abandonment of the cities was the drying up of the Sarasvati river which disrupted the entire economy of the region and the communities started shifting eastward. But at the same time there is evidence of flooding at Mohenjo-Daro which was one of the largest cities in the third millennium B.C. in ancient India. Apparently floods occurred at several times during the history of the city. This is evidenced by the accumulation of 30 feet of silt at that site. However there is not further such accumulation after the abandonment of the site.

Whatever the causes for the recurring floods, we speculate that a major flood at the end of the life of the city was caused by a catastrophic event. While the additional waters in the Indus owing to tho Satluj are likely to have led to flooding, it seems unlikely that this would have been the catastrophic event that would explain thc severe silting.

We propose that the breaking up of the Satisara lake in the same tectonic event released immense amounts of water that devastated the cities on the banks of the Indus. This seems more plausible than the theory that the shifting of the population centers around Sarasvati due to its drying up led to the gateway or trading cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro to lose their commercial importance. This other theory cannot explain tbe abandonment of these cities altogether as appears to have happened.

Although the Satisara draining occurred at the same time as the rechanneling of the Satluj and the Yamuna, later tradition associated the event with the Mahabharata battle, which to the generations who populated the valley must have been the most prominent ancient historical event.

4. Kalhana's King Lists

Basing his earliest accounts of the kings of Kashmir on the Nilamata Purana, Kalhana begins with Gonanda the First and assigns 1266 years to the first fifty two kings out of whom thirty five names are taken to be lost. Kalhana begins with this list at 2449 B.C. and before the Karkota dynasty began 600 A.D. the list is not very reliable; one king, Ranaditya, is assigned as many as 300 years. [7] As we said before astronomical references fixed the date of the Bharata battle correctly, but the accounts of individual kings were muddled since they were forced by a wrong tradition to begin with the time of the Pandavas.

Now if we use the archaeological evidence regarding the devastating floods in Mohenjo-Daro in 1900 B.C. and assume they were caused by a catastrophic tectonic event at the same time, then Kashmir became habitable only after 1900 B C. and its king lists should be started perhaps a couple of centuries later. This makes it possible to fit the pre-Karkota king lists of Kalhana into a plausible chronology where historical names such as that of Asoka and Mihirakula provide synchronisms with kings outside Kashmir.

5. Conclusions

In view of the majer tectonic events of India's ancient past, the geographical references in the Rgveda can be used to provide chronological clues. The draining of the Satisara lake is post-Rgvedic and current hydrological evidence indicates that it occurred in c. 1900 B.C. The draining of the Nepal valley has been ascribed to 5000 years ago, [8] and considering the inherent uncertainty in such estimates it is quite possible that the draining of the two valleys might have occurred around the same time due to related tectonic events.

Bhargava also suggests that the account of the flood in the Satapatha Brahmana might refer to the draining of the Satisara. If that is so then Satapatha Brahmana should be dated to early second millennium B.C. The reference to the Krittika not swerving from the east (SB 2.l.2.3), eta (krittika) ha vai pracyai diso na cyavante, sarvani ha vai anyani naksatrani pracyai disas cyavante, which was true for the third millennium B C., then represents an older tradition that was written down later.

6. References

[1] Drew, F. 1875. The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories. London. Reprinted Graz, l976.

[2] Brinkhaus, H. 1987. The Pradyumna-Prabhavati Legend in Nepal, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

[3] Bhargava, M L. 1964. The Geography of Rgvedic India. Lucknow Upper India Publishing.

[4] Kak, S. C. 1994. Astronomical Code of the Rgveda. New Delhi: Aditya.

[5] Agrawal, D. P. and Sood. R. K. 1982. "Ecological factors and the Harappan Civilization." In Harappan Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Warminster.

[6] Kak, S. C. 1992. "The Indus Tradition and the Indo-Aryans" Mankind Quarterly. 32, 195-213. Misra, V. N. l992. "Research on the Indus civilization: a brief review." Eastern Anthropologist. 45, l-l9.

[7] Stein, M. A. l900. Kalhana's Rajatarangini London; rep. Delhi, 1979.

[8] Boesch, Hans I974. "Untersuchungen zur morphogenese in Katmandu valley." Geographica Helvetica. No. l, 15-26, quoted in Brinkhaus (1987).

Published in:

Journal of the Oriental Institute

Tilak Road, Opp. Sayajigunj Tower

Vadodara - 390 002

Gujarat, India

Vol. 43, Nos. 1-2, September-December, 1993 Issue, pp. 1-5

What Would Gandhi Do In Kashmir?

by Subhash Kak

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901, USA

Mahatma Gandhi was the apostle of non-violence, so what would he have done in Kashmir? His life shows that he did not walk away from violence. During the Boer War in South Africa he raised a volunteer non-combatant force of Indians to aid the British. The reason why he limited the offer to a non-combatant role was that the Indians did not have constitutional rights in South Africa indicating thereby that once this rights were granted the Indian would fight along side the English.

Elsewhere Gandhi clearly stated that he preferred violence to cowardice although he preferred non-violence to violence. He was clearly against walking away from defending one's natural rights. He said: ``There is real ahimsa in defending my wife and children even at the risk of striking down the wrongdoer.'' He repeated on countless occasion that non-violence was the way of the strong. He wished for people to become strong not only in body but also in mind so that they would renounce violence.

In 1896 the whites in South Africa wished to lynch him; he was badly beaten up and saved by the police from a certain death. Yet he refused to be cowed down and his courage earned him the respect of his opponents.

We celebrate the one twenty fifth anniversary of Gandhi's birth, but we have made him into an icon and forgotten how to think like him. He was a critic of a mindless repetition of the slogan of non-violence. Speaking of avoiding physical confrontation he said:

What we have taken as dharma is not dharma. We commit violence on a large scale in the name of non-violence. Fearing to shed blood, we torment people every day and dry up their blood. (See Complete Works, vol. 14, page 499)

We see that the manner in which the Government of India has walked away from its duty to protect the homes and hearths of the Kashmiri refugees is precisely the cowardice that Mahatma Gandhi considered worse than violence.

In his famous book, GANDHI'S TRUTH, Erik Erikson's analysis suggests that the worst response to terrorism of the kind we have seen in Kashmir is to leave the field open to them. Says Erik Erikson about the parallels that the West has seen:

We in the West have experienced an analogous problem in the dispersed descendents of the Jewish nation, who became over-specialized in mercantile and intellectual pursuits, and, for centuries, had to leave their own defense to the the warriors of the host countries, who often turned in sadistic disgust against those who could not or would not defend themselves. The mere suspicion that the Jews would not fight because they could not fight has, no doubt, been a strong factor in popular anti-semitism. (page 375)

Gandhi himself was looking for strengthening the character of the Indian who would either join in mob violence or shirk from defending his rights related to property and dignity. Said he: ``Today I find that everybody is desirous of killing but most are afraid of doing so or powerless to do so. Whatever is to be the result I feel certain that the power must be restored to India. The result may be carnage. Then India must go through it. Today's condition is intolerable.'' (See Complete Works, vol. 14, page 520)

Yes, today's condition related to the refugee camps is intolerable. Gandhi would have sent the Kashmiri refugees back to their homes, provided them security, and also provided them arms and training so that they would be able to defend themselves.

Source: Koshur Samachar


The Poplar and the Chinar: Kashmir in a historical outline

by Subhash Kak

Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901
Published in International Journal of Indian Studies, vol 3, 1993, pp. 33-61

The paper presents the recent militancy in Kashmir in a historical context. The policies of the Government of India that have contributed to the alienation of the different religious communities of the State are analyzed. The militancy is seen as an attempt by the fundamentalists to wean the Kashmiri Muslims away from their heritage of Rishi Islam that includes elements of Shaivism.

Keywords : Kashmir, Indian politics, quotas, Islamic militancy, terrorism.

Insurgency and Terror

The middle of 1989 saw the beginning of a campaign of terror Subhash Kakagainst the Kashmiri minorities by Muslim fundamentalists and an insurgency against the Indian government. Within a year hundreds of selective and random murders forced nearly all the Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, who comprise less than 10 percent of the population of the Vale, to leave their homes for refuge in the Jammu province and in Delhi.

The Jammu and Kashmir State is a union of different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. There are groups in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir who have sought independence or a union with Pakistan. The terror then represents a plan to eliminate minorities that may not wish to break Kashmir's ties with India.

There are several Muslim groups at work now with their own agendas. Not all of them espouse violence and neither are all focused on political aims. It would be wrong, therefore, to call the events in Kashmir as a struggle for freedom. As in a play of shadows across a silk curtain, understanding the recent events of Kashmir requires a broad knowledge of the plot and considerable imagination. The main actors in this drama are the governments of India and Pakistan and the various Muslim factions in the valley of Kashmir. The roles of the Indian and the Pakistani governments are relatively clear. The Indian government claims the territory of the State under the control of Pakistan, but Nehru and his successor governments have let it be known that it would be willing to accept the actual line of control as the international border. Pakistan covets the Vale of Kashmir since it has a Muslim majority, and Pakistan was shaped out of India in 1947 from the Muslim majority regions. The Muslim leadership of the Kashmir valley has in the past four decades insisted on a certain isolation from the rest of the Indian Union. This policy has been made a shibboleth by many Indian national, left-wing parties for a belief in secularism.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars for the control of the valley. In the first war, during 1947-8, the fighting was confined to the State. The second war in 1965 became a general conflict. The third war in 1971 began over the revolt in the eastern wing of Pakistan but eventually engulfed Kashmir. The most recent war has been fought by proxy through agents by Pakistan in Kashmir. It started in 1989 and is still continuing.

No systematic studies of Kashmiri Islam have been carried out. But its situation is very similar to that of Indonesian Islam, and one might use the analysis of Clifford Geertz (1960) and successors (Hefner 1985, Kipp and Rodgers 1987) to understand its dynamics. We then have the classification of orthodox , traditional , and karkun (urban, State employees) to parallel the labels of santri, abangan, priyayi for Javanese Islam. The interesting aspect of this classification is the fact that the karkun (or the priyayi in Java) has an ethos outside the main religious framework. In Java the priyayi are Muslims who hold on secretly to the Hindu-Buddhist values, whereas in Kashmir the karkun have generally been the Hindus of the valley. In other words, if the orthodox are the sayyids and the mullahs , the traditional the peasants and the craftsmen, then the karkun are the administrators, or the secular gentry. This classification is naturally a great simplification, but it provides important insights.

Recent Kashmiri history can be examined in terms of the dynamics between these three groups. So long as Kashmir was isolated, the three groups lived in a certain harmony amongst themselves. But from time to time forces from within and outside have threatened this equilibrium. The prosperity of the past four decades and modernization have spread the karkun and secular ideals within the Islamic community. The orthodox group has felt challenged by this phenomenon. This has stoked the fires within Kashmiri Islam of the long-standing struggle between the champions of the orthodox variety of doctrinaire Islam and the vast majority of adherents who subscribe to a popular religion that is heavily based on the native pre-Islamic traditions. The groups spearheading the current movement in Kashmir seek to steer the population away from its Hindu roots.

This struggle for the heart and soul of the Kashmiri Muslim against the insidious and growing karkun culture explains the fury and intensity of the militants. The orthodox have sought a revolution that has shown no mercy. So if the insurgency has been against the Indian government and the Kashmiri Hindus, it has also been directed against the dominant religious tradition of the Kashmiri Muslims themselves.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Enchanted Vale

Before the partition of the State at the end of the 1947-9 war between India and Pakistan, it consisted of the Vale of Kashmir, the province of Jammu, the districts of Ladakh and Baltistan, and the Gilgit agency. The inhabitants of the Gilgit region and the Kashmir valley speak languages that are classed as belonging to the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan language family; in Jammu Dogri, of the Indo-Aryan family, predominates; and in Ladakh and Baltistan the language is a variant of Tibetan. From the point of view of religion also the State presents a mosaic. Gilgit, Kashmir, and Baltistan are predominantly Muslim; Jammu is likewise Hindu, and Ladakh is Buddhist. A little over half of the population of the State is concentrated in the Vale of Kashmir which accounts for only 10 percent of the area, and Ladakh, Gilgit, and Baltistan are very sparsely populated. The State has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. The Vale itself is about 84 miles long with a breadth of 20 to 25 miles and a mean altitude of 5,600 feet above sea level (Drew 1875, Younghusband 1909). It is famed for its beauty of lakes and mountain streams, chinars and poplars, irises and roses. The Vale is also famed for a great tradition of scholarship, music and arts, shawls and carpets (Singh 1983).

Of the different regions of the State, we know the history of the Vale the best. This is due to the 12th century Ra jatarangini of the historian Kalhana. Buddhism was introduced into the Vale by the missionaries of the emperor Ashoka (269-232 B.C.). The Kushan emperor Kanishka (c. 100 A.D.) convened a Buddhist council in Kashmir which led to the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism. Kashmiri missionaries played a leading role in the spread of Buddhism into Central Asia and China.

The Karkota dynasty of the seventh and eighth centuries provides us with the first authentic accounts of the government in the Vale. Lalitaditya (724-61) was the outstanding king of this dynasty. Lalitaditya built the famed Sun temple of Martand. In the 9th century Avantivarman built a grand capital south of Srinagar whose ruins can still be seen. These centuries also saw a flowering of Sanskrit learning and philosophy in Kashmir.

The rise of the Turko-Mongols under Chingiz Khan and his successors brought considerable turmoil to Central Asia after the 12th century. This disorder spilled into the Vale. Powerful feudal lords vied for power and many adventurers from outside invaded.

The end of the Hindu rule was part of a fascinating drama of intrigue and treachery. In 1320 Rinchana, a Tibetan prince, usurped the throne and sought to be converted to Hinduism. Upon the refusal of the Brahmins to do so he embraced Islam. After his death in 1323, his Hindu queen Kota Rani ruled until 1338 although the nominal king was her new husband Udayana, who was the younger brother of Suhadeva, the king before Rinchana. On Udayana's death Kota Rani ruled by herself for a few months until the power was seized by Shah Mir, a native of Swat, who now established the first Muslim dynasty in the Vale.

Islam spread quickly in Kashmir. It appears that there were periods of persecution of Hindus and their forcible conversion that interspersed longer periods of living in harmony. The first such episode of forcible conversion was during the reign of Sikandar (1389-1413) when, according to tradition, the persecution was so severe that the Hindus either left the valley or converted to Islam until only eleven Hindu families remained. But Sikandar's son Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470), popularly known as Badshah or Great King, was an enlightened ruler whose policy of religious tolerance persuaded many Hindus to return to the Vale. But after Zain-ul-Abidin the pressure on Hindus to convert to Islam continued. According to a tradition 24,000 Brahmin families were forced to convert during the stay in the valley of Mir Shams-ud-din Iraqi, who arrived in 1492 to proselytize on behalf of the Sufi order of Naqshabandis (Sender 1988).

The Vale was made a part of the Mughal empire by Akbar in 1587. It soon became a favourite summer resort for the Mughal rulers who built many gardens here. The Mughal administration was fair and it brought much prosperity. But as the Mughal empire weakened the governors assumed more power and some of them reintroduced religious repression. In 1752, with the collapse of the Mughal power, Kashmir came into the control of the Afghans. This rule was perhaps the most tyrannical in the history of the land. The Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, wrested Kashmir from the Afghans in 1819. In 1846, following the defeat of the Sikhs by the British, Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu purchased the Vale from the British.

The Dogras appear to have maintained large degree of autonomy during the period of Muslim rule in India. The Sikh kingdom of Lahore recognized Jammu to be a protected state. In 1834, Gulab Singh conquered the independent state of Ladakh. Baltistan, to the west of Ladakh, was defeated in 1840. In 1841 he attempted to expand into Western Tibet but this campaign ended in disaster. The Gilgit region was also inherited by the Dogras from the earlier Sikh kingdom. Thus by the mid-nineteenth century the state of Jammu and Kashmir had assumed its pre-partition form with the Dogra king as its ruler.

In the 1845 war between the British and the Sikhs, Gulab Singh, although a feudatory of the Sikhs, had not taken sides. The British recognized him as the independent ruler of Jammu, Poonch, Ladakh, and Baltistan in a treaty signed in 1846. But when Gulab Singh purchased the Vale of Kashmir, he accepted British paramountcy which meant the British right to control his foreign relations.

The movement for independence in British India spilled over to Kashmir as well. In the 1920's there were demands for redress of grievances. There was further unrest in the 1930's which prompted the Maharaja to take stern measures. However, the disturbances continued and eventually the Maharaja accepted the establishment of a legislative assembly. Sheikh Abdullah emerged as the most prominent leader of this movement that led to this major reform.

The Maharaja appeared to hold out for independence in August 1947 when India was partitioned. But in late October of that year Pakistani tribesmen, led by military officers in civilian clothes, tried to take the Vale by force. But instead of quickly seizing Srinagar, as they were in position to do, they stopped to plunder, murder, and rape. The Maharaja's hand was now forced and he acceded to the Indian Union and asked for help to expel the invaders. Sheikh Abdullah, who had been released from prison, endorsed this decision. Soldiers of the Indian Army were now flown into Srinagar and this turned the tide of the invasion. Pakistani regulars were now sent in and the war raged throughout 1948. Finally, under the supervision of the United Nations a cease fire was declared on 1 January 1949. Pakistan occupied 33000 square miles of the 86,500 square miles of Jammu and Kashmir State. India held the Vale of Kashmir and most of Jammu province and Ladakh, whereas Pakistan controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir provinces, Baltistan, and the Gilgit region.

Shaivistic and Bhakti Roots of Kashmiri Religion

To understand the religious divide in the Vale it is necessary to go back to the Shaivite roots of the popular religion. It is important to note that this tradition fits squarely within the greater Indian tradition. The Rigveda presents a monistic view of the universe where an understanding of the nature of consciousness holds the key to the understanding of the world. This is further emphasized in the Upanishads, the six philosophical schools, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, the Shaivite and the Tantric systems. Of course this emphasis varies. And sometimes seemingly different terms represent the same central idea. For example the s unyata (void) of Madhyamika Buddhism and the brahman (universe) of the Upanishads are forms of the monistic absolutes. Two opposite metaphors thus represent the same central idea. Likewise the dualism of Sa m khya and of the Jains is correctly seen as projection of a monistic system of universal consciousness that manifests itself in the categories of the physical world and sentience. A grand exposition of the system, that explains how different perspective fit in the framework, is contained in the Bhagavad Gi ta . Even the Iranian religion of Zarathushtra may be seen as reformulation of the earlier Vedic tradition (Boyce 1975) in the same sense that Vaishnavism is.

Kashmir Shaivism, reached its culmination in the philosophy of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja (tenth to eleventh century AD) (Chatterji 1914, Dyczkowski 1987, Gnoli 1968, Kaw 1969, Pandey 1963, Jaideva Singh 1977, 1979, & 1989). Their trika (three-fold) school argued that reality is represented by three categories: transcendental ( para ), material ( apara ), and a combination of these two ( para para ) (Lakshman Jee 1988). This three-fold division is sometimes represented in terms of the principles s iva, s akti, an u or pati, pa s a, pas u . S iva represents the principle behind consciousness, s akti its energy, and an u the material world. At the level of living beings pas u is the individual who acts according to his conditioning, almost like an animal, pa s a are the bonds that tie him to his behaviour, and pati or pas upati (Lord of the Flock) is s iva personified whose knowledge liberates the pas u and makes it possible for him to reach his potential. The mind is viewed as a hierarchical (krama) collection of agents ( kula ) that perceives its true self spontaneously ( pratyabhijna ) with a creative power that may be viewed as being pulsating (spanda) . This last attribute recalls the spenta of the Zarathushtrian religion, where this word represents the power of creation of Ahura Mazda . Thus Kashmir Shaivism appears to have attempted a reconciliation of the Iranian religion with its Vedic parent.

The Pratyabhijn a (recognition) system is named after the book Stanzas on the Recognition of Ishvara or Shiva which was written by Utpala (c 900-950). It appears Utpala was developing the ideas introduced by his teacher Somananda who had written the earlier Vision of Shiva . In Shaivism in general, Shiva is the name for the absolute or transcendental consciousness. Ordinary consciousness is bound by cognitive categories related to conditioned behavior. By exploring the true springwells of ordinary consciousness one comes to recognize its universal (Shiva). This brings the further recognition that one is not a slave (pasu) of creation but its master (pati) . In other words, an intuition of the true nature of one's consciousness provides a perspective that is liberating.

For the spanda system the usual starting point is the Aphorisms of Shiva due to Vasugupta (c 800). His disciple Kallata is generally credited with the Stanzas on Pulsation . According to this school the universal consciousness pulsates of vibrates and this ebb and flow can be experienced by the person who has recognized his true self.

Abhinavagupta wrote a profound commentary on Utpala's Stanzas on Recognition. Shaivite philosophy may be said to have reached its full flowering with his philosophy. Abhinava also wrote more than sixty other works on tantra, poetics, dramaturgy, and philosophy. His disciple Kshemaraja also wrote influential works that dealt with the doctrines of both the schools of Recognition and Pulsation. Abhinava emphasized the fact that all human creativity reveals aspects of the seed consciousness. This explains his own interest in drama, poetry, and aesthetics.

According to the ancient doctrine of Sa m khya physical reality may be represented in terms of twenty-five categories. These categories relate to an everyday classification of reality where prakrti may be likened to matter, and purusa to mind. Kashmir Shaivism adds eleven new categories to this list. These categories characterize different aspects of consciousness.

Any focus of consciousness must first be circumscribed by coordinates of time and space. Next, it is essential to select a process (out of the many defined) for attention. The aspect of consciousness that makes one have a feeling of inclusiveness with this process followed later by a sense of alienation is called maya . Thus maya permits one, by a process of identification and detachment, to obtain limited knowledge and to be creative.

How does consciousness ebb and flow between an identity of self an an identity with the processes of the universe? According to Shaivism, a higher category permits comprehension of oneness and separation with equal clarity. Another allows a visualization of the ideal universe. This permits one to move beyond mere comprehension into a will to act. The final two categories deal with pure consciousness by itself and the potential energy that leads to continuing transformation. Pure awareness is not to be understood as similar to everyday awareness of humans but rather as the underlying schema that the laws of nature express.

Shaiva psychology is optimistic, scientific, secular, and liberating. At the personal level it emphasizes reaching for the springwell of creativity ( sakti ) and the schema underlying this creativity ( siva ). The journey leading to this knowledge may be begun in a variety of ways: through sciences, the arts, and creative social activities. But this exploration of the outside world is to be taken as a means of uncovering the architecture of the inner world. Shaiva psychology also reveals that the notion of bhakti, which has played a central role in the shaping of the Indian mind during the past millennium, may be given a focus related to a quest for knowledge.

The intellectual theories of Kashmir Shaivism were given popular expression by the great mystic Lalleshvari or Lalla (1335-1376). Her sayings, vakya , form the basis of much of the Kashmiri world-view that emerged later. But from Lalla onwards the emphasis did shift to the devotional aspects of Kashmir Shaivism (Temple 1924, Odin 1994). The notion of recognition of one's true self was exalted to the central role in the popular religion including Kashmiri popular Islam that views her va kyas and the sayings of her disciple Sheikh Nur-ud-din (1377-1438), Nanda Rishi , as sources of spiritual wisdom. Two of Lalla's va kya that have been adapted from Bamzai (1962) are given below:

I saw myself in all things 
I saw God shining in everything. 
You have heard, stop! see Shiva 
The house is his, who am I Lalla.  

Shiva pervades the world 
Hindu and Muslim are the same. 
If you are wise know yourself 
Then you will know God. 
"Lalla is as much a part of Kashmiri language, literature, and culture as Shakespeare is of English" is the assessment of Kachru (1981). Says her own pupil Nanda Rishi: 

That Lalla of Padma npor-she drank 
Her fill of divine nectar; 
She was indeed an avata r of ours. 
O God, grant me the self-same boon! 
(Kaul 1973)

Nur-ud-din was followed by a large number of Rishis from both the Hindu and the Muslim communities. The Islamic Rishis provided the leadership to the popular religion of the Kashmiri Muslims.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Kashmiri Hindus were about seven percent of the population of the Vale. Within the community itself a two-fold division had taken place by this time. Those who specialized in the secular sphere, studied Persian and undertook administrative employment, became known as the karkuns ; others who did priestly duties requiring knowledge of Sanskrit were termed bhasha bhatta (Sender 1988, Madan 1989). In recent years this sub-division is disappearing and karkun values have become the dominant ethos of the community.

Islam in Kashmir

The core of Islam rests on the Koran and narratives about the Prophet's life contained in the Hadith. In the next layer is the sharia ---Islamic law. The ulama , who are the theologians who are occupied with the interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith, are the heart and soul of Muslim orthodoxy. The multiple interpretations of the Koran and the Hadith finally formalized into four orthodox schools by 10th century A.D. when the gates of itjihad (individual interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith) closed shut. No further extensions of the Law are now permitted. The body of orthodox Islam is called Sunnite Islam after the Arabic sunna , custom.

The challenge to the orthodox Islamic law by the pre-Islamic pantheistic traditions of Arabia and Iran crystallized within the Islamic framework through the mystical tradition of Sufism. The Sufi teachers from Central Asia and Iran had a hand in converting Kashmiris. The Rishi tradition of Kashmir went hand in hand with the Sufi tradition.

Islam in the Indian sub-continent has incorporated many impulses that hearken back to the original Hindu roots of the inhabitants (Mujeeb 1967, Ahmad 1969). In the Vale of Kashmir the practice of Islam centres around worship at the many shrines scattered across the region. At many of these shrines relics of Pirs and Rishis are worshipped.

In the beginning Islam represented the separate identity of the immigrant from Dardistan, Central Asia, or Iran. As it gained converts the difference in the Hindu and Islamic religious identities in the countryside was perhaps not marked. In the late 14th century many Sayyid refugees arrived from the West and they started agitating for enforcement of the Koranic law. But the popular religion took its inspiration from the Sufis and the Rishis that followed Nur-ud-din.

Some of Nanda Rishi's sayings are given below:

The dog is barking in the compound 
O brothers, give ear and listen: 
As one sowed, so did he reap; 
You, Nanda, sow, sow, sow. 

Your face washed, you call believers to prayer 
How can I know, O Rishi, what are your feelings, what are your prostrations for 
You have lived a life without seeing (God) 
Tell me to whom you offer prayers. 
If you listen to truth, you will master the five (senses). 
If you make union with Shiva 
Then only, O Rishi Mali, will prayer avail you. 
[Adapted from Bamzai 1962]

Many Rishis followed Nanda Rishi and they helped define the uniqueness of Kashmiri Islam. Not all Rishis used Sanskritic concepts to describe their experience. With time Persian concepts and stylistic devices were increasingly used. Eventually the Sufis of Kashmir were also permeated greatly by the Rishi ideals. Writing in 1542 Mirza Haider says in his Tarikh-i-Rashidi : "The Sufis have legitimized so many heresies they know nothing of what is lawful... They are forever interpreting dreams, displaying miracles and obtaining from the unseen information regarding either the future or the past. Nowhere else is such a band of heretics to be found... (they) consider the Holy Law ( shariat ) second in importance to the True Way ( tariqat , tradition) and that, in consequence, the people of the Way have nothing to do with the Holy Law." (quoted in Sufi 1947-8, pages 19-20)

Writing about a hundred years ago, Lawrence ascribed the delightful tolerance between Hinduism and Islam to "chiefly the fact that the Kashmiri Musalmans never really gave up the Hindu religion." He added: "I do not base my ideas as to the laxness of Kashmiris in religious duties merely on my own observations. Holy men of Arabia have spoken to me with contempt of the feeble flame of Islam which burns in Kashmir and the local mullas talk with indignation of the apathy of the people." (Lawrence 1895)

The amity between the Muslims and the Hindus has continued until this recent crisis. The vast majority of the Muslims continue to follow the religion of the Islamic Rishis. According to the Kashmiri Muslim historian G.M.D. Sufi:

A number of the practices of the Kashmiri Musalman are (un-)Islamic... The Buddhist worship of relics has insidiously crept into India's Islam. It is nowhere so prominent as in Kashmir. Hazratbal is an outstanding example. On the occasion of the exhibition of the Prophet's hair ... crowds of Kashmiris are seen weeping and wailing like the Jews before the Wailing Wall... The Pirs have almost created a priesthood and hereditary sacred caste. Necromancy and a belief in omens and magic has gained ground in spite of the (Koranic prohibition against them)... Pure monotheism and the moral fervour of a society based on social equality has in practice nowhere receded more into the background. The ringing of a bell precedes the call to prayer in several mosques in the Valley today... The Kashmiri Muslim has transferred reverence from Hindu stones to Muslim relics. (Sufi 1947-8, p. 688)

Many of the shrines of popular Islam are the ancient Hindu-Buddhist shrines, the Jami' Masjid of Srinagar being an important example (Sufi 1947-8, p. 512). According to M.A. Stein this is perhaps true even of the most popular Islamic shrine at Hazratbal (Stein 1979).

Kashmiri Culture and Literature

To understand the Kashmiri mind it is best to consider its poets. For the popular culture, which is permeated with the mystical tradition, one must again begin with Lalla. Lalla describes her own spiritual awakening thus:

I, Lalla, filled with love 
Searched day and night 
In my own house I found the wise one 
Whom I beheld at the moment 
Which was the most auspicious of my life. 
Slowly I stopped my breath 
The lamp lit and I realized my true identity 
In the dark recesses of my soul 
I held fast to the inner light 
And emitted it outwards. 
[Lalla translated by Odin 1994]

The major poets who followed Lalla include Habba Khatun (c 16th century), Rupa Bhavani (1621-1721), Arnimal (d. 1800), Mahmud Gami (1765-1855), Rasul Mir (d. 1870), Parmanand (1791-1864), Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (1885-1952), Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948) and Zinda Kaul (1884-1965). Habba Khatun is credited with originating the lol style of poetry where the predominant mood is that of longing and romantic love. Arnimal also wrote in the lol style. Rupa Bhavani, Mahmud Gami, Rasul Mir, Parmanand continued in the mystical tradition of Lalla and Nanda Rishi. Mysticism and romantic love are the two main strands in the tapestry of the Kashmiri psyche. Often the two strands get intertwined since romantic love can be a metaphor for a spiritual emotion.

Which rival of mine has lured you away from me? 
Why are you cross with me? 
Forget the anger and the sulkiness, 
You are my only love, 
Why are you cross with me? [ Habba Khatun translated by Kachru (1981)] 
Oh, spinning-wheel! 
Do not grain 
For I shall apply fragrant oil to your straw rings. 
And, you, Hyacinth! 
Raise your head from under the earth for Narcissus is waiting with cups of wine, 
The jasmine will fade and will not bloom again. 
Do not groan 
Oh, my spinning-wheel! [ Arnimal translated by Kachru (1981)] 
Seeking to know man 
I asked the bubble: 
How live you on water? 
I asked of the butcher about love 
Said he: Steel your heart with love 
This kababs taste better when overdone. 
How live you on water? 
The breath of the lover blew a bubble 
Another breath and it joined water again. 
Who died? what's alive is the riddle. 
How live you on water? [ Mahmud Gami ]

Mahjur, Azad, and Zinda Kaul and their successors have tried to forge a new sensibility in some of their poems but the mystical and the lol continue to be the dominant ethos.

Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference

Sheikh Abdullah (1905-1982), the towering Kashmiri politician of the past halfShaikh Mohd. Abdullahcentury, was a powerful advocate of the Kashmiri Muslims. His political career was launched when he galvanized his people to agitate for reforms in 1931 during the rule of Hari Singh (Kaul 1985). Next year a political party, Muslim Conference, was formed with Abdullah as its first president. Under pressure from the British the Maharaja set up a Commission to study constitutional reforms in the State. The recommendations of this Commission led to the establishment of a legislative assembly of seventy five members, thirty three of whom would be elected on a communal basis, and an extremely limited franchise. When first convened in 1934, 19 of the 21 seats allotted to the Muslims were won by the Muslim Conference.

Sheikh Abdullah was much influenced by the leaders of the Indian National Congress, in particular Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he first met in 1937. He had already worked closely with the Kashmiri socialist Prem Nath Bazaz. Having by now recognized that popular Islam represented his natural constituency he decided to enlarge the scope of his political party. He stated his goal of forming a wide-based political movement in a speech in 1938:

We must end communalism by ceasing to think in terms of Muslims and non-Muslims when discussing our political problems... We must open our doors to all such Hindus and Sikhs, who like ourselves believe in the freedom of their country from the shackles of an irresponsible rule. (Bamzai 1962, p. 664)

Sheikh Abdullah clearly repudiated the sectarian policies of M.A. Jinnah and the Muslim League. In 1939 the name of Muslim Conference was changed to National Conference to emphasize its secular character. The orthodox Muslims did not forgive Abdullah for this and they remained forever opposed to him.

Sheikh Abdullah walked a tightrope to satisfy the many different groups. His speeches in mosques used religious imagery to appeal to the orthodox Muslims and disarm the influence of their leaders who challenged him. But his real hard-core support lay amongst the Kashmiris who professed the popular variety of the Islamic religion. His closeness to the leaders of the Congress Party and his emphasis on secularism led to the revival of the Muslim Conference by Ghulam Abbas. This revival also reflected the divide between the Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri Muslims of the State. Ghulam Abbas came from the Jammu province where the language is closely related to Punjabi. Muslims of Jammu saw a convergence of their interests with those of the Muslims of Punjab. On the other hand, Sheikh Abdullah was endeavouring to define a special position for the Kashmiri Muslims.

Muslim League represented the aspirations of the orthodox Islamic minority of the mullahs, the Islamic intellectuals, and the descendents of the immigrants from Central Asia and Iran. These groups felt that unless their apartness was given a legal basis they might not be able to preserve their heritage as a minority in a democratic India with its Hindu majority (Embree 1989, Gilmartin 1988, Jalal 1990, Kak 1991, Shaikh 1989). Since Kashmiri Islam is so radically different from orthodox Islam, the philosophy of Muslim League could never have mass appeal in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah worked hard in the interests of the Kashmiri Islamic community in the emerging political frameworks of Pakistan and India. He appears to have calculated that Pakistan would eventually either imply orthodox Islam or Punjabi cultural domination.

Partition and the War of 1947-8

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, only the Muslim Conference, which was based mainly in Jammu, was in favour of the State's accession to Pakistan. On the other hand Hindu Sabha in Jammu and the Maharaja were hoping that the State could become independent. There were other groups in Jammu who wanted accession to India, whereas Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference also appeared to be working for independence but given a choice between accession to Pakistan or India they felt that they could preserve autonomy for Kashmir within the secular Indian Union. The attack by the Pakistani tribesmen forced the hand of the Maharaja. As the tribesmen reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the Maharaja sought the aid of the Indian army. He was advised that this could not be done unless the State acceded to the Indian Union. Sheikh Abdullah accompanied the Maharaja's Minister to Delhi to communicate to the Indian government acceptance by the Maharaja of all Indian conditions. On 26 October 1947 the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession.

Indian troops were flown in to protect Srinagar on October 27. Soon the tribesmen and the Pakistani soldiers were in retreat. By November 14 most of the Vale was in the control of the Indian army. By winter the fighting had reached a stalemate and on 31 December 1947 Nehru referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations.

In 1948 the war continued at other fronts. Pakistan tried to cut off Ladakh from Kashmir but it was unable to do so. In the autumn of 1948 the Indian army captured Poonch in the Jammu province. The Indian army now threatened to cut the Pakistan controlled area in two by reaching the international border beyond Poonch. Pakistan now wished to enlarge the conflict by attacking Jammu so that the State would be cut off from India. There was great pressure on both countries to stop fighting and cease-fire took effect on 1 January 1949.

The New Constitution and Quotas

In March 1948 Sheikh Abdullah was appointed the prime minister of an interim government of the State. A Constituent Assembly was convened in October 1951. The members of this Assembly were elected and Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference won all its seats. In 1952 Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah signed an agreement in Delhi which specified that the State of Jammu and Kashmir, while part of the Indian Union, yet enjoyed certain unique rights and privileges within the Union. Thus citizens of the State had rights related to land ownership within the State which were denied to Indians from outside the State. This fact was recognized in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which was entitled " Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir" (Lamb 1966, Puri 1981).

Curiously the restriction of land ownership to the hereditary State subjects goes back to Hari Singh in 1927. This order also reserved government posts to such residents. Hari Singh had become the Maharaja two years earlier and he was trying to assert the autonomy of the State from the British paramountcy. But he was also bowing to the interests of the Hindus from Kashmir and Jammu who did not wish to have any competition for the various administrative positions from people out of the State. At that time the Kashmiri Hindus, with less than 2 per cent population of the State, constituted 80 percent of all those who had received higher education. This policy of reservation of jobs and restriction of land ownership was opposed by the Muslims of the State and outside. (Puri 1981)

Sheikh Abdullah was now trying to implement a programme that had been outlined by the National Conference in 1944 in a manifesto entitled New Kashmir . This amounted to a one-party government dedicated to social reform in the style of the Soviet Union. Sweeping land reforms were implemented in 1953. But there was also a suppression of dissent and increasing bureaucratization with its attendent corruption. Sheikh Abdullah's goal still appeared to be autonomy for the Kashmiris, but he was unwilling to allow real democracy to the other regions of Jammu and Ladakh. Growing tensions in the State led to his dismissal and detention in August 1953. He was succeeded as prime minister of the State by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed who remained in power for 10 years.

The Constituent Assembly decided upon a constitution which came into operation in January 1957. But this constitution formalized inequities in the political structure that had seeds in it for trouble down the road. The constituencies were delimited in a fashion that perpetuated control by the Kashmiris of the Vale (Jagmohan 1991). The typical constituency in the Vale had a population of 50,000 whereas it was 85,000 in the Jammu region. For elections to the Lok Sabha, Kashmir sent one representative for each one million people, while Jammu was allocated one representative for each 1.4 million people. Furthermore, the constituencies were so delimited that the Kashmiri Hindus, in spite of their population of about 7% in the Vale, could not get a single member elected on their own.

The fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to the State in 1954; these forbade recruitment to government jobs on communal and regional considerations. The government of the State circumvented the law by declaring all the residents of the State but the less than 3 percent Kashmiri Hindus to be backward. Quotas were now fixed for recruitment based on ethnic origin and religion both for recruitment and promotion (Puri 1983).

These policies split up the people of the State in three main worlds: one Kashmiri Muslim, the other Hindu from Jammu, and the third was that of the Kashmiri Pandit who was now discriminated against. A system of quotas in schools, colleges, and jobs was instituted. These quotas did not apply only at the entrance levels of the government departments but also for promotion to higher ranks. This system was so perverted that the candidates from the Muslim community were not chosen according to their merit either. The bureaucratic system that emerged in Kashmir must have been one of the most corrupt in India and the whole world.

It must be realized that the Muslims in Kashmir are not a monolithic community. Caste in India is a phenomenon that transcends religion (Leach 1960). Muslims in Kashmir, as Muslims elsewhere in India and Pakistan, are socially divided into castes that have traditionally worked in different occupations. Furthermore, the converts from the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, as well as the descendents of the Turks, Afghans, and the Iranians have generally maintained their identities and their status. Since performance and skills were not determinants for hiring, the urban Muslim elites, who were from a few select groups, were able to carve out a lions share of government openings. The nature of the quota system makes it out as an entitlement, so there was a great deal of resentment in the weaker Muslim classes about this matter.

In the corrupt bureaucratic world of the two Kashmirs, many of the small minority of the Hindus, who were traditionally professionals, played the game according to the new rules. Others simply left the State. And when the Central government expanded its bureaucracy in the early seventies the Hindus joined in large numbers. Having been systematically excluded from the State government jobs, the Hindus used whatever access to power they had to obtain these jobs. No wonder, therefore, that the Central government offices were perceived as being Hindu as against the Muslim State government offices.

The division between the Hindus and the Muslims of Kashmir was made worse by the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gives a special status to the Jammu and Kashmir State. According to this Article, apart from defence, foreign affairs, and communications the laws enacted by the Indian parliament apply to the State only with the concurrence of the State government. It is important to remember that this Article was supposed to be of a transitional nature. But it came in handy to the karkun elite who justified it by the rhetoric of socialism and kashmiriyat (Kashmiriness). This law preserved the dominance of the Muslim elite classes in Kashmir and they fought hard to preserve it. Politicians of the ruling party made embrace of this Article to be axiomatic for a belief in secularism. Anyone who questioned the wisdom of retention of Article 370 was dubbed a communalist, an obscurantist, and worse.

The psychology related to Article 370 made the Muslims feel that their State was not quite a part of India. But this sense of fostered apartness was the basis of the political alliances made throughout India by the Congress Party to maintain political power. The government controlled media harped on the themes of social justice and the remedy of quotas and set-asides. Although this approach was useful for the short-term political ends of the Congress Party and the National Conference, it increased social discord and it kept out capital needed for economic development in the State.

The forces unleashed by these policies led to a progressively greater alienation of the Muslims in the State. Fundamentalists seized upon this disaffection and they targeted the Kashmiri Hindus as being representatives of the unjust order. They argued that Indian polity had sunk into great divisions based on caste or regional origin and that the Indian system is not blind to caste, ethnic background, or religion. The fundamentalist in Kashmir said that if India is really not a secular state, as evidenced by all the quotas and reservations based on different criteria, the why should they not seek an Islamic, independent nation, or accession to Pakistan.

The Accord of 1974 and After

After spending almost 14 years since 1953 in jail, Sheikh Abdullah was finally set free in 1968. The defeat of Pakistan in the 1971 War and the consequent independence of Bangladesh seemed to ring the death knell of the two-nation theory on which India had been partitioned. This weakened the pro-Pakistan forces in the Valley considerably. Meanwhile in 1972 India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement which effectively superseded the U.N. role in Kashmir. Pakistan agreed to the Indian demand that both countries will not resort to force or threaten to use force in Kashmir and settle the issue bilaterally. In other words, foreign interference, mediation or arbitration was to be precluded. The 1949 cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir was redrawn into a new Line of Control which meant that the U.N. observers posted along the previous line became redundant.

In March 1972, Sheikh Abdullah reiterated the finality of the State's accession to India. In November 1974 he signed an accord with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which basically signaled his acceptance of the existing political realities. When he resumed power as Chief Minister in February 1975 he was welcomed tumultuously back in the State. He now revived the National Conference Party and won a massive mandate in the elections held in 1977.

Sheikh Abdullah now faced challenges from the leaders of Jammu and Ladakh who pressed for autonomy for their regions. Furthermore he was harried by the party of orthodox Islam as represented by Jamait-e-Islami. The growing strength of the Jamait was no doubt due to the growing fundamentalism in Islamic societies around the world after the Iranian revolution. Sheikh Abdullah fought the Jamait for not respecting the traditions of Kashmiri Islam.

Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982. He was succeeded as Chief Minister by his sonFarooq AbdullahFarooq, who called Assembly elections in 1983 and won a majority. In July 1984 Indira Gandhi dismissed Farooq's government for mis-administration and installed G.M. Shah as the Chief Minister of a minority government. Shah, who was Farooq's brother-in-law and a rival for the leadership of the National Conference on Sheikh Abdullah's death, was widely believed to represent the pro-Pakistan group in the party. The administration became even more corrupt during his tenure. Now followed an episode of Central rule to be succeeded by a return of Farooq.

The new administration of Farooq Abdullah was as inept as the first one. The intrigues of the Congress Party increased the distance between the ruling clique and the people. Meanwhile, the pro-Pakistani elements subverted most government institutions. Then between July and December 1989 the Farooq Abdullah government released seventy hardcore terrorists. Soon civil administration literally collapsed.

Pakistani Direction of the Insurgency

With the Soviet Union taking sides in the Afghanistan civil war that began in December 1979, Pakistan became strategically very important to the U.S. President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan decided to aid the anti-communist Afghans who were fighting the Soviet troops. In 1981 Pakistan received a six year aid package from the United States worth several billion dollars. In addition the U.S. opened a pipeline through which sophisticated weaponry flowed to the Afghan mujahiddin operating from their headquarters in Peshawar. More arms and ammunition came from China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The field losses as well as a deteriorating home economy eventually forced the Soviet Union to sign an agreement in April 1988 to withdraw from Afghanistan by mid-February 1989.

This great success emboldened Zia now to try force to pry Kashmir out of Indian control. The arms and equipment that had flowed to the Afghan mujahiddin had been channeled by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI was now asked to plan and coordinate an insurgency in Kashmir. This was to complement the training of the Sikh militants which had been managed by the ISI for several years.

Although Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988, his successors pressed on with management of the insurgency under the control of the ISI. This involved running training camps for the militants, supply of arms and intelligence. This operation was launched with full intensity as the weak administration of Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh took office in Delhi in late 1989. Kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations and a literal abdication of governance by the Farooq Abdullah ministry soon virtually achieved the administrative and psychological severance of the valley from India.

Central rule was imposed on the State in January 1990. But with the money provided by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the arms flowing in from the ISI warehouses the terror unleashed on the minority communities of the Vale continued. Very soon the Hindus and the Sikhs had to flee to Jammu and Delhi for the safety of refugee camps. The terrorist groups were now hoping for a quick conclusion to their campaign. Banks, post offices, schools, colleges, cinema halls were all forced to be shut down. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto talked of a thousand year war to liberate Kashmir.

Refugees from the Vale

The terror has forced about 250,000 Kashmiris to seek refuge out of the Vale. The Indian government is waiting for the law and order situation to return to what it was in before the mass exodus began in late 1989. A carrot and stick policy has been used to control the insurgency. But the government does not appear to have done any rethinking of its basic Kashmir policy.

In refugee camps the living conditions are very poor. And now the exiles seek jobs wherever they can find them, howsoever far from their homes that they have been compelled to abandon. Can that unique tradition and culture that the Kashmiris have preserved and reinvented with each generation be saved once they are scattered in permanent exile out of the valley?

The government of India has tried to play down the refugee problem since it smacks of religious strife. Many Muslims have also been killed, and others have had to flee the valley. Recently the government of India has raised this question of continuing murder of innocent civilians by terrorists with sanctuaries in Pakistan in international forums. The U.S. government has placed Pakistan on watch as one of the countries that sponsor terrorism.

The crisis in Kashmir should not be viewed as arising just from the alleged rigging of the last elections, the mis-administration of the Farooq Abdullah years, and the Islamic fundamentalism that is sweeping the world. This is the analysis that has been embraced by the officials of the government of India. While this analysis has a ring of truth to it, it is misleading. Events of the eighties have undoubtedly contributed to the disaffection in the valley, but the seeds of separation were laid by much older policies that are still in force.

The question of the alienation of the Kashmiri Muslims has not been properly analyzed. Part of this alienation has a linguistic basis. Although the Kashmiri language is different from the other north Indian languages, all educated Kashmiris are bilingual. The second language of choice for the Kashmiri Muslims is Persianized Urdu. This sets them apart from the residents of Jammu or Kashmiri Hindus who have generally adopted Sanskritized Hindi as the second language. Another contributing factor is Islamic fundamentalism. But this alienation has been made worse by the increasing bureaucratization of Indian life which causes untold frustrations. A long-term solution to the Kashmir problem would require more decentralization that proceeds down to the city and the village level. But this restructuring must also sweep aside anachronistic statutes such as Article 370 as well as other laws that discriminate based on religion and caste.

Conditions for economic development and local business initiatives will have to be improved. This will require clipping the wings of the corrupt bureaucracy and elimination of the system of quotas and licenses. Affirmative action should be based solely on economic considerations. That is the only way traditionally disadvantaged Muslim groups will be able to benefit from new development.

The bureaucratic style of administration that has evolved in India is based on a reactive approach to problems. Many of the frustrations that the citizen, be he Hindu or Muslim, feels are due to excessive centralization. In the style of government that has been followed in Delhi and in Srinagar, people have considered all problems in political terms alone; this is natural given that the government runs the schools, the banks, the colleges, and considerable part of business and industry.

A Democratic Kashmir

The international situation which emboldened Pakistan to exploit the disaffection in Kashmir to organize an insurgency has passed. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the strategic importance of Pakistan to the West is much reduced. Pakistan's own internal problems will require increasing attention from its leaders. It is, therefore, possible to look beyond the current situation and visualize a return to near normalcy in the Vale where most of the refugees will be able to return to their homes.

In the current geopolitical situation India cannot let go of the Kashmir valley because of its strategic importance. Culturally there are no reasons that the Kashmiris should feel more bound to Pakistan than India, when India has about as many Muslims as Pakistan and India's multicultural and secular society promises more freedom. But Kashmir's relationship to India will become strong only if real democracy comes into the Vale. This will require that schools, colleges, banks, and industry be increasingly privatized. Such a privatization will weave a thousand different links between organizations in Kashmir and the rest of India. But this also means that Kashmir should get rid of restrictive laws of land ownership and citizenship which have discouraged outside investment. A modern State should treat all its citizens equally, irrespective of caste, religion, and ethnic origin. The Jammu and Kashmir government, with the tacit approval of the Centre, has not done this in the past. The policies of quotas have served to divide the citizenry based on ethnic and religious basis. Economic links forged between Kashmiris and Indians outside the Vale would eventually determine the nature of their union.


According to the 1971 census the Kashmir valley had a non-Muslim population of 6 percent. However, about 250,000 refugees, which is more than 7 percent of the Vale's current estimated population, have registered with government agencies. According to Facts Speak , Panun Kashmir, Jammu the number of migrants was 242,758 in 53,750 families at the end of November 1990. India Today , January 15, 1991 speaks of more than 55,000 migrant families. It appears, therefore, that the 1971 census might have undercounted the population of the minorities in the Vale.

The Legal Documents of Kashmir

References Cited

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Thoughts On Violence In Kashmir

by Subhash Kak

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901, USA

It has been said that history will judge the dismantling of the socialist system of economy in India to be the most important event of the early nineties, more important than the Gulf War. Notwithstanding this, the recent dialogue between India and the West has been dominated by reports of the militancy in Kashmir and the attendant human rights abuses by the police. Not only has the unrest in Kashmir received considerable attention in the media but President Clinton has mentioned it in many of his public speeches.

One wonders why this should be so considering that there are any number of places around the world with longer and more bloody conflicts. It is not for love of freedom that the US and its camp-followers have raised Kashmir as an issue in their dealings with India.

Consider the Kurds, for example; they have been fighting for their independence for decades. Their cause was featured in the pre-Gulf War publicity build-up by the Americans, although this publicity then cynically ignored that the Kurds were persecuted equally badly by Turkey and Syria, American allies in that War. After the defeat of Saddam Hussain, there has been no talk of an independent Kurdistan. Edward Pearce, in his marvellous recent book {Machiavelli's Children} explains: ``The Kurdish tragedy illuminates the gap between real reasons for fighting a small war---oil, money, client-assurance, bravado and figure-cutting---and those put on display: civilization, hostages, the rule of law, peace (after war) and `our moral duty'.''

Machiavelli said, ``Nothing brings a prince greater prestige than great campaigns and demonstrations of his personal ability.'' Bill Clinton's seemingly altruistic rhetoric on human rights was primarily an adoption of slogan bound to play well in the media. That this is not a moral issue is clear from the fact that the question of human rights is never raised with regard to Saudi Arabia, the greatest ally of the U.S. in West Asia, a totalitarian dictatorship that is firmly anchored in the eighth century.

The other function of the human rights slogan has been to keep pressure on countries that would otherwise wish to chart independent foreign policies. Internal difficulties have made Russia dependent on the U.S. The United Nations is now like the Church of the Middle Ages in Europe when it was invoked to bless campaigns whenever convenient to a prince.

The Kashmir issue offers delicious possibilities to the great powers; it is a stick that can always be applied on India. Each time the issue of human rights in Kashmir is raised in international forums, India might be pressured to make trade concessions to one great power or the other to stave off censure.

To return to Machiavelli, a campaign should have real risks, howsoever small, to lead to honour. Clinton's capitulation before the Chinese on the human rights question has effectively taken this issue out of his foreign policy. Nevertheless, Kashmir will undoubtedly keep coming up in the bilateral discussions between the Western nations and India.


Those who fight are often caught up in forces that they cannot control. The mujahideen of Afghanistan hastened the breakup of the Soviet Union, but their support by the U.S. was like the support of the rope for the hanged man. Afghanistan as a nation is no more. It is battleground for murderous warlords marching on each other.

The lip service that the U.S. has paid to the Kashmiri militants, helped no doubt by the generous contributions to the election funds of American Congressmen and Senators, is a support that does great harm to the Kashmiri people. In politics, as in life, it is foolhardy to set out on an unknown terrain without sufficient resources.


The unrest in India should be seen in the context of violence in the modern times. All around one sees a malaise replace the optimism of the post-Second World War days.

Consider the United States. According to a study of the Sentencing Project, the rate of imprisonment in the United States in 1990-1 was 455 per 100,000 of the population. The rate for India for the same period was 34 per 100,000 of the population. The US locks up fourteen times as many of its citizens on a proportional basis than India! One might ask whether the unrest we see in India is because it does not lock up its criminals like the U.S. does.

An even more significant piece of statistics relates to murder. This year the murder rate in New Orleans, a city of less than half a million people, is running at 100 per 100,000 people. At this rate New Delhi would have 8,000 murders a year. And the urban sprawl of the Kashmir valley would have 3,000. The number of deaths in the valley has been much lower than this figure. The crime rate for the entire US is several times that of India.

It is striking that the murder rate of American cities exceeds that of a region caught up in militancy. But rightly no one is speaking of human rights violations of American citizens in international forums, although one can imagine that in the heyday of the Cold War this would have been fodder to the Communist propagandists.


As everywhere else, there are two main arguments being given regarding crime in the US. On the one hand are those who claim that urban terror in the US is a response to police brutality, lack of opportunities for the urban poor, and the easy availability of guns. On the other hand, there are those who blame the breakdown of the family, poor education in the schools, gratuitous violence on TV, the harsh nature of American capitalism, with its attendant insecurities, and racism. And then there are others who see urban violence a natural condition of the post-modern state as societies struggle to decentralize themselves.

Perhaps the non-political aspects of the unrest in Kashmir have not been properly stressed. It appears that the initial breakdown occurred because the security mechanisms were not upto par in dealing with the firepower of the small group of militants, just as the police in American cities is incapable of dealing with their criminals.


If the city of Washington, the capital of the US, can carry on with a killing rate higher than that of Srinagar by isolating the violence away from the places most citizens work, perhaps the lesson is that the government of India should likewise endeavour to increase the areas in the valley that afford relative security and bring back the refugees who fled in the past five years.

Better training to the police should ensure that human rights abuses are minimized. But it is essential that criminals be dealt with severely.

Violence by the militants is expression in a language. How this violence plays in Delhi and Washington is very important to them. Clearly what is important is to engage the public in civil discourse so that the violent theatrics of the militants lose any symbolic power.

But one cannot wait for absolute calm to return. No place is absolutely safe. If we can be provided reasonable security in Kashmir, we should return. Our presence may help build bridges of understanding.

Source: Koshur Samachar

The Wonder that was Kashmir

by Subhash Kak

Kashmir’s geographical location partly explains is cultural history. It may be that its natural beauty and temperate climate are the reasons that Kashmiris have a strong tradition in the arts, literature, painting, drama, and dance. Its relative isolation, the security provided by the ring of mountains around it, and its distance from the heartland of Indian culture in the plains of North India, might explain the originality of Kashmiri thought. Its climate and the long winters may explain the Kashmiri fascination for philosophical speculation.

Kashmir is at the centre of the Puranic geography. In the Puranic conception, the earth's continents are arranged in the form of a lotus flower. Mt. Meru stands at the center of the world, the pericarp or seed-vessel of the flower, as it were, surrounded by circular ranges of mountains. Around Mt. Meru, like the petals of the lotus, are arranged four island-continents (dvipas), aligned to the four points of the compass: Uttarakuru to the north, Ketumala to the west, Bhadrashva to the east, and Bharata or Jambudvipa to the south. The meeting point of the continents is the Meru mountain, which is the high Himalayan region around Kashmir, Uttarakuru represents Central Asia including Tocharia, Ketumala is Iran and lands beyond, Bhadrashva is China and the Far East. Kashmir’s centrality in this scheme was a recognition that it was a meeting ground for trade and ideas for the four main parts of the Old World. In fact it became more than a meeting ground, it was the land where an attempt was made to reconcile opposites by deeper analysis and bold conception.

Kashmir’s nearness to rich trade routes brought it considerable wealth and emboldened Kashmirs to take Sanskrit culture out of the country as missionaries. Kashmiris also became interpreters of the Indian civilization and they authored many fundamental synthesizing and expository works.  Some of these works are anonymous encyclopaedias, for many other works the author’s name is known but the details of the life and circumstances in Kashmir are hardly remembered.

Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (River of Kings), written in about 1150, provides a narrative of successive dynasties that ruled Kashmir. Kalhana claimed to have used eleven earlier works as well the Nilamata Purana. Of these earlier books only the Nilamata Purana survives. The narrative in the Rajatarangini becomes more than mere names with the accession of the Karkota dynasty in the early seventh century.

The political boundaries of Kashmir have on occasion extended much beyond the valley and the adjoining regions. According to Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler, the adjacent territories to the west and south down to the plains were also under the direct control of the king of Kashmir. With Durlabhavardhana of the Karkota dynasty, the power of Kashmir extended to parts of Punjab and Afghanistan. It appears that during this period of Kashmiri expansion the ruling elite, if not the general population, of Gilgit, Baltistan, and West Tibet spoke Kashmiri-related languages. Later, as Kashmir’s political power declined, these groups were displaced by Tibetan speaking people. 

In the eighth century, Lalitaditya (reigned 725-761), conquered most of north India, Central Asia and Tibet. His vision and exertions mark a new phase of Indian empire-building. Kashmir had become an important player in the rivalries amongst the various kingdoms of north India.

The jostling of the Kashmiri State within the circle of the north Indian powers led to an important political innovation. The important Vishnudharmottara Purana, believed to have been written in Kashmir of the Karkota kings, recommends innovations regarding the rajasuya and the ashvamedha sacrifices, of which the latter in its medieval interpretations was responsible for much warfare amongst kings. In the medieval times the horse was left free to roam for a year and the king’s soldiers tried to establish the rule of their king in all regions visited by the horse, leading to fighting.  The Vishnudharmottara Purana replaced these ancient rites by the rajyabhisheka (royal consecration) and surapratishtha (the fixing of the divine abode) rites. 

This essay presents an overview of the most important Kashmiri contributions to Indian culture, emphasizing some of the lesser known aspects of these contributions. Specifically, we consider the contributions to the arts, sciences, literature, and philosophy. Our historical assessment of Kashmiri culture is hampered by the nature of our records. The texts and objects of art do not always indicate their provenance and the connections with Kashmir emerge only from indirect evidence. We are on sure ground when we come to Buddhist sources, the texts of the Kashmir Shaivism, and the names mentioned in the Rajatarangini and other early narratives.

Early Period

During the Vedic period, Kashmir appears to be an important region because it appears that the Mujavant mountain, the region where Soma grew, was located there. It is possible that in the Vedic era a large part of the valley was still under a lake. Kalhana’s history begins with the Mahabharata War, but it is very hazy with regard to the events prior to the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka.

The great grammarian Panini lived in northwest Punjab not too far from Kashmir and the university at Taxila (Takshashila) was also close to the valley. At the time of Hiuen Tsang, Takshashila was a tributary to Kashmir. It is generally accepted that Patanjali, the great author of the Mahabhashya commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, was a Kashmiri, as were a host of other grammarians like Chandra.  According to Bhartrihari and other early scholars, Patanjali also made contributions to Yoga (the yoga-sutras) and to Ayurveda. 

It is believed that Patanjali's mother was named Gorika and he was born in Gonarda. He was educated in Takshashila and he taught in Pataliputra. From the textual references in his works, it can be safely said that he belonged to 2nd century BC.

The Charaka Samhita of Ayurveda that has come down to us is due to the editing of Dridhabala from Kashmir, who also added seventeen chapters to the sixth section and the whole of the eighth section. Patanjali may have been involved in this editing process.  But it is likely that the identity of the Kashmiris as a distinct group had not solidified in the Vedic period and to speak of ethnicity at that time is meaningless. 

In any event, Kashmir of these early times was a part of the larger northwest Indian region of which Takshashila was a center of learning. The early levels of buildings in Takshashila have been traced to 800 BC. The first millennium BC was a period of great intellectual activity in this part of India and attitudes that later came to be termed Kashmiri were an important element of this activity. Amongst these attitudes was a characteristic approach to classification in the arts and the interest in grammar.

Panini’s grammar remains one of the greatest achievements of the human intellect. It described the grammar of the Sanskrit language by a system of 4,000 algebraic rules, a feat that has not been equaled for any other language to this day. It also set the tone for scientific studies in India with their emphasis on algorithmic explanations. Patanjali’s commentary on the Panini grammar was responsible for the exaltation of its reputation. 
It appears that Panini arose in the same intellectual climate that characterized Kashmir during its Classical period. 

Drama and Music: The Natya Shastra

An early name seen as belonging to Kashmir is Bharata Muni of the Natyashastra. The indirect reasons for this identification are that the rasa idea of the Natyashastra was discussed by many scholars in Kashmir. Another reason is that the Natyashastra has a total of 36 chapters and it is suggested that this number may have been deliberately chosen to conform to the theory of 36 tattvas which is a part of the later Shaivite system of Kashmir. Many descriptions in this book seem especially true for Kashmir. The bhana, a one-actor play described by Bharata is still performed in Kashmir by groups called bhand pather (bhana patra, in Sanskrit).

It should be mentioned here parenthetically that a few scholars take Bharata to be a Southerner. It is also interesting that there exist some very close connections between Kashmir and South India in the cultural tradition like the worship of Shiva, Pancharatra, Tantra, and the arts. Recently, when I pointed this out to Vasundhara Filliozat, the art historian who has worked on Karnataka, she said that the inscriptional evidence indicates a continuing movement of teachers from Kashmir to the South and that Kashmir is likely to have been the original source of many of the early Shaivite, Tantric, and Sthapatya Agamas.

Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra not only presents the language of creative expression, it is the world's first book on stagecraft. It is so comprehensive that it lists 108 different postures that can be combined to give the various movements of dance. Bharata's ideas are the key to proper understanding of Indian arts, music and sculpture. They provide an insight into how different Indian arts are expressions of a celebratory attitude to the universe. Manomohan Ghosh, the modern translator of the Natya Shastra, believes that it belongs to the 5th century BC. He bases his assessment on the archaic pre-Paninian features of the language and the fact that Bharata mentions the arthashastra of Brihaspati and not that of the 4th century BC Kautilya.

The term natya is synonymous with drama. According to Bharata, the natya was created by taking elements from each of the four Vedas: recitation (pathya) from the Rigveda, song or melody (gita) from the Samaveda, acting (abhinaya) from the Yajurveda, and sentiments (rasa) from the Atharvaveda. By this synthesis, the Natya Shastra became the fifth Veda, meant to take the spirit of the Vedic vision to the common man. 

Elsewhere, Bharata says: “The entire nature of human beings as connected with the experiences of happiness and misery, and joy and sorrow, when presented through the process of histrionics (abhinaya) is called natya.” 
Five of the thirty-six chapters of the Natya Shastra are devoted to music. Bharata speaks of the 22 shrutis of the octave, the seven notes and the number of shrutis in each of them. He explains how the vina is to be tuned. He also describes the dhruvapada songs that were part of musical performances. 

The concept of rasa, enduring sentiment, lies behind the aesthetics of the Natya Shastra. There are eight rasas: heroism, fury, wonder, love, mirth, compassion, disgust and terror. Bharata lists another 33 less permanent sentiments. The artist, through movement, voice, music or any other creative act, attempts to evoke them in the listener and the spectator. This evocation helps to plumb the depths of the soul, thereby facilitating self-knowledge. 

The algorithmic approach to knowledge became  the model for scientific theories in the Indic world, extending from India to the east and Southeast Asia.  The ideas of the Natya Shastra were in consonance with this tradition and they provided an overarching comprehensiveness to sculpture, temple architecture, performance, dance and story telling. But unlike other technical shastras that were written for the scholar, Bharata's work influenced millions directly. For these reasons alone, the Natya Shastra is one of the most important books ever written. 

To appreciate the pervasive influence of the Natya Shastra, just consider music. The comprehensiveness of the Natya Shastra forged a tradition of tremendous pride and resilience that survived the westward movement of Indian musical imagination through the agency of itinerant musicians. Several thousand Indian musicians, of which Kashmiri musicians are likely to have been a part, were invited by the fifth century Persian king Behram Gaur. Turkish armies used Indians as professional musicians. 

Bharata stresses the transformative power of creative art. He says, “It teaches duty to those who have no sense of duty, love to those who are eager for its fulfillment, and it chastises those who are ill-bred or unruly, promotes self-restraint in those who are disciplined, gives courage to cowards, energy to heroic persons, enlightens men of poor intellect and gives wisdom to the learned.” 

Our life is spent learning one language or another. Words in themselves are not enough, we must learn the languages of relationships, ideas, music, games, business, power, and nature. There are some languages that one wishes did not exist, like that of evil. But evil, resulting from ignorance that makes one act like an animal, is a part of nature and it is best to recognize it so that one knows how to confront it. Creative art show us a way to transcend evil because of its ability to transform. This is why religious fanatics hate art. 

Cosmology and Science: The Yoga Vasishtha

Another book from Kashmir which has had enduring influence over Indian thought is the Yoga Vasishtha (YV).  Professing to be a book of instruction on the nature of consciousness, it has many fascinating passages on time, space, matter and cognition.  They are significant not only in telling us about thinking in Kashmir, they summarize Indian ideas of physics, available to us through a variety of sources, that are not widely known outside scholarly circles. Starting with a position that seeks to unify space, time, matter, and consciousness, an argument is made for relativity of space and time, cyclic and recursively defined universes, and a non-anthropocentric view.

Within the Indian tradition it is believed that reality transcends the separate categories of space, time, matter, and observation. In this function, called Brahman, inhere all categories including knowledge. The conditioned mind can, by ``tuning'' in to Brahman, obtain knowledge, although it can only be expressed in terms of the associations already experienced by the mind. In this tradition, scientific knowledge describes as much aspects of outer reality as the topography of the mindscape. Connections (bandhu) between the outer and the inner are assumed: we can comprehend reality only because we are already equipped to do so. In other words, innate, primitive, a priori ideas give rational organization to our fragmentary sensations. 

The Yoga-Vasishtha (YV) is over 29,000 verses long, and it is traditionally attributed to Valmiki, author of the epic Ramayana, which is over two thousand years old. But scholars believe it was composed in the early centuries in Kashmir. The historian of philosophy Dasgupta dated it about the sixth century AD on the basis that one of its verses appears to be copied from one of Kalidasa’s plays, considering Kalidasa to have lived around the fifth century.  But new theories support the view that the traditional date of Kalidasa is 50 BC. This means that the estimates regarding the age of YV are further muddled and it is possible that this text could be 2000 years old.

YV may be viewed as a book of philosophy or as a philosophical novel. It describes the instruction given by Vasishtha to Rama of the Ramayana. Its premise may be termed radical idealism and it is couched in a fashion that has many parallels with the notion of a participatory universe, where the actions of the conscious agents have a bearing on future evolution.

Its most interesting passages from the scientific point of view relate to the description of the nature of space, time, matter, and consciousness. It should be emphasized that the YV ideas do not stand in isolation. Similar ideas are to be found in the earlier Vedic books. At its deepest level the Vedic conception is to view reality in a unitary manner; at the next level one may speak of the dichotomy of mind and matter. Ideas similar to those found in YV are also encountered in the Puranic and Tantric literature. But the clarity and directness with which these ideas are described in YV is unique.

Roughly speaking, the Vedic system speaks of an interconnectedness between the observer and the observed. The Vedic system of knowledge is based on a tripartite approach to the universe where connections exist in triples in categories of one group and across groups: sky, atmosphere, earth; object, medium, subject; future, present, past; and so on. Beyond the triples lies the transcendental ``fourth''.

Three kinds of motion are alluded to in the Vedic books: these are the translational motion, sound, and light which are taken to be ``equivalent'' to earth, air, and sky. The fourth motion is assigned to consciousness; and this is considered to be infinite in speed.

It is most interesting that the books in this Indian tradition speak about the relativity of time and space in a variety of ways. The Puranas speak of countless universes, time flowing at different rates for different observers and so on.

Universes defined recursively are described in the famous episode of Indra and the ants in Brahmavaivarta Purana, the Mahabharata, and elsewhere. These flights of imagination are to be traced to more than a straightforward generalization of the motions of the planets into a cyclic universe. They must be viewed in the background of an amazingly sophisticated tradition of cognitive and analytical thought. 

The YV argues that whereas physical nature is taken to be analyzable it is defined only in relation to observers. Consciousness is considered a more fundamental category. But YV is not written as a systematic text. Its narrative jumps between various levels: psychological, biological, and physical, as is traditional in Indian texts. Not surprisingly, given the Vedic emphasis on rta, YV accepts the idea that laws are intrinsic  to the universe. But do these laws remain constant? There is some suggestion that  the laws of nature in an unfolding universe also evolve.

According to YV, new information does not emerge out of the inanimate world but it is a result  of the exchange between mind and matter. It accepts consciousness as a kind of fundamental field that pervades the whole universe. One might speculate that the parallels between YV and some recent ideas of physics are a result of the degree of abstraction that is common to both; or one might assert that the parallels are a reflection of the inherent structure of the mind.

It appears that the Kashmiri understanding of physics was informed not only by astronomy and terrestrial experiments but also by speculative thought and by meditation on the nature of consciousness. Unfettered by either geocentric or anthropocentric views, this understanding unified the physics of the small with that of the large within a framework that included metaphysics. YV ideas do not represent a break with the older Vedic thought; they are an amplification of the basic themes informed by advances in the unfolding understanding of the astronomy and other physical sciences.

This was a framework consisting of innumerable worlds (solar systems), where time and space were continuous, matter was atomic, and consciousness was atomic, yet derived from an all-pervasive unity. The material atoms were defined first by their subtle form, called tanmatra, which was visualized as a potential, from which emerged the gross atoms. A central notion in this system was that all descriptions of reality are circumscribed by paradox. The universe was seen as dynamic, going through ceaseless change.

Tantra: Shaivism and Vaishnavism

The Kashmiri approach to the world is uniquely positive. There is a celebration of nature and beauty for the objective world is also a representation of Brahman (Lord).  This approach is part of the Kashmiri tantric thought in both its strands of Shaivism and Vaishnavism.  The Tantras stress the equivalence of the universe and the body and look for divinity within the person.

Although the Vaishnavite Panchratra now survives only in South India, the earliest teachers looked to Kashmir as the seat of learning and spiritual culture. The Pancharatra ontology and ritual are described in the Kashmirian Vishnudharmotta Purana. According to this theology, the king was enjoined to build a temple for the rites to be performed to celebrate his victory over his opponents. These rites marked his union with Vishnu. This represented an important milestone in the conceptualization of the role of the king in Indic thought.

According to Kalhana, the worship of Shiva in Kashmir dates prior to the Mauryan King Ashoka. The Tantras were enshrined in texts known as the Agamas, most of which are now lost. The pinnacle of the Tantric Shaiva tradition is the Trika system. The great spiritual master and scholar Abhinavagupta (c. 975-1025) describes the goal of the Shaiva discipline is to find freedom. In this freedom, the adept becomes one with Shiva, transcending all oppositions and polarities.  The jivanamuka (the liberated person) experiences the freedom of Shiva in a blissful and  unitary vision of the all-pervasiveness of the Absolute.

Two very interesting ideas in Kashmir Shaivism are that of recognition  and of vibration. In the philosophy of Recognition , it is proposed that the ultimate experience of enlightenment consists of a profound and irreversible recognition that one’s own true identity is Shiva himself. The doctrine of Vibration speaks of the importance of experiencing spanda, the vibration or pulse of consciousness. Every activity in the universe, as well as sensations, cognitions, emotions ebbs and flows as part of the universal rhythm of the one reality, Shiva.

Contributions to Buddhism

Kashmir became an early centre of Buddhist scholarship. In the first century, the Kushan emperor Kanishka chose Kashmir as the venue of a major Buddhist Council comprising of over 500 monks and scholars. At this meeting the previously uncodified portions of Buddha’s discourses and the theoretical portions of the canon were codified. The entire canon (the Tripitaka) was inscribed on copper plates and deposited in a stupa. The Buddhist schools of Sarvastivada, Mahayana, Madhyamika, and Yogachara were all well developed in Kashmir. It also produced famous Buddhist logicians such as Dinnaga, Dharmakirti, Vinitadeva, and Dharmottara.

Kashmiris were tireless in the spread of Buddhist ideas to Central Asia. Attracted by Kashmir’s reputation as a great centre of scholarship, many Buddhists came from distant lands to learn Sanskrit and train as translators and teachers. Amongst these was Kumarajiva (344-413), the son of the Kuchean princess who, when his mother became a nun, followed her into monastic life at the age of seven. He came to Kashmir in his youth to learn the Mahayana scriptures from Bandhudatta.  Later he became a specialist in Madhyamika philosophy. In 383, Chinese forces seized Kucha and carried Kumarajiva off to China. From 401 he was at the Ch'in court in the capital Chang'an (the modern Xi'an), where he taught and translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. More than 100 translations are attributed to him. His works include some of the most important titles in the Chinese Buddhist canon. Kumarajiva's career had an epoch-making influence on Chinese Buddhist thought, not only because he translated important texts that were previously unknown, but also because he did much to clarify Buddhist terminology and philosophical concepts. He and his disciples established the Chinese branch of the Madhyamika, known as the San-lun, or "Three Treatises school."

Kumarajiva’s contemporary, the Kashmiri Buddhabhadra also went to China to translate the Buddhist texts. The Kashmiri Buddhasena translated a major Yogachara text into Chinese.  Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim, came to Kashmir in 631, staying for two years.

Many famous Buddhist Tantric teachers were associated with Kashmir. According to some Tibetan sources, Naropa and Padmasambhava (who introduced Tantric Buddhism into Tibet) were Kashmiris. The Tibetan script is derived from the Kashmiri Sharada script, It was brought into Tibet by Thonmi-Sambhota, who was sent to Kashmir during the reign of Duralabhavardhana (seventh century) to study with Devatitasimha.

Architecture and Painting

The uniqueness of the Kashmiri idiom in artistic expression has been recognized by historians. The ancient temple ruins in Kashmir are some of the oldest standing temples in India today (7th – 9th Centuries) and would have been among the most magnificent temples ever made in India. The sculptures found here are significant and exquisite. 

The Martanda temple, built by Lalitaditya, is one of the earliest and yet largest stone temples to have been built in Kashmir. The temple is rectangular in plan, consisting of a mandapa and a shrine. Two other shrines flank the mandapa. It is enclosed by a vast courtyard by a peristyle wall with 84 secondary shrines in it. The columns of the peristyle are fluted. Each of the 84 niches originally contained an image of a form of Surya. The number 84, as 21x4, appears to have been derived from the numerical association of 21 with the sun.

Lalitaditya also built an enormous chaitya in the town of Parihasapura which housed an enormous Buddha. Only the plinth of this huge monument survives, although one of the paintings at Alchi is believed to be its representation.  There was also an enormous stupa in Parihasapura built by Lalitaditya’s minister Chankuna, which may have even been larger than the chaitya. The Parihasapura monuments became models for Buddhist architecture from Afghanistan to Japan.

The Pandrethan temple as well as the Avantipur complex provide us further examples of the excellence of Kashmiri architecture and art. Kashmiri ivories and metal images are also outstanding, and are generally considered to be among the best anywhere in the world.

Kashmir also had a flourishing tradition of painting, which must have been used to decorate the temples walls. The earliest surviving examples of these painting come from Gilgit and date from about 8th century. Representing a highly developed style, these paintings must be seen as belonging to a very old tradition. Kashmiri craftsmen were long famed for their work and their hand can be seen in many works of art in Central Asia and Tibet.

Although references to paintings in ancient Kashmiri literature are scattered, and because all records of painting in the Valley were destroyed after the advent of Islam, it is possible to piece together this tradition from the paintings that are preserved in the Buddhist temples of Ladakh and Tibet. The Tibetan scholar Rinchen Sangpo (950 - 1055) claimed to have visited Kashmir thrice to obtain the services of 75 Kashmiri craftsmen, painters and teachers to build and decorate one hundred and eight temples in Western Tibet. According to the 16th century Tibetan scholar Lama Taranath, author of a history  of Buddhism in India, there existed in the 9th century India four principal school of art: eastern, middle country, Marwar, and the Kashmiri.  
The discovery of Gilgit manuscript paintings has deepened our understanding of Kashmiri painting. Although usually assigned to the Kashmir school of the 9th century, on stylistic grounds they may date even earlier as their nearest parallels are found in the 8th century stone sculpture of Pandrethan. Painted figures of Boddhisattva Padmapani from Gilgit demonstrates the mingling of the Gandharan and the Gupta Indian conventions with local elements. The faces are typical Gandharan while the iconography and spirit is purely Indian. 

After Lalitaditya, Kashmiri style appears to have changed somewhat and it endured till 10-11th century. This phase is the most developed stage of Kashmiri art with its fame spreading into the remote Himalayas. 
The 9th century complex of Avantipura built by King Avantivarman (855-883 AD) is an amalgam of various earlier prevalent forms of India and regions beyond. The best example of this style is found in the bronzes dated to 9th to 11th century cast by Kashmiri craftsmen for Tibetan patrons. The style of such bronzes presents a remarkable affinity to the wall-paintings dating to 10-11th century decorated in the Buddhist temples of Western Tibet. 

The wall paintings of Mang nang and manuscript painting of Thaling discovered in Western Tibet are generally accepted to have been created by Kashmiri painters. Stylistically, they are a pictorial translation of contemporary Kashmiri bronzes. In the treatment of costumes and ornaments, the artists have meticulously executed the finest details of diaphenous and embroidered garments and intricate design These wall paintings present a final stage of progression of the Kashmiri style which reminds something related to the distant Ajanta. 

One of the best sites to see the Kashmiri painting style is in the five temples comprising the dharma-mandala at Alchi in Ladakh, which escaped destruction that other Ladakhi temples suffered at the hands of a Ladakhi king who embraced Islam. The earliest of these buildings is the ‘Du-khang where one can see astonishingly well preserved mandalas that document the Kashmiri Buddhist pantheon as well as the Buddhist representation of the Hindu pantheon.

The Sum-tsek, a three-level building next to the ‘Du-khang presents the native architectural tradition, characterized by piled-up rock walls faced with mud plaster, decorated with delicate wood carvings of the Kashmiri style. Triangular forms are a part of the pillars and other architectural elements in a style that corresponds to the motifs found on the stone monuments of Kashmir. The plan of the building contains three extensions on the east, north, and west where gigantic two-storied images of Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya and Manjushri to remove impurities in speech, mind, and body were situated. Elsewhere in the building is a most interesting painting of Prajnaparamita, identified by the book and the rosary she holds. A tall structure depicted on her sides appears to be the famous chaitya built by Lalitaditya at Parihasapura.

According to the historian of art Susan Huntington, “Kashmir served as a source of imagery and influence for the northern and eastern movements of Buddhist art. The Yunkang caves in China, the wall paintings from several sites in Inner Asia, especially Qizil and Tun-huang, the paintings from the cache at Tun-huang, and some iconographic manuscripts from Japan, for example, should be evaluated with Kashmir in mind as a possible source. A full understanding of the transmission of Buddhist art through Asia is dependent on developing a greater knowledge of Kashmiri art.”

Dance and Music

Kalhana, while speaking of Lalitaditya, narrates a charming story of how the king discovered the ruins of an old temple where he had a new temple built. While exercising his horse, Lalitaditya saw two beautiful , gazelle-eyed girls sing and dance every day at the same time. Upon questioning they told him that they were dancing girls who danced at the spot on the instructions of their mothers. Lalitaditya had the place dug up and he found two decayed temples with closed doors. Inside were images of Rama and Lakshmana. Clearly the tradition of temple dancing was an old one.

The paintings in Kashmiri style bring to us a clear idea of the temple dances which prevailed in Kashmir at the time when these paintings were made (10th–11th Centuries). Indian classical dance in its different forms was born out of the tradition of dancing before the Lord in the temples. This representation of the dance forms enriches our knowledge of the culture of Kashmir and its close integrity to the rest of India. Kalhana mentions many kings who were interested in dance and music.

The only extant complete commentary on the Natya Shastra is the one by Abhinavagupta. The massive thirteenth-century text Sangitaratnakara ("Ocean of Music and Dance"), composed by the Kashmiri theorist Sharngadeva, is one of the most important landmarks in Indian music history. It was composed in south-central India shortly before the conquest of this region by the Muslims and thus gives an account of Indian music before the full impact of Muslim influence. A large part of this work is devoted to marga, that is, the ancient music that includes the system of jatis and grama-ragas.  Sharngadeva mentions a total of 264 ragas. 


We return to rasa, mentioned by Bharata Muni as the essence of artistic expression. In the poetic tradition, it is mentioned by Bhatta Lollata of the 9th century, the oldest commentator on the Natya Shastra whose views have come down to us. Other authors such as Shankuka, Bhatta Nayaka, Bhatta Udbhatta, Rudratta, Vamana also wrote on rasa. Kshemendra, the polymath, had his own theory of poetics. Abhinavagupta speaks of nine rasas, where rasa of peace represents the addition to the eight enumerated by Bharata.

The 9th century scholar Anandavardhana wrote the Dhvanyaloka., the “Light of Suggestion”, which is a world-class masterpiece of aesthetic theory. He rejected the earlier theories of alankara and guna by Bhamaha and Dandin according to which ornamental qualities and figures of speech distinguished poetry from ordinary speech. Anandavardhana said that the difference was a quality called dhvani which communicates meaning by suggestion indirectly. Anandavardhana was a member of the court of the king Avantivarman.

Anandavardhana was the first to note that rasa cannot be communicated directly. If one were to say that “so-and-so and his wife are very much in love,” we fail to express the nature of the love. This can be done only by dhvani, or suggestion. Abhinavagupta,  who lived about a hundred years after Anandavardhana, added important elements to the dhvani theory. His famous commentary on the Dhvanyaloka is called the Lochana.

The Western classical tradition of criticism has nothing equivalent to the concepts of rasa and dhvani. These ideas provide unique insights into Indic literature and they can also be useful in the appreciation of non-Indic literatures. 

Abhinavagupta, wrote on philosophy, poetry, tantra, as well as aesthetics. Abhinavagupta also wrote on Tantra, his book Tantraloka (Light of the Tantras) is one of the most important on the subject. In all, he wrote more than sixty works. Kshemendra was a philosopher, poet, and a pupil of Abhinavagupta. Among his books is the Brihatkathamanjari which is a summary of Gunadhya’s Brihatkatha in 7,500 stanzas.

Somadeva’s Kathasaritasagara is another version of Gunadhya’s Brihatkatha. Somadeva collection of stories has influenced the birth of fiction elsewhere. These stories were written for the queen Suryamati, the wife of king Ananta (1028-1063). The number of stanzas, not counting the prose passages, exceeds 22,000.

The classic arts and the sciences of Kashmir came to an abrupt end when Islam became the dominant force in Kashmir in the fourteenth century. Sculpture, painting, dance, music could no longer be practiced. After the political situation had become stable, the subsequent centuries saw emphasis on devotion and its expression through the Kashmiri language as in the poetry of Lalleshvari. The creative urges at the folk level found expression in the works of the craftsmen of wood and textiles. 

But Kashmiri ideas lived on through the arts that transformed expression in Central and East Asia, and through Tantra and aesthetics that shaped attitudes in the rest of India. Many Kashmiris emigrated to other parts; the musicologist Sharngadeva and the poet Bilhana being just two such people. Although Kashmir had sunk to a state of misery, outsiders continued to pay homage to the memory of Kashmir as the land of learning, and Sharada, the presiding goddess of Kashmir became synonymous with Sarasvati. 



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