Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani

Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani

Dr. Shashi Shekhar ToshkhaniDr. S.S. Toshkhani is a renowned scholar of India and belongs to a great intellectual family of Kashmir. His father late Prof. S.K. Toshkhani was a legendary scholar of Kashmir's literature, language and culture. Dr. Toshkhani is a poet, linguist, writer and thinker. He has contributed substantially to Kashmiri heritage and carried out modern research in various fields of Kashmiri literature, history, religion, art and social science in general. He is a member of the research committee of Kashmiri Education, Culture and Science Society. He is conducting research on Bhakti tradition in Kashmiri Poetry as a Senior Fellow (on a fellowship from the Ministry of Culture) and on rituals and visual arts of Kashmir at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. He has been associated in many leading seminars conducted by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society. Dr. Toshkhani, therefore, represents a great tradition of scholarship of Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits.


Featured Collections

Lal Ded: The great Kashmiri Saint-poetess

Edited by: Dr. S. S. Toshkhani

This book represents the proceedings of a National Seminar on"Remembering Lal Ded in Modern Times" conducted by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society in New Delhi on 12 November, 2000. Lalleshwari or Lal Ded, according to late Prof. Jayalal Kaul, has been the greatest genius of Kashmir of all times. This book has many eminent writers of modern period who have recollected the genius of Lal Ded for the modern world. Lal Ded was living in the 14th century in Kashmir. In spite of long interval of history, Lal Ded is remembered in every home even in modern period. Her Vaaks, or sayings, represent the best teachings for human kind today to seek unity and harmony between people of all religion and races. Her poetry is all inspiring. Her philosophy of life represents the high­est science of life. She can be the leader to combine science and humanism world over, and once again establish a peaceful and melodious world of joy and happiness. Kashmiris in general and Indians and the people of the world are inspired by Lalleshwari’s teachings. This book and the seminar by KECSS cannot possibly touch all aspects of life and times of Lal Ded. However, a laudable attempt is made to recall Lal Ded for creating a joyful and harmonious world in Kashmir and the rest of India and the world. Hindus, Muslims and people of all faith remember Lal Ded with great reverence. This book should be of world-wide interest.

Lal Ded: The Great Kashmiri Saint-Poetess 
Edited by: Dr. S. S. Toshkhani 
Proceedings of the National Seminar 
Conducted by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society, 
B-36, Pamposh Enclave, New Delhi – 110 048 
November 12, 2000

Published by 
S.B. Nangia 
A.P.H. Publishing Corporation 
5, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj 
New Delhi – 110002
Printed in India at 
Efficient Offset Printers 
New Delhi- 110 035

© Editor

Kashmir: The Crisis in Perspective

by Dr. S. S. Toshkhani, Mr. B. L. Kaul, Prof. M. L. Raina


Lieshalf truths and systematic disinformation about the political situation and terrorist mayhem has become the order of the day. Press and political activists are hostages to the terrorist outfits. Freedom of opinion, dissent and beliefs have been stamped out by the terrorists. Their manner of working and propagating is right out from Fascist or Nazi tactics. Their cry for Azadi is a facade for secession, depriving men of conscience from liberty and basic freedoms guaranteed by the Indian constitution. No civilized society can stand this brand of Azadi, where non-muslim minorities are hounded out, people asked to change their vocations, and all decency in life decried as evil. Yet, in India there are opportunists and apologists who have a sneaking sympathy for the terrorists and terrorism in Kashmir. They are all busy for reasons better known to them, to spread disinformation in India through the national press.

Indian Research Institute for Kashmir Affairs has been established by people who have been part of Kashmir's freedom struggle and other well meaning friends in the country who have spent a large portion of their lives in the State. The objective is to keep the Indian public opinion informed about the State, the genesis of the present turmoil and related issues. Our endeavor would be to present a true scenario, without fear or favor.

This first publication is a backgrounder, the other aspects of the Kashmir situation- ethnic, socio-economic, political, and cultural - will be forthcoming soon.

M. L. Raina 
Indian Research Institute for Kashmir Affairs 
4/1931 Gurgaon, Haryana 

June 20, 1990

Kashmir: The Crisis in Perspective

Ever Since the State of Jammu & Kashmir became a part of the Indian Union it has remained a vexing problem for the country. Three wars have been fought over it with Pakistan and more Rs. 70,000.00 crores pumped in for its development during the last 43 years. Overlooking all the sacrifices made by the people of India, the Valley of Kashmir seems to be up in arms against its benefactors. Today, the situation appears to be assuming frightening dimension with Pak-trained subversives indulging in murder and mayhem to strike fatal blows to the State's links with India. Whipping up fundamental frenzy and fanning separatist sentiments, they are making people to believe that 'liberation' from India is round the corner.

The problem, however, has not burst upon the scene as a sudden phenomenon, but is the result of follies upon follies committed by the country's leadership which has a pathetic proclivity to ignore realities and stick to clich`s in face of trouble. What is needed is a serious review of these follies in order to get a clear perspective of the present day calamitous situation.

Aggression and Accession

On Aug. 12, 1947, the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir offered to execute a Standstill Agreement with India/Pakistan "on all matters .. pending settlement of details and formal execution of fresh agreement." While the Government of Pakistan signed the Standstill Agreement, the Government of India wanted the Maharaja or a representative of his to come to Delhi "for negotiating Standstill Agreement between Kashmir Government and Indian Dominion.''

Inspite of the Standstill Agreement, Pakistan imposed an economic blockade, cutting off supplies of essential commodltles like food-grains, salt, sugar, tea and petrol to J&K State. In October 1947, having succeeded in creating scarcity of food articles in Kashmir Valley, Pakistan sent in Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes and desperadoes with modern weapons to Poonch, Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli areas of Jammu and then to Muzzaffarbad, Karnah and Uri with the idea of annexing the State of Jammu & Kashmir by force. The Maharaja's forces could not beat back this unannounced aggression by Pakistan as most of his Muslim soldiers joined the aggressors and killed the loyal Hindu soldiers of the State Army. Once the Pakistani invaders reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the beleaguered Maharaja was left with no option but to sue for help from India. Offering to accede to the Indian Dominion, he made a request for military aid which was accepted by the then Governor General, Lord Mountbatten on October 27, 1947. However, in his reply to the Maharaja's request, Lord Mountbatten added a rider: "As soon as law and order has been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people.."

The Role of National Conference

On 15th August, 1947, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and other National Conference leaders and workers were behind the bars. They had been imprisoned for launching the "Quit Kashmir" movement against the autocratic rule in Kashmir. On persistent intervention of Mahatma Gandhi, who visited the State from 1st August to Fourth August in 1947, and other Congress leaders, the Sheikh and his supporters were released on September 4, 1947. The Muslim League leaders, particularly Jinnah, had consistently opposed the freedom movement of Kashmir, calling it a 'goonda' movement. The National Conference leadership, under the guidance of Sheikh Abdullah, decided to defer the issue of accession till the State was granted a responsible government. Meanwhile National Conference leaders Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, who were at that time in Lahore, were asked to act as emissaries and contact Muslim League leaders and Communist supporters of Pakistan with whom they had a good rapport, to bring about reproachment between Sheikh Abdullah and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. However, inspite of their best efforts, they failed in their mission as Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan did not condescend to meet Sheikh Abdullah. It may be recalled here that Jinnah and Sheikh Abdullah had strained their relations in June 1944, when the latter was on a visit to Kashmir. During this visit of his, Jinnah was given a public reception by various political parties of the State. The Sheikh personally welcomed him to the Valley and had long private talks with him. On the very second day of this meeting, Jinnah asked Abdullah at a huge public gathering at Jama Masjid, Srinagar to wind up his National Conference and, using very intemperate language, accused the "Lion of Kashmir" of double think and double talk. An infuriated Sheikh lashed out at Jinnah and asked National Conference workers to see him out of the Valley. After this incident Mohammed Ali Jinnah was not able to address any public gathering in Kashmir and was forced to leave the Valley before schedule. Since then there was no love lost between the two.

Reverting to the accession issue, it may be pointed out that almost the entire leadership of the National Conference, with the exception of Sheikh Abdullah and a few of the party's working committee members, were all for a settlement with Pakistan. Even the Communists of Kashmir, under the directive of CPI, were prepared for Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. It was the Sheikh who, having been appraised of the views of the top Pakistani leadership, was desperately in favor of the State's accession to India. He pleaded fervently with Jawahar Lal Nehru to accept the State's request for accession and to send the Army to Srinagar. He did oppose even "reference to people", as he represented the people of the Valley and headed the then mass based Political Organization National Conference.

History plays cruel jokes at times. Pakistan, which could have got at least the Kashmir Valley and a portion of Jammu region (already under its occupation), lost Kashmir Valley owing to its leader's hauteur. "Kashmir is in my pocket" Jinnah had declared. And his impolitic decision to send tribals and irregulars to invade Kashmir, was his undoing.

Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, under the influence of Lord Mountbatten, could not have made a greater folly than adding the unnecessary rider of "referring to the people" the question of accession, once the condition stabilized and aggression was vacated. To compound the issue further, he referred the matter to the UNO, even against the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, thereby providing an opportunity to the interested Western Powers to play their power game in the Indo-Pak arena. Even though the Indian Government ruled out a plebiscite in Kashmir after Pakistan joined SEATO and other military alliances, Pakistan went on harping on U,N resolutions for plebiscite. These initial mistakes of the Indian leader are with us even today - 43 years later.

Sheikh Abdullah Changes Stance

No sooner had the Indian Army cleared large portions of the State from Pak invaders and cease-fire was agreed to in January 1949, than the Kashmir leader started demanding the Maharaja's ouster and a special status for Kashmir in the name of "Muslims of the Valley" or the "Muslim character" of the State. He took delegation after delegation to Delhi to discuss the issue and sought and got a number of concessions like a separate constitution and a separate flag for the State and a different nomenclature for its head of the State and head of the Government. The head of the State was to be known as Sadr-i-Riyasat, while the head of the Government was to be called the Prime Minister. Congress leaders even got a special provision - Article 370 - incorporated in the Constitution to safeguard the State's special position. While all reasonable and unreasonable demands of the Sheikh were being accepted, in complete disregard to the views of some of Nehru's own ministerial colleagues and a large segment of public opinion in Jammu & Ladakh regions, a section of the Valley's population had started questioning the wisdom of the State's accession to India. In a triumphant mood, Sheikh Abdullah ordered elections for a Constituent Assembly which would frame a Constitution for the State. Overplaying his cards, he got 73 members elected unopposed to the Assembly and engineered the defeat of two opposition candidates from Jammu This led to a virtual one party rule in Kashmir and further alienated the people of Jammu.

The Jammu Agitation and Permit System

Resentful of being completely ignored and sidelined as well as misgoverned, the people of Jammu launched a strong agitation against Kashmir Government and Congress policies under the leadership of Pt. Prem Nath Dogra, a much respected leader of the region. Raising the slogan of "Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishan" (One Constitution, One President, One Flag), Praja Parishad, the organization that spearheaded the agitation, called for extension of all provisions of the Constitution of India to the State. Sheikh Abdullah's government came down heavily on the agitation which resulted in martyrdom of forty young Praja Parishad activists. The Sheikh dubbed the agitators communal even though a large number of Muslims from Jammu participated in it.

In Kashmir too the National Conference Government was accused of corruption and maladministration by a large section of its own left-oriented workers and leaders. Disenchantment with the Sheikh soon set in for his strong arm methods of governance. As discontent started to simmer, the Sheikh's popularity as well as his political base began to erode fast.

Unable to stem the rot in the State (his own creation), Sheikh Abdullah started to think loudly about getting the State out of the Indian Union. He even went to the extent of extolling the new leadership that had emerged in Pakistan after the death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan - his personal enemies. He adopted a new stance of denigrating India and conveying to the Kashmiri Muslim that his woes were not due to misrule or corruption but due to accession to India. He started telling foreign reporters and even some of Nehru's colleagues that the issue of accession needed to be looked into again.

Another event that rocked Kashmir during the first phase of Sheikh Abdullah's rule was the tragic death of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherji, founder President of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, while under detention in Kashmir. Dr. Mukherji had been detained for entering the State without a permit which every Indian living outside the State was required to obtain those days for entry into the State. His death occurred in mysterious circumstances, due to the callous attitude of the State Government, and created a commotion throughout the country. The permit system was withdrawn later, but only after Dr. Mukherji had given his sacrifice.

Abdullah Arrested

Many in the National Conference, like Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, G.M. Sadiq, Maulana Sayeed and D.P. Dhar resented Sheikh Abdullah's anti-India stance and addressed public meetings and party workers opposing this stand. Several Congress leaders came to Srinagar to talk to Sheikh, but in vain. In his arrogance, the Sheikh went as far as insulting Maulana Azad publicly at a gathering at Idgah in Srinagar. He even held secret meetings with foreign diplomats and dignitaries like the American Ambassador in India Mr. Henderson and Adlai Stevenson. This created doubts in the minds of the people. The CPI (undivided) flayed the Sheikh for playing into the hands of "imperialist" powers. Some people demanded action against him for his irresponsible acts and sought his removal from power. Throughout June and July 1953, Sheikh Abdullah continued to fulminate against India and play on anti-India sentiments, refusing even to meet the Prime Minister of the country. Perhaps he thought that the Government of India would succumb to his pressure tactics and, as always, accept his demands, however unreasonable they may be.

In the grave situation that had arisen, the Sadr-i-Riyasat, and the Central Government in consultation with some prominent National Conference leaders, had to take the unpleasant but unavoidable decision of dismissing Sheikh Abdullah and putting him behind the bars. Almost all the political parties in the country supported this decision in national interests.

Bakshi Comes to Power

Sheikh Adullah was replaced by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed as Prime Minister of the State. He received total support from a sizeable section of Natlonal Conference workers and leaders like G. M. Sadiq and Mir Qasim besides the left parties and several traditionally anti-Abdullah groups. Even people from Jammu and Ladakh came out to support him. Bakshi released all political prisoners and through his very first declaration abolished levy of peasants, made education free from elemenltary to college stage, introduced subsidy on food and promised all round dcvelopment of the state. It was during Bakshi's regime that planning was introduced in the State and central loans and assistance sought for economic development. Students were given freeships and scholarships to pursue their studies. A number of new developmental works were executed and an Engineering College, a Medical College. an Ayurvedic-cum-Unani College, Industrial Training Institutes and Politechnics were set up in the State for the first time. Roads and buildings came up and irrigation and hydro-elcctric projects were undertaken. A major achievement was the construction of the Jawahar Tunnel at Banihal which shortened the distance between Jammu & Kashmir considerably, making the national highway viable for traffic for most part af the year. But with the developmental works came the inevitable corruption which infected every fabric of the body politic, giving rise to vested interests. Corruption became rampant as political supporters were to be pampered and political opponents won over with money and other allurements. Several centres of extra-constitutional power developed and some even went to the exent of taking the law into their own hands to browbeat opponents. While the Sheikh had resorted to political blackmail, Bakshi would resort to financial blackmail, asking the Central Government to dish out as much money as possible for keeping Kashmiri Muslims on the right side. Corrupt politicians and officials started arguing that to keep the people of the Valley calm and quiet, all irregularities should be overlooked and condoned.

Formation of Plebiscite Front

Supporters of Sheikh Abdullah in the National Conference rallied around Mirza Mohammed Afzal Beg, his second in command, who formed the J&K Plebiscit Front (PF) in 1954. Declaring plebiscite as its goal, this organisation fomented a lot of trouble in Kashmir Valley. The Plebiscite Front spread its tentacles throughout the valley and enrolled thousands as its members. It fed the people on anti-India sentiments and boycotted all elections in the State. A major portion of the Front's finances came from Pakistan, though some local people and a few Indians also contributed. It is believed that some of its important functionaries received financial help and concessions from Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed even. Sheikh Abdullah was the PF's acknowledged supreme leader, though technically he was not even its member. The political fallout of the PF in the State was growth of anti-India forces and large scale dishonesty and corruption.

Democratic National Conference

By 1957, G.M.Sadiq, D.P. Dhar, Mir Qasim and G.L. Dogra, alongwith their left-leaning supporters, got disillusioned with Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed for his method of governance, rampant corruption and strong-arm tactics of some of his supporters. Ultimately in October 1957, they left National Conference en bloc and formed a new political party named Democratic National Conference (DNC) which attracted a large number of youth to its fold. The formation of DNC resulted in a catharsis of pent up feelings. For the first time a pro-India opposition party in Kashmir Valley was able to galvanize people on non-sectarian issues - issues other than plebiscite. The emergence of DNC sent shock waves through PF leadership, some of whose workers started rethinking and showing eagerness to join a struggle based on economic issues. Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdullah was released from jail in January 1958. Still harboring the dream of independent Kashmir, he bitterly attacked the Government of India in an interview to the Blitz weekly at Kud while having a good word for Pakistan, thinking that his release was caused by international pressure on the Indian Government. In his speeches at Srinagar later, he lashed out at Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed for being "unfaithful", and condemned DNC and its leaders as "Indian agents" and "greater enemies" of Kashmir. He was re-arrested after some time and, alongwith some of his colleagues, charged with subversion and sedition against the State. Sheikh Abdullah's outbursts against the DNC were aimed at stifling pro-India voice and projecting PF as the only representative voice of the people of Kashmir. This betrayed the Sheikh's intolerance of alternative leadership.

In about two years, some of the DNC's top leaders started wavering and joined the Bakshi camp. Finally on the insistence of Nehru and other Congress leaders, the DNC leaders dissolved the party and its members trooped back into National Conference. Thus due to their myopic political vision, the Congress leadership lost a great opportunity of seeing a pro-India political party grow in the State which could act as a safety valve by letting people ventilate their grievances and satisfy their democratic urges.

Bakshi Resigns

In 1963, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was made to resign from the premiership ofthe state under the Kamraj Plan. But the willy Bakshi got Shamsuddin, a supporter of his, elected as leader of the NC Parliamentary Party in disregard to the wishes of the Congress Party bosses, so that he could drive from the backseat. Shamsuddin, however, could only last for 99 days. The theft of the sacred relic at Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar triggered off a gigantic agitation which saw millions come out on the streets of Kashmir, demanding restoration of the relic and prosecution of the "real culprits". The movement turned against Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed and swept Shamsuddin out of power. But for deft handling by Lal Bahadur Shastri and wise counselling by Maulana Sayeed and G.M. Karra, the situation would have led to a holocaust. The sacred relic was finally restored and its genuineness attested to by a respected Muslim saint. The crisis was defused and Sadiq was asked to take over reins of Government.

Sadiq's Experiment

Sadiq came with his new policy of liberalization, promising democratic rights and seeking to win over volatile anti-India elements through discussion and debate. Even Plebiscite Front members were given a certain respectability and their wards and children provided with cushy jobs. A formula was devised for admissions to higher educational institutions and professional colleges on majority-minority basis - the ratio being 70% for Muslims and 30% for non-Muslims. Though this approach helped to some extent in blunting the edge of the underground anti-India movement, and in neutralizing the youth who were provided with jobs, it also encouraged a large section of separatist elements to come to surface. Demonstrations against India on a scale not witnessed before became order of the day and for the first time the slogan "Indian dogs go back" was raised with impunity. To win elections, Sadiq too resorted to the old stratagem of getting his party candidates elected unopposed. However, Sadiq took a number of measures to bring Jammu & Kashmir into the national mainstream. He got the State Constitution amended to have the nomenclature of the Head of the State changed to Governor from Sadr-i-Riyasat and that of the Head of the Government to Chief Minister (Wazir- e-Ala) from Prime Minister (Wazir-e-Azam). The Governor was now to be appointed by the President instead of being elected by the State Legislature. Further, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was extended to the State and several sections of the Indian Constitution made applicable to it. The National Conference was dissolved and merged with the Indian National Congress. This helped to further strengthen political integration. But integration at the emotional level remained a far cry.

Qasim and the Delhi Accord

Sadiq passed away in 1971 and Mir Qasim became the State Chief Minister. During his time overt and covert support to rabid communal organisations like the Jamat-e-Islami grew with the result that it could get five of its members elected to the State Assembly. Anti-India forces gained in strength and the demand for plebiscite was raised with greater vehemance and frequency. Sheikh Abdullah was released and kept in a house in Kotla Lane in Delhi.

In 1972, negotiations were started with Sheikh Abdullah and his colleague Mirza Afzal Beg. After several rounds of talks, an accord was finally reached with the Kashmir leaders. Mir Qasim stepped down and power was handed over to the Sheikh in 1975.

Abdullah Returns to Power

It may be recalled that Sheikh Abdullah had spurned all efforts at reconciliation prior to this. But now his arch foes, Bakshi and Sadiq were dead (He had asked people to dig out Bakshi's grave and given a call for a social boycott of his supporters and sympathisers). But with Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war and the emergence of Bangladesh, he felt that he had no alternative left but to come to terms with reality and accept the accord offered to him.

By accepting the accord, he hadn't become a patriot overnight, nor had he forgotten the past nor forgiven his detractors. But being in power he could create difficulties for the Centre and this he did. His first act was to make some Muslim MLA's of the Congress to defect to his side. Next, he cut off the subsidy given by the Center on food rations, asking people to tighten their belts rather than eat food at subsidized rates. He also reverted to his old game of speaking with two voices - criticising India in front of his Kashmiri audiences and being his sweet reasonable self while speaking to Indian newsmen or addressing Jammu audiences.

During the 1977 elections, he refused to come to an electoral understanding with the Janta Party as that would compromise his anti-India posture. He fought these elections on the plank of opening the Jhelum Valley Road, withdrawal of Indian Army from Kashmir and defeating "political parties of India". He revised the old "Sher-Bakra" feud to placate critics of his changed political stance. A colleague of his would ask for votes with piece of Pakistani rock-salt in his hand (associated with Pakistan in the minds of Kashmiri Muslims) . After winning the elections, Janata Party supporters were given a rough time by NC toughs: 'Bakras' or Maulana Farooq's followers had to flee their homes and seek shelter in safer places to escape the wrath of furious NC enthusiasts. As for Congress supporters, the choicest epithet of "vermin, insects, worms crawling in the drains" were reserved for them.

During the second phase of the Sheikh's rule (1977-82), obscurantist forces were encouraged. The administration was Islamised as far as possible. Friday prayers were offered in offices. Cinema shows on Fridays were cancelled during the day for Namaz. Every conscious effort was made to undermine the authority of the Indian Union. Income tax officials who came to inquire into income tax evasion by some big business houses in Kashmir were not only denied police assistance but also physically manhandled by violent mobs organised by NC goons: IAS officers from outside the State were given insignificant postings, except a few who did their biddings. Jamat-e-Islami schools were not taken over as Sheikh Abdullah had promised earlier. On the other hand, lots of funds started pouring in from Pakistan and Arab countries for the Jamat and its front organisations and the Jamat-e-Ahl-e-Hadis. In March 1980, the Jamat-e-Islami played host to a delegation from Medina University. The delegation was lavishly entertained by the Sheikh as well. Later, a member of the delegation, Prof. Abdul Samad felt encouraged to say, at a open meeting at Hotel Lala Rukh, Srinagar". For an Islamic revolution we have to prepare the people individually and collectively. To achieve it we have to give sacrifices". The same year in September, Amir Jamat-e-Islami of Occupied Kashmir, Maulana Abdulla paid a visit to Kashmir and publicly proclaimed that Kashmiris were not a party to the Simla Agreement. It  is believed that the Maulana had come to brief his counterpart in Kashmir on Gen. Zia's Kashmir plan - "Operation Topac". However, on the advice of the Central Government, he was asked to leave Kashmir within twenty four hours.

Under one pretext or other a number of new police battalions were raised. Some of these battalions recruited Jamat activists and even persons believed to be from across the line of control.

To prove himself to Kashmiri Muslims, the Sheikh resorted to Islamization. Government as well as Muslim Auqaf funds were spent on building impressive mosques and beautifying areas surrounding mosques. Muslim property worth crores of rupees was built on government land. A special SRO was issued to change the names of hundreds of Kashmir villages so as to obliterate traces of old history and culture. By this policy the Sheikh helped, directly or indirectly, forces, inimical to India and its secular character. He spent his last years in power to make India 'a suspect' in the eyes of Kashmiri Muslims. That is one of the reasons why he described all Kashmiri Pandits as IB agents in his autoblography "Aatsh-e-Chinar," and castigated Indian Secularism and Congress leaders. Incidently this book has been awarded the Sahitya Academy award.

It is conceded by even his admirers that Sheikh Abdullah died a bitter man. He had stopped trusting people. He fell out with Afzal Beg who was thought to be his alter ego. He did not have any confidence even in his son-in-law, G.M. Shah. So he declared his son, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, as his heir and made him the President of the National Conference. Addressing a public gathering to mark this occasion, he said, "I trust him and request you too to help him in doing the job. Like me, he won't betray your trust. What I have not been able to achieve, he will." In September 1982, Sheikh Abdullah passed away and Dr. Farooq was made the Chief Minister ignoring the claims of his seniors and without consulting the party legislators. Everything was done silently and swiftly, with the blessings of Mrs. Gandhi, as Farooq was close to her son Rajiv.

Farooq Abdullah - X-rayed and Exposed

Farooq Abdullah's political education started in England where he came into contact with a JKLF group that had close links with the British Secret agencies. He came into contact with the JKLF leader Amanullah Khan in London on his arrival there in 1971, after fleeing Pakistan with his friends to evade arrest. During his visit to Pakistan in 1973, Farooq Abdullah went to Pak-occupied Kashmir and took an oath to 'Liberate' Kashmir in a ceremony organised by the JKLF. He also administered such an oath to a number of other young men present there. When Sheikh Abdullah was accorded a reception in Kashmir after his return to power, Farooq too joined the procession alongwith a number of his JKLF friends whom he had brought with himself all the way from England and raised a new slogan "Chyon Desh, Myon Desh - Kashur Desh, Kashur Desh" (Kashmir is your country, and mine). Whether he continued to have links with JKLF after donning the robes of Chief Ministership, is an open question, left to the people to judge. Let us have a brief look at some of his activities within the State and outside.

On assuming office with the help of his father's ministerial colleagues, he denounces them at a public meeting right in their presence and asks for people's mandate to have a new team of 'honest and trustworthy' ministers. Fed up with corruption, people shout the ministers down and make them run for their lives.

He tells the gathering that he will never compromise 'the dignity and honour' of Kashmiris, even if it means "fighting the mighty India." Within three months he assumes an anti-Center, anti-Congress stance and aligns with the opposition parties as a tactical move to make his position comfortable. He allows his state to become a backyard of Punjab terrorists who pour in large numbers. Many young Sikhs of Jammu & Kashmir join their ranks during his first tenure as Chief Minister. He provides facilities to terrorists from Punjab to set up training centres in Kashmir and allows local Sikh extremists to take out processions and demonstrations.

On hearing the news of Bhindranwale's death, he rushes to Khir Bhawani, where a fair is on, (most Hindus go to this shrine on Ashtami day) and tells the pilgrims to rush back to their homes as the ''Sardars have lost their Guru" warning them that "the situation was going to become pretty bad here as well as in India." He knows that the situation will take an ugly turn, yet he - the Chief Minister-cannot prevrent arson and loot of houses, temples and places of religious assembly like the Nirankari Bhawan, in sensitive areas of Srinagar like Jawahar Nagar, Wazir Bagh and Hanuman Mandir. He sends the police only when the situation starts getting out of control and Army vehicles are attacked, with the result that more than 15 persons unnecessarily lose their lives in police firing.

At Kashmir University functions, he exhorts students to preserve "Kashmiriyat" and Islamic identity. He patronises a group of Kashmiri intellectuals asking its members to project "Kashmiriyat" before like-minded intellectuals elsewhere in India, particularly those holding anti-Congress views, though himself he has very little concern for the cultural values and ethos fostered by Kashmir.

He accuses India of fomenting communal trouble and asks whether the Kashmiri Musalman is safe in India. Before Indian political leaders and mediamen, he tries to present himself as an Indian patriot hounded by Mrs. Gandhi and her Congress. In Kashmir, he joins hands with the arch rival of the Abdullah family, Maulana Farooq raising the slogan of Muslim brotherhood. He organises the youth wing of National Conference and exhorts youth to work in unison for the goal and be prepared for the 'battle for freedom." As the 1983 elections draw near, he starts fulminating against India and the Central Government. Addressing election meetings he says, 'We are fighting the Congress. Its defeat will mean the defeat of the central power that wants to subjugate Kashmiris."

When Mrs. Gandhi comes to address a public meeting, the meeting is disturbed and Mrs. Gandhi cajoled and insulted right in the presence of the police. Some NC goons go to the extent of exposing their naked genitals before her; The Congress office in Srinagar is set on fire and all the persons named in the FIR are found out to be National Conference activists.

During the elections hired hoodlums and toughs are let loose in predominantly anti-NC areas. At places, impersonation is so blatant that an ex-IGP is told his vote has been already cast.

F'arooq Abdullah wins from most of the Muslim constituencies on an anti-India and anti-Hindu platform, while the Congress wins from most of the Jammu areas by playing the Hindu card.

Being the majority party leader, Dr. Farooq forms the government, concentrating most of the power in his own hands; It is during this second tenure of his that a 'One Day Cricket Match' between West Indies and India is organised at Srinagar. During this match, the Indian players are booed at and greeted with chants of 'Indian dogs go back' by hooligans waiving Pakistan flags. A pandemonium-breaks out in presence of Farooq Abdullah, who not only sits through all this but even tries to justify it. Perhaps this demonstration is aimed at making the foreign team understand that Kashmiris are not with India. This results in cancellation of such matches in Kashmir for the future.

In order to gain friends in India, Farooq tries to prolect hirnself as an anti-Congress Chief Minister. To this end he attends conclaves of opposition leaders and invites them to Kashmir. This takes in even the shrewdest of Indian politicians, for he tries to be all things to all men, while keeping his real cards close to his chest.

Even as he was doing every thing to dilute the central authority, he maintained close relations with Rajiv with the help of some common friends. Inspite of his gimmicks, Farooq failed to create any impression as an administrator, spending most of his time in pleasure pursuits. His cavalier attitude and frivolous manner cost him his seat, as Mrs. Gandhi eased him out by engineering defections with the help of his brother-in-law G.M. Shah. Supported by the Congress, the defectors formed a new government in July, 1984.

Shah's Misrule & the 1986 Riots

Shah's installation as Chief Minister proved too costly for India. Even people opposed to Dr. Farooq were not happy with Shah and his ways. During his rule, the State slumped into chaos and confusion. Bomb blasts and subversion became order of the day and life came to a standstill due to frequent imposition of curfew. Some people believed it to be the handiwork of JKLF activists said to be instigated by Dr. Farooq to queer the pitch for G.M.Shah.

All through this period, Farooq feigned an injured innocence and tried to gain the sympathy of the opposition leaders and the media. He had two faces to show to people - his anti-India face which was meant for his supporters in Kashmir and the face of a victimized person which he showed to his friends in the opposition and the Congress.

In February, 1986, riots broke out in Kashmir against the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Pandits, particularly in the district of Anantnag. Fundamentalists joined by some N. workers and Congressmen went on a spree of loot and arson and desecraion of temples to terrorise the helpless Pandits. Nobody had the courage to save them from the hands of the rioters except some old nationalist minded Muslims. Stern action proposed against the then Dy. Commissioner and Police Chief of Anantnag District was opposed by some religious hot-heads and political extremists. In view of the situation getting out of hand, Congress withdrew its support to the Shah Ministry and Governor's rule was imposed. Shah fell, not because of the sympathy that Farooq had gained during this period, but because of his own misrule.

The Governor takes Charge

The Governor's rule came as a boon to the people who were fed up with corruption and misgovernance. With the Governor in charge, things started moving in Kashmir. Peoples' grievances got redressed without delay and corruption eliminated to a large extent. The Governor made every officer responsible for his job in order to solve the problems faced by the common man. Problems like water scarcity and power shortage that had been plaguing the state for years, were remedied in a short period. Governor Jagmohan captured the hearts of the Kashmiri people who felt greatly impressed by his administrative acumen and competence. Yet there were some persons - politicians, power brokers, black marketeers, corrupt officials, drug peddlers and exploiters of all hues - who were not happy. These people started ganging up and spreading canards against Governor Jagmohan, some called him "a Muslim baiter" and some "a Hindu chauvinist" of Turkman Gate fame. These allegations, however, made little dent on public opinion, as people for the first time saw things being done.

The Rajiv - Farooq Combine

While the Governor was busy clearing the augean stable in the State, Dr. Farooq was busy mending his fences with the Center. Corrupt politicians and big businessmen also wanted the Governor's rule to go as they feared that they would not be able to get their share of the "loot". By this time Rajiv had already decided to put Farooq back in the saddle and share power with him in Kashmir. He eased out Mufti Mohammed Sayeed from Presidentship of J & K Congress by inducting him into the Central Cabinet. Mufti had tried to build a base for the Congress in Kashmir and in the process had offered resistance to both the Sheikh and Dr. Abdullah. During his Presidentship of the State Congress, the Kashmir Government had resorted to lathi charge and firing on a pro-India rally shouting "India Zindabad" that he had organised. This had resulted in 9 deaths. With the Mufti out of the way, all impediments to a Congress-NC alliance were removed. Though Farooq could have possibly won the elections on his own on an anti-India plank, he chose to have an electoral alliance with Congress so as to make sure he would retain power. In the elections, National Conference and Congress had to face a lot of resistance. Fearing that the National Conference would lose 14 to 15 seats, the party indulged in all possible malpractices, the worst being the misuse of police and administrative machinery in contriving the results. Eager to share power, Congress made the blunder of leaving the field open to sectarian opposition. By making Congress the Junior coalition partner, Dr. Farooq, on the other hand, was able to get its influence almost wiped out in the State. Everybody in the Congress revolved round the ministers to ask for favours and as the favours were not easy to come by, because the Congress Ministers did not have any powers and the civil service too was apathetic towards them, people started getting disillusioned and veering away from them.

A New Alliance and the Upsurge of Militancy

Such activists of NC as had burnt the Congress office at the bidding of their leaders and indulged in other subversive activities, felt cheated by the Congress-NC alliance. So they organized themselves into a new alliance - the Muslim United Front-which comprised the Jamat-i-Islami, People's Party, Itehad-ul-Musalmeen, Awami Action Committee, Independent National Conrerence of G. M. Shah and some youth and student groups. The alliance got defeated in the elections, its workers beaten up and humiliated. Of these, a group of youngsters belonging to the Amira Kadal constituency, who formed the NC's 'martial brigade' earlier, got particularly infuriated and vowed to avenge their humiliation. One Aijaz Dar announced right outside the counting hall, from where he was thrown out by the police and the NC candidate, that he and his friends would shoot Farooq and other NC leaders as well as top police and civil officers and other prominent persons. Dar was killed in a police "encounter" and with his death terrorism took a new turn in Kashmir. Instead of the VIPs, softer targets were taken - an odd NC worker, a petty police officer, and a number of defenseless Kashmiri Pandits. The fact is that terrorist activity in Kashmir got a shot in the arm when Farooq took over the second time. His first act was to release a number of militants from jail. For sometime the activities of terrorists remained confined to bomb blasts and sniping at police officers. Later they changed their strategy and made buses, tourist coaches and Central Government offices also their targets. Taking it as a challenge, some police officers succeeded in arresting quite a number of them, including some self-styled "Area Commanders" of today. But in 1989, Farooq Abdullah released as many as 23 top militants on the plea that this would give them a chance to join the mainstream and claimed that this had the approval of "Rajiv Gandhi". The release of the militants demoralised the police officers some of whom were asked telephonically by the terrorists to stay away and not to "burn their fingers" unnecessarily. The message was clear and loud. Police and civil administration officers now started giving shelter to terrorists and some police officers were even seen saluting them. Some known terrorists were seen walking down the streets of Srinagar and exchanging "hello" with policemen on duty.

Feeling encouraged, the militants set the National Flag on fire right under the supervision of the local police, while CRP men on duty stood watching helplessly waiting for orders and instructions from the local police.

A measure of the militants' new boldness could be witnessed on August 14, 1989, when Pakistan's Independence Day was celebrated in the Valley with great pomp and show. On the other hand, on August 15 India's national flag was made bonfire of at a number of places. Blackout was observed in the evening which was carried out from transmissions stations at a number of places.

A number of school buildings were burnt in the next phase and several business concerns and godowns ransacked. Anyone reporting an incident to the police now got a stock reply: "Take it easy and forget about it." The rot that had set in was so deep that a Kalashnikov gun and some hand grenades and time bombs were recovered from the house of the Law Minister's son-in-law: a junior engineer. The junior engineer's younger brother was arrested by the police in this case, but was bailed out on the intervention of Farooq Abdullah.

Bars and wine shops were now made the targets and were looted and bombed during day time. Prominent tourist hotels like the Broadway were asked to wind up their bars and Amarsingh Club, Srinagar Club and Golf Club which had Farooq himself as Patron or President, had to close down their bars. Liquor traders were attacked, their trade premises looted and ransacked forcing them to close their business.

The fact is that Farooq Abdullah's government had abdicated its responsibility much before December 1989 and various terrorist outfits had taken control of the Valley. Local dailies started reporting the terrorists' activities prominently. These included the "Quomi Awaz", official organ of the State Congress. The papers were asked by the terrorists to refrain from writing anything that went against them. Even 'Kashmir Times' an English daily from Jammu, used to give prominence only to terrorist actitivities in the Valley.

It is indeed intriguing that when the State's administrative machinery had come to a standstill, Farooq chose to be away on foreign jaunts. Equally intriguing is the manner in which pistols and small arms issued to NC workers found their way to the terrorists (They were snatched away from them, is the explanation offered, but that is hardly convincing). Another unusual phenomenon that erupted in 1988-89 is the 'civil curfew' or 'curfew' imposed by the terrorists themselves. During this 'curfew' or a strike call given by terrorist outfits, shops and concerns owned by the government or Congress or NC supporters were the first to close.

The Rubaiya Episode

The release of Rubaiya, daughter of India's Home Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, in exchange for five top militants marked a turning point in the militant movement in Kashmir. With their spirits soaring higher than ever before, militants and their supporters came out in the streets in their thousands to celebrate their triumph; singing and dancing wildly. Anti-India slogans rent the air and for sometime it looked as if Kashmir had become a part of Pakistan. The Abdullah government was so paralysed that it did nothing to bring the situation under control, not even impose a curfew. In fact, the entire state machinery appeared to be cooperating with the terrorists in their awful display of strength.

Terrorist Outfits and Their Hues

Right from 1949, Pakistan has been involved directly in organizing subversion in Kashmir. In 1965, it sent thousands of armed infiltrators to grab Jammu & Kashmir for Pakistan, but the attempt misfired and resulted in Indo-Pak war and the Tashkent Agreement. Pakistan was again bloodied in the 1971 war, but it learnt no lessons and continued to foment trouble in the State. For this purpose a new subversive organization, the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, was set up in Bhutto's time which adopted killings and kidnappings as its main strategy. But it was General Zia who cleverly manipulated a plan of subterfuge, subversion and terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir providing claws to militancy. His plan for Kashmir, code named Operation Topac, was prepared painstakingly with the help of ISI and was to be implemented in three phases. In his view, "It would take a lot of time for Kashmiri Muslims to rise in armed revolt against India as they have no martial tradition, but they can through their cunning subvert Indian polity in Kashmir. Attention should be concentrated on winning over Muslim bureaucrats and police force and dry up all intelligence sources. Once it is done, rest can be left to Pak forces." Zia got Kashmiri Muslim youth enrolled for arms training and subversion by ISI with the help of JKLF and Jamat-e-Islami. The first batch received such training in Pakistan in 1984-85. This batch included several known NC workers who were sent to Pakistan with the blessings of important N.C. leaders. Later Jamat-e-Islami started sending its own boys for the training. Training camps were also set up in the outskirts of Srinagar as well as some rural and border areas of Kashmir valley. These activities were brought to the notice of the Center, but it chose to ignore the reports on the ground that law and order is a state subject and Farooq, who held the home portfolio, had denied that any such activity was going on in Kashmir. Interestingly, when bomb blasts and other subversive acts rocked the Valley during G. M. Shah's time, he put the blame on Farooq and his supporters. Thus, as the administration slept, militants made hay and merrily trained Muslim youth in the use of firearms and explosives. The cult of the Kalashnikov changed the entire complexion of the militant movement in 1988-89, with the extremists getting more and more defiant with every passing day, till the situation exploded in December last. In the meanwhile, a plethora of militant groups cropped up, varying in hues but united in their determination to "liberate" Kashmir from India and following a well planned strategy of creating terror and anarchy. Today, besiders JKLF, Hizbi Islami Dukhtaran-i-Kashmir, Hizbul-Mujahideen, Allah Tigers, Al Khomeini, Operation Balakote etc. have become names that are holding the entire Kashmir valley in a grip of terror - a grip that has shown no signs of relaxing so far.

Strategy of Subversion

Working in tandem, these terrorist, fundamentalist and secessionist outfits are guided by Zia's Operation Topac for their strategy, which in a nutshell is: 1) Spread fear and terror; 2) Spread half-truths and falsehoods; 3) Demoralise political opponents; 4) Gain active support of Muslim police and bureaucracy in the name of Islam and Jehad; 5) Suppress all dissent through threats, bomb blasts or shoot-outs; 6) Indulge in selective killings of non-Muslims and scare them away through verbal or written warnings; 7) Indulge in arson, loot and destruction of liquorshops, bars, clubs, video parlours, beauty parlours etc, as these are all un-Islamic; 8) Ensure strict adherence to Islamic rules of conduct; for instance, purdah in case of women; 9) Eliminate Indian Intelligence personnel, expecially non-Muslims; 10) Burn down government and private schools run by non-Muslims and promote Jamat schools; 11) Do not allow any political activity except that which is sanctioned by militant organisations; 12) Take control of local mosques and mullahs; 13) Ambush and attack security forces; 14) Kidnap VIP's and their relatives; 15) Assasinate political enemies and deserters.

With these tactics in their repertory, the militant groups are recruiting boys and girls aged between 15 and 18 for indoctrination and training, as youth belonging to this age group are most impressionable, idealistic, obedient and inclined to make any sacrifice demanded of them. Hero worship and unquestionable faith in the leader are the other traits that makes them most suited for carrying out secret assignments.

Irrelevance of Political Parties

With Pakistan-backed secessionist movement holding absolute sway political parties have been rendered irrelevant in the State. Paralysed by rear, they do not have the courage to come out in the open and face the terrorist challenge. While the cleverly manipulated Zia Plan has kept its schedule, political parlies in the State have responded by silence and inaction. Riven with dissensions, the Congress has been annihilated in the Valley while the discredited NC leadership has started speaking in a voice not too different from that of the militants. The party's ranks are deserting it by droves and its organisational set-up has totally collapsed.

For the last two years, functionaries of the party have been publicly disowning their links with it through announcements in the local dailies. Many a top beneficiary of NC-Congress rule have switched over their loyalty and are today helping the militants liberally with funds.

Other parties do not matter at all, whatever their hue. The left parties, CPI and CPM, which tried to take a stand, have been ferociously attacked. Their offices have been ransacked, their leaders assassinated, their workers terrorised. Bombs have been planted in the houses of several of their activists forcing them to disclaim their "connections with the Communists" and announce their "faith in Allah and Islam". Most of the non-Muslim members of these parties have fled the Valley, while their Muslim members are either living in Jammu or hiding in the Valley.

The BJP has been one of the worst victims of the militants' wrath-its leader Tika Lal Taploo being the first to be assassinated for his courage of conviction. A number of BJP workers left the Valley in wake of Taploo's murder, for they too had received threats of being physically liquidated.

With this being the political situation in the Valley today, it is amusing to hear some people talking of resuming the "political process" in Kashmir. This is being done more with a view to taking political advantage of the situation than any understanding of the reality on the ground. The Indian political parties have, with the exception of the Bhartiya Janta Party, not been able to desist from exploiting the situation for partisan ends.

It is high time Indian political leaders removed their blinkers and saw the reality. The situation is too grave to indulge in the game of politicking and scoring points. The challenge posed by the terrorists is a challenge of fascist forces which can not be met with democratic dialogue. It is a challenge to the very basis of our nationhood, its ethos, its culture. What can be the basis for a dialogue when the militants have time and again rejected all political solutions except establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state outside the Indian Union - as a prelude to joining Pakistan.

The scribes and the so-called liberatarians who are crying hoarse against what they call police repression and genocide must know that, what is at stake in Kashmir is not only the unity and integrity of the nation but the very ideological foundations to which it has remained moored through the centuries. The problem in Kashmir is that a full-fledged armed uprising against the country has been engineered with the help of Pakistan, and an armed revolt can not be put down by political dialogue but by firm action. Seeing things through the eyes of Khoemeini brand rabid fundamentalists responsible for brutal and barbaric killings of innocent people, to dub action taken by the security forces to protect lives and property of innocent citizens and to prevent anarchy as repression is pathological indeed. Why don't these political pundits and self-styled champions of human rights come out from their safe havens and tell the terrorists that they are following a wrong path? Why don't they condemn their brutalities, their inhumanity, their callousness, their bigotry? Why don't they feel outraged when murderous gangs indulge in gory acts in the name of religion, democracy and freedom ? Do they know that more than 90% of the minority Kashmiri Hindus have been hounded out of the Valley while the remaining 10% are holed up in their houses like scared rabbits ? Why are they then silent over it ? Why this hypocrisy?

Economic Discontent - A Myth Exploded

What is the cause for this uprising, this anti-India sentiment ? Surely not economic discontent as some who like to cling to romantic illusions would like us to believe. These people while sipping Martini or listening to Mozart like to talk of Kashmir's backwardness or identity crisis. There is nothing farther from the truth. Kashmir alone does not have the problem of unemployment. Economic conditions in Kashmir are much better than in many an Indian State. Kashmir is the only place in the country after Punjab where most of the agricultural operations are being got done by hired labor from Bihar or Orissa. It is the only place where education is free from elementary to professional and university level. The only place where land was distributed to the tillers, where per capita saving is highest in India and per capita consumption also of animal proteins; and expenditure on clothing is also the highest; where everybody has a place of his own to live. They should have seen the number of "poor" Kashmiris paying hefty sums of two to three lakhs as capitation fees for admission to a recently opened private medical college in Kashmir before raising the myth of economic backwardness. Do they know that these so called backward people own assets worth hundreds of crores in metropolitan cities of India besides their native Kashmir.

As for identity crisis, let it suffice to say that Kashmir is the only place where people prefer to teach their children Urdu or English instead of Kashmiri.

The Illiusion and the Solution

This then is the perspective in which the current crisis in Kashmir should be viewed. It has not been triggered by unemployment or some such imagined horror. It is the creation of Pakistani manipulations and machinations. The plan in operation shows the direct hand of Pakistan, of the ISI working in collaboration with Pakistani political organisation. It would be dishonesty to shy away from calling a spade a spade. The situation is bad enough but not irremediable. Secessionists consumed by hatred of India and every thing that India stands for, who have gone berserk causing death and destruction in the state, have to be eliminated and authority of the state established firmly. A clear and unambiguous message has to be put across to them and those instigating and inspiring them that India has the will and power to hold Kashmir.

Respect for the state authority has to be instilled in the minds of militants and terrorists and their attempts to create trouble foiled with a firm hand. Only then can dialogue be opened and political process restarted. The policy of pampering and purchasing loyalties has proved self defeating. A new thinking and a new outlook has to be developed, to make the Kashmiri speaking part of the State, understand that India extends from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and all its people irrespective of language, culture, caste and ethnic backgrounds are a part of this great country. Succumbing to financial or political blackmail by a region of the State can only result in further problems in other regions of the State. Let the State be rid of terrorists as a first priority. Any political process can be initiated only after terrorism is completely stamped out and normalcy restored. This political process should, however, remain confined to the limits of the constitution and involve all the three regions of the state so that they have a sense of justice and equal participation.

Edited by:   
Dr. S. S. Toshkhani 
Mr. B. L. Kaul 
Prof. M. L. Raina

Krishna Joo Razdan

- Dr. Shashishekhar Toshkhani

Festivals of Kashmiri Pandits

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

Let us cast a glance at some of the religious festivals celebrated by the Kashmiri Hindus. An interesting fact about them needing investigation is that some of these are celebrated a day ahead of their celebration by Hindus in other parts of the country. Shivaratri, regarded as the most important festival of the community, for instance, is celebrated by them on trayodashi or the thirteenth of the dark half of the month of Phalguna (February-March) and not on chaturdashi or the fourteenth as in the rest of the country. The reason for it is that this long drawn festival that is celebrated for one full fortnight as an elaborate ritual is associated with the appearance of Bhairava (Shiva) as a jwala-linga or a linga of flame. Called ‘Herath’ in Kashmiri, a word derived from the Sanskrit ‘Hararatri’the ‘Night of Hara’ (another name of Shiva), it has been described as Bhairavotsava in Tantric texts as on this occasion Bhairava and Bhairavi, His Shakti or cosmic energy, are propitiated through Tantric worship. According to the legend associated with the origin of the worship, the linga appeared at pradoshakala or the dusk of early night as a blazing column of fire and dazzled Vatuka Bhairava and Rama (or Ramana) Bhairava, Mahadevi’s mind-born sons, who approached it to discover its beginning or end but miserably failed. Exasperated and terrified they began to sing its praises and went to Mahadevi, who herself merged with the awe-inspiring jwala-linga. The Goddess blessed both Vatuka and Ramana that they would be worshipped by human beings and would receive their share of sacrificial offerings on that day and those who would worship them would have all their wishes fulfilled. As Vatuka Bhairava emerged from a pitcher full of water after Mahadevi cast a glance into it, fully armed with all his weapons (and so did Rama), he is represented by a pitcher full of water in which walnuts are kept for soaking and worshipped along with Shiva, Parvati, Kumara, Ganesha, their ganas or attendant deities, yoginis and kshetrapalas(guardians of the quarters) - all represented by clay images. The soaked walnuts are later distributed as naivedya. The ceremony is called’vatuk baru’ in Kashmiri, which means filling the pitcher of water representing the Vatuka Bhairava with walnuts and worshipping it.

The Puja comprises elaborate Tantric rituals that involve observance of a fast during the day and performance of a yaga or fire sacrifice at night. Choice dishes, mainly of meat and fish but also vegetarian as an option, are cooked as sacrificial food and partaken of by the worshipper and his family after being symbolically offered to the whole host of deities and attendant deities associated with Shivaratri. This is essential for everyone, the related texts em­phasize. Those who do so are supposed to achieve progress and prosperity in life and have all their wishes fulfilled. But those who do not partake of the sacrificial food and do not break their fast after the Puja are bound to go to hell or take re­birth as lowly animals besides facing all kinds of disappointments in life, as related texts like the Shiva Samhita say:

“yo yagotsavam ulanghya tishthet nirashano vrato

jivan sa pashutameti mrito niryamapnuyat”

The symbolism of the aniconic earthen images, vagur, sonipotul and others representing Shiva, Ganesha, Parvati, yoginis and kshetrapalas, is not clear, as no available text has cared to have thrown any light on it. The vagur,specially worshipped on the dvadashi night itself, is perhaps a vestige of the rites of the Kaula cult as the manual on Shivaratri Puja suggests. It further indicates that these rites are related to Bhairava Puja: “atha dvadashyam pujanam Bhairavam namami”, without elaborating. This has resulted in ridiculous etymologies of the names of the anicons being claimed by some people. The clay images are, nonetheless, essential to the performance of the ritual activity. As they are not made on the potter’s wheel, their worship may have originated in an early period.

However, it is clear from what we have said above that there is difference in the way Shivaratri is celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandits and by Hin­dus elsewhere in the country. The Pandits not only celebrate it as Bhairavotsavaone day earlier but also perform quite different rituals. Further, the tradition among Hindus in general is to strictly observe a fast on the Shiva Chaturdashi day. Even taking fruit or betel leaf is considered as violation of the fast.

Shivayaga chaturdashyam ma vrate phala bhojanam”, says the Padma Purana. The Markandeya Purana going a step ahead adds: “tambulam api na dadyat vrata bhanga bhayam priye”. It is not that the Kashmiri Pandits do not celebrate on the chaturdshi day, but it is a day of feasting for them. The Nilamata Purana, it may be noted, clearly says that Shivaratri is celebrated on the chaturdashi of the dark fortnight of Phalguna.


There are several other festivals and Puja rites peculiar to Kashmiri Pandits, some of them dating back to hoary antiquity. One such distinctly Kashmiri festival is Khetsimavas or Yakshamavasya which is celebrated on theamavasya or the last day of the dark fortnight of Pausha (December-January). Commemorative of the coming together and co-mingling of various races and ethnic groups in prehistoric Kashmir, khichari is offered on this day as sacrificial food to Kubera indicating that the cult of Yaksha existed there from very early times. Khetsimavas appears to be a folk-religious festival - a pestle, or any stone in case that is not available, is washed and anointed with sandalwood paste and vermilion on this evening and worshipped taking it to be an image of Kubera. Khichari is offered to him with naivedya mantras and a portion of it is kept on the outer wall of his house by the worshipper in the belief that Yaksha will come to eat it.


Kashmiri Pandits celebrate their New Year’s Day on Chaitra shukla patipadaor the first day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra (March-April) and call it Navreh - the word navreh, derived from the Sanskrit ‘nava varsha’,literary meaning ‘new year’. On the eve of Navreh, a thali of unhusked rice with a bread, a cup of curds, a little salt, a little sugar candy, a few walnuts or almonds, a silver coin, a pen a mirror, some flowers and the newpanchanga or almanac is kept and seen as the first thing on waking up in the morning. The Bhringisha Samhita says that the thali should be of bronze (kansyapatraka) and adds that a devamurti or an image of a god should also be kept in it along with the things mentioned above. It may be noted that the rite of seeing the thali filled with unhusked rice etc. is observed on Sonth or the Kashmiri spring festival also.

The Saptarshi Era of the Kashmiri Hindu calendar is believed to have started on this very day, some 5079 years ago. According to the legend, the celebrated Sapta Rishis assembled on the Sharika Parvata (Hari Parbat), the abode of the goddesss Sharika, at the auspicious moment when the first ray of the sun fell on the Chakreshvara on this day and paid tribute to her. Astrologers made this moment as the basis of their calculations of the nava varsha pratipada, marking the beginning of the Saptarshi Era. Before their exodus Kashmiri Pandits would flock to Hari Parbat in thousands to celebrate Navreh.

So widespread is the cult of the Mother Goddess among Kashmiri Hindus that every family in the community has one form or the other of hers as its tutelary deity. The most popu­lar manifestations of the Great Devi are Kshir Bhavani or Ragya (pronounced ‘Ragnya’by the Pandits) and Sharika. The shrines of these two goddesses at Tulmula and Hari Parbat are held as most sacred by all the Hindus of Kashmir irrespective of their cultic affiliations.

Jyeshtha Ashtami:

On Jyeshtha Ashtami, or the eighth day of the bright half of Jyeshtha (May-June) a big festival is held at Tulmul to celebrate the pradurbhava of the Goddess Ragya (Kshir Bhavani). Another festival is held at the shrine on Asharha Ashtami with equal devotional fervour, the sacred spring of the shrine that miraculously changes its colour having been discovered on thesaptami of that month. The devotees offer their worship, individually or in groups, waving lamp (dipd) and burning incense (dhupa) while reciting hymns to the Goddess and singing devotional songs. They make offerings of khir toher and of milk, loaf-sugar and flowers, which they offer into the spring. Ritually no specific procedure is prescribed for the Puja at Kshir Bhavani. The Bhringish Samhita simply says that the Devi, whose mantra is of fifteen syllables, accepts offerings of milk, sugar candy and ghee only - “sa kshira-kharuladi bhojanam”.

Tiky Tsoram:

Tripura Sudari, literally meaning “she who is lovely in the three worlds”, is one of the most important goddesses worshipped in the Tantric tradition in Kashmir. Her cult is particularly popular among the Tiku clan of Kashmiri Pandits who celebrate her festival on Tikya Tsoram, one day before Vasant Panchami. The surname ‘Tiku’ is derived from “trika”, according to popular etymology. Her devotees believe that she combines in her form all three Goddesses, Mahalakshmi, Maha-sarswati and Mahakali, and all three of her cosmic functions. However, she is also worshipped by the entire Hindu community in Kashmir and from very early times. As Tripura Sundari (Shodashi), she occupies a prominent position in both Kashmiri and South Indian Tantrism. Apart from her anthropomorphic image, she is accessed ritually through her mantra and yantra.


Pan (literally meaning thread) is a festival originally associated with the spinning of newly produced cotton and worshipping the twin agricultural goddesses, obviously local, Vibha and Garbha to whom roths or sweet bread cakes were offered. Though Kashmir is not said to have a climate suitable for growing cotton, there is a strong tradition suggesting that it actually did grow there. The festival falls on the Ganesh Chaturthi (Vinayaka Tsoram) day and the worship of Lakshmi on this occasion seems to have been inducted later. Not that the worship dedicated to the local goddesses was appropriated wilfully by followers of the cult of Lakshmi, but there appears to have been a mix-up at some point of time. The twin goddesses themselves seem to have merged into one another assuming the identity of the folk deity Beeb Garabh Maj, whose very name- obviously a distortion - points to such a possibility. Beeb Garabh Maj is represented by a lota or a water pot which is placed in the centre of the place where the Puja is to be performed, a cotton thread being tied to its neck and handful of dramun or runner grass kept inside it, pointing again to its agricultural origin. A story is told at the Pan Puja which is quite similar to the Satyanaryana Katha, showing some sort of confusion between two different Pujas. Preparation of the roths and their distribution for ushering in prosperity and auspiciousness has, however, become an important part of Kashmiri Pandit religious life.

Other Festivals:

Kashmiri Hindus celebrate many other religious festivals also like Kava Punim, Ganga Atham, Tila Atham, Vyatha Truvah, Anta Tsodah, Mahakali’s Birthday etc. which had distinct ritual flavour, but most of which are now forgotten, the changed times and the exodus of the Pandits from Kashmir having taken their toll. Some like Janamashtami, which, quite interestingly, is actually celebrated one day earlier on the saptami, Dashahar (Dusshera), Durgashtami, Ramanavami etc. are still celebrated but not all of them have a distinctively Kashmiri flavour. Many others have been lost to geography, the Pandits being unable to celebrate them as they have been thrown out of their habitat.t

*The Author has worked on Rituals and Ritual Arts of Kashmiri Pandits. His earlier studies on Lal Ded and Kashmiri language have been widely acclaimed.


Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Mekhal Ritual of Kashmiri Pandits

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

“Mekhal” is what the Kashmiri Pandits call upanayana or yajnopavit (sacred thread investiture) and the whole range of ceremonies connected with it, though wearing the mekhala or the girdle of Munja grass is only one of them. How they came to use the word for the whole samskara is not clear. But it seems that at some point in time it must have been for them the most important part of the sacred thread investiture ceremony as it stressed the vows of celibacy and purity of conduct as an essential prerequisite for the initiate to go to the Acharya to learn. Actually, upanayana, with which it has become synonymous, was in the beginning an educational samskara which was performed when the teacher accepted to take charge of the student and impart necessary education to him. According to Dr. Rajbali Pandey, it was made compulsory to make education universal. Slowly it began to loose its pure educational sense and assumed a ceremonious character with the investiture of the sacred thread, which took place at the end of the yajna performed to mark the initiation and became the main ritual. In course of time the boy initiated with the Gayatri mantra to enable him to read the Vedas, was regarded as having acquired the status of a dvija or ‘twice-born’.

Whatever the case may be, in Kashmir the samskara, whether called “mekhal” or yajnopavit, became a package of about twenty-four samskaras from vidyarambha or learning of alphabets to samavartana or the end of studentship. Interestingly, these include elements from even the prenatal samskaras like garbh-adana and siman-tonnayana. Even kahanethur (namakarana) and zarakasay (chudakarana or the first tonsure) if not performed at the prescribed time can be combined with it. This has made mekhal or yajnopavit a prolonged affair lasting for hours together. However, it is the wearing of the sacred thread to which the greater significance or sanctity is attached. That may be so because it has come to be regarded by the Kashmiri Brahmans, as by Brahmans elsewhere in the country, an essential symbol of their Hindu identity.

Mekhal Maharaza in a Mekhal ceremony.

Mekhal Maharaza in a Mekhal ceremony.

Let us have a look at some of the peculiarities of the samskara as performed by the Hindus of Kashmir. According to Laugakshi, the upanayana ceremony of a Brahman boy should be performed in the seventh year from birth or in the eighth year from conception, that of Kshatriya in the ninth year and that of a Vaishya in the eleventh year: “saptame varshe brahmanasyopanayanam navame rajanasya ekadashe vaishasya”. This differentiation between the ages of the initiates, however, has no relevance for the Kashmiri Hindus today as there was hardly any Kshatriya or Vaishya left among them after the advent of Islam in Kashmir. Optional ages have also been prescribed in the Grihyasutras in case of exigencies, the time limit for a Brahman boy being sixteen years. As the samskara has become purely ceremonial today, even this extended time limit is hardly adhered to and it is performed at a convenient time, generally a few days before marriage.

A uniquely Kashmiri and an essential preliminary ceremony performed a day or two prior to upanayana (and also marriage) is Divagon. The etymology of the word ‘divagon’ is not clear but it is probably derived from the Sanskrit ‘devagamanai, meaning ‘arrival of the gods’. The ceremony is performed for invoking the presence of gods, especially Ganesha and the Sapta Matrikas or seven mother goddesses, to bless the initiate or the boy or girl to be married. It begins with a ritual bath, called kani-shran, which is given to the initiate by five unmarried girls, pancha kanya, four holding a thin muslin cloth over his head at its four ends and the fifth pouring consecrated water with a pitcher. These days usually the officiating priest himself pours the water.

A havan is performed on the occasion amidst chanting of mantras by the presiding priest with the initiate offering oblations while facing the east. On the eastern wall, the motif of the kalpavriksha, supposed to be the abode of the goddesses in Nandanavana or the Garden of Paradise is painted with lime and vermilion. The kalpavriksha or the ‘wish fulfilling tree’ has a shatchakra (hexagon) made at its base symbolizing Shakti, and the drawing is called divta moon or the ‘column of the gods’. At about the same time khir is prepared and poured into seven earthen plates called divta tabuchi or ‘the plates of the gods’. Roth of rice flour and monga varya or fried cakes of ground moong are placed over the khir. The plates are consecrated with mantras and offered to the seven matrikas after which the khir with the moong cakes are distributed as naivedya. At the end of the ceremony, ladies take the seven earthen plates in a procession to river for visarjana. They go singing hymns and folksongs in the praise of the goddesses and praying for the long life and happiness for the initiate.

Another typically local feature that literally adds colour to the ceremony is krul - a vine scroll painted on the outer door of the house. This is usually done by the paternal aunt of the boy who executes the design of flower-laden creeper in different colours on a white background.  As the design is being executed with the sacred symbol Om at the top, ladies assemble outside and sing auspicious songs. A dish called veris distributed with rice flour rot is among all present.

Though painting the krul- krul kharun as it is called in Kashmiri- is sort of ritual art denoting auspiciousness, it has all the elements of folk art. In fact, it is one of the few Kashmiri folk arts still alive.

The divagon over, the yajna for Upanayana is performed much in the same manner as Hindus elsewhere perform it. A jyotistambha or jwala linga with a shatchakra base is drawn at the head of the agnikunda, with a rectangular configuration showing ayudhas like the mace, trident, bow and arrow etc. topped by a pataka. To the west of it seating arrangement is made for the officiating priests, the chief of whom is called ‘tsandra taruk’, literally meaning ‘the moon among the stars’. The tsandra taruk sits on a special seat and leads the reciting of the mantras and also monitors the proceedings of the yajna. The child to be invested with the sacred thread is taken under the canopy where his father lights up the sacred fire. Then his hair is shaved off by the barber - in the ordinary way if he has already performed his zarakasay.

Then he is given a bath and made to wear a snana-patta (loincloth) kept in its place by a cotton cord called atya pan which is tied round his waist. He is also given an upper and lower garment dyed in saffron or yellow colour so that he is dressed up like a Brahmachari. The Grihyasutras though prescribe that the clothes of a Brahman initiate should be of kashaya or reddish colour. The ceremony of offering clothes to the Brahmachari is described in detail in the Laugakshi Grihyasutra along with the Vedic mantras to be recited on the occasion.

Kalasha Puja is performed before the actual ceremony of Upanayana starts. The kalasha, a pitcher filled with water, vishtara (shoots of kusha grass ) and walnuts, is an important ritual object full of symbolic significance. It is consecrated by making shrichakra and swastika marks on it with vermilion (sindoar) and placed on an ashtadala kamala (eight-petaled lotus) drawn with lime or rice flour on the ground at the ritual site towards the east and on the left side of the agnikunda. Kalasha Puja is a prolonged affair as the kalasha is said to contain the entire heavenly vault and is the seat of all the gods with Vishnu occupying its mouth, Rudra its neck, and Brahma its bottom. The group of matrikas is known to reside in the middle part. Indra, Kubera, Varuna and Yama all reside in it. Within the kalasha the planets and the gods are bonded together and above it there are seven naga deities guarding it. The kalasha is worshipped with flowers and rice grains (arghya) and the presence of all these deities is invoked with appropriate mantras so that the day is auspicious for the yajnopavit ceremony that is about to be performed. Kalasha Puja begins with the hymn ‘ Omkaro yasya moolam, portraying the Vedas as a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpavriksha) and praying to it for protection. In fact the Puja is performed at the beginning of all major rites of Kashmiri Hindus.

Mekhala-bandhana or maunji-bandhana is in itself a most important ritual related to upanayana performed in the process when a girdle of the Munja grass is tied round the waist of the Brahmachari (called “mekhali maharaza” in Kashmiri). Laugakshi and his commentator Vedapala elaborately describe this rite. Some symbolic acts take place before the guru (the officiating priest) takes charge of the initiate to be. The teacher makes the Brahmachari to go round the sacred fire and to place his foot on a stone, asking him to be firm and steadfast. Then he touches the heart of the pupil uttering the words: “Into my will take thy heart; my mind shall thy mind follow; in my word thou shalt rejoice with all thy heart; may Brihaspati join thee to me” (“mama vrate hridayam te dadami mama vachenekavrato jushasva Brihaspatih tva mayanuktak mahyam”). After this the Brahmachari takes curds thrice and approaches the teacher to be initiated. At this the teacher ties the girdle round the waist of the boy with the words: “Here has come to me, keeping away evil words, purifying mankind as a purifier, clothing herself by power of inhalation and exhalation, with strength this sisterly goddess, the blessed girdle: “pranapanabhyam balamabhajanti sakha devi subhaga mekhaleyam”.

The mekhala or girdle in the case of a Brahman is to be made of Munja grass and at the end of upanayana is to be replaced by a cotton girdle, but as this grass does not grow in Kashmir, a girdle of Kusha grass or of cotton is tied. And strange though it may seem, the rite is increasingly being discarded even though the yajnopavit ceremony continues to be called mekhal.

The decks are now clear for the main and the most important rite - the investiture of the sacred thread. In Kashmir, wearing of the sacred thread was essential not only for initiating a young boy into Brahmanhood by teaching him to recite the Gayatri mantra but also an essential prerequisite that made him eligible for marriage. Yajnopavit, it must be noted, continues to be retained as one of the most important rituals because of this reason also. The astrologically chosen auspicious moment is, however, generally strictly adhered to. The boy takes a few steps to the north and it is his father who first puts the three cords of the sacred thread round his neck, which is then replaced by the set of three cords which the priest makes him wear with the mantra “yajnopavit am paramam pavitram”. In the meanwhile the boy is made to look at the sun. He is to put on another set of three-folds on being married -one for himself and one for his wife. While the father of the boy has a definite religious role to play, the mother and other close relatives gather around him with the ladies singing auspicious songs to make it a colorful occasion socially and everyone rejoicing and having a sense of participation.

There are some features, peculiarly regional in character, which are introduced at this stage. In one of them, to which we have referred earier, the ladies of the family enact a performance closely resembling simantonnayana. With the help of mulberry twigs (instead of Udumbara) husbands of these ladies put through the locks of their hair strands of narivan or protection cord in a manner that they dangle alongside the strings of their dejihors. It is believed that this helps newly married women to become mothers soon.

Another peculiar feature is the tekytal - the figure of the shrichakra over a rectangular configuration painted with vermilion or saffron paste on the top of the ladies’ headgear. As an option the design may be cut out on coloured or golden paper and pasted on the headgear. Tekytal shows show deeply Shaktism or the Mother Goddess cult has influenced the social and religious life of Kashmiri Pandits.

Yet another interesting and typically local feature in the Yajnopavit ceremony of the Pandits is varidan. Varidan is a kind of hearth specially made for the occasion by the potter, having thirty-six holes on which thirty-six sanivaris or small earthen vessels are placed for cooking rice for rituals purposes. The thirty-six holes correspond to the thirty-sx categories mentioned in the Shaiva texts as the basic constituents of the manifested world. As the sanivaris are very small and are filled only ceremonially, rice is cooked separately also in a large pot to serve the ritual purpose.

Having worn the sacred thread, the Acharya gives him specific instructions about how to wear the sacrificial cord on different occasions. He then gives him a deerskin to wear, Laugakshi prescribes: “anah-anas-yam vasanam charishnu paridam vajyajinam dadh-eyamiti vachayannaineyam charma brahmanya prachh-ativaigyaghram rajanyam rauravam vaishya”. That is, the skin of a black deer should be given to a Brahmana for wearing as an upper garment, the Kshatriya the skin of a tiger and the Vaishya that of a Ruru deer. Today the skin of a spotted deer is obtained for a Brahman boy for ceremonial wearing, the other two castes virtually not exsiting among Kashmiri Hindus. Dr. Rajbali Pandey quotes the Gopatha Brahmana as saying that “the deerskin was symbolical of holy lustre and spiritual pre-eminence.” It inspired a Vedic student to attain the spiritual and intellectual position of a Rishi”. At the time of receiving the deerskin, the Brahmachari is made to look at the sun with the mantra tachchakshur devahitam”.

The Acharya (priest) now hands over a staff to the Brahamachari so that he may set upon his journey as a traveler on the path of knowledge. Laugakshi prescribes that the staff should be of Palasha wood for a Brahman: “palasham dandam brahmanaya p-rayachchhati”. As Palasha wood is not available in Kashmir, the Brahmachari is given a staff of the mulberry wood, which is readily available. But today what the priest hands over is a staff in name only; actually it is a twig which has no utility, except ceremonial, the modern student no longer going to the forest to study.

Having equipped the initiated with a girdle, deerskin and staff (which were considered necessary for the Vedic student going to study at his Acharya’s place), the Acharya now imposes five commandments on him: “A Brahmachari art thou.

Take water. Do the service. Do not sleep in the daytime. Control your speech”. Vedpala, the commentator of Laugakshi Sutras explains service (karma) as serving the Acharya, studying the Vedas etc.

Repeating  five verses from the Vedas in which the Seven Rishis and the gods are requested to stimulate his (the brahmacahri’s) intelligence, he is made to repeat a sixth verse also which is a yaju about milking the sweet milk of the Vedas.

At this point the Brahamchari is to be shown the reflection of Agni or the burning sacrificial fire in a pot of ajya or clarified butter. This is called ajya darshan, which has been distorted to ‘adi darshun’ in Kashmiri. According to Laugakshi’s prescription, it is to precede bhiksha or the round for alms. Siting in front of the sacrificial fire with his face towards the east, the Acharya is to teach the most sacred Savitri mantra in the Gayatri metre (and therefore known as the Gayatri mantra) to the Brahmana pupil, reciting it three times-”first pada by pada then hemistich by hemistich” and last of all the whole verse so that he is able to learn it properly.

Vedarambha, or the beginning of the study of the Vedas and vidyarambha, or learning of the alphabets, are both mixed up in the present way of performing the sacred thread ceremony. What happens is that after offering him the panchagavya or the five products of a cow (cow dung, cow’s urine, milk, curds and ghee), the teacher (impersonated by the officiating priest) makes the Brahmachari write some words on a thali in which finely powered mud is scattered. The words generally written on this occasion are “Om svasti siddham” or “Om namah siddhaya” (Salutation to the Siddhas). The script in which this was originally written came to be known as the Siddham or Siddhamatrika script, an earlier form of Sharada. The teacher would make the child read what was written and explain its meaning to him. It may be noted that in Kashmir vidyarambha was regarded as a part of upanayana and not a separate samskara. The rite has, however, almost gone out of vogue now.

It is now that the Brahmachari gets up to ask for alms (bhiksha) for the Guru, which in effect means to collect money for the officiating priest. The first person he is supposed to approach according to the Kashmiri custom is his maternal aunt. Observing the necessary decorum has to address a lady he approaches for alms with bhavati bhiksham dehi, abid habi” (“Venerable lady, give me alms”) and a man with “bho bhiksham dehi, abid hasa” (“Venerable Sir, give me alms”). The etymology of the Kashmiri word ‘abid’ is, however, not clear. Some say it is the Kashmiri form of the Sanskrit word ‘abheda’, but though phonetically plausible, this does not sound convincing.

To conclude the yajna, the priest summons everyone for the last ahuti, offering a handful of a mixture of soaked wheat grains and flowers. This is called athiphol, literally meaning a handful of grains and is to be offered as oblation. Everyone makes a beeline to receive the athiphol, making it sure that he or she is present during the samapti or the concluding moments of the day-long yajna. Hymns for the pacification of the gods and the planets are recited in a chorus led by the priests and there is a clamour for offering the athiphol into the fire as soon as the priest pronounces the last “svaha”. The priest then sprinkles water from the kalasha on everybody present and distributes the walnuts as naivedya. The water thus sprinkled is called ‘kalasha lav’ and the walnut as ‘kalasha doon”.

What is most interesting is that samavartana or the sacrament marking the end of the “student career” of the boy and his “return” home from the house of the Guru is treated as a part of the Yajnopavit ceremony.   It is assumed that the boy invested with the sacred thread has completed his “studies” and has come back to the family. This is regarded as a very important period in the boy’s life as he is now supposed to be ready to share the responsibilities of the world and get married. In accordance with the spirit of Laugakshi’s ordain-ments, the boy Invested with the sacred thread is given new clothes and shoes to wear instead of the brahamachari’s garments. A muslin turban is tied round his head. He is made to stand on the vyug or a colourful mandala. Someone, usually a young friend of the initiate, or mekhali maharaza as he is called in Kashmiri, holds a parasol of flowers over his head. He is then taken in a procession to the riverbank for snana, the ceremonial bath as a snataka (one who has completed his studies). There, the priest, who also accompanies him, gives him instructions about washing the sacred thread and performing daily rites like the sandhya etc.. He is also taught how to offer libations of water to gods and ancestors. After this he returns home in a procession. In the meanwhile, ladies sing auspicious songs and perform a special dance in a circle, the origin of which could go back to centuries. This is a unique feature of the celebrations.

The yajnopavita ceremonies do not end with the samavartana. On the next day a small homa known as ‘koshal hom’ (Skt. ‘kushala homa’) is performed to thank the gods that all has ended well.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Marriage Rituals Among Kashmiri Pandits

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

It is the local customs and rites that make the Mekhal or Yagnopavit a unique experience. This is even truer of Kashmiri Pandit wedding rituals which have a firm Vedic foundation upon which distinctly indigenous Shaiva and Shakta structures are built. Called nethur in their native language, the Pandits regard marriage as the most important of all samskaras. While socially it is necessary for the perpetuation of the family and the race that it ensures through progeny, it has religious sanctity too. Through it alone one can pay off one’s ancestral debt as well as the debt one owes to the gods. Among the four ashramas of life considered necessary by the scriptures, Kashmiri Hindus hold the ashrama of the householder in the highest esteem because it provides support to the entire social structure.

Again like Hindus in general, marriage for them has always been a monogamous affair, a companionship for the whole life and a divinely ordained relationship. Among the eight forms of marriage prevalent in ancient India, it is only the brahmadeya that is current among them in which the father gives the girl to a suitable man of good character who belongs to a respectable family  the respectability being determined usually by a sound economic position. Laugakshi and other Sutra authors consider it superior to all other forms of marriage: deva, arsha, prajapatiya, asura, gandharva, rakshasa and paishachi. In the Kashmiri language it is called andyapyath.Another type of marriage, which is actually only a variation of Brahma, isandyut or marriage by exchange. Only economically weaker or socially insecure parents resorted to this type of marriage, which involves a voluntary exchange of sons and daughters. In yet another type variation, known as‘garapyath anun’, the bridegroom goes to the bride’s place and lives there as a member of her family. In all these types of marriage, however, the same kind of rituals are involved.

Although the ‘Laugakshi Grihyasutra’ says nothing about it, sagotra andsapinda marriages are strictly prohibited among Kashmiri Pandits. This is among the first things that are seen while examining the family of the prospective bride or the bridegroom. The Pandits are divided into 199 endogamous gotras among whom social precedence is governed by spiritual greatness or inferiority of the respective Rishis. More than even gotras, it is the social status and economic position of the family of the boy or that of the girl that matters. And social position was till recently determined by a high post held by the head of the family in government service for one or two generations.

The process of selecting a match for a boy or a girl begins essentially with matching the horoscopes. If the horoscopes do not tally, a match, however good otherwise, is generally rejected. As for the marriageable age, the practice with Kashmiri Pandits has been always to tie the knot in an age in which the two parties are well qualified to make choice and to give consent, except during the Muslim rule, particularly Afghan rule, when child marriages became common. This was because of Islamic influence, besides the feeling of insecurity generated among Kashmiri Hindus during that period. Child marriages continued in the community till the early decades of the Dogra rule, but later the situation changed.

After ‘gandun’ or betrothal, the ceremonies related to marriage begin much in the same way as in mekhal, with garanavay or the ritual cleaning of the house, manzyrath or the night when henna is applied to the bride’s (and the bridegroom’s) hands and feet, and divagon or the ceremony for invoking the blessings of the gods. There is a slight difference between the bride’s and the bridegroom’s divagon ceremony. In case of the bride it is a bit more elaborate and takes a longer time, probably due to remove the ‘pollution’ caused by her menstruation. The bride is also specially dressed up on the occasion and given the ear ornament dejihor to wear for the first time. Thedejihor is an ornament that a married Kashmiri Hindu woman wears in both the ears in a way that it dangles from a gold chain or a cord. Though thedejihor denotes a Kashmiri Hindu woman’s married status, it is not a kind ofmangalsutra that is to be worn by a woman as long as her husband is alive. A married Kashmiri Hindu woman on the other hand continues to wear thedejihor even after her husband’s death. It is not known when exactly thedejihor came into vogue, but it must be later development as there is no mention of it in any ancient Sanskrit text of Kashmir. Some people believe that it is shaped like a stylized shrichakra. If that is the case, as it appears to be, then it must be a result of the impact of Shaktism on Kashmiri life, which was quite strong in the early medieval times.

A day or two before lagna or the nuptial ceremony, the kulaguru or the family priest of the bride’s parents goes with a lagnachirika (“lagnachir” in Kashmiri) or a letter of invitation on their behalf, inviting the groom and his parents to attend the vivaha homa. The letter, which is in the shape of a beautiful scroll, mentions the exact day, date and auspicious hour of thelagna and also the number of wedding guests and Brahmans expected to come on the occasion. He is respectfully treated by the groom’s side, which accepts the invitation and pays him dakshina for his good offices. This is the last ceremonial act before the wedding.

On the wedding day the groom dressed in a newly stitched suit and a ceremonial turban, wearing a number of flower garlands, is all set for taking the wedding procession to the bride’s place. The wedding guests assemble for this in the courtyard of his house where he is made to stand on a vyug, a circular mandala symbolizing the cosmic circle, drawn in lime and clay colours. A plate of rice grains is placed on one side of the vyug with a coin and some salt placed on top. The eldest lady of the house waves a lighted lamp around his head. The bridegroom’s arrival is announced by the sounding of a conch (shankha). At the bride’s place he is again made to stand on avyug facing the east amidst vanavun or singing of wedding songs by a company of ladies and a rousing reception by the bride’s side. A man stands behind him holding a parasol over his head. Here too an elderly lady of the house bearing a pot of water waves it around his head. This is known as ‘alat’which according to popular etymology is derived from the Sanskrit aratrikra’The bride is also brought out and made to stand on the groom’s left side, and the ceremony of waving lamps is repeated. The pair is then offered a piece of candied sugar or sweetmeat by the eldest lady of the house, which they are required to nibble at by turns. This, it is believed, makes their married life sweet.

The marriage procession is described in the Vedas. The Laugakshi Grhyasutra does not describe it but mentions what it calls “prasthanik karma” or the bridegroom’s departure for his fatherinlaw’s house. What is most interesting and worth noting is that after he performs a homa at his house, his sister accompanies him holding a sword in one hand and the hem of his garment in the other: “tasmin yathoktam upasamadhaya jayabhritibhir hutva pashchad bhagini sicham grihnati shastram grihitva”. They proceed towards a water tank in the eastern direction where the bridegroom, guarded by his sister in this manner, first “touches” the water and then proceeds towards the bride’s house.

In the Sutra period, the bridegroom was honoured by his fatherinlaw by offering him madhuparka or a mixture of honey, curds and ghee. The honey mixture was given to him in a bronze vessel with a bronze cover, which he partook of with the reciting of mantras. Like other Grihyasutras Laugakshi too describes the ceremony in detail, which later developed into a fullfledged reception and a feast for the entire marriage party. But this is only a social custom and not a religious ritual.

As the wedding guests are busy with the wedding feast, the bride and the bridegroom are made to perform a unique Kashmiri ceremony at the entrance of the bride’s house called dvarapuza, without which the bridegroom cannot enter the house to perform lagna or the nuptials. This ceremony involves worshipping the guardian deities of the entrance door, the door being taken to be ‘threshold’ between the outside world and the consecrated space inside offering a passage into a new phase of life. These deities include besides Ganesha, the first god who is offered worship for bringing auspiciousness and removing obstacles, Dharma, Adharma, Dehali, Khinkhini and Meruprakara devata”(gods of the ramparts of the divine mountain Meru). , They are worshipped according to the set procedure after being invoked and offered seat: “Mahaganpataye namah tvam pujayami/ Om pujaya Mahaganapatim Dharmam Adharmam Dehalim Khinkhinim Meruprakara devatanam idam asanam namah/” At this time the bride’s father also asks the bridegroom the purpose of his visit. “To hold your daughter’s hand in marriage, Sir”, the bridegroom replies, and promises that from that time onwards he would treat the bride’s house as his own home.

Bedecked with ornaments and clad in all her fineries, the bride now takes her seat on her father’s right side (“pita dakshina janau kanyam grihitva”). After both are anointed and appropriate mantras are chanted to drive away evil spirits, the ceremony of kanyadana or “giving the daughter as a gift” follows. It is an ancient ceremony performed according to the Brahmadeya system of marriage. According to the Grihyasutras, only the girl’s father has the authority to give his daughter in marriage, but in the Smriti period this authority was extended to other relatives also to take care of the exigencies arising out of untimely death of the father. The ceremony takes place at the exact auspicious hour of the lagna and is witnessed by relatives from both the sides, the officiating priest conducting it with appropriate mantras recited before the sacred fire. The priest makes the bride’s father or guardian address his soninlaw in this manner:” Sir, I offer you my daughter in marriage”, repeating the statement three times. Showing his inclination, the groom replies thus: “Sir, I accept this offer sincerely”. He too repeats his acceptance three times. Both the parties attest to the truth of this statement.

The bride’s father again addresses   the   groom   thus: “tubhyam datta kumara dharme cha arthe cha kame cha tvayeyam parichaniya” [“Sir, I have given my daughter to you in the attainment of dharma (piety), artha (wealth) and kama (desire); you have to look after her”].

To this the groom replies: “mahyam pratigrihita vadhu dharme charthe chakame cha mahyam paricharaniya”. [“Sir, I have accepted the bride in the attainment of Piety, Wealth and Desire. Look after her I will.”]

This statement is also attested by the bride’s father, the groom and the officiating priest thrice.

The bride now takes her seat by the left side of her husband. The priest makes them sit face to face and looking at each other. Together they recite the mantras ‘ samana va akutanisamana hridayani cha” and ‘sam vo manasi samvrata’, repeating the resolve that their intentions shall be one, their hearts shall be one. These mantras are recited to suggest the commonality of interests between both the bride and the groom, and to ensure a relationship in which the minds and hearts, desires and thoughts of both are the same.

After the kanyadana, the bride and the groom themselves perform the rituals. Making offerings of purified butter to the svishtakrita  agni  in jaya,rahtrabhrit and abhayatana homas, the groom grasps his wife’s hand and addresses her thus: “This am I, that art thou; that I am, this art thou; theSaman am I, the Rik thou, the Heaven I, the Earth thou. Come let us marry. Let us unite our sperm to beget offspring.”

Athavas is the Kashmiri for ‘panigrahana’ or the Grasping of the Bride’s Hand, an essential ceremony of Hindu marriage. But while it is generally the bridegroom who seizes the right hand of the bride, in Kashmir the bridegroom and the bride both clasp each other’s hands, tightly and silently, without reciting any verses. This departure from the general practice is a significant regional feature, suggesting as it does that both the partners have equal responsibility in making their relationship firm and strong. They are made to sit near the kalasha, where they are left alone for sometime facing the east. It is a different panigrahana, however, that Laugakshi has described with the ceremony being accompanied with verses and the groom seizing the hand of the bride who is standing towards the west of the sacred fire. Herself gold complexioned, the bride is adorned with gold ornaments and looks gorgeous. Taking her hand in his hand the husband asks her to unite with him with the desire to have sons and be as firm as a mountain in her devotion to him:

hiranyavarnam suhritam shubhamanam kanyaya haste parigrihya punyami            

sa putrakama saubhagya bhartre bhava vashiyan girivat sthiraya.

“This”, says Devapala, the commentator of ‘Laugakshi Grihaysutra’, referring to the above verse, “is recited in Kashmir presently.” The husband praises the bride for her beautiful and fresh looks, praying that all her wishes and desires be fulfilled by mere wishing. When this ceremony changed to the silent clasping of hands seen in athavas, cannot be said.

Lajahoma, a Vedic ceremony in which parched grains are offered into the sacred fire, is a feature of the Kashmiri Hindu marriage also. It is symbolic of fertility and prosperity of the married couple. The brother of the, bride or his substitute, who is called ‘layiboy’, pours out of his cupped hands parched grains mixed with Shami leaves into the joined hands of the bride who offers them to the Firegod. As she is making the offering, the bridegroom chants the verse ‘Aryaman nu devam kanya Agninayakshata’, which means: “The girl has made sacrifice to the god Aryaman, to Agni; may the god Aryaman loosen us from here and not from the husband’s side. Svaha!” What he actually prays for is that his bride should in no way be alienated from him so that they have a peaceful life at home. The girl on her part while strewing the grain into the fire with the corner of a winnowing (or any other) basket or with the fore part of her hand also prays: “May my husband live a long life of virility and success and may my relations prosper. Svaha! May this grain that I have thrown into the fire bring prosperity to thee and may it unite me with thee.” The girl drops the grain in three rounds as the mantras are repeated. The ceremony concludes with the recital of the hymn ‘Tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim patiposhanam’.

Ashmarohana or ‘mounting the stone’ is another Vedic ceremony that the Kashmiris follow, but with some difference. In this ceremony the husband makes the bride take some steps to the north and place her right foot on a stone so that her fidelity to him becomes as firm as a stone. In a Kashmiri marriage, however, the bride as well as the bridegroom both step on the stone and repeat the mantra: “Tread on this stone and be firm like a stone.    Tread the foes down; turn away the enemies”.

When the last portion of the parched grains is thrown into the fire, the most important ‘Rite of the Seven Steps’or saptapadi is performed. The seven rounds that the bride and the bridegroom take around the Sacred Fire are essential for the legal confirmation of a Hindu marriage. Among the Kashmiri Pandits the custom is to make the bride step over seven coins (seven hundred rupee notes these days, seven heaps of rice grains originally) following the bridegroom. The mantras recited with each step are the same as those recited by Hindus everywhere:

ekam ishe Vishnus tvanvetu/

dve urje Vishnus tvanvetu/

trini rayi poshaya Vishnus tvanvetu/

chatvari mayobhavaya Vishnus tvanvetu/

pancha prajabhyo Vishnus tvanvetu/

shadritubhyo Vishnus tvanvetu/

dirghayutvaya saptamam Vishnus tvanvetu/

sakha saptapada bhava/

[“One step for sap, may Vishnu go after thee. Two steps for juice (energy), may Vishnu go after thee. Three steps for the prospering of wealth, may Vishnu go after thee. Four steps for comforts, may Vishnu go after thee. Five steps for progeny, may Vishnu go after thee. Six steps for seasons, may Vishnu go after thee. Seven steps for longevity, may Vishnu go after thee. May we be friends with seven steps.”]

The objects asked for in the above mentioned mantras are essential to make married life happy and prosperous. With these seven steps the bride enters the gotra of her husband and the formalities of a legally valid Hindu marriage are completed. It must be noted that here the bridegroom is regarded as an incarnation of Vishnu, the protector and sustainer of the world. He showers benedictions on the bride and says: “Be mistress to thy fatherinlaw. Be mistress to the other daughtersinlaw of the house, of thy sisterinlaw, of the children, property and all.”

Even though the nuptials are considered to be complete after the saptapadi,several symbolic acts still remain to be performed. One such act is showing the sun to the bride with the mantra ‘tachchaakshur devahitam parastat (‘May we look at the myriad eyed sun’). But if it is night she is asked to look at the Sacred Fire as witness  ‘astamite agnim. She is also required to look at the Pole Star and Arundhati and other stars for firmness in her devotion to her husband. After this the priest asks the wedding guests and relatives assembled there to bless the bride. It is at this juncture that ‘sindura dana’ or the ceremony of applying vermilion to the parting of the bride’s hair is performed by the bridegroom at a Hindu marriage. This tradition is not mentioned in the Grihyasutras, and is not followed by Kashmiri Hindus. Nor is the varamala ceremony (ceremonial exchange of garlands) prevalent among them. Instead they have some peculiar rituals and customs of their own, some of which are quite interesting.

One such uniquely charming ritual is the ceremonial entry of Ganga vyas’orof the River Ganga as the bride’s friend represented by a young girl belonging to the bride’s side. According to the Kashmiri ritual expert Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi, this takes place soon after the madhuparka ceremony. She comes as the bride’s confidant and is supposed to take her symbolically for a ritual bath. Nothing is known about the origin or purpose of this ritual, but it appears that in ancient times the bride was actually led to the banks of a river by her female friends for a bath. Later, during the Muslim rule this custom might have been discontinued for fear of religious prosecution. At present there is only an injunction to meditate on the allsanctifying Gangawater ”chaturvidam hi yat putam tachcha Gangodakam smritam”. The young girl from the girl’s side is supposed to be the embodiment of the holy river itself and functions as a witness to the purity of the bride’s conduct and the sanctity of the marriage ceremonies.

Instead of the ceremonial exchange of garlands between the bride and the bridegroom, the motherinlaw of the bridegroom (yajamana patni) ties an auspicious garland on both in Kashmir. This garland is known as mananmal ormangala mala. The turn of the bridegroom comes first who is worshipped as a manifestation of Shiva and Vishnu. The worship is performed in the following manner:

“Maheshwaraya namah dakshina pade/Ttryambakaya namah, vamapade/Ishanaya namah dakshina janau/ Shivaya namah vama janau/ Bhavaya namah dakshina skandha/ Sharvaya namah vama skandhe/ Rudraya namah shirasi/ Vishnave maharajaya samalabhnam gandhonamah”

[“The right foot (of the bridegroom) with the mantra ‘Maheshvaraya namah’;the left foot with the mantra ‘Tryambakaya namah’; the right knee with‘Ishanaya namah’; the left knee with ‘Shivaya namah’; the right shoulder with ‘Bhavaya namah’; the left shoulder with ‘Sharvaya namah’; the head with ‘Rudraya namah’.”]

After having been worshipped as Vishnu with fragrance, ricegrains, flowers, lamp etc., the mananmal or the auspicious garland is tied to his forehead. In the case of the bride, various manifestations of the Goddess are worshipped with the mantras: “The left foot with ‘Gauryai namah’; the right foot with ‘Gayatrai namah’; the left knee with ‘Savitryai namah’; the left shoulder with‘Umayai namah’; the right shoulder with ‘Kantyayani namah’; the head with‘Bhavanyai namah’.” Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is worshipped with fragrance, ricegrains, flowers, lamp etc.. The right to left orientation in the worship of the bridegroom and the bride must be noted. At the end of the worship the groom and the bride are offered candied sugar (now it has been replaced by sweets and cash and also clothes) and the maternal uncle of the bridegroom is also honoured on this occasion by giving him the gift of sugar candy. The sugar candy, given to the maternal uncle is called  ‘mama nabad’. Sacrificial fees and gifts are given to the officiating priests.

Sahashanam or the ‘ceremony of the common meal’ took place in a Hindu marriage at the bridegroom’s house after the chaturthi karma and later turned into a conjugal feast, Dr. Rajbali Pandey informs us. Now it is performed after what is known as “the second marriage”. Among Kashmiri Pandits, however, the newlywed husband and wife dine together on the day of marriage itself, the ceremony being known as ‘daybata’ (‘daya bhakta in Sanskrit). It is performed at the end of the vivahahoma with the choice dishes of the wedding feast given to the bride and the groom in one thali to eat after a portion of it is offered to the Kshetreshas or Guardians of the Quarters as sacrificial food. The couple is served the food in one plate and they offer a few morsels to each other. This is believed to bind. “hearts and minds together”.

There are several more regional rites and customs that are followed in a Kashmiri Pandit marriage. At the vivahahoma the bridegroom has to change his sacred thread having three folds to one having six folds  the additional three folds being for his wife whose responsibility he now assumes. In another rite, the bride and the bridegroom are shown each other’s reflection in a mirror. This is perhaps because of the influence of Kashmir Shaivism, which regards the phenomenal world as a reflection of the Absolute Reality. They are also made to go three times round the fire reciting a hymn from the Vedas known as ‘suryavarga’. The hymn says that the universe is like a chariot, the sun and the moon being its two wheels. The chariot keeps going in the right direction because of mutual agreement of the two wheels.

Saraswati, the river and the goddess, both are remembered as the wedding ceremony goes on. A hymn from the Vedas is recited by the bride and the bridegroom in praise of the river Saraswati on the banks of which was once located the original home of the Kashmiri Brahmans. The river, says the hymn, distributes its sweet waters like a mother distributes her wealth to the daughter. Praising the goddess Saraswati, to whom they are so deeply devoted, the husband describes her as a gracious lady of resplendent complexion, beautiful eyes and eyebrows, and prays to her to protect the lifelong companionship between him and his bride.

The concluding and one of the most important rituals of a Kashmiri Hindu marriage is the ‘poshapuza’ or floral worship. The couple is made to sit under the canopy of a red shawl or any other red cloth and the parents of the bridegroom shower flower petals on them. Other close relatives also take part in this flower showering ceremony, regarding the bridegroom and the bride as embodiments of Shiva and Parvati. The verses recited at this time refer to the names of gods and goddesses, sages and seers, incarnations, warriors, famous kings and queens of the Vedic lore, pious mothers etc., perhaps to remind them of ideal children like them. With this the Kashmiri Hindu marriage rituals practically come to an end. The bride and the bridegroom are now blessed wishing them a firm and loving relationship and a long, happy and prosperous married life.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Kashmiri Pandits - Funerary and Post Funerary Rites

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

Funerary and post funerary Rites:

There is much similarity between the broad features of Kashmiri Hindu funerary and post-funerary rites and the standard Hindu funeral ceremonies, yet there are quite number of variations and modifications too. For a Kashmiri Hindu, as for Hindus everywhere, death is not the end of life but its continuation in a separate world, the pitriloka or the abode of the deceased ancestors. That is why the last rites that he performs for a deceased kin, called the antyeshti, include prayers for everlasting peace of the departed soul and gifts and offerings to make his life-after-death as an ancestor as smooth as possible. These rites are performed in three phases  -  pre-cremation, cremation and post-cremation, procedures for which are followed from Vedic and Puranic traditions with elements from Shaivagamic rituals too. A small section of the community adopts the esoteric Shivakarma practices also which are quite elaborate and take a long time to perform.

The pre-cremation or pre-dis-posal rites begin with the ritual last bath and include a brief shraddha and kalashpuja, homa and recitation of papanasha or expiatory verses. The ceremony called anatsreth in Kashmiri is performed generally by the eldest son or a close relative of the deceased and he alone is entitled to perform the cremation ceremony.

After the pre-disposal rites, the bier carrying the body of the deceased is taken in a procession to the cremation ground, everyone chanting kshamtavyo me aparaddhah on way to it.

Three pindas of barley flour -the bodha pinda, the makardhwaja pinda and the Yamaduta pinda  -  are offered to the deceased in the meanwhile. At the crematorium, the ground for the funeral pyre is cleansed and smeared with cow dung. Figures of brahma kalasha, jwala linga, agnikunda, and Chittavasa are drawn on the spot by the officiating priest with barley flour. Sacred fire is lit on the drawing of jwala linga (‘column of flame’) and the brahma kalasha placed on the figure of an eight-petaled lotus is worshipped with flowers and saffron paste, reciting the verse ‘tat Vishnohparamam padam’’. Nine oblations from the pranita patra are poured into the sacred fire with the mantra ‘ritamva satyena parisamuhyami’etc.. Then the performer of the cremation rites offers oblations of clarified butter into the sacred fire with the sruva spoon. The oblations are accompanied by the mantras ‘ayushah pranam santanu svaha’ etc.. The mantras ‘ayur yajnena kalpatam svaha Iprano yajnena kalpatam svaha/ ... yajno yajnena kalpatam svaha are also recited while making the ajya oblations. These mantras show that cremation is regarded by the Kashmiri Hindus as a kind of yajna or sacrificial offering into the sacred fire. However, we shall not go into the details of these funerary rituals, but just point out some of their uniquely Kashmiri features.

Worship of the chittavasa or mayajala is one such feature. It is a part of Kashmiri Shaivaritu-als but has been incorporated into the mainstream Kashmiri funerary ceremony. It is symbolic of the departed soul’s liberation from the snares of this illusory world and is drawn with lines looking like a mesh or net. Nine pegs are fixed at specific points on its diagram. The chtitavasa can also be made with thread. Before the pyre is lighted, worship of the deities that preside over the chittavasa is performed after reciting the Gayatri mantra three times. The pyre is built on the chittavasa and the dead body is placed on it with its head to the south. The performer of the rites lights the pyre with a piece of lighted wood from the head if the deceased is a male and from the feet if it is a female. After the pile is set to fire, the performer goes thrice around the burning body sprinkling water from a water pot placed on his left shoulder. On completing the third round, he breaks the water pot on an axe or a stone near the head of the dead body, reciting   the   mantra   ‘namo mahimne ut chakshushe...’ Then with two blades of Darbha grass in hand he recites “pttuh” or “matuh”, or whosoever be the deceased, “antya kriya nimittam chittavasa devatanam achchhidram astu”. Everyone present at the cremation chants “Om yo Rudro Agnau ya apsuaushadhishu yo vanaspatishu yo Rudro vishva bhuvaha vivesha tamai Rudraya namo namah”, and throws a piece of wood on the burning pile as a last tribute to the deceased.

Those attending the funeral at the cremation ground take a bath at a nearby stream (these days, people only wash their hands and face at the crematorium and take the bath at their own homes). Before the mourners return from the cremation ground, they light a fire with dry straw outside it. This is called “tshay zalin” or “burning the shadow”, implying that the mourners, except the family members and very close .relatives of the deceased, are now free from defilement caused by death. Possibly it is the dread that the deceased may follow as a preta or disembodied spirit that lies behind this ritual.

After cremating the body of the dead person, his ashes and unburned bones are collected in an urn and taken for consign-ment to sacred waters. Kashmiri Hindus would generally go to the confluence of the Vitasta and Sindh rivers at Shadipur in Kashmir for the purpose or to Hardwar for the purpose. Some would also consign the ashes of their kin to the waters at some other sacred sites also like Gangabal, a lake formed by the stream called Harmukutganga and considered very sacred by Kashmiri Hindus. But that was before their exodus from Kashmir. Post-funerary ceremonies like the tenth, eleventh and twelfth-day shraddhas are performed by the Hindus of Kashmir not much differently from the standard procedures laid down in Hindu-religious texts, a few local customs notwithstanding. On the tenth day after cremation, the chief mourner goes to the bank of a river and gets his head shaved to indicate the end of the mourning. All blood relations and other relatives also gather there to offer oblations of water and sesame to the deceased. Rice is cooked on spot to prepare pindas for offering to the departed soul and Vaivasta Yama to satisfy their hunger. The performer takes a bath and offers libations with handfuls of water.

The eleventh-day shraddha is performed offering scents, flowers, incense, ghee, sesame and water to the departed soul and the pitaras. Propitiating them with fruit, roots and obeisance, the performer of the rites worships Brahmanas on this day. On the twelfth day of the cremation, the ceremony of ‘sapindikaran” or is performed. Called ‘pyand mi Ivan’ or ‘bahim doh’ in Kashmiri, this ceremony is regarded as most important as through it the soul of the dead person passes into the pitriloka or the abode of the manes.

The funeral and post-funeral rites mentioned above form the norm for Kashmiri Hindus and are generally based on the or-dainments of Laugakshi as well as practices mentioned in other ritualistic texts. They incorporate several features of what is known as Shiva Karma or practices followed by a section of Kashmiri Pandits known as Shiva Karmis  - a sect whose numbers are few. Their practices appear to be based on Shaivagamic rituals of the non-dualist Kashmir Shaiva School. They are lengthy, elaborate and quite complicated as far as funeral and post-funeral rites are concerned, which involve a series of pujas, nyasas, mudras, mandalas, yagas, homas and mantric utterances. For the Shiva Karmis, Shiva alone is supreme and is to be worshipped along with the deities of Shiva Brahmanda or the ‘Cosmos of Shiva’. Shiva is the Supreme Being and the source of all activity in the world. He is to be worshipped in his five forms -Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Ishana and Tatpurusha. . Shivastutis or hymns to Shiva are recited to mark the antyeshti instead of the usual papanasha mantras or mantras for redemption from sin. He is hymned as “sakala kala vimishrah sadasat sarvesha” (“the embodiment of all arts and the Lord of Truth and Untruth”). The dead body (shava) is regarded as Shiva svarupa or a form of Shiva and not just a corpse. The purpose of Shiva Karma is to achieve ‘Shiva nirvana’ or liberation of the deceased and his ultimate union with Shiva. Another important feature of Shiva Karma is utterance of the mystic syllables jum’ or ‘jurnsah’ with Om at the beginning of a mantra and the Tantric ‘astraya phat’or ‘vashat’ or ‘vaushat’ at the end. With mantras the Shiva Karmis seek to purify not only the mind but also the 36 categories that constitute the manifested world. A Shivakarmi makes ajnana khadga or ‘the Sword of Knowledge’ with 36 blades of Darbha grass to “strike” towards the end at the head of the deceased and free him or her from karmic bonds. There is certainly much more to Shiva Karma rituals and their esoteric meanings but they need considerably more space than we can afford here.

Kashmiri Language: Roots, Evolution and Affinity

Kashmiri is a unique language in the Indian linguistic context. It is analytic like the modern Indian languages of Sanskritic stock and synthetic like the Old Indo-Aryan itself, possessing characteristics of both and at the same time having peculiarities of its own many of which are yet to be fully explored. Linguistically, its importance can hardly be overlooked because, as Siddheshwar Verma has observed, it reveals linguistic strata of various ages-"Vedic, Buddhist Sanskrit, Pali, Kharoshthi Prakrit"1. George Buhler's view that it is of the greatest importance in the study of a comparative grammar of Indo-Aryan languages2 only stresses the obvious for preserving old word-forms and also revealing how new forms took shape from old bases, Kashmiri does seem to hold the key to understanding the processes through which these languages have passed in their development before assuming their present forms.

 Grierson too appears to endorse the same point when he says that a study of the Kashmiri language is "an essential preliminary to any inquiry" regarding the "mutual relations of the modern Aryan vernaculars of India"3.

Vedic Origin

There exists a very strong evidence to support the claim that Kashmiri has descended from the Vedic speech or, as pointed out by Buhler, from "one of the dialects of which the classifical Sanskrit was formed"4. References are replete in Rig Vedic hymns to rivers and mountains which have been identified by scholars like Zimmer with definite places in Kashmir, indicating that the region was a part of the Vedic Aryan world - at least in the geographical sense. Linguistically too this fact is strongly corroborated by the presence of a large number of lexical and phonetic elements in Kashmiri that can be directly traced to Vedic sources. These include several words most commonly used in everyday speech in Kashmiri. For example, we have the Kashmiri word yodvay meaning if, what if, yet, still, nonetheless. This appears in almost the same form in the Vedic word yaduvay 5, the corresponding word for it in Sanskrit and Hindi being yadi. Similarly, the word basti, which in Kashmiri means skin, hide, bellows, is hardly different from the Vedic basti meaning goat or bastajin meaning goatskin. The Vedic word sin occurs as syun in Kashmiri meaning "a cooked vegetable", while the Vedic san appears in Kashmiri as son meaning deep. Again, the word vay which means grains in Vedic is used in Kashmiri in the same sense. From the Vedic root taksh comes the Kashmiri word tachch (to scratch, to peel, to plane, to scrape) and its derivative chchan (carpenter, Skt Ksh invariably changing to chch in Kashmiri). Several Kashmiri words have evolved from Vedic through intermediary Pali or Prakrit forms. For instance, Ksh. atsun (to enter), Pali accheti, Vedic atyeti. Similarly Vedic prastar, from which the Hindi word patthar (stone) is derived, changes through the intermediary Prakrit form pattharo to pathar or pathur in Kashmiri retaining the original sense of "on the ground" or "floor". These are but a few of the numerous examples that show how Kashmiri has preserved phonetic, semantic and even morphological elements of the Vedic speech.

 It is perhaps on the basis of such overwhelming evidence that eminent inguists like Jules Bloch, Turner, Morgenstierne, Emeneau, Siddheshwar Verma and several other scholars have pointed to the Vedic origin of Kashmiri, arriving at their conclusions after intensive research on the actual traits of the language.

 Phonetic aspects of how Kashmiri retains some of the most archaic word forms that can be traced only to the Old Indo-Aryan speech have been analysed at some length by Siddheshwar Verma. Citing word after word, Verma provides evidence on how Kashmiri shows contact with older layers of Indo-Aryan vocabulary 6. The Kashmiri word Kral (potter) derived from the Vedic Sanskrit Kulal is one of such words which he has examined in detail, taking help of Turner's Nepali dictionary. While all other modern Indo- Aryan languages, except Nepali and Sinhalese, have for it words derived from the Sanskrit kumbhakar, Kashmiri alone preserves remnants of the relatively older kulal, he points out, which appears for the first time in the Vajasneyi Samhita of the Vedas. Kumbhakar makes its appearance after the Vedic age (c.f.Monier Williams: Sanskrit-English Dictionary) and it is from this that words like Hindi Kumhar, Gujrati-Marathi kunwar and Western Pahari kumar have originated. Tomul (uncooked rice) is another word cited by him in this context, which, he says, has retained the initial ta of Sanskrit tandulam, while other modern Indo-Aryan languages generally have cha. For example, we have chawal in Hindi and Gujrati, chaul in Bengali and Oriya, chaur in Sindhi, chamal in Nepali. Retention of the original r in Kashmiri pritsh (Skt. prichcha = to ask) and prang (Skt. paryank = bed) are other notable examples, according to him, of the tendency (in Kashmiri) to preserve original phonetical elements. Kochchwu, the Kashmiri word for tortoise, he goes on to point out, indicates that the original word must have been kashyapa and not kachchapa as in Kashmiri. Skt. ksha almost invariably changes to chcha, e.g. aechchi < Skt. akshi, maechchi < Skt.

Editor's note: 'ae' is used for Greek symbol for delta (lower case). A text editor does not provide a delta.

makshika, lachch < Skt. laksha, vachch < Skt. vaksha and so on. The intermediary form derived from kashyapa, which actually occurs in the Vajsaneyi Samhita, must have been kakashapa, Verma suggests.

 Arguing along similar lines, eminent Kashmiri linguist S.K. Toshkhani goes a bit further and suggests that Kashmiri may have preserved even some pre-Vedic phonetic elements 7. Citing examples, he refers to the Kashmiri words rost and sost which correspond to Sanskrit rahit and sahit respectively. Rost and sost, he says, appear to be older than rahit and sahit, and could be pre-Vedic as the change of sa to ha is regarded a relatively later development.

Grierson's views

George A. Grierson, however, holds entirely different views on the question of affinity of Kashmiri. Disregarding the overwhelming evidence that reveals its basic Indo-Aryan character, he seeks to banish the language from the Sanskritic family, preferring instead to classify it under the Pishacha or Dardic group, which, he holds, occupies a position "intermediate between the Sanskritic language of India proper and the Eranian languages farther to their West"8. Considering Dardic languages, including the Shina- Khowar group, to have developed from the Indo-Iranian branch of Aryan, he uses the cover term Pishacha to describe them and observes that Kashmiri too shares their characteristics and so must be grouped with them. He tries to shrug off the predominance of Indo-Aryan vocabulary in Kashmiri by attributing it to a powerful influence of Indian culture and literature for over two thousand years and arguing that vocabulary alone cannot be the determining factor of the classification of a language. "Kashmiri", he concludes, "is a mixed language, having as its basis a language of the Dard group of the Pishacha family allied to Shina", explaining that by basis he means "its phonetic system, its accidence, its syntax, its prosody"9.

 Suniti Kumar Chatterji almost echoes Grierson when he observes that "the Kashmiri language is a result of very large overlaying of a Dardic base with Indo-Aryan elements''10. But neither Grierson nor Chatterji have heen able to show what this Dardic base precisely is or produce any evidence of the "over-laying". However, their conclusions have found almost uncritical acceptance by many, creating a confusion that shows no sign of abating and letting a totally erroneous view to prevail. It must be strongly asserted that Grierson's arguments and pronouncements are based on extremely flimsy evidence which has little to do with the facts of the language, and need, therefore, to be re-examined, particularly at a time when the very basis of his theory of Aryan immigration in waves is being seriously questioned. His classification of Kashmiri is overdue for rejection as seriously flawed and arbitrary.

Kashmiri and Pishachi

Grierson starts from a false premise when he equates Kashmiri with Pishachi and therefore with Dardic and Iranian, a theory that makes little linguistic sense and has even lesser basis in historical facts. His infatuation with this equation notwithstanding, there are questions which refuse to be exorcised. Were the supposed raw-flesh eating Pishacas actual speakers of Pishachi Prakrit? Were they and the inhabitants of Dardistan one and the same people historically? Both find mention in the Mahabharata and in the Rajatarangini, but in different contexts and as separate and distinct ethnic groups. Nowhere have their ethnic traits or identities overlapped or been confused with one another - something that only Grierson has attempted on the basis of far-fetched and hardly tenable evidence.

 Scholars are absolutely not sure and certainly not in agreement about the linguistic features and exact geographical area of Pishachi. Yet Grierson in his obsession to separate Kashmiri from Indo-Aryan languages extends as though with a sweep of his hand the Pishachi and hence Dardic speaking region from the Hindukush to Goa11, assuming too much and interchanging the terms Pishacha and Dard only to create a mess from which linguistic research has yet to recover. And granted for a moment they are interchangeable terms in ethnic as well as linguistic sense, is there sufficient material for one to adduce inferences about the features of Pishachi and sufficient grounds to apply these on one to one basis to Dardic larguages and equally to Kashmiri? Was Chulika Pishachi an Indo-Iranian form of speech? For answering these queries all that we have to fall back upon is what the Prakrit grammarians have to say in this regard and the stray examples they have cited in their works, for of Pishachi virtually no record exists, the great Brihatkatha of Gunadya having been completely lost.

 What we gather from Vararuchi, Hemachandra and other Prakrit grammarians boils down to but a few phonetic and morphological features with which Kashmiri has hardly anything to do. One of these is hardening of soft consonants in Pishachi as compared to Sanskrit, or the third and fourth voiced aspirated stops becoming voiceless and unaspirated. This process is nowhere in evidence in Kashmiri except in some rare cases limited to borrowings from Persian. Thus ga seldom changes to ka in Kashmiri-there being absolutely no possibility of nagar changing to nakar or gagan to gakan (examples chosen by the Prakrit grammarians to illustrate their point), nor of guru changing to kuru or gachcha to katsh. Sanskrit agni changes to agin and lagna becomes lagun (of Hindi lagna) the ga remaining strong and unchanged in initial, medial or terminal positions. Again gha is pronounced as ga but in no case does it become kha as is said to happen in Pishachi-megha > mekho is unthinkable in Kashmiri in which ghotaka > gur, ghama > gum and ghata > gati. Further, d at the end of a word does not change to t. Thus, Damodar changing to Tamotar, as shown to happen in Pishachi is absolutely impossible in Kashmiri. In fact, there are several examples of the final ta changing to da, as, for instance, in Skt. anta > Ksh and, Skt. danta > Ksh. > dand. The consonant is, however, mostly retained in Kashmiri in initial and medial positions while changing to th in the final position (rakta > rath, gati > gath, mati > math, prati > prath, shata > shath and so on.

 Also, Sanskrit ja is pronounced as za in Kashmiri and does not become cha as the rules of Pishachi phonetics would have required. Thus, jal becomes zal, jana becomes zon, jangha becomes zang, jarjar becomes zazur and ujjwal changes to wozul. In borrowings from Persian, however, ja usually remains unaltered, as in jald, janawar, jurmani, jae:hil, jang etc. Of Sanskrit ra changing to la, a frequent phenomenon occuring even before the Prakrits were evolved, there are but very few examples, the tendency to retain it as such being quite strong. For example, rajju > raz, raksha > rachh, taranam > tarun, maranam > marun, patra > vaethr, mitra > myethir, sutra > sithir, mutra > mithir and so on. Final dha is pronounced as da, loosing its aspiration, but not as tha to which it changes as in Pishachi.

 Morphologically too Kashmiri does not share any of the characteristics attributed to Pishachi. The ablative of stems ending in a is not marked by ato or atu, nor does the past- participle tva changes to tun, or thun or dun as Prakrit grammarians have laid down. Sanskrit tva invariably becomes it or ith in Kashmiri as illustrated by Kritva > karitva > karith, nutva > namayitva > naemith, mritva > marith, dhritva > darith and so on.

 As against this none of the actual linguistic traits of Kashmiri, phonetical or morphological, can be traced in Pishachi, of which examples provided by the Prakrit grammarians are the only record available. One, therefore, sees little logic in forcibly imposing on Kashmiri features of a virtually non-existent language. All that Grierson has done is to gather far-fetched examples, mostly from Dardic and Kafir languages, and attribute these to Kashmiri, claiming that rare exceptions form the rule and pronunciation of a few words (Persian borrowings) represents phonetical tendencies of the whole language. A much laboured exercise, surely, but also gross misrepresentation of facts.

Is Kashmiri a Dardic Language?

Coming to Dard languages proper, Grierson's pet theory that these together with Kashmiri and the Kafir group constitute a special branch of Indo-Iranian can hardly withstand linguistic scrutiny. Georg Morgentierne rejects it outright by maintaining that the so-called Dardic languages are in reality Indo-Aryan and not Iranian. Their word-stock is mainly Indo-Aryan and so are their basic characteristics, he contends. Morgiensterne finds Grierson to have muddled the whole issue by clubbing together the Dardic and the Kafir languages into one single group, and so he is not inclined on the basis of his own research to accept Grierson's views. "I am unable to share these views", he observes. "The Dardic languages, in contradistinction to the Kafir group, are of pure IA (Indo-Aryan) origin and go back to a form of speech closely resembling Vedic''12.

 Endorsing Morgenstierne's observations, Emeneau adds that these (Dardic) languages are Indo-Aryan but they did not pass through the MIA (Middle Indo-Aryan) development represented by the records, while on the other hand the Kafir languages (Kati, Waigali, Ashkun, Prasun and to some extent Dameli) may occupy some sort of special position"13. With Jules Bloch and Burrow too taking the line that the Dardic (Shina-Khowar group) languages have Indo-Aryan characteristics while the Kafir group may have Iranian affiliations, there is no justification for applying a different yardstick to Kashmiri. Kashmiri too is just as much Indo- Aryan as, say, Shina to which Grierson finds it allied. By confusing Pishachi with Dardic and Dardic with Kafir speeches and all these in turn with Kashmiri, Grierson has botched up the whole question of affiliation.

 We find him going to absurd lengths in trying to establish that Kashmiri has close affinity with Shina, shutting himself out from facts and displaying on]y a superficial knowledge of Dardic phonetic and morphological systems. Ironically, while he rejects vocabulary as the determining factor in the matter of linguistic classification, he starts with using this very factor as a proof for his conclusions. Of the 128 Shina words he has listed for having cognate forms in Kashmiri 14, more than 107 are unmistakably of Sanskrit origin-a fact that he chooses to conceal. Let us have a look at some of these:


















pafi (Hindi fufi) 
















maji (Pkt. majjh, Hindi manjh) 




nilo (Hindi nila) 

















shital (the actual Kashmiri word is 'shihul') 





gau, gav











mara (marun) 





shun or shwan


shuko (Hindi sukha) 














much, mukti






















di (the actual word is doiki) 















leaf (of a tree) 

pato (Hindi 'pat') 




sich (Hindi sikh) 
























































































jip (Hindi jibh) 













gam (Pkt. gamo) 


















The Sanskrit Factor

It will not be difficult to see from these examples selected at random by Grierson that it is not the Dardic connection that binds Kashmiri and Shina but the affiliation of both to Sanskrit or the Old Indo-Aryan upon which they draw as the basic source for their vocabulary. Many of these, as Grierson hirmself admits, have cognate forms in other Indian languages too because of the Sanskrit factor and, therefore, these do not show any exclusive linkage between Kashmiri and Shina. It can also be easily marked that phonetic systems of the two languages operate along entirely different lines. The presence of one or two Shina loan words in Kashmiri does not go to prove anything for, as T. Graham Bailey has clearly pointed out, Shina in turn, particularly in its Guresi and Tileli dialects, has been influenced considerably by Kashmiri. The fact is that Dardic languages have borrowed heavily from Urdu/Hindi and Punjabi and have some singificant morphological similarities with these North Indian languages, while with Kashmiri they have practically none.

 Contrary to what is generally believed, there are wide differences between the linguistic traits of Kashmiri and Shina, too fundamental to be ignored. Proceeding one by one according to the criteria set up by Grierson himself for affiliation, let us see how tenable the arguments in support of grouping Kashmiri with Shina as a representative language of the Dardic group are. But before that let us have a look at some of the lexical and morphological similarities that link the Dardic speeches with other modern Indo-Aryan languages. These will be found to be of more than casual interest. Here are some lexical items from Shina and their corresponding Hindi equivalents.






a live coal, cinder, spark






powerless, helpless


ashru, ansu 

a tear



part, portion, division









female calf


vis (note the cerebrals) 







to dip, be immersed



a spinning wheel









to suck










gant (note the cerebral) 











a swan






old age


jivit, jina 

alive/to live









an instant, glamoment






a frog


manushya, manav 

a man



meat, flesh





mushti, mutthi 




grain, food















a bull


shvasur, sasur 






sing, shring 







to stitch, sew






crooked, bent



which, who that

These are but a few examples that should be sufficient to give an inkling of, how lexical items in both the languages are derived from a common source. The similarity extends to other features also. For instance, pronomial forms (first person-singular) in Shina closely resemble the corresponding Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi pronouns. The same is true of adverbs of place and of conjunctions, most of which appear to be borrowings from these languages. The Shina auxiliary and substantive verb-forms hanus, hanu, hane, haniek bear an amazing similarity to Hindi hun, hai, hain, honge. If that is the case, are we to conclude that Hindi too is a Dardic language?

Kashmiri and Shina: Phonetic Dissimilarities:

Let us go back to the dissimilarities between Kashmiri and the Dardic languages and start from their phonetic features. Though too glaring, these have never been highlighted. Some of the important differences are as follows. (1) The peculiar Kashmiri vowel sounds ae ae: i and i: do not occur in Shina and other Dardic languages, nor does Kashmiri share with them its umlaut system or "consonantal epenthesis under influence of a following vowel". In turn Kashmiri does not follow the short, very short, long, half- long vowel system of Dardic languages. (2) Almost all nasals occurring in the old Indo-Aryan exist in Shina, including the cerebral n, Kashmiri has only n and m. (3) Dardic languages have the sibllant cerebral s, Kashmiri has not. (4) Existence of two sets of so-called palatal letters, both fricatives and stops, is a marked features of Shina, while Kashmiri like other Indo-Aryan languages has only one- the fricates sh, and z and zh do not occur in it nor does cerebral j. (5) Like most modern Indian languages the cerebral letters t, d, r and n are an intrinsic part of Shina, but Kashmiri does not have n and r., the latter being used in the rural dialect only in place of r. (6) In Shina the position of the half-vowel y is very weak and often approaches e; in Kashmiri y is strong in initial, medial and terminal positions.

 There is a great divergence in the phonetic changes that words of Sanskritic stock undergo in Kashmiri and in Shina. Sanskrit s and sa almost invariably change to ha' in Kashmiri, but in Dardic languages this phenomenon seldom occurs. Some examples: Sanskrit sharad, Shina sharo, Kashmiri harud; Skt. shun Sh shun, Ksh. hun; Skt. shikasha Sh. sich, Ksh hech, Skt. shrnkhala Sh. shangal, Ksh. h:nkal; skt. shushka Sh. shuko, Ksh. hokh; Skt. vis Sh. bish Ksh. veh; Skt. shakti Sh. shat, Ksh. hekat. Initial h chances to a in Kashmiri, but is generally retained in Dardic: Skt. hasta, Ksh ath, Sh. hat; Skt. hamsa, Ksh. anz Sh. hanz; Sanskrit tr changes to cho, in Shina while in Kashmir it is generally preserved: Skt. stri Sh. chei, Ksh. triy; Skt. trini Sh che. Ksh tre; Skt. jamatr Sh. zamoch. Sanskrit dr changes to z in Shina, where as in Kashmiri the d of the compound consonant is generally preserved: Sh. heridra, Sh. halizi, Ksh. ledir, Skt. draksha zach. Ksh. dachh. Sanskrit bhr also changes to z in Shina, but not in Kashmiri: Skt. bhratr Sh. za (cf. Panjabi bhra), Ksh. boy. In Shina, as in several Indian languages, Sanskrit v becomes 'b', but in Kashmiri its position is generally strong. Skt. vish Sh. bish, Ksh. veh; Skt. vatsa Sh. batshar (c.f. Hindi bachra). Ksh. votshh. Terminal b, in Shina tends to become p and terminal d is pronounced as t in words of Persian or Sanskrit origin; gulab > gulap, garib > garlp, jibh > jip faulad > fulat. This is rarely the case in Kashmiri.

 That should be enough to blast the myth that the Kashmiri phonetic system is allied to that of Shina. The fact is that phonetically Shina has little to do with Kashmiri, though it has features that can be found in Hindi/Urdu and Punjabi. Grierson has unfortunately chosen to give selective, distorted and misleading information by taking words- from Dardic and Kafir speeches and even from the so-called Siraji and other supposed dialects of Kashmiri.

Morphological Differences

We find the same process of falsification of facts repeated when we come to morphological features. Grierson has kicked so much dust about these-accidence and syntax and so on-that it would be worthwhile to examine in brief some of the important ways in which these features differ in the two languages15:

(1) Shina has two sets of accusative-the first after transitive verbs in general and the second after verbs of striking (with hand, stick, knife etc.), the nominative having the same form as the Ist accusative.

 (2) The genetive in Shina is formed by adding the suffix- ei or -ai in Kashmiri post positions. un and iny and n and ni are added to the dative for masculine and feminine, singular and plural proper nouns relating to human beings, uk and iky and ich and ichi in case of inanimate objects. For nouns other than proper names hund or sund, hindy or sindy in case of masculine singular and plural and hinz and sinz and hinzi or sinzi in case of feminine singular and plural nouns are added.

 (3) Shina has a prepositional case to be used after most prepositions, Kashmiri has no prepositional case.

 (4) In Shina separate suffixes -r and -zh are used to denote in and on or upon in the locative.


(i) ai disher (in that place); hier, in (my, his, your) heart.

 (ii) mecizh, generally used with azhe, as mecezh azhe, upon the table;

 (iii) anu manuzezh (it ibareh nush, I have no faith in this man.

In Kashmiri locative is formed by using postpositions like andar, tal, dur, kyath, nyabar, pyath etc. with the dative case.

 (5) Pronouns in Shina are mostly of the Hindi/Urdu, Panjabi type, except the nominative and agentive plural of Ist person masc. be, bes which appear to be influenced by Kashmiri. Only pronouns in the 3rd person have a feminine in singular. The most important difference is that unlike Kashmiri there are no regular indefinite and relative pronouns in Shina.

 The interrogative pronoun is commonly used in their place especially in negative clauses. For example:

(i) ko, (who): ko mush, there was no one, mutu ko (someonel

 (ii) jeh (what): jega nush, (nothing at all), mutu jek (something else).

 (iii) kos thai buti daulat naye gub (the man who lost all your wealth), main jek daulat haniek, (whatever wealth there may be of mine).

6. In Kashmiri adjectives are declined and agree with the noun in gender, number and case. In Shina only adjectives ending in -u are declined, and these agree with the noun in gender and number only, not in case. Other adjectives are not declined and are treated as nouns.

 7. There are no forms for the comparative and superlative in Shina. These are expressed by means of the preposition jo or zho, (from, than). Thus: chunu, small: mojo chunu, smaller than, but, e jo chunu: smaller than all i.e., smallest. In Kashmiri the comparative and superlative are formed by using khwoti and sariviy khwoti respectively.

 8. Numerals in Shina are counted by twenties or scores, though there are words for hundred, thousand and lakh (the last two have been borrowed from Hindi/ Urdu). To form numbers beyond twenty the conjunctive particle ga is added to it. For example bi(h), twenty: biga ek, twenty and one or twenty one; bi ga dai, twenty and ten or thirty; dibyo ga che, two-twenty and three or forty three and so on. In Kashmiri cardinals are formed as in other modern Indo-Aryan languages - akavuh, twenty one; trih, thirty, tsatji, forty, teyitae:ji forty three and soon.

 9. Cardinal numbers in Kashmiri are declined in agreement with their nouns. In Shina, they are declined only when used by themselves as nouns, not otherwise.

 10. Ordinals in Kashmiri are formed by adding the suffix -m or -yum to the cardinal, whereas in Shina ordinals after pumuko or 'the first' are formed by adding - mono and -mone in masc. singular, and plural and -moni and -monye in fem. singular and plural respectively.

 11. Like Hindi/Urdu and Panjabi, noun of agency is formed in Kashmiri by adding vol (Hindi vala) in masculine and vajyen (vali) in feminine singular. This is not the case in Dardic languages. In Shina, the auxiliary verb is used to express the idea. For instance, Ek achi hanu musha hanu, one eye is man is, a one- eyed man; shei jakur hani chei hani, white hair is woman is, a white-haired woman.

 12. In Shina verbs most commonly used are thoiki (ta do) boiki (to be) and doiki (to give). Boiki and thoiki are correlative verbs used with the same nouns or adjectives to form intransitive and transitive verbs respectively. This is not the case with the corresponding verbs karun, asun and dyun in Kashmiri.

 13. Pronominal suffixes are a prominent feature of Kashmiri, but they rarely occur in Dardic languages.

 14. The present tense in Kashmiri is formed by the auxiIiary verb chhu and its various masculine and feminine forms. In Shina auxiliary forms hanus, hane, hanu, haniek etc. are used which bear a similarity to hun, hai, hain, honge etc. It must be stated that substantive verb forms based on the root chha occur in many Indian languages, but not in Dardic languages.

 15. There is no ordinary way to express the idea of continuance in Shina. While in some cases the word hel is employed to indicate habit, the conception underlying the Kashmiri bi osus khyavan (I was eating), bi gos khyavan, (I went on eating), su rud vuchha-n, (he kept looking) etc. is not expressed in everyday speech in Shina.

 Kashmiri differs from Dardic languages in numerous other ways, all of which cannot be recounted here for want of space. A few similarities there may be, but these are mainly because of the Sanskrit factor common to Indo-Aryan languages. In view of such overwhelming evidence that separates Kashmiri from the Dardic group in such important aspects as phonetics and accidence, the assertion that Kashmiri possesses nearly all the features that are peculiar to Dardic and in which Dardic agrees with Eranian" looks preposterous. It is difficult to believe, yet it is true that Grierson has gone to the extent of distorting linguistic facts and making false and misleading statments- a case of suppresso veri and suggesto falsi- in his desperate attempt to procure evidence for his pet theory. A glaring example of the tendency on his part can be seen in his suggestion that all basic Kashmiri numerals are Dardic and therefore Eranian in spite of their obvious development from the old- Indo-Aryan, or the "Pali-Sanskrit" pattern to use Siddeshwar Verma's words Similarly, it is a known fact that Kashmiri borrowed the Persian poetic forms like the Ghazal and Masnavi and the metre Bahar-e-Hajaz in the 19th century, but it is the Vakh and the Shruk that are considered to be the representative Kashmiri metres. How does this lead to the conclusion that Kashmiri metrology is basically Iranian? Fifteenth century Kashmiri works Banasur Katha and Sukh Dukh Charit have employed well-known Sanskrit metres, which have contributed primarily to the evolution of vatsun or the Kashmiri short lyric, and also some original Kashmiri metres like Thaddo and Phuro. These facts are too signiticant to be overlooked.

Kashmiri a Sanskritic Language

Just because Kashmiri is different in some ways from languages like Hindi and Gujrati, does it make linguistic sense to exclude it altogether from the Indo-Aryan family? How strong its affinities are with this family is revealed by its basic word-stock, or, to put it in Grierson's own words, "the commonest words-the words that are retained longest in any language, however mixed, and seldom borrowed". Surely words relating to parts of the body 'physical states and conditions names of close relatives, animals and bids, edibles, minerals, objects of common use etc. can be described as such words and show that their etymology can be umistakably traced to Sanskrit.16 (For details see Appendix I).

Morphological Features

Coming to accidence or morphological features, Kashmiri reveals its Sanskritic roots no less firmly. Declensions of Kashmiri nouns show how new cases have developed from old Sanskrit bases. For instance, the instrumental in masculine singulars takes the case-ending -an which is a remanant of Skt. -ena or -ena: Ksh. tsuran, Skt. chorena. The dative suffix -as or -is is obviously the same as Pali - assa, which in turn is a derivative of Skt. -asya, though there it is used with the genetive: Ksh. tsuras, Pali chorassa, Skt. chorasya. The locative singular takes the ending -i or e: Ksh. vati, Skt. pathi; Ksh. gari, Skt. grihe. The ablative masculine singular ends in -a or -i, a remanant of Skt. -at: Ksh. tsuri, Skt. chorat For agentive masculine plurals the affix used is -av which appears to have evolved from the Vedic ebhih: Ksh. tsurav, Skt. chorebhih. In the accusative/ dative masc. pl., the case-ending -an can be traced to Skt. -anam: Ksh. tsuran, Skt. choranam: Likewise, fem. sing. nouns take the affixes -yi or -i in accusative/dative/agentive case which can be said to have been derived from the Sanskrit case-endings im, -ya, yah: Ksh. d-iviyi, Skt. deviml devya/devyah.

 Like other modern Indo-Aryan languages, Kashmiri forms a new genetive by adding postpositions to the dative and agentive cases. The postpositions used are hund or sund with masculine singular and hinz or sinz with feminine singular nouns and pronouns in case of animate objects the plural forms being, hindy or sindy and hinzi or sinzi respectively Punjabi uses handa or hunda and sanda and Sindhi sanda. According to Becames, sanda is the Panjabi form of the Prakrit santah18, which becomes handa and hunda' with the s changing to h. Buhler is of the opinion that Kashrniri sund comes from Sanskrit shyunda19, which appears to be a little far-fetched. The genetive takes the postpositions un and iny also in masculine and feminine nouns denoting living things; the plural forms are iny and ni. With inanimate objects uk and ich are used in singular and iky and chi are used. These correspond to the Hindi ka, ke and ki, while in Gujrati we have no (bapno ghar- father's house). The feminine forms of the Kashmiri genetive remind one of the corresponding Marathi forms chi che etc.

 Several other cases can also be formed by adding postpositions to the dative.

 Kashmiri pronouns have preserved many old forms, which occur in Sanskrit but are not found in Prakrit. For example, the personal pronouns (third person) su (he) and su (she) are quite akin to Sanskrit sah and sa. and their plural forms tim (they masc.) and timi (they fem.) to Sanskrit te and tah. All other forms of this pronoun have evolved from the Sanskrit root tad. The Kashmiri first person pronoun bi or bo (I) is a remarkable new form which Buhler regards as "a representative of Skt. bhavat, originally present participle of bhu, 'to be"'. All other forms of this pronoun have developed from the Sanskrit root asmad, as is the case with Punjabi and some other modern Indo-Aryan languages Ksh. asy, panj. assi. Kashmiri interrogative pronoun, kus, who, and its plural kam, as also their various forms reveal a close relationship with Skt. kah and kas. The demonstrative pronouns yi, this has its origin in the Skt. root idam while the relative pronoun yus and yim come from Skt. yah yo and ye.

 Verbal forms in Kashmiri follow Sanskrit in being derived from the root of the verb, especailly in the past tense. As Buhler has pointed out, "it is impossible to explain them by Kashmiri'20. In this context Buhler cites deshun, 'to see' and dyun to give; as examples. From these we get the forms dyuth, saw', and dyut, was given', which are derived from dittho Skt. drstitah and ditto < Skt. dattah respectively. This process is visible in the formation of all basic tenses- past, present and future. Various forms of the Kashmiri auxiliary verb chhu and as, which are derived from the Skt. roots kshi, 'to be' and as, and occur in several other Indian languages too, are formed by affixing remanants of personal pronouns to the stem. The simple future tense is formed by adding the suffix -i to the nominative base in the 3rd person, a remanant of the Sanskrit suffix -syati: Ksh. kari (-he/she will do), Skt. Karis yati, Ksh. mari (-he/she shall die), Skt. marisyati, Ksh. vegli (it will melt), Skt. vigalisyati, Kashmiri imperative verbs can hardly be distinguished from their corresponding Sanskrit forms. For example we have, Ksh. gatsh, 'go' Skt. gachcha; Ksh. Iekh, write, Skt likha; Ksh. an, bring', Skt. anaya; Ksh. dav, run Skt. dhava, Ksh. lab, find', Skt. labha(sva), Ksh. kar; do', Skt. kuru, Ksh. van, tell', Skt. varnaya and so on. It appears that most Kashmiri verbs spring from Sanskrit roots.

 Verbal nouns are formed in Kashmiri by adding the suffix -un to the base, which can be easily traced to Skt. -nam or nam and is similar to the Hindi suffix -na. Examples Ksh. marun. Skt. maranam (Hindi marna; Ksh. tarun Skt. taranarn (Hindi tarana); Ksh. vavun, Skt. vapanam -(Hindi bona); Ksh. pihun, Skt. pesanarn (Hindi pisna); Ksh. pihun, Skt. pesanam (Hindi pisna); Ksh. tsihun, Skt. chusanam (Hindi chusana), Ksh. khanun, Skt. khananam (Hindi khodana Ksh. tachhun, Skt. takshanam; Ksh. thavun, Skt. sthapanam; Ksh. vuchhun, Skt. vekshanam (Panj. vekhna), Ksh. vatun. Skt. vestanam and so on.

 The Kashmiri conjunctive participle -ith preserves elements of the old Sanskrit form -tva. Thus, we have Ksh. karith (-having done), Skt. Krtva, Ksh. namith (having bowed) < namitta < Skt. namitva (nutva), Ksh. gatshith having gone) < ae gachitta (-having gone") < gachhitva < ae gachhitva (gatva), likhit < Skt. likhitva, rachhit Skt. rakshitva.

 Kashmiri adverbs too point to their old Indo-Aryan origins, quite transparently:

1. Adverbs of Time:











when, at what time 




adya (Pkt. ajja)


yesterday, yesternight 




sakae (saka+ika)








after that 

ada (Vedic)

prath dohi 






prath vari 

every year 



every now and then 

ghatika (Pkt. ghatia, Hindi gari ghari)


as soon as 



at that very moment 



till then 



till such time until 

yavat, as

2. Adverbs of Place:





here, wherever 



at this place






at that place



at that place/from that place 



at which placet (interrogative) 



to this place/to whichever place 



to that place 



to which place 

kutah, kutra


under, below 



in, inside 

madhye (Pkt. majjhe, Hindi manjh)


in the middle 






from far 



on this side 


3. Adverbs of Manner:





in which manner, as in this manner 



in that manner, like/that 



in what manner (interrogative) 





Kashmiri conjunctions too show the same trend with 'ti' and, coming from Skt. tatha, 'ti', 'also' from Skt. iti'21 and beyi, and, 'more', 'again', from Pkt. 'beiya' Skt. 'dwitlya'.

Order of words

Inspite of all this massive evidence the fact that Kashmiri is an Indo-Aryan language is sought to be dismissed with the argument that the order of words in a Kashmiri sentence is not the same as in Hindi or other north Indian languages. But the order of words is not the same in any of the Dardic languages either which have a totally different syntax. Besides this is not the whole truth. True, the order of words very nearly approaches that of English in direct or coupla sentences with verb coming in between subject and object, but certain other types of Kashmiri sentences do resemble those of Hindi and even Sanskrit, as for instance, in certain types of imperative and interrogative sentences. Consider the following examples:-

(1) Imperative sentences:




yot yi ti bati khe 

come here and eat your food 

yahan a aur khana kha

humis adkas nishi beh 

sit near that boy 

us larke ke pas baith

yim palav chhal 

wash these clothes 

ye kapre dho

chay chyath gatsh 

leave after taking tea 

chay pikar ja

guris (pyath) khas 

mount the horse 

ghore par charh

vwazul posh an 

get the red flower 

lal phul la

kuthis manz par 

Read inside the room 

kamre mein parh

yitsi kathi ma kar 

Don't talk so much 

itni baten mat kar

tot dwad ma che 

Don't take hot milk 

garam dudh mat pi

nyabar ma ner 

Don't go out 

Bahar mat nikal

gyavun ma gyav 

Don't sing a song 

gana mat ga

vuni ma shong 

Don't sleep yet 

abhi mat so

Some of the simpler imperatives can hardly be distinguished from Sanskrit: 




ati ma par 

Don't read there 

atra ma patha

gari ma gatsh 

Don't go home 

ghriham ma gachchha

az ma lekh 

Don't write today 

adya ma likha

krud ma kar 

Don't be angry 

krodham ma kuru

(2) Interrogative sentences:




tse kya gatshi? 

What do you want? 

tumhe kya chahiye?

su kot gav? 

Where di he go? 

voh kahan gaya?

yot kar-ikh? 

When will you come here? 

yahan kab aoge?

chany kur kati chhe? 

Where is your daughter? 

tumhari beti kahan hai?

yi kamysund gari chhu? 

Whose house is this? 

yeh kiska ghar hai?

bati kus kheyi? 

Who will take food? 

khana kaun khayega?

In subordinate or relative clauses the verb generally come last as in Hindi: 




su ladki yus yeti rozan os kot gav? 

Where has the boy who lived here gone? 

voh larka jo yahan rahta tha kahan gaya?

su hun yus tse onuth tsol rath

The dog which you brought, ran away yesterday 

voh kutta jo tumne laya tha, kal bhag gaya

yosi kath taemy vaeneyi so drayi paez 

What he had said came out to be true

jo bat usne kahi thi voh sach nikali

yosi kath gaeyi, so gaeyi 

what is past is past 

jo bat gayi so gayi

This is not to suggest that Kashmiri agrees with Sanskrit in every respect. As a language it has its own peculiarities and distinguishing features. But its basic word-stock does come from Sanskrit, or old Indo-Aryan, and its grammatical forms too have without doubt, developed from it to a considerable extent. True that a great number of Persian and Arabic lexical items have found their way into Kashmiri after the advent of Islam and have become a part of its vocabulary. These, however, are later day additions made much after Kashmiri had evolved as a distinct language.

Written Evidence: Kashmiri and MIA

Though it is not possible to say at what point of time exactly did Kashmiri start taking shape as a distinct language, much of its early literary output having been lost, there is enough written evidence available to help one outline its gradual development fromthe MIA stages of Prakrit and Apabhramsha through which other modern Indo-Aryan languages have passed. Anyone who cares to study its earliest extant record, that exists in the form of the Chhumma Sampraday verses, Mahanay Prakash, Banasur katha and 'Sukha-dukha Charit' will be able to see clearly the continuity of linguistic development that runs through these works. While Chumma Sampraday can be assigned to 11th or 12th century, Mahanay Prakash written by Shitikantha can be rated to the 13th century, both being treatises of esoteric Tantric sects. Then we have the verses of Lalleshwari and Sheikh Nur-ud-Din, celebrated saint-poets who lived in the 14th century, but these have been passed down for centuries in oral tradition and thier language cannot be said to be the same in which they were originally composed. The sentence 'Rangassa Helu dinna' (the village of Helu was given to Ranga) occuring in the 12th century work Kalhana's Rajataringini is also a curious piece of of linguistic evidence. Though Shitikantha's 'Mahanay Prakash' and Avtar Bhatta's Banasur Katha are separated in time by about two centuries, these works share many a linguistic feature.

 Shitikantha claims to have written his work in the local dialect "inteligible to all people'-"sarvagochardeshabhasa", and Avtar Bhatta too has used the term "deshy" to describe the language he wrote in. The term has been used by Prakrit grammarians to denote local or provincial dialects, as pointed out by Dr. Tagare. Prakrit works by Jain writers are replete with references to eighteen such dialectsor "attharas bhasa", of which Kashmiri must have been one.

 Features of early Kashmiri that appear in Chumma Sampraday in a nascent form become more developed and distinct in Mahanay Prakash, which displays a definite tendency of Prakritization. Banasur Katha, on the other hand, is a record of that state of Kashmiri when the language had just emerged from the Prakrit-Apabhramsha egg-shell. The language of Sukha-dukha Charit is relatively closer to modern Kashmiri while sharing most of the characteristics of Banasur Katha. Being a record of the Kashmiri language as it was spoken in the 15th century, the last two works shed useful light on its medieval development and are greatly helpful in tracing earlier forms of a good number of Kashmiri words. For instance, various forms of the auxiliary verb chhu occur as ksho, kshi, kshem, kshoh, kshiyiy etc, suggestirg that these have originated from the Sanskrit root kshi, meaning 'to be'. Similarly we find the original sh retained in words like shiki, shit; shiton of which the corresponding modern forms are heki, kyath, 'hyotun', Skt. sh generally changing to h in Kashmiri. Shot is another word of this kind, its modern form being hot, 'throat' This is precisely what we find in the Poguli dialect which even today preserves the original sibliant. 'Dittho' (modern Ksh. dyuth) Skt. drishtwa and ditto (mod, Ksh. dyut) < Skt. dattah are among the many intermediary forms of modern Kashmiri words that occur in Banasur Katha.

 Most of the phonetical changes one comes across in Mahanay Prakash (M.P), Banasur Katha (B.K) and Sukha-dukha Charit (COC) take place much the same way as they do in Prakrit and Apabhramsha. Many of these changes have crystallized to form words which are used in present-day Kashmiri. For instance, of elision of independent consonants ch, t d and p, there are many examples in these works, the elided consonant being replaced by a glide, y or v: vachan>vayan, lochan>loyan, gatah> gav vady>vay, avaptam>vato, sthapayitva>thavet. In modern Kashmiri too, excepting the elision of ch in vachan and loyan, we have several examples of this as gav, vay, vot and thevith. In Apabhramsha Skt. r changes to a, i and u. In M.P, B.K. and S.D.C., r>i and a: prithvi>pithiv (M.P), Pithvu (B.K); prakriti > pakiti (M.P), pakit (B.K), trn > tin, mrtyu>mitya, drdha>dado (B.K), drstva>dittho, nrtya>nats etc. In modern Kashmiri this tendency can be seen in words like dor< dridha, nats.  It will be interesting to note that a good number of grammatical and lexical items are quite similar in B.K., S.D.C. and modern Kashmiri, the apparent phonetlc differenes being mostly due to orthographical limitaticns. Another feature that needs to be noted is that several wcrds occuring in B.K. and S.D.C. are found in Hindi and some other north Indian languages but not in present day Kashmiri. For instance we have: jalo (Hindi jala) pado (Hindi para), chados, chadet (Hindi charha, charhe), piya (Hindi piya), guade (Hindi ghore; modern/standard Kashmiri gur, rural Kashrniri gur). In B.K., the word eshen occurs at one place having beeing been used in the sense of 'they came'. Cursiously, this appears to be a Bengali word, the mod. Kashmiri word being ayi (Hindi aye). These do not appear to be loan words. Their occurrence in 15th century Kashmiri lends further support to the view that the lines of development of Kashmiri and other modern Indo-Aryan languages must have been similar in the initial phases.

 Yet another linguistically singificant trait is that in B.K. as well as S.D.C., both 15th century works, several words occur in more than one form. For instance, we have tav and tam, kshyo and chho, ko and kus i and yi. One of these forms appears to be older and unstable whereas the other is relatively new. This shows that the language at that time was more or less in a state of flux and word forms had not yet crystalised. Interestingly enough there are words in contemporary speech also which exist in more than one form. One such word is navid, barber, which is derived from Skt. napita and occurs in the form of nayid (Hindi nai) also, the two forrns denoting two different stages of development: napita>navid, nayid. This makes Kashmiri an interesting subject for study in the Indian linguistic context.


These early Kashmiri texts also shed singificant light on Kashmiri metrics. While in Chumma Sampraday and Maharlay Prakash the metre used approaches Vakh and Shruk(J)' derived probably from Sanskrit Shloka or Prakrit Gaha metres, in Banasur Katha Sanskrit metres like Vasantatilakam. Mandakranta, Narkataka, Sriagdkara have been used straightaway together with what appear to be original Kashmiri meitres like Thaddo, Phuro and Dukatika. We find the author of Sukha-dukha Charit also using these very Sanskrit and indigenous metres and that is the last we see of them.

 The above study, based on written evidence of the state of Kashmiri language as it was used from the 11th to late 15th century, should be enough to indicate the broad lines of its development in the light of the phonetic changes that can be seen to have taken place during this period. It should surely make it easier for us to go back in time and note for ourselves that this process has been hardly different from the one that has led to the development of other Aryan languages of India. For those who care for facts, this is something that is quite valuable for ascertaining and relocating the position of Kashmiri in the Indian linguistic context. One thing is certain, the roots of Kashmiri do not lie hidden somewhere in the Dardic soil, but can now, more clearly than ever before, be traced to a land that formed a part of the Vedic world. Surely, there is a wide area that has still to be explored, but the direction of this exploration is no longer hazy or uncertain.











buth, mkh 



shondi (archaic) 








Pkt. dhika (Guj-daka-throat; doku-head)




































kakshah (Hindi kankh)



Pkt. Dhidh (Panj. tid)



mand, alah









kaphoni+vatah (c.f. Hindi kohni)






angustha (c.f. Sh. aguto)






khurah / kshurah (-a cloven hoof- Note the change in meaning)





sole of a foot 


















vein, artery, blood vessel










vrikka+vatah (c.f. Hindi bukka)



hair of the body roma



nalah, nalam (Pkt nalo)




And here are some words relating to various physical states and conditions:








to take birth 

Vedic jayate


to laugh 



to weep 






to feel joy, alacrity 




bubhuksha (c.f. Hindi 'bukh')


to sleep 








As for names of close relatives are concerned Kashmiri 'mol' (father) and 'maej' (mother) are said to be of Dardic origin. 'Mol' is, however, derived from Skt. 'mahal', meaning 'the great one'. Other words are clearly of Sanskrit origin. 












kumari/kaumari (Pkt. kunwari, Kauri, Panj. kudi, Kaur)



bhrataka (Hindi: bhai)





uncle (father's brother) 

pitravya (Guj.pirai pitrayun)


aunt (mother's sister) 

matushvasa (Pkt. Mausi, Hindi mausi, masi)


aunt (father's sister) 

pitushvasa (Hindi phuphi)


maternal uncle 

mamakah (Hindi mama)


wife of maternal uncle 




snusa (Panj. nuh)



jamatr (Pali jamatar, Hindi jamai)



shvasur (note the change of 'sh' to 'h')


brother-in-law (sister's husband) 



sister-in-law (husband's sister) 

jama (Pk. jami)


sister-in-law's husband 



sister-in-law's daughter 



sister's son (wife's sister)

bhagniputra syali



ramanah (Pkt. ramano ravannu) ranu, ravan (dialect)


female friend 








Common animals, birds and even worms and insects have names which are derived from Sanskrit. Examples:





a lion, tiger 

simha (Pkt. siha)

hos (t) 

an elephant 



a jackal 

shrigalah (Pkt. siala)


a pig 



a cow 

gau (gava)


a calf 



a dog 

shvanah, shun


a monkey 


gur (rural dialect gud) 

a horse 



a colt 



a he-goat 



a bear 



a camel 



a stag 



a buffalo 






a tortoise, a turtle 



a tortoise, a turtle 



a weasel 



a snake 



a sparrow 

chatkah (Hindi chiriya)


a crow 



a cuckoo 



a rooster, cock 



a swan 



starling, mynah 



the muddy goose 



a vulture 



a heron 



a patridge 



a scorpion 



a housefly 



a worm 



a flea 

plushi (Hindi pissu)




Words for Colours: 





white, bleached 




krisnah (cf. Hindi kanha)



















Names of days of the week: 






adityavarah (Hindi itvar, Sh. adit)



















Names of edibles: 




















cooked rice 




dugdham (Hindi dudh)











brinjal, egg-plant 










garjaram (Pkt. gajjaram)














the bottle-gourd




shimbi (c.f. Hindi chhimi)


lime, lemon 




kadali (Pkt. kelao, Hindi kela)



amram (Pkt. ambam)












kharjurah (Pkt. khajjuro)








sesamum seed 






black pepper 






a species of pulse 

mudgah (Pkt. muggo)


gram, chick-pea 



a bean 



a kind of pulse, vetch 

mayasthah, makushthah


corn, maize 

markaka (Pkt. makka+ika)





a dish of rice and split pulse 

krsharah (Hindi khichari)


juice, gravy 



parched grain 



unrefined sugar 



dried ginger 



cumin seed 







gudah (Hindi gur)


a sweet cake offered to a god 


Names of the minerals also show the same tendency: 






swarna (Hindi sona)














brass, bellmetal 


Names of objects of common use are mostly of Sanskrit derivation:






kalpatah (Pkt. kappado, Hindi kapra)


woollen cloth 









cotton thread 













bhajana (Pkt. bhayana, Guj. bhanun, bhanen, Sindh banu)












kambalam (Pkt. kammal)






nava (Vedic)


a canoe, a large boat 

drona+kah (c.f. Hindi donga)





a large boat 

vahitra, vohittha (c.f. Hindi bohit)


a large plate of metal 

sthalam (c.f. Hindi thal)



ghasam (Hindi ghas)


a portable fire-pot, brazier 

kastha+angari+ka, ka+angari+ka


a staff 



a net 



a musical instrument 

vadya+kah (Hindi baja)


a ring 






a water vessel 



a loincloth 










karpasam (Pkt. kappasam)









vina (Hindi bin)






valga (Hindi bag)








garland necklace 



bangle, bracelet 

vank+diminutive affix ri (c.f. Hindi bangri, bangri; Marathi bangrya)


a shoe of grass or straw 

pula+kah (Hindi pula)

Names of different seasons are peculiarly Sanskritic:

Name of the season 








gris, ma

rainy season 


varsa+ rituh (Hindi 'barsat')







Etymology of words relating to physical, natural and environmental phenomena is quite interesting: 




siri (Muslim Kashmiri 'akhtab') 



tsaendir, tsaendram 


chandra, chandra+mas (Hindi 'chandrama')








the universe, world 
























rumbling, thunder 



sea, ocean 



















bhu+chala (Hindi bhuchal)

Kashmiri numerals

Of particular interest in this context are Kashmiri numerals, cardinals as well as ordinals, which are amazingly Indo-Aryan, retaining old Sanskritic elements as hardly any other modern Indo-Aryan language does. In the Dardic languages Sanskrit sh does not change to h though in Prakrit/Kashmiri has a full fledged numeral system which by no stretch of imagination can be said to have any links with Dardic where counting is done in twenties. Siddheshwar Verma has very clearly shown that Kashmiri follows the Sanskrit-Pali pattern in its numerals[17]. Let us consider a few examples. Kashmiri is the only modern Indo- Aryan language that retains the Sanskrit dvi in the form of du) in numerals that come after ten (barring twelve). Thus we have, duhaeth (Skt. dva-shasthi, Pali dvasatthi, Pkt. basatthi); dusatath (Skt. dvisaptati, Pali dvasattati), dunamath (Skt dvanavati). In all other Indo-Aryan languages including Prakrit, d>b, as in Hindi basath, bahattar, banave. In the same way Kashmiri shunamath retains the sh of Sanskrit sannavati, whereas in other Indo- Aryan languages sh>chh, Hindi chhiyanave, Bengali chhevanabbe, Sindhi chhanave etc. Again, Kashmiri "satath" is closer to the Sanskrit-Pali pattern and not to Prakrit in which the terminal t of saptati changes to r:Prakrit sattari', Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi sattar, Sindhi satari.

 It is amazing that Kashmir deh (Muslim Kashrnir dah) and hath derived from Sanskrit dash and shat respectively, with sh and some other Indian languages like Marathi it does: (Skt. dashamukha Pkt. dahamuho; Marathi daha- ten) In the Dardic, and even Kafir languages, sh is generally retained. Thus we have: Kalash dash, Gwarbati dash, Garwi dash. Torwali dash, Shina dai, Maiya dash. In Kashmiri shat (h) as well hath are used for hundred hath for numbers below seven hundred and shat for numbers above it. But in Dardic languages sh is generally retained or changed to s as in Hindi and other modern Indo-Aryan languages: Kalash shor, Garwi 'So, Torwali 'So, Maiya shal, Shina shal.

The following table will make the position of Kashmiri numerals more clear:







































































Some Examples of Conjunction

(1) k+t > tt: shakti > shatta, bhakti > bhatta, rakta > ratta; Mod. Kaihmiri: rakta 'rath', 'bhakta (-rice) > bati, saktum > (parched rice) > sot.
(2) p+t tt/t: sapta > satta, avaptam > vato. Mod. ksh.: sapta > sath, avaptam > vot, tapta > tot.
(3) t+y ch: nrtya- > nachha - Mod. Ksh nrtya > nats, atyeti > Pkt. achei > Ksh. ats
(4) d+y jj: adya > ajja, vadyanti vajjan, Mod. Ksh: adya > az, vadyanti vazan.
(5) g+dh > dh: dagdha > dadho, dadhos. Mod. Ksh. dagdha > dod, dodus.
(6) dh+y > jj: madhya > majj (Pkt. majh, Hindi manjh); budhyate > bujje (Pali bujjhati, Pkt. bujjhai). Mod. Ksh: Madhya > manz, budhyate > bozi.
(7) h+v > jj: dahyati > dajji Mod. Ksh: dahyati > dazi
(8) d+v > b: dwitiva > Pkt. belya, bhiya, Mod. Ksh. beyi, dwadash > bah (Hindi barah) dwar > bar (Punjabi bari)
(9) g+n > gg: lagnah > laggo Mod. Ksh. lagnah > lagun, log
(10) g+n > nn: naghah > nanno Mod. Ksh. nagnah > non
(11) t+m > p: atman > pan (Pkt. appa, Hindi ap, Sindhi, pan, u)

In conjuncts with sibliants, the sibliant generally elides:

(1) s+t > th, tth: stana > than, hastat > attha Mod. Ksh: stana > than, stabmbh > tham, hasta > athi
(2) s+th > th: sthal > thal (Pali thal', Pkt. 'thal', Punj. 'thal' Assamese 'thal', Guj, 'thal', Marathi 'thal', Hindi 'thal' Skt. stha piyitva > thavet, sthan > than, Mod. Ksh: 'sthal' > thal, sthapanam > thavun, sthal > thal.
(3) s+ph > ph: 'sphotayah > photiy; Mod. Ksh: 'sphotyati' > phuti
(4) s+m > s: 'smar' > sar, saret (Pali 'sar' -, Pkt. 'sar'-, Mod. Ksh: 'smar' > sar
(5) sh+t/th > ttha: drstva dittho (Pali dittha, Pkt. datt,ha, dittha, Guj. Dithun, Awadhi: ditha), pristha > pittha, nistha > nittha, upavista > bittha; Mod. Ksh: dristwa dyut,h; prishtha > pyath, pith; kostha > kuth; oshtha > wuth; asta > ae: th kashtha > kath (Hindi kath) musti > mvath pusta > puth, jyestha > zyuth (Hindi jetha), bhrasta breth; upavista > byuth.

Another point of similarity between phonology of M.P., B.K. S.D.C. and Prakrit-Pali-Apabhramsha is elision of 'r' in r'-conjunction. The present writer was pleasantly surprised to come acorss the word 'piya' (-beloved) in one of the most beautiful songs of Banasur Katha-piya ma gatsh marnay.

 (1) k+r > k. krodhe > kodhe, krur > kur, Mod. Ksh: krur > kur
(2) k+k > kk: chakra > chakka, shakra > shakka; Mod. Ksh: chukra > tsok, nakrashira > Pkt. nakkasira- > Mod. Ksh. naser
(3) t+r > t: > tatra tatte, tati; yatra > yatti, yati; atra > ati, trasen > trase, tri- > ti.
Mod. Ksh. tatra > tati; yatra > yeti, atra > ati, ratri > rath, kutra > kati
(4) r+n/n, > n (n): varna > vanna; suvarna > suvanna, varnaya > vanno, (a) karne > akannet. Mod. Ksh.: karna > kan, swarna > swan, parna > pan, churna > tsin,
(5) r+m > mm; m; karma > kamma, marma > mamma charma > chamma Mod. Ksh: karma > k aem, charma > tsam
(6) r+p > pp: darpa > dappa; arpit > appu; Mod. Ksh: shurpa > shup; karpasa > kayas
(7) r+h > ll, 1: yarhi > yille, tarhi > tille, Mod. Ksh: yarhi > yeli, tarhi > teli

When 'r' is the second member of a conjunct, however, it does not elide, but is retained with a vocalic release:

(1) Agre > agari, agra; abhrat > abhra; sahasra > sass; nirgatah > niret, niri, nirim; sparsa > parshet, Mod. Ksh: abhra > obur, sahasra > sas, nirgatah > ner; sparsha > phash (Pkt. phassa)

The consonant 'r' is, however, generally retained in modern Kashmiri in initial, medial or final positions. The doubled consonants formed as a result of its elision have been simplied in course of further development of the language in case of words where it has been elided. There is no compensatory elongation of the vowel in Kashmiri for the words so formed, as usually happens in Hindi and other modern Indo-Aryan languages. Thus karna > kan and not kan (as in Hindi), swarna > swan and not sona.

 The joint letter ksh changes mostly to chh or chchh, but in some cases it changes to kh as happens in Mod. Ksh. too.

Here are same examples:

(1) Ksh > chchh/chh: kshut. > chchot; akshi > achchi Mod. Ksh: kshut > tshot, akshi > achh, mandakshi > mandachh, bubhuksha > bochhi, laksha > lachh, vaksha > vachh, raksha > rachh, paksha > pachh, kaksha > kachh, taksha > tachh, yaksha > yachh, draksha > dachh, maksha > machh, kshalava > chhal, shiksha > hechh, veksha > vuchh (Punj. vekh)
(2) ksh > kkh/kh: tikshna > tikkho Mod. Ksh: Lakshmi > lakhymi, sukshma > sikhim, paksha > (-wing) > pakh, kshama > khyama

The sibliants 'sh', 's' (cerebral 'sh') and 's' generally change to 'h' in Kashmiri though there are several exceptions.

(1) sh/s > h: dasha > daeh, ekadasha > kah, chaturdasha > chuddah, nashan > nahen Mod. Ksh: dasha > clah, ekadasha > kah, chaturdasha > tsodah, nashan > nahvun, sharad > harud, shat > hath, shuska > hokh, krisna > kruhun, chusana > tsihun, pesanam > pihun, vestana > vatun, visam > veh, tus > toh, manusya > mohnyuv, upavisha > beh; shun/shwan > hun; shari > haer, mashkah > moh.
(2) sh/s remains unchanged: shobha > shub, maihisa mash, shurpa > shup, pusa/puspa > posh, asha > ash, tris. > tresh, mris. mash-, lesha > lish, prakash > gash.
Initial 'h' changes to 'a' in Kashmiri. There are only a few examples of this in M.P. B.K. aild S.D.C.: hastat > attha, hasti > asis
Mod. Ksh: hasta > athi, hasan > asun, ha,dda > adda

Vowel changes occur in modern Kashmiri almost along the same lines as in M.P. B.K. and S.D.C. Examples of some of these are given below:-

 (1) a > a: sahara > sass, saphal > saphul, nibhrit > nibhara, rakshaka > rakshe, sahit > sate, priya > piya, nashya > nah. Mod. Ksh: sahasra > sas, raksha > rachh-,. nashya- > nah;
(2) a > u: Medial 'a' often changes to 'u' in Kashmiri nominative singular. This tendency is equally strong in M.P., B.K. and S.D.C.
Examples: Janaka > januk, anal > anul, varsana > varshun, tapodhana > tapodhun, sanrakshaka > sanrakshuk, Narad > Narud, Madhava > Madhuv. Mod. Ksh.: balak > baluk, varsan, a > varshun, rakshaka > rakhyuk, takshaka > takhyuk, Narada > Narud, sarpah > sarup, bhramrah > bombur
(3) a > a: Like Maharashtri, Jain Maharashtri, Ardha- Magdhi Prakrits and Apabhramshas, a > a in fem. nom. sing. in M.P., B.K., and S.D.C. Modern Kashmiri also exhibits this tendency. Examples: Puja > puj, katha > kath, bala > bal, Usha (proper name) > Ush, mata > mat Mod. Ksh.: Puja > puz, katha > kath, bala > bal, Usa (proper name) > Ushi, mala > mal, sthala > thal
(4) i > a: narpati > narpat, dinapati > dinapat, nayika > nayak, rishi > rish, rashi > rash, rashmi > rashm, buddhi > buddh, shakti > shatta, bhakti > bhatta, agni > agna. Mod. Ksh.: rsi > ryosh, ganapati > ganapat, rashi > rash, budcdhi > bwadh, gati > gath, prati > prath.
(5) i > u: jiva > juv (Sindhi jiu, Panj, jiu, Kumanoni jyu, ziu, Bengali jiu, Marathi jiu, Hindi jiu) Mod. Ksh.: zuv
(6) u > a: tribhuvan > tibhavan, Shambhu > Shambh, ashru > asra, kutah > katto, asur > asar, shatru > shatra, Visnu > vi,sn,a.
Mod. Ksh.: ashru > osh, kutah > kati, shatru > shathir Vishnu > veshin










Modern Kashmiri




Old Indo-Aryan


Mid Indo-Aryan






Mahanay Prakash


Banasur Katha


Sukha-Dukha Charit


1. Siddheshwal Verma, The Antiquities of Kashmiri: An Approach. p. 7.
2. See his Detailed Report of a Tour in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts Made in Kashmir, Rajputana and Central Asia p. 89.
3. Journal Asiatic Society of Bengal, p. 280.
4. Tour in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts, p. 83.
5. Monier Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary, p. 844.
6. The Antiquities of Kashmiri: An Approach, p. 4.
7. S.K. Toshkhani, "Some Important Aspects of Kashmiri as a Language", The Lala Rookh, August 1967, p. 50.
8. G.A. Grierson, "The Linguistic Classification of Kashmiri", Indian Antiquary XLIV, p. 257.
9. The Linguistic Survey of India Vol. VIII. Part II. p. 259.
10. S.K. Chatterji, Languages and Literatures of Modern India. p. 256.
11. The Lingusitic Survey of India Vol. VIII, Part IV: The Introduction p. 8.
12. Quoted by Murray B. Emenau in AnL VIII. No. 8, p. 282-83.
13. Ibid.
14. G.A. Grierson, The Linguistic Survey of India Vol. VIII, Part II, 251- 2.
15. See T. Grahame Bailey, Grammar of the Shina Language, Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1924.
16. Help has been taken of Turners' Comparative Dictionary of Modern Indo-Aryan Languages' for etymology of most of the words.
17. Siddheshwar Verma, The Antiquities of Kashmiri: An Approach, p. 5-6.
18. Beams, A Comparative Grammar of the Modern Languages of India. p. 291.
19. Tour in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts, p. 86.
20. Ibid. p. 86.
21. G. A. Grierson, The Language of Mahanay Prakash, Para 274.

Excerpts from:
Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh - Linguistic Predicament
Edited by: P. N. Pushp and K. Warikoo
Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation
Har-Anand Publications

Beginnings of Kashmiri Language and Literature

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani


As a daughter of Sanskrit, Kashmiri has a number of traits that it shares with other modern languages of Aryan stock, and yet it has its own peculiarities also. What makes it a unique language in the Indian Linguistic context is the fact that it is analytic and at the same time synthetic holding many a secret of the development of modern Indo-Aryan languages.

That is perhaps, what Dr. Siddheshwar Verma means when he says that Kashmiri reveals linguistic strata of various ages  -  "Vedic, Buddhist Sanskrit, Pali, Kharoshthi Prakrit" etc. No wonder then that Georg Buhler considers it to be of greatest importance in the study of a comparative grammar of Indo-Aryan languages, preserving, as it does, not only several old word forms but also revealing how new word-forms evolved from old bases. Grierson too seems to ensorse the same view despite his controversial classification of the language. The study of Kashmiri, he says, is an "essential preliminary to any inquiry" regarding "the mutual relations of modern vernaculars of India".


Kashmiri or Kashur’ as its native speakers numbering over 31 lakhs according to the 1991 census call it, is spoken in the region extending from Uri to Matrigam in the north, Verinag to the Pir Panchal ranges in the south, Zojila to Kashtawar in the east and Shopian to Lagan in the West, covering an area of about 10,000 sq. miles. Besides the Kashmir valley, there is a sizeable concentration of the speakers of the languages and its dialects in Kashtawar, Ramban, Pogal Paristan, Reasi, Poonch and several other mountainous areas of the Jammu region. Today a large number of its speakers-around 5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been displaced from their original linguistic habitat and relocated in Jammu, Delhi and other places in India. There is a clearly perceptible dialectic variation in respect of accent and usage in the Kashmiri spoken in Kamraz (Skt. Kramarajya-North Western Kashmir) and Maraz (Madvarajya-South Kashmir) and the standard Kashmiri of Srinagar and adjoining semi-urban areas. The main areawise dialects, however, are Kashtawari, Pogali, Siraji and Rambani which preserve several old and archaic elements of the language. Unfortnuately, there has been no attempt to study these dialects systematically which could well reveal secrets of its development of Kashmiri from the regional. Prakrit and Apabhramsha.


There exists a very strong evidence to show that Kashmiri has descended from the vedic speech or, as Buhler  has pointed out, from "one of the dialects of which the classical Sanskrit was formed." The presence in Kashmiri vocabulary of a large number of lexical and phonetic items that can be directly traced to  Vedic corrobate this fact. For instance, the Kashmiri word ‘yodvay’, meaning ‘if’ is the same as Vedic ‘yaduvay’, the corresponding word for it in Sanskrit (and Hindi) being ‘yadi’. Similarly we have the word ‘ada’ in Kashmiri, meaning ‘so, then, thereupon, yes’, which can be hardly distinguished from the Vedic ‘addha’ of which the Prakrit form too is ‘addha’, Again, the Vedic ‘sanna’ appears as ‘son’ in Kashmiri having an identical meaning ‘deep’. Or take the Kashmiri word ‘basta’ which comes straight from Vedic ‘bastajin’ meaning ‘goatskin’, ‘bellows’. It is from the Vedic root ‘taksh’ that the Kashmiri word ‘tachh’ (to scratch, ‘to peel’, ‘to plane’, ‘to scrape’) is derived, Sanskrit ‘ksh’ changing to ‘chh’ in Kashmiri as in Laksha>lachh, vaksha>vachh, draksha>dachh, akshi>achhi etc. And from this very root comes the Kashmiri word ‘chhan’, ‘a carpenter’.

Generally, Kashmiri words have evolved from Vedic or old Indo-Aryan through intermediairy Pali or Prakrit forms. Thus, Vedic ‘prastar’, from which the Hindi ‘patthar’ (=a stone) is derived, changes through the intermediary Prakrit ‘pattharo’ to ‘pathar’ (=on the floor) and ‘pothur’ (=the floor) in Kashmiri, retaining the original sense. Vedic ‘atyeti’, ‘comes upon, goes by’, ‘enters’ is another example. It becomes ‘achcheti’ in Prakrit and from it the Kashmiri ‘atsun’. (=enter) is derived. In fact, numerous such examples can be adduced to show that Kashmiri preserves not only phonetic and semantic but also morphological elements of Vedic speech.

The phonetic aspects of the tendency in Kashmiri to retain some most archaic word forms has been analysed at some length by Dr. Siddheshwar Verma. It will be interesting to look at some of the examples he gives to provide evidence on how Kashmiri shows contact with older layers of Indo-Aryan vocabulary. One such word that Dr Verma examines is ‘kral’, the Kashmiri for ‘a potter’. While all other modern Indo-Aryan languages, he points out, except Nepali and Sinhalese, have words for it derived from the Sanskrit ‘kumbhakar’, post-Vedic development, Kashmiri alone preserves the phonetic remanants of the Vedic ‘Kulal’, an older word. Similarly, the Kashmiri word ‘tomul’, uncooked rice’, he says, has retained the initial ‘t’ of the Sanskrit ‘tandulam’, while in other modern Indo-Aryan languages, ‘t’ has changed to ‘ch’, as in Hindi ‘Chawal’, Bengali and Oriya ‘Chaul’, Sindhi ‘chavir’, Nepali ‘chamal’ and so on.

It is on the basis of such linguistic evidence that eminent linguists like Morgenstierne, Emenean, Bloch and Turner have arrived at their conclusions about Vedic origin of Kashmiri. Supporting this view, Prof. S.K. Toshkahni goes even further to point out some pre-Vedic developments in the language like the existence of words like ‘sost’ and ‘rost’ which later become ‘sahit’ and ‘rahit’.

Grierson's folly:

Grierson, however, disregards all this massive evidence and holds an entirely different view about the origin and affliation of the Kashmir language. Kashmiri, he insists is "a mixed language, having as its basis a language of the Dard group of the Pishacha family allied to "Shina’. He accepts the fact that there is a predominance of Indo-Aryan vocabulary in Kashmir, but attributes this to a powerful influence of Indian culture and literature for over two thousand years. Almost echoing Grierson's views, Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterji observes that "the Kashmiri language is a result of very large overlaying of a Dardic base with Indo-Aryan. But neither Grierson, nor Chatterji have cared to show what this Dardic base or sub-stratum precisely is. Nor have they been able to produce any evidence of this ‘overlaying’. Grierson's view are largely confined to the realm of hypothesis and fly in the face of actual facts of the language. This insistence on equating Kashmiri with Paishachi and therefore, with Dardic and Iranian makes little linguistic sense.

The Paishachi speech exists only in the few examples that Prakrit grammarians have given of it, there being virtually no other record available. And a glance at the phonetic and morphological features of Paishachi as given by them proves beyond any shadow of doubt that linguistically it has nothing to do with Kashmiri.

Grierson has further muddled the issue by placing Kashmiri in the Shina-Khowar group of Dardic languages and clubbing these in turn with the Kafir group. Both Morgiensterne and Emenean have rubbished this classification and shown very clearly that Dardic languages “are of pure IA (Indo-Aryan) origin and go back to a form of speech closely resembling Vedic”. Emeneau has further pointed out that though the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan, “they did not pass through the MIA (Middle Indo-Aryan) development represented by the records".

The problem with Grierson is that he bases his arguments on a false premise, overlookking the fact that if there are some cognate words in Shina and Kashmiri, it is not because of any Dardic connection, but because both the languages draw upon Sanskrit or the old Indo-Aryan as the basic source for their respctive vocabularies. He also ignores totally the fundamental differences that exist between the Linguistic features of Shina and Kashmir. What is more unfortunate, however, is that many later scholars have accepted his views uncritically, giving rise to a fallacy that still persists. As P.N. Pushp has clearly pointed out, "the data adduced by him in this regard is just confined to tentative resemblances: just some casual sounds and vagrant vocables regardless of the evidence offered by the structural framework that the Kashmiri language shares with sister languages including Sindhi, Panjabi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali”.

Structural Framework:

What this structural framework actually is and how it developed can be known only when the language is “historically studied and structurally analysed”. In other words when we examine the written evidence of its gradual development through various periods of time. Like other Indo-Aryan Languages, Kashmiri too started assuming its distinct shape as a modern language around the 10th century after emerging from the MIA stage of Prakrit  and Apabhramsha. And though much of its early literary output has been lost, whatever written evidence is available to us today of the language is sufficient to help us draw a clear outline of the process of its development.

The earliest extant record of Kashmiri we come across is in the form of a commentary on the verses of a work titled “Chhumma Sampraday”, which can be assigned to 11th century or so. The work, though in verse form has nothing as such to do with poetry but with the teachings of an esoteric Tantric sect of the times. A scrutiny of these verses shows that linguistically they are closer to regional Apabhramsha, though Prakrit forms also abound. This will be clear from the following two examples from the work:

Bhava sabhave sab avinashi

Sapan sabhavan vi uppanna

Te aj niravidhi agam prakashi

Idassa dishti Kali vipachhanna

Vigalani shunnya ashunnya swarupa

Vividh padarthu sathu kavatet

Ashayu chitti sada nirupa

Vichchi viju virtha prghatet

The nascent features of early Kashmiri that appear in the 'Chumma Sampradaya' take a more pronounced and distinct form in later works like the ‘Mahanaya Prakasha’, ‘Banasur Katha’ and Sukha-Dukha Charit, presenting a somewhat continuous picture of linguistic development from the 10th-11th tury to the end of the 15th century.

Surely Kashmiri must have acquired a distinct form in the 11th century for we have Kshemendra, a great stalwart of Sanskrit Literature recommending to upcoming Sanskrit poets of his times to study bhasha kavya or poetry written in the regional dialect alongside Prakrit and Apabhramsha works. Bilhana, another great Sanskrit poet, who lived in the 12th century, admires women of his native land for having the same command over Sanskrit and Prakrit as they had over their 'janma bhasha' or native tongue-obviously Kashmiri.

In Kalhana's Sanskrit chronicle "Rajatarangini", also written in the 12th century, we come across a curious piece of linguistic evidence in the form of a single sentence-"Rangassa Helu dinna" (the village of Helu was given to Ranga). But it is Amir Khusro's 'Nuh Siphir' that we find the nomenclature 'Kashmiri' being used as such for the first time (c.1300). Khusro has placed Kashmiri along side Lahori and Sindhi as one of the prominent languages spoken in India at that time.

If 'Chhumma Sampraday' presents the earliest recorded form of the Kashmiri language, 'Mahanay Prakash' documents the next stage of its development. Grierson considers it to be a work of the 15th century, but Prof PN Pushp and Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterji assign it to the 13th century which seems nearer the mark as an examination of its language with its tendency for Prakritisation shows. Grierson confuses its author Shiti Khntha with Shiti Kantha the author of a grammatical work, 'Balabodhini Nyasa' who lived in the 15th century. Interestingly, the author of 'Mahanaya Prakasha' has described the language of his work as "Sarvagochara desha bhasha', or "the regional dialect intelligelbe to all".

According to Dr G.V. Tagare, the term 'deshi', 'deshya' or 'deshi bhasha' generally imply the spoken language of a particular province. It is in this context that the term "desha bhasha" used by Shiti Kantha has to be understood. This is made further clear by repeated references to "attharasa desha bhasha" or eighteen provincial languages in Jain Prakrit works. There is little doubt that Kashmiri too must have one of eighteen languages in the early medieval period.

"Mahanaya Prakasha" (Illumination of the Great System or the System of the Great Meaning) is work of the Krama (Gradation) School which is akin to the Kula (Familial) School and is based on Shaktopaya or the Energic Way. It deals with the Goddess, the Wheel of Energies and ritual sex and emphasises that the Great Meaning or the Absolute Sense expresses itself gradually through the four forms of speech: para (transcendent and undifferentiated), pashyanti (visioning), madhyama (interjacent) and Vaikhari (displayed) word. Obviously all this terminology and the esoteric practices of jnaansiddhi, mantrasiddhi and melapsiddhi associated with the propitation of deities like Vameshi, Khechari, Bhuchari, Sambarbhakshini and Raudreshwari cannot by any stretch of imagination be taken to be poetry. But the importance of Mahanaya Prakasha lies in the fact that it is the only written evidence we have of the Kashmiri in the 13th Century. Its linguistic strtum appears to be definitely old, revealing how the language was emerging from its Prakriti-Apabhramsha form. Here is one example:

Yasu yasu jantus samvid yas gas

Nila pit sukh dukh sarup

Udyisdatta Samani samaras

Kamkampan tas tas anurup

In this  verse the Kashmiri pronouns yasu-yasu-yas-yas (<skt. 'yasya', Pali-Prakrit 'yassa', whoever, whomever) and 'tas-tas' (< skt. 'tasya', Pali-Prakrit tassa', to that person. can be clearly recognised and also the genetive marker - 'as' (< skt-'asya') used with 'jantu' ('a c-creature') in 'jantus'. in fact a large number of Kashmiri words can be found in their older forms in Mahanay Prakash - an aspect dwelt at some length by Grierson in 'The language of the Mahanay Prakash'. It is a brilliant analysis in which Gerirson accepts that the vocabulary of the work is predominantly Indo-Aryan, but attributes it to the authors being a Sanskrit scholar- something that does not appear to be convincing in view of Shiti Kantha's claim of having composed it in 'sarvagochar desbhasha'. Surely, Shiti Kantha's would not have made this claim without any basis.

While "Chhumma Sampraday" and "Mahanay Prakash" are the earliest recorded specimens of Kashmiri language and literature, the first heartbeats of Kashmiri poetry in the real sense of the word can be heard in the vaakhs or verse sayings of Lal Ded only. Born in the early decades of the 14th century when Kashmir was in the throes of an unprecedented political upheaval with a collision between two cultures, the indigenous and Islamic, thretaening to tear the entire social fabric apart, Lal Ded played the dual role of a poet and spiritual leader to ensure continuity and stability. No other Kashmiri poet has scaled the poetic heights that she attained and influenced Kashmiri psyche so deeply as she did. Even today her vaaks or verse sayings are a source of immense spiritual solace to Kashmiri speaking people, suffused as they are with great wisdom. Her mystic insights, and her vision of the relationship between the individual soul and the supreme being, her awareness of the human condition and a deep sense of compassion, her protets against everything that demeans a human being and restricts his freedom of will and her Shaiva world-view of the oneness of all conciousness make her - what she is regarded to be - the greatest cultural icon of the Kashmiris.

Lal Ded translated her existential anguish into soul sterring poetry, emphasising the inwardness of spiritual exprience and lashing out at religious formalism and external ceremony. But more than anything else, she chose to speak to the common masses in their own mother tongue rather than the literary language of the elite, borrowing her imagery ferom everyday life and making accessible to them the subtle truths of Kashmir’s Trika philosophy.

This direct contact with the life and concerns of the common people charged her language with tremendous power and made her poetry glow with a unique incadecence. In fact she shaped and enriched the Kashmiri language in a manner that it formed the basis on which a new Kashmiri identity was forged. Here are a few of her representative 'Vaaks' which are etched indelibly on the collective memory of Kashmiris :

*Ami pana sodaras navi chas laman

Kati bozi day myon mye ti diyi tar

Amyan takyan pony zan shraman

Zuu chhum braman gara gatshaha

(With a rope of loose-spun thread am I-towing my boat upon the sea.

Would that God heard my prayer

and brought me safe across!

Like water in cups of unbaked clay

I run to waste.

Would God I were to reach my home!

(--Tr. Prof Jaya Lal Kaul)


(Gagan tsuy bhutal tsuy

tsuy dyan yavan tu rath

Arga, tsandun, posh, pony tsuy

Tsuy sakal tu lagizi kyah?

(Yea, Thou alone the heavens, thou the earth,

And Thou alone the day, the air, the night

And Thou alone the slumbering and rebirth

Thi offerings of sandal oil and light!

Yea, Thou alone all these, for Thou art all,

What, then, to offer Thee, what name to call?

(--Tr-Nilam Cram Cook)


*Gwaran vonanam kunuy vatsun

Nyabra dopnam andar atsun;

Suy gav Lali mye vaak tii vatsun,

Tavay hyotum nangay natsun.

(My Guru said, "But one thing you must know

How, from within, still further in to go!"

The words became my precept and my chance

And so it came I, Lalla naked dance.

(--Tr. Nila Cram Cook)

If we look at the diction of these verses, we will find that Lal Ded uses words which are commonly used in the colloquial Kashmiri of today. In fact, her language appears to be surprisingly close to modern Kashmiri. Obviously this must not have been the language of her vaaks at the time they were composed. What it must have actually been like, we have no means to ascertain today. As these were not written down when they fell from the lips of the poetess but passed on through oral tredition from generation to generation till Bhaskar Razdan translated sixty of them into Sanskrit in the 18th century. In the intervening centuries it must have imperceptibly changed with each generation introducing its own linguistic elements and these accretions finally adding up to massive interpolations. The only way left for us to come as close as possible to the original language of the vaaks would be to critically edit the text in light of the diction of the extant works written immediately before them and after them.

However, even in the form in which the vaaks are available to us today we find that Lal Ded has used quite a number of Sanskrit and Saaskrit-derived words, pointing to the form of the Kashmiri language in her times. Here are some examples of such words: 'gagan', 'bhutal', 'dyan' (< 'dina'), 'pawan', 'sakal', 'sahaj', 'kusum', 'mudh', 'jnana', 'turag', 'desh', 'wopdish' (<updesh), tset ('Chitta'), 'Svaman', 'amritsaras', 'lay', bhan (<bhanu'), 'mukur', zanam' (< janma), tubh (<tobha), ahar, 'bhavaruj', 'artsun' (< 'archan'), 'akshar', 'rasayan, 'brahmand', 'rav' (<ravih), 'varun', 'salil', 'lavan', 'rasani' (<'rasana), 'prakash', 'shishir', 'pran', 'sham', 'dam', 'muktidvar', 'neshibod (< 'nishbuddhih'), 'shunya', 'vag' (< 'valga'), 'vak', 'manas', 'kul', 'akul', 'pashya' (< 'pashya), 'vimarsha' (< 'vimarsha), 'rajan' (< 'rajani'), 'ambar', 'laz' (< lajja), 'mrig', 'shrigal', 'nishpath', 'chidanand-as', 'jnanaprakash-as', 'jnanamarg', 'varna', 'aham', 'antar', 'nabhi', 'tslitan' (<'chetana'), 'atsitan'- (<achebra), 'ashvavan', 'geh' (<'griha') 'svalabh (<'sulabhah'), 'kesari', 'van', 'anna-s', 'dwish' (< 'dvesh), 'zal' (< 'jala') 'chamar', 'rath', 'simhasana', 'ahlad', 'charman', 'trin', 'ahar', 'ahlad', 'chhatra', 'panka', pad', 'hridi' (< 'hridaye), 'shank (< 'shnka), 'karan', 'vatsun' (< vachana') and so on.

Lal Ded chose 'vaak' as the verse form to convey her personal experiences and mystic insights and used it with such perfection that it acquired a serene dignity and subtlety of tone which no one has been able to surpass. Her mastery over the medium suggests that she must have come at the culmination of a long poetic tradition rather than having started a new one. It is difficult to say with certainty whether 'vaak' is based on any Rigvedic metrical pattern or Prakrit-Apabhramsha metres like 'arya' and 'gaha'. But one thing is certain-Lal Ded contributed the best of her creative geniues to make the four-lined stanza an ideal medium for expressing philosophical and mystic content.

Lal Ded was folllowed by Sheikh Nur-ud-Din (1376-1438), popularly known as Nunda Rishi, as the most significant representative of the creative upsurge that was taking place in Kashmir in the 14th century. Revered greatly by Kashmiris for founding the Muslim Rishiorder, the saint poet left a tremendous impact on the religious and cultural life of Kashmir. The transformation of the Vedic Rishi into Islamic Rishi is regarded as a very significant event in Kashmir's spiritual history. Sheikh Nur-ud-Din's disciples believed in preaching through personal precept, laying stress on the need for inner discipline and purity of conduct and a balance between spiritual and material life. Self-abnegation, abstention from wordly pleasures, contentment, penance, vegetarianism and frugal eating habits, belief in oneness of existence and human brotherhood were some of the characteristic features of this new cult. This made Dawood Mishqati to say that the Rishis "followed the practices of the Brahmans and the Buddhists".

It is not without significance therefore that Nand Rishi's verses are known as "shruks" or "shlokas". Generally "didactic in content and exhortative in tone", these verses remined one again and again of the transitoriness of life and insubstantiality of worldly pleasures, stressing the need for a total surrender before God's will and seeking His grace.

Sheikh Nur-ud-Din does not forget to acknowledge the debt of gratitude for Lal Ded, his senior contemporary who is said to have deeply influenced him. In fact there are many verses of Lal Ded which have been attributed to the Sheikh. This has created confusion about the authorship of as many as 35 verses which are found in the works of both. The main reason for this is that their is no critical text of Sheikh Nur-ud-Din's verses. The Nurnamas and Rishinamas in which they were recorded were compiled nearly two hundred years after him with numerous interpolations and insertions. Though structurally there is not much difference between the 'vaks' of the Lal Ded and the 'Shruks' of Nunda Rishi, the two are considerably different in style and content making it not much too difficult to distinguish between them. Here are two much much quoted and illustrative verses of the Sheikh:

Kuniray bozakh kuni no rozakh

Ami Kuniran Kotah dyut jalav

Aqal ta fiqir tor kot sozakh

Kami mati chyath hyok su dariyav

(Know the one, and you will cease to be

The one whose radiance pervades all around

Reason and wisdom will never take you there

There is no one who can qualt that perennial flow.

—Trs. Shafi Shauq)

Kivaly kor nerakh panthani

Travith shury-mury to gih-bar

Yim kas bar Ladakh papani

Bar khvadaya pap nivar

(To what destinations art thou wending thy lonely way?

Renouncing hearth, home and family?

Whom wilt thou encumber with thy load of sins?

Greak God absolve from my sins

Great God absolve me from my sins.

—Trs. Prof. B.N. Parimoo)

A number of Sheikh Nur-ud-Din 'Shruks' have refrains with one verse running into another. Some of them have the form of the 'vatsun' short lyric also. However, it would be wrong to say that the 'shruk' is modelled after the quantitative 'bahar' of Persian". The Sheikh was virtually illiterate and so he could not have been able to read or understand any Persin poetry. As far as language is concerned, we find that the Sheikh's vocabularly is predominantly of Sanskrit origin retaining some of the most archiac words despite all the interpolations and additions made from time to time which is illustrated by the occurance of the such words in his verses :

'Kival' (< 'keval', 'panthani' (< 'panthan'), 'gih-bar (< 'griha'+'bhara'), 'pap', 'nivar' (<nivarana), 'niz' (< 'nija'), 'subhav' (<svabhava), 'ambi' (<'amba'), 'vodari' (< 'udare'), 'gambir' (< 'gambhirah'), 'prakrath' (<'prakriti'), 'das', 'dulut' (< 'duhita'), 'samsar-', 'ann', 'van', 'krey' (< kriya), 'vinat', (< 'vinati'), 'antah' ('antah'), 'laz' (<'lajja'), 'svargas' (<'svarga'), kosam (<'kusuma'), 'tap', 'ahar', 'bavasende'( <'bhavasinduh'), 'sondari' (< 'sundari'), 'yavan' (<'yauvana'), 'shunitav' (< 'shrunu'=hear), 'velu' (<veta), 'hahakar', 'padan' (< 'pada'), 'lubh' ('lobhah'), 'krudh' (< 'krodah'), 'khag', 'duji' ('dvija''=twice-born bird), 'sahaj' (<'sahaja), 'kartavi (<kartavya'=duty), 'Shunyakar' (<shunyah+akarah), 'shit', 'vishve', 'amrit', 'guru', 'avtar', 'diva' (<devah), 'gyan', 'varzit (<'varjit'), akash', 'bhakti', 'karan', 'tran', 'nirgun', 'kaitas', 'disha', 'sakalan' (<'sakalena', 'vish-as' (<'visha'), 'hetu', 'kval' (<kula), 'asur', 'vahanta' (<'abhyantara'), 'ang', 'shish', 'muh' (< 'moha') 'ahankar', 'shubh', 'vopakar' (<upakara'), 'nayan', 'svazan' )<'sujanah", 'min' ((=fish), 'vopas' (< 'upavasa'), 'tranan' (<'trina'), 'lavan', 'sadbhav', 'turag' and so on.

The 'vaaks' of Lal Ded and 'shruks' of Nund Rishi had a direct appeal because they were composed in what can be called the ordinary speech of the people. Yet the form in which they have come down to us is not reflective of the actual linguistic situation prevailing  in, their age their language being not much different from the Kashmir, that is spoken today but for the archaicisms, as pointed out earlier. However, their 'temper and tone is so characterstically Kashmiri that, have moved and enthralled generations of Kashmiris, catering to both their spiritual and literay needs. That their language is relatively modern can be seen only when we place them alongside works of a later age, like the 'Banasur Katha' and 'Sukh Dukha Charit'. Both these extant works, retrieved by Buhler, were penned down at definite points of time in the 15th century and both therefore, present the actual picture of literary expression in Kashmiri in that age.

Shrivara, Sanskrit scholar and chronicler who wrote the Jaina Rajatarangini in Kalhana's tradition, has mentioned the names of several other Kashmiri works written during Zain-ul-Abdin's reign (1420-1470)--"Zaina Prakash" by Yodh Bhatt, "Zaina Charit" by Nottha Soma and 'Zaina Vilas' by Bhattavatara or Avtara Bhatt-but none of these has survived. What needs to be noted, however is that in keeping with the tradition in Prakrit and Apabhramsha, panegrical works in Kashmiri too were given titles like 'Charit', 'Prakash' and 'Vilas' .

'Banasur Katha is a long narrative poem of haunting beauty written by Avtar Bhatt or Bhattavtar of Lar in 1446 A.D. Based on the story of Usha and Aniruddha as given in the Harivansha Purana, it abounds in depictions of love and war. The lilting cadinces and soft music of its verses and the supersensuous images of Usha's beauty make it a masterpiece of early Kashmiri literature. Avtar Bhatt seems to have been a poet who revelled in presenting the physiology and psychology of erotic love in a manner suggesting that he had cultivated some of the graces of classical Sanskrit poetry. As a poet whose sense of beauty matches that a poets like Vidyapati and Jayadeva, Avavtar Bhatt is at his best when he is describing physical charms of the heroine, Usha, as in those melliflous lines :

Sa Usha amar nependas dullabh

Varkamin vadana zan shashi pabh

Lat zan kshavun pike -

Pushbhar gan ada niret kshane ake


[The same extremely attractive, 'lady, Usha was very charming and difficult for even the king to obtain. Her face was radiant like the moon. Enjoying that flowering creeper like a cuckoo-bird, he (Pradyumna) went away in a moment]

While the poet excels in describing feminine beauty and various shades the erotic sentiment, he displays equal poetic brilliance in depicting the valour and courage shown by at men in trying circumstances as in this image of Aniruddha prefering to fight unarmed than hiding his face in the tresses of the beautiful usha:

Dhik-dhik myanes Yadav jammas

Vanati atsaa majj kachan

Yudh kara namet svakamnas

Ushe atha-chhon in than

[Shame upon my Yadav birth' O lady, shall i hide behind your tresses or shall I fight here, even though I am bare-handed]

Apart from the narrative charm of the work that shows poet Avtar Bhatt as a consummate and conscious artist employing his verbal skills with great effect, we find him making sensitive use of the short lyric to depict the mental states of the characters. Coming at dramatic turns in the narrative, the lyrics that punctuate the descriptive passages in Banasur Katha reflect the poet's ingenuity as well as his subtle sense of accoustic values. Enthralling pieces like "Piya ma gatsh marnay" (Love do not go there, for they will kill you) and "Kar iya so piy mye nikato" (when will my love come to me?) can be seen as the earliest specimens of the Kashmiri short lyric form, the "Vatsun", beautifully expressing tender feelings of love and longing. The present writer was pleasantly surprised when he came across the word "piya" in these lyrics, but then Sheikh Nur-ud-Din has also used it--"Ada kavay piy praznavnay" (How will your lovers recognize you then?).

Another important aspect of Banasur Katha as a poetic work is its metrical system. The poet has employed well known Sanskrit syllabic metres like Matim, Mandakranta, Sragahara, Narkataka, Shardulvikriditam, Mattamayuri, Tanumadhya, Vaitali, Pushpitagra, Vasantatilakam, Drutavilambit, panchapaja, shatpada, etc. and also what appear to be some original Kashmiri metres based on Sanskrit the metrical pattern like Thaddo, Phuro, Dukatika, Kadokdya etc. Later, we find the author of "Sukha-Dukha Charit" also using the similar metres. Obviously the tradition of using such metres in Kashmiri poetry have been long and popular one. This should be enough to blast Grierson's view that Kashmiri prosody is basically Iranian in character.

But it is from the linguistic poet of view that a study of "Banasur Katha" is most rewarding. Together with the "Sukha-Dukha-Charit", it sheds significant light on the medieval development of Kashmiri, being an actual record of the language as it was used for literary expression in the 15th century. This also help us trace earlier forms of a number of Kashmiri works which are in use today. For instance, various forms of the Kashmiri auxiliary verb 'chhu' occur in it as ksho, kshi, kshem, kshiyiy, suggesting that these have evolved from the Sanskrit root 'kshi', which means 'to be similarly, 'Dittho' (modern Kashmiri 'dywith' <Skt. drishtwa and 'ditto' (mod. ksh. 'dyut') <skt dattah meaning having given' are among some of the intermediary forms that one finds in Banasur Katha.

The language of Banasur Katha is predominantly Sanskritic, with hardly two or three words of Persion, although 'Persian' had by then become the court language in Kashmir. There is also quite a large number of such words in its whose eitymotogyas not clear. There is also another category of words in which the etymology does not pose much of a problem, but which have become totally obsolte, as for instance 'yakhet' (like', as, 'just as', 'as it'), 'takhet' (like that, 'thus', 'so'), 'kakhet' (how', 'like what' 'in what manner'), 'jave' ('quickly', 'speedily') etc. The use of several synonymous words to denote the same meaning is one of the main linguistic tendencies, found in Banasur katha. For instance to convey the sense of 'he says', a host of words like 'vadis', 'nigadis', 'dappi', 'vachi', 'giri' have been used.

A tinguistic feature of greater interest is the use of rural Kashmiri dialect here and there by Avtar Bhatta. Thus we have words like 'kod' ('where'), 'prad' ('wait'-imperative), 'khadet' ('having seated'), 'dapavan' ('saying') in Banasur Katha, which have added a sweet rustic flavour to its language. More importantly, Banasur Katha, shares most of the phonological and morphological features of Mahanaya Prakash as well as the "Sukha-Dukha Charit". These works document the transition of Kashmiri from its medieval Prakrit—Apabhramsha form a modern Indo Aryan language. Before we make a mention of some of these changes, it would be good to say a few words about the "Sukha-Dukha Charit".

Written by Ganak Prashast during the reign of Sultan Hassan Shah (1475-1487), Zain-ud-Abidin's grandron" the "Sukha-Dukha Moha-Maya Jal Charitam" or the "Sukha-Dukha Charit" as it has been notified in its abbreviated form by Buhler, who obtained it from Bikaner alongwith 'Banasur Katha', is important only its linguistic value. Written in the form of an "advice" to a "friend" it is a work divided into four parts dealing with subjects like jyotishya or astrology, 'garud' or tretament of snake-poison, 'Vaidak' or treatment of common diseases and 'Kam Shastra' or the art of sexual love. The 'friend' is advised by the author about how to lead ones life while keeping in view the transient nature of the world and the vanity of its pleasures. To call the work poetry is to stretch the definition of the term to its furthest limit. The author, however, does show occasional flashes of imagination and a sense of music, the outward structure of his work being that of a narrative poem. He frequently indulges in verbal artistry, embellishing his lines with devices like aliteration, pun and other figures of speech.

The 'Sukha-Dukha-Charit" is composed of the same Sanskrit and Kashmiri syllabic metres we find in "Banasur Katha'--and that is the last we see of them. We also come across "dwiphuro", or double "phuro"--a metre Avtar Bhatt has not used. The language, as we have already pointed out, shares most of the features of that has been used in 'Banasur Katha' and Mahanaya Prakash', a chain of linguistic continuity passing through all the three. Its vocabulary gives us an idea of the kind of Kashmiri spoken in the last decades of the 15th century, containing words for some articles of daily use, common medicines and parts of the body which continue to be ued today with slight changes. Let us note a few examples :

1. Kshe shastra gane kate komo bujji

Vaidak garud jyotish buddh

Sar-sar gahenas pazzi

Hans yakhet jalo majja dudth

[The Shastras are very profound, who can explain them-

The science of medicine, treatment of snake poison, astrology

We should try to grasp their essence

As the swan separates the milk from water]

2. Him zantape vigtos pape kukarma chilla

[Remembering my bad deeds and sins, I melted down as snow melts in the heat of the sun]

It is important to note that phonological changes in "Mahanaya Prakasha", "Banasur Katha" and Sukha-Dukha Charit take place much in the same way as they do in later Middle. Indo-Aryan dialects. While the language of Mahanaya Prakasha is comparatively older, "Banasur Katha" and "Sukha-Dukha Charit" show Kashmiri emerging as a modern Indo-Aryan language through the intermediary stages of Prakrit and Apabhramsha. It will not be possible here to discuss their morphological or phonological features in detail, but some broad outline of their common characteristics can be indicated.

For instance, in nominative singular feminine forms a > a (Usha > Usha, bala > bal, mata > mat, puja > puj, duhita > dahit), i > a (rashmi > rashm, buddhi > buddh, agni > agna, shakti > shatta; i > i (Saraswati ? Sarswat, ramani > raman, gauri > gaur. Likeswise in Nom. Masa. Sing., medial a >u as in modern Kashmiri (Mod. Ksh.):> balak > baluk, rakshak > rakshuk/rakhuk, Narada ? Narud, anala > anul, i > a:narapati > narpat, dinapati ? dinapat, rishi, risha (e.f. Mod. ksh. ganapati ? ganapat, ravilh > rav). In all the three works we have examples of elision of initial 'a' and ri) > a, i, u, though at several places it survives. Elision of 'ch', t, d, p and introduction of the glide 'y' or 'v', elision of 'r' and the doubling of the following consonat, -th?-d,-m>-v,-pt>t, ntm>mmdy>jj,dhy>jj are other common phonological features.

So far as morphological features are concerned Accusative/Dativ Mash. Sing forms are made by adding '-s' or '-as' (Skt. -asya, Pali-assa): jantus, Parama Shivas, Banas, nipas, janas, nishibuddhas, hamsas, kumbhas, hridayas, charanas, samsaras etcd. Feminin singular forms have been formed by adding the suffixes '-n' or '-yi' : devi, pithi, bali, vissi, ushi, anuradhi, vaggi etc. Acc/Dat. Masc. and Fem. plural forms have been made by adding the suffixes '-n', '-an' and '-an' : tattva-ganan, panchan, padakamlan, deva-daitan, nayanan, vananitan, virvaran, shishyan, kamalan, ratsun, rashun etc. The instrumental masculine singular is marked by '-e' (paramathe, nathe, kumbhande, kishne, chature, anande etc! the feminine forms are formed by adding '-i' to the stem (suti, bali, chitra lekhi, dayi, kuvalayanyani, giritanayi - cf. Mod. ksh. ashi'_. The locative singular is formed by adding the suffix '-i or 'e' as in modern Kashmiri. The Ablative Masc. Sing forms take the suffix 'a' (< skt. '-at' : spanda, chandra, bhaya, nala, kamala, '-akasha' At certain places the suffixes '-u' and '-u' have also been  used nabhu, nayanu, guhu, dishavu, dishu etc. which is nearer to the Mod. Ksh. form. The past, participate '-et' < Skt. -itva is an earlier form of Mod. Kash. '-ith '-e an -i being interehangable in Kashmiri (bhakshet, takshet, bhavet, gahet vandict, shunet, karet, gahet, manget, thavet, chhonet, jalet, puret pehet etc), the present perfect is formed by the participles and, '-ani' '-an', which are all derived from Sanskrit -'anti' (karan, phiran, pratshan, dharan, vyapan, ativan, avtarand, pishand, karand, natsand, pathand).

There is a lot of similarity in the three works in pronominal and verbal forms too. However, one thing can be discerned clearly, the language of 'Mahanaya Prakasha' is comparably of an earlier age, while 'Banasur Katha' and "Sukha-Dukha Charit" record the earlier form of Kashmiri as Indo-Aryan Language. Together, the three document the medieval development of Kashmiri in its successive stages.

References :

1. Banasurkartha, Ph.D. Dissertation, S.S. Toshkhani (Hindi) 1975.

2. Kashmiri Sahitya Ka Itihas, Dr. S.S. Toshkhani, 1985

3. Banasur Katha, Manuscript, Bhandarkar Oriental Reserach Institute, Pune.

4. Sukha-Dukha Moha-Maya Jal Charitam, MSS, BORI, Pune

5. George Buhler. Tour in search of Sanskrit Manuscripts Made in Kashmir, Raiputuna and Central India, Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, 1877

6. The Antiguities of Kahmiri-An approach Dr Siddheshwar Verma

7. Some Important Aspects of Kashmiri as Language, Prof S.K. Toshkhani.

8. Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh-A Linguistic Predisement, Har Anand and Co.

9. Shri Mahanaya Prakasha, Rajanaka Shitikantha, Research Department, Sringar, Kashmir.

10. Historical Grammar of Apabhramsha, G.V. Tagare Motilal Bonarasi Das, Delhi, 1987.

11. A comparative Grammer of Modern Languages of India, Jhon Beames.

12. The Structure and Development of Middle Indo-Aryan Dialects, Vit Bubenik, Moti Lal Banarsi Das, 1996.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Kashmir's Contribution to Indian Aesthetics

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

It is really very exciting to think that this small paradisal Valley nestled in the Himalays has produced a succession of brilliant thinkers who have formulated most of the fundamental concepts of Sanskrit poetics and have given us a whole body of aesthetic thought profound in conception and impressive in volume and value. One cannot but be overwhelmed by the fact that almost all the major schools of Indian aesthetics were founded by Kashmiri theoriticians -the Alankara School by Bhamaha, Riti School by Vamana, Vakrokti School by Kuntaka, Dhvani School by Anandavardhana and Auchitya School by Kshemendra. Though the concept of Rasa was evolved by Bharata, and perhaps by thinkers even before him, it was only the great Abhinavagupta who perfected it as an integrating \theory basic to the aesthetic philosophy of the Indians. Nor was the contribution of those Kashmiri rhetoricians any less important who analysed, interpreted, elaborated and commented upon what the original exponents propounded, thus providing the building blocks on which the Indian aesthetic thought stands today. Profound thinkers like Udbhata, Bhatta Lollata, Shankuka, Bhatta Nayaka, Bhatta Tauta, Rudrata, Ruyyaka, Mahima Bhatta and others. The issues they raised, the solutions they provided, the views they propounded  provided grist to the great intellectual debates about the relation of aesthetic object and aesthetic experience which raged throughout India for quite a long time.

To understand the full significance of the art-ideas introduced by the successive Kashmiri thinkers, we shall have to look at them in the overall perspective of the development of Indian aesthetical thought. As we know, it is in the Natya Shastra, the legendary Bharata’s monumental treatise on dramaturgy, that we find the first systematic exposition of Rasa-a concept central to Indian aesthetic thinking. Supposed to have been written between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD, the Natya Shastra provides a deep insight into the psychology of aesthetic experience. It conceives of the drama as the perfect synthesis between all arts and integrates in its form poetic text, histrionics, stage-craft, music, dance, painting and even architecture into an organismic whole, with Rasa as its soul. “There is no art”, claims Bharata, “no science, no craft, no skill that does not fall within the purview of drama”.

Na Tajjnana no tat shilpam

N sa vidya na sa kala

Na sau yogo na tat karma

Natye’smin yanna-drishyate

His well known formulation on Rasa in the Natya Shastra-vibhavnubhava vyabhichari bhava samyogad rasanish-pattih-explains the aesthetic experience in terms of the prime stimuli or the leading characters in a dramatic presentation, their behavioural features and the transient but ancillary emotional reactions they evoke. Scholars have variously interpreted and translated the Sanskrit terms vibhava, anubhava, sanchari bhava andrasa according to their individual perceptions of what these terms mean. Thus, Dr K.C. Pandey translates vibhava as the emotive situation, anubhavaas the physical changes consequent upon the rise of an emotion, vyabhichari bhava as transient emotions and rasa as the aesthetic object. Raniero Gnoli prefers to use expressions like “Determinants”, “Consequents” and “Transitory Mental States” for them, leaving rasa untranslated. For the purpose of this paper, however, I have mostly used the equivalents given by Krishna Chaitanya for these key terms for the essential constituents of the aesthetic presentation which enables the aesthetic emotion to be experienced and relished.

We shall have to examine a few more concepts before Bharatas formulation becomes a bit more clear. The vibhavas or the primary stimuli arouse the conative dispositional factors abidingin human nature, which cannot be exactly called instincts but could be described as innate sentiments. In Sanskrit poetics these abiding mental states have been given the name sthayi bhavas. It is the sthayi bhava or basic sentiment awakened by the union ofvibhavas, anubhavas and the vyabhichari bhavas that is finally relished asrasa. Put in simpler terms this means that when the prime stimuli or determinants, their consequent behavioural pattern and the transient but ancillary emotional reactions they evoke combine, the basic sentiment is activated and develops into rasa or aesthetic emotion.

The Natya Shastra distinguishes eight abiding mental states that are latent in a man’s psychological organisation. These are Love (rati), Laughter (hasya),Sorrow (shoka), Anger (krodha), Heroism (utsaha), Fear (bhaya), Disgust (jugupsa), and Wonder (vismaya). To these a ninth one, Serenity (shama)was added later. The corresponding nine rasas are: the Erotic (shringara),the Comic (hasya), the Pathetic (karuna), the Furious (raudra), the Heoric(vira), the Terrible (bhayanaka), the Odious (bibhatsa), and the Marvellous (adbhuta).

With this background we can now proceed to understand how ideas which eventually crystallised to form a cogent theory of rasa took off from this point of departure. Going back to Bharatas formulation, the Rasa Sutra, we find that it contained two crucial words that lent themselves to various interpretations, unleashing storms of controversy. These were samyoga andnishpattih. There were other questions also that arose from Bharatas condensed but pregnant statement. Where is Rasa located? Is the aesthetic experience subjective or objective? How is it related to the other emotions or states of consciousness? Every participant in the great debate that ensued took a stand on these on the basis of his own philosophical outlook. Among the earliest to address these questions was Bhatta Lollata who lived in Kashmir in the late 8th century or the early 9th. A contemporary of the great Shaivite thinker Bhatta Kallata, Lollata approached those questions as aMimansaka or grammarian. His works have unfortunately been lost, but from what we learn from the Abhinava Bharati, Abhinavagupta’s commentary on the Natya Shastra, Lolatta took only the denotational sense of the wordnishpattih into consideration and interpreted it as causal origination. Rasa, he said, is an effect of which the vibhavas or the aesthetic object is the direct cause. It resides in the original historical character (Rama etc.) represented on the stage, as well as the impersonating actor. The actor feels himself as the represented historical personage during the duration of the enactment but remembers his real nature through the faculty of anusandhana or recollection (realization, according to Gnoli).

The important question underlying all this discussion is as to how the poetic emotion is transferred from life to art, and Lollata’s answer is that the spectator relishes rasa or the sentiment located in the character portrayed directly and not through emotional induction by the aesthetic process of activating it. Abhinavagupta quickly rejects this view-point which seeks to turn the sentiment or sthayi bhava into an object of perception. Pointing this out, Krishna Chaitanya writes: “Abhinava Gupta’s brilliant mind noticed at once that the literalism of the Mimansakas would annex aesthetics to grammar and bring about as complete an impoverishment in aesthetics as it had brought in philosophy. He saw that Lollata was confusing aesthetic communication with intellectual discourse, the emotive symbol with the denotative sign. Noting that the sthayi bhava, which abides as a potential reality and is raised to the relishable state only through the configuration of stimuli etc. (vibhavadi), Abhinava argues that it cannot be staticised as an object of perception “existing at only one specific conjunction of space and time.” Mammata, an eleventh century Kashmiri aesthete, endorses Abhinavas views by stressing that the object in art is a virtual and not a physical object. It is a virtual object “because the whole phenomenon is processual, the process involving the activity of institution and emotion”. Bhatta Lollata’s theory, it seems, is totally unconcerned with the spectator’s view-point.

Shankuka, another Kashmiri and a younger contemporary of Lollata, approaches the problem of how the spectator relishes rasa or the aesthetic experience from the point of view of a logician, naiyayaka, which he actually was. Rasa, he said, applying syllogistic reasoning, was not produced as an effect as Lollata claimed but could be logically arrived at by the process of inference. Using the analogy of a forest fire he says that just as it can be inferred from the smoke rising from above the top of a cluster of trees, in the same manner the basic mental state can be inferred from the situation presented  by the stimuli etc.

Dr  K.C. Pandey calls Shankuka’s point of view “psycho-epistemic”. “In actual life”, he points out explaining Shankuka’s view-point, “the mental state of a man is revealed by the visible effects of his feeling i.e. the consequents and their concomitant feelings or the transitory mental state. The successful imitation by the actor of the characters and their experiences is no doubt, Shankuka says, artificial and unreal or illusory but is not realised to be so by the spectators who forget the difference between the actors and the characters and inferentially experience the mental state of the characters themselves”. Shankuka, in fact, uses the analogy of a painted horse,chitraturaga, to bring out the beauty of this imitation (anukarna) and holds that aesthetic experience, which is a peculiar form of inference (anumana),cannot be classified under any known forms of knowledge.

Shankuka’s views, like those of Lollata, have been presented in brief by Abhinavgupta in his famous commentary on Natya Shastra, the Abhinava Bharati, as Shankuka’s works too are lost. The inference and imitation theories of Lollata and Shankuka, which hold the aesthetic presentation to be “the efficient cause (karaka hetu) or the logical cause (jnapak hetu)”respectively of the aesthetic emotion, were later demolished by Abhinava and the exponents of the Dhvani or Suggestion School of poetics. But before we look at what they have to say in the matter, let us try to appreciate the views of Bhatta Nayaka, a great aesthetic thinker who lived in the late 9th century Kashmir and joined the debate to point out the “inwardness of the whole situation”. Here again we have to rely upon the Abhinava Bharati as Bhatta Nayaka’s work the Hridaya Darpana, too is not available. He rejects the idea that rasa or the aesthetic emotion can be affected or inferred, and tries to extend the Sankhya concept of bhoga or enjoyment to the field of aesthetics.Rasa, he posits, is neither atmagata nor paragata nor is it tatastha vedya.That is, it cannot be perceived as located in the spectator or as located in anyone else, whether it be the character portrayed or the actor portraying that character. We can have no perception of rasa at all: “rasah na pratiyate”!.

What Bhatta Nayaka means in other words is that the spectator or the reader does not feel the sorrow or the happiness of the character represented personally as his own because of the aesthetic distance. That is why even a tragic play or a poem does not cause any feeling of pain in him and he is able to “enjoy” or savour its flavour too.Further,he says, ordinary spectator or reader can never identify himself with the extraordinary virtues of such a great hero as Rama. What happens actually is that he enjoys the aesthetic emotion through the bhojaka-bhojya relationship. That is, through the relationship of the enjoyer and the enjoyed. Bhatta Nayaka, thus, stresses the importance of bhavana vyapara or imagination, which, according to him, comes into play as an aspect of aesthetic experience. Poetic experience, he maintains, has another power besides abhidha or the detonational power which enables the sahridaya or the aesthetically sensible person to see the characters presented in an aesthetic creation in a generalised way, “independently of any relationship with his ordinary life or the life of the actor or the hero of the play or poem”, as Gnoli puts it. This special power Bhatta Nayaka calls bhavakatva, the power of generalisation.

The protagonists in their generalised character are perceived to rise above their “specific contextal reference”. Thus Rama’s love for Sita though particular becomes the universalised experience of love in general. Even pain is transfigured into a sort of pleasure which can be savoured aesthetically. This universalisation of the aesthetic object and subject through the power ofbhavakatva frees them from all limitations of individuality and is calledsadharanikarana. The concept of sadharanikarna or universily of the aesthetic experience is Bhatta Nayaka’s greatest contribution in the field of aesthetic thought.

To explain the relation between the subject and object, Bhatta Nayaka posits another power or function of language - that of bhojakatva or enjoyment. It is by the virtue of this power, according to him, that we relish the experience presented in a poetic creation, not at the practical but at the aesthetic level. All practical considerations fade away due to the predominance of sattva or innate goodness of human nature, a state of psychological poise which makes us repose in our own consciousness. The other two potentialities described in the Sankhya philosophy, rajas, physical dynamism and tamas, insensibility, are rendered ineffective. Thus the bhoga or enjoyment of rasa is a process of delectation very much akin to the state of self-sufficient blissful consciousness which one experiences on realising the Supreme Reality (Brahman). Bhatta Nayaka’s another important contribution, therefore, is that he brings the aesthetic experience at par with mystic experience. By stressing that it is not determined by practical considerations but is a state of being, he makes it more internal and contemplative, bringing the relisher face to face with the ultimate Universal Reality.

In his comment on Bhatta Nayaka’s formulation about universalisation of experience in aesthetics, Abhinavagupta does not seem inclined to dismiss it altogether. In fact, he absorbs his core contentions into his own aesthetic theory and develops them in accordance with his own monistic outlook. He admits that aesthetic enjoyment is similar to the joy that comes from realising one’s identity with Brahman, but he rejects his three-fold classification of the powers of language on the ground that there is no need “to staticise either the generalising function of poetry as a separate power ofbhavakatva or the appreciative activity of the reader or spectator as a distinct, isolated power bhojakatva”, as this only leads to unnecessary multiplication of concepts.

We shall refer to Abhinavgupta’s philosophy of aesthetics later. Suffice it to say here that he accepted Bhatta Nayaka’s view that the aesthetic and the mystic experiences spring from the same source and the bliss we derive from them is a state of independence from all extraneous factors--a repose into our own self. But while the state of mystical consciousness is marked by “the complete disappearance of all polarities, the lysis of all dialexis in the dissolving fire of God”, to use the words of R.Gnoli “in aesthetic consciousness the feelings and facts of everyday life remain always present”, even though they are transfigured. The fact put so succinctly by K.Krishnamurthy, is that so far as the idea of rasa is concerned, Abhinavgupta “takes over where Bhatta Nayaka leaves”.

As aesthetic thinking further developed in India, it slowly moved away from the habit of analysing the creative process in terms of dramaturgy alone and looked to pure poetics for further addition to its conceptual armoury till Abhinavgupta synthesized both the traditions. It was Bhamaha, a Kashmiri, who heralded the shift and developed Sanskrit poetics along scientific and independent lines. From all available sources, Bhamaha was the first authority on poetics in the post-Bharat era with an influence that was so strongly pervasive that almost all important theoriticians in the field found it compulsive to refer to him. There is a difference of opinion about the time he flourished, but Anandavardhana has quoted a sentence from him alongside another sentence from Bana, which he considers older, than the latter. Bhamaha’s time can, therefore, be safely placed between the 5th century and the beginning of the 7th.

In his book “Kavyalankara”, on which Udbhata has written a commentary, he emerges as an alankarist who gives foremost place to embellishment in poetry, considering figures of speech essential for the enhancement of its beauty. Bhamaha’s famous comparison of an embellished expression to the beauty of a lady bedecked with ornaments has been often quoted--and misquoted. Bhamaha has provided definitions for a total of thirtyone poetic figures, giving equal importance to verbal figures (shabdalankara) and ideational figures (aerthalankaa). Bhamaha, however, is no mere formalist, his objective is only to lay emphasis on the distinctive quality of poetic expression of which he gives a very significant definition: “shabdarthau sahitam kavyam” (poetry is that in which word and meaning coexist). It is from this definition that the Sanskrit term for literature, sahitya, was derived by Kuntaka. This makes poetic tissue “an organismic union of word and idea”--a concept also emphasised by several European writers. Baudelaire says that “idea and form are two realities in one. And in Flaubert’s view, “Form is the flesh itself of othe idea, as the idea is the soul of life. T.S. Eliot stresses the same idea when he says, “the music of poetry is not something which exists apart from its meaning.

Bhamaha totally ignores Bharata and his concept of rasa when he talks of the beauty of aesthetic expression except when he uses the term in definingmahakavya or the epic poem. He gives it only a minor role to play asrasavada alankara. It is interesting to note Bhamaha’s interpretation ofsvabhavokti or natural description, even as he accepts vakrokti or deviant expression as an essential element of poetry. He includes svabhavokti as an ideational figure (arthalankara). He seeks to make a distinction not so much between svabhavokti and vakrokti but between vakrokti and varta (news or information). News, whether it is lokavarta or a report of current events, orshastra varta or technical information does not as poetry, he poetry, he points out, but svabhavokti or naturalistic description does, even though it is devoid of ornament, simply because it is charged with poetic power. It is the poet’s imaginative power, pratibha, that is the source from which poetry emanates. Abhinava was particularly fond of this quotation from Bhamaha: “Even a stupid man can learn the Shastras from the teachings of his professor. But poetry is only given to the person who has imaginative genius”. (Translation: J.L. Masson)

Vamana, the author of Kavyalankara Sutravritti and the founder of the RitiSchool flourished in Kashmir in the 8th century and was the minister of King Jayapida. Though he has expressed his views on various elements of poetic composition, he is best known for having claimed riti or diction to be the soul fo poetry: Ritiratma kavyasya. Before him Bhamaha and Dandi had used the term marga instead of riti to denote diction. Defining riti to denote diction. Defining riti as “vishishta pada rachana” or a special arrangement of words, Vamana seeks to establish that diction has a “higher integrative reallity” than figure or image. Elaborating his conception Vamana relates diction to poetic excellences, or qualities, called gunas. These are ten in number according to Bharata and their presence or absence defines various kinds of diction or style. Vamana refers to three dictions in particular: Vaidarbhi, Panchali and Gaudi. He is very much clear thta these various dictions are only geographical denominations based on characteristics specific to different regions. He considers Vaidarbhi, which is characterised by limpid sweetness, as the best of all. In contrast to it the Gaudi diction of Bengal is marked for its “ornate vigour”. Earlier Bhamaha had related poetic excellences to poetic temper and mood rather than identifying diction with the verbal texture.

Vamana asserts thta the seed of poetry (kavya bija) lies in the poet’s creative genius (pratibha) . Like Bhamana, he treats alankaras as an essential element of poetic beauty. He, however, believes thta all poetic figures are but aspects of metaphorical expression-0-upama prapancha. Making Vamana’s concept clear Krishna Chaitanya writes in his book “Sanskrit Poetics that when Vamana insisted that simile and metaphor were not only genuine poetry but “a latent juxtaposition” (aupamya-garbha), he seems to be thinking of “concretising the theme” and linking it to rasa. The affinity between various juxtaposed images thus belongs to “a deeper plane of aesthetic creativity and experience”.

Kuntaka who lived in the late 10th or early 11th century Kashmir should have chronologically come before Abhinavgupta but we are taking him earlier to consider Abhinavagupta and Anandavardhana together. Founder of VakroktiSchool, Kuntaka’s only work Vakroktijivit is found in an incomplete form. In this work, taking the cue from Bhamaha and Dandi, Kuntaka formulated a whole theory of poetic expression based on it. Defining vakrokti as a unique turn of expression--vaidagdhya bhangi bhaniti--Kuntaka derived it from creative poetic action (kavi karma) to which he relates his concept of beauty. He uses vakrokti or deviant expression as a generic term of which poetic figures form an important aspect. The value of the figure, he holds, lies in its being a striking form of expression which is a deviation from the ordinary mode of speech. It produces a peculiar kind of charm which he callsvaichitrya. By contending that the embellished word and sense (alankrita shabdartha) solely constitute vakrokti, and by identifying embellishment with poetic figure and imagery, Kuntaka almost identifies figurative expression with poetic expression.

Kuntaka is diffident of including svabhavokti or naturalistic expression invakrokti for the fear that it could lead to “the cart driver” talks finding acceptance in poetry. His difficulty is that in poetic expression cannot be accepted as a figure because it is only the intrinsic nature of the object that should be the ornamented (alankarya) and note the ornament (alankara). In poetic naturalism the beauty is donated by the object itself and and not the poet. And in no way can something not created by the poet by called poetic ornament.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Social Life

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

With this we come to another important aspect of our study of the early Kashmiri society  -  social life. Here too we do not have enough source materials to base our investigation on. Even so the few literary sources that are available to us can provide us with considerable, though still not adequate, guidance. Beginning with the Nilamata again, we find that the sylvan valley of Kashmir was full of “ever sportive and joyful people enjoying continuous festivities”. Living in perfect harmony with their beautiful surroundings, “they played, danced and sang to express their joys, to please theirgods and to appease their demons”, as Dr. Ved Kumari puts it. Music and dance, it appears, were an integral part of their life, the key to their cultural DNA. The Rajatarangini and Kutttanimata Kavya further testify to what the Nilamata indicates  -  the enormous popularity of vocal and instrumental music, dance, and theatre performances among the early Kashmiri people. Music was popular even among the Buddhist monks, Kalhana tells us.

There were festivals galore that they celebrated  -  festivals that evoked devotion for the divine, festivals that celebrated the blooming of flowers in spring, festivals that expressed joy at the ploughing of the land and sowing of seeds, festivals related to the ripening of barely in the fields and harvesting the first crop of the paddy in autumn festivals, and even festivals evoking the Bacchanalian spirit on the ripening of grapes. But there was not one festival which did not have music and dancing as its essential feature. Any pretext was enough for people to celebrate with snatches of a song and jigs of a dance  - be it the birthday of a god or the new snowfall day ! What is interesting is that while their context was social, their setting was religious.

And what was the nature of this music and dancing ? Mostly folk, of course, but also classical, in accordance with the precepts of Bharata’s Natyashastra, as we learn from Nilamata and Kuttlanimata-Matakavya. Musical instruments of all the four types  -  tata (stringed), avanaddha (percussion),ghana (cymbals), and sushira (wind) were in vogue.

Veena or tantripataha (drum), muruj (tabor) mridanga (double drum), venu(lute), shankha (conch), ghanta (bell) and turya (trumpet) were among the more commonly used varieties. Harmony between vocal and instrumental music was highly appreciated. In an 11th century pen-portrait of Abhinavagupta, Madhuraja shows him with his fingers strumming the veena. Bilhana extolls the skill of Kashmiri women in dancing and theatrical performances. It is no wonder then that Kashmir produced one of the greatest Indian masters of music, Sharangadeva, the writer of Sangeet Ratnakara, which is perhaps the best treatise ever written on Indian music.

What Literary sources say about the popularity of music and dancing in early Kashmiri society is supported by archaeological evidence. Thus, in one of the tiles from Harwan, we see three musicians one playing a flute, another cymbals and the third a pair of drums.

Another tile shows a female musician playing on a drum which is hung over her shoulder. Yet another tile depicts a female dancer in an actual dancing posture. She is shown holding a long scarf in her hands and waving it. Kings of Kashmir patronized music, dancing and theatre. King Kalasha had a craze for dancing girls and so did Harsha who kept awake through the nights to personally instruct dancing girls in the art of acting in his own royal palace.

A unique thing about theatrical performances in Kashmir during the Nilamata age was the idea of “prekshadana” or “giving a dramatic show as a gift”. Professional theatre groups (rangapjin) would give such “gifts” to entertain people on certain occasions and they in turn were supposed to sustain these groups. In Damodaragupta’s time (9th century), big business magnates, the shreshthis and the vanikas patronised the dramatic art. According to him there were large theatre halls in his native land fitted with cushioned seats and back-rests. In an interesting reference, Kalhana, compares fleeing armies to theatre-goers caught in a down-pour, which suggests, however, that common people must have watched such performances in open-air theatres. Kshemendra too refers to the existence of theatre halls in Kashmir.

Puppet-plays also appear to have been popular in early Kashmir.Kuttanimata Kavya refers to wooden dolls which were manipulated by means of a mechanical thread (yantrasutra) and made to dance. There were many other games and amusements with which people in early Kashmir entertained themselves.

Among these, garden sports seem to have been extremely popular, and naturally so because nature has gifted Kashmir with plenty of gardens and beautiful parks. On festivals like Iramanjari Pujana or Ashokikashtami they would throng to these gardens and enjoy themselves with a variety of sports. Such sports have been described at length in the Kamasutra and several other works.

“Special meals taken in gardens in the company of friends and members of the family", writes Dr. Ved Kumari, “were a part of such garden sports”. Young maidens could have their fun and enjoy water sports on the Shravani festival, according to Nilamata.

Kuttanimata also refers to these sports as a favourite form of amusement for young men and women who would sprinkle water on one another with akarayantra or syringe.

Kanduka-krida or ball-playing, which is said to have been “one of the most favourite games of ancient India” was equally popular in Kashmir. Particularly among girls Damodaragupta’s Kuttanimata as well as Shyamilaka’sPadataditaka vouch for its popularity.

Chess and dice playing were among the favourite indoor-games of the people of Kashmir from very early times. Nilamata prescribes playing dice on the Sukha Suptihka or Deepavali night.

Rajatarangini offers ample evidence of their prevalence. Kuttanimata refers to it as a popular pastime. Women too played chess, it informs us.

Hunting was one of the favourite pastimes of men, and was particularly popular among princes. Some tiles from Harwan depict huntsmen on horseback chasing deer. Common people enjoyed watching wrestling bouts and animal fights. We find interesting depiction of ram fights and cock fights on some Harwan tiles.

Goshthis or social gatherings provided good entertainment to sophisticated and culturally refined people in ancient India. There is evidence in Kuttanimata Kavya that such gatherings were common in early Kashmir also. Kshemendra refers to asthanis or sitting rooms where friends would gather for conversation after having meals”. Respect was shown to gifted people known for their learning or their skill in the arts, at such gatherings.

It is indeed intriguing that we do not come across any evidence, literary or archaeological, of ancient inhabitants of Kashmir dressing or adorning themselves like its present day inhabitants.

The typically ‘Kashmiri’ articles of maleand female costume, like the pheran,the turban, the.proofs, and taranga are totally absent from literary works or sculptural representations. Is is becausethese were imposed on the Kashmiri Hindus at some later time ? How close is their resemblance to the pairahanof the Middle East and the traditional headgear of Egypt and Sudan ? What we find instead is the early Kashmiris using a variety of costumes and adornments suited to the requirements of “time and clime”, as dictated by good taste. Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese traveller who visited Kashmir in 631 AD tells us in his account that people wore leather doublets and clothes of fine linen. Other sources inform that both male and female attire consisted ofvasana yugala or an upper and lower garment. And these garments were made from a variety of fabrics - cotton, wool, china silk, patika (a course variety of silk) and hemp. As the climate was cold, they covered their bodies with woolen garments in winter. Kalhanauses the word ‘pravara' for the woolen cloaks he says they wore. Nilamata calls them 'pravarana' The poor used kambala or sthulambala (coarse blankets). “Garments interwoven with threads of gold, dazzling the eyes” were also worn, according to Kuttanimata.

But the most detailed information about dress and ornaments (worn in 11th century Kashmir) is provided by Kshemendra’s works Narmamala,Samaya Matrika and Deshopadesha.

Men wore a long-sleeved tunic called kanchuka as the upper garment. Women’s upper garment too was called kanchuka, but in their case it was both a long-sleeved and a half-sleeved one  - a kind of jacket not much different from the moderncholi. As their lower garment men wore a kind of trousers called patnga orjanghala, according to Kshemendra. He has used the terms karpari and samputialso for trousers, but perhaps these trousers were of a different kind or made from different fabrics.Dhoti or pa(i was also worn by men, but pati sometimes meant a kind of scarf. They woreangarakshaka also over the kanchuka and wrapped their bodies in tusti (perhaps a precursor of the present day shawl). Kshemendra also refers to kambala or woolen blanket they used to cover the body. The male headgear generally consisted of shirahshata, a kind of turban. Caps of different sizes and shapes called the tpika (Hindi topi) were also in vogue.

Kshemendra refers to mochot, a type ofsocks, or perhaps boots, reaching partway up to the knees, as being commonly in use According to Damodaragupta, men, rich and poor alike, used leathe shoes  -  a necessity in a cold place like Kashmir. The rich, he says, wore fashionable shoes having floral decorationsfrom outside and fitted with steel soles imported probably from Central Asia.

Bee-wax was placed inside these shoes to make them comfortable to wear. The more fashionable men. according to Kshemendra, wore mayuropanah or peacock shoes.

We do not get much informationabout female dress from Kshemendra, except that they worekanchuka as the upper garment. According to Damodargupta, they also werevarabana, which he describes as an item of dress similar to a kanchuka Men also wore varabana, but in their case it was a kind of short fur coat. Kalhana tells us that ladies generally attired themselves in a Sari and jacket{kanchuka) . For the upper garment they used uttariya or amshuka. They also wrapped themselves in wollen shawls.

“Fashionable ladies”, says Ajay Mitra Shastri quoting Kuttanimata, “loved to wear soft, clean and perfumed clothes”.

They were fond of Chinese silk, he writes’. In Harsha’s time, they wore half-sleeved jackets and lower garments “which were so long that their tail ends touched the ground”’ .

People, both men and women, were fond of wearing colured clothes, except widows who were always dressed in white. Garments coloured with saffron dye were more preferred by fashion conscious men and women.

Women as well as men in early Kashmir were very fond of wearing ornaments and adorning themselves.

Women were naturally more crazy than men for embellishing themselves with a variety of jewelleries. Kalhana mentions necklaces, ear-rings, armlets, wristlets, anklets etc among the ornaments that ladies would wear, Damodaragupta takes great delight in describing various kinds of necklaces hugging the bosoms of pretty women of his times. He speaks of pearl necklaces(mukta hara) having several strands of pearls. Kshemendra speaks of coral collars (kanthi) and conch-shell necklaces (shankhalatika).

They were fond of wearing earrings of various shapes. Both Damodargupta Kshemendra speak of palm-shaped ear-drop known as kanaka-tadi that came to Kashmir from the South. King Harsha introduced new types of jewelleries in the 10th century which too seem to have come from the South.

These included ketaka-leafed tiaras, pendants which rested on the forehead(tilaka, modern tikka) and golden strings at the end of the locks, perhaps something like the ornament called talaraz in Kashmiri. Ladies also loved to wear a number of bracelets known as valaya or kataka, on each of the wrists which would make sound on moving. They wore small finger-rings of gold known as balika in root of the finger. But jingling girdles adoring the hips and tinkling anklets on the feet were a great craze. Strangely enough there is no reference to dejiht the ear ornament which identifies married Kashmiri ladies. Perhaps it came later.

Men also liked to wear ornaments of different designs. These included necklaces, earrings, wristlets, armlets, bracelets and finger-rings. Men of ordinary means wore ornaments of cheap materials like glass-beads and conchshells.

What is very interesting is that both men and women used unguents and cosmetics as beauty-aids. They applied various kinds of perfumed pastes known as angaraga and

vilepana on the face and the body to enhance their physical beauty. These were prepared from ingredients like saffron, sandalwood, camphor and andropogon. Men applied mustard on forehead and saffron pomade on beard. They painted their nails too, and perfumed their clothes with various kinds of powders.

Ladies of course were even more conscious about enhancing their bodily charms by using different cosmetics. They anointed their body with sandalwood and saffron pastes.

Using leaves soaked in musk to scent their cheeks, they applied collyrium in the eyes and reddened their feet and lips and, of course, nails, with lac dye(alaktaka). Women were also extremely fond of painting different designs and beauty Marks on their faces.

Ladies' coiffures were amazingly beautiful and elaborate. Three kinds of hairstyles were particularly popular among them, we learn from Damoadaragupta. These were veni, dhamillaand alkaavali. Veni was a long dangling braid decked with flowers. Dhamilla,explains Ajay Mitra Shastri, was a form of coiffure in which the hair was tied into a single big knot over the head and adorned with flowers.

Bilhana's refernce to it in 'Chaurapanchashika' shows that it was quite popular in Kashmir. Alaka-avali according to Shashri, "consisted of arrangements of hair in rows of spiral locks on the forehead".

Various modes of dressing the hair were prevalent among men also. Fashion-conscious men wore their hair long with coloured tassels attached to them. According to the Damodaragupta, kings and nobles braided their hair in several ways. Damadarguptawrites that affluent men arranged their hair with a long piece of cloth covering three fourths of the head and leave one fourth open. Men also decorated their hair with floral garlands.

Much of what has been said in literary works about the costumes and ornaments in vogure in early Kashmir is corroborated by sculptures and terractto figures of an earlier time. For instance, in one Harwan tile we see a lady carrying a flower vase. She is wearing a diaphanous robe and large ear-rings. On another tile a woman water carrier is shown wearing a Sari. On some tiles appear women wearing close fitting caps. Yet some other tiles depict men wearing trousers and loose fitting robes.

Dr S.C. Ray finds the influence of Central Asian dress on these representations, but this needs to be further investigated.

Several splendid terracotta figurines from Ushkur show women in beautiful coiffureswith their hair fixed with hairpins. Several busts show them wearing kanchukas and necklaces. Terracotta fragments showing girdles and finger rings have also been found from Ushkur.

Food & Drinks

Coming to food and drinks, it hardly needs to be stated that rice was the staple food of people in early Kashmir as it is now. Several preparations were made from rice which included boiled rice, rice sweetened with sugar, rice mixed with pulses (khichari), rice mixed with sugar and milk, rice cakes and dfried rice.

Barley, and not wheat, was the other important item of food Apupa and pishtaka (bread and cake) of barely were very much relished. A special festival was observed to celebrate the ripening of barley in the fields.

Pulses like mudga (moong), masura, kulatha and channa were widely consumed by the early people of Kashmir, we learn from literary sources. And of course, parpataka or papad made of pulses was taken as an appetiser. But perhaps the most popular items of the Kashmiri cuisine were meat and rice. This was found by Macro Polo in the 13th century also. Dishes were prepared from the meat of ram (mesha), fowl (kukkata) and other birds, literary sources tell us. Flesh of domesticated pigs also came to be consumed towards the end of the 11th century, according to Kalhana. Meat-soup was considered to be a tonic. Fish also was a popular item of the cuisine. Fish broth (matya supa) taken with onions and garlic was considered as strength-giving, as both Kshemendra and Kalhana mention.

Among vegetables, Kshemdra makes mention of lotus stalk or nadru as it is called in Kashmiri. It continues to be a favourite dish of the Kashmiris even today.

Common people consumed upalshaka (Kashmiri 'vopalhakh') and 'shand' (Kashmiri'hand'). Fruit was grown abundantly in ancient Kashmir, as testified by Hsuan Tsang. He mentions pear, plum, apricot, peach and grapes as the principal fruits of the Valley. Kashmir perhaps grew an excellent variety of grapes, a fruit which was widely cultivated. Every Sanskrit writer of Kashmir, Kalhana and Abhinavagupta included, speak of it effusively.

Kshemdndra mentions walnuts also., which appeal to have been grown in Kashmir from early times. In a place abounding with fruit, fish andfowl, people are bound to develop a taste for rich food.

Honey was popularly consumed and used as a sweatener along with sugarcane. Among condiments, saffront of course was the king Black pepper (maricha), ginger (marichadraka)and aesfotida were among the spices used make food tastier.

Drinking of wine appears tohave been prevalent in early Kashmir, despite restrictions of the religious texts. Nilmata Purana, in fact, allows it on certain festivals as, for instance, the new snowfall day, Mahimana and iramanjaripujana.

It was prepared from grapes as well as sugarcane, which were distilled, cooled and scentled with flowers to make a delightful drink. Among nonalcoholic drinks, Kalhana mentions tuhyina sharkaram, a cold drink enjoyed during the summer. People of Kashmir seem to have been very fond of betel leaves, which were imported. There are numerous references to the habit of chewing betel-leaves with limein Damodargupta,Kshemendra and Kalhana's works.

These are many notions about the Kashmiri way of life, which a study of these literary sources shows to be wrong. For instance, it is widely believed that Kashmiris generally sleep on the ground, but we find Damodargupta and Kshemendra telling us for our information that canopied beds (vaitanikas), couches (paryanka), cots (shayya), bedsheets (astarana),bedding (shayana) and pillows (upadhana) were very much used in early Kashmir. They also mention the pada-pitha or the fool-stool on which ladies sat for doing their make-up.

Among other articles of furniture we come to known of the seat (asana, asanda) and thick cushions (vrisee) which were used for sitting upon. A kind of carpet known aspatalika was spread as a floorcovering, besides the humble reed-mat.

Another fallacious notion, for which Alberuni was responsible, is that Kashmiris did not have any riding animals or carriages. "The Kashmiris are pedestrians.

The noble among them ride in palanquins called kull carried on the shoulders of men", writes the Arab scholar in his Kitab-ul-Hind. But this is totally erroneous. There are numerous references to horses, carriages and elephants in literary sources. From Hsuan Tsang's travelogue, for instance, we come to know that the 7th century Chinese traveller was received during his visit to Kashmir in 631 AD by King Durlabhavardhana's

maternal uncle who had come with horse and carriage to escort him to the capital.

Incidentally Durlabhavardhana himself was an official in charge of the fodder for horses(ashva-ghasakayastha).

King Ananta, as Kalhana tell us, was so fond of horses that he was exploited by his horse trainers during the early years of his reign. And then, of course, there are several references to mounted troops in his chronicle and a reference to the stables of elephants too which indicates that the elephant was used as aristocratic conveyance in Kashmir.

Belief System

Having discussed how society was structured in early Kashmir and what were the mores and manners that characterized social life, let us have a glance at the belief systems that prevailed during the period and inspired and guided the people. As we have indicated already, the early Kashmir society derived its attitude to life and approach to reality from a sense of harmony with nature. This gave rise to a spiritual and cultural climate in which different religious faiths flourished side by side without any antagonism. Thus, even before history was recorded, we find the religious fabric of Kashmiri life woven out of mature strands of Buddhist, Shaiva and Vaishnava traditions with patterns of other heterogeneous modes of worship like that of the Naga cult revealing themselves on the margins. Not only did these different forms of worship co-exists peacefully, they also influenced each other through a process of osmosis of concepts and ideas. In the age of Nilamata, for instance, we notice popular Naga deities like Nila, Ananta (Shesha), Takshaka, Sushruvas etc. entering the Hindu pantheon.

We also see Buddhist deities like Avalokiteshvara and Tara assume qualities and attributes of Hindu gods like Shiva and Durga. At a later stage, the Buddhist term of shunyata entered the lexicon of Kashmir Shaivism, though with a different interpretation.

In the same manner, the Shaiva concept of universal consciousness provided the basis for the concept of reality in the Buddhsit school of Yogachara.

Buddhism in Kashmir

Buddhism is said to have come to Kashmir in the 3rd century B.C. when Emperor Ashoka included it in his empire and sent his emissary Majjhantika to spread the Dhamma. We learn from the Mahavamsha and Ashokavadana that he had to contend with the local Nagas and their king Aravala, and only after convincing them of his superior spiritual powers was he able to win them over to the Buddhist way of life" Buddhism supplanted the Naga cult, but there is enough evidence to show that its vestiges continued to survive long after that. In Kashmiri language the very name 'nag' came to denote 'a spring'. Both Kshemendra and Kalhana described a popular festival of their times, the Takshaka Yatra, in which crowds of singing and dancing people joyfully participated.

Buddhism itself changed its entire complexion in Kashmir when Kanishka chose it as the venue for his Fourth Buddhist Cuoncil to "revise, review and reinterpret" the Buddhist texts so that the purity of its canon could be preserved. It was a monumental event at which 18 different sects accepted the conclusion of the Council, leading to the emergence of the Mahayana school. It was an altruistic doctrine with its emphasis on idealism, disinterested love, relief of the suffering of others and salvation for every living being.

Mahayana deified Buddha and the concept of the divine Bodhisattvas came into being together with an entirely new pantheon of gods and goddesses. This had a tremendous appeal for the common people. Soon Kashmir became and important centre of the school, providing intellectual inputs to sustain it and sending missionaries and scholars from its soil to different lands for its propagation. Kashmir had its married Bhikshus long before other places in the country.

However, it was in the 9th century that Buddhism started loosing ground to Shaivism and Vaishnavism, yet it continued to occupy an important position right up to the advent of Islam.

King after king and queen after queen kept providing liberal patronage to it by buildingviharas and stupas. And at a time when the barbaric hordes of Mahmud Ghazni were putting thousands to the sword, Kashmiri artists were painting murals in Western Tibet.

Shaivism & Vashnavism in Kashmir

Despite their reverence for Buddha, Karkota rulers of Kashmir were worshippers of Shiva and Vishnu. So were the rulers of the Utpala dynasty, who were ardent followers of Vaishnavism. With Buddhism receding to the background, Shaivism and Vaishnavism gained dominant position along with the worship of other Hindu gods. Festivals and rituals connected with them gained more popularity, impacting social life in many ways including a renaissance in art and architecture. Shiva, however, was a popular deity from a very remote period.

According to Kalhana, Ashoka worshipped Shiva at an existing ancient temple Shiva Vijayesha, when he came to Kashmir. He built two temples Shiva Ashokeshwara and Shiva Bhutesha dedicated to Shiva. Ashoka's son Jalauka is said to have been a staunch Shaiva by faith. The Pashupata system of dualistic Shaivism was most popular in early Kashmir, but soon numerous Shaiva sects, having their basis in Agamic Shaivism, came to flourish.

Among these the Kaula, Krama and Trika schools integrated themselves into Kashmir Shaivism, acquiring monistic undertones, eventually leading to a new non-dualistic school founded by the sage Vasugupta.

The new school interiorised the Agamic rituals and interpreted non-dualistic doctrines in accordance with its own monistic framework. The core concept of Kashmir Shaivism is that the Supreme Reality is one pure and indivisible consciouness which manifests itself as the world and the phenomena. It is all-inclusive as nothing exists apart from it.

Recognition of one's identity as Shiva or universal consciousness is, according to Kashmir Shaivism, the ultimate experience of enlightenment. As it is the universal self of whih all things, animate and inanimate, are a manifestation, Shaivism regards the world as real and celebrates the joy of creation. This has implications at the societal level also, with Shaivism rejecting all differences of caste, creed or sex and allowing one and all to be initiated into it. The Shaivas maintain that Shiva manifests himself as the universe through his Cosmic Energy Shakti, who is inseperable from him. At the temporal level, these two cosmic principles, one transcendental and the other immanent, are represented by the male and female principal.

As Shaivas consider all females as manifestation of Shakti, they regard woman as equal to man so far as her social position is concerned. Even today in a Kashmiri Pandit marriage the bridegroom and the bride are worshipped as Shiva and Shakti.

In fact, Shaktism, which found expression in the mother goddess cults, also became very popular in early Kashmir and is so even today. Considering God as a woman is something unique that Tantric vision of reality has contributed to religious thought. Intense devotion to the goddesses Sharika, Ragya, Tripura and Jwala as different forms of Jagadamba or the mother of the Universe, is an integral part of Kashmiri Hindus' religious life. The Shaktas regard ultimate reality as feminine in essence, as we have pointed out earlier, and this is a factor that has contributed to reverence for women in the Kashmiri Hindu society. Being Mother, she is kind and benevolent and grants all wishes of the devotees even as she upholds the cosmic order and destroys the demons, they hold.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Challenge of Islam

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani


Exploring what kind a society existed in Kashmir before the advent of Islam is a very interesting but also a challenging task. How was it organized ? What were its institutions, its belief systems and traditions, its values and ideals ? To know this in full and exact detail, we have but fragmentary and scattered sources of information available to us. Buried beneath a several kilometer long embankment running across the Dal Lake in Srinagar are hundreds and thousands of ancient manuscripts that could have provided us with a wealth of evidence. But they seem to be irretrievably lost.

All is not lost though. On the basis of still extant source materials: pioneering work of treat value has been done in the recent decades by erudite scholars like Dr. Ved Kumari Ghai, Dr. S.C. Ray and Ajay Mitra Shastri to prepare a coherent and connected account of ancient Kashmir’s social and cultural life. Yet the field of investigation is so vast, and the available evidence so limited, that there still remain large areas which are unexplored and unlimited Furthermore, the studies- of these scholars seem to suffer from a certain lack of perspective and orientation, based as they are on the Western lndoiogists’ line of approach consisting of too literal an interpretation of myth.

The immediate necessity, therefore, is for someone to carry the work of the pioneering scholars further on, and to offer fresh perspectives and new insights into things. It is a colossal exercise. It is extremely important to trace the genesis and evolution of Kashmiri society from the earliest times in view of attempts being made by some people to present the entire pre-Islamic past of the valley as one long period of darkness. A lot of mischief has been done by those who in the garb of historiographers are using negativist and reductionist tactics to suppress what is true and suggest what is false. They have mined the whole area of historical investigation with numerous falsehoods and fact distortions. These shall, therefore, have to be cleared from the path of our vision so that it will be possible for us to see and place things in a clear and correct perspective.

At the outset, we must understand that when we talk of early Kashmiri society, we do not mean thereby any particular racial or ethnic group. Several such groups - Manvas, Nagas, Pishachas and others have come together in some distant pre-historic past to give shape to this society.  Their mixing and commingling is commemorated in the Nilamata Purana, a 6th or 7th century text in Sanskrit which gives Kashmir’s own creation legend. According to this Purana, gods intervened to reclaim the Himalayan Valley from the waters of a primordial lake that filled it. Killing the demon who infested the lake, they drained away the water at the request of Rishi Kashyapa, preceptor and progenitor par excellence, who took the initiative in populating the land thus reclaimed. But there was a hiccup. The Nagas, resented Kashyapa’s recommendation of allowing Manavas (descendents of Manu) cohabit with them. They had second thoughts as soon as an enraged Kashyapa gave them the option of having to live with the “terrible” Pischachas. In the end we find all the elements that constituted the ancient population of Kashmir living together in a spirit of harmony and cordiality, following the instructions of, the Naga king, Nila. These instructions, as we see, concern performance of certain rites and ceremonies, which for the most part are quite similar to those prescribed in other Puranas, except in case of a few rites related to Naga worship. The Nilamata Purana is a record of their coming together, a process which must have taken centuries of assimilation. On its pages we see the earliest contours of a Kashmiri society beginning to emerge.

But that is not the manner some people would like things to have been. In their eagerness to be counted among ethno-historians, they see a bloody ethnic strife to be at the root of it all. Presenting the episode of the Nagas’ initial unwillingness to accommodate, let us say, Vedic Aryans, as a gory struggle for domination a la colonial historians’ theory of Aryan invasion, they read discord into accord and accuse “alien” Aryans to have “annihilated” the original inhabitants of Kashmir. “The blood of Nagas flows on the pages of the Nilamata”, shrieks one poet-turned-politician-turned ethnologist. “Massacre most foul”, cries another, forgetting that there is nothing in the Nilamata even remotely suggestive of any such conflict or tension, and that it was Vishnu who gave Nagas fleeing from the wrath of Garuda, their arch enemy, shelter on the mountains surrounding the Kashmir Valley. After all, the Nilmata does not read like a document of war but a document of compromise and reconciliation, of the birth of a unique civilization on the banks of river Vitasta against the backdrop of snow clad mountains. Besides, as we have said earlier, in that age of mass migrations of people, no geographical boundaries were fixed, and the state just did not exist Anyway, let us not give the feverish imagination of these people more attention than it deserves. These are, we must know, tactics to draw attention.

We have, however, to study closely the implications of the archaeological explorations which suggest that the earliest inhabitants of Kashmir were the Neolithic pit-dwellers of Burzahom, a village near Srinagar. Some Neolithic sites have been discovered in several places in the southern parts of the Valley also. Neolithic culture is said to have flourished there between 2300 BC and 2nd century AD. But as data available from Burzahom has not yet been systematically studied and analyzed, the identity of its Neolithic settlers has not been identified. Nor do we know whether they have any relations with the people of the Nilamata age or the present inhabitants of Kashmir. We are also not sure whether they had any social organization worth the name. To get a clear picture of how early Kashmiris lived, thought and worked, we have to fall back upon the Nilamata Purana and other literary sources, including Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Damodargupta’s Kuttanimata Kavya, Kshemendra’s writings. Bilhana’s Vikramankadeva Charit, Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara, Buddhist Avadana literature, Laugakshi’s Grihyasutra, Shaiva and Shakta Tantric literature, and stray references in other early works. Chinese and Tibetan records including Taranatha’s history of Buddhism in India and translations of old Buddhist texts are also of great value. Information gleaned from these different sources can then be checked for authenticity by relating it to archaeological evidence wherever available.

Caste in Early Kashmir:

Let us again revert to the Nilamata Purana and its reference to immigrant Brahmanas who followed Chandradeva and settled in Kashmir. It is highly possible that a bulk of them were from the Saraswati Valley who must have decided to migrate to Kashmir after the legendary river changed its course and finally dried up. There is a persistent and strong tradition among Kashmiri Pandits that they are Saraswat Brahmins, and the presence of a large number of words of Vedic origin in the Kashmiri language seems to confirm it. From accounts given in the Nilamata. Rajatarangini and other early sources, they appear to have emerged as the dominant and highly respected social group in Kashmir, not just because they were associated with religious rites and ceremonies, but because of their intellectual proclivities, their natural gravitation towards cultivation of cerebral graces. They  were intellectual people who prized learning above everything else. And indeed it is because of their contributions that Kashmir came to be known all over the world as a great seat of Sanskrit learning. In the ancient texts referred to above, we see them as people “engaged in self-study, contemplation, performance of sacrifice, penance and the study of the Vedas and Vedangas” Respect was shown to them because they were supposed to be “itihasvidah” and “kalavidah”, that is “knowers of history and the connoisseurs of art. And who can provide a better proof of this than Kalhana, the great author of Rajatarangini, and  the whole host of chroniclers  of Kashmir who followed  him — Jonaraja and Shrivara,  Pragyabhatta  and  Shuka  ? Brahmins were also required to have a thorough grounding  in  the six schools of philosophy, astrology and astronomy, grammar, logic, prosody and medicine, besides religious texts. They had to live an austere life and adhere to a high moral code. Nowhere has it been suggested that they should be worshipped “as gods on the earth” even if they are illiterate and ignorant. And yet all Brahmins have been equated with priests and shown as representatives of an exploitative and oppressive social order by historians whose only pastime is Brahmin bashing. They are accused of appropriating the surplus in agriculture and growing rich on the gifts given to them by others.

There is no doubt that Brahmins did hold a high position in the society, but mainly as an intellectual and scholarly class, and not all of them adopted priesthood as their profession. And those who did were not much respected as they were recipients of donations and sacrificial fees and not donors. The donor was the patron, the yajamana who hired a priest to have a religious sacrifice or ritual performed. And anybody could be the patron under the yajmani system - including a Brahmana.

But this we shall take up later. Suffice it to say here that the Brahmins took up several occupations during the period under review, besides serving as priests. They were katha-vachakas or narrators of Puranic stories, astrologers, vaidyas or physicians, teachers, and even agriculturists. Some of them joined the administrative service also and became councillors and ministers. Some, like Kaihana’s own father Champaka. adopted the military career.

What about the other castes? If Dr. S.C.Ray is to be believed, there were no intermediate castes in Kashmir, not even Shudras. “Though the conception of the population as consisting of the four traditional castes was not altogether unknown”, he writes, “there was no such caste as Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra in early Kashmir”. While he describes Brahmanas as “definitely the more privileged and honoured caste” , he mentions Nishadas, Kiratas, Dombas, Shvapakas and Chandalas as the lower castes. Dr. Ray’s view appears to be only partiality true. The Nishadas the Kiratas, the Dombas etc. were no doubt there, but the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas were not altogether absent, though they have not been mentioned in that detail. The Nilamata describes the functions of all the four traditional castes and says that representatives of all the four participated in the king’s coronation. The Rajatarangini too makes specific references to Kshatriyas as well as Vaishyas in the context of Kashmir’s ancient history. There is no reference in it of any tension between the castes, nor anything like the priest - king collusion to maintain hegemony over others. The Brahmanas, however, are often shown as resorting to prayopavesha or hunger-strike to get their demands accepted by the king. The confrontation between King Jayapida and the Brahmanas of Tulamula is a well known example.

There may not be many direct references to Vaishyas as such in Rajatarangani and other early works, but Kalhana does mention the emergence of a rich and prosperous merchant class. With the opening of overland trade routes during Kanishka’s rule, and perhaps,, earlier, trade and commerce with foreign countries appears to have received a boost. Commercial activity must have been particularly brisk

during the rule of the Karkotas Extensive conquests by kings like Lalitaditya must have opened vast markets for Kashmiri goods in neighbouring territories. The Valley was full of wealthy merchants, says Kalahana, with some of them living in palatial buildings excelling the king’s palace. Damodargupta’s reference to shreshthin and vanikas also indicates the existence of a rich and prosperous trading community during his time, belonging probably to the Vaishya caste. Many among the upward mobile artisan classes in the Valley too must have belonged to this community.

As for the Shudras, Nilamata counts the karmajivin (workers) and shilpis(artisans) as Shudras - that is, the weavers, carpenters, goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, leather-tanners and potters. They were treated with respect in the society and were among those who exchanged gifts with the “higher varnas” during the Mahimana celebrations, says Dr. Ved Kumari. The servants serving in the houses of the higher castes too belonged to the caste. They were treated with sympathy and were included in the list of the persons “in whose company the householder feasted and enjoyed”. The very fact, writes Dr. Ved Kumari, that the Nilmata describes the Shudras as taking part in the coronation ceremony of the king, shows that they were not debased.

There were people belonging to mixed castes also like Suta, Magadha and Vandi who lived by singing the paeans of heroes and other famous persons.

Dr. S.C.Ray counts the Nishadas, Kiratas, Dombas etc. among the low caste people but stops short of calling them Shudras. The Nishadas, who lived by hunting and fishing, are also described as boatsmen in the Rajatarangim. The Kiratas, who were hunters and animal trappers, were a forest dwelling tribe belonging to the Tibeto-Burman racial stock. The Dombas have been described in the Rajatarangim in association with the Chandalas as huntsmen belonging to the menial class. Kalhana calls them “Shvapakas” or “dog-eating people'. But they have also been shown as good musicians who made quite a profession of their singing and dancing. Kalhana mentions the story of a Domba singer Ranga whose daughters gave a performance in the glittering royal assembly hall of Chakravarman and were included in the king’s seraglio, one of them becoming the chief queen much to the chagrin of others . Consequently, Dombas became the favourites of the king and wielded much influence at his court as councillors. Chandalas,- were bravos and fierce fighters. They worked as executioners and were also employed as the king’s watchmen.

The division of early Kashmiri society into four castes and their sub-castes was only notional In actual fact, the caste-system was never rigid in Kashmir, or of a tyrannical character. Intermarriages between various castes were not uncommon, as we learn from works like the Katha-sarit-sagara. It is not, therefore relevant to talk of social-organization in terms or caste so far as at least Kashmir is concerned. The society in Kashmir was actually divided along occupational or socio-economic lines. Writes Dr.  S.C.Ray  :  “Three distinct classes of people evolved, along with their several   sub-divisions,   on   the   basis   of  three   principle   methods   of  production (agriculture, industry and trade)”. While agriculturists constituted the bulk of these occupational classes, artisans and merchants too had important roles to play in the society.

Though agriculture formed the mainstay of the economy, it is not known whether the cultivators in ancient Kashmir were the owners of the lands they tilled or mere tenants of the actual landlords. In all probability, they had a certain share in the crop harvested by them, but its distribution lay mainly in the lands of the king and the feudal lords. The fact that cultivators participated in the joyful festivals related to agriculture during the Nilamata age shows that they were by and large owners of the lands tilled by them.

But around the 8th century, a new class of feudal landlords known as the Damaras appeared on the scene and started gaming control of agriculturist economy. We do not hear of them in the Nilamata, nor in the first three books of the Rajatarangini till we find Lalitaditya, Kashmir’s most powerful king, warning his successors not to leave cultivators of the land with more than what they require “for their bare sustenance and the tillage of the land”. Otherwise, he says ‘they would become in a single year very formidable Damaras and strong enough to neglect the commands of the commands of the kings”. And then we learn that they -were agriculturists who, owned large chunks of land. Lalitaditva’s warning appears to have had no effect, for we see the Damaras becoming more and more wealthy and gaming more and more strength   By the time” the Lohara dynasty ascended the throne,, they had become so rich and powerful that they began to interfere in the affairs of the State. Living in fortified residences, they raised large private armies and established their strongholds all over Kashmir   Such was their power and influence that they were able to extend their stranglehold over the administration, becoming virtual king-makers, enthroning or dethroning anyone according to their wish. In the wars of succession that became endemic after the 10th century, we find them supporting one claimant to the throne or the other, their support often proving to be the deciding factor. This is what happened  in the internecine conflicts between Ananta and Kalasha and Kalasha and Marsha, each of them vying for their help. Powerful rulers like Didda, Ananta, Kalasha and Jayasimha used every stratagem to curb them, including the use of military force, but the Damaras continued to retain their nuisance value. Dr. S.C.Ray attributes the rise and growth of the Damaras not only to the “weakness of the royal authority” and “the constant wars of succession”, but also to “the economic structure of the society”’’, which because of increasing dependence on agricultural lands for revenue proved helpful to the rise of the landed aristocracy. As their wealth and influence increased, the Damaras came to be looked upon with respect in the society, with royal families establishing even matrimonial relations with them.

Merchants formed another important and influential section of the society.   We have already referred to their rise while talking of the Vaishyas. Kalhana shows them living in great affluence in palatial residences more magnificent than even the king’s palace Kashmir’s trade and commercial ties with the neighbouring regions appear to have been very strong right from the Kushana period or even earlier and by the time the Karkotas rose to power, an extensive export market became available for Kashmiri goods, which presumably included raw wool and woollen fabrics, hides and skins and leather articles, fruits, and most important of all, saffron. Among the articles of imports salt seemed to be the most important Silk, which seems to have been imported from the neighbouring China, vermilion, asfoetida and several other spices, and coral, imported possibly from the western regions, were possibly the other-important items. With this the wealthy merchant class gained ascendance in the society We can see in Damodaragupta’s kuttanimata Kavya. shresihm and vanikus living in great luxury and patronising theatre-houses. However their importance began to decline when the overland trade routes were closed and trade became more of an internalized affair. They even began to resort to deceitful means for making quick money, as Kalhana and Kshemendra seem to suggest.

While agricultural and trading communities were very important elements in the society from the socio-economic point of view, the artisan classes also witnessed a significant growth in early Kashmir. These included the weavers and the jewellers, metal casters and image-makers, potters and carpenters, blacksmiths and leather tanners etc. Although their sphere of activity was quite wide, there were no corporate or traders guilds in Kashmir as in other parts of India.

There were also occupational communities who served the society in various other ways. Among these could be counted the wrestlers, the actors, the dancers, the physicians, the shepherds, the gardeners and also the courtesans who plied the world’s oldest trade These people were not directly connected with the production of wealth, but nonetheless had their own place in the society.

Yet another class, which distinguished itself from all the classes mentioned above was that of the administrators. It consisted of the nobility and the bureaucracy As Dr. S.C. Ray has pointed out, the highest civil and military officials were drawn from the nobility, and these included the sarvadiikara(also called dhi-sachiva) or prime minister, stiehiva or minister, themandalesha or governor and the kantpanes ha or commander-in-chief. Being important officers of the State, the nobility drew lame salaries from the royal treasury.                                                      

The bureaucracy assisted them in running the general administration of the State It consisted of all kinds of officials, both high and low, all of them being known by the general coveivterm “”Kayastha”, which did not denote any particular caste. Members of and caste or class could be recruited as Kayasthas, including the Brahmanas. Both Kalhana and Kshemendra have Hayed them for their greed and for their cruel methods of exacting revenue and taxes from the people. Kshemendra gives a long list of their designations in his works Narmamala and Samaya Matrika . Describing them as an exploitative and oppressive class, he exposes their fraudulent ways and bungling, and accuses them of forgery, misappropriation and embezzlement.  Kalhana too speaks about them in the same vein. The common man appears to have been squeezed between the tyrannical Damaras and the oppressive and greedy Kayasthas, though not all Kayasthas could have been like that.

One of the most significant, and surprising, features of the early Kashmiri society was the freedom that women enjoyed. The picture one gets of their life from various literary sources is not that of servitude or deprivation but of happy participation in different spheres of human activity. There was no attempt to marginalise them or decultunse their personality, as was being done in other contemporary societies elsewhere in the world. Though under the protective umbrella of the family, they occupied a pivotal place in social life and moved about with unfettered freedom. Undoubtedly, the society was patriarchal, but there was no restriction on the movement of women, nor were any irrational curbs imposed on their activity In the age of Nilamata and the centuries that followed, female seclusion was something unknown in Kashmir till Islam made its advent. Participating joyfully in the numerous festivals prescribed in the Nilamata, they would go to the gardens in the company of their menfolk without any inhibition or tear oi approbation. Poi instance, during the hamanjan utsava, the would freel) sport with men under the flower-laden boughs of the Iramanjari shrubs, exchanging garlands of flowers with men in a spirit of gay abandon ‘ Or go to the fruit gardens on the Ashokikash.ta.ini clay to worship fruit-beanng trees”’. Such was the spirit of the times that during the Shravani Utsava. young maidens were enjoined to go and enjoy water sports V Yet another seasonal-festival was Knshyarambha when peasant women would accompany their menfolk to the “open fields of nature for ceremonial ploughing of the soil and sowing of seeds”. It was a month long festival celebrated amidst much singing cind dancing While these outdoor festivals showed that women in these limes were in no way confined to the four walls of their homes, there were numerous indoor festivals too. For instance, during the Kaumudi Mahotsava or the festival of the Full Moon, women would sit beside the sacred fire with their husbands and children, watching the beauty of the moonlit night”.  Even servants were allowed to participate in such festivals.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Status of Women

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

One of the most significant, and surprising, features of the early Kashmiri society was the freedom that women enjoyed. The picture one gets of their life from various literary sources is not that of servitude or deprivation but of happy participation in different spheres of human activity. There was no attempt to marginalise them or deculturise their personality, as was being done in other contemporary societies elsewhere in the world. Though under the protective umbrella of the family, they occupied a pivotal place in social life and moved about with unfettered freedom. Undoubtedly, the society was patriarchal, but there was no restriction on the movement of women, nor were any irrational curbs imposed on their activity. In the age of Nilamata and the centuries that followed, female seclusion was something unknown in Kashmir till Islam made its advent. Participating joyfully in the numerous festivals prescribed in the Nilamata, they would go to the gardens in the company of their menfolk without any inhibition or fear of approbation. For instance, during the Iramanjariutsava, they would freely sport with men under the flower-laden boughs of the Iramanjari shrubs, exchanging garlands of flowers with men in a spirit of gay abandon Or go to the fruit gardens on the Ashokikashtami day to worship fruit-bearing trees”’. Such was the spirit of the times that during the Shravani Utsava. young maidens were enjoined to go and enjoy water sports. Yet another seasonal-festival was Krishyarambha when peasant women would accompany their menfolk to the “open fields of nature for ceremonial ploughing of the soil and sowing of seeds”. It was a month long festival celebrated amidst much singing and dancing While these outdoor festivals showed that women in these times were in no way confined to the four walls of their homes, there were numerous indoor festivals too. For instance, during the Kaumudi Mahotsava or the festival of the Full Moon, women would sit beside the sacred fire with their husbands and children, watching the beauty of the moonlit night.  Even servants were allowed to participate in such festivals.

There was Madana Trayodashai, festival dedicated to the god of love. On this occasion a husband would demonstrate his love for his wife by personally giving her a bath with sacred water scented by herbs. Similarly, at the end of the three-day Mahimana celebrations, well-adorned ladies would freely and joyfully play with men. On Sukha Suptika or Deepawali night, the well-adorned wife, could display her charms to her husband in the exciting privacy of the specially decorated bedroom and savour his compliments.

That is not all. There were special occasions when men were to make ladies of the house happy by giving them new clothes as presents. One such occasion was on the Navahimapata-utsava or the New Snowfall Day— a festival that was celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandits till they were exiled from their native land. On the full moon day of Margashirsha (January-February), the householder is enjoined by the Nilamata to invite his sister, paternal aunt and friend’s wife, besides a Brahmana lady, and honour them with gifts of new clothes. Presentation of gifts to a friend’s wife! That could happen only in a free society.

An enlivening feature of these beautiful festivals was, music, dance and dramatic shows. These were an essential part of the festivals that the early Hindus of Kashmir celebrated, and the ladies watched these shows with great joy. Not only watched them but must have participated in them. And the ladies were attractively attired, well decorated and well perfumed during these festivities. Surely, this must have added great charm and beauty to their life. Another thing even more important to be noted is that these ancient social festivals have a religious setting.

Coming to religious life, the presence of women in the performance of various rites. rituals and ceremonies was regarded as essential. And that is how things should have been in a society where people regarded Kashmir, their native land an embodiment of goddess Uma. This is very significant, for it shows that the Mother Goddess cult has occupied a central place in the religious beliefs of Kashmiri Hindus from the earliest times, a cult that explains respect for women as an aspect of reverence for the divine feminine. A host of goddesses began to be worshipped in Kashmir from Uma and Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Mahakali to the very popular and very local deities like Sharika, Ragya, Tripura and Jwala. Shaiva and Shakta Tantricism, which became very popular in Kashmir from the 7th century, identifies Shakti with Supreme Reality, which, it says is “female in essence”. That makes us understand why an aspirant taking to the Kulachara mode of worship is asked to look upon women with extreme reverence.

One of the most noteworthy features of early Kashmir society was that women had access to good and liberal education. They were taught among other things, literature and fine arts and given practical training in music, dance and drama, which were considered as accomplishments fit for them. There is ample evidence for this in Kaihana’s Rajatarangini, Somadeva’s Katha-sarit-sagara, Damodargupta’s KuttanimataKavya, Bilhana’s Vikramankadeva Charit and several other works. The great Sanskrit grammarian Pamni gives the formation  Kathi, for a female student to Kathaka school of Black Yajurveda to which the Kashmiri Pandits belong. An idea of the curriculum can be had from the Kuttanimata Kavya. A girl was taught variety of subjects, we learn, including literature, Bharata’s Natyashastra. paintings, aboriculture, cookery, cut—work in leaves (patra-chcheda), vocal and instrumental music etc. In a nostalgic mood Bilhana remembers towards the end of Vikramakadeva Charit the accomplished women of Kashmir who not only spoke Sanskrit and Prakrit as fluently as their mother tongue, but, also composed poetry in it. In theatrical performance and dancing they excelled the celestial maidens.

Several women have played a significant role in shaping the political history of Kashmir. Yashovati became the first queen in Kashmir to be enthroned as a ruler — even though as a regent. Queens like Sugandha and Didda gave very impressive account of their. administrative acumen. Many others, like Khadana. Amritprabha, Chakramardika, Kalyandevi, Ratnadevi and Kamla Devi built shrines and marketplaces and towns. Chandrapida’s queenKalyanadevi was exalted by the King as “Mahapratiharapala, something like the Chief Chamberlain. Suryamati, the queen of King Ananta helped her husband to overcome his initial difficulties in administering the State. Queen Kalhanika, was sent on a delicate diplomatic mission of bringing about a rappochement between Jayasimha and Bhoja. This presupposes that these queens must have received some training in the art of administration and diplomacy previously.

As for the common woman, we do not know what occupations, if any, were open to her besides that of a housewife. We have a water carrier sculpted on a tile from Harvwan. Perhaps some women worked as flower-sellers too. Most of them, however. took care of their family and children, acting as wife and mother. There is evidence to show that pre-puberty marriages of girls did not take place. In fact, works like Kshemendra’s Deshopadesha indicate that girls were married at a mature age. Though fidelity in marriage was regarded as an ideal, polygamy seems to have been quite prevalent among the rich and the well-to-do men. The kings had “seraglios full of queens and concubines”. Widows; were supposed to live an austere and highly moral life. Prevalence of sati among the rich and aristocratic families points to some of the blemishes which ancient Kashmiri society suffered from.

Though we do not come across any example of polyandry, prostitution seems to have been quite common. “Although prostitution was tolerated as an inescapable evil,’ writes Ajay Mitra Shastri. .‘ the society looked down upon prostitutes and condemned men indulgent to them in unmistakable terms”. Authors like Damodaragupta and Kshemendra were closely acquainted with the trade. Damodargupta’s Kuttanimata gives us an insight into .the prostitutes’ mode of behaviour, their proficiency in literature and fine arts, their greed for money and customs connected with their craft. Kshemendra too in his Narmamala, Samaya Matrika and Deshopadesha draws detailed and graphic pictures of prostitutes’ life and exposes the moral laxity that had crept in his contemporary society. Kalhana and Somadeva also make references to the system of ‘devadasi’ (dedicating girls to a temple for dancing and singing) that seems to have prevailed in Kashmir from quite early times, and could be described as a form of prostitution.

On the whole, however, it is a happy picture of Kashmiri women that emerges from literary sources. Dr. S.C.Ray has drawn our attention to very significant fact in this context. To put it in his own words “Women in Kashmir probably had some property rights and independent legal status. Kalhana in his Rajatarangini and Kshemendra in his Samaya Matrika seem to indicate that a widow inherited her husbands’ immovable property after his death, rather than his sons”. This is something really very significant, and needs further research.

This discussion about social organization in ancient and early Kashmir is by no means complete and conclusive, but we can safely draw certain inferences. The first and the that must be noted is that though there was an awareness of the four traditional castes, BrahmanaKshatriya, Vaishya andShudra, the early Kashmiri society was not rigid about the caste system. In fact, it was divided more along occupational lines than caste lines. TheBrahmanas were no doubt highly respected, but because they valued learning above everything else and formed the intellectual class. The religious rituals and ceremonies were performed by the priestly class among the Brahmanas, and not all Brahmanas were priests. Second the most important occupational class in the society was that of the agriculturists, followed by the rich and prosperous merchants and traders and the various upward mobile artisan classes. It were the Damaras among the agriculturists who became very powerful and influential as feudal landlords and interfered with the affairs of the State, holding at times the entire administration to ransom. There was also the administrative class. which was comprised of the nobility and the bureaucracy. The latter was referred to by the cover name of Kayastha or the king’s officers engaged in collecting revenue and taxes, but they did not belong to any specific caste. Their oppressive and exploitative methods and their greed and corruption have been severely criticized by writers likeKshemendra and Kalhana. Thirdly, and lastly, women occupied a high position in the society and enjoyed freedom unknown in contemporary societies elsewhere in the world. Tantracism of the Shaiva and Shakta variety which led to the spread of the mother goddess cult in Kashmir regards Supreme Reality to be feminine in essence and calls for revering women as manifestations of the eternal feminine or Shakti.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

An Analysis

By Dr. S.S. Toshkhani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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