Random Thoughts

Checking Out the Past: Kashmir

Kashmir continues to be an imbroglio for India: the Valley virtually against the rest of India, including Ladakh & Jammu segments of J&K. How many are aware that the state’s history stretches back 5400 years, long before the advent of Islam?

Earliest Neolithic sites in the flood plains of Kashmir valley are dated to c. 3000 BCE. Most important of these sites are the settlements at Burzahom, with two Neolithic and one Megalithic phases, purportedly taking the history of Kashmir for almost 5000 years. That covers today’s Jammu, Ladhakh, the Kashmir Valley, and occupied segments of Kashmir and Baltistan, Trans-Karokaram tracts and Aksai Chin.

Rajatarangini started by Kalhana around 3450 BCE and 3 later supplementaries, offers little known facts on the pre-Mahabharat formation of the Valley and the lineage of Kashmir Kings. Like all early scripture handed down by mouth and written down much later; perhaps after the Mahabharatan era when more details than just names appear?

Sage Kashyapa cut a gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula). After the valley drained, Kashyapa settled the ancestors of today’s Kashmiri Pundits. Kashyapa-pura, later called Kaspatyros of Herodotus was ruled as a republic during the early Mahabharatan era by Kambojas from a capital, Rajapura, today Rajauri.
Peer Panjal, distorted from the original Panchala, with its ‘Peer’ designation from Siddha Faqir, bears witness to that past; while Jammu derives from Jambu, after Raja Jambu Lochan who set it up where he saw a goat and a lion drinking water together, in the 14th century BCE.

Srinagar was built by Buddhist Dharmosoka of the Gonanda dynasty between 1448-1400 BCE. Gopaditya (417-357 BCE) built the temple of Adi Sankara in 367-366 BCE.

Krishna’s brother Balaram killed Gonanda I, related to Jarasandha of Magadha, while Krishna killed his son Damodara I, making his wife Yasovati temporary ruler for 6 months; later succeeded by her son Gonanda II. The latter died in battle against Arjun’s grandson, Parikshit, king of Hastinapura in 3083 BCE. With no heir, Parikshit took it over. Pandava kings ruled over Kashmir for 1331 years from 3083-1752 BCE.

In the first millennium, Kashmir was an important Hindu centre, later Buddhist; in the 9th century, Shaivite. Islam only came over the 13-15th centuries. The slow pace of change enabled absorption of cultures that gave rise to the renowned charm of Kashmiri Sufi Mysticism. Ranjit Singh annexed Kashmir in 1747.  In 1846, handed it over to the British, who sold the Valley to Gulab Singh, the Raja of Jammu for a mere 75 lakhs!! Now that land is split between India, Pakistan and China.

Authentic sources of Kashmir history are Nilmata Purana (complied c. 500–600 CE) and Rajatarangini (1150 CE). Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (River of Kings), had about 8000 Sanskrit verses by 1150 CE; it chronicles the history of Kashmir’s dynasties from Mahabharata times to 12th century CE (4600 years of history and complete list of Kashmir Kings). During the reign of Muslim kings in Kashmir, three supplements to Rajatarangini were written by Jonaraja (1411–1463 CE), Srivara, and Prajyabhatta and Suka, which end with Akbar’s conquest of Kashmir in 1586 CE.

Then History wrought its own writ, as dynasties and cultures evolved - now wrangled over by petty politicians of all hues.


More by :  Kusum Choppra

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