A Journey into History
ancestors remain the same though we have undergone the process of conversion
to Islam," retorted a Muslim Gujjar leader from J & K State. He was
reacting to a query from a Hindu Gujjar leader from Northern India about
the retention of 'Gotra' (sub-caste) even after conversion to Islam. Such
instances abound in Kashmir. Even Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest among the
Kashmiri leaders in modern history, once said, "My ancestors were Hindus.
In Kashmir we have the same blood, all are brothers and continue to have
the same culture." No wonder then that one notices bearded Muslims bowing
in reverence whenever they pass by any one of the numerous temples in the
there is a general tendency, which has intensified amazingly during the
recent years - to identify Kashmir with Islamic culture, completely disregarding
the fact that it has been the cradle of Hindu civilization for over 2000
years and has played a significant role in the political as well as cultural
history of India. Such a misconception often leads to a growing susceptibility
among uncritical minds to fall prey to the sustained campaign of falsification,
unleashed by fundamentalist forces with the sinister design of creating
a general amnesia about Kashmir's deep-rooted religious and cultural links
with India. These forces are out to give credence to the assumption that
the history of civilization in Kashmir actually started with its Islamisation
in the 14th century and that the sylvan valley has always been a part of
the West Asian-Semitic-Islamic world rather than that of India.
the wake of such onslaught of propaganda, it is forgotten that since the
dawn of history, Kashmir has been looked upon with awe and admiration for
high-level intellectual attainments of its men and women. Even today,
in most parts of India, Brahmins - in particular those from the Saraswat
clan - make a symbolic gesture towards Kashmir as a seat of learning by
chanting the hymn as a part of their morning oblation: 'Namaste Sharda
Devi Kashmir-purvasini . . . (I bow before the Goddess Sharda who hails
from Kashmir . . .).'
also needs to be asserted here that the characteristic Kashmiri sense of
values and ideals - or the Kashmiri ethos, to use a cliché - that found
expression in the sayings of the great medieval saint-poets of Kashmir
such as Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) and Sheikh Nuruddin Rishi has been shaped
by the thought-process evolved over the centuries by the Hindu mind. In
fact, the best that Kashmir has contributed in the realm of thought and
culture bears an unmistakable and indelible stamp of the genius of its
Kashmir has been an inseparable part of the Indian subcontinent from the
time of Vedas, perhaps even before it. The Rig Vedic Indians were fully
acquainted with the Valley as a geographical entity and sang hymns to its
rivers in the famous Nadi Sukta of the Rig Veda. The Kashmiri language
itself has evolved from the Vedic dialect after passing through the Prakrit
and Apabhransha stages like other modern Indo-Aryan languages. It retains,
to even this day, the indelible traces of it in its phonetic and morphological
structure, in spite of deliberate attempts at overwhelming it with words
borrowed directly from Perso-Arabic sources.
references to Kashmir and its people are found in the Mahabharata, particularly
in the Vana Parva, in which Pandavas have been shown to cross the Valley
during their 12-year-long wandering. Panini, the father of Sanskrit grammar,
has described Kashmir and its traditions in such vivid details that many
scholars are inclined to believe that he belonged to this region.
Mahrishi Charak, the scholar-father of Ayurveda - indigenous system of medicine
- too, was a Kashmiri. Kalidasa's description of the Himalayan region -
a most lyrical narration in the world of poetry - is so intimate that it
is believed he too may have been born in Kashmir. Some scholars have even
sought to establish the poet-ruler Matrigupta, who got the throne of Kashmir
as a gift from the King of Ujjain, as none else than Kalidasa himself.
Mohan Rakesh, the renowned Hindi playwright, based his famous play Ashadh
ka ek din on this very assumption, taking his inspiration from yet another
great Hindi playwright, Jaya Shankar Prasad. Dr. Bhagwat Sharan Upadhaya,
an authority on Asian culture, is emphatic about Kalidasa having been born
moot point that underlines these assumptions and assertions is that Kashmir
was considered to be a great seat of learning and a centre of intellectual
activity throughout the ages and was treated with exceptional reverence
because of this factor, till Islam overran it. Even Krishna showed awareness
of the spiritual and intellectual merits of this land when out of reverence
for it, he gave the throne of Kashmir to Yashomati, the widowed queen of
Damodara. This is the note on which Kalhana, the great historian, begins
his account of Kashmir, taking the cue from the Nilamata Purana, a fifth
or sixth century work that throws significant light on the religious, cultural,
social and political life in ancient Kashmir.
Nilamata Purana describes the Valley's genesis from the waters, a fact
corroborated by prominent geologists, and shows how the very name of the
land was derived from the process of desiccation - Ka means water and Shimir
means to desiccate. Hence, Kashmir stands for a land desiccated from water.
There is also a theory which takes Kashmir to be a contraction of 'Kashyapmir'
or 'Kashyapmeru', the sea or mountain of Kashyapa, the sage who is credited
with having drained the waters of the primordial lake 'Satisar', that Kashmir
was before it was reclaimed. The Nilamata Purana gives the name 'Kashmira'
to the Valley considering it to be an embodiment of Uma and it is the Kashmir
that the world knows today. The Kashmiris, however, call it Kashir, which
has been derived phonetically from Kashmir, as pointed out by Aurel Stein
in his introduction to the Rajatarangini.
by Buhler as a real mine of information regarding the legends and sacred
places of Kashmir, the Nilamata Purana is a virtual encyclopaedia on life
in ancient and early medieval Kashmir. It shows Kashmiris to be 'an ever
sportive and joyful people, enjoying continuous festivities'. "Living amidst
sylvanic surroundings they were in tune with nature and played, danced
and sang to express their joys, to mitigate their pains, to please their
gods and to appease their demons," as Dr. Ved Kumari Ghai puts it.
from mytho-history to history, the great historian Kalhana has recorded
how Kashmir became a part of the Mauryan empire under Ashoka who founded
the old city of Srinagar (Shrinagri as he called it) and built 500 Buddhist monasteries, giving away entire Kashmir as a gift to the Buddhist
It was, however, Buddha himself who had deputed his celebrated apostle
Majjhantika to spread the doctrine in Kashmir along with 500 other monks
in the beginning of the Christian era. He chose to settle down in the land.
According to the local belief, Buddha himself visited Kashmir.
settled 5,000 Buddhist monks in the Valley and gifted it away to the Sangha
to be used for pursuing higher studies and spiritual practices. Several
races entered Kashmir later. The historical evidences point out the settlement
of immigrants of Persian, Greek and Turkish descent, the latter coming
before and during Kanishka's rule.
Kashmir was under the influence of Buddhism, hundreds of 'Bhikshus' went
to distant lands to preach the new religion. In return, a large number
of Buddhist scholars came from Tibet, China and Central Asia, most of whom
settled in the Valley permanently.
ethnography of the region surrounding the Valley is clearly traced in the
Rajatarangini. In the south and west the adjacent hill regions were occupied
by the Khasas. Their settlement extended in a semi-circle from Kishtwar
to the Jhelum Valley in the west. In the north of the Jhelum valley, as
far as Muzaffarabad, the Bombas were the neighbours of the Khasas (later Khakhas). The upper Kishenganga Valley, above the famous shrine of Sharda
Devi, was inhabited by the Dards. Megashenese already knew them to be in
the Upper Indus region.
died in about B.C. 232. His son, Jaluka, was less enthusiastic about Buddhism
In fact, he was a devotee of Shiva. He cleared the land of Malechas (foreigners),
who were probably Indo-Greek hordes and had made incursions into the Valley.
After a reign of 60 years, he was succeeded by Damodara, who also supported
Shaivism. Damodar Udar, a city founded on a plateau on the outskirts of
Srinagar, is still known by the same name. The Srinagar aerodrome now lies
there in its place.
continued to flourish in Kashmir, notwithstanding the loss of royal patronage.
There was a revival of the faith during the reigns of the three Kushan (Indo-Scythian) kihgs -
Kanishka, Hushka and Jushka. Their identities have
been confirmed by coins and manuscripts unearthed in excavations as well
as continued existence of cities of Kanishkapur, Hushkapur and Jushkapur.
These monarchs were also great builders of temples and viharas (monasteries).
These monuments bear out the great attainments of Kashmiris in architecture
figured prominently in the history of Buddhism during Kanishka's time:
A historical council of Buddhist divines and theologians was held in a
monastery near Srinagar. The council accorded a superior status to the
Mahayana school which was thus born in Kashmir. Its message was taken from
there by scholar-monks and missionaries. The commentaries were deposited
by Kanishka in a special stupa.
sway of Buddhism did not last long in Kashmir. The traditional Brahmanic
learning, in the form of the Shaivite sect of Hinduism, was revived in
the reign of Abhimanyu I. He founded a town named Abhimanyupur now known
as Bamyun (near Srinagar). There he built a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Gonanda III, the founder of the Gonanda dynasty, and five of his successors,
initiated an anti-Buddhist campaign, which reached its climax in the reign
of Nara, the sixth in the lineage. Four more rulers followed but only their
names are known.
white Hun, Mihirkula, seized the throne of Kashmir in 515 A.D. He is still
remembered for his acts of gross cruelty. He favoured Shaivism at the cost
of Buddhism. He built a shrine of Shiva near Srinagar. The kings who followed
him were virtuous. One of the descendants, Gopaditya, is said to have built
the temple on the Gopa Hill, now called the Shankaracharya Hill, in Srinagar.
king worth mentioning - Parvasena II (who conquered Kashmir in A.D. 580,
the date confirmed by Hieun Tsang), founded Pravarsen (shortened to Pravarapura),
the site of the present city of Srinagar. He died after a rule of 60 years.
reign of Durlabhavardhana (A.D. 625-661), who established the Karkota dynasty,
is borne out by his coins. Hieun Tsang visited the country during his rule
and found remarkable religious tolerance prevailing everywhere. Buddhism
existed side by side with Hinduism. Pratapaditya II (A.D.661-711), the
son of Durlabhavardhana, ascended the throne after his father's death.
He founded a town, Pratapapura, now called Tapar. It is situated 25 km
to the west of Srinagar. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Chandrapida
(A.D. 711-719), who is mentioned in the Chinese annals. Renowned for acts
of piety and justice, Chandrapida and his queen founded a number of temples.
The rule of Tarapida, the second son of Pratapaditya, for four years (A.D.
719-724) was marked by his cruel and oppressive deeds.
third son of Pratapaditya, namely, Muktapida, then ascended the throne.
Better known as Lalitaditya, his reign (A.D. 724-761) was marked by conquests
over a considerable portion of the Indian mainland and large tracts of
the Central Asian regions. After subjugating the principalities around
the kingdom of Kashmir, he is reputed to have conquered Punjab, Kannauj,
Tibet, Badakshan and nearby territories. Kalhana records that during Lalitaditya's
rule, his victories were annually celebrated. Al Beruni remarks: "The second
of Chaitra is a great festival day in Kashmir in honour of victory of its
king over the Turks." Historians have compared him with his contemporaries,
Charlmagne the Great and Harun-al-Rashid. He ushered in an era of national
glory and prosperity.
and Hinduism, the two prominent religions of his time equally received
Lalitaditya's patronage. He constructed temples dedicated to the Buddha
as well as for Shiva, Vishnu and other Hindu gods. He liberally patronised
men of letters. Many famous learned men of India and other countries adorned
his court. They included great Sanskrit scholars like Vakpatiraja and Bhavabhuti.
Lalitaditya was a great builder. He built the world famous temple at Martand
(dedicated to the Sun), whose impressive ruins bear testimony to the splendour
of those days. Similarly, his capital city (Parihaspura - now called Paraspur
- near Shadipur), presents a testimony of the massive architectural works.
He also built towns to commemorate his foreign expeditions. The Martand
temple set the model for the Kashmiri Hindu architecture.
his military exploits made Lalitaditya a hero to Kashmiris, his works for
public welfare were no less outstanding. The blocking passages of the Jhelum
were cleared at Baramulla and reclaimed to abate the perennial threat of
floods during his time. He also constructed a number of irrigation canals.
Lalitaditya was equally fond of good things in life. Once, in an inebriated
state, he ordered the beautiful city of Pravarsena to be burnt down. His
wise ministers managed to save the town by putting haystacks on fire instead.
Not satisfied with his conquests, Lalitaditya set out on new conquests
and lost his life during one of them.
was followed by a succession of weak kings. The power and prestige of the
Karkota dynasty were on the wane, until his grandson, Jayapida, ascended
the throne towards the end of the 8th century A.D. He ruled for 31 years.
He, too, went on expeditions, defeating the king of Kannauj, among others.
He built a city, Jayapura, near the present Sumbal. A patron of art and
letters, Jayapida himself studied Sanskrit grammar. Among his ministers
was Vamana, one of the two authors of Kashikavrtti - the famous commentary
on Panini's well-known Sanskrit grammar.
following half-century witnessed the installation and dethronement of puppet
kings. The intrigues of rival factions at the court, which resulted in
corruption in high places and oppression of the people, ceased with the
coming to power of Avantivarman (A.D. 855-883), who founded the Utpala
dynasty. His peaceful and just reign was a period of consolidation as Kashmir
once again attained great heights in the realms of philosophy, literature,
art and architecture.
Batta Kallata, the pupil of Vasagupta, the founder of the Spandasastra branch
of Shaiva philosophy in Kashmir; Kavi Ratnakar, the author of the Haravijaya;
and Anandavardhana, the author of Dhvanyaloka were among the great scholars
and poets who enjoyed Avantivarman's liberal patronage. The town, Sopore
(then Suyyapura) - which Suyya, the engineer in the court of Avantivarman,
built on the banks of the Jhelum, commemorates his name. Suyya also changed
the course of the Jhelum so that it flowed through the Wular Lake, thus
further relieving the congestion that used to cause floods.
is still remembered for founding the city of Avantipura, 17 km from Srinagar
on the banks of the Jhelum and called by the same name today Before he
ascended the throne, he had built there the shrine of Vishnu Avantisvamin.
During his rule, he constructed a temple dedicated to Shiva Avanteshwara.
Their ruins, an the Jammu- Srinagar highway, are among the most imposing
monuments of ancient Kashmir, ranking next only to the Martand Temple.
son, Sankaravarman (A.D. 883-902), had to free himself from the claimants
to the throne. He led foreign expeditions to Trisarta (the present Kangra)
and Gurjara. These expeditions depleted the royal treasury and Sankaravarman
resorted to fiscal exactions and plunder of temples. He is ingloriously
remembered for introducing begar - forced and unpaid labour - for transport
and other purposes, which continued, in one form or another, until the
beginning of the 20th century.
his reign onward, the record is one of a long succession of struggles between
the rulers and usurping uncles, cousins, brothers, ministers, nobles and
soldiers. During the tenth century, the kingship changed hands as many
as 18 times. Tantrine, a military caste of uncertain origin, rose to become
a power that made and unmade kings. Damaras, the landed aristocracy, also
had a big say in the affairs of the State. The people of the Valley secured
a temporary respite from civil wars during the short rule of Yasaksara
(A.D.939-948), who was elected to kingship by an assembly of Brahmins.
next monarch - after two kings - Kshemagupta (A.D. 950-958) was a debauch.
His wife, Didda, the daughter of Simharaja, the chief of Lohara, became
regent after his death, placing his infant son, Abhimanyu (A.D. 958-972),
on the throne. The reins of the state remained in her hands during this
and other regency periods, until she ascended the throne herself in A.D.
981. Altogether, she ruled for 50 years, until A.D. 1003, wielding power
with strength and curbing rebellions with courage and intrepidity. Didda
possessed a lust for power which was compounded only by her political sagacity,
courage and administrative ability. The Kashmiris still use the term 'Didda'
(or Ded) for mother or a lady who is highly regarded.
nephew, Sangramaraja (A.D.1003-28) ascended the throne after Didda's death,
thus establishing the rule of the Lohara dynasty. Three centuries of the
reign of the two Lohara dynasties comprised of petty court intrigues, unrelieved
by any notable achievements. It was only King Harsha (A.D.1089-1 l01),
the last king of the first Lohara dynasty, who turned out to be a striking
figure. A man of exceptional prowess, he was a curious combination of a
poet and a Bohemian par excellence. His luxurious living and bouts of merry-making
caused a great depletion of royal treasury. Kalhana, whose father had served
at the court of Harsha, had observed the unseemly happenings for himself.
Harsha was displaced by his brother, Uchala, with the help of the Damaras
- the feudal landlords.
who belonged to another line of the Loharas, thus founded the second Lohara
dynasty. He was killed by traitors (December 8,1111), and succeeded by
his brother Sussala (A.D. 1112-1120). The palace rot and intrigues continued
even in the reign of Jayasimha (the son of Sussala). During his rule (A.D.1128-1155)
Kalhana wrote the Rajatarangini.
six rulers who followed Jayasimha, covering a period of about a-century-and-a-half,
witnessed a period of further decline, marked by a succession of rebellious
and internecine disturbances. According to Jonaraja's chronicle, Hindu
rule maintained itself in Kashmir for nearly two centuries.
the time Sahadeva (A.D.1301-20) ascended the throne, Islam had entered
the Valley and many people had accepted the new faith. Sahadeva, a weak-minded
king, fled to Kishtwar when Dulchu - a Tartar chief from Central Asia,
said to be a descendant of Chenghiz Khan - invaded the Valley in A.D. 1319.
His minister, Ramachandra, aided by his protégé, Shah Mir, a Muslim adventurer
from Swat, consolidated the affairs of the state. He was also aided by Rinchin, a fugitive prince from Tibet. He was a Buddhist but later embraced
Islam. He was assisted by Kota Rani, Ramachandra's daughter, who had married
Sahadeva. Dulchu's hordes were routed.
assumed the title of king. Rinchin rose in revolt, defeated and killed
Ramachandra. He thus became the first Muslim King of Kashmir. He courted
and married Kota Rani. With her counsel, he justly conducted the affairs
of the state. Shah Mir became his minister, serving him faithfully. Rinchin
ruled for three years and died in A.D. 1320, after being injured in an
uprising led by, the brother of Sahadeva, Udyanadeva. Kota Rani married
Udyanadeva, who became the ruler of Kashmir.
Saha deva, Udyanadeva also fled Kashmir, when Achala invaded the Valley.
Kota Rani stayed on and organised public resistance. Using a clever stratagem,
she defeated Achala and killed him. Udyanadeva returned to the capital,
but he was, henceforth, a king in name only. Kota Rani was the undisputed
ruler of the kingdom. She resorted to force to curb warlords and rebellious
ministers. When Udyanadeva died in A.D. 1338, she ascended the throne.
Mir, who was bidding his time to seize the throne, staged a rebellion after
five months of Kota's rule. Though she was assisted by the Lavanya tribe,
Kota Rani lost after a long-drawn battle. She surrendered on the explicit
condition that she would share the bed and throne with Shah Mir.
in a rich costume, Kota Rani entered the boudoir of Shah Mir. Before he
could draw her into his arms, she stabbed herself. Her death spelled the
end of the Hindu rule in Kashmir.
the advent of Islam in Kashmir there was an influx of a large number of
Sufis and Syeds in the Valley. More than 700 of his followers were settled
in Kashmir by the Sufi saint Shah Hamadan in the 14th century. This was
followed by a large influx of Syeds from Central Asia and Persia during
and after Timur's invasion of Northern India. Believed to be descendants
of the Prophet, they were treated with great respect by the Muslim rulers
and their subjects. They gained enormous influence and oppressed the people.
Ultimately, when their oppression became unbearable, the people of Kashmir
rose under General Malik Tazi Butt and most of them were thrown out. But
still a large chunk of the Syed immigrants settled permanently in the Valley.
Muslim rule in Kashmir commenced on a favourable note. Shah Mir's regime
(A.D. 1339-42), though brief, was a soothing balm on an aching body. He
was succeeded by his grandson Shihab-ud-Din (A.D. 1354-73) who was also
benevolent. Hindal, the younger brother of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din, succeeded
him under the title of Qutab-ud-Din (A.D. 1373-89) It was during his time
that Syed Ali Hamadani came to Kashmir and strict Islamic practices began
to be adopted. Islamic zeal climbed fanatical heights under the next ruler,
Sultan Sikandar (A.D. 1389-1413), who acquired notoriety and the title
of But-Shikan (destroyer of idols).
relentless campaign for conversion to Islam was launched under the charge
of the Sultan's Chief Minister, Malik Saif-ud-Din. He was a first generation
convert. His name was Suha Bhatta, before his conversion to Islam. His
zeal knew no bounds. During this period, a large number of sufi saints
and Islamic scholars visited Kashmir from Persia and Central Asia. They
contributed their might in spreading the influence of Islam in the Valley.
His successor Sultan Ali Shah, who was his son, pursued his father's policies.
It is said that in the two decades of repression only eleven Hindu families
somehow managed to retain their identities and survive in the Valley.
the next Sultan, Zain-ul-Abidin (A.D.1420-70), turned out to be the most
benevolent ruler that Kashmir has known. His reign, following that of Sikandar
and Ali Shah, was, in the words of historian Srivara: "like the cooling
sandal paste after the heat of summer in a desert had departed." He used
to be referred, out of affection, as Bud Shah (the great King). But his
sons proved unworthy of their illustrious father. The fortunes of the Sultanate
in Kashmir began to decline rapidly. The next 120 years saw only intrigues
was under these unsettled conditions that Mirza Haider Dughlat, a Mughal
General, entered the Valley. He was in the service of Humayun. He had moved
in November 1540 with only 400 soldiers, but met practically with no resistance.
He ruled the Valley for the next eleven years (A.D.1541-51). He provided
a welcome respite to the inhabitants. The local factions, however, returned
to the scene following his death. A section of the Kashmiri nobility approached
Akbar with the request that he should annex Kashmir.
himself visited Kashmir in A.D. 1589 and established complete control over
it. The last two Chak rulers, Yusuf Shah and his son Yaqub Shah, who were
defeated by Akbar, deserve mention. The romance of Yusuf Shah with Habba Khatoon, known also as Zooni the moon, has become the saga of Kashmir's
literary and cultural history. She had a humble background. Her husband
maltreated her. Her beauty and her melodious songs both, drove Yusuf Shah
to such an extent that he manipulated her divorce to marry her. She was
also a gifted poetess.
Mughal Army had little difficulty in entering Srinagar in A.D. 1586. Abul Fazal, the court historian of
Akbar, recorded in the Ain-i-Akbari: "On
all the sides, mountains, which raise their heads to heaven, act as sentinels.
Though there are six or seven roads, yet in all of them there are places
where, if some old women rolled down stones, the bravest of the men could
not pass. On this account, former princes did not think of conquering it
and prudence turned them away from such a wish." But this natural fortress
fell to Akbar without much resistance. The defenders themselves joined
A.D. 1589, Kashmir became a province of the Mughal empire. It was ruled
through a Governor, known as the Subedar. Peace prevailed. It became a
hub of Central Asian trade. Akbar again visited the Valley in A.D. 1598
and A.D. 1601. The Mughals built two roads over the Pir Panchal and Jhelum
it was during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan - successors of Akbar
- when Kashmir flourished. Besides order and stability, they brought elements
of leisure and festivity in the depressing ambience of the last days of
the Sultanate. Thomas Moore writes in Lalla Rukh: "All love and light/Visions
by day and feast by night".
(A.D. 1658-1707), who succeeded his father Shahjahan, too administered
Kashmir efficiently. During his long reign of 49 years, Kashmir saw as
many as 14 Governors. They generally ruled well but one of them, Iftikhar
Khan (A.D.1671-75), persecuted Kashmiri Pandits who approached the ninth
Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur. They complained, "We suffer great atrocities, sacred
threads (janeus) are forcibly taken off our persons. Cows are killed."
The Guru consoled them and said, "Go and tell the Mughal rulers that if
they converted Tegh Bahudur they would all voluntarily embrace Islam."
This infuriated the Mughal court and led to Guru's martyrdom.
an seh mihr kuamjui
Awwal Khumbu, duiam Afghan, soyum bazat Kashmiri.
Khumbu hila me ayad
Afghan kina me ayad
Kashmiri na me ayad bajuz anduh wa dilgiri"
was the reputation of Kashmiris at the barracks-level, and it was not a
pretty sight. The song in Persian, popularised by the Mughal armies sent
by Akbar, is caustic. It says that even if you are suffering from widespread
famine, do not expect any help from these people; the Kumbus, who will
cheat you by their cunning; the Afghans, who will only spite you; and the
Kashmiris, who will only narrate their own sob stories in response and
end up trying to extract something from you rather than give you anything.
Even today an average Indian Muslim despises a Kashmiri by recollecting
the same couplet.
the Muslim rule, scores of Sufis visited Kashmir and left indelible imprints
of their mysticism. One of them was known as Pir Pandit Padshah. Even the
puritan Aurangzeb bowed before the powers of the Hindu pir and conferred
a high title on him.
Mughal empire began to crumble following the death of Aurangzeb. This had
its impact on the Valley too, which once again became a hotbed of intrigues,
violence and bloodshed. It was in the midst of such chaotic conditions
that the local leaders invited Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade Kashmir and
establish his rule. He seized the opportunity and sent a strong force in
A.D.1753 under Abdul Khan Isk Aquasi. The last Mughal Govemor - Alaquli
Khan - had been, in the meantime, displaced by a local upstart, Abdul Qasim
Khan. The Afghan General defeated Qasim and established Afghan rule in
nobles who had approached Akbar with the plea to annex Kashmir made a good
judgment. Kashmir was restored its peace and tranquility for about 120
years. It was only after the disintegration of the Mughal empire that misrule
returned to Kashmir. But those who invited the Afghan ruler did have no
inclination that they were really calling a barbarous horde to their garden
of nature. Virtually jumping from the frying pan into the fire, Kashmiris
groaned under the tyrannical yoke of Afghans, who ruled for 67 years. The
regime was cruel and barbarous, 'one of brutal tyranny unrelieved by good
work, chivalry or honour' (Lawrence).
was the order of the day. And all Kashmiris, whether Hindu or Muslim were
treated alike. Jabbar Khan - the last Afghan Governor - however, persecuted
the Hindus relentlessly. A Pandit nobleman, Birbal Dhar, unable to see
any longer the torment of Kashmiris, approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh for
help and provided him with valuable information about the strength and
deployment of Jabbar Khan's forces. Ranjit Singh had earlier made two unsuccessful
attempts to capture Kashmir, once in 1812 and again in 1814. This time
success greeted him. The Sikh forces, under the able command of Misser
Dewan Chand, defeated Jabbar Khan at Shopiyan on July 15, 1819 and triumphantly
marched into the capital the next day. Thus ended a 67- year-long nightmare
Sikh rule lasted for only 27 years and saw ten Governors . Barring Governor
Kirpa Ram, the Sikh rule in Kashmir was far from benign or just. Kashmiris
as a class were despised. With the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839,
indiscipline and instability spread all over his kingdom. The last Governor,
Imam-ud-din, was made to surrender possession of Kashmir to Raja Gulab
Singh of Jammu in 1846 in pursuance of the Treaty of Amritsar.
were three principal actors - the British, the Dogras and the Sikhs - on
the stage of north-western India at the time of the death of Ranjit Singh.
A tense drama of struggle was enacted for the next seven years. The British
were modern, scientifically organised, far-sighted and clear in their imperial
objectives. The Dogras were hardy, ambitious, feudal, and ill-equipped
militarily, but had the good fortune of being led at that time by a sound,
sagacious and experienced leader. The Sikhs were martial, brave with a
strong army but reckless, ill-disciplined, riven with factions and jealousies
and virtually leaderless. Under the circumstances, complete success of
the British in attaining their objectives was not surprising. Gulab Singh
realistically accepted the position of 'subordinate alliance' to the British
and in the process secured a vast princely state free from the vagaries
of the Lahore Durbar. The Sikhs lost all their power and position which
they had built over the past 50 years.
the defeat of the Sikhs, two separate treaties were executed. The Treaty
of Lahore - which incorporated the terms of settlement between the Sikhs
and the British Government - was signed on March 9, 1846. A week later,
on March 16, a separate treaty, known as the Treaty of Amritsar, was signed
between Raja Gulab Singh and the British Government. In the first treaty,
the Sikhs ceded certain areas to the British Indian Government on account
of their inability to pay the indemnity of Rs 1.5 crore demanded by the
British. By virtue of the second treaty, the British Government transferred
"forever in independent possession" some of the ceded areas, including
Kashmir, because of Gulab Singh's willingness to pay only Rs 75 lakh out
of the total amount of indemnity demanded by the British. Thus Kashmir
was passed on to the Dogras in consequence of the terms of the treaties
and not in consequenoe of a 'sale deed'.
Younghusband wrote: "Surprise has often been expressed that when this lovely
land had actually been ceded to us, after a hard and strenuous campaign,
we should ever have parted with it for a paltry sum of three-quarters of
a million sterling." But the British had a subtle and long term purpose.
This is borne out by a dispatch dated March 19,1846 from Governor-General
Lord Hardinge to the East India Company. It states: "I request your attention
to the treaty made with the Maharaja Gulab Singh, by which a Rajput principality
of the hill districts has been constructed, extending from the Rabi to
the Indus, and including the province of Kashmir. The Maharaja is declared
by the treaty independent of the Lahore State and under the protection
of the British Government. As it was of utmost importance to weaken the
Sikh nation before the Government could be re-established, I considered
the appropriation of this part of the ceded territory to be the most expedient
measure I could devise for that purpose, by which a Rajput dynasty will
act as a counterpoise against the power of a Sikh prince, the son of the
late Ranjit Singh, and both will have a common interest in resisting attempts
on the part of any Mohammaden power to establish an independent state on
this side of the Indus, or ever to occupy Peshawar." The Dogra dynasty
lasted a little over hundred years. The period saw four Maharajas - Gulab
Singh (1846-57); Ranbir Singh (1857-85); Partap Singh (1885-1925); and
Hari Singh (1925-52). But the dynasty was always at the mercy of the British
account of the pressure of the British Government and also on his own initiative,
the Maharaja undertook constitutional reforms on a moderate scale. In the
meantime, there were serious riots on July 13, 1931, outside the Srinagar
Jail in which 21 persons were killed. In 1934, the Maharaja further promulgated
another Constitutional Act which introduced a diarchy. It also provided
for a 75-member Legislative Assembly (Praja Sabha), including 37 elected
members. While the State was witnessing limited constitutional reforms,
the freedom movement in India was gathering momentum. The Indian National
Congress and the Muslim League had emerged on the scene. The developments
had its echo in J&K where a number of young men had returned with social
and political awakening following higher education at Lahore and Aligarh.
1932, a political organisation by the name of Jammu & Kashmir Muslim
Conference was founded, and Sheikh Abdullah was elected its first president.
It began with modest demands. Its main objectives were to work for social,
economic and cultural betterment of Muslims and to secure for them a large
share in civil services and Army jobs. In 1938-39, the Muslim Conference
was renamed as 'All Jammu & Kashmir National Conference' which opened
its membership to all classes, irrespective of religion.
A. Jinnah, who visited the State in 1944 on the invitation of the National
Conference, exhorted the Muslims to come under the Muslim Conference (which
was associated with the Muslim League). He did not even spare Mirwaiz Maulvi
Yusuf Shah, whom he called a "rotten egg." He told the maulvi, "I advise
you to remain aloof from politics. In Kashmir, we want a leader, and not
National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah launched
the 'Quit Kashmir Movement' on May 10, 1946. Jinnah labelled it as 'an
agitation carried on by a few malcontents who were out to create disorderly
conditions in the State'. Jinnah's outbursts in 1944 and observations on
the Quit Kashmir Movement must have convinced the Sheikh that his political
future would be weak if the State joined Pakistan.
Maulvi Yusuf Shah fled to Pakistan. Later in 1953, his teenaged nephew
- Maulvi Farooq - was installed as the Mirwaiz on the initiative of the
then Prime Minister of Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.
the forces and actors on the eve of Indian Independence, Jagmohan wrote:
"A number of forces were operating on the political firmament of the State.
There was the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
It dominated the Valley but had only limited influence in Jammu and Ladakh.
It had developed close rapport with the leaders of the Indian National
particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, but its equation with the Muslim League
was marked by hostility. Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf Shah, who had a wild and
fanatical following in the old areas of Srinagar city, was antagonistic
both to the National Conference and the Congress. Then, there was the Muslim
Conference which had little following in the Valley but had acquired rapid
strength amongst the Muslims of the Jammu region during the last two years
on account of its ideological affinity with the Muslim League, which had
the potential of spreading its influence in the Valley also. Voices for
independent Kashmir were also being raised here and there. The Maharaja
was yet another force. The Dogra Rajputs of Jammu considered him their
own kith and kin. The relations between him on the one hand and Sheikh
Abdullah and Pandit Nehru on the other were marked by mutual distrust and
dislike. None of the three leaders was able to rise above his pride and
prejudices while taking vital decisions in regard to the future of the
State. All these forces and actors were soon to play their part in the
first act of the tragic Kashmir drama. The Maharaja was indecisive. Jinnah
was impatient. Pandit Nehru was caught in between his idealism and the
stark realities of the situation. Sheikh Abdullah with streaks of megalomania
and duplicity embedded deep in the layers of his mind and with Jinnah's
doors closed to him, was nursing secret ambitions to carve out a Sheikhdom
for himself and his family. No wonder, there was consequently confusion
and inconsistency on the stage."
frequent aberrations by the rulers and politicians, in power, in the history
of Kashmir, led to the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits - the aborigines
- from time to time.