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Hindu Kashmir Sans Pandits

(The article has been published in ‘KOSHUR SAMACHAR, Delhi’ in its December 2000 issue with some minor changes)

After her revelation out of a vast sheet of water, SATISAR, thousands of years before, the valley of Kashmir turned to be a choicest spot for unknown long periods of time for RISHIS and MUNIS throughout the world for meditation, TAPASYA and acquiring exclusive spiritual powers in its cool a serene atmosphere. As such almost every nook and corner of the valley became a place of worship and TAPASYA and the atmosphere highly spiritual and places centers of attraction for whole of Indian population especially those interested in spiritual advancement. As such, the periods that followed gave rise to a population of high-caste Hindus deeply rooted in the studies of scriptures and religiously disciplined life. Consequently with the passage of time the valley was decorated with great seats of learning and knowledge along with spots and places invested with great spiritual power so much so that KASHMIR was called a PEETHA of SIDDHI and the Hindus of plains continued adoring her for being a source of inspiration to lots of knowledge hungry souls for all times to come.

Places with mysterious powers

Many authentic indications are found in the valley that the RISHIS and MUNIS of the highest order practiced their austerities at various spots for long times either inside deep caves carved out of hill- slopes with their spiritual powers or on open hilltops or in dense forests. Many such places discovered perchance by local people quite unknown before and suggestive of great mysterious powers are still a reality. Shri AMARNATH SWAMI, the world famous abode of LORD SHIVA is a prime example of such a spot discovered in the modern times by a shepherd. The influence of the rigorous TAPASYA performed by the great seers of yester years have made various spots in the valley speak out themselves of the powers these places are invested with and any casual visitor even today can experience such influence at these places however humiliatingly these be desecrated from time to time by fundamentalist forces of modern times. The fact doesn’t pertain to a few places of worship only widely known today but the point to be emphasized here is that there is hardly a single hamlet, forest or a hillside in the valley which doesn’t have one or the other spot, a cave, a stone, an old monument, a spring or a tree, a cascade, a hilltop or the like which doesn’t speak out itself of some influence of some RISHI or a MUNI or an event of the past, though mute. Many of these places continue performing unbelievable miracles even now continually at special occasions of the day, night or season, obviously sacred to the deity attached to the spot. These miraculous happenings include a sudden change of atmospheric phenomenon like a sudden rainfall or a hailstorm, shower or lightening, presence of sudden water-flows coloured or milky, mysterious sounds or change or presence of some object specifically attached to the place. Lots of such places have remained hidden for being placed at some inaccessible far off hidden mountain terrain or embedded deep inside the bosom of earth as a consequence of geographical change through long passage of time.

Treasure house of spirituality and knowledge

No authentic survey has been so far conducted about this treasure house of spirituality, knowledge and mystery in the valley except some stray references made in various books old and new by authors concerned with a specific purpose, as a result that the mysteries about them have remained hidden from the knowledge of the outside world so far, despite advancement in technology. The reason especially is not that the outer world has failed to take notice of such happenings in the valley but much before such survey could be undertaken, much before the outer world had entered the advanced age of science and technology and capable of doing such an authentic research work, KASHMIR the abode of RISHIS had witnessed a worst drama of wholesale desecrations of holy places and conversion of its age-old Hindu installations developed through scores of centuries at the hands of Muslim fundamentalist invaders and rulers who were mad after converting the total ethos of this land through every possible means. The huge structures of Hindu religion, its power and pelf, temple complexes and libraries were razed to the ground and the occupants ruthlessly put to sword or forced to change their faith. The treasure houses of old scriptures, recorded works of great authors and numerous historical documents were burnt to ashes and history changed to suit their interests. Thus the glorious period of Hindu Kashmir ended before the modern advancement of technology ushered its way into the modern age. The old seemed to dwindle into the past. The masses perforce got converted along with their local places of worship. The selected few who didn’t opt for the change of their faith fled for their lives either outside valley or into far off hills and forest terrains to escape vigilance and lived a life of total seclusion. There are indications about some Hindu installations which are in tact even today that the forces couldn’t face the obvious spiritual power manifest in them and had no other way but to keep them undisturbed. Still in many cases their names were changed akin to the new faith and thereby a new cult called SUFI cult came in vogue. Thus SUFI-ISM was born in Kashmir within the parameters of Muslim faith, which was in fact a changed version of Hindu faith in the garb of Muslim culture. Consequently, no authentic historical records are available now about the golden culture and civilization of old Hindu Kashmir except some oblique references found in some long epic-like poems like RAJTARANGINI of KALHAN PANDIT and some other lesser known books of yore.

Changed face of the valley

Thus the modern times saw the total face of the valley changed from its chaste Hindu RISHI cult to Muslim fundamentalist way of life. Down to the period of BUDSHAH (SULTAN ZAIN-UL-ABIDIN) son of SULTAN SIKANDAR (the iconoclast) at whose hands the worst is said to have happened in this calm happy abode of the gods, the conditions remained unchanged. There was no place for Hindus anywhere. They were hounded like the animals of prey and put to death ruthlessly. In the reign of BADSHAH, however, the Hindus began showing their presence in very small numbers as the king was lenient towards them and allowed them to settle of their own. By their spiritual powers and capacity to accommodate in the new circumstances they started living among their Muslim neighbours very humbly. They continued their religious pursuits and learning and tried to maintain their distinct cultural identity. The left-over places of worship were maintained and looked after but they had to accept the supremacy of their Muslim lords and fulfill their wishes from time to time. Thus the Hindu population of Kashmir began showing their heads in very small numbers in almost all rural and urban areas. They had to accept whatever was left over for them out of their glorious past and thus the changeover from one generation to another gave them the capacity to adapt themselves with the changed circumstances. Kashmir had no longer remained a Hindu Kashmir as the new lords tried to change her wholly by building powerful installations of Muslim culture and religion in place of old intricate Hindu fabric.

Cultural Synthesis

No doubt everything seemed to have changed on the face of it but strangely the basic elements remained unchanged in the valley. The traces remained there and showed their influence on everything. The solid deep roots of Hindu culture remained embedded under the soil of the changed environment and hence the change at times seemed superficial. Every new structure had its original roots alive sprouting their influence every now and then although the forces tried to cut them as deep as possible. As such Kashmir culture gave rise to a synthesis of the old order and the new change. Various indications in the form of a mixed culture were seen here and there. Some time a Muslim poet sang the glories of Hindu mythology or a saint became an adorer of Hindu gods and traditions, quite contrary to the beliefs of Muslim extremist attitude of religion. This attitude usually angered the religious bigots of the time but strangely enough the public at large didn’t raise objections to it but rather cherished such orations.

Then the DOGRA rule came in Kashmir. It provided a somewhat suitable environment for the skeletal population of Hindus now called PANDITS to retain and maintain whatever remnants of Hindu installations had escaped from mass destruction. The Hindus could now breathe freely and exhibit their talents overboard after a long time. Being the cream of the age-old Kashmir Hindu culture, the left-over installations seemed to stretch their wings and gain attention of the whole of India. The Pandits began showing their excellence outside the bonds of Kashmir though a microscopic minority in their land. Their worth was recognized everywhere and their presence conspicuously felt in various important places of power in India and abroad. But the next blow was quite at the threshold, this time also a severe one. In 1947 India became independent and partitioned. Though Kashmir fell into the lap of India but completely bruised. About half of it was snatched by Pakistan by proxy and aggression and the Pandits had again to see a bad day. They suffered untold miseries. Lots of them were killed, property looted and burnt, women raped and widowed.

Post independence period

The post independence period didn’t make the Kashmir Pandits any comfortable as the things worsened for them. They continued to be an eyesore in the eyes of the majority community in Kashmir for their being exclusive mentally, educationally and ahead in every field. The state government headed by Muslims tried to devise all ways and means to keep the Pandits in back burner and push Muslims into all important positions. Since Pandits were a community almost hundred percent educated so pushing them back was not so easy. Thus open discrimination prevailed everywhere so much so that Pandits began gradually moving out of Kashmir seeking better avenues of employment and thus escape humiliation that they had to face by working under junior and inefficient hands among Muslims. Gradually Pandits began feeling insecure and humiliated in their own land and thus started their migration to other parts of India and abroad. Their population in the valley showed decreasing trends day by day and they were forced to face humiliation at every level. The majority community encouraged all such moves and tried their level best to purchase the properties of fleeing Pandits at throwaway prices till the game plan of Pakistan gave the final blow in 1990 when Kashmir witnessed all the Pandits of the valley running away for their lives leaving behind everything, their homes and hearths, culture and civilization and above all the place of their birth, the paradise on earth. It was a terrible scare created by merciless killings of Pandits in cold blood and the majority community not raising even an eyebrow over the events and thus Kashmir was bereft of its residual Hindu population in only a few days. How these helpless people suffered in the unfriendly environs outside Kashmir is a tale full of woes and untold sufferings.

A hope against hope

It is a pity that Kashmir, a part of independent secular India could not stop the worst tragedy of modern time, the mass displacement of Pandits from the valley and now after more than a decade these hapless people are clamouring for their return to their homes and the administration is unable to give any green signal so far. Meanwhile the majority community in Kashmir has usurped all the important positions held by Pandits in the valley and thus the Pandits have lost their separate identity of being the descendents of India’s choicest population who had come to Kashmir thousands of years before to seek benevolence and who had attained the highest wisdom and powers of spirituality through toughest SADHNA and TAPASYA and had thus made Kashmir the crown of India.

Alas! There is no one to protect this land of RISHIS (RISHI BHOOMI). It is virtually wrenched from our hands by the hostile forces bent upon weakening India. Each and every grain of soil, stone, slope, mountain and river of Kashmir is Hindu but unfortunately held hostage by elements quite hostile to her origin. How far will it continue? Have the powers of our ancestors lost their relevance?   India has been robbed of her golden crown.

JAWAHAR LAL BHAT

B-3, ASHIANA Apartments,

SECTOR-46, FARIDABAD, HARYANA

CONTACT NO: 0129-4096114

Kashmiri Writers J.L. Bhat
  

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