Table of Contents
  Index
  Concept and Perspective
  Aims and Objectives
  Unmesh
  Miscellaneous Articles
  Unmeelan
    - Introductory Address
  Miniature Painting
  The Sharada Script
  Press Release

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Concept and Perspective

From a demographic consideration, Kashmiri Pandits form but a miniscule ethnic minority of India's vast population. Yet they have all along played a pivotal role in the country's cultural and civilisational history, making outstanding contributions in various fields of intellectual activity, quite out of proportion to their small numbers. Tragically this highly literate and culturally important community stands uprooted today from its moorings due to Islamic fundamentalist militancy.

In any situation, for the Pandits of Kashmir learning and literature have essentially been an important part of life. The best in Indian literary tradition bears an indelible stamp of their genius. To recall their participation in a culture that is slowly being extinguished is to understand the processes that have gone in to the shaping of the Indian mind. It is fortunate that Kashmiri Pandits have been such a highly literate community and that they wrote so extensively, for this has helped their attainments in the realm of thought and culture from being obliterated in the face of constant onslaughts.

Events which have occurred during last 100 years or so have retained their immediacy for many Pandits today. Perhaps one of the most drastic changes that have taken place in this period is that few young Kashmiris can read what their forefathers wrote, for the script in which bulk of their writing is inscribed has become almost indecipherable to them. This cultural shift has had serious implications for preserving and continuing the Pandit heritage. The fifty years following independence have in particular been cataclysmic.

On the cultural plane, Pandits of Kashmir are a community with fascinating complexities and depth of sophistication, enjoying a life of cerebral graces. They are important in north India for their positive role as a bridge with other constituents of the Indian society. That Kashmiri Pandits may be forced to abdicate their distinct cultural and civilisational role due to present circumstances, will have disastrous consequences for the community and the country as a whole. If there is a bias in this outlook, it arises from a regret for this frightening prospect. Fighting a grim battle for their survival as a cultural and social entity, the problem of how and why to retain a commitment to their culture is crucial for the future of Kashmiri Pandits.

History shows how, in absorbing and adapting to new changes and facing new challenges, Kashmiri Pandits have responded as much out of a sense of reality as out of a sense of fear and as much due to actual dangers as to perceived threats. And with past holocausts still haunting their racial memory, their present predicament has heightened their sense of insecurity. This is mainly due to their minority status, a fate forced on them by centuries of proselytizing and persecution. To understand their psyche, it is important to know what it means to be a minority. The Pandits have always felt vulnerable and weak as a people who have witnessed destructive onslaughts on their past roots with new roots hardly showing any growth.

Known throughout the world for their literary accomplishments, this community's heritage today lies scattered due to neglect and unconcern. Five thousand years of their tradition and culture stand in imminent danger of being wiped out from the face of the earth, with a vast wealth of the community's literature, lore, artifacts, manuscripts and horde of books on religion, philosophy, rituals, besides materials relating to art and culture almost on the verge of being irretrievably lost for posterity to regret.

In such a disconcerting and difficult situation, nothing but a concerted and collective endeavour on the part of the present generation of the community's scholars, researchers, authors, intellectuals at an organised and institutional level can be of help in salvaging whatever little has remained from being vandalised and destroyed. It is against this background that a group of concerned and committed community members have felt the imperative need to make a beginning and set up a research institute which would take upon itself to rework the Pandit's literary and cultural history to the present, and preserve, protect and project their heritage and culture. Through its endeavours such an institute could probably illustrate the manner in which this highly literate community can reinterpret its past, make that past accord close to the present and adapt it to the future needs. The philosophy of this institute could well be summed up in the Kashmiri saying: "It is more virtuous for a Pandit of Kashmir to worship Saraswati than Lakshmi."

The promoters of this research institute have decided to establish it in Delhi, keeping in view the present Diaspora of the community, and name it as N.S. Kashmir Research Institute to honour the memory of Kashmir's outstanding Sanskrit scholar, Prof. Niyanand Shastri, a contemporary and friend of European indologists like Sir Aurel Stein, Prof. J. Ph. Vogel and Sir George Grierson. The setting up of the institute at Delhi could also provide a better access to information systems and methodologies at national and international levels and help it in its working.

 

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