Vol. II, No. 9
Kashmiri Pandits in USA take interest in
Kashmiri Pandits living in the United
States appear to have started taking keen interest in the agenda drawn by N.S.
Kashmir Research Institute for preservation, protection and projection of
Kashmiri Pandit cultural identity. Realizing that the Kashmiri Pandit community,
fighting a grim battle for its cultural survival in the aftermath years of its
exodus from Kashmir, the emigre Kashmiris want to know more and more about their
It is in this context that they seem to be
impressed by the programmes and activities of the NSKRI and the initiative it
has taken for creating a cultural awareness among Kashmiri Pandits wherever they
be on the globe. Reports about the recent cultural heritage exhibition, 'Unmeelan'
organised by NSKRI in New Delhi seem to have particularly enthused them. An
increasing number of them have been enquiring about the programmes NSKRI
proposes to organise in the near future and asking how they could help the
Institute in furthering its objectives in their part of the world. Some young
intellectuals like Sunil Fotedar and Lalit Wanchoo have already involved
themselves in the process by projecting NSKRI activities on a special website.
It was in this connection that Mr A. K.
Mandloo (Kak), an engineer now settled in America, held long discussions with
members of the NSKRI core group during his recent visit to New Delhi. Among the
matters discussed was the ways and means to be adopted to make the cooperation
between NSKRI and Kashmiri Pandits settled in America effective and meaningful
in the cultural context. Mr. Mandloo felt that Kashmiri Pandits in USA would be
eager to sponsor some of the projects NSKRI intends to take up. He seemed to be
greatly interested in the NSKRI taking 'Unmeelan' to American cities like New
York and Washington. Such programmes, he was sure, would create quite a flutter
in that country, and show the true cultural face of Kashmir to the world. He
also wanted that the publications of NSKRI regarding history, culture and
traditions of the Kashmiri Pandits should be circulated widely in the USA. While
this would inspire the Pandits living in that country to feel proud of the past
glories of their community of origin, it would also give an inkling to them of
how great the contributions of their ancestors in the fields of art, culture,
literature and philosophy have been, Mr. Mandloo pointed out.
The NSKRI plans to give a concrete shape
in the near future to some of the conclusions reached during the discussions it
held with Mr. A. K. Mandloo. The possibility of holding 'Unmeelan-II' in America
sometime in March next year is being seriously considered by the Institute.
C.V. Gopinath and NSKRI to make a video
documentary on Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra
Shri C.V.Gopinath, an eminent scholar from
Karnataka, a top Government of India officer and a close associate of NSKRI core
group has returned to New Delhi after his second consecutive Kailash- Mansarovar
Yatra. Shri Gopinath, who is so enamoured of the Yatra that he may complete a
hat-trick next year, has done a brilliant video coverage of the pilgrimage and
intends to cull out a 90 or 100 minute documentary, with the help of NSKRI, from
the 600 minute exciting and thrilling shooting he has done. The documentary will
be laced by a narration of his challenging and exhilarating experiences by
It may be recalled that after his return
from the Yatra last year he gave a beautiful slide show based on it in the
premises of Bhagawaan Gopinathji Ashram at Pamposh Enclave, New Delhi. Some
photographs of Mount Kailash resplendent in its glory and of the serene beauty
of the Mansarovar Lake were so stunningly beautiful that they had cast a charm
over the highly excited audience.
'Kashmir Shaivism Fellowship' set up in
An Institute named 'Kashmir Shaivism
Fellowship' devoted to the propagation of Kashmir Shaivite philosophy in
America, has been set-up at Los Angeles. Mr. John Hughes, the founder of the
Institute has been a longtime disciple of Shaivacharya Swami Lakshman Joo,
associated with him closely for almost two decades. He has also authored a
brilliant book on Swami Lakshman Joo's life and teachings titled 'Self-
Mr. Hughes has with him hundreds of tapes
of Swami Lakshman Joo's lectures besides copious notes on his teachings and
interpretations of different aspects of Kashmir Shaivite philosophy. These were
recorded by him during his long stays at Ishwar Ashram, Ishber, Srinagar.
Kashmir Shaivism Fellowship is likely to
emerge as a great centre of Shaivite thought in the West. Mrs. Denise Hughes,
wife of Mr. John Hughes is currently in New Delhi, perhaps to renew her contacts
with old associates of Ishwar Ashram and Swamiji's followers and admirers
including Mr. P. N. Kachroo of NSKRI.
Commemorative Stamp On Bhagawan
"Bhagawaanji A Beacon Of Light For Humanity"
- Sushma Swaraj
Union communications and information and
Broadcasting Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj released a commemorative stamp on the
revered Kashmiri saint Bhagawaan Gopinathji on 3rd July, 1998. For the Kashmiri
devotees of Bhagawaanji it was a most memorable occasion filling them with a
sense of pride and joy. Overwhelmed with emotion, they watched the solemn
function at the FICCI auditorium with tears in their eyes, coming as it did as a
befitting finale to Bhagawaanji's birth centenary celebrations.
Releasing the three rupee stamp with the
simple and benign figure of Bhagawaan Gopinathji printed on it, the Union
Communications Minister described the great Saint as a radiant personality who
was a beacon of light for the entire humanity, working for its spiritual
upliftment. "It is most unfortunate", she lamented "that today
when Bhagawaan Gopinathji's birth centenary is being celebrated in different
parts of the country and abroad, circumstances do not make it possible to
celebrate it in his native land - Kashmir".
Referring to Kashmiri Pandits, the
community in which Bhagawaan Gopinathji was born, Smt. Sushma Swaraj called for
introspection to understand why they have been turned into refugees in their own
country. She expressed the hope that it would be possible for Bhagawaanji's
devotees to celebrate his next birth anniversary in Kashmir also with as much
devotion and enthusiasm.
Speaking on the occasion the Guest of
Honour, Shri Chaman Lal Gupta, M.P, also said that it greatly pained him that
circumstances in Bhagawaan Gopinathji's own native place, Kashmir, were such
that his birth centenary celebrations could not be observed there even though
they were being held in the whole world. "Measures shall have to be taken
to change this sorry state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that
Kashmiri Pandits return to their homeland with honour and dignity". he
Presiding over the function, Shri Pushkar
Nath Kaul, ex-Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir also paid homage to Bhagawaan
Gopinathji, calling him "a bright star on the firmament of Kashmiri's
tradition, culture and spirituality."
Earlier welcoming the guests, Secretary,
Bhagawaan Gopinathji Trust, Shri Pran Nath Koul said that Bhagawaanji's concern
was for "harmony and peace in the whole world." Trust President, M. L.
Pandit, who is also a member of the Core Group of NSKRI, thanked the VIP guests,
and devotees of Bhagawaan Gopinathji and others for coming to "share with
us the pleasure we all feel on the occasion." Shri Pandit expressed his
gratitude to the Department of Post, and its Secretary, Shri R.U.S. Prasad for
the issuance of the postage starnp in Bhagawaan Gopinathji's memory.
The commemorative stamp is of the
denomination of Rs.3 and has been issued in single colour in the overall size of
3.91x 2.90 cms. It bears Bhagawaan Gopinathji's likeness in his simple Kashmiri
attire of turban and pheran with a tilak glowing on his forehead. The initial
artwork for the postage stamp and the First Day Cover was prepared by Shri P.N.
Kachru, eminent Kashmiri artist and also member Core Group NSKRI.
Faces of Glory
Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi
The Pandit who was also a pioneer printer
Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi
[ A profound scholar of astrology and a
pioneer printer in one - that was Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi. His greatest
claim to fame, however rests on his untiring efforts in publishing cheap
editions of ancient religions texts of Kashmiri Hindus and making them available
to the common people. For this he would go from place to place in Kashmir,
almost door to door, and collect original manuscripts from people who were most
loathe to part with them. Perhaps he was the only scholar after Buhler to have
done that with a good measure of success. But for him many of these texts would
have been lost or remained obscure especially those on Kashmiri Hindu rituals
and religious practices. The Krishna Printing Press, which he set up in Srinagar,
came handy to him for printing the texts and also to eke out a modest living for
himself. We at 'Unmesh' feel proud in paying a tribute to the great scholar's
memory and in telling our readers about his life and accomplishments.]
For the older generation of Kashmiri
Pandits, Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi (KBJ) has been a familiar name, for the
Panchang (almanac) he edited and published would reach almost every Pandit
household in Kashmir. It evoked, and still evokes, reverence in the hearts of
those who are aware of his deep knowledge of Hindu astrology. For them his word
in the field bore a stamp of undisputed authenticity. KBJ in turn owed it to his
ancestral tradition with proclivity towards astrology running very strongly in
Born in Srinagar in 1873 in an erudite
Brahmin family, KBJ, only emulated his grandfather Pandit Sat Ram, his father
Pandit Prasad Bhatt and uncle Pandit Mukund Ram when he chose Sanskrit religious
texts and astrology as his specialized field of study. Both the father and the
uncle acquired proficiency in these subjects under the tutelage of his
grandfather, a well known scholar of his times. Uncle Mukund Ram, a Shaivite
scholar, rose to be the Chief Astrologer at the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh,
while father Prasad Bhatt also earned a name for his study of astrology.
Surpassing both of them, KBJ acquired a mastery over the subject almost to the
extent of becoming a legend in his lifetime.
The Bhatts' ancestral house at Jogi Lankar,
Rainawari, a locality of Srinagar, overlooked a beautiful scene on the flowing
canal, evoking an atmosphere of serenity. It was in this house that young KBJ
would remain absorbed in study, sitting on the grass mat near the window on the
left with piles of books neatly rising above the floor all around him. Devoting
himself entirely to learning the Shastras, he virtually shut himself from
worldly pleasures which had little attraction for him. While following his
scholarly pursuits, KBJ began his career as a school teacher at Nunar, a
picturesque village not far off from Tulmula (Kheer Bhawani). Dedicated to his
work and committed to giving quality education to his students, he would
traverse all the distance from his home at Rainawari to the school at Nunar on
foot - he simply could not afford the bus or tonga fare to his place of work.
Fond of him and full of respect for him, his students would often come to his
home also where he would clear their doubts and help them in solving their
difficulties. An inspiring pep talk on moral values to help them in their
overall development was an usual accompaniment.
Clad in an ordinary Pheran and turban and
wearing a grass shoe (pulahor) in his feet, the profound scholar could be seen
explaining the finer points of the Shastras not only to his pupils but to anyone
who came with a doubt or two to clear. Given to simple living, the noble Pandit
ate frugal meals, spending most of his time in religious studies. After the
death of his uncle, Mukund Ram and father, Prasad Bhatt, the responsibility of
editing and bringing out the Panchang fell on his shoulders - a responsibility
that he discharged till the end even though the economics of the publication was
not on his side. Determined not to disappoint the thousands of the readers of
the almanac, he managed to bring it out with his senior peer, Pandit Govind
Bhatt Shastri of Rainawari, making the astrological calculations.
Deeply religious in nature, KBJ, regularly
worshiped Mahagayatri, performing Havan and Pooja and also recited Mantras which
at occasions could go as high as 24 lakh times. He was, however, appalled to see
that while some people did have their personal copies of ritualistic books made,
most of them could not afford to purchase printed copies of these books. As a
result, the texts of such books tended to get either corrupted or forgotten,
with their knowledge getting limited to fewer and fewer people, the general
public not caring to be versed in them at all. As the printing press had hardly
arrived in Kashmir, KBJ got copies of these ancient texts printed from outside
presses from his own pocket and made them available at cost price to every one
who was interested.
Soon, however, he decided to set up his
own letter printing press at Srinagar, becoming one of the pioneers to do so. He
did not do so entirely for commercial purposes, but for publishing Kashmiri
Pandit religious books for the benefit of the common people, especially the
younger generation. The assorted printing jobs that were undertaken by this
press, namely the Krishna Printing Press, were expected to generate enough
income to have these works printed at on a non-profit basis. It did not take
much time for his plan to take practical shape and cheap and affordable editions
of books pertaining to rituals, religious practices and customs, and Tirtha
Mahatmyas and devotional hymns started rolling out from the press. These low
priced books became quite popular and helped a lot in keeping the Pandit
community aware of their religious traditions.
KBJ published about two dozen books which
were printed at the Krishna Printing Press. These include Nitya Karma Vidhi (3
parts), Shiva Puja, Ganesh-Durga Stotravali, Saundarya Lahri with Panchastavi,
Rudra Panchakam, Karmakand (3 parts), Veda Kalpadrum, (related to performance of
Havans), Mekhala Pustak, Parthishwar Puja, Yoga Vasishtha Sar, Bhakti Vivek Sar,
Bhavani Sahasra Nanavali, Vishnu Sahasra Namavali, Aditya Hriday, Kalash Sthapan,
Kashmir Jyotishya Sangraha, Indrakshi etc.
KBJ had to go from village to village to
scour for the religious texts before he could publish their low priced editions.
It was a search a la Buhler, not without disappointments keeping in view the
nature of the people who were reluctant to part from their manuscripts or
printed copies, but also one which brought great rewards - not just for KBJ
personaly but for the whole Pandit community. For this one act, KBJ should be
remembered by the entire grateful community.
With KBJ's death in 1946, and with the
passage of time, the texts slowly went out of print. Then in 1990 the Kashmiri
Pandits were forced to flee from their home in Kashmir. Though the successors of
KBJ and the present proprietors of Krishna Printing Press restarted their
printing business from Jammu, it was not possible for them reprint the books or
bring out the fresh editions. Impressed, however, by the agenda of NSKRI, as
explained by the Institute's core member, Shri M. L. Pandit, Shri S. N. Jotshi,
the grandson of KBJ, offerred the rights of reprinting his series of books to
NSKRI. An offer that has been gratefully accepted by the Institute.
Ancient art treasures of Kashmir
The Disappearance Syndrome
If reports emanating from sources in
Srinagar have any truth in them, a systematic pilferage of ancient art objects
has been going on ever since terrorism was unleashed in the unhappy valley. A
report appearing in a leading national daily recently appears to confirm this.
According to it, Rajputana Rifles handed over 32 pieces of priceless artefacts
to the National Museum on June 21st, 1996. These were recovered from the house
of one Ghulam Mohammad Lone residing in a colony near Shalimar Gardens during a
cordon and search operation as he was trying to smuggle out the artefacts for
the international market. These date back to the 6th to 15th century. The
important sculptures include Gajalaxmi, Vishnuchaturanana, Swayambhu Lingas,
While these pieces of art were saved by a
chance seizure by the security forces, there are hundreds which have disappeared
over the years. What is intriguing is the silence maintained by the state
custodians of art and culture over such losses.While the lackdaisical and even
negligent attitude in preserving the art objects displayed by the government
managed institutions like the Shri Pratap Museum, Center for Central Asian
Studies Research and Publications Department is quite evident, the appalling
indifference shown by the concerned officials cannot but give rise to
apprehension of connivance.
The reason is not difficult to understand
- these objects are relics from Kashmir's pre- Islamic past. The official
attitude in this matter can be illustrated by the state in which these objects
have been kept in the museum and other places. Not many years ago, in 1984 to be
precise, a delegation of important academics from the then USSR Republic of
Tadjkistan came to Kashmir for a visit. Their itinerary included a visit to the
Shri Pratap Museum at Lal Mandi, Srinagar. According to Captain S. K.Tikoo, who
accompanied the delegation along with veteran journalist Sh. P.N. Jalali, some
members of the delegation got interested in some statues displayed at the museum
while they were being shown round and made some queries about them. The members
obviously bore Muslim names. Much to their surprise, the then Director of the
State Department of Museums and Archives, Fida M. Hassnain, started talking in
an apologetic tone about such statutes being displayed at the Museum saying that
display of such objects could not be helped even though it went against the writ
of Islam which forbids idol worship. The leader of the delegation, Mr. Rasulov,
a prominent historian and himself a Muslim, was taken aback. "It took us
more than a decade in restoring the damage done to our ancient monuments by the
Germans, but we did it as a matter of priority to maintain our links with the
past. And you are apologetic about these ancient objects of art when you ought
to be proud of them", he burst out, admonishing the official.
But such admonishment could hardly be
expected to make any change in the attitude of the Muslim officialdom in
Kashmir, which has not only been reluctant to come to terms with Kashmir's
pre-Islamic past, Hindu or Buddhist, but has deliberately tried to create the
impression that such a past never existed.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why
masterpieces of Kashmir's glorious artistic traditions have disappeared from
time to time from where they are supposed to be preserved while the art pieces
mentioned above were luckily saved. The disappearance syndrome is now quite old.
As far back as 1995, a gigantic terracotta pendant belonging to the necklace of
a huge image of Boddhisttva suddenly disappeared from its shelf in the
S.P.Museum, Srinagar. It was one of the finest examples of Buddhist baroque in
Kashmir which came to light when excavations of the ancient Buddhist monastery
of Shad-Arhat- Vana (modern Harvan) were first undertaken by Daya Ram Sahni, and
later by Ram Chandra Kak in l919. The attention of the well known archaeologist
and art critic, Charles Fabri, was attracted towards this 'Gem of Kashmir', in
1933. The pendant, measuring 20 inches in height and 14 inches in width, was
oval in shape and intricately beautiful reflecting on the exquisite
craftsmanship of ancient Kashmiri jewellery. Immediately after its discovery it
was kept for display in the S. P. Museum in 1925 where it attracted the notice
of archaeologists, historians and scholars from the whole world till it
What is more amusing is that the Museum
authorities first gave out that the teracotta masterpiece had been removed to a
safer place within the Museum itself. People were made to believe that it had
been broken to pieces due to the carelessness of some Museum official. The
pieces were, however, not restored to their original shape despite the presence
of a qualified museuologist at the Museum. And then came the stunning news - the
pendant had been smuggled out of the Museum ! And such games continued to be
played even afterwards.
Surely, money can not be the sole motive
behind such acts of disappearance of invaluable art objects. A more sinister
design appears to be at work - to deplete the rich treasures of Hindu and
Buddhist art in Kashmir. It will not be totally surprising if one morning we
wake up to find that Kashmir has been swept clean of most of the relics that
would remind one of the glories of its pre- Islamic past!
[ Inputs: P.N. Kachru, Captain S.K
Hiuen Tsang and his treasure
When Hiuen Tsang came to India in the 7th
century; he also visited Kashmir where he stayed for two years and studied
Buddhist and Hindu texts at the feet of Kashmir scholars. He was very happy to
find the Buddhist faith flourishing there with hundreds of viharas scattered all
over the valley offering obeisance to lord Buddha. He gives a detailed account
of the land and the people of 'Ka-shi-mi-lu', as he calls Kashmir, praising the
Kashmir scholars for their learning and calibre and considering them as
Hiuen Tsang also describes in detail the
proceedings of the fourth great Buddhist council called by the Kushana King
Kanishka at Harwan in Kashmir. Over five hundred delegates attended the council
to review and redetine the Buddhist canon, including renowned scholars and
thinkers like Nagarjuna, Ashwaghosha, Vasubandhu, Sanghmitra and Jinamitra, with
the Kashmir scholar Vasumifra presiding over its deliberations.
Hiuen Tsang had every reason to be happy
with the treatment accorded to him in Kashmir, with the King (Durlabhavaardhana)
himself leading his people to give him a royal reception. The King gave him five
assistants and twenty scribes to copy the sacred books written in Kashmir.
All this is history. And now the legend
which is more interesting than history. It is said that when Hiuen Tsang decided
to leave the country after a long and rewarding stay, he took a huge treasure of
books he had collected during his stay here, particularly from Kashmir, with him
to China. The Emperor of India himself accorded him a warm send off and provided
him with a huge vessel along with twenty five well trained and dedicated sailors
for his journey back to his country. The sailors were asked to guard the
treasures that the great Chinese traveller was carrying with him.
In the beginning the journey went on
smoothly, but after a few days storm clouds gathered menacingly on the horizon
anda sinister wind began to blow. Soon the wind changed into a ferocious 'chandamarut
' or cyclone, sending up huge waves in the river and threatening to wreck the
ship and sink it. As the vessel was tossing and turning on the turbulent river,
its captain felt that the only way to save it was to throw away some of the
dispensable cargo into the river politely hinting at the huge weight of books it
was carrying. All the twenty five sailors sent by the Indian Emperor got
alerted. They were there to safeguard the valuable works and if the ship had to
be unloaded, then it was they who could be dispensed with. The treasures it was
carrying from Kashmir was immensely more valuable than the lives of all of them
put together, they told the captain and saying this the sailors jumped one by
one into the raging river, giving their supreme sacrifice to save the wisdom of
Kashmir from being lost.
But the story does not end here. The great
sacrifice of the sailors did not seem to pacify the fury of the storm which
continued to rage unabated. The captain of the vessel felt that there was no
alternative to off loading some of the books, however valuable they were. The
suggestion was unbearable to Hiuen Tsang. He jumped to his feet and said "
if the situation demands more load to be thrown out, then let it be me. Let me
drown, but let the invaluable wisdom enshrined in the books be saved at all
costs and reach its destination.
The ship, however reached the shores of
China safely with the books and with the great Chinese traveller himself. The
treasure trove of wisdom from Kashmir was saved!
[ Based on a legend narrated by Shri
Balkrishna of Sanskrit Bharati during the course of a lecture. ]