Iqbal Ahmad

Preserving the cultural identity

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People of Kashmir are a peace loving nation with a documented history of about six thousand years. Archaeologists and historians who are engaged in the study of Kashmir history and culture claim that Kashmir is an old nation which, according to them, has a well documented history of six thousand years.

In ancient times, it was known as ‘Kapin’ or ‘Kash’.  The valley, with the passage of time, came to be pronounced as Kasheer. This civilization flourished on the banks of its ancient river called Hydaspes  by Greeks, while in its ancient indigenous records it is called ‘Vitasta’ and Vyeth by its inhabitants.  Although its official name is Jhelum now, locals still pronounce it by its classical name of Vyeth.

Verinag the famous spring of south Kashmir is its main source, which lies to the extreme of south Kashmir below the Pir Panchal range. One of the characteristic feature of Veyeth is that it is always calm, mostly from Khanbal to Khadinyar. It looks like it is sleeping, but to the two extreme ends Veyet assumes roaring magnitudes.  It is violent, one can say, on two extremes.

The land carries the remains of oldest civilizations which were unearthed by archaeologists on the plateaus of Burzhama, Harwan, Kutbal and Semithan. It has got the oldest literary evidences of Nilmatpura and Rajtarangini which, apart from detailing the various nuances of the valley, records important historical events of our neighbouring nations.

This is the nation which besides having its own indigenous history has its own records and well developed scripts and traditions which cannot be downgraded. No doubt politics played a great role in ruining the centuries old identity of this nation time and again, but nothing can destroy the recorded history and neither can anything omit its legends from its annals. The historical of this place are filled with the details of political and cultural achievements of King Ashoka, Konshika, Lalitadatiya, Awantivarman, Kalsa, Richna, Budshah, Shahab-ud-din, Yousuf Shah, Akbar, Jahangir and Shahijahan.

Its institutions which not only provided education to its own people but people of neighbouring countries also felt privileged when they could avail the opportunity to learn in these institutions. Throughout its history Kashmir has produced great scholars, who, during their respective times, were accounted for international repute. Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi and Baba Dawood Khakis contributions towards Islamic and Sufi literatures are still considered as outstanding while as a number of great theorists including Shaivite philosopher Abhinavagupta who founded the basis of Indian theory of aesthetics.

The valley of Kashmir has served as home for Sharda, Sanskrit Persian and Arabic scripts and literatures and produced great poets and writers as well.

This land has been fertile were wisdom of its people solved many a big issues of international level. Buddhists not only found this land as ‘the best’ for meditation but they could also solve the internal differences in the calmness of the ambience of this place. It was the result of international Buddhist conference held during the time of Kanishka in 1st century AD that Buddhist thought was revived and restored in a new order called ‘Northern Buddhism’ which later flourished in the lands of Tibet  and China.

During the 14th century AD, the Muslim missionaries also found this land peaceful and they arrived along with their families and cultivated the message of oneness of GOD.

This land, which is millions of year’s old age and bestowed by nature with glorious climate and fine environment, has unfortunately found itself in an unending quagmire of conflict and hopelessness. It has been feeding its people since 4,000 B.C and now it is caught between two nuclear neighbours always ready to pull the trigger anytime.

To quote Azad, the famous Kashmiri poet, he says

Kalhan Gani Te Sarfi, Sarab Ker Yem Aben

Sui Abb Sani Baphat Zahray Hilal Asey

(The waters of this land that nourished Kalhan, Gani and sarfi like legendary intellectuals- how can its waters turn poison for us now?).

This land was consolidated in 1846 and given the name- The state of Jammu and Kashmir- with its composite and distinctive cultural identity.   It has got its own constitution, which needs to be preserved and restored in its original form, tempering of its constitutional identity means weakening of its cultural identity as well.

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