Somewhere down the memory lane!
For most of the people in India as well as outside of India, the story of Kashmir begins in 1947 with the huge political developments unfolding in the subcontinent right after the much cherished dawn of independence. It is followed by partition and with the partition Kashmir emerges as a dispute between India and Pakistan- a dispute that continues to linger on for decades now at a colossal human cost.
But rarely people know that Kashmir is among the only few places in the world that has a recorded history of over five thousand years in the form of reliable books, chronicles, folktales, dialogues etc. A very famous work that details out the historical nuances of this place can be found in the compilation of manuscripts by Munshi Muhammad Din Fouq in the year 1910.
Circumstantial realities, as we may like to say, reduced Kashmir to its contemporary form dating back to 1846, when, by the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar at the conclusion of the Anglo- Sikh War, Raja Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, was created maharaja of an extensive but ill-defined Himalayan kingdom which included Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and also Aksai Chin. Apart from years of campaigning’s in the mountainous areas and securing support from smaller kingdoms, Gulab Singh also paid 75 lakh Nanakshai ruppes to the British to keep Kashmir as his kingdom.
This was followed by dynastic rule right up to 1947 and most of us are well aware of this period.
Sun temple, Martrand
The valley of Kashmir, however, has had a glorious past and has cherished some of the most fundamental foundational concepts that went on to influence not just culture, religiosity, and aesthetics of India but the philosophy as well. For centuries on, the influence of some of the most critical concepts and theories developed by iconic Kashmiri philosophers and philanthropists continued to influence people not just in India but also in other parts of the world.
This is the time when Kashmir was a country- and now it has been reduced to a Union Territory!
However, Kashmir, before the advent of Muslim rule, was very successfully governed by Brahmans, non-Brahmans and Buddhists and each era indicates the intellectual growth and tremendous advances that were made particularly in the field of arts, literature, music, philosophy as well as culture. This was a place which drew in the best of the concepts from various cultures that reached here and assimilated the same as much as to make them its own.
Sir Mark Aurel Stein, a very profound historian, in his English translation of The Rajtarangini has recorded a detailed account of such events.
Take, for instance, Abhinavagupta (950–1020 CE) –one of India’s greatest philosophers, mystics and aestheticians an important musician, poet, dramatist and a theologian who wrote extensively on religion and aesthetics besides other things- How many of us know that Abhinavagupta was a Kashmiri?
He contributed largely to Indian theory of aesthetics and a very important contributions he made was in the field of philosophy of aesthetics with his famous Abhinavabhāratī commentary of Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata Muni. He is revered for his works, most famous of which is Tantrāloka, a treatise on all the philosophical and practical aspects of Trika and Kaula (known today as Kashmir Shaivism).
Kalhana, probably the first historian in India was a Kashmiri Brahmin who lived in the 12th century. Kalhana’s historical account, ‘Rajatarangini’, has been the most pivotal account over the past millennia and is the first historical account of Kashmiri kings and ruling dynasties.
Kalhana, many historians say- was the first- to write for the purpose of history, and as a historian. Till this time India had seen only religious texts and there was no pure historical record available. It took Kalhana two years to write the history of the rulers of Kashmir, starting from legends to the kings and queens of the 12th century.
Unfortunately, the same rich- historically as well as culturally Kashmir began losing its sheen with the constant aggressions that it faced on its borders, hegemonic rulers and uprisings.
Kashmir of Kalhana was a different story than the Kashmir of today. There are numerous marvelous personalities- from poetry to music and to art and crafts- people who have grown in Kashmir and have contributed to the world in one way or the other but we have unfortunately forgotten them somewhere in the pages of the history.