Friday, June 18, 2021
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Kashmir, Kashmiri Heritage & Kashmiri Pandits

By Vats Ambardar

Never ever in recent history, Kashmir has come into such sharp focus, as days ahead of Navreh, the new year of Kashmir and Kashmir Pandits, who are in exile in their own country for over three decades. Condemned back home for their nationalistic ethos, over five lakh community members have been silently yearning far away from their homes, “Aame Pane Sadrus Naavi Chas Taraan, Kati Bozi Dayi Maeun Diyam Na Taar, Aamen Taaken Poen Zan Chamaan Zoo Chum Bramaan Ghar Gachcha.’ (As water seeps through unbaked clay, so life seeps from my frame, a yearning for home fills me up, I pine for whence I came).
The silent prayers hitherto fore, however, became overwhelmingly pronounced with Kashmiri Pandits taking a pledge this Navreh to return back to their land of dreams and ancestors by Navreh 2022.
The resolve echoed so loud that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) joined the chorus with General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale, while addressing Kashmiri Pandits on occasion of Navreh, wishing the displaced and hounded out aborigines to celebrate their next year in their homeland. He hailed Shree Bhat and Lalitaditya as two icons of Kashmir, and examples of sacrifice and bravery. He also shared the story of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who fought for Kashmiri Pandits.
The reference to Lalitaditya and Shree Bhat has a context, which has lost relevance in the din of distorted history enforced subtly with a purpose. The ‘purpose’ has manifested in what Kashmiri Pandits had to face in terms of forced exodus, first during the times of Shree Bhat in 1423 AD and as latest as in 1990 when they were hounded out by Jihadis.
In Kalhana’s Rajtarangini, the history of Kashmir is incomplete without mention of the Kingdom of Maharaja Lalitaditya. Kalhana describes Lalitaditya as a very strong ruler, who asserted his power far beyond Kashmir and adjacent territories.
He is represented as a great conqueror, whose reign was mostly passed in expeditions abroad.
The numerous foreign expeditions of Lalitaditya and his ultimate disappearance on one of these forays towards north reminds one of the Greek Conquerors, Alexander who was of a similar disposition and in that respect Lalitaditya may be considered superior.
The descriptions of his foreign expeditions have a mixture of historical and legendary details.
His first enterprise was directed against Yasovarman, the ruler of Kanyakubja or Kanauj. After the defeat of Yasovarman, the King is supposed to have triumphantly marched round the whole of India, from Bengal and Orissa in the east to Kathiawar and Kambojas (Afghanistan) in the west.
However, the absence of any historical details and the strict geographical order of countries named suggest that these conquests have been more or less of a legendary nature.
Alberuni also mentions that Kashmiris of his time used to celebrate annually on a certain day a festival to commemorate the victory which their King Muktapida had won over Turks.
Apart from these numerous conquests and foreign expeditions, Lalitaditya had been a builder of renown. Numerous shrines and sacred images were erected during his time.
The ruins of the splendid Sun Temple of Martanda are still the most striking object of ancient Hindu architecture in the Valley.
The location of the temple itself is very prominent. The ruins of the Temple are even at present a great attraction for tourists. Kalhana mentions the town of Martanda near the temple which was swelling with grapes.
The most important proof of the scale and extent of the building operations of Lalitaditya are the ruins of Parihaspora, which he built as his new capital.
The plateau where Lalitaditya built his capital is now known as Parspor Udar. It rises south-east of Shadipur between the marshes of Panznor and Hartrath. There are ruins of numerous temples, vihara, and other structures here.
This should be an eye opener to historians, that the territory of Maharaj Lalitaditya was double that of the Mughals.
Acharya Abhinavgupta, who lived in the 10th century, a scholar, a saint, the pioneer of Shaiv Trika philosophy, was also a scholar of Kashmir, whose work is still being researched throughout the world.
But we can’t forget works of Khemendra, a pupil of Acharya Abhinavgupta, so Kashmir’s contribution to the world, especially Sanatan Sanskriti/Bhartiya Sanskriti in terms of mystics, music, astrology, astronomy is tremendous.
The enlightenment created by our predecessors faded when dark clouds took reign of this land, and would have faded away completely, were it not for our hero, Shree Bhat. Born on April 12, Shree Bhat’s story began during the rule of tyrants in 1423 AD.
This was the time when Hindus had been continuously targeted by the invaders and being ruled by them.
One day, the Prince was on a boat ride across the Jhelum, when he threw a pebble on an earthen pot that a Hindu woman was carrying.
To the prince’s surprise, the pot did not break and neither the water flowed out, instead, the Prince collapsed, and fell ill. Days went by and the illness did not subside.
The Sultan acknowledged the spiritual power of the woman and had no choice but to plead her and her husband, so that they would cure his son, the Prince. But when they chose not to, a wide search throughout the land was conducted. Before this search, the Sultan also fell ill the same way as his son was.
This is when Shree Bhat, a scholar physician, who was living in obscurity, was found. Shree Bhat guaranteed that he would cure the Sultan and his son, and in exchange he was offered whatever he would ask.
Being true to his people, Shree Bhat sought properties usurped from Hindus to be returned; unjust taxes forced on the Hindus to be stopped; the temples that were destroyed by the previous rulers be rebuilt and, importantly, the Hindus, who were forced to leave their homes be re-established.
The historians, social scientists and philanthropists did not find it appropriate to glorify a selfless monk, who reinvented the Sanatan civilisation which was in shambles.
That is why the story of Shree Bhat was narrated over generations in Hindu households of Kashmir, inspiring people even 600 years later.
It was on his birthday, a day before Navreh this year, the Sanjeevni Sharda Kendra, inspired by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, organised a three-day programme-Triavini– aimed at depicting the metaphysical essence of Kashmiri, valour, contributions of Kashmir In terms of economics, astrology, astronomy and Trika philosophy. Navreh, the celebration of a new year in accordance with the Hindu calendar, having great significance in Kashmiri Hindu culture, was celebrated on April 13. Vijay Diwas, dedicated to Lalitaditya Muktapida, the greatest ruler of Kashmir was observed on April 14. Though RSS Sarsangchalak Dr Mohan Rao Bhagwat, was scheduled to interact exclusively with Kashmiri Hindu community, via video conferencing, yet due to his hospitalisation for treatment of COVID-19, General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale addressed the displaced community. The Margdarshan of the RSS under present circumstances is certainly going to change the discourse in the entire Indian subcontinent and will have a definite impact on future of Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits as well.

(The author is a Post Graduate student of Punjab University Chandigarh, who prefixes his name as ‘A Kashmiri Pandit in exile’)

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