The Great Historians of Kashmir - Earliest to 1752

Historians and Historiography of Kashmir
 (Earliest Times to 1752 A.D.)
*- Dr. Satish Ganjoo 


Kashmir had a strong tradition of historical writing from very early times. This was because of the persistence of Buddhism in the Valley with its greater historical sense than Brahmanism. Buddhism, with a sense of history, influenced the Kashmiri mind. Kashmir’s historical ties with a number of non-Indian cultures, - the Greek, the Chinese and the Central Asian, all of which had strong historical traditions; developed the sense of historical writings in the people of the Valley.

With the establishment of Sultanate in Kashmir in 1320, many learned men from Persia and Turkistan began to penetrate into the Valley. They brought with them the Persian and Central Asian traditions of historiography. Ksemendra was the ornament of the Sanskrit poets of Kashmir, whose literary career run from 1037 A.D. to 1066 A.D. He is reputed to be the author of many books, of which thirty four, believed to be obtainable, have mostly been printed at the Nirnayasagara Press, Bombay. However, Kalhana has criticized his Nrpavali for his classic error. Bilhana, senior to Kalhana in point of age, is the author of Vikramankadevacharita, Karna-Sundari Mala & Chaurapanchasika. But Bilhana is not good at history. He is a poet whose language is simple and clear. He gives a beautiful glimpse of the Srinagar of his days in the “slokas” of the eighth chapter of his Vikramankadevacharita on the adventures of Vikrama.Kalhana’s Rajtarangini1 written in the pre-Muslim period in Kashmir, is a long narrative of occurrences taking place in the Valley from the earliest times to 1150 A.D. Written in verses, it is based on traditions, legends and inscriptions. However, Rajtarangini is unique as the only attempt at true history in the whole of surviving Sanskrit literature. It comprises eight cantos. Each canto is called a “Taranga” or wave. The number of verses in each canto is – i) 373 , ii) 171, iii) 530, iv) 720, v) 483, vi) 368, vii) 1732, viii)3449. The first translation of a portion of the Rajtarangini was in Persian, made by order of Sultan Zainul Abidin who named the version Bahr-ul-Asmar or “The Sea of Tales”. Akbar ordered Mulla Abdul Qadir Badauni to revise this version and to complete the translation. An abridged edition of the Rajtarangini, in Persian, was brought out by Haidar Malik Chadura during the reign of Jahangir.

Two hundred years later, Jonaraja continued the narration down to the reign of Sultan Zainul Abidin and called it, like Kalhana, Rajtarangini (Rajavali). After the death of Jonaraja in 1459, his pupil Srivara continued the history of Kashmir, called it Jaina-Rajtarangini and brought it down from 1459 to 1486 A.D. When Srivara died, Prajyabhatta composed his Rajavalipataka, which covered the period from 1486 to 1512 A.D. But being defective in topography and chronology, Prajyabhatta’s work is of very little importance. Suka Pandit, a pupil of Prajyabhatta, wrote Rajtarangini after the name of Kalhana’s work, dealing with the history of the period from 1517 to 1596 A.D. But like Prajyabhatta, his topography is defective and chronology incomplete.


An important Sanskrit work of the medieval Kashmir is Lokaprakasa. It seems to be the product of a number of learned persons including Ksemendra. But it does not rank with history, though it supplies many a useful information for the social history of medieval Kashmir.Sayyid Ali’s Ratikh-I-Kashmir2 (Tarikh-I-Kashmir) is the only extant Persain source written in Kashmir before the Mughal occupation in 1586 A.D. Sayyid Ali’s treatment to his subject is that of a chronicler rather than of a historian. He is deficient both in chronology and topography. However, his work is essentially important for the activities of Mir Sayyid Ali and his disciples; the iconoclastic activities of Sultan Sikandar and Mir Muhammad Hamdani’s influence on the religious thought of the Sultan; Zainul Abidin’s enlightened religious policy and his encouragement to arts and crafts; the struggle for power between Muhammad Shah and Fateh Shah; and, the brief biographical notices of Sufis and Rishis flourishing in the Sultanate period. Sayyid Ali furnishes an eye-witness account of Mirza Haidar Dughlat’s rule in Kashmir, his policy towards the Shias and the circumstances leading to his downfall. The Tarikh-I-Kashmir of an anonymous author written in 1590 A.D. is one of the earliest Persian sources.


Based on the Sanskrit chronicles and some earlier non-existent Persian accounts, it is a narrative of events from ancient times to 1537-38. Though incomplete in many important details, it is a useful source for it describes those events in detail which have been omitted by the Baharistan-I-Shahi, Haider Malik’s Tarikh-I-Kashmir and other Persian chronicles. Nothing is know about the author of Baharistan-I-Shahi3 beyond the popular belief that he was a Shia and that his great grand-father, Mulla Husan-ud-Din, was an immigrant from Ghazni. The Baharistan-I-Shahi describes the history of Kashmir from the earliest times to 1615 A.D. Though the pre-lslamic period has been dismissed in a few pages, the events taking place in Kashmir from the accession of Rinchana to 1614 have been narrated fully. The historical value of the Baharistan is further enhanced by its full description of the activities of Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi. No other chronicler has given so much importance to the role of the founder of the Nurbakshiya Order in Kashmir. The author also narrates in detail the events leading to the Mughal conquests of Kashmir in 1586. The work is composed in an ornamental language.Haidar Malik’s Tarikh-I-Kashmir, written in a simple and lucid style, supplies valuable information for the period 1586 to 1621 A.D. His purpose in writing history was to preserve the memory of his own ancestors who, according to author, played an important role in shaping the course of events in Kashmir. The part played by the supernatural forces in determining the course of events; so omnipresent in Kashmiri literature, poetry and folklore; is sometimes found a determining factor in Haidar Malik’s chronicle. But occasionally the author is also concerned with historical causation.


The Tarikh-I-Kashmir by Hasan-bin-Ali Kashmiri furnishes a short account of Kashmir’s past from the earliest times to 1616 A.D. Not only are the sources of Hasan’s Tarikh and Baharistan the same, but both works seem to suffer from the same lacuna. There is a complete omission of the events taking place in the reign of the later Shah Mirs and the Chaks, though there is a casual mention of Yaqub Shah’s submission to Akbar. However, the importance of the work lies in its treatment of the history of the Sultanate period up to the end of Hasan Shah’s reign (1472-84), for which period it is very useful.Narayan Kaul was a Kashmiri Brahman who wrote Tarikh-I-Kashmir (Muntakhabut-Tawarikh) from the earliest times to 1710 A.D. Rafi-ud-din Ahmad was a Kashmiri by birth, who completed his Nawadir-ul-Akhbar at Shahjahanbad in 1723 A.D. It contains useful information regarding the civil wars which took place after Sultan Hasan Shah’s reign. However, this work needs to be read with caution as it overemphasizes the religious factors in these wars. Waqiat-I-Kashmir (Tarikhi-Azami) by Muhammad Azam was written in 1747 A.D. The work is written in simple Persian. It describes not only the political history, but also throws light on the life and achievements of various Sayyids, Sufies, Ulema and Poets. There are useful references to the prevalence of Begar (forced labour) in Kashmir.

The migration of Kashmiries to the Punjab and Delhi is referred to on account of the political disturbances and economic instability in the time of the later Mughals.The Persian chroniclers of Kashmir seem to have copied the traditions of historical writing in Hindustan and Persia. They were also influenced by Kalhana. But they could not rise to the height of Kalhana. Unlike Kalhana, their treatment of history as a narrative of occurrences does not suggest any inter-relationship among the events in a board historical perspective. Whenever they try to explain anything, the stress is more or less in explaining historical causation in personal terms. The Kashmiri writers were also ignorant of the histories of Central Asia, Persia and Hindustan. They also depended on common sources and lacked the power of critical analysis. Muhammad Azam alone has applied the critical historical method in his Waqiat-I-Kashmir.

The religious zeal shown by the medieval Indian historians like Zia-ud-Din Barani and Mulla Abdul Qadir Badauni seems to be present in the Persian works of Kashmir also; but the Kashmiri writers do not show any fanaticism in their writings. The spirit of religious toleration guided the writings of Kashmiri writers. The author of Baharistan-I-Shahi, though supposed to be a Shia, condemns the policy of Yaqub Shah towards the Sunnis.


The influence of local environment on the chroniclers has let an imaginative or rather poetic touch to their writings. The natural surroundings of rivers, springs, lakes, mountains and the legendary tales connected with them have also found a prominent place in the Sanskrit and Persian chronicles. Almost all medieval works, with a few exceptions, begin with the legendary description of land. While all histories of Hindustan written during the Sultanate and Mughal period ignore the pre-Islamic period of Indian history; and, while many begin their narratives with the description of the general history of Islam; the Kashmiri chroniclers do not show their extra-territorial links with the lands of Islam. Perhaps, the geographical isolation of Kashmir fostered a stronger sense of regional bias in their writings.Biographies of Saints have greater historical value than other type of non-political literature produced in Kashmir.


These biographical accounts enable us to understand the powerful impact of Sufism in Kashmir. The following works were produced during the Mughal period (1586-1752) in Kashmir:-1. Mulla Ali Raina Tarikh-ul Arifin (1587)2. Baba Nasib Rishi-Nama (1631)3. Daud Mishkati Asrar-ul-Abrar (1653)4. Mulla bin Abdus Sahur Khewariq-us-Salakin (1698)5. Wahab Futuhat-I-Kubraviya (1748-49)Some non-Kashmiri chronicles also provide useful information about Kashmir.

The earliest available information supplied by a Muslim regarding Kashmir is found in Al-Masudi’s Muruj-uz-Zahab (941-43). Al-Masudi describes the geography of Kashmir. There are three Central Asian histories which throw some valuable light on Kashmir. They are the Zafarname of Sharaf-ud-din Al Yazdi, completed in 1424-25; the Malfuzat-I-Timuri, attributed to Timur; and, Mirza Haidar’s Tarikh-I-Rashidi, written in 1546. There are useful references regarding Kashmir in Tarikh-I-Mubarak Shahi of Yahya Ahmad Sirhindi; Tarikh-I-Daudi of Abdullah; and, Tarikh-Khan-I-Jahani. Some indigenous historical works written by non-Kashmiries, during the period under review; and, which contain useful information regarding Kashmir, are :-1. Nizam-ud-Di : Tabaqat-I-Akbari2. Abul Fazl : Ain-I-AkbariAkbar- Nama3.Hasan Beg : Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh4. Muhammad Qasim Firishta : Tarikh-I-FirishtaGulzar-I-Ibrahimi5.Abdul Qadir Badauni : Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh6. Muhammad : Sharif-an-Najafi Majalis-I-Salatin7.Jahangir : Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri8. Amin Ahmad Razi Haft : Iqlim9. Mutamid Khan : Iqbal-nama Jahangiri10.Abdul Hamid Lahori : Badshahnama11.Muhammad Amin Qazwini : Badshahnama12.Muhammad Saleh Khmbu : Amal-I-Sadeh13.(unknown) : Kitab-I-Dabistan-I-Mazhab14.Aurangzeb : Ruqaat-I-Alamgiri, Kalimat-I-Tayyibat.The following Travel Accounts were produced by the European authors, and contain useful references to Kashmir:1.Du Jarric, F. An Account of the Jesuit Missions to the Court of Akbar ; tr. by C.H.Payne as: Akbar and the Jesuits, Broadway Series London 1926.2.Pelsaert, F. Remonstrantie; tr. by W.H.Moreland and P.Geyl as: Jahangir’s India, Cambridge 1923. 3.Bernier, F. Travels in Mughal Empire 1656-68, Oxford 1914.4.Fillipo,De Filippi. The Travels of Appolit Desideri of Pistoia 1712-27, Lonodon 1937.The Manuscripts on the history of Kashmir, available in the British Museum, London, are nine in number. According to Rieu’s Catalogue, Vol III, p. 1195, they are:-1. Rajataranki Folios 131 written in 1586 A.D.2. Baharistan-I-Shahi Folios 180 written in 1614 A.D.3. Tarikh-I-Kashmir Folios 224 written in 1620 Haidar Malik Chadura4. Tarikh-I-Kashmir Folios 125 written in 1710 Pandit Narayan Kaul5. Navadir-ul-Akbar Folios 131 witten in 1723 Rafi-ud-Din Ahmad6. Waqiat-I-Kasmir Folios 315 written in 1747 Muhammad Azam( Also Tarikh-I-Kashmir by Haji Muhammad Azam Peshawari is noted by Rieuin his Catalogue, Vol,III, p.1013a, III )7. Gauhar-I-Alam folios 91 Written in 1774 A.D. (One copy by Badi-ud-Din in 1774 A.D.and another copy by Abul Qasim AslamMunimi in 1850 A.D) (Wladimir Ivanow’s Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the collection of theRoyal Asiatic Society of Bengal (No.189, p.59) calls it Gauhar-nama-I-Alam, and says that the copy in question is a history of Kashmir up to 1786 A.D. or thereafter. The work is dedicated to Shah Alam (1759-1806 A.D.) and was originally composed in 1747 A.D., but subsequently completed about 1786 A.D.It is divided into a maqadama (containing a general description of Kashmir), six tabaqas and a khatima; but the khatima is missing in the copy. )8. Hishmat-I-Kashmir folios 20 Written in 1829 Abdul Qadir Khan bin Wasil Ali Khan( A copy of this manuscript is in the Curzon Collection of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, No 42,p.21)9. Lubb-ut-Tawarikh folios 123 Written in 1845 A.D.(name of the author is not given)NOTES: 1.Sir Mark Aurel Stein’s English Translation of Kalhana’s Rajtarangini, Vols. I and II, 1990.Rajtarangini-The Saga of the Kings of Kashmir, Translation from the original Sanskrit by Ranjit Sita Ram Pandit, 1934.2.Dr.GMD Sufi (Kashmir, I, Lahore, 1948-49, p.xi) says that the work was written in Muhammad Shah’s reign (1530-37). But Prof. Mohibbul Hasan (Kashmir Under The Sultans,p.5n) says that it was completed in 1579 during Yusuf Shah’s reign. The latter view apperars to be correct because of the names of Sayyid Mubarak and Lohar Shah in the chronicle.3.The author of Baharistan-I-Shahi is supposed to be Sayyid Muhammad Mahdi, a Shia writer, on account of the special exposition of Shia tenets and the exploits of Shia heroes.

*- Dr. Satish Ganjoo was born on May 1, 1956, to Shri Omkarnath Ganjoo and Smt Sheela Ganjoo in the Saffron Valley of Kashmir. He obtained the coveted academic degrees of M.Phil (1983) and Ph.D (1987) in Modern History and International Relations from the University of Kashmir. He held the distinguished faculty positions in various colleges in Kashmir. Dr. Ganjoo developed the excellent potential for research and published a number of books on diverse topics of history, politics, international relations and Islamic studies. Besides Dr. Ganjoo was involved in different interdisciplinary research projects, participated in several seminars and wrote about sixteen research papers. Presently working as Senior Faculty Member at the Post Graduate Dept. of History, Ramgarhia College Phagwra (India),
Books authored & edited
Afghanistan's Struggle for Resurgence, Soviet Afghan Relations, Dictionary of History, Kashmir Politics, Muslim Freedom Fighters of India, 3 vols, Economic System in Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Glimpses of Islamic World & Wailing Shadows in Kashmir
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Narayan Kaul was the elder brother of Dewan Dial Ram Kaul .He lived in Rainawari, Srinagar. His handwritten note in Persian was lost to me, his great great grandson during displacement from Kashmir. Some papers were handed over to Mr. Bazaz through a friend and neighbour of Narayan Kaul's grandson, Maheshwara Nath Kaul, Radhakrishan Dulloo ofRainawari Rainawari on request. Radhakrishan was a high official of State Education Deptt.
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