Hindu Dimension of Kashmir


Dr. Romesh Raina

History records pre-Islamic period of Kashmir as Sanskrit history or Hindu history of Kashmir and divides rest of Islamic period thereafter into three stages as post sultant(Muslim period),Shahan-I-Muglai(Mugal period) and shahan-I-Durrani(Afghan Period).Despite Kashmir becoming Islamic,the Hindu roots of Kashmir remain deeply embedded in its soil cultivated richly by visionaries,thought leaders,saints and sages who ensured that it remains in the race memory of the people and society.It implies that the basic elements continue to remain unchanged even till date.It is a fact that Islam conquered Kashmir politically but could not conquer it culturally, spiritually and ideologically.Despite persistent efforts to erase the pre-Islamic past of Kashmir,the hindu history continues to dominate the social edifice of the place and internationally acclaimed Historical testament“Rajtarangni by Kalhana” stands tall to prevent the closure of its Hindu dimension.

The Sanskrit history of Kashmir came to be recognized as the Sanskrit civilization which constitutes an important chapter in the Religious history of Kashmir.The religious architecture of the place grew and evolved as a Hindu cultural continuum which assumed an uninterrupted continuity over the years.It formed the broad base on which the subsequent socio-religious structure continued to be erected.The socio-religious life thus emerged within the framework of Hindu culture.This developed form of Hinduism that incorporated distinctive local features in all the spheres reflected the local religious culture which shaped the framework of Kashmir.


Social domination constitutes the driving force of hindu history which laid the foundations of strong customs,rituals and beliefs.A view from later history holds it as anti-Islam thus paving the way for battle for Islam.It became a major element in foisting Muslim identity of Kashmir.It is characterized by imposing a new religious stream hitherto alien to Kashmir which started engulfing the Valley in a big way.It dug deep enough to gradually impact the societal sensibilities.The initial impulses changed the leanings to exert disproportionate influence on the indigenous religious community.

Hinduism being the ancient religion in practice there had evolved over the ages. With its widespread destruction, it was brought face to face with Islam.The protracted onslaught against Hinduism resulted in civilizational assault with far reaching consequences on the psyche and history of future.The history of Kashmir hereafter is the story of Muslim rule under which Islamic zeal attained fanatical proportions.Its first casuality was the demolition of Hindu State.Almost 500 years of Sultant period saw an unfettered intensification of assault on Hinduism barring few periods when Hinduism saw revival and Zain-ul-Abdein stands tall in creating a legitimate religious space for Kashmiri Pandits.Shreya Bhat an eminent hindu vedacharya turned out to be a big factor in motivating and transforming Zain-ul-Abdein to be a truly liberal and secular ruler who treated all the subjects as equals.Subsequently the policy of religious humanism as the mainstay of his political philosophy yielded results and proved to be a golden period for the hindus of Kashmir.Hitherto under great stress, the policies adopted by Sultan proved to be a new and fresh chapter for the revival of hindu civilization.

While the professional role of Vaidacharaya Shreya Bhat in bringing dying Sultan back to life is well recognized and documented but the folklore behind the incident is lesser known. It is said that Shreya Bhat came across a Hindu jogi during his routine early morning sandhya prayers who enquired the reason about the absence of Hindus in the Valley.On coming to know about the prevailing situation,he is believed to have suggested Vaidacharya to seriously take up the responsibility of rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits.Consequently in this regard he is believed to have offered his soul to dying monarch on the condition that his body be preserved for three months and during the period the process for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits be expedited but saying is that the jogi’s body was cremated soon thereafter. Thenceforward it was the hindu ascetic’s soul ruling in the body of Zain-ul-Abedein.One thing merits attention here is that he was totally a transformed man post sickness.

Central to 500 years of various periods of Muslim rule is the complete demolition of Hindu State and symbols of Hinduism but failure to kill hinduness of the place. Though the entry of Islam completed process of conversion but retained its original content. This is evident from the fact that Kashmiri Muslims world over are known as Asthanparst because its shrines derive its name from Asthapan which means centres of pilgrimage.Another important thing to note is the mode of religious worship which has adopted distinct features uncommon to Islamic practices elsewhere.Viewed against this backdrop, vegetarianism on the anniversaries of Muslim Reshis popularly known as urs constitutes an important element of the religious life of its people.Not only that Darudkhwani and Naatkhwani is a religious peculiraty at urs venues but uncommon in the religious assemblies of Muslims elsewhere.Holding of Fateha ceremony in the memory of deceased,veneration of sufi saints,Tombs and graves is yet another manifestation of its continuance with past religious traditions and heritage. Though the core beliefs of Hindu religion were constantly challenged yet the neo-converts defied to retain their hindu surnames.Muslim Mosques though constitute fundamental places of worship but came to be known as Khanqah in Kashmir because these places were not used for offering prayers only but served as basic Muslim institutions for imparting the Muslim sufi education and practices.Survival of residual Hinduism despite constant onslaughts therefore doesn’t allow the full closure of hindu chapter of Kashmir.


Upaplavapriya Desa means a country which is delighted in insurrection,this is how Kalhana describes Kashmir.This phrase is illustrative of the uninterrupted social and civil stress foisted on the place as a consequence of deep religious split in the broader sense.The religious dimension therefore is central to the onward cycle and long journey of history as a new force.Its impact is so strongly associated with Islamic influence as it tells the story of religious culture of Islam thenceforwards.

The objective of this long narration is to highlight the fact that Hinduism has deep civilisational roots in Kashmir and people are intensely aware of this legacy. Though the subsequent flow of history is dominated by the changing religious landscape of the place.It tells the story of its people, place and changing dynamics especially religious leaders who used religious politics to capture the religious psyche of the people.It brought with it sweeping changes to political social,and cultural perspectives of the place.The aim was to impact pre-Islamic religious environment and communities by engineering forgetting of its past.In its ideological and political spectrum the sense of hindu identity constitutes an important pole of its structure and edifice. The idea of Kashmir therefore cannot be so easily delinked from its Hindu civilization as it lives in its socio-psychological memory.
Dr. Romesh Raina