Scholars, Saints And The Syncretic Strain Part 1

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) E missaries and teachers, who travelled, during the early stage of Islam,almost fourteen centuries back, to the neighbouring lands of Arabia, played a great role in its propagation. Depending on their speciality they came to be called,
hufaaz, mubaligs, muhaddis and muffasir etc
that is
memorizers/ reciters; propagators; narrators of the statements of the holy Prophet and commentators/exegesis-experts of the holy verses,


But there was another type of men, characterised by their impressive temperament, having distinctive character that commanded reverence, far and wide. They were the
missionaries who traversed long distances and went as far as Africa, Persia, India etc. They did not merely sow the seed of Islam but impressed whoever came in contact with these meditating, contemplating, pacifists,
mystics, who taught disciples in their own distinct teaching-sessions/sermons; initiating seekers to
the gradual upward march.

Within Islam there was the orthodox element that saw the imbibing of local elements by the sprouting sufi schools as an alien element while as the Sufi's cited the handful of men present in Mecca during the nascent stage of Islam, or those found 'mostly seated within the premises of the Holy Mosque of Medina, usually
occupying-the-platform /
' as the precursors while some even saw the overnight stays of holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) in the Hira cave, in the pre-prophethood-declaration stage, as the seed of
but not all sects see it as a favourable strain. This mysticism was more popular outside Arabia, especially in Iraq, Persia, Central Asia etc, and
grew in

The conservative orthodoxy, at some places, gave lot of trouble to these mystics, opposed their philosophy vehemently, even persecuted many and hence we come across some names, who for having 'offended powerful muslim clergy-nigh to corridors of power'; and suffered ill treatment, say for example, the most-talked about, Mansur al Hallaj, who pronounced
Ana- al- haqq
that cost him his very life.

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Besides the clashes of the orthodox and the mystics, differences among the various sects within Islam(- 72
surfaced during the course of history, but glaring differences between the Shia/ Jafferi sect and
the Sunni sects (- that led to the darkest and most sad event,
within the very first century of Islam)
have not been fully reconciled in these 14 centuries and not only no matrimonial ties are forged between the two, but ' mosques are different and so are
Paish-nimazi-imams as well as practices'.

During the course of Islamization of Kashmir, history has seen Shia Sunni clashes right from the date of advent of missionaries and religious figures, from 1480 AD onwards,right through Chak rule, when bigotry and intolerance,is said to have touched a new crescendo.

Shah Miris, who were 'Dards of Swat' ruled Kashmir. Sultan Sikander Shahmiri, the 7th Sultan, who ruled from 1389 to 1413 AD, has gone down in history as 'the iconoclast' and it is said that in his time a considerable
section of the populace of Kashmir,had to
adopt Islam. However the period of his grandson's ( Zainul Abideen) was peaceful. It is also said that the post 1483 period of Chak Clan(-Dardic descent) witnessed strife and feuds.

A word of caution from my teacher:

“Researchers need to bear in mind the fact that almost all historians of bygone era, everywhere, were
who penned down things in an exaggerated manner,who saw things from their angle;
even twisted facts, so as to suit their pay masters as well as to secure their
personal interests. The braggings of one Musa Raina,the Prime Minister, need not be wholly true and researchers need to write about the period of Sultan Hassan Shah and Mohmmad Shah, with extra caution.”

Anyway, in recent times, that is post 1947, except for some small events(- that too were fueled and fanned by politicians), the overall situation is calm. However, it is noted with pain, that the social ties of the two sects are still weak.

R eaders are reminded that Kashmir not only played host to Islam, as revealed by its history, but also to Buddhism in ancient times and to Sikhism in recent times. Thus proving that there was some unique absorbing capacity inherent in this place which not only moulded its socio-religious and cultural fabric in its peculiar way but also spread its fame, rendering it attractive for the outside world - wherever the word travelled.

This land gained fame as the
Sharda Peeth
of yore,
Land of SARASWATI-the goddess of learning; where, from very early times, the great
of Hinduism, scholars of the divergent schools of Buddhism etc could discuss, debate, and foster a sort of hybridisation on syncretic lines, in its unique atmosphere. Hinduism and Buddhism influenced each other but the latter exhibited a metamorphosis on such a scale that its
school took a colour, completely alien to the primordial Buddhism of Lord Buddha. This happened in a comparatively peaceful manner but mad moments were not always far behind.

Not that violent-streaks had been completely washed off elsewhere; history is replete with events where one religion or school remained dominant for a period, followed by back lash, resurgence, brutal killings, gaining dominance, plundering religious symbols and centres. Likewise in Kashmir some kings, professing AND patronising
Trika Shaivism,
not only destroyed the Buddhist temples but were harsh on the followers. Thus, sadly we have lost the Buddhist Viharas and Stupas of Kashmir.

History tells us that in the first century AD, Central Asian Kushans invaded India under Hushika, Juska and Kanishka,conquering Kashmir as well. Kanishka propagated
Mahayana Buddhism
with great zeal and his Empire included Ladakh, Kabul, Yarkand, Agra, Punjab as well as Kashmir. Here The Buddhist Council was held at Kundalvan (possibly Harwan) monastery of Kashmir, thereafter
rose as the powerful school;
whose founder was Asvagosha; the propounder of
theory. (About the just mentioned
readers can read my writeup; that appeared in a local English daily on 18 Jan 2024).
Asvagosha was succeeded by Nagarjuna who founded The
school. Nagarjuna, it is said, caused weakening of the dominant
faith in Kashmir; that was in essence, Hinduism with local colour. By 100 AD Buddhism was split into
After Kanishka, Abhimanu ruled Kashmir. The traditional
rites and customs of the
faith dwindled.

In its heyday, many Buddhist teachers/monks from kashmir had sown the seeds of this religion in fertile soils like China, Tibet etc. Here are the names of some great Teachers of Kashmir: Sanghabuti 381 AD, KumarJiva 385, Dharmayasa 397, Punyatrata 404, Shakyashri Bhadra 405, Vimalaksha 406, Guru Varman 431 AD and Tributa, Jina Mitra, Ananda etc. (Those interested in Buddhism of Kashmir, especially the Parihaspora site, can study Stein's work of 1892
and that of Indian archaeologists, done in 1925; besides reading the literature available about Lamaism of Ladakh.
The National
also known as
Kasmira Mahatmya;
written around the 6th-8th century, speaks about these
while narrating the legend of Satisar. (
was the Supreme lord of all the

The legend says that lord
had allocated this land to
Lord Brahma
had given boon to the lake demon,
Jalodbhava. The lake itself had been created exclusively for the gods and goddesses but this demon would make it
his safe refuge after terrorising the populace. At the end,
Lord Vishnu & Lord Ananta
drained out the water of
Satisar, and killed the demon. Later in time
Nagas, Pisacas and Manavas
are said to have cohabited here.

Hieun Tsang too is believed to have borrowed the legend of Satisar lake from this Nilamata Purana. So did our Annals, Kashmir's
penned by Kalhana in the 12th Century; translated into English
by Sir Marc Aurel Stein, in 1900.

Kalhans book contains information about the 'history ' of Kashmir from 7th century AD to 1150 AD, that of Jonaraja(dvitiya =part ll of
Rajatarangini) from 1100 to 1400 AD, that of Srivasa(
tritya=part III) from 1400 to 1490 and that of Prajna Bhatta(chaturthi=4th)
upto 1590. All in Sanskrit.

However, it has to be kept in view that in spite of the praise showered by modern historiographers on Kalhan, the fanciful accounts and the legendary part borrowed from
Nilamatapurana, and that given in the first three cantos of Rajatarangini; obviously borrowed chiefly from some then-existing-chronicles, can not be strictly treated as history, though useful.

Rajatarangni starts with King Gonanda -I
time, as per internal evidence) and it is said 52 kings preceded him. (It is said to mention goddess
Sharda & River Vitasta in
1, Shivratri
in Tarang 8, and
in Tarang

During King Nara's reign, (around 190 AD), it is said, the enraged
levelled the Buddhist temples to the ground and burnt thousands of
It also happened under the
ruler Mihir Kula(-died in 612 AD). Readers may recall that in the fall of Gupta dynasty Kashmir went in the hands of
when Mihir Kula, after being expelled from the Punjab, first found refuge here, then usurped power. Reins of government remained in the hand of these Huns till the Karkota (Nagas)
Dynasty came to power in the first half of the seventh century,
beginning with the rule of DurlabhaVardana. In 2nd half of the 7th century AD PartapaDitya son of DurlabhaVardhana, ruled Kashmir. This last mentioned Karkota king had three sons: Vajraditya Chandrapida, Udayaditya Tarapida and Lalitaditya Muktapida. Chandrapida (711-719 AD) sent an envoy to the Chinese emperor asking for aid against Arabs, as Muhammad bin Qasim had probably reached the frontiers of Kashmir but before he could enter Kashmir he was recalled and died soon, thereafter. Tarapida ruled from 720-724 AD, whereafter Lalitaditya, the great Karkota king ruled till 760 AD. The latter is said to have conquered Kanuj in Central India; area upto Orissa, possibly Deccan, Punjab, Dardistan & parts of Tibet, Ladakh etc but modern writers have labelled it as exaggeration. It must be borne in mind that Sahi's ruled in Kabul and Kandahar (Gandhara)
that time and the Muhammadan invaders of Arabia were advancing towards North India from Sindh. Lalitaditya is said to have died either in Afghanistan, or during the onslaught on Tibet. Famous Martand temple of Kashmir
is attributed to this Lalitaditya.

Chaotic affairs Continued during the last 50 years of Karkota dynasty; thereafter Avintivarman of the Utpala dynasty ascended to the throne in 855 AD and the dynasty continued till Lohara Dynasty came to power in 1003 AD. The period from 1003 to 1170 was marred by internal conflicts. In the 12th century Kashmir was conquered by the muslims; around 1316 Sikander ruled Kashmir and in 1323 AD a prince of Ladakhi origin Rinchen came to the scene bearing a Muslim name.

A Mohammedan adventurer of Swat, Shah Mir, employed by Kashmir's then Prime Minister cum Commander in chief, Ram Chandera, overthrew the Lohara queen Kota Rani
in 1339AD. Rinchen (-a refugee; bestowed with Jageer of
Lar Valley), was also waiting for an opportunity. Invasion
by a Tartar chief from Central Asia,Dulucha, who ravaged Kashmir forced Kashmiri king Suhadeva, to flee to Kishtwar. Dulchana and Rinchen attacked Srinagar town from East and North, respectively. For eight months Dulucha ravaged the Valley but left thereafter;
Rinchen killed RamaChandra treacherously, in Lar fort;
married his daughter Kota and with the help of Shah Mir usurped the throne, restored peace & happiness and as per some writers (-not Jonaraja) embraced Islam after initiation by Saint Bulbul Shah. Rinchen is said to have died of the sword wounds inflicted by his enemies in 1323 AD.
Udyananda (- brother of King Suhadeva) ruled from 1323-1338 AD and married Kota Rani. She soon became the real ruler and bestowed favours on the sons of Shah Mir.

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • The author is a Srinagar based Penman, Columnist & Poet, who has been contributing non-political writeups to newspapers & literary journals, from over two decades

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