Kashmir, the crown of India, is one of the most appropriate example of composite culture where different streams of thought have co-existed for generations, adding value to each other’s traditions. It is a true blend of multiple philosophies influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, culminating in what has come to be known as ‘Kashmiriyat’. The essence of this philosophy is to live in harmony and brotherhood.
Until the advent of Islam in the 14th century, Kashmir was under the sway of Hinduism and Buddhism. It came under Islamic influence thereafter. But these currents of religion, spirituality and thought were never antagonistic but complimentary to each other. So, if there was Hindu spirituality in place, the Sufi movement, the mystic tradition of Islam, also thrived. The great mystic poet Laleshwari popularly known as Lal Ded preached spirituality through her ‘vakhs’ (poetry). She was a bridge between pre and post Islamic era who passed on the baton to her contemporary Sheikh Noor Ud Din Noorani, commonly known as Nund Reshi. They were saint- poets who professed synchronising different streams of thought for the betterment of mankind. Lal Ded was the first poet to use Kashmiri language as a medium of her message for the common man.
This thought assimilation reflected in every field of life in Kashmir. In religion, Hindus and Muslims lived in total harmony with each other. That is how there are any number of shrines revered equally by Hindus and Muslims across the valley. It is this secular character of the people that was targeted by the extremist forces today to achieve their nefarious designs.
Earlier also, there have been attempts to damage the secular fabric of the place by different rulers. Sikander nicknamed as ‘butshikan’, the iconoclast, got thousands of temples destroyed and pursued forced conversions. But then came Budshah who rehabilitated the Kashmiri Pandits and brought back those who had fled the valley. But for these isolated episodes Kashmir has always been a land of peace, mutual brotherhood and spirituality. Nund Rishi was the first Sufi poet of Kashmir who preached simplicity and emphasized protection of the environment. His famous saying that food will last only till our forests last has been very popular among the masses.
The history of Kashmir dates back to the Days of Mahabharata war when Gonanda ruled the place. Later, Ashoka founded Srinagar city, close to the present day Srinagar. Life in Kashmir has been influenced by multiple cultures. What we see today is the blend of Mughal, Afghan and others who ruled the place or came to the valley in search of spirituality. Kashmir then was known the world over as ‘Rish waer’ the land of saints. The Persian influence is prominent in the field of handicrafts like world famous hand-woven carpets and pashmina shawls known for colourful designs and high class embroidery. Unique wood carving and papier mache are also a result of this confluence of multiple cultures. The Indo-Greek influence can be witnessed in the architecture of ancient temples. Mughal influence is visible in food habits resulting in the famous ‘Wazwan’, the multi- course non veg dishes. The Jammu region has been influenced by North Indian culture.
Endowed with nature’s bounty, Kashmir has always been known as a magnificent tourist place. It truly is a mini India which offers the hottest as well as the coldest regions in the midst of nature’s bounty.
Kashmir’s geographical location always brought waves of influence from Central and East Asia particularly in the field of music and musical instruments. Afghanistan too influenced Kashmir’s music to a great extent. Rajtarangini written by Kalhana in Sanskrit in the 12th century, is the world’s first recorded account of history.
In modern times also, Kashmir has thrown up poets like Mehjoor and Azad who preached Hindu-Muslim unity and mutual brotherhood as the way to reach God. Kashmir, thus has a lot to be proud of. It will continue to thrive and show the forward.
Script: Ashok Handoo, Political Commentator