Thursday, July 11, 2013

Two Srinagars

'The Rope Bridge at Serinagur' by Thomas Daniell (1800)
"One can only wonder at the fortitude of the early travellers  men such as Huien Tsang, or the painters Thomas and William Daniel. Their determination must have been supreme in order to press them ever forward and eventually reach the Vale, settled as it is high among seemingly impenetrable mountains at the end of a route that was, and still is, full of hazards."

~ Visiting Kashmir by Allan Stacey (1988).

All that is fine but...

Sometimes a familiar image and a familiar name can cause all find of confusion. A lot of people consider Thomas and William Daniel to be among the first Europeans to reach and paint Kashmir. Painting titled 'The Rope Bridge at Serinagur' by Thomas Daniell only confirms it. There are a bunch of books that claim this. All this because the place they visited is Srinagar. But the fact remains, the two never visited Kashmir. Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) and his nephew William Daniell (1769-1837) were in India during 1785 and 1794. In 1789 they visited of the city of Srinagar on the banks Alaknanda river in Garwhal which is named so because . That's were 'The Rope Bridge at Serinagur' comes from.

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Now, coming back to 'Srinagar' or rather the two 'Srinagars', and continuing with the word games and antonymic folklores... it is believed that the town of Garwhal gets its name after the goddess of Fortune, Sri or Laxmin. Some say the same of the city of Srinagar in Garwhal gets its name from 'Sri Yantra', a giant rock which could kill you if you even looked at it. The rock had origins in a tale in which a Goddess kills a demon named Kalasura thanks to the device/rock . The local storytellers say that this rock was turned upside down by Adi Shankaracharya, in the 8th century AD and chucked into Alaknanda. He thus put an end to all the tantric exercises associated with the rock and laid down the plan for the city of Srinagar. Interestingly, there are places in Garwhal were Sri Yantra is worshipped. One of the belief associated with Sri Yantra in Garwhal is that installing a roof over Sri Yantra would bring disaster. [This last bit from 'Marriage And Customs Of Tribes Of India' by J. P. Singh Rana (1998)]

The Srinagar in Kashmir still has the Sri Yantra rock at Hari Parbat. The origin of the rock/hill in local folklore has killing of a demon named Jalobhava by a Goddess using a rock, hence laying the foundation of Srinagar. The temple that was reclaimed in Srinagar by Adi Shankaracharya is across this Hill and on top of another Hill that is now renamed after Shankaracharya. The Sri Yantra is roofed at Hari Parbat. Done only in recent times. The only person to protest construction around the rock was an artist named G.R. Santosh.

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Mr. Vigne is responsible for the strange derivation of the name of the Kasmir  capital, Srinagar (Srinagara, or as he spells it, 'Siri-nagur,' from " Surya Nagur, the city of the sun" (p. ii. 137). Judging from the persistence with which the error has been copied by a succession of modern writers on Kasmir, this etymology bids fair to establish itself as a piece of orthodox creed with European visitors to the Valley.
~ Ancient Geography Of Kashmir by M A Stein (1895).

1 comment:

  1. I remember a memoir in our class 6th hindi textbook [Bal Bharti] called 'Gosrinagar se Srinagar'

    ReplyDelete

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