Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: "Kashmir: Exposing the Myth behind the narrative"

The book  "Kashmir: Exposing the Myth behind the narrative" (2017) is written by Khalid Bashir Ahmad, a former Kashmir Administrative Services person who served the State Administration in powerful positions as Director Information and Public Relations and Secretary, J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, besides heading the departments of Libraries and Research, and Archives, Archaeology and Museums. The book, the latest fat brick targeted at Pandits, aims to prove that the whole Kashmiri Pandit narrative, ever since the beginning of history, is a bunch of lies, a "myth" and it goes about the task by masking anti-pandit propaganda as scholarship. In his zeal to write an all encompassing exposé, the author has unintentionally produced the finest document on what drives the anti-pandit sentiment in Kashmir valley and which class produces it for the gullible masses.

The book tries to settle the 1990 debate by trying to prove that Kashmiri Pandits have been a lying race since 6th century A.D., around the time Nilmata was written that too after annihilation of the Buddhist religion by "militant" Hindus. It's does not try to debunk parts, it tries to do so the whole.

Khist-i-awwal chu nehad memaar kaj, Taa surayya mee rawad dewar kay

If mason puts the first brick at an angle, the wall, even if raised upto the Pleiad, is bound to come up oblique

Pandits claim to be "aborigines". So, the first chapter is titled "Aborigines" dedicated to basically proving that Nagas did not exist. According to the writer if "Nagas" are disapproved, it can be proven the Pandits are lying. In trying to do so, it claims the no evidence of "Nagas" is found in neolithic sites like Burzahom. The thought that the snake worship cult evolved much later just does not occur to the writer.  It claims that besides Nilmata and Rajatarangini, there is no mention of Nagas in context of Kashmir. The author ignores the fact that origin of Buddhism in Kashmir also is based on the story of Nagas getting converted at the hands of buddhist monks. All buddhist sources on Kashmir mentio the Nagas. The writer claims there is no archeological evidence of Naga worship when the fact is Pandits still worship the fresh water springs of Kashmir as Nagas and remember their deities. Ain-i-Akbari testifies to the fact that in Mughal times the snake cult was strong. The author does not mention the fact the snake deities are still worshiped a few miles away from Srinagar in Kishtwar valley. Instead it is hinted that the snake tales might have come from central India. The author doesn't mention that Lalitaditya claimed descent from Naga dynasty of Karkota Naga. Even Chaks are said to have come from snake dynasty. Instead the reader is reminded that Buddhists were finished off by Brahmins. Here Kalhana's account of Buddhist viharas is considered useful but in later chapter Kalhana is denounced as an unreliable source. The conflict between Hindu rulers and Buddhist rulers and subsequent destruction of viharas is read as a religious confrontation while the conflict between Muslim rulers and Hindu subjects and subsequent destruction of temples is never read a conflict between religions. The fact the in Nilmata, Buddha is celebrated is denounced by author as a sign of cultural aggression by Brahmins and not as a sign of cultural assimilation. That this assimilation meant that Buddhism survived in Kashmir valley even till 12th century is ignored. The valley based readers of the book at are no point reminded at a lot of Masjids and Ziyarats in Srinagar as built upon Buddhist sites. No cursory mention of the fact that Jama Masjid of Srinagar used to be holy to Buddhist pilgrims even till 1950s. None of this is mentioned. Instead, the author writes:

"It is interesting to note that while many later Puranas and works such as those of Ksemendra, Jayaratha and Kalhana identify Buddha with Vishnu, all of them denounce Buddhism indirectly by assigning Buddha the task of deluding the people. The departure by the Nilmata in mentioning Buddha in a spirit of catholicity looks calculated. "

Here the author exposes his lack of knowledge of history he has embarked upon exploring. He forgets that Ksemendra himself was a Buddhist. In his works he presents most religious men as charlatans, even Buddhists but particularly the Brahmins.  In Kashmir back them, men were still free to speak their mind against hypocrisy and dogma of religious men. Instead, the author is too focused on proving that writers of Nilmata were "calculating" brahmins. This "Eternal Pandit", mean, calculating, power hungry, back stabbing, money grabbing is the running theme of the book. 

In the next chapter titled "Mind's eye" the author tries to prove that Kalhana was again a lying brahmin. According to the author, Kalhana in his own words used "Mind's eye" to write the history of Kashmir, the author writes the entire chapter under the impression that "Mind's eye" means some sort of divine intuition to write about past that Kalahan had no access to.

The author's understanding of theory of history is so rudimentary, his approach so flavoured with politics of present times that he does not even realize the utter nonsense he has presented through partial quotes cooked in furnace of deliberate malice . No, Kalhana did not use "Mind's eye" to write about prehistoric Kashmir. Kalhana mentions "mind's eye" in context of definition of purpose of a poet. The "mind's eye" is the plain of the brain that gets triggered when one reads something that stimulates one's imagination.


Kalhana describing the purpose of a poet writing about histroy

 Kalhana mentions that it is the job of a poet writing history to bring alive history. That it should be written in such a way that the the story plays in the mind of the reader and this is not possible unless it runs alive in the "mind's eye" of the poet first. He mentions that a poet of history should not just state facts but tell a story, an unbiased story. Rajataragnini is deliberately written by him in "Santa Rasa". Of course, the author had no clue or no inclination to inform his readers all this. Rajatarangini is written based on theory of Sanskrit literature. "Santa Rasa" or the Rasa of peace is used to offer solace to the world weary mind of the powerful people who read it. The whole Rajatarangini is written with a sense of resignation, that all good things as well as bad things pass. It was for this reason that the leaders like Budshah, Akbar and even Nehru studied and found solace his work. It presents to "mind's eye" the story in which the power is shown to be ever transitory.  But some people have their "mind's eye" so blind shut, they can't see all this. The fact that he have an entire chapter on Kalhana titled "Mind's eye" makes the author's ignorance about the meaning of the term all the more hilarious. The reader is not told the Kalhana told the story based on still older texts, even a text of history written by Kshmendra. The reader is not told that history of Kashmir was already known to Mughal world based on Persian translations of Rajatarangini and various other works. The discovery of Rajatarangini manuscript in Kashmir was celebrated because now people had direct access to the source. If there was no Rajatarangini, if the Pandits had not kept it safe, how else would we have known how about the past of Kashmir? 

Instead, in this book Kalhana's mind is targeted as if it it was mind of a delusional brahmin who knew in future Muslims of Kashmir would be bothered by his writings. 

"Kalhan was not a man with a closed mind, and this after all, is an essential qualification for a good historian." ...and that's a quote on Kalhana's mind from Romila Thapar. 

In the next chapter titled "Malice", the reader is basically told that Jonaraja was again a malicious Brahmin. According to the author,  Jonaraja was a man who hated Musalmaans, why else would he not use the word "musalmaan" even though the word existed as proven by famous Lal Ded saying "na booz Hyund ti Musalmaan". Genius! The thought that the saying is of obvious later origin just doesn't occur to the director sahib of historics even though he does quote Chitralekha Zutsi. So, Jonaraja, he too was a lying Brahman who told lies about Sikandar just because Jonaraja couldn't reconcile to the fact that the Hindu era of Kashmir was over. Some one teach director sahib about how not to read the past through the lens of present, lest someone claim that director Sahib is making the claim cause he can't reconcile to the fact that Kashmir is right now partly ruled by Hindu BJP. It's like saying that historians-artists of Kashmir will start to invent myths at the first sign of majority religion losing hold of business of running State. Err...isn't that happening in Kashmir. [the usual reply from Kashmir: a muslim would never do that, only pandits can]. It would also mean that any Pandit rejecting the claims of the book about Jonaraja or Kalhana is obviously doing so because of what happened to him in 1990, and hence is lying. What buffoonery passes for history in case of Kashmir! 


The next chapter is titled "Power" and the reader is reminded that Pandits were part of the Power circle during Afghan rule. That Pandits invented the stories of persecution. 


This chapter on Afghan period in Kashmir ends with reader being told that a pandit was responsible for Shia-Sunni riots and probably was the cause of debauchery of the ruler. Then the reader is told that pandit masses suffered no brutality under Afghans....after all pandit were working for Afghans on high posts. The pandit were again lying. It was pandits who convinced Walter Lawrence to write those horrible things about Afghans. Hence proved: Pandits the perpetual liars and power hungry fiends . He then goes on to quote a pandit...Birbal Kachru's work to prove that only Muslims (Bombas...readers are not told that Bombas were Shia) suffered under Afghans. Rest is all figment of imagination - "mind's eye" - of later Kashmiri pandit writers.

In all this the facts reader in Kashmir is not told:

Lawrence based his writing on Peer Hassan (1832-1898) and not some pandit. It is not as if Pandits poisoned Lawrence's ears against Muslims. Hassan has written at length about it in his "Tarikhi-Kashmir". Interestingly, the "historian" makes no reference to Hassan in this section.

Reader is not told that GMD Sufi, again a Muslim, in 1949 in his "Kashir A History Of Kashmir" wrote at length about the tyrannical Afghan period and mentions persecution of Hindus as well as Shias. Sufi does not use Kachru as source for Afghan period but uses him for Sikh period during which he lived. For Afghan period he uses Muslim sources, works of afghan era, all of which mention persecution.
Sources used by GMD Sufi. 

And finally if someone working for Afghans at high post means it was all peaceful back then for the rest of the community, surely the author of this tome himself working as a government employee for Government of India in 1990s should be read as benevolent nature of the government and a general sign of how peaceful the 90s were.

In the beginning of the same chapter, we are gratuitously told of poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal's thoughts on pandits of valley:

A'an Brahman zaadgana-e-zindah dil
Laleh-e-ahmar zi rooye sha'n khajil
Tez been=o pukhta kaar-o-sakhy kosh
Az nigah-e-sha'n farang andar kharosh
Asl-e-sha'n az khaake-e-daamangeer ma'st
Matla-e-ein akhtara'n Kashmnir mas't

These scions of Brahmins with vibrant hearts, their glowing
cheeks out the red tulip to shame. Keen of eye, mature
and strenuous in action, their very glance puts Europe into commotion. Their origin is from this protesting soil of ours, the rising place of these stars is out Kashmir.

It appears that Iqbal loved Pandits and his took pride in his pandit origins. Later as the author unleashes his propaganda against Pandits, the reader has no option but to think of Pandits as ungrateful people.

What the reader is not told is the following lines of Iqbal:

Hai jo peshani pe Islam ka teeka Iqbal /
Koi Pandit mujhey kaihta hai to sharm aati hai.


The mark of Islam is on my forehead
I am ashamed if someone calls me a Pandit 

The reader is not told that Iqbal of later age, lauded a murderer like Ilam Din and laid the ideological foundation of religious state called Pakistan. If poet Kalhana's poetic genius should not cloud our opinion about his ability to be neutral, or just his politics, why should any other parameter be set for Iqbal? Why expect pandits to celebrate Iqbal? (another pet peeve of the author of this book)


In the next chapter titled "Blood", we move to Dogra times. Somewhere, the story of Pandits refusing Muslim "gharwapsi", a initiative of Dayanand Saraswat is repeated by the author. The author repeats the claim just as it is made by Hindutva people, particularly Balraj Madhok.


Using such spins, the pandit are mocked by Sanghis as well as Islamists for being too "proud". The eternal "proud" pandit.

In this chapter, the reader is reminded that Pandits have muslim blood on their hands and they no Pandit was harmed in 1931. That there were no riots against Hindus. That muslims hands were always clean of any blood. 

To that I can offer some personal history:

I called my grandmother this morning to ask her again the story.
I call to ask her the name of the man who died in 1931. Morning of July 13th in Kashmir.
She asks me not to waste my time.
I insist.
He was a brother of her mother.
She doesn't remember the name. She doesn't remember the year. What did he do for a living? She doesn't know.
All she knows:
'It was the year of first "gadbad".'
I remember hearing bits: He had gone out to get bread from the local bakery. Someone put an axe to his head.
She doesn't remember all this.
She asks me not to waste my time with this nonsense.
She asks if I had my breakfast.



The next chapter "Agitation" deals with Parmeshwari Handoo case and is interesting as it quotes old local newspaper reports and rightly links the case to rise of Jan Sangh in Kashmir. In this chapter too you will read a Pandit saying some nice things about Jamaat-i-Islami and bad things about Jan Sangh. The book practically is based on the now established textual norm of quoting Pandits to prove Pandit are lying hence tahreekis are telling the only truth. One truth. Readers are reminded by author that inter-religion marriages had previously taken place in Kashmir but there were no communal disturbances. In horde to provide examples of communal harmony, we are told artist Ghulam Rasool married a Pandit girl Santosh Mehra. Fact: Santosh was not a Kashmiri Pandit and Ghulam Rasool was hardly the "ideal" muslim. Why only in Parmeshwaru Handoo case did Pandits came down on streets? Long quotes are provided linking Pandit community en-mass to Jan Sangh. Pandits planning acid attacks, arson attacks and desecrating muslim mosques. Authors uses official police records here.

The reader has no option now but to see Pandit as the perfect enemy.   

Fact: Such communal polarizations and crimes are more often than not two sided affairs. How is this act of compilation different from a Hindu organization compiling a list of FIRs naming just Muslims during a riot? To what purpose are such listings used. But, people in Kashmir as so used to their majority status, such questions just do not bother the author. 
The real tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits is that this is probably the first book that actually has the exact FIRs of their dead and their raped, and some new names . It is another matter that that are used to forward the usual: 1. Not enough died. 2. Pandits [like their ancestor Kalhana] exaggerated the description of scene [no, no, not like people that did it in case of Asiya-Neelofar in 2009, ignoring the FIRs when needed. Is the official police report of Kunan Poshpora acceptable to the author?

Guess being Director of something in government has its perks. The modern brahmins...those that control the texts...control history. But, I guess most Pandits would thanks this book for giving out those FIR details.


In case of Bhan family, using an RTI, the writer finds that the killing did happen and then claims the gruesome details of the killing, flinging from the top floor, were figment of KP minds as the police report don't offer any detail. Earlier he has already tried hard to prove that either KP killings were carried out by State or for being "informers". Why now he feels the need to prove that killings were not "gruesome"? Guilt. All proof need to be erased. All blood stains wiped clean.

He then proceeds to expose "Pandit" propaganda using a quote from a Hindutva site to prove that KPs have never ever, never ever, never ever since 14th century, fed the cows.

Most of the killings of minorities in Jammu and Kashmir have been "adopted" online by Hindutva sites. No, you won't find any neutral site easily with clear data and facts. On hindutva sites written by non-Kashmiris, regurgitation of data has high amount of mutation. Which leads us to this comedy of fools: The professional KM "historian" reads a "fact" and then in his expert 14th opinion decides to cook pandits in a medieval oven of fresh "facts".

He writes that the hindu propaganda site claims:

"15 [Kashmiri] Pandits who had gone to graze their livestock were murdered "

He then informs the readers that the elite Kashmiri Pandits never have taken cattle for grazing, ever! That's all he could come up with to cast the spell of doubt on the killing! So Kashmiri Pandits didn't die because Pandit wouldn't touch the job. The discussion ends up about "status" of pandits in ancient Kashmir.

The fact:

The hindutva site mentions: "15 Pandits who had gone to graze their livestock were murdered "

The "historian" added the word "Kashmiri" to it and started discussing cattle grazing habits of Kashmiri pandits.

The fact: The killing did happen. It was not Kashmiri Pandits. But 15 Hindus of Chirjee near Kishtawar in Doda who were killed by terrorist. The entry for it in not found on any Indian government site online but in US congress report on Human rights.

It didn't occur to the "historian" (and wouldn't probably to his readers in Kashmir) that in villages, Pandits used to have cows at home, and like any other villager, this pandit too used to take his cows from grazing. See...now we are talking cow. Isn't that how most discussions end up these days? Utter ludicrous diversions that don't allow you to get to the facts.


In dealing with exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, reader is told using account of Muslims that Pandits left Kashmir in aeroplanes. The usual Jagmohan Conspiracy is forwarded as the culmination of centuries old cruel games that pandits like to play. 

 Why was this book written the way it was: rejecting Nilmata, Rajatarangini, Afghans brutalities, 1947, 1967, 1988, 1990?

It was done so because Kashmiri Pandit tell their story in that sequence. Pandits claim to be "aborigines", claim Rajatarangini as "their" history, claim they suffered under Muslim rule, suffered losses in 1947 partitions, were beaten to ground politically in 1967 agitation over "Parmeshwari Handoo case", suffered rioting in 1988 in Anantnag and were finally forced to flee in 1990. 

It's an infantile game the two sides are playing. Pandit brains wanting to explain 1990 by explaining Sikander. Muslim brains wanting to negate 1990 by negating Sikander. In between always quoting Lal Ded as some symbol of peace. One side claims C is true, then B is true so A is also true. Other side counter claims as A is a lie, so B is a lie and then C obviously is a lie too. No side ready to accept that lies are being peddled left, right and center. And yes, don't forget pandits are greater liars because in Muslim books you will always find pandit forwarding the "Jagmohan theory". This book even quotes actor Rahul Bhat saying something like "I accept KMs suffered more than KPs." Basically, the fact that a KP would empathize with KM is also used as a handy tool when needed. Don't be surprised if you see less KPs making such claims in future. Don't be surprised if the chasm between the two communities increases. And don't be surprised to see which class politically befits from it in India and in Kashmir valley.  

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ananda meets Madhyantika - Buddhism in Kashmir - 1


I have almost reached the end of studying Buddhist history of Kashmir. Before, I start giving out the finding, in this post I am sharing something from the beginning of the beginning.

Background

The story of Buddhism in Kashmir starts with Ananda, a cousin of Buddha, and perhaps his last attendant. After the death of Buddha, the first Buddhist council was held to formalize the teachings of Buddha. This council was headed by Mahakashyapa, the oldest and most senior follower of Buddha. Ananda, being the youngest and closest to Buddha, was asked to recall all the sayings of the monk who himself just wanted each man to fend for himself and strive for his own Nirvana.

Ananda was the man who sent Madhyantika to Kashmir and Gandhara for spreading the message of Buddha. Ananda had been foretold about coming of Madhyantika by Buddha.

It was Madhyantika who converted Nagas and introduced Saffron cultivation to Kashmir. It was also Madhyantika who introduced "householders" from outside to Kashmir.

This much and more we know from various to Buddhist sources.


The Images

In 1851, the British archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham, who previously in 1848 had already dug up much history in Kashmir,  went excavating at the 3rd century BCE Asokan Buddhist complex in Sanchi - the place now known simply as Sanchi Stupa. He published his finding in 1854 as "The Bhilsa topes; or, Buddhist monuments of central India" [here] For the first time, using archaeological evidence of inscriptions, the Buddhist texts were vindicated. There were inscriptions naming Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Madhyantika and many more. The inscriptions of Sanchi had earlier helped decipher the Brahmi script in 1837 by James Princep. The still biggest surprise from Sanchi proved to be the discovery of urns containing the bones of these men. He found the bones of the man who introduced Buddha to Kashmir, and to the rest of the world.*

Cunningham also gave a brief description of carvings on the gates to the Stupa.

On South Gate, he found something interesting in a scene depicting a king venerating a relic casket:

"In the back ground two male figures and one female figure with a round cap similar to those worn by the Kashmiri women of the present day."


We can't say anything definitive about Cunningham's observation here except for that his time in Kashmir must have made him notice Kashmir in this image. Albeit. the ear-rings on the woman with the round cap do look even more Kashmirian.

However, there is another image which I believe he completely misread and consequently has been overlooked by experts[1].

On the left pillar of Easter gate he noticed what he called the "Boat Scene".



He interpreted the scene as:

"Sakya's Nirvana. — A boat is represented on the ocean ; containing- three persons ; one rower, one steersman, and one passenger, all of whom are clad in the costume of the higher ranks of Buddhist ascetics. In the right and left upper corners there are trees ; and scattered about in the waters there are lotus flowers, alligators, ducks, and shells. On the shore below are represented four figures also in a religious garb ; one with dishevelled hair and uplifted arms; and the others, who wear caps, with hands clasped together in attitudes of devotion. In the right hand corner below is a tree with an altar. This scene I have already described in my account of Sakya's death. The passenger is, I think, Sakya Muni, who is represented, after the attainment of Nirvana, or freedom from transmigration, as being- wafted over the waters which are said to surround this transitory world. The figures on the shore are a Bhikshu of the lower grade, bewailing- the departure of Sakya with dishevelled hair and uplifted arms, which, from the accounts given in the Pali  annals would seem to have been the customary manner of expressing- grief at that period. The other figures are Bhikshus who had attained the higher grade of Arahat, and who comforted themselves with the reflection that "all transitory things are perishable." The difference of rank is known by the bare head of the mourner, and the capped heads of the others; a distinction which still prevails in Tibet, where the lower grades Ge-thsul and Chhos-pa invariably go bare-headed, whilst all the Lamas (or higher grades), including the Grand Lama himself, have their heads covered."
I believe he got the description all right but interpreted it all wrong. I believe the figure is not Sakyamuni. It's not ocean, but a river, not any river, but the Ganga with lotus and alligators (animal always associated with Ganga). That's the key to the scene, that and the piece of "land" floating in the river, in between the boatmen and the men on the shore. This is the exact scene narrated in various Buddhist texts dealing with the meeting of Ananda with Madhyantika.

It is said that when his end was near Ananda got on a boat in Ganges river, ready to leave his body. He got in a boat because he was worried that once he dies, people would fight over his remains. King Ajatashatru wanted the remains and so did his rivals Lichchhavis, the clan of Vaishali. Just as he was about to leave the body, a Rishi arrived at shore along with his 500 followers and asked to be ordained. Ananda had been foretold about this event by Buddha. Ananda accepted and through his spiritual power materialized a patch of land in middle of the river**. The Rishi and his followers were thus brought into the Sangh and came to be known as Madhyantika, which literally translates to "mid-day~mid-river".  Then Ananda told their leader about Buddha's prophecy  about Kashmir. Anand dies and his ash remains are peacefully divided. Madhyantika heads for the Kashmir with his follower and comes to be known as the preacher of Sarvastivada "the theory of all exists" Buddhism.**


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1. French scholar Alfred Foucher assumed it depicted conversion of Kashypa Brothers. 

*
Even though believed to have been lost, sunk at sea, the remains were later traced down to V&A Museum in Britain. Some were brought back to India by Nehru in 1950s [Mahāmaudgalyāyana's remains are in Sanchi ]. But, the remains of Madhyantika remain in Britain.

** Possibly Mount Ahogariga of Buddhist legends, somewhere in Upper Ganga, possibly Mathura.

***A parallel story coming from other Buddhist sources, repeated by Hiuen Tsang tells us about a sect of presumably Sarvastivada saints of Mathura who were going to be drowned in Ganga by Ashoka for teaching a deviant theory of Buddhism. The monks magically fly away to Kashmir before they are killed. The King is repentant, wants them to come back. They refuse. The King then supports their missionary activities in Kashmir.


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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Keys to a house not There

Guest post by Pratush Koul, one of the younger reader who is sharing his bits and pieces. This one for "things that crossed over" series.


 Grandfather's Matriculation certificate from Panjab University, Lahore.



At the time the results were announced, partition had taken place and the students in India were later given these certificate from Solan. The result had been announced in 1947 but due to the migration and teachers moving across the border... the issuance of certificates was delayed. 

Just prior to the violence of 1947, my Grandfather Dwarka Nath Koul had a job offer that would have taken him to Muzzafarabad. Somehow he didn't take the offer, which later turned out to be a blessing. His mother's brother, Mama Ji, Jiya Lal Pandita was a renowned priest in Sharda village and  died in the violence of that year.

This was not the only 1947 tragedy in the family. My father tells me:

In 1947, when the Kaabali raid was going on his Nanaji, Niranjan Nath Raina (called taetha) and family were living in Pattan near Baramulla and when the Kabaalis reached their village, the whole of the area was reduced to ashes. Nanaji's father was hiding somewhere in drygrass and he was burnt alive. Nanaji then shifted to Srinagar. My dad's Nanaji had a lot of land back then but due to the "land to tiller" law, they lost most of the land in 50s. 



As per my elementary urdu (taught by grandfather) - the name on cover is "aman Umeed ki rah". 

My grandfather once found this inside his trunk in Jammu and told me that he got it from some Christian missionaries back in Srinagar, back when they used to give these away for free in Buses and Matadors. Around late 1970s-80s.

My father was born in Amira Kadal. We lived there till 70s. Then, brick by brick,  he built a small new house in Habba Kadal. He lived in that house for only seven years.
The violence of late 80s seems "normal" to them, Kashmir had lately seen lot of such violence. But, the killing of Tikka Lal Taploo brought the violence too close to home. Then there were other signs. My mother was working in Social welfare department at the time and was posted in Baramulla. It was in Baramulla, she was one day advised by a Muslim office clerk to leave early as there was going to be trouble in the town. She travelled from Baramulla to Srinagar in an "azaadi procession" bus. She hid her ears rings and took off her bindi. Identifiers of her religion and boarded the bus screaming, "Azaadi". Soon after these event, mother and my grandparents shifted to Jammu. My father later joined them, leaving Kashmir on a Chetak scooter. 
The house he built was burnt down somewhere in 90s.



I visited the house in Habba Kadal in 2014 with my father. I was 15 years old at the time and traveling to the place where my house once stood. The house was sold under distress.



I have among my possessions a very special thing which is responsible for keeping the "Kashmir" alive in me...it is the most valuable thing which is dearest to my heart and cannot be compared with any other thing.

I didn't have the chance to see personally my Kashmir house as it was reduced to rubble like many other pandit houses... My dad found these keys inside an old box while we were painting our house in Jammu... I could see the attachment of Kashmir in his eyes when they held these keys... I asked my parents about it, they then sat me down and told me about each key and which door and lock they unlocked. They also became quite sad to realize that these keys couldn't serve their function anymore. It was then given to me.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mansur al-Hallaj in Kashmir?

Burning of Mansur al-Hallaj.
A leaf from an illustrated manuscript on poetry
Kashmir, 19th century.
via: christies


"Mansur hangs because pen is in the hand of tyrant"
~ Rumi

There is a widely and newly found belief in Kashmir that Mansur al-Hallaj (857-922) visited Kashmir in 896 AD.[1]

The source of the claim comes from "The Passion of Al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam by Louis Massignon" translated and edited by Herbert Mason (1982/94).

In the section "Other Regions travelled" under the section of India it read:

"The capital of Qashmir [Kashmir] is the only sure point on Hallaj's itinert, around 283, in the northwest of India, which we know he reached by the way of the sea, either via Daybul (near present-day Karachi), or via the balad al-shirk, to the east of Gujrat, between Bihruj and Qanbaya. Via Daybul, he went directly up the valley of the India via Mansura-Multan, Muslim towns."

It is an interesting claim because just over a hundred years later, Al-Biruni, the scribe of Mahmud Ghazni during his visit to India in 1017 A.D. writes: "...in former times, they used to allow one or two foreigners to enter their country, particularly Jews, but at present do not allow any Hindu whom they do not know personally to enter, much less other people."

What Al-Biruni testifies here is that Kashmiris had closed their gates to foreigners in 11th century just as Islam was making inroads all around them. Biruni does mention that previously a few foreigners could find their way into Kashmir, however, the question is was Hallaj one of them?

Boston University scholar of Islamic studies Herbert Mason (1932- 2017) was the first one to make the claim based on his abridged translation of French pioneering scholar of Islam Louis Massignon's  "La passion d'al-Hosayn-ibn-Mansour al-Hallaj : martyr mystique de l'Islam, exécuté à Bagdad le 26 mars 922" (1920).

Louis Massignon, a Catholic, is widely credited for getting Islam accepted as an Abrahamic Faith. It was his work on Islam that ensured that Catholics and the wider world got a version of Islam in which it was seen in a more positive light. Prior to his work, Islam was seen as a "forged "version of Abrahamic religions. He made peace with Islam. It is no surprise that he was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and in 1930s set up Amis de Gandhi [Friends of Gandhi] association in France.

It was Massignon that brought Hallaj out of obscurity and into public consciousness as prominent figure of Islamic history. So, what does the original 1920 book by Massignon say about Hallaj's visit to Kashmir. Here's in French the section Le passage en Qashmîr:
"il est probable qu'ai Hallâj passa directement de l'Inde en Khorâsân, en remontant vers le nord, d'abord par la vallée de l'Indus, ensuite parle Cachemire, alors païen. C'est du moins ce qu'on peut inférer de l'apologue suivant:"

The operations word he uses is "il est probable", "c'est du" and "l'apologue"

The translation:

It is probable that Hallaj passed directly from India to Khorâsân, going up north, first by the valley of the Indus, and then Kashmir, which was then pagan. It is at least what can be inferred from the following apologue.

Massignon unlike Herbert Mason is more cautious about the claim. Mason in his edition casually translates "probable" as "only sure". Since a reader is least likely to get his hand on original French edition, most people like Kashmiri writer Mohammad Ishaq Khan have gone ahead assumed that Massignon is saying it with surety. There are many reasons why Massignon is cautious as the theory is based on an l'apologue or a fable found in a 13th century work "Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā" (Biographies of Saints) by Attar of Nishapur (1145). In this book Attar had given biographies of various Sufis and ends with the death of Hallaj. Attar of Nishapur died a violent death in 1221 at the hands of Mongols who were out to seek revenge on the city after Genghis Khan's son-in-law died in the city. Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā is the only prose work by Attar that survived and proved to the source of most of the tales of Hallaj that we now know. 

Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā was the primary source for the biography of Hallaj drawn by Massignon. Massignon used multiple sources (including a late work Hallaj Nama published in Lucknow and its source Abel Pavet de Courteille's Tezkereh-i-Evliâ. Le Mémorial des Saints (1890) based on a Uighur manuscript) for piecing together the story of Hallaj but the primary source (including for the section on Kashmir) was manuscript published and edited by English orientalist R. A. Nicholson in 1905. 

According to Attar's account of Hallaj as translated by Massignon to French, this is how Kashmir figures in the story: 
Un jour, le shaykh 'Abdallah al Toroûghabdhî ,de la ville de Tous, avait étendu la nappe, et rompait le pain avec ses disciples, quand Mansoûr Hallâj arria de la villede Kashmîr, vêtu d'une qabà noire, tenant en laisse deux chiens noirs.
[Using Google Translate]

"One day, the Shaykh 'Abdallah al Torughabdhi, of the city of Tous, had spread the tablecloth, and was about to break bread with his disciples, when Mansour Hallaj arrived from the city Of Kashmir, dressed in a black qabà [robe], holding on leash two Black dogs."

From here comes the famous story about dogs and Hallaj. Disciples of Torughabdhi are shocked that he gave his seat at the table to someone who eats and walks with dogs (something that would still not taken kindly in Islamic societies, including in Kashmir). And then comes the famous reply, "these dogs were his nafs, they remained outside him, and walked after him; while our dogs remain within ourselves, and we follow them ... His dogs are Outside and you can see them; Yours are hidden. "

The entire theory of Hallaj visiting Kashmir is based in this line - "quand Mansoûr Hallâj arria de la villede Kashmîr/ when Mansour Hallaj arrived from the city Of Kashmir" to Toos.

Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā also informs us that Indians wrote to Hallaj addressing him as"Abu Moghith" [succorer/helper].


In Attar's 13th century work Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā, Hallaj is said to have travelled to India to learn magic tricks so that he could bring in more people into Islamic fold. Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) writing in 13th century about his travels with Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan mentions that the Khan had Kashmiri conjurers in his court [probably Buddhist Bakshis, which appear in 13th century Ilkhanid mongol empire of Iran as mongols turn to Islam from Buddhism] . According to him Kashmiris could "make statues speak, change the weather, and bring darkness."

In Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā, Hallaj is seen to be performing many miracles and it is said that people in Mecca accused him of dealing with Jinns. In western terms, Hallaj is the most famous "witch-burning" case from Islamic world.  It seems Nishpur at the time was under control of Hanafite adversaries of Hallaj so he was visiting Toos

In his footnote to the section, Massignon does mention the curious claim by Al Beruni about restrictions on visiting Kashmir. Massignon understood that tales of Sufis are often exaggerated and was cautious while presenting the story. 

We can't be sure if Hallaj visited Kashmir, can't be sure if people believed it in 13th century when Attar wrote his biography because it is equally possible that Kashmir appeared in a later manuscript.  We can be sure that some Kashmiris would like to believe it to be true, at least since 1994.

In all this long tale of Hallaj in Kashmir what is really worth noting is that in the same 13th century Tadhkirat-ul-Awliyā of Attar, a Kashmiri also makes an appearance. But, no one seems to have noticed it. Or found it worth mentioning. Perhaps because Kashmiri appears as a salve. In the biography of Abu Uthman al-Hiri of Nishpur, a contemporary of Hallaj, in a story, we are casually hold he had four slaves: a Greek, an Ethiopian, a Turk and a Kashmiri.

The question: What were Kashmiri slaves doing in 10th century Iran? Or, what were Kashmiri slaves doing in stories told of Sufis in 13th century Iran? 

Isn't this first mention of a Kashmiri in a Sufi tale?

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1. Kashmir's Transition to Islam: The Role of Muslim Rishis, Fifteenth to Eighteenth Century (1994) Mohammad Ishaq Khan

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Ref:

La passion d'al-Hosayn-ibn-Mansour al-Hallaj

Friday, July 14, 2017

Timeless worshipper of idols am I, Dina Nath Walli 'Almast

pit temple, Bijbihara

Aasytan aabad khwaaban hanz yi mahfil aasytan
Aasytan beyi zindagiyi han'dy mod mushkil aasytan.


Life's vicissitudes may be forbidding, I care not;
Only let my dream-land flourish and prosper.

Naavi myaane aavalanisay manz chhu vwony naachuk saroor
Aasytan vwony door yaa nazdeek saahil assytan


Caught in the whirlpool, my boat experiences the exaltations of a dance;
Let the shores be near or far, now I care not.
Intihaaye shok akh kaafee chhu saamaane safar
Husnasay taany ashkasay sath sadar haayil aasytan.


Let the time be in a still greater haste, tell it,
My zeal shall pause only when I reach my goal.

Shokasay myaanis chhu dam hyon manzilas pyeth waatihay
Vaktasy vanytav tamis ami khota ti taajil aasytan


Sufficient for the aspirant is only his intensity of urge,
Seven seas may stand between beauty and love, it matters not.

Kaarvaanav gamakyavay kar myaany tanhaayi khatam
Aasytan beyi krooth ami khwota zyooth manzil aasytan


The caravan of my sorrows, have put an end to my solitude,
The goal may be far and the path beset with difficulties, I mind not.

Dubrahaaray myaani dilachiy chham mye shoknk zerubam
Manzilas taany poshnuk ath fakhar haasil aasytan


My heart-beats are the rhythm and harmony of the music of my urge,
Let these have the glory to last till the goal is reached by me.

Kaarvane shok sapduy kahkashaanas kun ravaan
kyah karee asi asytan dunyah tangdil aasytan


The caravan of my zealous urge has started towards the galaxies,
Let the world be narrow-minded, I care not.

Kyaah chha kath veglaav niy kany chhus bo azalay butparast
Gam ma bar Almasta ami khwota yaar sangdil aasytan


Timeless worshipper of idols am I, smelting of stones is no problem, for me;
Worry not Almast, let the beloved be stone-hearted.

~ Dina Nath Walli 'Almast' (1908- 2006) who was more known for his paintings.

Written in October 1962.

Complete work "Sahraavuky Posh/ Desert Flowers" (1978) 



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Sunday, July 9, 2017

House of Kaws, Maharajgunj

In this guest post, Avinash Kachroo shares the story of a house in Srinagar

Pt. Swaroop Nath Kaw from Vicharnaag, was the eldest son of Pt. Sahajram Kaw. He was employed as a teacher in a village further away and had to travel a fair distance everyday. He would make a pit stop along the way - which must have been a popular one with people from all walks of life, wool sellers, weavers, embroidery craftsmen etc also crossing roads. Over some time he learnt that the popular shawl/carpet trade was not integrated and artisans only did specific tasks making money at each step. Contrary to his father's wishes he invested some money in trading and made a neat sum, sufficient to convince his father to accept his decision of diving into the business fully and thus giving up his "cushy" teaching job.

Pt. Swaroopnath made a good fortune and decided to move to Maharajgunj in Srinagar - a hot bed of trade those days. He built a house which comprised of four buildings right on Jhelum, a few homes down from Khanqah. While the first building had his dewankhana where he met visitors, the second comprised family quarters and subsequent ones even had a carpet factory. There is neighborhood folklore of how some subsisted on the pashmina wool waste that was disposed off from the factory. Pt. Swaroopnath had his brother Pt. Madhusudan Kaw help him with managing the accounts while he sent off his youngest brother Mukund Lal Kaw to Lahore [Indore, according to his grand-daughter Sangeeta Kaul ] to gain a degree in medicine. Dr Mukund Kaw came into being one of the earliest medical practitioners of the valley and eventually stayed in the first building of the house. 



Here is a photo of the Kaw family with Pt. Sahajram in the lower row center, his left being Pt Swaroopnath, his right Pt Madhusudhan and top right Dr Mukundlal. The young boy seated in the lower row is Pt Harikishen Kaw, Pt. Swaroopnath's son along with Pt Madhusudan's daughter Batni.


My maternal grandfather Hari Krishen was born in 1920, he looks about 5-6 years old here. So this photograph should date around 1925.





[...]this is very much our house and my father Pt. Hari Krishen Kaw standing at the entrance door after he returned from California in 1988. He is holding a cane and right leg slighted due to his surgery here in San Jose after an accident. In 1990 I met a Cal Berkeley Professor Randolph Langenbach (Also my facebook friend now) in Late Kulbhushan Gupta,s house in Oakland on a Christmas Party. After introduction and pleasantries, he inquired where I originally hailed from. Upon hearing Srinagar, he informed me about his spending two years there as Consultant on environment to Jammu and Kashmir Government and that his speciality was earthquake proof housing. He thought Kasmirian and El-Salvadorian housing were the best earthquake proof housings in the world. He explained something to do with Daji-Deewari, Viram (The long staff) and ductility etc. Upon parting he asked for my address so he would send me his research paper on the subject, he published.Three days later, a tight vanilla envelope arrived by mail and upon pulling the journal slowly from the envelope, the first thing what appeared on the glossy cover of the journal was "American preservation technology journal", further thrust pulling the magazine out revealed the whole glossy cover page with journal name and this particular picture on the front page. [...]

And BTW the house in question has been demolished by people who bought from us and a brand new structure erected taller than 4 stories house we lived in, informs my nephew Avinash Kachroo.

Avinash Kachroo:

The particular building of the group which formed the original household and works of Pt. Sahajram Kaw's sons pictured here ceased to stand when I visited the very spot from where the picture was taken, in 2014 - effecting whatever little closure I needed on Kashmir (having born and raised out of Kashmir). The front building long dispossessed still stood, though extremely dilapidated.
The flight of stone steps had gone and kids stared with a mix of intrigue and curiosity at my intrusive presence

The original river facing building of the household still stood on the very banks which used to be once full of life

My family comes from the Raghunath Temple area of Fateh Kadal. Interestingly, I never visited the temple when we would visit Srinagar during summer each year until my extended joint family sold off that property and we moved out to a new house in Chhanapora. However in 2014 when I visited Srinagar after 25 years, I wanted to visit the temple after the customary visit to the ancestral neighbourhood. We took the kocha to the side door that was closer to our house and was the one my father would take as a kid. However we found that entry had been walled off. We asked some onlooker muslim women who were monitoring the unusual activity and they said the main door from the front was also shut. So we scaled the temple compound wall and found the iconic temple compound and temple building deserted and in absolute mess. The garbha gruha (sanctum sanctorum) doors were missing and so was any trace of the statues. What shocked me was that there was no news of what happened to the temple and why was it in this state. Disappointed, we left the neighbourhood with lots of questions. Any picture of the down town Srinagar is incomplete without Parbat, Khanqah and Raghunath temple - yet this was to befall the landmark.




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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hakhoo of Hockey Stadium



Krishan Kumar Hakhu (extreme left), 1948. The man after whom is named the KK Hakhoo Astro Turf Stadium of Jammu. He was the founder and organiser of "Kashmir Wanderers", a formidable hockey club of Kashmir for years.
Hakhu was originally from Sathu Barbarshah, Srinagar and later settled down at Exchange Road, Jammu. He was nicknamed "Vuzmal"...lightening...for the way he played.
[from personal collection of Sohail Iqbal]

His progenies are now in Jammu and Australia.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

With Propaganda Site of Proxy War


I see a lot of people posting/sharing stuff from "WithKashmir"...all good but understand what is happening when you do it.

Yesterday, someone on twitter claimed that withkashmir. com is a site that was IP owned by someone sitting in Rawalpindi. The owner of withkashmir. org claimed that his site is ".org" and not ".com" and .org is hosted in Kashmir. So it was a smear campaign against the site.

If one checks online...it is indeed true ".org" is registered in Kashmir. And ".com" is banned in India.

The person who runs "withkashmir. org" [again having a twitter verified account ] claimed that ".org' and ".com" are different.

So, it seems like a smear campaign.
But, chor ki dadi may tinka.

If one now looks up the whois info...even ".com" is now showing that it was registered in Kashmir.

So what is happening?

Internet Proxy wars.

Some old pages on the ".org" website still asks readers to write to them on "write@withkashmir. com"
A bit of extra search on crawler sites (which do not update as fast as most other whois site) shows that around 7 months ago withkashmir. com started in Rawalpindi n Pakistan.

And six months ago it switched to "withkashmir. org" was Kashmir address. A handover will all tracks covered.
But, crime always leads a trail.


A simple search shows that withkashmir. org used to be withkashmir. com and it did indeed start in Rawalpindi.


The claim from owner that the site has nothing to do with Rawalpindi

The owner showing the .com is having Indian Address 

the old new sight still linking to ".com" site. 
The Wayback Marchine showing the content of .com site and .org site is same. 


.org stated 6 months ago

after the expose...the "updated" address of .com site also showing Kashmir address
The crawler sites...that didn't catch up with the new address change still showing Rawalpindi Address.
The Linkedin profile of owner showing that he ran .com site
 The details of the site from the crawler sites:




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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Hill in the beak of a Scribe

What a difference there is between the garden of the Daitya maiden
and this mountain of Kaunsa Nag.
Ah ! what is this strange event ?
Is it an illusion or a wandering of the mind ?


It was early morning, just before the break of dawn, Pandit Miskeen sat at his favorite spot in the house, the high window on the top floor, Dab of his Kani, staring at the hill. He could feel the weight of the hill on his shoulders like he was one of those miserable rice gunny carriers that frequent the ghat below his house at Safa Kadal, the bridge of merchants. He thought he knew the hill, knew everything about it, but these days the hill looked back at him with sneer of a taunting stranger.

"Who are you? Please tell me!"

He pleaded the hill over and over again in his head. The day had just begun and already the misery had already started . He was going to spend the rest of the day staring at the hill. He had been at it for a month.

Miskeen had been doing it since childhood, admiring the hill from this window, just like his father had in his time and his father's father in his.

"What would my children see?," a nerve pinched in his brain at the thought and his eyes twitched in pain. "They will see what I tell them...but what do I tell them?"

Today too he could see the fort on the hill, yellow, standing in proud contrast to distant white hills. It was going to be a beautiful day, wooly clouds in sky and a gentle breeze carrying the scent of spring flowers . Any other day the sight of the hill would have soothed his eyes, lightened his being. The hill stood for all that was beautiful about the world, a world brought into existence by divine pen of God, a writer, no different than him but only the best writer of them all. Any other day, Miskeen could have written poems in praise of the hill but today the sight of it drowned his mind in pain.

"What do I know about you? Tell me little bird, is that all? Tell me all. How should your story be told?"

Pandit Miskeen had been tasked with writing the story of the hill, a royal decree, but his pen had run dry. The new King of Kashmir was from Jammu, a Hindu, finally a Hindu ruler after ages of Muslim rule and the new king wanted all the stories of holy spots of Kashmir written down in Sanskrit - the language of high gods - so that these stories would travel and pilgrims could arrive from distant lands. A department was created and for a moment it felt the glorious era of Dharma had been revived. Pandit Sahib Ram, "the man who knew everything" had done a great job identifying all the holy spots that were going to get their own final tale of glory. But, it took him years to collect all the information and it was the wish of Gods that Pandit Sahib Ram should die before finishing the task. Sahib Ram was a mountain of knowledge and men like Miskeen, minor pebbles, and Pandit Miskeen had no shame admitting it publicly and yet, he agreed to finish the task. He couldn't refuse. Not after the Pandit from Rainawari wrote a brilliant inspired Mahatmya of the Spring of Tulamulla and earned for himself a gold coin with insignia of the sun. Miskeen convinced himself, "If that Pandit son of bad grammar can do it, why not I? I, Pandit Miskeen Shastri, shall write the Mahatmya of Parbat. I shall write it not for the king, I shall write for the true readers."

He could now hear the hill laugh at him. It was laughing at him in an alien tongue, in Chinese. Chi Chi Chi. The sound in his ears broke his chain of sad thoughts. He thought he was going mad but it was only the chirping of little sparrows dancing on the window sill, asking for their daily feed. Pandit Miskeen gave a wry smile to the birds, took one more look at the hill and rose up to perform his next ritual. On way out of the house, passing by the kitchen, he put on his dastaar and called out to his wife and commanded her to feed the birds.

"Your friends are looking for you. I am going for Prakram."

Like his father and his father before him, Pandit Miskeen every able morning used to circumambulate the hill. He walked out of his house and onto his street, looking around, he could see others making their way to the hill. On the bridge, among all the dastaar heads making way to the hill, he could see a young boy of eight with shaven head, making his way through them. It was Hajam Subaan Dar's son Mahmdu on way to Mulla Karimulla Karim's school. As they crossed each other, the boy carrying a smile, nodded his head in greeting while Miskeen nodded back. The old man was going up the hill to speak to the old God and the young man was coming down the hill to learn the language of another new God. Not a word was spoken between them. It was their daily ritual.

Miskeen entered the familiar ground, he walked under Sangin Darwaza, the Mughal gate and recalled his notes, "Here was the city of temples with painted walls." Past the old graves, not looking at them, not a good morning sight, "here are the graves in Sharda and Persian script. There, the ruins of mosque of Akhund Mullah the guru of Mughal Dara...legendary king Ranaditya's Matha for Pasupata order. There, the applicants at hospice of Maqdoom...the stones and matrikas all around with the signs and figures. "

Reaching the south-easter end of the hill, Miskeen bowed his head at the elephant stone and stopped to take a breath.

"Vinayaka Bhimasvamin...as old as this city. The god of King Pravarasena that self-manifested to bless the new city. Surely, to bless the new pilgrims too. Does it look like head of an elephant? The stone that turned from west to east just to look at the magnificent city built by Pravarasena. The stone that again looked west when disgusted with the city destroyed by Sikander Butshikan. Yes, our god looked away. If we remove all this vermillion, may we see which way the god it is turned now?"

Miskeen turned to look at the hill..."200...300...600 feet to go" the sun was up, he stood in its shadow, the eagles had arrived in sky and were now circling, eyeing offerings of sheep lungs from faithful worshipers. He lowered his gaze to look down into the remains of Maya's hell pit. The pit, a asuravivara, one of many built by Mayasura, the magic man of Asuras and a mureed of Shiva, the God who lords over netherworld as Hatakesvara.

"...the pit now renamed Waris Shah's pit, it's mouth closed by boulders for the fear of demons, lest they find their way to surface from Patala. Foolish men, it can't happen till Maa Sharika keeps watch. Maej Sharika kar daya...kar daya tche hee bhaweenii....The Maya's pit and the way to Pataal-lok. The Hill of Pradyuman and the Hill of Sharika. Hill, how should it be? Should I tell the story of Anirudh's love for a demon maiden? Or should I tell the story of Goddess Sharika? During Budshah's time, Bhatavatara, told the story in Kashmiri as "Banasur Katha". However, Somadeva told it first and told it best...how can I better it? Somadeva re-opened the demon pit of Maya when he retold the love story of King Bhunandana of Kashmir and Kumudini the enchantress. The story starts with Anirudh who was the grandson of Lord Krishna and son of Pradyumna. Usha the daughter of asura Lord Banasur, grand daughter of Mahabali was smitten with Anirudh. She found these secret natural caves for her lover and invited him frequently into her pleasure gardens. Their secret was soon discovered and Banasur imprisoned Anirudh in netherworld. Anirudh's father Pradyumna looked for a way into Pataal. He found it in Kashmir, but prayed to Goddess Durga to keep watch over the pit and ensure that no demon comes out after he goes in. The mother goddess took the form of bird Sarika and picking a pebble from mount Meru in its beak dropped it into the opening of the pit so that no demon comes on the surface."

Making the steep climb, Miskeen almost stumbled on a stone, but like an ageing old tom cat about to fall off from a wall, old pandit dug into the last remains of his nimble senses and out-maneuvered his imminent fall. He kicked the stone aside and continued walking up the hill.

"This spot on the hill where Sharika keeps watch, a brahmin knew this spot, he spilled some mustard seeds, the great bane of demons, and...Khul Ja Simsim...revealed this pit to King Bhunandana of Kashmir who had seen demoness Kumudini in a dream and got a huge erection that would only subside after meeting her for real. The king gave away his throne and headed for Kausar Nag to pray for sensual pleasures of Pataal-lok. A Brahmin finally arrived as a blessing and showed him the way to his real dream. He showed him the spot where Goddess Shakira still stood guarding the portal to Pataal in the village of Yaksha Atta around Pradyumna hill. Kashmiris were ever hungry for union with these demon beauties...Ksemendra tells us how men would often end-up dead in a lonely pits, robbed at the hands of some beautiful harlot. All a game of Maya and Mahakali. Yaksha Atta..Atta...adhasa ye kus...who is this Atta. Somadeva before telling us the story of Bhunanda tells us the story of a Yaksha named Atttahasa in the story of Brahmin Pavitradhara and Yakshini Saudamini daughter of Prithudara. Atttahasa and Saudamini were about to get married. But, for his bachelor's night, Atttahasa went out to party with friends and had a few drinks too many. He pretended to be King Kubera and the King of Yakshas didn't get the joke and cursed him to be re-born as mere mortal. As often happens with these divine beings, Kubera too eventually realized he was being too harsh to the two lovers and promised them that they would meet again on earth and on cognition, the curse shall break. Ha!Ha!Ha! Prithudara... Earth's surface... Bhunandana, the son of soil... Pavitradhara...the pure surface. Somadeva, you drunk devil! Atttahasa! Lord of Self Annihilating Loud Laughs! Ha!Ha!Ha! I know you. Ha!Ha!Ha!"


Pandit Miskeen had reached his summit - Chakreshwara. Beyond this, further up was the fort, and inside it the new Kali temple. But, for Miskeen and other faithfuls the journey stopped here at this rock. Some faithfuls, they just stood with folded hands, while others, sang songs. Still some other faithfuls sat in front of the rock, like flies, waving their hands around their head in slow rhythmic motions, holding breadth, breathing in, breathing out, whispering in lost tongue, and at times snapping fingers.

The big ochre red rock with the self-manifested sacred marking stood solemnly greeting an old pandit. Miskeen bowed his head and his eyes secretly adored the ancient marking, the Sri Chakra . Triangles and circles, one inside another, small inside big and big inside still bigger, and still more triangles and a circle.

"It's a web. Everything is connected to everything. In the center is nothing and everything," he whispered to the rock that stood guard.

Miskeem taking off his turban turned to face east and took in the vast sight before his eyes. Below him was the Nagar of Sri, encompassing its rivers, lakes, trees, few thatched roof, distant bridges and mud roads.

"This was once a city befitting the gods. Pravarpura, this was the new city that Pravarasena built around Pradyumna Hill. And how? Kith paeth? It is written that when the King was looking for a site to build his city, one night he arrived at a river and on the other side of the river he could see the ghat where the dead used to be set afire. Kashmir, perhaps always had too many dead, for that night too, the ghat was tinted red in the light of burning pyres. While the king stood watching the red flame paint shadows of tall tree, a loud sound pierced the sky, "Hahahaha!" A Rakshasa appeared with his arms raised, hands-up. The king was afraid but the Rakshasa asked the King to look beyond his appearance and manners. He was here to offer him his service, provided the King crossed over to his side like the king Vikramaditya. Saying so, the Rakshasa extended his arm in friendship, the hand became a bridgeThe King took out a blade, a Kshurika and cut steps into the bridge so that he could cross over. The place is still known as Suth. On reaching the other side, the Rakshasa threw a measuring tape in the air, away from the spot, and told the King to build his city where he finds this measuring tape in the morning. And then the Rakshasa disappeared. Little of this makes sense but the next morning he found the thread at village Sharitaka, the seat of Goddess Sharika looked over by Yaksha Atta, the Lord of Watchtower. "

Miskeem had started walking down the hill, his steps were faster now, as if to keep pace with his meandering thoughts.

"Atta...Atta...Atta-hasa...Haha! How do we lesser mortals make sense of this story? What was Kalhana saying? Maybe the King formed an alliance with an older race who still lived outside newly evolving civilized world. The unknown and rich world of Yakshas, maybe the two were at war earlier...little cuts...little razor cuts...small skirmishes between the two powers were to be put aside in exchange for peace and a village was put in for bargain. The village of Sharitaka where goddess worship was the norm since ancient times and the hill stood in watch like a watchtower, Atta. Maybe the King crossed over to the cult of Devi worship. The place where the King crossed over, the place where the deal was made is still called Kshurikaval. Kshurikaval, the Razor town...what we now know as Kundabal village on the southeastern shore of Manasbal. The soil of that place is still strange, a number of lime kilns are located in the village. Recently, there was an earthquake and at Kundabal they say the land was cut as if by a blunt blade, about twenty houses fell into a chasm which occurred in this village. The houses just disappeared into razor's cut. "

Miskeem was again at the foot of the hill. He looked back one more time.

"What names haven't they called you "Hiranya Parbat", the Golden Mountain, on account of your special yellow reddish stones that glow like gold on some days when the sun hits your right. The 9th day of the bright of fortnight of Har (June- July). You don't look like hill anymore, you look like a mountain, a Parbat. That missionary Araki stopped all the partying and dancing that used to happen on the hill, he chased away the yakshinis and yoginis, but we are still here, you are still here. Are we not? Are you not? "

The hill was impervious to such lavish praise and it was still not talking.

"Still more strange tales are told by the jewellers of Jammu. They say the world famous Kohinoor stone once used to rest under this hill in the form of Hari Stone or the Symantaka jewel, the earthy form of sun god. Here in a secret cave, the access to which was from underneath Dal lake. The stone then in stories travels all the way to Sri Lanka and returns centuries later as Kohinoor. Those jewellers will tell all type of tales to sell their stones. They created the tale of "Curse of Kashmir", that who so ever, who so ever unworthy of it, wears it, shall have a miserable life. It is interesting that the last owner of Kohinoor, Shah Suja Durrani was imprisoned atop this very hill in that very fort. Strange, very strange. Maybe, just may, some scribe no different than me created this tale so that Shah Suja would give up the stone to Ata Mohammed Khan, the governor of Kashmir. A stone in the beak of a scribe."

Miskeen stopped in his steps. He just froze and let a thought sink in.

"Ata...Atta... Atttahasa. Hahah! Maybe all this a ruse. All these stories....an elaborate encrypted message that can only be read with the right key. A key that is now lost. May, they all, Kalhana...Somadeva...they were talking about something that could have been easily understood by "rightly" educated of their age, people who had the right key, people who could read the real meaning of these tales. Maybe they had deliberately hidden it. Didn't Abhinavagupta present the tenets of Saiva philosophy in the garb of a Vaisnavite treatise? Only an adherent of Saiva would have picked the work and truly understood what was being said. You need the key to understand what was being said? What was being said?"

"Hosh hasa! Hosh! Watch out!" A tongawalla cried out. Miskeen had been jaywalking and would have surely come under the wheel had it not been for mindful tongawalla. "Pandit Ji, you want to meet your god at my hand! Make a sinner out of me!"

Miskeen apologized but didn't even raise his head to look the tongawalla in the eye, he just stepped out of the way and continued walking.

"Anirudh fell for Usha, love, went down into demon world, Pradyumna went after him, Sarika kept watch. Anirudh followed by Pradyumna. Key. Pradyumna and Anirudh. The Consciousness fell for Maya, the portal to sensuous and horrors. The Mind went to retrieve the Consciousness by keeping Shakti in control. It's a formation. A definitive formation. It's a Vyuha from Pancharatras - the five nights, the followers of Vishnu who worship him as the transcendent and immanent being, understood and explained through the formations: from Vasudeva was born Sankarshan, from Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and from Pradyumna, Aniruddha. Pandit Grishun Ram explains it quite well: This is as much to say, that from the Self was born the Prakriti, from the Prakritis, the Mind, and from Mind, Consciousness. Vasudeva first creates Prakritis, and passes at the same time into the phase of conditioned spirit, known as Pradyumna. From the association of Pradyumana with the Mansa springs the Samkhya Alhambra, and Pradyumna passes into a tertiary phase known as Aniruddha. From Ahamkara and Aniruddha seeing forth the Mahabutas, or the primary elements - space (or "ether"), air, fire, water and earth.

Miskeen felt a sudden thunder roll in his stomach. It was wind bellowing in his empty stomach. He was now hungry. He had reached the bridge, here, in the middle of the bridge, he started counting the waves, waiting and wondering.

"Miskeen is on the bridge, bridge is on the river. Miskeen is in the river. Vyuha .The words of Pancharatras are supposed to be outside of Vedic and Brahminical world. Everything in this cosmos is explained through Vyuhas. The indifferent immanent being and his avatars, all of them. These ideas were very much against the existing popular thought streams of other cults. Back then it was said that a Brahmin who dealt in Pancharatras was devoid of Vedic rites, outside of civilized world and to be avoided. In Vedic time there were no temples, the temples were invented much later, perhaps out of need of kings, out of need for pilgrimages, so the image of god had to be philosophically reconciled with the idea of indifferent god. It was claimed that in the age of Kali, men needed help, they needed better maps to reach the godhead. Today who remembers all this! We hear that the first temple of Sharika was built at the foot of Pradhymana-pith by a still ancient king Gokarna, son of King Gopaditya who is said to have built the other famous hill top temple of Srinagar, the one we now call Shankaracharya Hill. Village Bren was given as grant for maintenance of this temple. The Bren or Banyan tree of that village is still an ancient deity from animistic past. Mahabarata has passages encoded in Pancharatras but the followers of Manu never mention Pancharatras. During Parvasena's time, Kashmir was still the land of Nagas, Buddhists, Shakti animists and god knows whats. Nilamata Purana, the key text of Kashmir has Buddha as a Vishnu Avatar. Buddhists also mention Vyuhas but most of the time leave out the fifth element - space. In the same text of Nilamata,Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Anirudha all appear as Nagas. Would that make Pradyumna Hill the Parbat of Snakes? If I were to say that in Persian, the hill will be called "Koh-i-Maraan" or "the Mountain of Snakes". The afghans, those homesick mad tyrants were right after all when they called it "Koh-i-Maraan", right accidentally. In Kashmir, the animistic spirits mixed with Goddesss cult, whose ideas were adopted by Buddhists and Vashnavites, and finally all merged with Shiva.The new tales borrowing from old tales. So, in the story of this hill, people go down into the netherworld, through special paths, meet seductresses who offer them wine made of human fat and in the same netherworld world Shiva resides even as Sharika keeps watch on your progress. That's what here the goddess of Smallpox accepts offering of meat. In Kashmir, the tantras based on Pancharatras were part of khovir vidhya, the left handed tantra, vamamarg, the practice that need female partners. Around Shivratri, the night of Shiva, some Pandits still perform the rites of Pancharatra, the rites of five nights. Why? What was Hatakesvara doing in the tale of Pradyumna? What is his shrine in form of a Linga doing in the netherworld? Temples and shrine. Temples were built on the principle of tantra that came out of Pancharatras. Cities were dedicated to Sri and built on certain rules like Pradyumna should be facing east, Anirudh south, Sankarshan north, Vasudeva west. The ancient Sri rock on the hill is on the east side, so it was called Pradyumna Hill that overlooks the city of Sri. The whole story is a map. Or at least the story is partly a map. Doesn't a similar map exist elsewhere? A map of another place. The 'Srinagar' of Garwhal also gets its name after the goddess of Fortune, Laxmi, Sri or 'Sri Yantra', a giant rock which could kill even if one looked at it. The rock was used by a Goddess to kill a demon named Kalasura. The local storytellers say that this rock was turned upside down by Adi Shankaracharya 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. It's an endless pit. A map within a map."

Just as the beautiful thought occurred to Miskeen, he felt something plop on his right shoulder and it was followed by an earth shattering laughter.

"Hahahah! Pandit Ji! The crow just shat on you! Kavin trevi rek ad paav! That too half a paav! "

It was young Mahmdu. He was returning from his class.

"No worries, " Miskeen said as he wiped away the colored wet mass on his shoulder. "No worries at all. It is good luck. Come let me rub some on you too!"

Saying so Miskeen mock lunged at Mahmdu. Mahmdu moved back a bit and catching the joke, started laughing. Miskeen was already laughing. It was their daily ritual. Miskeen would come down from the hill after his prayers and Mahmdu would return from his lessons, both would meet on this bridge and then together head for the bakery. Miskeen had always been fond of the boy. Miskeen had in fact read his future at the time of his birth, the boy was not destined for anything great, but the boy's great great grand daughters were. Miskeen had seen it all and he was going to do his part.

"Tell me boy, what did you learn today?" asked Miskeen as he tried to keep pace with the young boy.

"Amul-Fil - Year of the Elephant, " replied Mahmdu while running to the bakery eager for fresh warm soft lavasas.

"The story goes back to the time of our Prophet's grandfather who was the caretaker of pagan Kabah temples."

Miskeen recalled in his mind that the temples around were dedicated to Hubal and the goddesses al-Lāt, Al-‘Uzzá and Manāt.

The boy continued talking and Miskeen kept adding his notes,"It was the year our Prophet was born. A christian ruler of Yemen built a big temple at Sana in order to overtake the pilgrimage business [key] of Mecca. Some one from Mecca shit in the temple at Sana. Abraha, the ruler of Yemen swore revenge and marched with an army of elephants [Ganesha] to destroy Mecca. Yemen was known for their fierce elephants [probably came from India]. Before entering the city to destroy it, Abraha's men pillaged the city [what else]. They took away the camels of Prophet's grandfather. Prophet's grandfather went to Abraha and asked that his goods be returned. Abraha was surprised that the brave man was asking that his goods be returned but wasn't asking that his gods be spared. Prophet's grandfather is said to have replied, "I am the caretaker of my goods. God is the caretaker of his." Next morning the elephants and the army arrived to sack Kabah. The leading elephant of the attacker was an elephant named Mahmoud [coincidence of name, key]. The elephant somehow refused to lead the attack, it just wouldn't attack the temples. Just then a storm arose in the sky. It was a swarm of small birds that covered the whole sky. Each small bird [key] carrying a small pebble [key] in its break. A pebble for every solider, each pebble carrying a name of its target. The birds dropped the pebbles and the soldiers died the moment it hit them. The entire evil [key] army of Christians was decimated. It was like a raid from sky. Praise be the lord."

Hearing this Pandit Miskeen Shastri started laughing like a mad man. Hearing him, even the dogs outside the baker's shop ran away.

"Hahahah! Birds and stones. Birds and stones. Have they heard of you Somadeva in the land of Arabia! Did you send them the message?"

The boy was used to such eccentric behaviour of Pandit ji. He did not run away. He wanted to know, "What is so funny?"

Miskeen Shastri handed the kid a soft lavasa and said,"My dear boy have you heard the story of that hill next to your house? Let me tell you a story..."

Saying so, the two headed home as Pandit Miskeen Shastri told Mahmdu the story of Hari Parbat.

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