By Shyam Kaul
From ancient times the people of
This trait of ancient Kashmiris manifests itself time and again during the early eras. When, for instance, Naga worship, gave place to early Brahminical faith, there was nothing like an ill-feeling, leave alone any violence. Then again, when Buddhism, which held sway over the valley, was supplanted by Brahminical religion, it happened imperceptibly and peacefully.
In all matters, including religious faiths, Kashmiris have always been vociferous debaters, but they would never come to blows, nor would ever look for weapons to drive home their point.
When Islam entered the valley, it faced no resistance nor any violent opposition from the population here, which was entirely Hindu. This is a characteristic strikingly peculiar to Hinduism, not only here in
In spite of many ups and downs of
History also tells us that even after Kashmir came under Muslim rule from early fourteenth century, it was the traditional Brahmin class that managed and ran the administration, with Sanskrit as the court language for as long as two hundred years.
Sultan Shihabuddin (1354-73) had a passion for military campaigns, and most of his ministers, commanders and other high officials were Hindus. The chronicler of the day, Jonaraja, relates and interesting anecdote, that has a lesson for leaders and rulers of today also. Jonaraja records that the Sultan, whose treasury would often run empty due to his expeditions, once fell short of money. One of his ministers, Udaya Shri, suggested that a huge brass image of Buddha be melted for the coinage. The Sultan reacted with disgust, telling his minister that the past generations had created images to obtain fame and earn merit. How, he asked, could Udayashri think of melting the image? "How great is the enormity of such a deed?" he remarked indignantly.
Of Sultan Qutub-U-Din (1373-89) it is recorded that he and his Muslim subjects used to pay regular visits to the famous Hindu temple at Allaudinpura in
Sultan Zainul Abidin Bud Shah (1420-70) is indisputably acknowledged as the real model of religious tolerance and harmony. Jonaraja and his contemporary, Srivara, record, that among the host of measures the Sultan took to alleviate the plight and sufferings of the Hindus, ruthlessly persecuted during the preceding regime, was the building of two temples near Ishbar and grant of rent free lands for their maintenance. Bud Shah made strict rules against cow slaughter and abstained from eating meat on holy Hindu festivals. He ordered the rebuilding of a number of temples, destroyed during the earlier regime. He forbade killing of fish in several springs, sacred for Hindus, a practice which, more or less, continues till this day. Jonaraja records that Bud Shah paid a visit to the "sacred site" of Amarnath while he was the Sultan.
In deference to the religious faith of his Hindu subjects, Bud Shah's noble deeds of rebuilding destroyed temples and building new ones, and granting rent free land to them, inevitably and instantly brings one closer to the turbulent scenario today here at home.
Agitation, violence and killings have turned our state into a live volcano. The issue at the root of the prolonged tumult, is just a stretch of land, perhaps not larger in area than a large cricket stadium. On paper the land was transferred to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board for putting up temporary structures, for two months in a year, for the convenience of Amarnath pilgrims. The order on paper threw a section of Kashmiri leaders into tantrums of ire, sparking off a widespread and violent agitation, that unnerved the government, which had already bungled the issue right from the beginning, forcing it to revoke the order. The revocation, in turn, led to an upsurge in
Amarnath pilgrimage has an ancient origin, perhaps being one of the most ancient pilgrimage centres in
Amarnath finds mention during the Mughal rule over Kashmir, when Aurangzeb was the emperor in
During the Afghan rule in
With the advent of Sikh rule over Kashmir in 1919, an overzealous commander, Phula Singh, decided to demolish the Shah Hamadan mosque in Srinagar arguing that a famous temple at the site had been pulled down to build a mosque there. A deputation of Muslims, led by Sayyid Hasan Shah Khanyari, sought the intervention of the influential Pandit noble, Birbal Dhar, who moved promptly to dissuade the commander, and thus saved the mosque for the posterity. It was during the Sikh rule that a benevolent governor, Gulam Mohiuddin, repaired the Shiva temple atop Shankaracharya hill, that had suffered neglect and dilapidation during the earlier regimes. He also installed a new Lingam in the temple.
Amarnath is among the most revered shrines of
Normally, one would, therefore, have expected that in keeping with the spirit of this ancient legacy, the majority community and its leaders would come forward, on their own to help in providing a stretch of land for putting up a temporary facility centre for the pilgrims, only for a brief period of two months in a year. But alas, it has not happened. Instead we are caught up in agitations, violence and killings on an issue connected with a secluded, harmless religious and spiritual destination, high up on freezing heights, and far away from the din and bustle of the mundane world.
Didn't Nund Rishi say:
We belong to the same parents.
Then why this difference?
Let Hindus and Muslims (together) workship God alone.
We came to his world like partners.
We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.
But here we are, holding on to our trivial prejudices and refusing to behave like "partners" and "share our joys and sorrows" together. And all these distressing goings-on regarding a stretch of land, sought to be used for temporary facilities for pilgrims, of a heritage shrine of our land of birth. The piece of land is neither yours nor mine. It is of God's good earth and its use for a godly pilgrimage should have been ungrudgingly made possible. It was not, and look how we have dragged down ourselves into an intractable muddle.