Srinagar, May 26: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today said Kashmir has a rich and vibrant cultural history and a tradition of learning and scholarly pursuit since time immemorial.
Its enchanting beauty has attracted thinkers and philosophers, seers and sages, kings and noblemen, travelers and traders, from far and wide, she said in her speech at the inauguration of the Institute of Kashmir Studies at the Kashmir University.
She said through the ages, it has been a melting pot of ideas, which have been distilled into the finest traditions of learning, tolerance and cultural cohesion.
Whether be it Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism, all these religions have for centuries been a part of the spiritual landscape of the state, she said adding that all these have evolved into a unique concept of ''Kashmiriyat'', the cohesive historical-cultural identity of the people of the state, which represents an ethos of liberal values, religious and social harmony, mutual co-existence and brotherhood.
It reflects the contributions made by thinkers and men of letters like Charak, Bhartrihari, Bilhana and Kalhana and saints and sages called Rishis and Sufis, in whose name Kashmir is still known as 'Reshiwari' or abode of Rishis.
The President said spiritual thinkers such as Lal Ded and Nund Rishi spread the message of love, tolerance and compassion, which left a deep imprint on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Their legacy, over a period of time has etched itself so much into the collective consciousness of the region, that it cannot be eroded.
Kashmiriyat is a living legacy, she said adding it has withstood the test of time, and it is now for us to continue to nurture it so that it is preserved for future generations.
''The Institute of Kashmir Studies, in a sense, continues this rich tradition of learning and scholarship. I congratulate all those who have worked towards the setting up of this Institute. I hope that it will contribute to the study and assimilation of knowledge about the history, cultural values and socio-economic structure of society in Jammu and Kashmir,'' she said.
It will, she said, provide a platform to scholars in the field of Kashmir studies regarding ideas on pluralistic cultures and tolerant societies.
The President said the younger generation should be involved in the studies, so as to benefit from this initiative. The scope for preservation of culture is wide and can cover a broad spectrum of activities such as finding and conserving valuable manuscripts as well as conducting research into languages, art and literature. She said,''I am sure, this will interest not only scholars of this Institute but also of other Universities and academic bodies in the state and other parts of the country as well.'' Jammu and Kashmir is nature's manifestation in its pristine form.
She said its scenic beauty, different seasons and the abundance of water, make it a paradise on Earth.
Kalhana, the great poet of Kashmir, she said, wrote, ''Learning, lofty houses, saffron, icy waters and grapes which are even in heaven are difficult to find, are common here''.
''During my visit to the state,'' so far I have traveled to Srinagar, Tangdhar, Baramulla and Gulmarg, she said and added that she could not go to Bhaderwah due to bad weather.
She said she had the opportunity to see the beauty and the culture, the friendly and hospitable people, the ethos and diversity as well as the progress and development of the state.
Ms Patil said education is essential for nation building and for the empowerment of its people. However, she said the education system should equip students with skills so that they can earn their livelihood, impart knowledge so that they can contribute to their country and inculcate values that will make them tolerant individuals, concerned about the well being of humankind.
Education should also strengthen the values of secularism, democracy, inclusiveness and pluralism, she said and added these values give strength and sustenance not only to our diverse multi-cultural society but also to our country.
''I am told that the state government has taken a number of measures to expand the educational infrastructure. I would encourage and urge that work in this direction continues so that education facilities are available to all,'' she said.
''I wish the Institute success in its endeavours, and would like to convey to the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, my best wishes for peace, progress, prosperity and happiness, she added.