Can 'Kashmiriyat' be revived for peace?
The state's culture that flourished under rulers influenced by Rishis and Sufis was destroyed by the rule of Sultan Sikandar
In all the discussion about the Kashmir problem, much importance is given to the Valley of Kashmir, but the other regions are also equally important from geopolitical and strategic points. There are some fundamental issues without which a discussion on the Kashmir problem remains incomplete.
There is a lot of a talk about 'Kashmiriyat', but Kashmir Shaivism and later, the rise of Sufism in the Kashmir valley are the two pillars on which the present day 'Kashmiriyat' stands.
After the fall of Utpala in 939 AD (9th to 10th century CE), Kashmir remained under various rulers. This was a period of turbulence. The period of about 200 years saw only weak and selfish kings of different dynasties.
Three personalities changed the course of politics in the Jammu and Kashmir. They were: Rinchana, Shah Mir and Kota Rani. By this time the Sufi Islam had taken its root in Kashmir.
And then 'Kashmiriyat' with a blend of Shaivism and Sufism emerged. It originated with the birth of Laleshwari (Padmavati) at Pandrethan near Srinagar in 1335 AD.
She was married into a family residing in Pampore, and was under-fed and treated cruelly by her step mother-in-law. She left the home of her in-laws in sheer anguish.
She wandered far and wide in search of a permanent relief. She went to many hermitages and pilgrimages but failed to gain an insight into the temporal life. Through meditation she rose above the worldly trappings. She realized the kingdom of God was within. She turned irreverent to rituals. She would often burst out vaakhs (sayings) which become part of colloquial Kashmiri.
Her message of unconditional love touched the hearts of both Hindus and Muslims. For the Muslims she was Lalla Araifa or Lal Ded and for Hindus she was Lallershwari or Lalla Yogeshwari.
It is said that Sheikh Nuruddin who was born in 1356, twenty years after Padmavati, took guidance from Lal Ded. In a way she made Sheikh Nuruddin her spiritual heir. He is known among Muslims as their Sheikh and the Hindus call him with respect and reverence as Nund Rishi. His shrine at Charar-i- Sharief is revered by both the communities. His order of the rishis became a powerful influence on the masses.
This Sufi order emphasises moderation in living and simplicity in behaviour. This became a way of life in the Valley and the base of 'Kashmiriyat'. The traces of this culture are still found in the surname Rishi, common to Hindus and Muslims alike.
'Kashmiriyat' is the heart and soul of culture of Kashmir valley. It is a culture of synthesis, understanding, humanism and religious piety and abstinence. It is a culture of Rishis which is found in the sayings of these Rishis enshrined in the surname or the Rishinama of Nund Rishi or the Vaakhs of Lal Ded.
The state flourished when the rulers were under the influence of these Rishis or Sufis. This culture was destroyed during the twenty-four-year rule of Sultan Sikandar but again it was restored, reconstructed and elevated by Bud Shah.
Both Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir have common roots in their centuries old history. They speak same language, and have common heritage. Most Muslims in Kashmir still have Hindu surnames, though their forefathers were converted to Islam few generations ago.
Hindus and Muslims maintain separate identities but they share century's old customs, ceremonies and caste names. If there was any ethnic class, that was between Shias and Sunnis. It is true that some people suffered discrimination, but it was always at the hands of rulers and there never was any hatred or ill feeling among the masses.
The loss of sense of togetherness between the Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir is the destructive and fatal blow to the 'rich culture of 'Kashmiriyat'. This is the only achievement of the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and radicalisation. The history is testament that more brutally the spirit of 'Kashmiriyat' was crushed, it revived with more vigour and zeal.
The culture and ethos of 'Kashmiriyat' was greatly eroded at the onset of the Kashmir dispute, when the region got divided during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.
The onset of militancy in Kashmir from 1989 led to the exodus of almost all Hindus from Kashmir valley and violent attacks against the remaining communities of Hindus and Sikhs, eroded the fabric of 'Kashmiriyat'. But the conscious efforts are on to revive 'Kashmiriyat' by various communities of Muslims and Hindus getting united against violence in UT.
Efforts to promote 'Kashmiriyat' through cultural activities, social programmes and literature have increased throughout Jammu and Kashmir and amongst expatriate Kashmiri communities.
(R C Ganjoo is a senior journalist and columnist having more than 30 years experience of covering issues concerning national security, particularly Kashmir. He has worked with several prominent media groups and his articles have been published in many national and international publications.)
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