Jammu and Kashmir

views updated Jun 08 2018


JAMMU AND KASHMIR Jammu and Kashmir State consists of different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Its three broad regions are: Jammu, which has a Hindu majority; Kashmir, with a Muslim majority; and Ladakh and Kargil, which is split between Buddhists and Muslims. A little over half of the population of the state is concentrated in the Valley of Kashmir, which accounts for only 10 percent of the area. Ladakh, Gilgit, and Baltistan are very sparsely populated.


Kashmir is at the center of Purānic geography. In the Purānic conception, Earth's continents are arranged in the form of a lotus flower. Mount Meru stands at the center of the world, the pericarp or seed vessel of the flower, as it were, surrounded by circular ranges of mountains. Around Mount Meru, like the petals of the lotus, are arranged four island-continents (dvīpas), aligned to the four points of the compass: Uttarakuru to the north, Ketumāla to the west, Bhadrāshva to the east, and Bharata or Jambudvīpa to the south. The meeting point of the continents is the Meru mountain, which is the high Himalayan region around Kashmir.

Kashmir's proximity to rich trade routes brought it considerable wealth, and Kashmirs spread Sanskrit culture as missionaries. Kashmiris also became interpreters of the Indian civilization, and they authored many fundamental synthesizing and expository works.

Buddhism was introduced into the Vale by the missionaries of the emperor Ashoka (r. 268–231 b.c.). The Kushān emperor Kanishka (c. a.d. 100 ) convened a Buddhist council in Kashmir, which led to the foundation of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Kashmiri missionaries played a leading role in the spread of Buddhism into Central Asia and China.

The Kārkota dynasty of the seventh and eighth centuries provides the first authentic accounts of the government in the Valley. Lalitāditya (724–761), the outstanding king of this dynasty, built the famed Sun temple of Mārtand. In the ninth century Avantivarman built a grand capital south of Srinagar; the ruins can still be seen.

Muslim rule was first established in Kashmir in the fourteenth century. Kashmir became a part of the Mughal empire under Akbar in 1587. In 1752, with the collapse of Mughal power, Kashmir came under control of Afghans, who lost it to the Sikhs in 1819. In 1846, following the defeat of the Sikhs by the British—when Jammu's Ghulab Singh turned against his Sikh allies—Singh reaped the Valley of Kashmir as a reward to add to his fiefdom of Jammu.

The movement for independence in British India spilled over to Kashmir as well. The maharaja tried to hold out for independence in August 1947 when India was partitioned. But in late October of that year Pathan tribesmen, led by military officers in civilian clothes, tried to take the valley by force. Maharaja Hari Singh, Ghulab's grandson, hastily acceded to the Indian Union. Soldiers of the Indian army were immediately flown into Srinagar, and they turned the tide of the tribal invasion. Pakistani regulars were sent in, and the Kashmir war raged throughout 1948. Finally, under the supervision of the United Nations Security Council, a cease-fire was declared on 1 January 1949. Pakistan still controls about one-third of the Jammu and Kashmir State, mostly the northwest parts of Jammu and Baltistan, and the Gilgit region. The Security Council called upon both India and Pakistan to allow the United Nations to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir to ascertain the will of its people; the two countries could never agree to do so in over half a century, fighting three wars instead.

The political boundaries of Kashmir have on occasion extended much beyond the valley and the adjoining regions. According to the seventh-century Chinese Buddhist monk Hsieun Tsang, the adjacent territories to the west and south down to the plains were also under the direct control of the king of Kashmir. With Durlabhavardhana of the Kārkota dynasty, the power of Kashmir extended to parts of Punjab and Afghanistan. It appears that during this period of Kashmiri expansion, the ruling elite, if not the general population, of Gilgit, Baltistan, and West Tibet spoke Kashmiri-related languages. Later, as Kashmir's political power declined, these groups were displaced by Tibetan-speaking people.

In the eighth century, Lalitāditya conquered most of north India, Central Asia, and Tibet. His vision and exertions mark a new phase of Indian empire-building.

Religious and Cultural Influence

Kashmir had a very strong tradition of Sanskrit scholarship. Patanjali, the great author of the Mahābhāshya, the commentary on Pānini grammar, was a Kashmiri. He is said to have made contributions also to yoga and to Ā yurveda. Some scholars believe that Bharata Muni of the Nātya Shastra was a Kashmiri. Durgā, the commentator on the Nirukta of Yāska, was from the Jammu hills.

Tantra: Shaivism and Vaishnavism

The Kashmiri approach to the world is part of the tantric thought of both Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The Tantras stress the equivalence of the universe and the body and look for divinity within the person. Although the Vaishnavite Pāncharātra now survives only in South India, the earliest teachers looked to Kashmir as the seat of learning and spiritual culture.

According to Kalhana, the twelfth-century Kashmiri historian, author of Rajatarangini (Chronicle of kings), one of India's oldest histories, the worship of Shiva in Kashmir dates prior to Mauryan King Ashoka. The Tantras were enshrined in texts known as the Āgamas, most of which are now lost.

Contributions to Buddhism

Kashmir became an early center of Buddhist scholarship. In the first century, the Kushān emperor Kanishka chose Kashmir as the venue of a major Buddhist Council comprising over five hundred monks and scholars. At this meeting, the previously uncodified portions of Buddha's discourses and the theoretical portions of the canon were codified. The entire canon (Tripitaka) was inscribed on copper plates and deposited in a stupa, the location of which is now unknown.

Kashmiris were tireless in the spread of Buddhist ideas to Central Asia. Attracted by Kashmir's reputation as a great center of scholarship, many Buddhist monks came from distant lands to learn Sanskrit and to train as translators and teachers. Among these was Kumarajiva (344–413), the son of the Kuchean princess who, when his mother became a nun, followed her into monastic life at the age of seven.

Buddhist Tantric teachers were associated with Kashmir. According to some Tibetan sources, Naropa and Padmasambhava (who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet) were Kashmiris. The Tibetan script is derived from the Kashmiri Shāradā script. It was brought to Tibet by Thonmi-Sambhota, who was sent to Kashmir during the reign of Durlabhavardhana (seventh century) to study with Devatītasimha.

Architecture and the Arts

The ancient temple ruins in Kashmir are some of the oldest standing temples in India today. The sculptures found here are significant and exquisite. The Mārtanda temple, built by Lalitāditya, is one of the earliest and yet largest stone temples to have been built in Kashmir. Lalitāditya also built an enormous chaitya in the town of Parihāsapura which housed an enormous Buddha. Only the plinth of this huge monument survives, although one of the paintings at Alchi is believed to be its representation. There was also an enormous stupa in Parihāsapura built by Lalitāditya's minister Chankuna, which may have been even larger than the chaitya. The Parihāsapura monuments became models for Buddhist architecture from Afghanistan to Japan. The Pandrethan temple, as well as the Avantipur complex, provide further examples of the excellence of Kashmiri architecture and art. Kashmiri ivories and metal images are outstanding and are generally considered to be among the best in the world.

Kashmir also had a flourishing tradition of painting, which was used to decorate the temples walls. The earliest surviving examples of these paintings come from Gilgit and date from about the eighth century. Kashmiri artisans were famed for their work, and their hand can be seen in many works of art in Central Asia and Tibet. Painted figures of Bodhisattva Padmapāni from Gilgit demonstrate the mingling of the Gāndhāran and the Gupta Indian conventions with local elements.

After Lalitāditya, Kashmiri style appears to have changed, and the new style endured until the tenth or eleventh century. This phase is the most developed stage of Kashmiri art, and its fame spread into the remote Himalayas. The ninth-century complex of Avantipura built by King Avantivarman (855–883) is an amalgam of various earlier forms from India and regions beyond. The best example of this style is found in the bronzes dated from the ninth to the eleventh century cast by Kashmiri craftsmen for Tibetan patrons. The style of such bronzes presents a remarkable affinity to the wall paintings dating to the tenth or eleventh century that decorate the Buddhist temples of Western Tibet. The wall paintings of Mangnang and the manuscript paintings of Tholing, discovered in Western Tibet, are generally acknowledged to have been created by Kashmiri painters.

One of the best sites to see the Kashmiri painting style is in the five temples comprising the dharma-mandala at Alchi in Ladakh, which escaped the destruction that other temples suffered at the hands of a Ladakhi king who embraced Islam. The earliest of these buildings is the Du-khang, where one can see well-preserved mandalas that document not only the Kashmiri Buddhist pantheon but the Buddhist representation of the Hindu pantheon as well.

Pahārī painting

Outside Kashmir, there was a new flowering of painting in Basohli in the Jammu hills. By the closing decades of the seventeenth century, these paintings emerged in a steady stream, when a depiction of the Rasa-manjarī, a fifteenth-century poem, was painted during the rule of Kripāl Pāl.

Dance and music

The paintings in Kashmiri style depict the temple dances that prevailed in Kashmir at the time the paintings were made (tenth–eleventh centuries). The only extant complete commentary on the Nātya Shāstra is the one by Abhinavagupta. The massive thirteenth-century text Sangīta-ratnākara (Ocean of music and dance), composed by the Kashmiri theorist Shārngadeva, is one of the most important landmarks in Indian music history.


The ninth-century scholar Ānandavardhana, who was a member of the court of the king Avantivarman, wrote the Dhvanyāloka, (Light of suggestion), which is a masterpiece of aesthetic theory. Ānandavardhana was the first to note that rasa, identified by Bharata in his Nātya Shāstra as the "essence" of artistic expression, cannot be communicated directly. This can be done only by dhvani, or "suggestion." Abhinavagupta, who lived about a hundred years after Ānandavardhana, wrote a famous commentary on the Dhvanyāloka called the Lochana. His work on Tantra, the Tantrāloka (Light of the Tantras), is one of the most important on the subject. In all, he wrote more than sixty works.

Kshemendra was a philosopher, a poet, and a pupil of Abhinavagupta. Among his books is the Brihatkathāmanjari, which is a summary of Gunādhya's Brihatkathā in 7,500 stanzas. Somadeva's Kathā-sarit-sāgara is another version of Gunādhya's Brihat-kathā. Somadeva's collection of stories, in 22,000 stanzas with additional prose passages, were written for Queen Sūryamatī, the wife of King Ananta (1028–1063).

The classic arts and the sciences of Kashmir came to an abrupt end when Islam became the dominant force in Kashmir in the fourteenth century. Sculpture, painting, dance, and music could no longer be practiced. The next centuries saw preoccupation with devotion and its expression through the Kashmiri language, as in the poetry of Lalleshvarī.

Many Kashmiris emigrated, as in the case of the musicologist Shārngadeva and the poet Bilhana. Although Kashmir had sunk to a state of conflict and misery, outsiders continued to pay homage to the memory of Kashmir as the land of learning, and Shāradā, the presiding mother goddess of Kashmir, became synonymous with Sarasvatī.

The major poets who followed Lalleshvarī include HabbāKhātūn (c. sixteenth century) and, more recently, Mahjūr (1885–1952), Abdul Ahad Āzād (1903–1948), and Zinda Kaul (1884–1965). HabbāKhātūn is credited with originating the lol style of poetry, in which the predominant mood is that of longing and romantic love. Mahjūr, Āzād, and Zinda Kaul and their successors have tried to forge a new sensibility in their poems, but the mystical and the lol continue to be the dominant ethos.

The theory and philosophy behind Kashmiri classical music, called Sūfiyānā, is described in two books from the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, written in Persian: the anonymous Karāmat-e mujrā (The flowering of munificence), and DayāRām Kāchroo Khushdil's Tarānā-e-Sarūr (The song of joy).

Subhash Kak

See alsoKashmir ; Pakistan


Bamzai, Prithivi Nath Kaul. A History of Kashmir. Delhi: Metropolitan, 1962.

Dyczkowski, Mark S. F. The Doctrine of Vibration. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

Huntington, Susan. The Art of Ancient India. New York: Weatherhill, 1985.

Jaitly, Jaya, ed. Crafts of Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh. New York: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Kak, Ram Chandra. Ancient Monuments of Kashmir. London: India Society, 1933.

Stein, M. Aurel. Kalhana's Rajatarangini. 1900. Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.

Jammu and Kashmir

views updated May 23 2018

Jammu and Kashmir State in nw India, bounded n by Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, w by Pakistan and e by China. The capitals are Srinagar (summer) and Jammu (winter). The state is largely mountainous, and the Himalayas tower above the heavily populated valleys of the Indus and Jhelum rivers. Industries: rice cultivation, animal husbandry, silk factories, rice and flour mills, tourism. Area: 100,569sq km (38,845sq mi). Pop. (2001) 10,069,917.