Prashasti Awasthi looks into the reasons why the symbols of Hinduism in Kashmir are vanishing despite the religion’s rich history in the region

The lost trails

Kashmir is often known to be the symbolic representation of heaven, beautifully painted with the enchanting delights of nature. Kashmir encompasses the beauty of noisy brooks and rivulets flowing with glorious majesty. The gigantic trees studded with the red leaves of Chinar, the humongous snow-capped mountains guarding the Valley. And, the breeze of fresh air, laden with the fragrance of varieties of trees, flowers and fruits.

The history of Kashmir showcases its glorious past; grandeur of power and the diversified culture. Regressing 900 years before, Kalhan, a Kashmiri and the author of Rajtarangini described Kashmir in its bountiful form. Rajtarangini is a musical piece of work, comprising poems and sonnets on Kashmir. He laid emphasis on the transience of the worldly life. It chronicled the history and culture of north western part of Indian subcontinent particularly the kings of Kashmir. The work comprises of 7826 verses, which are yet classified into eight books called tarangas. He sojourned every nook and corner of Kashmir and attended the courts of the Kashmiri kings to chronicle the miniscule details of the lifestyle and culture that prevailed over the time. The book still treasures the historical essence of the Valley.

The name ‘Kashmir’ is also believed to have different roots of its derivation. Some believe that the word ‘Kashmir’ means ‘desiccated land’. ‘Ka’ stands for water and ‘shimeerah’ stands for desiccate. Some believe that it is named after the king Shah Meer who was the first Muslim ruler in Kashmir in 1377 AD. However, according to the Indian folklore, it is believed that Kashmir was formerly a lake which was channelized by Kashyap Rishi to lay the foundation of Kashmiri civilization. The descendants of Rishi Kashyap are believed to be Kashmiri Pandits. The version of this folklore was also found in Nimrat Purana, the oldest scripture ever known on Kashmir.

Kashmir is largely famous for its Sufi culture wherein many Sufi saints illuminated the land with their mystical poetries. The legacy of Hinduism also has deeply stretched roots. Kashmir is also known to be the birth-place of one of the six schools of Shaivism philosophies. The infamous Tantric-Shaivism sprouted from the land of Kashmir. Hence, many nagas (devotees of Shiva) find Kashmir as the mystical land of lord Shiva. The shrine of Amarnath is also located in the Baltal region of Kashmir.

“I follow the path of Shiva and that was what brought me to the mountainous terrain of Kashmir from the plains of Kerala. Our guru, Abhinav Gupta showcased the old canvas of Tantric-Shaivism in Kashmir. The ideologies of this school of Shaivism were woven around the entirety of the universe unlike other schools that only professed to become the distinct devotee of Shiva,” says Prem Giri, Pandit of Shiva temple, Batwara, Srinagar.

However, the trails of Hinduism got smeared by the conflict and the politics that Kashmir has been seething with since the past few decades.

Today many temples in Kashmir lie in ruins.

The glint of its glorious past could still be seen through the cracks on the sculpted images chiseled on the stones of the temples.

The ancient temples of Kashmir range from 8th century AD to 12th century AD. One of them was the temple in Pandethran, the city which was founded by King Ashoka.

Pandethran was earlier the capital of Kashmir. The temple in Pandethran was carved out of the single piece of rock. However, an unfortunate incident of fire gulped down the whole city of Pandethran, leaving behind the tracts of devastation and ruins of the temple.

“Jammu and Kashmir is a Shakti-Peeth and the land of the powerful Indian goddesses. The famous temples of the goddesses are Kheer Bhawani temple, Vaishno Devi temple, Sarika Mata temple, Durganaag temple. One part of the Shakti Peeth went to Pakistan which couldn’t bear the vagaries of the India-Pakistan war and was closed,” says Srikant Shastri, Pandit of Durganaag temple, Srinagar.

Shastri says that the temple was established by Shankaracharya before ascending to the Zabrawan Mountain and the temple has the pristine value in history.

The temple was made when Shankaracharya himself mediated about Shiva only to realize that there is no Shiva without Shakti.

Hence, this very particular place helped Shankaracharya unleash his feminine powers and rejoice the union of Shiva-Shakti (the union within oneself – of body and soul).

Durganaag temple lately got excavated and three long tunnels were discovered underneath the main premise of the temple. The artifacts of the temple suggest that the tunnels were used by the saints to meditate and transcend to the highest level of consciousness.

All the temples in Kashmir have natural springs underneath the foundation.

Shastri believes that the millennia’s approach to the aboriginal religion of Hinduism defiled the whole essence of it. He says that many temples in the Valley were closed after the Babri Masjid spat between Hindus and Muslims.

“Many Pujaris in Kashmir became apprehensive of running temples during that time and hence they forsake the temples and left them to fate. The notorious land mafia took over the land and filled their pockets. The befitting example could be of Baba Dharamdas temple. Maharaja Hari Singh provided 1400 kanal to the temple which has now shrunk to 300 kanal,” Shastri says.

Only a few temples in Kashmir like Kheer Bhawani temple, Shankaracharya temple and Amarnath shrine among others withstood the severity of time while the rest conveniently became the part of the forgotten history of Kashmir.

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