Charismatic Kashmir

kashmir

Kashmir, archaically spelt Cashmere, is the northwestern region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Today, it denotes a larger area that includes the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir (which consists of Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh), the Pakistan-administered autonomous territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan, and the Chinese-administered regions of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.

 

Swami Vivekananda in Kashmir in 1898.

 

In the first half of the 1st millennium, the Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism and later of Buddhism; later still, in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose. In 1349, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Swati dynasty. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, and the Afghan Durrani Empire, which ruled from 1747 until 1820.That year, the Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, after the Sikh defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh War, and upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, became the new ruler of Kashmir. The rule of his descendants, under the paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until 1947, when the former princely state of British India became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China.

 

The Buddhist Mauryan emperor Ashoka is often credited with having founded the old capital of Kashmir, Shrinagari, now ruins on the outskirts of modern Srinagar. Kashmir was long to be a stronghold of Buddhism.

 

As a Buddhist seat of learning, the Sarvāstivādan school strongly influenced Kashmir. East and Central Asian Buddhist monks are recorded as having visited the kingdom. In the late 4th century AD, the famous Kuchanese monk Kumārajīva, born to an Indian noble family, studied Dīrghāgama and Madhyāgama in Kashmir under Bandhudatta. He later became a prolific translator who helped take Buddhism to China. His mother Jīva is thought to have retired to Kashmir. Vimalākṣa, a Sarvāstivādan Buddhist monk, travelled from Kashmir to Kucha and there instructed Kumārajīva in the Vinayapiṭaka.

 

Adi Shankara visited the pre-existing Sarvajñapīṭha (Sharada Peeth) in Kashmir in late 8th century or early 9th century AD. The Madhaviya Shankaravijayam states this temple had four doors for scholars from the four cardinal directions. The southern door (representing South India) had never been opened, indicating that no scholar from South India had entered the Sarvajna Pitha. Adi Shankara opened the southern door by defeating in debate all the scholars there in all the various scholastic disciplines such as Mimamsa, Vedanta and other branches of Hindu philosophy; he ascended the throne of Transcendent wisdom of that temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Read More

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