Kashmir boasts of more than 1500 years of recorded history. Pandit Kalhana, who wrote his chronicle Rajatarangini, somewhere in twelfth century, dominates the narrative by linking ancient Kashmir with the medieval times. Kashmir underwent major socio-cultural shifts in this period, twice – from Buddhism to Hinduism and finally a transition to Islam.
Without getting into the authenticity of the chronicles, especially the older one, there are quite a few regimes and individuals which are still being referred with a marked difference. A sovereign Hindu state had rulers like Laltadatiya and Avantivarman and queen like Didha who still command some sort of distinction in the overall historic narrative of Kashmir. From the Muslim period, the era of Shahmiri Sultans was clearly distinct. It took off from the ruins of the Hindu rule with Kota Rani, the last influential Hindu ruler, becoming the queen of Shahmir, albeit for a while till she was jailed where she died.
But the only ruler who is still being talked about and is part of folklore was Zainulabideen, the Budshah. Son of Sikander, the Sultan who attempted implementing Shariah in Kashmir, Budshah still is a reference point.
This year, when our newsroom was discussing the ideas for dedicating a complete issue – the second issue of the ninth year, of our publication, this emerged a possibility. The idea was to try to understand why after more than half-a-millennium, this medieval Kashmir king is still alive and a reference point. Normally, societies remember its kings and rulers for their military exploits, expansion of the state. But this king was not a great fighter, though; he made efforts to retain what he inherited.
Kings and rulers whose reigns were dominated by wars and instability have taken unfair length of the history books. But this Kashmir king has done it in complete reverse. He is known more for development, progress, prosperity and tolerance even though he had his own share of spilling bloods on the streets of Kashmir. He is perhaps the only Muslim king who is accused of creating a minaret of skulls to convey how he punishes his opponents. He still survived at the top of the popularity chart, throughout. Was it because of the real contributions he made or he simply got good hagiographers on his pay rolls, which is a question that historians will continue to debate and discuss.
What was fascinating for our newsroom was the idea of going to the areas, the habitations that are linked to Budshah era: Zainageer, Zainapore, Zainatilk, Zainakadal, Zainalank. These areas have rarely been seen from a historic prism and that is what motivated reporters to move out of Srinagar, talk to people, cross check the ground zero legends with the history books.
History has always recreated itself in circles. That wisdom the newsroom believed in, but never thought that these circles are so closely woven around these people usually fail to detect them. One of our correspondents was moved by the plight of socio-economic conditions that exist in Anderkot, once a capital of Kashmir where transition of power took place from Hindu era to Muslim period.
They knew Budshah was great but it gave their thought process a new direction when they found the man who ruled hearts was insecure at home. He actually fought three major battles – one with his brother and two with his sons to retain the throne.
Our newsroom made a serious attempt to rediscover a particular patch of the Kashmir history that involved deconstruction Budshah as a governor. There are countless things that were not touched because the emphasis was on areas linked to the man.
We would be grateful if the readers respond and fill the gaps that were left blank because of space-time constraints.