Medieval Kashmir’s Historians

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Kashmir boasts of more than a millennium of recorded history. In every era, somebody was writing about the individuals and the institutions of power and faith that kept Kashmir going on. Dr Bashir Ahmad Sheikh offers an idea about the histories and historians that help Kashmir revisit its past

Photograph of a Buddhist stupa mound near Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, taken by John Burke in 1868. Buddhism was established in Kashmir from the third century BC but declined by the 8th century AD, eclipsed by Hindu Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Two of the most important sites for Buddhist remains in the Kashmir valley are Harwan near Srinagar and Ushkur near Baramulla.

Photograph of a Buddhist stupa mound near Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, taken by John Burke in 1868. Buddhism was established in Kashmir from the third century BC but declined by the 8th century AD, eclipsed by Hindu Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Two of the most important sites for Buddhist remains in the Kashmir valley are Harwan near Srinagar and Ushkur near Baramulla.

Pandit Kalhana verified Ragatarangani was compiled in 1149-50 AD and is long narrative work of occurrences taking place in Kashmir valley from the earliest times to 1150.

About 200 hundred years after Kalhana wrote Rajatarangani, Jona Raja, a court historian of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, continued the Kalhan’s work from 1150 up to 1459 AD. This source is very useful to understand the social and political conditions prevailing in Kashmir before the establishment of Sultanate or the Muslim rule. The author is an eyewitness of the period from 1389 to 1459. He mentioned about his contemporary Sufi Mir Muhammad Hamdani son of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani and his relations with Sultan Sikandar 1389-1413, though he did not write anything about Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, Lal Ded, and Shaikh Noor-ud-din Wali.

Then it was Srivara, a pupil of Jona Raja, continued to write the account of the Sultans of Kashmir and named it Zaina Rajatarangani. He was a friend of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin and supplies the details of the remaining years of the Sultans reign 1459-1470. Besides Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, he also enjoyed the patronage of Sultan Haidar Shah (1470-72) and Hasan Shah (1472-84) and therefore was able to compile the history of the Sultans from 1472-1486. He was also a scholar, poet and musician. His work is of great importance because it throws much light on the religio-political trends of his time.

The Zaina Ragatarangani reveals the penetration of the Persian and Central Asian influences in Kashmir during the Sultanate period. He also wrote about the cultural changes of Kashmiri people and the causes of the downfall of the Hindus and the rise of the Muslim power in Kashmir.

Persian Historians

Apart from the Sanskrit sources, there are a number of Persian chronicles written by the Kashmiris. Tarikh-i-Kashmir, written by Sayyid Ali, is the extant Persian source written in Kashmir before the Mughal annexation of Kashmir in 1586. He wrote it in 1579 AD during the Yusuf Shah Chak’s first accession to the throne. He laid much stress on the miraculous role of the saints.

Sayyid Ali Kashmiri, the author of Tarikh-i-Kashmir, gives detailed information about Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani and in his work; he also discusses about the activities of the reign of Qutbuddin and also discusses up to the 15th century about the Rishis of Kashmir. He states that in Kashmir, Islam was spread by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani but forgets that the first Sufi saint a Turkistani, Hazrat Bulbul Shah, converted about 10,000 people to Islam in Kashmir much prior to Hamdani. He also uses the term of But-Shikan for the Sultan Sikandar of Kashmir, while there is no evidence in the contemporary Sanskrit sources that whether he issued the orders of demolishing the Hindu temples or not.

However, it appears that when the Sufis, as the Muslim missionaries, entered the Valley of Kashmir from Central Asia and Iran, converting a large number of people to Islam, obviously, they also changed their worship places into mosques by themselves without any compulsion.

On the other hand, Sayyid Ali also narrates about Mir Muhammad Hamdan’s influence on the religious perceptions and thoughts of the Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, enlightening his religious policy, his encouragement to arts and crafts, details of the struggle for power between Muhammad Shah and Fateh Shah, and above all, the brief biographical notices of the Sufis and Rishis of Kashmir flourishing in the Sultanate period is of great value.

Advertisement policy for print media existed during maharaja era as well.

Advertisement policy for print media existed during maharaja era as well.

His eyewitness account of Mirza Haidar Dughlat’s rule (1540-50) in Kashmir, Mirza’s policy towards Shias, and the conditions leading to his downfall are fairly described in the chronicle, which proved that Sayyid Ali Kashmiri acquired scholarship.

Another source, the Bharistan-i-Shahi, written in Persian by an anonymous writer was completed in 1615 and provides a detailed history of Kashmir from the earliest times to 1615 and is the best source regarding chronology and topography. The author’s eulogizing the role of the Baihaqi Sayyids and his lavish praise for their acts of piety, bravery and generosity reveals that he must have been in their services.

Besides, he also gives much stress and importance to the role of the founder of the Nurbakshiyyah order i.e., Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi. No other contemporary record has given so much importance to Shams-ud-Din Iraqi’s role in Kashmir. The Baharistan-i-Shahi is composed in an ornamental language, and occasionally, mentions both Hijra and Laukika dates. Though essentially a political history, it also contains notices of some famous saints and learned men of Kashmir.

Tarikh-i-Kashmir by Hasan Bin Ali Kashmiri was completed in 1616 AD; it records Kashmir’s past from the earliest times to 1616. Hence the significance of the work, however, lies in its treatment of the history of the Sultanate period, up to the end of the Hasan Shah’s reign (1472-84) for which it is very useful.

Tuhfatul Fuqra is a manuscript compiled by Mufti Muhammad Murad Tang in AH 1122/ AD 1712. It is available in the form of a manuscript in the Research Library of Srinagar. The author was a great Kashmiri Sufi and he has recorded the conditions of the Sufi saints, darwishesUlama, learned men and thinkers of not only of Kashmir but also outside Kashmir. He also wrote about those pious personalities to whom he met in Delhi, Punjab, Sirhind and Kabul. Actually, it is an authentic source which throws light on the lives and conditions of the Sufi saints of the Mughal period. He has also narrated the conditions of his Pir-i-murshid Shaikh Abdul Ahad Sirhindi and his own relations with his Pir-i-murshid. He also registered some of his letters to his pir and of some other of his pir’s contemporaries. Besides, he mentioned all those Sufis and mashaikh whose connection was with almost all the Sufi orders viz Qadiri, Chishti, Naqashband.

Dr Sayida Ruqia translated some portion of Tughfatul Fuqra with Tahqiq wa tanqid-wa-tasih-matan into Urdu in 1997 and published from Srinagar.

Waqiat-i-Kashmir written by Muhammad Azam Diddamari in 1747 AD is rich with the information recorded about the life and achievements of the Sayyids, Sufis, Ulama and poets. Diddamari was the murid of Mufti Muhammad Tang and has taken Tuhfatul Fuqra as the fountain source regarding the lives and conditions of the Sufis.

As far as the political conditions of Kashmir are concerned, there is little information recorded in the source. The author is an eyewitness of the later Mughal period, and on the social structure of Kashmir, he has written about the beggar (forced labour) which prevailed in the Valley. There is no doubt the Waqiat-i-Kashmir is beneficial for the students and scholars of literature, history, geography, sociology, political science, geology, archaeology and genealogy. It provides information about the civilization and cultural influence of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia upon Kashmir and also gives information that how Islam propagated and spread in Kashmir and what role Sufis, Ulama and Sultans and others played in the promotion and establishment of education in Kashmir.

The author himself gives a little bit of information about the purpose of writing this manuscript. In the initial, he deals with the history of Kashmir and throws some light on the geographical conditions and the flora and fauna of the state. He states that his main crux of writing this source is to mention the conditions of the Sufis right from the penetration of Islam in Kashmir up to his own period (up to AD 1747). The chronicle written in Persian has the same way of history writing as it was in vogue in the history books of the Asian content that along with the political conditions, the Ulama, mashaikh and the Sufis of the period also got their place and space.

There are other indigenous Persian works of Kashmir including Maulvi Hasan’s Tarikh-i-Kashmir in three volumes. He narrates the history of the topographical, social, cultural and political history of Kashmir. Thus it forms an unbiased and detailed supplement to Waqiat-i-Kashmir.

Non-local Historians

Among the non-local Persian works Tarikh-i-Rashidi of Mirza Haidar Dughlat compiled in 1546 is an important Asian work on the history of the Mughals of Central Asia. The author as a ruler invaded Kashmir twice, first from Kashgar in 1533, on behalf of Sultan Said, and second from Lahore in November 1540 when he succeeded in the occupation of Kashmir and ruled it for the ten years. He has given a full description of his first invasion of Kashmir, but is wanting in information with regard to the second invasion. Besides, the author gives useful details with regard to the Hindu temples and ancient sites, agriculture, religion and geography of Kashmir. He pays glowing tributes to Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin for introducing various arts and crafts in Kashmir. He was an orthodox Sunni Muslim, and was a critic to the few less knowledgeable Sufis, Rishis and the Shias of Kashmir.

Abu’l-Fazl’s Akbarnama, briefly describes the history of the Mirza Haidar’s rule in Kashmir. On the other hand, the invasions of Kashmir by Abul Maali and Qara Bahadur and the relations of the Mughals with the Sultans, Chaks and the Mughal occupation of Kashmir in 1586 has been described in detail. It is useful from the point of view of archaeology and topography, and is a trustworthy and reliable source.

The Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Abdul Qadir Badauni refers to famous saints and men of letters in Kashmir. His account of Shaikh Yaqub Sarfi a Chishti saint is useful who is said to have played an important role in the Mughal occupation of Kashmir. There are also useful references about Akbar’s relations with the Chak rulers.

The Haft lqlim by Amin Ahmad Razi was completed in 1594. It furnishes information about the shawl industry of Kashmir and also contains short notices of Kashmiri poets, saints and rulers. Besides, the author also briefly mentions Mirza Haidar’s conquest of Kashmir.

The Ain-i-Akbari of Abu’l-Fazl, a court historian of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, supplies valuable information regarding the revenue system of Kashmir. The author throws light on the various aspects viz, the changes brought about in the field of revenue administration after the Mughal occupation of Kashmir. Also, he has mentioned about the topography, fruits, flowers and food grains of the Valley and has also discussed about the religious beliefs, notable Sufis, Rishis, social customs and habits of the people of Kashmir.

The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri written by Jahangir is an authentic primary source which gives interesting detailed information regarding the life of the habitants of the Valley. It gives details about the planting of tulip flowers, on the roofs of the buildings built on the banks of the river Jhelum, and about various productions like saffron, fruits, silk, dress and food habits of the Kashmiris and information regarding the bridges over the Jhelum within the city and about the Rishis of Kashmir, and of other various events etc. i.e., great plague and fire in Kashmir in 1617-19 are supplied in the source. Jahangir’s references to the political history of Kashmir are also useful. As he claims that, Kashmir is much indebted to Mirza Haidar for its excellence. His description of the conquest of Kishtwar in 1618 is also important. He has also mentioned about the social life in Kashmir and about the various fairs, festivals and celebrations.

However, he is also critical of stating the Kashmiris are dirty people, that having their houses on the banks of river Jhelum, they did not bear a drop of water touches their bodies.

Iqbalnama Jahangiri of Mutamid Khan gives useful references with regard to the plague of 1616 and the campaign of Kishtwar, with a little bit information about the social life of Kashmiris, the dress-code of the people has also been described.

Both Badshahnama of Abdul Hamid Lahori and Badshahnama of Muhammad Qazwani record the information of the events of the Shah Jahan’s reign in Kashmir.

The various occasional references to the habits of the people of the city of Srinagar are also taken into account. Lahori has also depicted a geographic picture of the famine which stalked Kashmir in 1641 during the Shah Jahan’s rule.

The Religious Works

There are some religious works or biographies of saints, Sufis; most of them written by their disciples, which are of greater historical value; there appears a firm attempt on the part of the biographers to glorify the deeds of their masters. Their accounts include the amazing tales of miraculous and supernatural powers displayed by the saints and their disciples. Thus, notwithstanding the criticism, the hagiological literature enables us to understand the powerful impact of Sufism on the minds of Kashmiri people.

An invitation card in Persian extended to an invitee by the Maharaja’s durbar. Source-social media

An invitation card in Persian extended to an invitee by the Maharaja’s durbar. Source-social media

Dastur-us-Salikin also called Wirdul-Muridin, written by Baba Dawud Khaki, contains biographical notices of his murshid Shaikh Hamza Makhdum. It was completed in 1554-55. Though Baba Dawud also wrote a Rishinama in which he describes the spiritual state and miraculous powers of his religious preceptor and also gives a brief description of the Rishi saints of Kashmir.

Rishinama by Baba Nasib completed in 1631-32 is an important source for the history and growth of the Rishi movement in Kashmir. The author claims the Shaikh Noor-ud-din Wali was the founder of the Rishi order in Kashmir. He also gives useful information about the Brahman priests and Muslim saints and their religious attitude towards the Shias, and the attitude of Shaikh Noor-ud-din towards the Mullahs. The source also gives us information and references about the manners, customs, beliefs, and dress and food habits of the inhabitants of the Valley. However, the work suffers from certain shortcomings; firstly, great stress has been laid on the supernatural powers of Shaikh Noor-ud-din Wali in getting converts to Islam and also those of Shaikh Hamza in crushing the religious activities of the Shias. Secondly, Baba Nasib had irrational prejudices against the Shias who are dubbed as “wretched”, and in this way, Rishinama reveals the mind of an orthodox Sunni Muslim of the medieval period.

Asrar-ul-Abrar written by Baba Dawud Mishkati in 1653 furnishes the details of the lives of the prominent saints of Kashmir. Hence it contains a brief account of Sayyid Ali Hamdani and his disciples but the history of the Rishi saints has been discussed in detail. Mishkati also records all those sayings (malfuzat) which are not found in the Rishinama of Nasib. The author also depicts the references regarding the social habits of the people of Kashmir.

Futuhati-i-Kubraviya written by Abdul Wahab Nuri in 1748-49 describes the lives of the Kubravi Sufis and Rishi saints of Kashmir. Besides, the brief description about the history of the Sultans of Kashmir, the author also furnishes the history of Islam in Kashmir from the time of Rinchana to that of the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Europeans Histories

So far the travellers’ accounts in Kashmir are concerned, Father Jerome Xavier and Bendict de Goes were the first Europeans who visited Kashmir in the company of Akbar in 1579. Jerome Xavier’s description of the sufferings of the people of Kashmir due to the famine of 1596 is important. Francis Pelsaertt visited Kashmir during the reign of Jahangir; his description of Kashmir is though sketchy but useful. On the other hand, Bernier who accompanied Aurangzeb gives much information regarding the shawl trade of Kashmir and his account of the social and economic life is also very significant. Besides, Father Desideri and Father Manoel Fryer had also thrown light on the social and economic life of the region.

Later in the 18th century in 1783, George Forster visited Kashmir and furnishes the economic conditions of the people during Afghans rule there.

Durga-statue-smuggled-out-of-Kashmir-and-recovered-from-Germany.

Durga-statue-smuggled-out-of-Kashmir-and-recovered-from-Germany.

There are some near contemporary but secondary sources like Tarikh-i-Hasan written by Pir Hasan Khuihami (d 1898). It was originally written in Persian in four volumes and one of it furnishes the political history of Kashmir up to the writer’s own time. Its third volume gives information about the biographies of Sufis, saints, Rishis, Sayyids, Sadat, Mujzubs and Ulama. The author has also discussed about the relics and their historical importance. Its first volume is the geographic description and the fourth narrates about the poets of Kashmir, particularly of the Persian poets of the Sultanate and Mughal period.

Tarikh-i-Kabir-i-Kashmir is written in Persian by Hajji Mohiuddin, a Kashmiri, in AH 1310. His work is a running summary in one handy volume of the political, religious and literary history of Kashmir. Thus the work depicts the narration of the history of the faith of Kashmiris towards the saints and Sufis and their relics. But overall the work is very useful and has rich information regarding my present work.

(This copy was excerpted from the detailed introduction of Dr Bashir Ahmad Sheikh’s doctoral thesis titled ‘The Impact of Sufism on the Socio-Economic and Cultural Conditions of the Jammu & Kashmir (16th-18thC)’. The author is an Assistant Professor in History and is serving Jammu and Kashmir’s Higher Education Department).

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