• By : Jibran Malik
hen we talk of Kashmir and its history we often encounter different dynasties and rulers who ruled this place. From sultans to the dogras. Kashmir has seen it all. But it was during the rule of sultans that Kashmir was a prosperous region and made all the great achievements in all aspects of life, be it literature, art, philosophy, and education. Kashmiri society was in miserable conditions before the sultans and when the sultan rule was firmly established it started to bloom in prosperity. Early sultans rectified the mess that pundits and previous Hindu regimes had created they had made Kashmir a place of an utter disgrace ruining its image by mismanagement, conflicts and what not.
Before the rule of sultans Kashmir was ruled by Hindu rulers who has destroyed this placed, corrupted it’s every aspect, and this society was in ruins. The first sultan of Kashmir was Shams-us-din Shamiri. He ruled Kashmir from 1339-1342. He took over when at a very young age but it was during the 6th king of the shah Mir dynasty that Kashmir raised to magnificence from debris. He ruled kashmir from 1389-1413 that means his rule was one of the shortest which only lasted for 24 years and when he took power he was only 8 years old. His name is taking in a bad narrative and he is often held responsible for widespread destruction of temples in Kashmir, and subjugating his Hindu subjects.
While all these claim have made by historians as they went through the pages of history especially during that time. Hindus especially pandits have always presented a bad picture of sultan Sikander which shows there hatred and bigotry towards the great ruler. One of many books “kashmir and its people” is a perfect example of hate pandits have towards Sikander and a very fine example of a distorted history and pandits have always been ignorant about their identity and their criticism of Sikander only highlight their misunderstood history.
Sikander was very fond of art and how much development took place during his reign speak about the legacy he left. Jamia Masjid which is located in the heart of capital city in one such example. Khanqas were built everywhere in the valley and one of them khan i mohallah is one such revered shrine. We wouldn’t have used the term liberal back then but the policies that Sikander adopted were very far ahead of his time. It was Sikander who bought scholars into Kashmir valley where education flourished and build centers of medicine here. Kashmir flourished in the 24 years of Sikander rule and prosperity touched new heights. The success which was seen during Sikander era was more than what Hindu kings was able to achieve in 400 years of their rule in Kashmir.
Sultan Sikander has an extremely bad image especially among the pandits and even to some extent among Muslim scholars and historians. The way they have interpreted the historical text, one thing that has been ensured is that Sikander has a bad name.
They attribute destruction of temples, mass conversions to Sikander even though we don’t have sufficient evidence to back it up. Many books especially written by Kashmir pandits like “kashmir and its people” by MK Kaw is one such example where lies along with historical inaccuracies have been filled in the book. This disgusting rant against Sikander by KP is an old phenomenon of their which is even reflected in their behavior today.
The wide spread destruction of temples never took place but there were few instances of temples being plundered but it was after the rule of Sikander had ended. It mostly took place during the time of Ali Shah the son of Sikander. Ali Shah along with the Neo convert Saif-un-din (suhabhatta) can be held for whatever demolition of temples took place. The chief architect of that destruction that Sikander has often been associated was Suhabhatta or Saif-un-din who was a new convert during that time. He was a non Brahman and after converting he took a new name of Saif-un-din. His hate towards Brahmans was very well known. Since he belonged to a non Brahman community, he had a paramount distrust and hate toward Brahmans as they treated his community very badly. So after converting he started targeting Brahmans, their temples and their institution in an act of revenge. Most of what he did was achieved during the time of Ali shah and not Sikander. There have been many more accusations against Sikander like prohibiting Hindus to cremate their and forcing his Hindu subject to pay Jaziya which all is a lie and all these lies have been deeply entrenched in our society. Books like Kashmir” its aborigines and their exodus” is one such book written by Tej K Tickoo where these lies have been taken to another level.
Generally Kashmiri pandits have been presenting Sikander as an Iconoclast. We often find in many of the books written by Kashmiri pandits and to some extent among Kashmiri Muslims the demonization of Sikander and they gave him a title of “butshikan” which means the iconoclast.
During sultans Sikander time he invited all the great scholars. Medicine, art, was taught here and he became such an administration that during his tenure as king Kashmir yielded some of the best intellectuals at that time. He was also a remarkable administrator and most importantly someone who respected Hindus and tries to establish good relations with his Hindu subjects. Often taking part in many of the Hindu rituals and also repairing old temples and helping build new ones.
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There is much text in rajatarangini, baharsitan I sahi, where wrong interpretations have been made. Many historians in Kashmir like Professor Ashraf Wani, Khalid Bashir Ahmad and many more have discussed it in lengths and debunked this hateful image of king Sikander. Most of what we hear about King Sikander and the wrong information that has been to us is mostly by the narrator and Brahman historian or mythologist Jonaraja who succeeded Kalhana and took upon himself where Kalhana left. He framed a narrative which many historians consider as false and deliberately showing King Sikander in a manner which was completely different than what the truth was. We have to understand that Kalhana and his successors have written a mythological narrative of Kashmir and have often put their own prejudice against the sultans. Mythological narrations like Nilamata purana and rajatarangini have been taken literally ever since they have been written and what it has done is that it has ensured that the narrative that has been build is very much vicious against the King Sikander.
The rule of sultans also coincided with a change in the Kashmiri society. From a land of Hindu rulers to a society where Islam had gained its foot and as more Islamic preachers like Sayed Ali Hamdani came to Kashmir Islam presence became stronger here. This was something that many Brahman scholars disheartened and then continued to pileup on lie, lies about destruction of temples which took place even before sultans established their rule in Kashmir. Kings like Samkaravarman, Abhimanyue and Harsha have destroyed temples in thousand and one after the other king plundered temples and left and some of them even let entire cities on fire. While many sources still narrate the same story of pushing the hateful agenda against Sultan Sikander while the iconoclasms of Harsha has been neglected who can be considered as the greatest iconoclast of Kashmir. He plundered thousands of temples in Kashmir and what we see is no mention of him anywhere and all the blame is on King Sikander. Historians such as Romila Thapar, A L Basham even have mentioned and very categorically said that what kings like Harsha did is the only iconoclasm that ever took place in Kashmir. While we cannot deny that there may have been few instances here and there but the accusation that Kings Sikander has faced has been declared as historically incorrect.
We will take some references from the rajatarangini to understand the real face of iconoclasm and the role Harsha
From rajatarangini volume VII
1095 there was not one temple in a village, town, city which was not despoiled of its image by that King Harsha.
1096 he only respected two divine images that was of Ranaswamin in the city and Martanda in township.
These are just two references but there are many more in rajatarangini especially which deals with the Harsha and his iconoclasm. Harsha was one of the worst Hindu iconoclasts and his name being not included in the list of iconoclast. Most of iconoclasm that took place in Kashmir was done by the Hindu Kings and not King Sikander. The destruction of temples in Kashmir also has another reason which is not discussed. It is the geography and topography of Kashmir which also played a part in it. As we all know Kashmir is considered as one of the geologically active zone and it falls under the seismic zone five which make it very vulnerable for earthquake and one such example was 2005. Kashmir has previously witnessed some sever earthquake which destroyed thousands of monuments that included temples as well. One such example is from 2010 study which was done by university of Colorado along with university of Kashmir and US geology survey which included prominent people like Bikram Singh, Susan Hough, and M I Bhat that concluded that ancient structure suffered heavy damages due to earthquake especially the one at pandrethan.
Considering how much the issue of temples has been discussed it will also be a topic where Sultans have been especially Sikander has been denigrated, while other Hindu kings have got an easy pass and many other factors have been totally neglected like earthquakes. This issue of temples has been central to the pandit’s issue which has been to the forefront ever since insurgency has been started. There are times when it becomes essential to dismiss false claims especially the one which has been going on for a long times like destruction of temples in kashmir.
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