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The epic called Kashmir

The story of Kashmir begins with a spectacular myth
12:00 AM Feb 22, 2024 IST | S. Sarwar Malik
the epic called kashmir
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Kashmir is not the only land with which myths, mythologies and folklore are associated. In fact what has survived after many historical onslaughts on this Sharda Peeth, may not answer all serious questions related to various streams of Kashmir's antiquity.

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The national epic of Kashmir in Sanskrit, Nilamata Purana, also known by the name of Kasmira Mahatmya, written around  the sixth to eighth century, is said to contain information about religion, folklore, culture, geography, and ‘history’(in a limited sense). Whether the incorporation of the material about Kashmir Shaivism is a latter day interpolation (as alleged by some critics) only serious scholars can tell. Leaving the question unanswered, I proceed to pen down that Kalhana is said to have used this epic, Nilamata Purana, as one of the sources of his history.

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George Buhler (1837-1898) annotator of Panchatantra,  regarded Nilamata Purana as the ‘mine of information regarding legends, culture and political life’. Hiuen Tsang too is believed to have  borrowed the legend of Satisar lake from this Nilamata Purana.

The PhD thesis of Dr. Ved Kumari, approved by Banaras Hindu University  in 1960, has been published in two volumes in 1973 as cultural & literary study and critical study  of Nilamata Purana  and in 1999 The Kyoto Institute for Research (Japan) is said to have published ‘A Study Of The Nilamata- aspects of Hinduism in Ancient Kashmir’.

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Readers might also recall, Rajatarangini, the twelfth century text that commands a distinct position and respect in the arena of written treatises of this corner of the globe, is said to have borrowed from the supra-mentioned epic of Kashmir.

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Rajatarangini by Kalhana is the Sanskrit chronicle about Kings of Kashmir presented in metrical-form, with elegant literary allusions. This legendary account spread over four parts, has been translated into English by Sir Marc Aurel Stein in 1900, & subsequently by Ranjit Sitaram Pandit in 1935 etc); in Hindi, in Urdu, in Telugu, in French and also, during king Zain ul Aabideen’s reign (15th century), into Persian.

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Though people have placed great historical value on this book, critics, especially those after 1975, have pointed out some chronological errors, like King Mihir Kula’s reign is recorded seven decades earlier than his son, Toramana-the Hun king. Only the fourth part of Rajatarangini is said to be more accurate and this is understandable because this last period was obviously closer to Kalhan’s lifetime. This 4th part, that mentions the Karkota dynasty, though said to contain exaggerated account of the conquests of king Lalitaditya Muktapida, but that much can be condoned, if readers agree with me that ‘‘for writing histories of their periods, kings have, every where, largely, used the services of ‘hired pens’”.

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Rajtarangini, on one hand  is said to dwell on the period when Mahabharata war was fought between Kauravas & Pandavas, and on the other hand it is said to refer to this Kashmir valley as being originally a lake, Sati-sara. Readers must have heard the tale that in answer to sage Kashyapa’s prayers, upon the motivation of god Shiva/ Shankara, this piece of land received a boon from goddess Parvati / Sati, in the form of a river (that was possibly named after her as sati). Lord Vishnu, it is said, had allotted Satisar to Nagas (whose king was Nila) but Lord Brahma had given boon to the demon, Jalodbhava. King Kashyapa was approached by his own son, Nila, to intercede with gods, to punish the evil-doer Jalodbhava. At the end Lord Vishnu and Lord Ananta solved the problem. Kashyapa tried to settle both ‘Nagas and the descendants of Manu’, on this dried-land but Nagas are said to have refused this proposal of cohabitation. But, later,  Nagas had to ultimately live with Pisacas as well as Manavas.

Most readers can easily recall that part of the legendary story where it is said that the Sati-Sar lake (lake is Sar in Kashmiri), that covered a large part of Kashmir Valley, at one time bore a demon Jalodbhava (“reared by the Nagas”) who caused a lot of devastation all around. Ultimately it was god Vishnu who cut off the demon’s head after the water of this mega-lake was drained by lord Ananta from Baramulla / Varah-mulla gorge; leaving behind large number of karewas/ mounds;  remnants whereof  can be seen even today, in Baramulla as well as Budgam districts of Kashmir. It is possible that the question as to ‘why the compiler of Mahabharata, Rishi Vyas, didn't mention this Satisar-Jalodbhava-story in his treatise’, might arise in the mind of many readers. But most probably it is so  because it was of local interest only; “specifically generated by the rivalry of sage Kashyapa and the  Nagas”.

King of Kashmir didn't participate in the Mahabharata because earlier King Gonandan of Kashmir had been slain by Lord Krishna's brother, Balrama and also Lord Krishna had killed Gonanda's son, named Damodara but considering the high sanctity of Kashmir, Krishna crowned his widow, Yasovati, because the slain king's son was a minor hence exempted from participating in this war.

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