Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Con-temporarily, Kashmir denotes a larger area that includes the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh), the Pakistani administered Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, and the Chinese-administered regions of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract. The United Nations and other local entities use the designation Jammu and Kashmir to geographically denote said area.
According to the Mahabharata, the Kambojas ruled Kashmir during the epic period with a Republican system of government In the first half of the first millennium, the Kashmir region became an important center 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 and inaugurated the Salatin-i-Kashmiror Swatidynasty. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, then the Empire that ruled from 1747 until 1820. That year, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Dogras—under Gulab Singh—became the new rulers. Dogra Rule, under paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until 1947, when the former princely state became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China.
Many Kashmir history sites on the net focus on late Kashmir history (usually starts around the 15-16th century) and try to give the illusion that the state had no glorious past before the Muslims came to India. This is a clear form of deceit.
Kashmir history goes back to antiquity along with the rest of India. India has a long history that spans over 7000 years beginning with the Indus valley civilization. The civilization, largest of all the ancient civilizations, spread from as far north as Afghanistan to Goa in the south. This seafaring civilization spread across the coastline of the Arab Sea. Kashmir is part and parcel of this ancient history and during the prehistoric period, Kashmir was part of the Indus Civilization. Of course, it must be noted that a neolithic culture existed there until around 300-400 BC.
The earliest reference to Kashmir comes from the ancient Nilmat Puran. In the Nilmat Puran legend, a saint hero, by the name of Kashyap, goes to Kashmir to rescue the people from an oppressive demon called Jalod Bowa. He cut the mountain near Varahmulla and released the lake called Satisar that was there. The lake was drained and the demon was killed. The draining of the lake brought out the land of Kashmir. Kashyap then encouraged Indians to settle into the region.
There are two possible sources of the name Kashmir. From the legend we know that the valley was called Kashyap-Mar orKashyap-Pura. This could be the origin of the name.
Another plausible theory is that its name is derived from Ka (The Water) + Shimeera (To desiccate). So the name means a land that emerged after dessication of the water.
The land as expected was not always called Kashmir by every one at every time. The land was called Kasperia by the ancient Greeks and the Chinese pilgrim, Hien-Tsang, who visited the valley (631 AD) called it KaShi-Mi-Lo. Today the Kashmiris themselves call their land, Kasheer.
According to Kalhan (Kashmiri historian who finished his history at 1150 AD) and Peer Zada Hassan and Mulla Ahmad’s (Persian) work there was a King Gonanda who ruled Kashmir in ancient times. By the time of the Mahabharat war (a war recorded in the epic Mahabharat, date unknown), Gonanda II was the ruler. After him there is supposed to be 35 rulers whose names might be the names recovered by Mulla Ahmad. Not much else is known from this period. How this fits with the legend is a mystery.
Alexandre of Macedonia invaded India after defeating Persia in 326 BC. Initially he faced the kings of India that were under Persian rulers and defeated quite a few of them. From the Greek historians of that period a lot of the history of India can be drawn. However, the snugly nested heaven on earth, Kashmir, does not get mentioned by the Greeks.
Within two years after Alexandre left, India’s first great empire emerged under ChandraGupta from the Magadhan Empirethat had dominated East India earlier. His empre, the Mauryan Empire, stretched across north India and even made headway into central India. The Mauryan empire was a most powerful, centrally organised empire. Art, culture and spirituality of India was transmitted across the lands by the Mauryans. Under the Mauryans, India was indeed the greatest. (Not much is known about South India during this period, though.)
Ashok(a) (273 -232 BC) was the greatest of the emperors of the Mauryan empire not only because of his military feats but his later noble ideals. Kashmir became part of the Mauryan empire under Emperor Ashok. During Ahsok’s rule Buddhism was preached in Kashmir under state sponsorship, as elsewhere in India and beyond. Ashok built a city called SriNagar (beautiful city). This city is now known as Pandrethan, (Puranadhisthan). He built many Buddhist structures, temples and Vihars. He even repaired an old shrine. Since the people of Kashmir were Shaiva Hindu (worshipped Shiva), he also built a Shiva Temple.
Majjhantika, a famous Buddhist missionary was sent along with hundreds of Buddhist monks to Kashmir to preach Buddhism. However, according to local tradition, Gautam Buddha is supposed to have come to Kashmir himself earlier in history. Of course, this can not be confirmed.
Ashok’s son Jaluka ruled after him in Kashmir. There is an interesting piece of history associated with him. Jaluka cleared the valley of the Malechas who they regarded as foreign tribes. Who were these Malechas?
It seems there is another group of “unclean and untouchable” people in Bengal (Bangla) mentioned in the ancient texts. These people were called Melechchhas. Were these people the same? The name also brings to mind the name of Meluhha. Meluhha was the name used by the Sumerians to call the pre-Aryan ancient Indus civilization. Is Meluhha the same as Malecha or Melechcha? As it appears the North Indians generally regarded the Dravir native population as unclean or untouchables. Were the Malechas the native Dravirs of Kashmir who came from the ancient civilization? (Note: Dravirs worshipped Shiva and the original Kashmiris worshipped Shiva.)
After the fall of the Mauryan empire in in 185 BC, foreign invaders came to India. The first of which were the Indo-Greeks. These kings were Buddhist and ruled Kashmir for 2 centuries. Under the Indo-Greeks a new school of Indian art was born. Even the architecture of Kashmir was much influenced by the Greeks.
After the Indo-Greeks came the great Kushans (Indo-Chinese) who were also Buddhist. The Kushan empire spread Buddhism just like the Mauryan empire before them and Kashmir became the foremost Buddhist centre. Great Vihars and temples were built. Each Kushan emperor built cities in Kashmir.
Kanishka the famous Kushan emperor held the third great Buddhist Council in Kashmir in Kundalvan (Harwan, near Shalimar garden). Hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu scholars attended the council. Famous Buddhist scholars like AshvaGosh, NagArjun, VasuBandu SugaMitra and JinaMitra were present. It was presided by a Kashmiri Hindu, VasuMitra and was also attended by Hien-Tsang. The entire proceedings were recorded in Sanskrit and inscribed on copper plates, which were enclosed in stone boxes and put in a Vihar. However, they are as yet to be found. It may, however, be found as the famous Gilgit manuscripts and documents as great as these would be of high interest to Kashmir and the whole world. It might give us a glimpse into the lost culture of Kashmir. After the conference, Kashmir became the centre of Buddhism. It became a stronghold of the Sarvastivada. It spread Buddhism to China, central Asia and Tibet. More Buddhist missionaries went out from Kashmir than anywhere else in India.Some of the great Kashmiri Missionaries were Kumarjiva, Yasa, Vima Laksha, Sanghbuti, Gautam Sangha, Buddviyasa, Buddhijiva, Gunavarman, Dharamputra and Shyama Bhata.
After the Kushans, India saw the revival of Magadha once again through another ChandraGupta. ChandraGupta conquered vast teritories and defeated the Bengals who had retained independence through the Mauryan period and established the second great empire of India, the Gupta Empire.
Kashmir remained outside the Gupta empire. The Kashmir rulers were local and were weak. The history of Kashmir from the end of Kushan (around 350) is of local Buddhist kings who ruled with great sense of morals. Two kings are notable from this era. One was King Meghvahan, an ardent Buddhist, who outlawed the killing of animals and birds in his kingdom. He even undertook the conquest of other countries to stop the killing in those countries. The other king was a Shaiva king, Praversein II who founded the city of PraverseinPura which is today known as SriNagar, the summer capital of Kashmir.
Around 500 AD, the Huns invaded India. Mahir-Gul of the Huns, a cruel tyrant, whose approach was heraled by the arrival of a thousand vultures and crows came to Kashmir. Kashmir endured the savage attacks and massacres. The Gupta empire which had defeated the Huns earlier could not withstand this second wave and also started disintegrating. Luckily the Hun attacks did not last very long.
In 600 AD, Kashmir became a Hindu nation once again. Under the Karkota dynasty, founded by DurlaBhardan, Kashmir had a stone gate, through which only Kashmiris and foreign Hindus were allowed. Under this dynasty, Kashmir started growing powerful. From this dynasty emerged Lalitaditya Muktapid, the great Kashmir conqueror.
Kanauj, in North India, at the time started expansion. Kanauj conquered a large portion of North India, including Magadha (Bihar), Gaur (Western Bengal) and Banga (Central Bengal). Kanauj ruler, YashoVarman basically had destroyed the last of the Gupta empire to create his empire. However, Lalitaditya checked his dreams of creating a vast empire.
He conquered Punjab (West India), and defeated Kanuj (North India). He went out of India to conquer Tibet, Ladhak, Badakshan and Iran. On the east he took Bihar, Gaur (Bengal) and Kalinga (Orissa). He took part of South India, Gujarat, Malwa, Marwar and Sindh in the west. He created a vast empire. His Kashmir became wealthy and prosperous and he built some of the awe-inspiring temples in Kashmir. Like other great emperors of India, art and culture was greatly supported by both him and his son Jayatida.
The Karkota dynasty was the greatest of the Kashmir dynasties and Laltaditya and Jayatida had ushered in a brief golden age of Kashmir. After Jayatida, the Kashmir empire fell apart. Kashmir was reduced to the Vitasta basin. Her economy was also doomed by unscrupulous ministers, according to Kahlan.
In 885-86 AD, the Karkota dynasty ends with a new dynasty, the Utpals assuming power in Kashmir. The greatest of the Utpals was Maharaja AvantiVarman. (Varmans were rulers of the Dravir nations in older times. They were the original Shiva-Vishnu worshippers.) He recovered Kashmir from utter ruin. A great engineer Suya, during Avanti Varman’s rule cleared up the Vitasta gorge and built embankments to prevent the recurring floods that devastated the region. This caused greater production in agriculture. Kashmir bounced back to reach great heights in art, litterature and philosophy. Great writers appeared during his rule. Some of them are Kallata Bhat Sura, Ratnakar, AnandaVardhana, MuktaKana, Siva-Swamin, Rudrata and Mukula. Great Shiva-Vishnu temples were built during his rule. The great king died in June 883 AD.
His death marked the begining of another decline. It continued to be a centre of learning though for some time. In the 10th century AD a Math centre was established by the king. After the Utpalas, the Lohra dynasty (based in Poonch) ruled (950 – 1339 AD). From 950 AD, Kashmir was inherited by an able Queen called Didda (officially ascended throne in 980 AD after the death of her husband). During her rule came the first attacks by the Muslims.
Muslim conqueror, Mahmud Gaznavi tried twice to conquer Kashmir while she was in power. However, he was unsuccessful.
From 1089 to 1101 AD, King Harsha ruled Kashmir. His rule was marred by famines and plagues and he was not a good manager. He and his son, Bhoja, were killed in a general uprising led by two royal princes called Uccalia and Succala. Both of these princes meet the same fate.
In 1128 AD, JayaSimha became the ruler of Kashmir and ruled till 1155. His rule brought some stability but after him chaos was again the norm. There was a lot of infighting during this period until 1339 AD. And naturally Kashmir broke up into several kingdoms. Proutonsa (Poonch, the Kabul valley), Pajapuri (Rajauri), Kangra, Jammu, Kisthwar and Ladhak became independent of Kashmir then.
By then India had lost her teritory of Afganistan to invaders (today Afganistan is a totally separate nation) and India was being overrun by the ferocious Muslim invaders. The Mongol, Taimur had sacked Delhi and conquered Punjab by then. And at the begining of the 14th century, Dulucha, another Mongol conqueror attacked Kashmir. Like other Mongol invaders, Dulucha was savage and destroyed towns and burnt villages massacring thousands of people.
With this attack the end of an era of Kashmir was ushered. Three adventurers entered and the weak King ShahaDev’s Kashmir. They were Shah Mir from Swat ( Tribal) territory on the borders of Afganistan, Rinchin from Ladhak, and Lankar Chak from Dard territory near Gilgit. They each got Jagirs (or became small kings) of Kashmir. Rinchin became ruler of Kashmir for three years and Shah Mir formed the Shah Miri dynasty. Lankar Chak formed the Chak dynasty.
Udayan Dev was the last ruler to be in power in Kashmir before it was finally conquered fully. It was actually his wife, Kota Rani, a very intelligent woman, who ruled Kashmir in reality. She tried to save Kashmir but in vain.
Mongol/Turk invader Achalla attacked Kashmir but she repulsed the attack. But for Kashmir that was the final blow. Rinchin, during the chaos of war, usurped the throne and ruled for three years and converted to Islam before his death.
In 1399, came the death of Kashmir. Shah Mir, also taking advantage of the chaos, defeated Queen of Jayapur (Sumbal) and like the tradition of many other Muslim conquerors, Shah Mir wanted to marry her. She commited suicide by stabbing herself rather than marrying him. Thus ended the long history of Kashmir and Kashmir was overrun by the Muslims to usher in the medieval period of Kashmir.
A detailed Islamic history of Kashmir will be up shortly. For now here is a short version:
The rule of India by these Islamics were not as happy as many would like to imagine. Some look at the history as a history of holocaust. It was marred with religious strife. In this period Kashmir started changing, its Buddhist/Hindu culture was purged.
In 1982, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (India) issued a directive for the rewriting of school texts. Among other things it stipulated that: ‘Characterization of the medieval period as a time of conflict between Hindus and Moslems is forbidden’.
Kashmir changed many hands under Muslim ocupation. The last , in 1756, were the Muslim Afgans, who ruled it briefly, but lost it to the Sikhs, 1819. It became part of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab. Soon, however, the territory was given over to Gulab Singh which in effect brought it under British control. The last of the foreign rulers were the British. The British followed the Portuguese and gradually by various means took control of India. The British ruled India for only 200 years but those years changed India dramatically. British rule too was harsh and they abused India for their own economic gains.
The British rulers cut off the thumbs of the Bengal Muslin (the softest fabric) weavers to force the buying of British fabric. Today the art is totally lost and only a few Muslin exist in museums.
India, however, survived the thousand years of foreign rule retaining her spirit and India again was free in 1947. However, freedom was achieved at a very high price. India was dismembered. India, in history, had been always divided into more than one empire and had many different nations lived together but India was still a united nation, united in spirit. But this time it was torn apart; no longer was it one nation. India was broken up into mainly two parts by the departing British. It was a clever scheme of “divide and rule” disguised in the form of religious incompatibility. Today, India is still haunted by the curse of this division. The Kashmir trouble, one of several, started at this point in history when India achieved bitter independence.