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Kashmir - Ah Kashmir

Dilip Gadkar

Kashmir - Ah Kashmir

"If there is a Heaven on earth, It is here, It is here, It is here" - Jehangir. 

Rarely have truer words been spoken. The heavenly vale of Kashmir has been an integral part of Indian Culture, History and Tradition since time immemorial.

Indian religious and spiritual texts can be broadly divided into three categories:
  • The Ved (4 original texts that lay out the perspectives of Indian Dharma);
  • The Upanishads (treatises that interpret the Ved) and
  • The many Purans, collection of preachings, stories and anecdotes that bring the Indian Dharma to the common reader (this structure can be seen in the Bible which was written centuries after the Purans). 
The Nilamat Puran provides the first mention of Kashmir and lays out the etymology of the word Kashmir as "Ka" (meaning water) and "Shimir" (to desiccate"). So Kashmir means a land desiccated from water. This Puran considers the valley to be an embodiment of Uma, the fond name for Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya.

This supports the Vedic legend about the great Sage Kashyap who established his Ashram in the valley. According to the legend, the valley of Kashmir was once a lake called Satisar. The sage Kashyap is credited with the draining of the lake by cutting the gap in the hills of Baramulla (originally Varah-Mula). Therefore the valley became known as Kashyap-Meru or Kashyap-Mir, the mountain or sea of Kashyap.

Indian culture was created by a number of great Sages or Rishis who entered India and formed Ashrams for education and research. Kashyap was one of the original sages. He was the son of Marichi, who was considered as the son of Brahma, the creator of the world.

(Ancient Martand Temple in Kashmir) (Buddhist Stupa near Baramulla) (Muslim Tomb from a Hindu Temple)

The tradition established by Rishi Kashyap endured through centuries and Kashmir became a great center of education. The entire land of North India from today's Pakistan to Kashmir and onwards to today's Tibet became the greatest center of scholarship and education in the world. One of the greatest temples in India, Survana-Pitha (or Sharada Peeth as it is called today) is in Kashmir. The Rishi tradition has been preserved and practiced by the Pandits of Kashmir.

Emperor Ashok, one of the greatest emperors in world history, is credited to have founded the city of Sri-Nagar, the capital of today's Kashmir. Ashok adapted Buddhism and under his sponsorship, Buddhism spread from India to all areas of Asia, across China all the way to Japan and Korea and through out today's South-East Asia.

Due to the influence of Ashok, Kashmir became a center of Buddhist scholarship and scholars from all over the world came to Kashmir to study.

Adi Shankar-Acharya, the most celebrated, modern era scholar-reformer in Indian History, reestablished the historical role of Indian Dharma through out India by defeating the greatest Buddhist scholars in debates. Beginning in South India, Shankar-Acharya traveled all over India and finally entered the great Survana-Peeth temple in Kashmir.

According to legend, this temple had four doors for scholars from the four directions. The southern door (representing South India) had never been opened, indicating that no scholar from South India had ever entered Suvarna-Peeth. When Shankar-Acharya defeated all the scholars gathered there in all the scholastic disciplines including Mimamsa, Vedanta, the southern door of Suvarna-Peeth opened automatically and Shankar-Acharya entered the throne of Transcendent wisdom. 

With the Uzbek conquest of Kashmir, Muslim rule became established in Kashmir in 1349. Akbar, the great Mogul ruler of Delhi conquered Kashmir in 1548 and it stayed under Mogul rule until Sikhs under Rana Ranjit Singh captured it in 1780.

Akbar's son Jehangir fell in love with Kashmir. Not only did Jehangir speak about his love for Kashmir, but he left monuments to his love for eternity. 

The glory of Sri-Nagar is the Dal Lake. Jehangir built exquisite gardens named Nishat and Shalimar that lead to Dal Lake. From the edge of Dal Lake, Nishat Bagh (garden) rises through 12 terraces along a broad central canal toward the nearby mountains. Chadars, sloping chutes, funnel water through each terrace to rectangular pools studded with fountain jets. 

Bollywood has always loved Kashmir from its early days. Below we present monuments of Bollywood's love for Kashmir. Most of these are tales of young men who visit Kashmir only to fall in love with a beautiful young Kashmiri woman. The first shows Nishat Bagh in its glory in the classic from "Arzoo".

      (Rajendra Kumar, Sadhana in Nishat Bagh - Arzoo)

Kashmir is the valley for romance. You can sit in a shikhara (a covered gondola) and float on the gentle waters of Dal Lake. It takes about 3 hours to see the entire lake.  The next song provides glimpses of this magic in the evergreen film "Kashmir ki Kali" (the flower of Kashmir).

 (Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore - Kashmir Ki Kali)

The roads of Kashmir are lined by gorgeous chinar trees on both sides. Watch such a road and a classic Bollywood courtship from "Mere Sanam".

           (Vishwajit and Asha Parekh - Mere Sanam)

An exquisite poem in the vale of Kashmir, the tale of a young woman falling in love for the first time. Asha Parekh describes the charms of her love to her friends in "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon".

The clip below is from a black and white classic "Ek Musafir Ek Haseena" (A traveler & a lovely lass). The beauty of Kashmir may be a bit hard to see but you can see the romance between Joy Mukherjee and Sadhana.

Editor's Note; The source of the pictures and the historical background is Wikipedia.

(This article is a reprint from CinemaRasik http://www.cinemarasik.com. )

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