Amit Schandillia

Amit Schandillia

17-03-2022

12:30

[THREAD: THE OTHER EXODUS] 1/122 When the Pandits fled Kashmir in the 1990s, they were already a religious minority in the region. This exodus, albeit deplorable, changed little in terms of the state’s demographics. But there was another that did. This thread is about that one.

2/122 For the longest time, an overwhelming bulk of its history, Kashmir has been a Hindu-Buddhist stronghold. This holds true even if we discount Kashyapa and other myths. The place is still littered with ruins of stone temples once sacred to both communities. Many still are.

3/122 This exodus happened around the end of the 14th century. Those days, the subcontinent was basically Delhi Sultanate in the North, Vijayanagara in the South, and a bunch of tiny principalities scattered around the two. One of them was the Kashmir Sultanate.

4/122 This was the first Islamic dynasty in the region and began its tenure with the coronation of Shams-ud-Din Shah Mir in 1339. But we’ll not go that far for now. Instead, we’ll begin with the early years of the 15th century. The man on the throne was Sikandar Shah Mir.

5/122 While the Shah Miri, as the dynasty came to be known, was the first Muslim one in Kashmir, Shams-ud-Din wasn’t the first Muslim to rule the place; that credit goes to his predecessor, a convert named Sadruddin Shah. But I digress.

6/122 If Sikandar Shah Mir doesn’t ring a bell, that’s probably because you’ve known him as Sikandar Butshikan. It’s an epithet, much like Mahatma in Mahatma Gandhi, and not a very flattering one. Butshikan is a Persianate term that roughly translates into “idol breaker.”

7/122 Why he’s known by that name is an easy guess. Sometime around 1404, a very important pre-Islamic structure is said to have been razed to the ground. No mosque came up in its stead though. This temple was one of the three cardinal Hindu structures in all of Kashmir.

8/122 The ruins of this structure still stand more than 600 years down the line. In a place called Mattan in Anantnag (locals call it Islamabad for some reason). Mārtaṇḍa Sun Temple, the name it goes by, is actually a redundancy as Mārtaṇḍa is just Sanskrit for Sun.

9/122 The temple was an architectural marvel given its blend of elements from cultures as distinct as India, Afghanistan, and China. To make things even more interesting, it also features a most prominent peristyle, something mostly found in structures of Ancient Greece.

10/122 Of all the structures Sikandar destroyed, this is the one that earned him the most notoriety. But how do we know he did that? We’ll discuss his zealotry, but first, let’s settle this temple as much conflict of opinion still exists on Sikandar’s role in its destruction.

11/122 One most compelling piece of evidence comes from Rājataraṅginī. No, not THAT Rājataraṅginī, this one’s a sequel. The first Rājataraṅginī was done by Kalhana long before Sikandar. Then came a second, titled Dvitīyā Rājataraṅginī by another court poet, Jonaraja.

12/122 Even Jonaraja’s wasn’t the last, his pupil Śrīvara did a Tritīyā (third) after him. The three Rājataraṅginīs are essentially historiographical works and held in extremely high esteem by most Kashmiris, although some hyperbole and political bias cannot be ruled out.

13/122 So Jonaraja’s Rājataraṅginī, like the other two, is in Sanskrit. But many scholars have burned the midnight oil translating it for the rest of us. Among the most widely held of such works is the one by Srikanth Kaul, a Kashmiri scholar from the previous century.

14/122 Kaul published his translation in 1967 in four editions. Considered seminal by most scholars of the subject. Herein, Jonaraja has been quoted as placing the blame on one Sūha Bhaṭṭa, himself a Brahmin convert to Islam, who held the Pandits in special contempt.

15/122 Jonaraja further goes on to suggest that upon Sūha Bhaṭṭa’s instigation, Sikandar went on to attack Hindus and their places of worship. Several temples were razed to the ground, the one we discussed being among them. Many lesser ones don’t stand today even as ruins.

16/122 Further elaboration on the nature of Hindu persecution makes references to the notorious Jizya tax that only the Hindus had to pay. Jonaraja calls it dūrdaṇḍa. Even those Pandits who had now converted to Islam weren’t exempt!

17/122 So this establishes Sikandar’s crimes beyond doubt already. But there’s one small problem. All we’ve referred to so far are 20th-century translations. We still don’t know what Jonaraja actually wrote. So before we conclude anything, we must reconcile with the original.

18/122 For the original, we’ll refer to “Rājatarangini of Jonarāj,” a Hindi translation by Dr. Raghunath Singh. This work comes from 1972 and while still a secondary text, this one also has the Sanskrit original for reference. Along with copious commentary in Hindi.

19/122 Let’s first start with the destruction of the Mārtaṇḍa Temple. The specific reference to this episode comes from verse 596. It describes how under the influence of “mlechchha,” Sūha Bhaṭṭa urged “Prabhu” to launch a desecration campaign against non-Muslims.

20/122 In case the context hasn’t made it clear yet, mlechchha here refers to foreigners (in this case, Persian Muslims); and Prabhu is Sanskrit for Lord, here referring to Sikandar. Moving on, verse 600 refers to a “viplav” or flood of Islamic desecrations during the period.

21/122 So far Jonaraja has made no reference to the Mārtaṇḍa Temple in particular though. That comes later. Verse 601 lists five deities that were defiled—Mārtaṇḍa, Vijaya, Iśāna, Cakrabhṛt, and Tripureśvara. 602 adds two more—Sureśvarī and Varāha—along with “others.”

22/122 In verse 606, Jonaraja finally touches upon the financial aspect of Sikandar’s zealotry—the jizya. This, as one would expect, was a tax non-Muslims had to pay to be able to stay non-Muslim. This was the first time such a tax was ever imposed in Kashmir.

23/122 Now, many scholars take 596 as proof that Jonaraja absolved the king placing the blame squarely upon Sūha Bhaṭṭa. But then he sets the record straight in 611 where he holds the king responsible for the actions of his servant.

24/122 Some do cast aspersions on the academic integrity of Jonaraja himself, so it’s important to address that too. The most common argument made against him is that he failed to mention Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, a wildly important contemporary figure in Kashmir.

25/122 Hamadani was a Sufi evangelist from Hamadan in Iran. The man visited Kashmir for the first time in 1372. This sojourn lasted four months before he left for Mecca and later Hamadan. Now those were turbulent years for Iran. Turbulent and bloody.

26/122 A power vacuum had existed in the country since Abu Sa'id’s death in 1335. The place was now divided among seven weak dynasties with not a lot of peace among them. Such situations are generally invasion magnets. So someone invaded. It was Timur of Uzbekistan.

27/122 This invasion proved particularly harsh on Hamadani whose clout and Sufi theology made him an easy target of Timur’s contempt. So the preacher gathered some seven hundred followers and fled. There was only one place he knew they’d be the safest. So they headed there.

28/122 Kashmir was then under Sikandar’s father Qutub-ud-Din. He rushed to welcome the preacher as soon as news of his arrival broke. This was Hamadani’s second trip to Kashmir. After two and a half years, however, he once again left; this time for Turkestan.

29/122 His third and final trip was in 1383. Final because he died within months of arrival. Given his influence, it’s strange that Jonaraja would make zero references to him in a work so seminal. This is what many scholars post as a question mark on his credibility.

30/122 Problem with that approach is, there doesn’t exist another work from the period to refute Jonaraja with. This is the only primary source there is on this slice of the Shah Miri reign. Also, Jonaraja does hint at “foreigners” even if not explicitly name Hamadani.

31/122 The hint lies in the term mlechchha which is derogatory Sanskrit for a foreigner. Let’s revisit verse 596 to understand. In accusing Sūha Bhaṭṭa, Jonaraja makes it clear that Bhaṭṭa was himself inspired by the mlechchhas, i.e. foreigners.

32/122 One may argue that the interpretation of mlechchha was often fluid and might as well have referred to native Muslims in the valley. But Jonaraja’s position as a poet in the court of a Muslim ruler makes that fleeting interpretation not only absurd but rather dangerous.

33/122 Although Jonaraja’s patron Shahi Khan (later named Zain-ul-Abidin) was a largely liberal ruler, he couldn’t have taken such disparaging generalizations lightly. Not the least coming from his own court poet. So it’s highly unlikely Jonaraja’s mlechchhas were natives.

34/122 And if they were foreigners, the spotlight naturally falls upon the only significant group settled in the valley, one that came with Hamadani. Jonaraja could have avoided naming the Sufi explicitly so as not to invite outrage from the dominant community.

35/122 Again, all this seems more like conjecture, but so does the argument that Hamadani’s absence from Jonaraja’s work proves the latter wrong. In the absence of competing contemporary records, we have no choice but to take Jonaraja at face value. He almost lived his stories.

36/122 Jonaraja’s claims also seem to have later found corroboration in Persian works such as Baharistan-i-Shahi and Tarikh-i-Saiyid. It’d be great to examine those works and see what one can find. But there are multiple reasons why I haven’t.

37/122 Firstly, those texts are entirely in Persian, a language I can neither read, nor speak. Secondly, the only translation I’ve been able to find is for Baharistan-i-Shahi and it’s by a Kashmiri Pandit which makes its neutrality suspect.

38/122 That, however, is by no means an assertion. Kashi Nath Pandita’s scholarship in the subject is superlative and has earned him recognition in not just India but also Iran. Baharistan-i-Shahi has another problem too—Its authorship remains a mystery.

39/122 And if that’s not enough, the work was composed in the 17th century, a whole 200 years after the events it corroborates. Here’s a snippet off a Ph.D. paper on the subject by Waseem Rashid of Uni. of Jammu. Feel free to refer.

40/122 One big reason I’m not referring to Pandita’s translation of Baharistan is also that I haven’t been able to get my hands on an authentic copy yet. The only copy I could find is a Word document converted to PDF using a free online service. Not super reliable.

41/122 That doesn’t seem to be the case with Tohfatu'l-Ahbab. As the name suggests, this one’s also in Farsi, but an English translation exists thanks to Pandita. This one’s also from the 17th century which makes it a secondary source (told you, only Jonaraja was contemporary).

42/122 If we dismiss, for a moment, the notion that a Hindu commentator being critical of a Muslim figure could be driven by communal biases, we can look at Pandit Anand Koul, an early-nineteenth-century scholar of Kashmir’s history proficient in both Sanskrit and Persian.

43/122 In 1913, Koul published a book on Kashmir’s geography for school kids. This was the first such work in the English language by a native author. The book is unassumingly titled “Geography of the Jammu and Kashmir State” and is considered an authority on the subject.

44/122 In this work, Koul suggests that the great Jama Masjid of Srinagar (also called Bod Mashid) was also a handiwork of the Butshikan who built it with material recovered from a 7th-century temple that he apparently destroyed. But there’s more.

45/122 Koul then goes on to add that the parcel this structure sits on was originally the site of a Buddhist shrine. Even today (as of the writing of his book), Tibetan Buddhists visit the place and refer to it by the original shrine’s name, Tsitsung Tsublak Kang.

46/122 Of course, Koul’s own identity makes the claim less than palatable at face value, so I’d defer the final verdict to a more diligent scholar, or a local. A local could also confirm if the alleged Tibetan pilgrimage still happens and if the name is still in currency.

47/122 But before we move on from the Masjid, let’s dwell on yet another corroboration a bit. This one comes from not only a non-Hindu source but also someone with just as much authority on Kashmir as Koul, if not more. Sir Walter Roper Lawrence.

48/122 This gentleman was a whole lot of things at once—a civil servant, an author, and an avid traveler. In 1895, Sir Walter published what became the first-ever encyclopedic work on the territory—The Valley of Kashmir. This book predates Koul’s. By almost 20 years.

49/122 Interestingly, this book also talks about the mosque in question and posits the exact same story as given by Koul—about the spot being the site of an earlier Tsitsung Tsublak Kang. Could Koul have referenced off this work? I don’t know.

50/122 Where did Sir Walter get this from? He does make a reference to the 16th-century Ain-i-Akbari but that doesn’t explain the name Tsitsung Tsublak Kang as the Mughal work has no mention thereof. The locals? Maybe. But Butshikan is getting harder to dismiss as hearsay.

51/122 But this thread was about an exodus! Okay, let’s rewind to the beginning of the dynasty. Remember Hamadani, the man who fled Timur’s persecution in Iran and came to Kashmir with 700 followers? Well, he wasn’t the first. Many had preceded him. Let’s meet them.

52/122 The year is 1339. The Ilkhanate has fallen apart and Iran is now a bunch of weak principalities. Seeing opportunity, Timur has already made a move and now has large parts of the territory under his command. Turkistan is part of this. Persecution of Sufis follows.

53/122 Naturally, many at the receiving end decide to leave. Among them is a Suhrawardi Sufi by the name of Syed Sharf-Ud-Din Abdul Rehman Shah. Where does he go? Kashmir, of course. If you don’t recognize this mouthful of a name, let’s try a shorter, Bulbul Shah.

54/122 Now Bulbul Shah was no stranger to Kashmir, nor was Kashmir to him. This was his second trip, the first being in the 1320s when he is said to have converted the local Hindu king Rinchan to a Muslim Sadruddin Shah. The trip in 1339, therefore, was not to a strange land.

55/122 Kashmir, meanwhile, was now under a thoroughly Muslim rule. No, not that king who converted—he was dead—but a through-and-through Muslim man who had betrayed the dead king’s trust and usurped the throne from his widow. This was commonplace back then.

56/122 It’s against this turbulent backdrop that Sayyids first started streaming into the valley from Turkistan and Persia. Although Muslims were no novelty to Kashmir (we’ll get to that a little later), something was changing now. Islam had started going mainstream.

57/122 The region still remained Hindu-heavy. Sure there were more Muslims here now than before, and sure there was a Muslim dynasty on the throne, but the general character of Kashmir was still non-Islamic. Change was gradual. Very gradual.

58/122 Then it picked up in the second half of the 14th century. That’s when Hamadani shows up. Hamadani’s zealotry has already been alluded to in Jonaraja’s work so no point reinventing the wheel. Shortly after Hamadani’s death, the Mir Shahi throne went to Sikandar Butshikan.

59/122 Sikandar’s reign was marked by energetic Islamization the scale of which Kashmir hadn’t witnessed before. Several books by Kashmiri Pandits, both eminent and not so eminent, have posited accounts of this terror with varying degrees of exaggeration.

60/122 Most such accounts claim that Sikandar at first offered his Hindu subjects three choices—convert, leave, or die. At this point, many large-scale executions took place, as did conversions. This is referred to as the “First Exodus.” They say there were six more.

61/122 At some point, Sūha Bhaṭṭa advised him to be pragmatic and instead of killing the “infidels,” tax them. That’s how jizya came to be. If we take a second look at Singh’s commentary under Jonaraja’s verse 606, we’ll note that this was set at two pals of silver per head.

62/122 Among modern elaborations is one by a Sujata Kanungo titled “Echoes from Beyond the Banihal Kashmir.” In this work, she echoes what almost all modern accounts by Hindu authors have claimed—that this Islamization caused most Hindus to either convert or leave.

63/122 A curiously constant leitmotif across all these accounts is a reference to “seven maunds of sacred threads.” That’s about 250 kilos of sacred thread or “janeu” recovered from murdered Pandits that were burned and thrown into the Dal Lake.

64/122 The thing is, none of the references contemporary to the Shah Miri times mention this number or practice. While the industrial-scale Islamization and temple desecrations have both been elaborated in Jonaraja’s work, the thread bit isn’t. So, a bit of an exaggeration?

65/122 The exodus, however, cannot be dismissed as an exaggeration given the scale of Sikandar’s project. Part of this exodus has also been attributed to copious land grants being made to Brahmins by Hindu rulers elsewhere. Economic incentives drove this as much as persecution.

66/122 Now before we conclude the Butshikan chapter, let’s examine one last reference corroborating his zealotry. This time, it’s from a Muslim named Haidar Malik Chadurah. He was a Mughal administrator of Kashmir during the time of Jahangir. That is, between 1605 and 1630.

67/122 During his time in Kashmir, Chadurah penned a comprehensive treatise on the region’s political history—the Tarikh-i-Kashmir. The original is in Persian, so we’re going to have to rely on translations. One I could get my hands on is by a Razia Bano.

68/122 Goes without saying, this work is far from contemporary. But then, outside of Jonaraja, there’s nothing contemporary anyway. So all other sources are bound to be secondary. I'm working on the assumption that Chadurah was honest with history and Bano, with translation.

69/122 So what does Chadurah say anyway? Let’s see… For starters, the chapter on Sikandar is a veritable panegyric, addressing Sikandar as the “Protector of the Shariat.” There’s unambiguously enthusiastic mention of temple desecrations and forced conversions.

70/122 Again, even Chadurah’s unapologetic tribute to Butshikan’s tyranny fails to make any mention of the “seven maunds of janeu” that modern KP writes keep claiming to have been burned on Sikandar’s orders. So let’s put that part under communally-charged hyperbole.

71/122 Nevertheless, between Jonaraja and Chadurah, we seem to have at least enough corroboration, both primary as well as secondary, for: 1. Temple desecrations, 2. Forced conversions, 3. Communal intolerance, and 4. Jizya. Exodus, therefore, is a fairly logical conclusion.

72/122 But we needn’t rely on extrapolations, even if logical. For there exists yet another account that speaks of Islamization in even more certain terms. Shortly after Chadurah, a man named Muhammad Ali Kashmiri entered the scene.

73/122 In 1642, Kashmiri penned a biographical work on a Shi'a evangelist from Iran named Shamsu'd-Din Muhammad Araki. Now, while Kashmiri wasn’t contemporaneous with the Shah Miris, Araki was. So this work does have some value to it as a near-primary material.

74/122 Kashmiri’s work is titled Tohfatu'l-Ahbab. As all works from Muslim authors of the time, this one’s in Persian and we’re going to have to once again rely on translations. One available work is by Kashi Nath Pandita, the same gentleman who translated Baharistan-i-Shahi.

75/122 While going back to a Brahmin source for this particular corroboration is less than ideal, we don’t have much choice. His is the only translation I could find. So here goes… “…all the infidels and polytheists of this land were converted to Islamic faith…”

76/122 Kashmiri didn’t stop with Sikandar though. Remember, the text is mainly about Araki who came at least a generation after Sikandar. Contrary to what Sufis are thought to be, Araki (he was a Shi'a Sufi) seems to have been a thorough zealot.

77/122 The book details how Araki, right off the bat, set upon himself the task of violent Islamization in the region and how he roped in a local commander named Malik Musa Raina for help. And Raina was only too eager to oblige.

78/122 Should the translation be an honest work uncolored by scholarly bias, this is the most compelling indictment of Sikandar’s fanaticism and that of some of his successors. With that, we come to a close on the Shah Miri story and the story of the first exodus.

79/122 But remember I said this dynasty wasn’t the first to introduce Kashmir to Islam? Let’s revisit that now. Shams-ud-Din Shah Mir, the founder of the dynasty, had himself usurped the throne from one Kota Rani, herself the widow of an earlier ruler, Sadruddin Shah.

80/122 Although Sadruddin himself was originally a Hindu by the name of Rinchan, he still gets the title of the state’s first Muslim ruler. But even Sadruddin wasn’t the first Muslim in Kashmir. In fact, Muslims have lived in the region since at least a hundred years earlier.

81/122 The most immediate indicator of Islam predating Rinchan is his conversion. Clearly, there must have been someone to convert him, right? That someone was Bulbul Shah, the same guy who came to Kashmir fleeing Timur’s persecutions; we’ve already met him before.

82/122 But Bulbul Shah too, while the best known, wasn’t the first. A Sayid Baqir, along with 1,200 followers, is said to have arrived in Ganderbal from Iran as early as 1257. Apparently, he was buried in the village of Thune, so someone from there could confirm.

83/122 So it’d seem Timur’s persecutions in Iran brought Bulbul Shah to Kashmir, but Islam was already here at least a hundred years before. But we can go even further. As far back as 713 when Bin Qasim made an unsuccessful bid on the territory then under the Karkota Dynasty.

84/122 Qasim had just completed his conquest of Sind and Multan and was yearning to take Kashmir. He even marched as far as Panj Nahiyat although I'm unable to locate this place on any available map of the region. The name may have changed at some point?

85/122 Now, Chach Nama, the source of this story, was only composed some 500 years after Bin Qasim. It still remains a seminal piece of literature and is highly regarded as reliable, even if not technically “primary.” With that caveat out of the way, let’s continue…

86/122 Qasim’s invasion of Kashmir didn’t really happen because he was recalled to Baghdad by Caliph Walid I at the eleventh hour. Chach Nama attributes this abrupt development to a dispute over a slave girl (actually, Sind’s Raja Dahir’s daughter).

87/122 The nature of the dispute is immaterial to this conversation although Chach Nama does offer the details for curious minds. Among Raja Dahir’s offsprings was Jaisiya, a young prince much celebrated for his valor and ingenuity. Just to reiterate, this was a Hindu dynasty.

88/122 So after Qasim killed Dahir, annexed Sindh, and carted off his girls to Baghdad, Jaisiya had no choice but to flee. He headed north. Accompanying him in this journey was a Syrian Muslim named Hamim bin Sama. There’s a caveat again, though.

89/122 The oldest reference I could find of this account is from a work by one G M Rabbani of Kashmir, but that’s not to say that one doesn’t exist. So moving on, Jaisiya and Hamim eventually wound up in Kashmir. Mind you, this is barely 80 years since Muhammad died.

90/122 The reigning Karkota king received the two with warmth and granted Jaisiya the governorship of what was then Shakalha but is today understood to be the town of Kallar Kahar in Pakistan’s Punjab. After Jaisiya’s death, the position went to Hamim.

91/122 This should make Hamim the first Muslim ruler of any kind in Kashmir. However, one may dismiss that today as the territory is no longer part of Kashmir. Hamim, despite his mlechchha (as outsiders were called back then) identity, held much respect in the Karkota court.

92/122 This esteem eventually landed him an additional colony in Srinagar to settle fellow mlechchhas in—Malchamar-Ali-Kadal. Finally, a part of Kashmir had a bona fide Muslim ruler. And none of this was violent. Mosques were built, but at the cost of temples.

93/122 The only problem I see with Rabbani’s claim is that he confidently dates Malchamar-Ali-Kadal to 677 AD. But since Raja Dahir only died in 712 AD and only then did Hamim and Jaisiya fled to Kashmir, Rabbani’s dating seems incorrect. So do take it with some salt.

94/122 What if we completely dismiss Hamim’s story as a legend and not historical truth? Does that move Kashmir’s Islam back to the 13th century? Abdul Qayum Rafiqi, an authority on Kashmir’s Suf history, has answered this question in his work on the subject.

95/122 He mentions one Muhammad Alafi who fled Qasim’s wrath about the same time as Hamim and Jaisiya are said to have, and landed in Kashmir. He too won over the Karkota court’s sympathies and got assigned an estate in a place called Shakalbar.

96/122 The Alafis were a tribe of early converts originally from western Hejaz, then part of Sindh, who swore allegiance to Raja Chach and his successors, Dahir being one of them. Their animosity with the Sayids has an interesting story but is not part of this conversation.

97/122 Rafiqi himself refers to Chach Nama as his source, so it’s only reasonable that we take a look before moving on. And sure enough, there’s a copiously detailed account of how an Alafi commander along with his men ended up in Dahir’s service against Bin Qasim’s forces.

98/122 Chach Nama also corroborates Rafiq’s claim on Alafi fleeing to Kashmir, seeking refuge, and subsequently being bestowed with a fiefdom by the local Hindu ruler. So, looks like it all checks out after all. Per this text, something else also checks out.

99/122 On the same page, Chach Nama drops a familiar name. The one we were just struggling to reconcile with on Rafiq’s account. Hamim bin Sama. Okay, maybe not the exact same name but as one “son of Samah” which could only be him.

100/122 So, one way or another, Kashmir seems to have most certainly received its first Muslims well within the 8th century. That’s a long time ago. But first accounts of forced conversions and Pandit exodus, do not appear until the 14th century.

101/122 That’s more than half a millennium of largely peaceful coexistence. The two communities lived side-by-side with zero violence and zero animosity. The valley, however, remained Hindu in character. The big demographic shift would only come with Sikandar’s fanaticism.

102/122 600 years of no temple desecration sounds like such an unreal Utopia! Well, that’s because it is. Unreal, I mean. But interestingly, these desecrations weren’t Islamic. At this point, let me introduce the final character in our story—Harsha.

103/122 We’re skipping over to the 11th century here. There’s a whole array of failed Islamic incursions upon Kashmir—a notable one being by Mahmud Ghaznavi—in the 11th century, but we’re skipping all of that in the interest of brevity.

104/122 So Kashmir is now under a khasa dynasty—the Loharas. The dynast of our interest is Harshadeva, popularly shortened to just Harsha. Kalhana has dedicated several verses to this man’s story which is going to be our only primary reference here.

105/122 So let’s bring out the original Rājataraṅginī. The one by Kalhana. This is the work, Jonaraja did a sequel to. Kalhana refers to Muslims as Turushka, a common epithet at the time because most Muslim invaders in the subcontinent those days were of Turkic origins.

106/122 Harsha clearly had many Muslims in his employ which is evident from a curious observation that dinar, a common Middle-Eastern currency today, was also the name of Harsha’s coins! We can see this mentioned in a verse describing the king’s extravagance.

107/122 But being a translated work, one might question the authenticity of Stein’s claim as a reference. Which is why it helps to have the original Sanskrit text around. And sure enough, Stein is right. Verse 1118 in the seventh chapter or, as Kalhana calls it, taraṅga.

108/122 Kalhana has a complex take on Harsha. Besides his obvious perversions, Harsha’s relationship with Muslims seems funny. In 7.1149, Kalhana talks about Harsha favoring his Muslim generals and also enjoying pork in the same vein.

109/122 Speaking of perversion, yes, it’s Harsha’s atrocities that we’d set out to discuss. So, let’s get straight to the relevant part—verses 1073 thru 1096. They put out, in gory details, how the king not only plundered temples but also brutalized Hindu mendicants.

110/122 Again, some may find Stein’s translation exaggerated, but the original Sanskrit seems to reaffirm every bit of his retelling as consistent with Kalhana. Interestingly, though, the Mārtaṇḍa Temple that Sikandar would destroy later somehow seems to have escaped Harsha.

111/122 And now we’re done with Harsha. And the story. Phew! So what does it leave us with? A few things, such as: – that the first Pandit exodus happened centuries before the one we always talk about. – that Islam has been in Kashmir since long before it was Islamized.

112/122 – that Hindus and Muslims had lived in relative peace for over 500 years before Butshikan ruined the equation. – that the biggest role in communalizing the valley was played not by kings but…Sufi “saints” who, ironically, were themselves fleeing persecution.

113/122 – that the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits is a far older phenomenon than Sikandar or his dynasty. – that long before the first Muslim laid hand on a Hindu idol, Hindu kings were having a field day defiling Hindu temples and brutalizing Hindus.

114/122 Funny I say Hindu “kings” and not Hindu “king.” Plural. Because it really is plural. Harsha was neither the only one, nor the first. I’ve completely skipped over, say, Jayapida, the Karkota king who taxed Hindus centuries before Sikandar’s jizya, as per Kalhana 4.629.

115/122 Actually, let’s not skip. Let’s dwell on Jayapida for a bit. In verse 633 of the fourth taraṅga, Kalhana tells us about an occasion where this king ordered 99 Pandits killed in a single day. This is just one in a series of grave misconducts attributed to Jayapida.

116/122 I’d also skipped over Shankaravarmana, the 9th-century ruler who founded the valley’s wool industry but plundered Hindu temples to bankroll his indulgences. Just like Jayapida before him, this man had an extremely vain lifestyle. Kalhana details this in verses 5.166-170.

117/122 So that’s just three Hindu kings who did almost everything that Sikandar Butshikan did, long before there was a Sikandar Butshikan. A distinction, however, can and must be made in their respective motivations—material greed vs. purely religious zealotry.

118/122 This ends our very lengthy conversation on the history of Hindu persecution in what’s understood to be a “Jannat.” Once again, the mother of all takeaways is that history is complex and abhors binaries. You see what you see. You twist what you twist.

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