Kashmir is unique at least in one respect. This is one geography within the Indian Subcontinent that has a recorded history that fits the norms of Western historiography. Kalhana’s Rajatarangini is a classic in its own right. It records the history of Kashmir over several centuries. Even though Kalhana starts the history of Kashmir from the time of Gonanda I, in about the 7th century of the Kali Era, (3102 BCE), its correct chronology is established during the times of the Karkota Dynasty. Its most illustrious king, Lalitaditya Muktapida (697–733 CE), is reputed to have extended the Karkota Empire from the edge of the Caspian Sea to Prāgajyotisha (Assam) in the East and the boundary of the Rashtrakutas (Deccan) in the South.
The reign of the Karkota, Utpala and Lohara dynasties were marked by great renaissance in the fields of art, literature, science, mathematics, spirituality and logic, and all-round material development. The greatest polymath Abhinavagupta shines as the brightest gem of Kashmir, having lived there in the 10th and 11th centuries. He is also credited with having taken the practice of Kashmir Shaivism to its peak. He was also a great scholar in many other fields. The Utpala and Lohara dynasties succeeded the Karkotas and had a clear run till 1315 CE.
The period between 1315–1339 CE is a period of strife marked by changing kings and much instability. Suhadeva, the last stable king of the Lohara dynasty ruled till 1320 CE. He too made the mistake that many kings have made throughout the history of India. He gave shelter and position to Shah Mir from Swat Valley (some other versions dispute this origin), to the Chaks from Dardistan near Gilgit and to Bulbul Shah and Rinchan from Ladakh. After a Turkish invasion in 1320 and the death of Suhadeva, Kashmir Valley fell into confusion. Scheming aliens brought the Valley to its knees. Queen Kota Rani, the widow of Suhadeva’s brother, Udayanadeva, offered resistance for a while. There are conflicting accounts about her end. The popular version among Kashmiri Pandits has it that she married Shah Mir and died on the wedding night. Whether she was treacherously killed by Shah Mir or committed suicide is disputed.
Shah Mir took the throne in 1339 CE. He took the name Shams-ud-Din. In the reign of Qutub-ud-Din, the Kubrawiya Sufi, Sayyid Ali Shah Hamadan (Shah-e-Hamadan) came to the Valley and pursued the Islamisation project in right earnest. He got the later sultans to enforce the famous code of Shah-e-Hamadan on the lines prescribed by the 2nd Sunni Caliph, Umar (The Pact of Umar or Zimma). It may be educative to read the code:
- The Muslim ruler shall not allow fresh constructions of Hindu temples and shrines;
- No repairs to the existing Hindu temples and shrines shall be allowed;
- Hindus shall not use Muslim names;
- They (Hindus) shall not ride a harnessed horse;
- They shall not move about with arms;
- They shall not wear rings with diamonds;
- They shall not deal in or eat bacon;
- They shall not exhibit idolatrous images;
- They shall not build houses in neighbourhoods of Muslims;
- They shall not dispose of their dead near Muslim graveyards, nor weep nor wail over their dead;
- They shall not deal in or buy Muslim slaves;
- No Muslim traveller shall be refused lodging in the Hindu temples and shrines where he shall be treated as a guest for three days by non-Muslims;
- No non-Muslim shall act as a spy in the Muslim state;
- No problem shall be created for those non-Muslims who, on their own will, show their readiness for Islam;
- Non-Muslims shall honour Muslims and shall leave their assembly whenever the Muslims enter the premises
- The dress of non-Muslims shall be different from that of Muslims to distinguish themselves.
Try and find similarities with Hitler’s code for the Jews.
The worst was to come when Sultan Sikandar Shah (1389–1413 CE), known famously as Sikandar Butshikan (destroyer of idols), teamed up with Muhammad Hamadan, son of Shah-e-Hamadan, to let loose a reign of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-like terror. Hindu temples were demolished and built over with mosques all over the Valley. Forcible conversions, loot, plunder, rapes and every form of atrocity was inflicted. Thus began the ‘First Exodus’ of Kashmiris.
The reign of Zain-ul-Abidin (1420–1471 CE) was relatively moderate. He is said to have abolished jizya, stopped cow slaughter and allowed restoration and rebuilding of temples.
The Chaks managed to get the reins of power during the reign of Fateh Shah II (1505–1514 CE). He came under the influence of the Noorbakshi Shi’a Sufi Shams-ud-Din Araqi, who restarted the vile practices of oppressing the Hindus. The ‘Second Exodus’ of Kashmiri Hindus occurred in this period.
The Shah Miri dynasty disintegrated by 1561 CE. It was finally taken over by Akbar in 1585 CE, who inaugurated another period of relative moderation. Jahangir was particularly fond of Kashmir and spent many summers in the cool climes of the Valley. Jahangir and Shahjahan partially reversed the policy of toleration practised by Akbar. ‘Noor Jehan had the steps leading from Shankaracharya Temple to Jhelum dismantled and used them in building the Pather mosque in downtown Srinagar. Jahangir’s notorious lieutenant, Sardar Itquad Khan, particularly revelled in converting Hindus at gunpoint’. (Excerpted from Paradise Lost by Prof. KL Bhan).
Aurangzeb and his notorious governor, Iftekhar Khan, resumed the reign of terror inflicted on the Kashmiri Hindus earlier in the times of Sikandar/Mir Muhammad Hamadani and Fateh Shah/Shams-ud-Din Araqi. This inaugurated the ‘Third Exodus’ of Kashmiri Hindus.
In 1753, the Kashmir Valley passed into the hands of the Durranis of Afghanistan. They were as cruel as Aurangzeb. The ‘Fourth Exodus’ of Hindus took place in this period.
In 1819, the Kashmir region passed into the hands of Sikhs. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the conquering British sold the region to the Dogra king, Gulab Singh. The original Kashmiri culture flourished once again. It may be noted that during the Sikh and Dogra rule, the majority Muslims of the Valley did not suffer from any disability or discrimination on account of religion. This peace lasted till 1931 CE.
The fifth, sixth and seventh exoduses of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley occurred in 1931, 1950–1980 and 1989–1990.